Let me introduce you to "Noel", a from-the-heart doll.
What's so special about Noel? Mainly that she is a cuddly heirloom doll that any person with minimal sewing skills can make and be able to send to underprivileged children for Christmas! You don't have to be all elaborate and fancy to let somebody know that you care.
Step 1: Background and Credits
Noel was invented by a woman named Kathleen who wanted to have something that people could make and add a personal touch to their gifts to needy children around the world.
Originally, Noel was designed to be packed in the Christmas shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child's annual shoe box campaign. She still strongly supports them so if you want to do that you can send the finished dolls directly to Kathleen and she will deliver them in bulk to that ministry.
We got involved when we asked permission to sew up dolls to send to another, much smaller missionary organization called Hands Across the Borders, which specializes in indigenous people groups, for instance, building dormitories for poor Tarahumara [wikipedia] children in central Mexico.
We've never actually met Kathleen in real life, but she loved the idea and even gave us permission to write this instructable so that, regardless of which group you support, you too can make a doll to give to a child in need this Christmas!
Step 2: Choosing Your Fabric
Besides your own creative fun, there are several additional things to consider when choosing which fabric to use:
- Ethnicity - It is always good to have a doll that "looks like me". Think about the common skin, hair, and eye colors of the area.
- Colors and Patterns - What colors does a people group tend to prefer? I guarantee someone from Japan would have very different tastes than someone from West Africa.
- Culture - For instance, if the people you will be sending the doll to have dirt floors (as ours did), you might want to stay away from white and pastel colors.
- Age - This is important because of things like using buttons for eyes may be cute, but could become a choking hazard.
These factors and probably others can be learned by talking to the missionary organization you are going through.
The type of fabric you use will also have an impact on the doll you make. Flannel tends to be softer and what Kathleen suggests for most dolls, but you can also use quilters cotton for a long lasting doll.
For felt look for a good quality felt. I would suggest a wool blend either 20% wool or 35% wool make for a doll that doesn't get peely fuzzys and makes for a longer lasting nicer looking doll. We got our felt at Joannes and woolfeltcentral.com
Don't forget your red or pink for your hearts or you will be making a last minute run to the store to get some.
Step 3: The Pattern
You can get the pattern by emailing Kathleen.
(She has asked that you write so that she can keep track of who is making dolls for what. That sounds reasonable, actually.)
If the pdf you received has the full-sized doll, you need to print it out with zero margins on your printer settings so that nothing gets cut off. Otherwise if it is the original design, the doll prints in two pieces that will need to be taped together to make the full pattern.
Now that you have the printout, just cut along the lines.
Step 4: Prepare the Fabric
After ironing the fabric nice and flat, trace around the doll pattern.
You want to have the good sides facing eachother and the "wrong" side on the top and bottom.
Step 5: Sew
Set your sewing machine to the tightest straight stitch pattern it has, and sew along the line.
You could even do this by hand if you don't have a machine.
What you want to do is start at the tab, sew all the way around, and end at the tab.
(IMPORTANT: Do not sew the tab shut!)
Step 6: Cut It Out
Now cut around the pattern, about 1/4 inch outside of your seam.
TIP: To help the doll look better, you can cut V-shaped notches out around the curves. Cut from the outer cut line in to the stitches, being very careful not to cut past the stitch line or you can use pinking shears.
Step 7: Turn It Inside Out
Now you can turn the doll inside out. A chopstick, dowel, or other stick can help you get into all the corners.
Step 8: Stuff It
Take approximately two large handfulls of stuffing and stuff it in your doll. Again, a stick can be very helpful here.
The doll should not be overstuffed. That's the secret to making it more cuddly.
The one exception is the neck. Stuffing that a little on the tough side can increase the doll's durability.
Step 9: The Face
Decorate the face with eyes, nose, and mouth.
Also cut out your hair pattern and sew that to the face as well.
Finally, sew the face to the doll.
Step 10: You Gotta Have Heart
Since this is a from-the-heart doll, you certainly do not want to forget the heart!
Really, that's the point. You could just send the kid some Walmart junk toy, but instead you're putting in a labor of love, making something with your own two hands.
Step 11: Finish Up the Doll
Now its time to sew up the tab so that the stuffing won't come out.
It is also a good idea to squish the batting around to even it out.
Step 12: Accessories
You can keep the doll as it is, or, we find that simple accessories such as a scarf or shawl can add significantly to the cuteness with not much extra work.
Step 13: Send Some Love
That's about all there is to it. It can be a fun and fairly simple sewing project and more importantly, one that will bring plenty of joy to someone else.
All that remains is to send it off and wish some little girl or boy somewhere in the world, a heartfelt, "Merry Christmas!"