The Midnight Rider (sabinelagrande) wrote,
The Midnight Rider

Tutorial: Make your own team plush dolls!

Preliminaries: This project took about seven to ten hours and cost about 8USD (would've been more, but I already had all the ribbon and thread). I only used two stitches for this project: Backstitch and a modified whipstitch (which I think is really more like an overcast stitch, but the difference seems academic to me). For my purposes, I'm going to assume you already know how to sew basic stitches, or that you can look it up on the internets. But fear not; felt is an incredibly forgiving fabric. There are a lot of steps, but this project is a cakewalk.

This post is image heavy; you may want to click here to view it in format=light. Again, horrible lighting in my house = blurry pictures. And I was drinking wine for a lot of this project didn't plan ahead, so there are like ten hojillion pictures of making pants and none of the hair or shirt making.

1. Acquire felt! Lots of felt! More than you will need! I used, for the whole team (which looks like a lot, but actually only ran me 3 USD):

beige x2 (sheets)
champagne x2

Militia blue x1
brown x1
black x1
grey x1
black snakeskin (stamped) x1
purple flowers (stamped) x1

You will also need:
a pen (one with a pointy top, like a Bic Cristal, is preferable)
hand needles (long, thick, and with a wider eye is good for this)
thread (in several shades- but you'll definitely want khaki, black, blue, and grey, at the very least)
embroidery floss (black for faces, other colors for hair- Teyla's is DMC 830)
stuffing material (more on this later)
brown bump chenille stems (a.k.a. pipe cleaners, tinsel stems) (for Ronon)
various bits of ribbon

You can use glue, but I prefer to sew everything. It's a trade off- glue is faster, but I find sewing gives me better control of the fabric.

Keep on the look-out for neat stuff that you may not have been considered- Ronon was going to have felt hair until we wandered past the pipe cleaners. Look around for textured felt, too- it's good for stuff like leather, and for generally adding interest to the plushies.

Doll bodies

2. Draw a pattern. The pattern I use is essentially gingerbread-man-shaped, with an outer line for the cutting guideline and an inner one to follow while stitching. I'm no good at free-hand drafting, so I just drew half a pattern and flipped it over.

3. Fold your fabric over and lay the pattern out. Trace around the outside- you can do this with a normal pen. In order to get the inner line, you can mark straight through the paper at a couple of points- these will give you guidelines to put in the stitching line. After you've traced it all out, put in a couple of pins to keep your sides together.

At this point, you need to decide what kind of hair your plush is going to have. If you want felt hair or pipe cleaner hair, go on to step six. If your plush is going to have rooted hair, proceed to step four.

4. Cut your body out, following the outer guideline. Flip it to the back side and sketch in the stitching line- this will be important for setting your hair.

5. Get your embroidery thread ready. Don't separate it; load it onto your needle doubled, like you're going to sew normally. Double knot the ends.

I don't know quite how to explain this part, but here's the theory: The knot is the root of your doll's hair. Every time you bring the needle through the fabric, you're putting in two strands of hair. The easiest way to do it is to use quite a long piece, so that you can just keep cutting it and knotting it.

So, pass the needle through the marked-on side of the material very close to the stitching line, pull it through, and cut it off at the desired length. Keep doing this. You'll want at least one row of hair on the "face" side of the material, and at least two on the back side. When you pin the doll back together, the hair should all be in between your two pieces of material. If it isn't, you've gone wrong somewhere. It should look something like this when you're done:

Teyla's hair is a whole skein of material, and she has essentially no hair covering the back of her head. If you want a doll with a full head of hair, it'll take three or four skeins. But, I mean, life is short, man.

6. If you didn't follow step four, cut out just the area around the doll's hands, following the outer guideline. Place a heavily knotted piece of thread or a ribbon in between the two pieces of fabric. The knot should be on the outside; most of the length of the thread should be on the inside.

7. Backstitch the body together. Start at the heel of one foot and work around to the other, leaving the legs open. On the corners- the underarm, the top of the foot, the neck, make sure that your stitches don't cross. When you get to the corner, stop and reinforce it; if you just keep going, you'll get screwed up. You want one line of stitches going in and one line going out.

8. Trim the body away from the surrounding material. You want to shoot for about halfway between the inner and outer lines, being careful not to nip your stitches. Between the legs, follow the outer guidelines until they meet, then snip up the inner guidelines to the crotch.

You may be asking why we didn't just put the outer line there. To that I say: shut up. It's for security.

9. This is the hard part. Now, you've got to turn the form inside out. Ignore the arms and legs; concentrate on getting the head through first. Use the pen (capped, obviously) to push out the form- you want to be able to see the stitches. Flip the feet out after you've flipped the head.

Now, remember that thread you put through the hands? It should be hanging out in the arm holes somewhere. Grab it and- gently but firmly- tug on it. The arms should pop out with little fuss. If they don't, use the pen. Don't be afraid to push- if you sewed your stitches well enough, you shouldn't pop them.

10. Now is time to sew the face. You could have done this before you sewed the pattern together, but I find it hard to get the placement right when I do that. The face is basically just two lines for eyes, a line for the nose, and a mouth. Usually I just do it in black, but you can change it up- Teyla has red lips, Rodney has blue eyes, John has hazel ones, etc. Ronon also has a stitched on felt beard. You can hide your knots by entering and exiting through the hairline, or by entering through the body cavity and exiting through the hairline.

11. Time to stuff!

It is easy to screw yourself when it comes to stuffing; go on and spring for the good stuff. Don't try to use stuff you've got around the house, like cotton balls (though felt scraps actually aren't that bad, if you fluff them out first). I use natural cotton quilter's batting; I find that, for a project this size, using something that was originally flat works way better than using something that was round or fluffy, like polyfil. It doesn't bind as easily, and it gives a smoother fill.

Take your batting and tear it up into small pieces. Don't wad or ball it up; just place it in the body cavity and push it into position (the pen is useful!). Keep pushing in pieces of batting until the part you're stuffing feels like you want it. The hands, feet, and head should feel a little more tightly packed than the body itself. One doll takes a surprising amount of stuffing, so just keep going until it feels right.

Don't think about it like stuffing an entire doll; you're stuffing individual parts. Stuff the head first, then the arms, then the chest, then most of the abdomen, then the feet. You'll stuff the legs later.

12. Take the unfinished edges of one the legs and, one at a time, fold them in on themselves. You may overlap some of the sole of the foot, which is fine. You want to fold until right below the crotch. Pin the sides of the leg together. Whipstitch this opening closed, starting at the foot and heading up until right below the crotch. Stuff the leg, right up to where you stopped sewing.

13. Repeat step 11 on the other leg. The crotch should still be open.

14. Stuff the rest of the abdomen and crotch. Don't forget about the tops of the legs. Whipstitch the crotch closed- yes, sew right along the edges without folding them.

Voila! You have a doll.

For pipe cleaner hair:

Ronon's hair is made from bump chenille. They have four thick bumps; each of these bumps is going to be a single dreadlock. Ronon has twelve dreadlocks (three pipe cleaners' worth); more than that and it would be v. unruly.

1. Cut the pipe cleaners in half. Fold each half in half. You should have two pairs of dreadlocks.

2. Sew the dreadlocks to the head. To start, run one or two long stitches across the head. These are your central line. Each pair of dreadlocks needs to get sewn in twice: once to the head itself and once to the central line. This part is finicky, but just keep after it. If it feels like your hair is loose, just stitch it in again.

3. Decorate your dreadlocks! My Ronon has little pearl beads in his hair, because they're what I had handy. He also has a green hair ribbon- if you tie the dreads back, they tend to clump and stay that way, which makes them easier to handle.

For felt hair:

I'm not entirely happy with this technique- it was good for Rodney, but not so good for John- but it was about all I could do at this size.

1. Cut two pieces of hair-colored felt- a large oval to cover the back of the head, and a horseshoe-shaped one to frame the face. Make it bigger than it needs to be- you're going to want to be able to trim it down to shape.

2. Stitch these pieces on. In stitching on the back, don't follow the seam; you want to stay further back. You don't need to sew the hair at the bottom, just at the top.

2a. John has an extra step to give him fuller hair. Insert a horseshoe shaped piece between the front and back pieces; you'll stitch it to the other pieces in the next step.

3. Stitch the front piece to the back piece, following the head seam closely and pulling tightly. Your pieces will gather and pull a little- it's fine.

4. Cut the hair into an appropriate shape- Rodney's is cut very close to the stitching, while John's is taller. John's hair is also cut by layers, to make it fuzz and piece out a little. You may want to trim the sideburns too, if you can.

Voila! You have a naked doll.

Oh dear. You'd better make some clothes.



Ronon, Teyla, John, and Rodney's pants are all made the same way, which exactly the way you never want to make real pants.

1. Cut two square pieces of material a little wider than the doll's legs. Put the material on either side of the legs and push a pin through (through the material, not through the doll) right at the crotch. Also, mark where the doll's ankles are.

2. Stitch a line from the crotch to the ankles; the wider you go from the center line, the wider the legs will flare when the pants are on.

3. Repeat for the other leg. Make sure the stitches join at the crotch.

4. Turn the pants inside out. The way you have to do it feels a little counterintuitive, but keep trying and you'll get there. What you should have is a pair of pants with no outside seams.

5. Put the pants on the doll; pin the outsides of the legs shut, just to hold them while you get ready for the next step.

6. Now, you need to think about what the pants are going to look like. Basically what you're going to do is close them just like we closed the legs; fold the fabric in, pin it together, and whipstitch it shut.

But how you finish this seam helps determine how the doll's legs will sit and what the pants will look like. This picture illustrates what I mean:

Rodney's pants are folded straight and fitted close from the ankles to the hips, then angled up towards the waist. John's are folded at an angle; the pants are very close on his waist and flare out from there. In contrast, Teyla and Ronon's pants are loosely fitted; they have extra stitches at the waist to keep them from falling off.

The stitch also matters. John and Rodney's pants have stripes up the side made from one line of closely placed whipstitches, straight from the ankle to the waist.

Ronon and Teyla have "laces"- one line of loosely placed whipstitches going up, another coming down to cross them.

Alternative: You could skip making the inside seams and make a skirt the same way- just put the squares on the doll, pin them into place, fold the sides in and whipstitch them shut.

Standard shirt (used for John, Rodney, and Teyla's shirts, as well as Rodney's jacket):

1. Cut two rectangles of material. They should be as long as the doll's neck to where you want the shirt to stop, and as wide as one wrist to the other. Put them on either side of the doll and pin them on- once at each shoulder, once along the waist towards the armpit. If you are making a jacket or open(able) shirt, DO NOT CUT THE FRONT APART YET. I know you want to. Resist the urge.

2. Fold in and whipstitch the shoulders. Start at the neck and stop where ever you want the sleeves to stop- only a couple of stitches for a sleeveless shirt, longer for a short-sleeve shirt, all the way to the wrist for a longsleeve shirt.

3. Backstitch from the bottom of the shirt to the armpit, staying very close to the body.

4. You should be left with a vee of material between the last stitches and the arms. Carefully cut it away.

Trick is, you're not going to finish the undersides of the arms, so don't worry about cutting too much. Also, trim the sleeves up to where you want them to stop. You may also want to trim the neckline down. If you're making a jacket or a shirt that opens, go on to step 5. If you're making Teyla's shirt, go on to step 7. If you're not, congrats! You're done!

5. Carefully cut the shirt apart. Use long cuts and make sure they're straight as possible. Trim the neckline now, if needed.

6. For the Atlantis jacket, sew on colored patches. You may want to sew in lacing- use an unseparated length of embroidery floss.

7. Place a piece of ribbon around the midsection of the doll. Pull it tightly and pin it in place. Sew it together in the back- you may catch a little of the shirt, and that's fine.

Ronon's shirt:

All the other clothes are made in situ, but I made Ronon's first, using a felt that's got a right and wrong side, so he's a little different. Instead of whipstitching, I put the the fabric together inside out and backstitched it along both the shoulders and along the waist. I also cut the front apart before I stitched it together; this is why it flares out over his waist and doesn't meet. Then, I flipped it out, put it on, trimmed the neckline, and laced it up with a piece of embroidery floss.

Odds and ends:

John's holster is made of two skinny pieces of felt. I laid them right on top of the pants and stitched them together at his inseam. You may notice that there's not actually anywhere for him to put his gun. I am pretty much fine with this.

John's wristband is made of three lengths of embroidery floss that I braided together and tied around his little wrist. Felt was just too thick to work correctly at this scale.

Teyla's choker is two pieces of ribbon- the same green that's in Ronon's hair, and some sparkly sheer gold, which is folded in half. They're both just tied on, the gold over the green.

And that's pretty much the team!

More pictures, generalized dicking around, and suggestive naked doll orgies available in this gallery.
Tags: crafts, picspam_what?, sga, tutorials
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