Introduction: Moldable Fabric for Doll Clothes

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When I was young, I wanted to make clothes for my dolls, but I had neither the skill nor the attention span to sew outfits. Now that I have girls of my own, I watch one of my daughters trying to drape pieces of fabric over and around her dolls, then get frustrated when they don't stay in the position she wants. Other times, Lilith will take pieces of play doh or polymer clay and shape them over her plastic dolls to make clothes. The clay will stick to the doll and stay in position, but it's not very cloth-like.

Why have I never seen sculptable fabric for little kids to make simple doll fashions? I have no idea... but it's something I'd like to remedy here and now.

I've used the soft wax coated string by Wikki Stix and a couple other companies, and I've made some of my own for my kids. I figured adding soft wax to fabric would work, but sometimes the strings weren't sticky enough to hold together. I needed something more like wax based modeling clay, so I did some research and found this recipe for modeling beeswax:

Lanolin! That's what I needed to add. It's sticky and is easy to incorporate into oil and wax (I've mixed these three ingredients in different amounts to make balm for dry hands). The recipe for modeling wax isn't sticky enough for moldable fabric, so I made some adjustments. Also... beeswax comes in different shapes, so I've come up with a recipe based on weight, rather than volume.

Step 1: What You Need


Fabric - quilting cotton works well for this. You can also use some ribbon and colored yarn for embellishments
Beeswax - save yourself some headache right now and know that paraffin WILL NOT WORK for this.
Coconut Oil


Double boiler, or a small pot and a heat safe container in which to melt wax over boiling water
Nonstick foil, parchment paper, or a silicone pan
Metal sheet pan
Oven or heat gun
Tongs that will lift your heat safe container from the boiling water

I tried several types of fabric and have included my notes on each at the end of this instructable. It's difficult to estimate the amount of wax you'll need in proportion to the fabric, since even different brands of quilting cotton will differ in thickness, density, and the amount of wax they'll absorb.

Before you dismiss this as a silly girly activity... both genders enjoy playing with all sorts of toys, including clothes. Understanding how clothing fits together is a great life skill. Being able to see how a 2-D shape wraps around a 3-D object is also incredibly educational, and helps with spatial awareness. Understanding certain ways of manipulating substances and materials is also wonderful for kids and adults.

So, now that you've got some reasons to consider trying this... let's get started!

Step 2: Prepare & Measure

If you're using an oven instead of a hair dryer, now is the time to preheat it to 250 degrees F. We'll be using the oven or hair dryer to smooth out the wax on the fabric and ensure an even coat.

If your wax is in a block, chop or grate it into smaller pieces. This will speed up the melting time and make it easier to blend the mixture smoothly.

Add water to a saucepan (or the bottom of your double boiler) and turn your stove to medium. Place the heatproof container in the water, making sure the water isn't high enough to spill into the container. This won't be a worry if you're using a double boiler. Once you're sure the water isn't too deep for the container, use tongs to remove the container.

While the water is heating up to a boil, trim the fabric into manageable sizes for doll clothes - I suggest nothing longer than 8-12 inches.

Place the container on your scale and hit the tare button to zero it out. Measure out 22g of beeswax, 6g lanolin, and 5g coconut oil for a small batch. You can easily double or quadruple this if you want a larger batch of wax base.

Step 3: Make the Wax Base

Carefully move the container with the bees the hot water in the pot. Stir often as the wax melts. Once it's completely liquefied, use the tongs to remove the container from the boiling water.

You can pour any extra wax base into a nonstick container (silicone works well) to save for later, if you like. You can use this for modeling wax, but it will be stickier than the regular modeling wax.

Step 4: Coat the Fabric

Arrange a couple pieces of fabric on your nonstick surface (parchment, nonstick foil, or a silicone pan over a metal sheet pan).

Using tongs or a small towel to protect your hands from the heat, Pour some of the hot wax from the container onto the arranged fabric. You don't need to dump it all out; just drizzle some onto each fabric piece. The wax cools quickly when poured onto the fabric, making it impossible to spread evenly. This is why we also use the oven or a hair dryer.

Place the sheet pan in the oven. Any cooled wax will re-melt and soak into the rest of the fabric. Do NOT leave the oven at this point; wax is flammable, and even at low heat, it's not safe to leave unattended. Check the wax after a couple minutes. Let it heat a little longer if it's not all melted yet. If there are some areas of fabric that just aren't getting any wax because you didn't pour enough, pull the pan out of the oven and pour a little more onto the dry areas. You can also arrange solidified bits of wax base onto the fabric if your container of wax base has already solidified. If there's a puddle of wax around the fabric pieces, use the tongs to lift up each piece of fabric, and place another uncoated piece of fabric into the puddle. The melted wax is too hot for you to safely squeegee off extra wax from fabric using your fingers, so it's safest to place uncoated layers of fabric under the pieces with too much wax in order to absorb the excess.

Once the fabric is evenly coated without excess wax, use the tongs to move it to a clean surface (like parchment). Repeat this step for any additional pieces of fabric or bits of ribbon.

Step 5: Assemble Your Doll Clothes Fashion Kit

Once the coated fabric pieces have cooled, you might notice some have slightly frayed edges. You can now trim these using sharp scissors.

It's also a good idea to finalize a few different piece shapes. You'll want some rectangles and squares in your kit, but it's also nice to have some circles, stars, ovals, irregular blobs, and even mushroom shapes. Kids are remarkably creative, and they may surprise you with the things they can do with odd shapes of moldable fabric.

If your child is old enough to trust with scissors (my daughter still cuts her hair at every opportunity), let him or her know that it's okay to cut the fabric to his or her preferences while playing with the kit.

Don't forget to experiment and have fun as you make and remake different doll fashions with your child. Experiment with making pleats and ruffles, try adding butterfly wings or tentacles, or even use the fabric to attach two dolls, making conjoined twins!

Step 6: Additional Tips

Here's what I discovered from trying this technique with different types of fabric:

Silk - woven silk works well with this. It's light and holds its shape well

Quilting cotton - mainly what I used, holds its shape and easy to work with

Felted merino wool - a bit too thick for little hands to shape this stuff very easily

Eco-fi felt - this stuff feels disgusting with the wax... the fibers come off easily, and it doesn't crease

Iridescent cellophane - I didn't think the wax would stick to this, but it did, and is a great addition to a doll fashion kit. The wax mutes some of the iridescence, but it's still quite shiny (make sure you don't use too thick a coating) and sticks well.

Polyester satin - wax dulled this quite a bit. It sticks to other fabric just fine, but doesn't crease as well as cotton or silk

Organza - this didn't crease very easily and didn't look very good

Tulle - the holes on tulle are too big for this to work on its own. It was okay layered over iridescent cellophane, but I found that cellophane can keep the wax coating without any fabric overlay

Clean up:

Your hands might be sticky after coating the fabric (less so if you're just playing with the cooled fabric). Put a dab of coconut oil on your hands and rub it into the sticky wax to soften it. Wipe off the stuff from your hands on a paper towel. If you add enough oil, this can make a nice gardener's balm for dry hands.

If your kids play with this stuff in a really dusty area or bring it into the sandbox, the pieces will get dirty. Rinse off any dirt or debris. If there's still some dirt stuck to the wax, soften the fabric with a warm hair dryer and scrape it off. You can add a bit more wax and melt it in if you remove too much.

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