Preemie Cloth Doll Sewing

It’s boxing day (what we called it in Canada) and I certainly won’t be shopping anywhere today!  So, for anyone else staying inside, I thought I’d provide some reading material.  😛

img_0061This was one project that I wanted to complete before the year end.  While at the SAGA Convention, I spotted a tiny, preemie doll.  The doll belonged to Wanda, the SAGA Wee Care co-ordinator.  I already owned the pattern, but had not taken the time to sew it.  Seeing the tiny doll was incentive for me to find time to make one.  I believe that it is always helpful for other to “see” just how tiny some of these preemies are and perhaps give them the extra push to get a few Wee Care gowns sewn.

Having a few spare minutes, I decided to head out and find supplies – 2 days before Christmas!!!  What was I thinking??? That was no small task! Traffic was horrible and the crowds in the store – oy!!!  Somehow, I foolishly thought that I could get everything at one store.  Wrong!!!  After visiting 4 stores, I had everything needed for the doll – knit fabric, fleece, plastic pellets, etc..  Just FYI – the plastic pellets used for stuffing the doll were found at Hobby Lobby.  Other craft stores didn’t carry them or they only carried them online.  On to the pattern.

The preemie pattern is from The Cloth Doll Market.  I was unable to find any reviews of the doll.  The pattern makes up so nicely and quite accurately on sizing/shape of preemie babies.  Included is a master pattern which you have to copy and shrink it by percentages to get the smaller sizes.  I did this.

You should be aware that this method of adjusting sizes does cause some problems. When you shrink a pattern that has a 1/4″ seam allowance, your seam allowance also shrinks, so I ended up with a generous 1/8″ seam allowances to make the 2 lb. size doll.

Be aware that the pattern is hand drawn and has very little in the way of markings/guides (aka: no notches) on the pattern pieces to aid the seamstress in matching up pieces before stitching.  I followed the directions, but because there are no illustrations, some directions were challenging.  I had to read through some of the instructions multiple times to “get” what the instruction was.  I am more of a visual learner, so no pictures is challenging.  Because of this, I would sat that this probably isn’t a pattern for a beginner.

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The instructions say to use a knit fabric that doesn’t have too much stretch.  That is rather vague.  I think that giving some fabric types to look for may have been more helpful.  The only fabric that I could find with our lack of fabric stores was a knit jersey.  While it worked, I wasn’t a fan and won’t use it again.

Each piece of the doll is cut out of both the skin colored knit fabric as well as another piece cut in white fleece.  The fleece is then inserted into the skin fabric.  This is a good plan because it helps with the plastic beads that are used for the filling – it keeps the “skin” softer and works out much nicer than stuffing the doll with stuffing.  It does take a bit of forceful pushing to get the fleece pieces inside the knit pieces and I found that the jersey began to run in a few places (like pantyhose type of runs).  I put fray check on the runs and hopefully that will keep the runs in check.

After some research, I found that many cloth doll makers use a knit doeskin, which is a suede type of knit fabric.  I’ll have to order some of that if I decide to make another doll, though I’m seriously thinking about making the doll from Kona cotton if I try it again.  I have seen a picture of the doll made by another FB friend and it was in a woven fabric.

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The facial features were supposed to be painted on with acrylic paint.  I don’t paint!  🙁  So, a Sharpie had to do.  The knit wanted to stretch as I “drew” the features.  Ugh!  I was pleased to find that when the doll was finished, the 1 – 2 lb. Wee Care gown fit very well.  It’s nice to see how well these are proportioned.

Once the doll was finished, I had to get rid of the blue wash-out maker that I used to mark the darts and to draw in the fingers, etc.  Obviously, you don’t want to soak the doll after it’s finished.  That was a lengthy process.  It took many, many spritzing to get all the marks out.  I would think that they were gone, and when the spritzed area dried, they were back again.  Ugh!  Next time I’ll use one of the air-erasable markers and be sure to stitch the same day!  I did find that dotting along the stitching line worked better on the knit fabric.   Trying to draw in the lines caused the knit to stretch.

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Because of the way that the arms and legs are attached, they are somewhat posable, which is  a nice feature.

The little diapers pictured on the doll are from the Teeny Tears group.  They make diapers and donate them to hospitals for tiny babies that don’t make it.  The larger size diaper fits the 2 lb. sized doll.  I made the stockinette cap from a toddler size 5-6 sock.  I cut the cuff off the sock right above the heel and tied a ribbon in it.  It’s a snug fit, but it works.

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I did learn a few things making this little doll.  I definitely need to work on my hand sewing technique.  😂  The doll head is hand stitched to the doll body – not an easy feat between the stretchy knit and the head flopping around.  Maybe I’ll be better at this the next time.   LOL!  Pulling out the fingers after stitching was a super challenging task on the 2 lb. size doll.  I immediately decided that I’d never make the smaller sizes with fingers.  Others have told me that they make the hand with only a thumb and then a mitten style for the other fingers.  This would be much easier and is a technique I’ve used on other cloth dolls!  She does suggest this method for the tiniest sizes.

I’m pleased with how the doll turned out.  It is only going to be used as a visual aide at workshops where the smocked Wee Care gowns are being made.  Our guild is doing the next workshop in the community room at a retirement village.  I’ll have the doll out for the residents to view along with some of the finished gowns.  I suspect that we’ll have different ladies drop in to check out what we’re doing.  The doll will be a nice addition and maybe even promote some interest for some new seamstresses to join us!

My overall review of the pattern makes up really well and is an accurate representation of the size/shape of a preemie baby, but the instructions are lacking in the way of diagrams/pictures of any of the sewing techniques.  There are only 2 diagrams total and there is an assumption of sewing knowledge, so some techniques aren’t described (ie.  “sculpt the toes”).

The designer of the pattern does seem to have some first hand knowledge of preemie sizes and proportions.  That is what makes the pattern of value.  Instructions are also given if you want to make the doll a weighted doll (accurate weight for the age/size), which some do want.  This doll looks very much like the preemies that I saw in the NICU when our granddaughter was there.  There’s not another proportionally correct preemie doll pattern that I’m aware of.  So, for this reason it is a great pattern if you want proportionally correct preemie dolls.

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Perhaps today I’ll stitch the 1 lb. size (with no fingers!) out of Kona cotton and see how that works.  I’ll keep you posted!

I hope you enjoy some stitching today!

7 thoughts on “Preemie Cloth Doll Sewing

  1. Bunny

    This is wonderful, Kathy. How about if you do the hands with one thumb and then just stitch down the fabric to delineate the fingers? Just a suggestion. It looks wonderful and will be a great teaching aid. It will be so impressive to see the gowns on an actual preemie sized doll.

    Reply
  2. Linda Thompson

    Kathy, somehow, someway, I lost my wonderful Foster Babies Doll Book that we used for those thousand dolls in the 80s. (By no means a Cabbage Patch.). We used ponte knit which is still easily available. They made the doeskin knit then, and we did not like that finished product. And, the woven fabrics just did not work. Your doll looks much like our Foster Baby. Our hands and feet had the thumb and big toe. The fingers and toes were stitched down and looked very nice. I believe we used button thread (buttonhole??) for that stitching. You might even test a foot and hand to see if you actually need a separate thumb and big toe. If you decide to go with the line stitch, the shape is a little scallop to define each separate toe and finger. You did a beautiful job of sewing your baby! Lots of pictures in the book, but I have not been able to find it for sale again. (They is a another pattern floating around with the same name…but definitely not the same doll pattern).

    Reply
    1. Kathy Post author

      I made the 1 lb. size out of Kona cotton. It turned out well. I had to adjust all the seam allowances to make them 1/4″. I didn’t do fingers, toes or put a face on it. I doubt that I will. It fits our Wee Care 1 lb. and under size gown well and the tinier size Teeny Tears diapers.

      Reply
  3. Cheryl Clapp

    Thank you Kathy for all the great tips here! I have been contemplating making this for the past few months! Kona sounds like a great choice and so does the vanishing pen!

    Reply
  4. MARIE DESOTO

    Thanks for the info, Kathy. I have this pattern and made the newborn size working with a friend. Will tackle the preemi early this year.

    Reply

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