Designing and creating a doll is a special experience for both the maker of the doll and the child to whom it is given. But imagine the child's surprise when the doll talks, tells a story or sings a song . . . in your voice. Thanks to mini-sized recorders, dolls and stuffed toys can have a voice that addresses the child by name or reads her a favorite story. The price and size of voice recording units vary by manufacturer, as does the length of the recording time allowed. These amazing little sound and voice units can be purchased at your local craft store or online.
Create a gingerbread-shaped doll by using the template located at visions.com/newsletter/nov01/gbdoll.html, or choose from any number of free rag doll patterns that are listed in the "Resources" section of this article. Follow the instructions listed here for the gingerbread doll or the instructions for the rag doll that you have chosen.
Print a copy of the gingerbread doll template on your printer. Draw a 1/4-inch outline with a ruler or measuring tape all the way around the edges of the doll template picture, including the legs. This 1/4-inch outline will serve as the seam allowance when the pieces of the doll are sewn together.
Place the two pieces of the felt, one-on-top of each other and then on a flat surface. Pin the pattern pieces to the felt with straight pins or trace around the edges of the template with a heavy lead pencil like a carpenter's pencil. Cut two pieces for the head and four pieces for the legs with a pair of pinking shears. These are scissors that have a saw-tooth blade instead of a straight blade and cut the edge of the fabric in a zig-zag design instead of a straight edge. This will allow the seams remain exposed as part of the decorations on the gingerbread doll.
Pin together the two pieces of felt that will form the head and torso together (one piece on top of the other.) Use a needle and thread that matches the color of the felt, to sew a straight stitch. Start sewing at the bottom of the torso. A straight stich is made by weaving the needle in and out of the fabric. Try to keep the size of the stitches the same and equally spaced. Keep your stitches about a 1/4 inch from the edge of the fabric. Leave at least a 2-inch opening for stuffing the doll's head and torso.
Stuff the head and torso of the gingerbread doll with polyester fiberfill. Make sure to get the stuffing into all of the tight places. Use a pencil to gently push the stuffing into place without making a hole in the doll.
Sew the legs together the same way you sewed the head and torso. Leave an opening at the top of the legs so that they can be stuffed.
Stuff the legs of the gingerbread doll, leaving some unstuffed fabric at the top. Place the un-sewn tops of the legs flush with the bottom of the torso and position the feet so that they are facing the head. The doll will be bent at the bottom of the torso, where the legs will be attached.
Stitch across the front of the torso using a straight stitch with a needle and thread. Sew only the front layer of felt to the top front part of the doll's legs.
Unfold the legs and turn the gingerbread doll around to the back side. Sew across the bottom of the torso using a straight stitch to close up the back of the doll (including the legs.)
Add facial features by adding button eyes or by painting on the features with acrylic paints and an artist's fine point brush, or fabric paints. Fabric paints are available in bottles that have fine-point applicators that make painting tiny details easier. Keep in mind though, fabric paint takes awhile to dry—as long as 24 hours—depending on how thickly the paint has been applied.
Choose the type of sound or voice box that best fits your vision for your gingerbread doll. Choose a box that will fit comfortably inside the doll and has the capacity to record the size of message that you desire.The sound boxes come in a variety of sizes, with different types of mechanisms to activate them. Some have simple push buttons that can be placed inside a torso, just under the fabric. Some have a lever that is placed in the back of the doll's torso, and protrudes outside the body for easy access.
Record the message on the sound box as per the manufacturer's directions. Replay the message to be sure that it is clear and easy to understand. Keep the receipt and any warranty papers for the sound box.
Place a push button sound box by carefully making a small slit with a craft knife in the torso of the gingerbread doll at the location of the "heart." Slip the push button box in place and add extra stuffing, if needed, to hold it in place. Be sure to place the push button box into the torso with the push button side facing out, so that it can be activated by pressing on the torso of the gingerbread doll after the box is inserted.
Sew the slit closed using a needle, thread and small overcast stitches. An overcast stitch is used to sew raw edges. Hold or pin the two raw edges together, begin from the back, push through to the front and then pass the needle over the two raw edges and enter through the back side again. Repeat until the slit is closed.
Cover the closed slit by cutting a small heart shape from a different color of felt and sew the heart over the slit using tiny straight stitches.
If you have a voice box with a lever, make a 1-inch slit in the back of the doll's torso, mid-back, so that the lever can protrude from the doll's body. Place the voice box in place and add extra stuffing to hold it in place. Hand sew the slit closed around the lever using tiny overcast stitches, so that the box is held securely in place but can still be activated.
Paint a vest or shirt onto the doll using fabric paint. If desired, add additional gingerbread trim using fabric paint.
You can sew your gingerbread doll or any rag doll with a sewing machine instead of by hand.
Instead of choosing a coordinating thread to sew your gingerbread doll, choose a contrasting color for a decorative touch.
You can add a voice box to a commercially-made plush or soft-bodied doll by making a small slit in the body and putting the box inside. Sew the slit closed and if this doll will be given to a small child, choose the push button style voice box.