Monday, September 13, 2010

How to make a paper doll fabric art journal

I was recently given the opportunity to once again create a tutorial, this time using a yummy paper doll print from Darlene Zimmerman's Clothesline Club. Barbara at Ruby Jane's Retro Fabric offered 1/2 yard of this fabric in exchange for a tutorial that will also be shown on Totally Tutorials, run by Dotty, who partners with various suppliers in order to provide this service.

Although I am not a seamstress, I was able to make two book covers and a matching doll from the fabric I was sent. The doll was made to accompany the journal cover on the right as a stand alone paper doll embellishment (although I realize she is shown next to the cover on the left in this photo). She is a small art doll that can be removed from the journal cover and taken on "photo shoots."

Barbara sent this lovely retro design fabric with the stipulation:
You can use any other complementary fabric in your personal stash but the paper doll fabric must be the focus of the project.
I believe I have accomplished that.

In all my other tutorials, I have used larger photos, and it is hard to read the words under each photo and still keep the relevant photo on the screen. These photos all enlarge, so feel free to click or double click on them to see details.

Supplies clockwise from back:
sewing machine
self healing mat
book signatures
cutting ruler
rotary cutter
other embellishments from your stash
butcher paper (or other paper to make a pattern)
ink pen or pencil

You will need two sets of signatures. These were made using various paper techniques and the process will not be covered here. Each signature, which is a fancy name for a set of pages, contains 48 journal pages, with a total of 96 pages in the book. I like to make my signatures first,

then measure the thickness of the two signatures stacked together.

To make a pattern for your journal cover, measure the height and width of your book. Don't forget to include the thickness of the signatures in the width.

For this book, I will be adding a pointed overflap, something I have not done before. In all honesty, I've never made a pattern before, either, but felt it was important in order to get the correct size of the book. These are my measurements, but you should make yours relevant to the size of your pages. I made my pattern using my 8 1/2" X 11" (21.59 cm X 27.94 cm) book pages. I added 1" ( 2.54 cm) to the height and 2" (5.08 cm) to the width. I added an additional 2 1/2" (6.35 cm) to include the decorative point that would overlap the front of the journal cover.

I made the spine using some hand dyed shibori fabric. I used a stencil and Staz-on permanent ink to make the words.

Then I cut the fabric using the self healing mat, rotary cutter, and plastic ruler. I forgot to take a photo of this process, but I'm sure you will be able to get the correct size of your fabric without a photo.

I cut fabric for both the outside and inside of the journal cover at the same time. I left the lovely paper doll print intact. I wanted it to be the focal point of the journal.

I apologize for this photo, but it is intended to show that you should add all your embellishments to each side before they are sewn together.

I added a rectangle of fabric from my stash to the inside cover and sewed a line down the center. Since this is an art journal, it will be the perfect place for both a small and large diameter ink pen of your choice.

For the strap that keeps the journal closed, I sewed decorative ribbon to quilter's tape.

Now here is where it gets complicated. I probably should not show this process because it is wrong. In fact, I had no idea why it was wrong or what happened, until I took the photos off my camera and saw my mistake. Had I assembled the pieces correctly, I believe I was supposed to put the long end of the strap to the inside of the two covers. However, since I am not a seamstress and have never before followed a pattern, and had no instructions for hiding a strap, I spent a good deal of time reworking this step.

However, before I knew I had the strap wrong, I placed RIGHT sides together

and did something else I never do: I pinned around the edges of the fabric. Please note you are looking at the back, or wrong side of the fabric, even though it is nearly as lovely as the front.

Once you sew the two fabrics on three sides, you need to turn the piece right side out. I'm sure you seamstresses out there are laughing at the position of the strap, which, when the project was turned right side out, was now on the inside.

After a great deal of rework, I got it on the correct side with the end hidden, which was the original intention. Next, I sewed the final side of the cover.

Whew! Both sides were now made and assembled. Now it was time to add the signatures.

I'm really lucky to have a good friend who is a seamstress. After a few tearful moments of conversation, she agreed to help finish the journal. I took the journal to her home, where she chose the signature she preferred to be on top.

While I talked, she determined where the height,


and thickness must be located so the signatures will fit properly in the sewn book.

Next, she found the center of the first set of signatures

and clipped them in place on the journal cover, making sure the inside of the cover was next to the paper signature.

Although this is not a good photo, and her machine is far different from mine, she showed that in order to sew the paper into the fabric, you should use the longest stitch possible. That way, pages won't tear away as easily once the journal is handled. I would never have thought of that, so I'm really glad she pointed that out.

For the second set of signatures, she got out her zipper foot, something I'd never seen before. She used the zipper foot because it gave her the option to get the signature close to the first one that was already sewn into the book. She explained the zipper foot was helpful because the needle sits to one side or the other (in this case to the right) of the sewing line. So, if you have a zipper foot, you should use it and set it to the side opposite the signatures that are already sewn in the book. Had I not had her help, I'm sure this would be a far different (and less informative) tutorial.

Back home, it was time to make the darling stand-alone doll. Supplies from left:
doll from fabric
double sided iron-on adhesive with backing
coordinating felt about the size of the doll
craft mat (heat resistant)
pressing cloth

Plug in your iron and set to the setting listed on the instructions for your iron-on adhesive. All of these adhesive brands are different, so be sure to read the instructions for you particular brand. Adhere the sticky side that doesn't have paper on it, to the BACK side of your doll fabric. Iron for the length of time required.

When cool to the touch, remove the protective backing to expose the adhesive that is now part of your doll. Iron wrong side of the fabric (doll) to the wrong side of your felt. Allow to cool. Cut out your doll.

Here is the completed project, along with the doll.

You can see how she sits perfectly on the fabric with no help whatsoever. She will also adhere to most clothing, so you can wear her when you take her on photo shoots. No need for pins or velcro, she will tag along just as she is.

Because I had fabric left over, and because the above tutorial is not something most altered artists unfamiliar with complicated sewing instructions would make, I decided to make another journal cover the way I would normally make it. The supply list is basically the same as the first tutorial, although, if you don't have a sewing machine, I suspect you could adhere the outside and inside covers using the heat activated iron on adhesive.

For this cover, I used scraps from my stash, a frame, and one of the lovely paper dolls from the paper doll print. I adhered the frame and paper doll using the iron-on adhesive and a pressing cloth. Please note that I do not own an ironing board, so I have used my craft sheet in its place.

While I had the iron out, I ironed the inside and outside covers, as well as making sure the various seams were ironed flat.

The only pin I used was to hold the strap in place. Note that I also tore the fabric, rather than cutting it.

As you can see, I sewed WRONG sides together, which meant the edges were allowed to fray.

Here is the finished cover. I have no signatures made for this book because they take a long time to make, but the cover is ready whenever I make them.

This is the inside of the completed cover. I added a tall pocket on the left that will hold two ink pens, pencils, or other drawing tools. The shorter, fat pocket on the right can hold tags, notes, post its, crayons, or other art supplies you want to keep handy for when the spirit moves you.

Not wanting to take away from the darling paper doll in her frame, I chose to keep the outside of this journal cover simple and elegant, letting the little girl speak for the book. I hope these two projects have inspired you to use fabric in your altered art. Even if you aren't a seamstress, if I can muddle through these projects, so can you.

Today's blog pick is Barbara at Ruby Jane's Retro Fabric. She has the most beautiful fabric around, especially if you like retro and vintage styles that range from vintage magazine advertisements to retro style teapots. The shop by the same name is located in Garland, TX in the US. I'm sure you'll like her blog and get lots of ideas for sewing real projects that real seamstresses will appreciate. She also has fabric that we altered artists who play at sewing can appreciate.

29 thoughtful remarks:

Donna: said...

I think you are "hooked" on fabric now E. Delightful project.

DebsArt said...

I have the perfect fabric I have had stashed away waiting for a project like this.
Thanks for the inspiration.

Anonymous said...

Elizabeth! This is an amazing project! Thank you for sharing!

Karen said...

WOW have done an amazing job on this! Well done my lovely!!! ooooo that fabric is gorgeous isn't it? XXX

Healing Woman said...


This is a spectacular tutorial. Given the fact that I absolutely love paper dolls, I was immediately drawn in when I saw the cute little girl you made. After reading the tutorial, I'm convinced you have the patience of Job. I learned a lot from it. I have never used quilter's tape or iron on adhesive before and definitely will try them soon.
Thanks so much. Your book really is wonderful as well as the second cover you made.


Dori Patrick said..., fun, fun!!! Great job!

elle said...

Paper Dolls. What memories! But this is looking like an awful lot of fun. I probably don't need the excuse but I'm hoping the young grandaughter will be up for playing soon! Great tutorial. Have you one for making signatures? That's where I need directions.

Steph said...

AWESOME!!! THANK YOU for this tutorial, E!!! Appreciate the effort to take us through all those're soo sweet......hugs steph

Diane said...

Wonderful tutorial!! When I see projects like this, I become so envious of people who know how to use a sewing machine and also being so creative with it. And aside from the sewing, this journal and all of the elements turned out awesome (love that little doll)!
I also wanted to respond to your question about my "ironing board". I've had this piece for quite a while now, and ladies will come up and admire it with a smile and ask me the same question that you asked. And I'll always say--no, it's not an ironing board, it's an old fur board (pretty sure that means-it's what they used to dry the pelts of animals on?--and this is what I tell them) ----and they just smile and politely walk away. Now I just tell everyone that it's an ironing board :)

Liverpool Lou (Anne) said...

Ooh what a fantastic project Elizabeth and great tutorial :-) I look forward to seeing dolly in photo shoots lol
Anne x

Cynthia Schelzig said...

What a splendid effort on your I know why you were held captive for days in your studio:) Great job and lovely project.

BadPenny said...

WOW ! Fabulous post xx

~*~Patty S said...

WOWEE what a lot you've put into yet another super tutorial and project Elizabeth!
To create something as lovely as that (darling fabric too) is one thing, but to document your creative process ... well I bow to you the Tut Queen!

Cath Wilson said...

This is an absolutely fabulous tutorial - I really MUST have a go when I get the time!! Would you mind if I copied and pasted your tutorial and put it in Word form to print out, please? That's a real treasure and there's someone I'd love to make one for.

On another note, I too have problems with your blog link not showing the photo - spooky!! Wish I had more time to get back to you but life is busy, busy, busy now - I'm sure I'll get used to it in a few weeks but for now, I'm totally exhausted, lol.

Thank you for the wonderful inspiration.

donnalouiserodgers said...

darn it I have to find a way to make sure I can try to do these tutorials again and again - and still do all my other projects tooo - fab stuff Elizabeth,

Liverpool Lou (Anne) said...

Hi Elizabeth, I'm flattered that you think I could've prevented you making any mistakes but please believe me when I say you are completely mistaken :-/ I'm often hopeless when it comes to sewing; even with things I may have done before I just don't think beforehand and make the same mistakes over and over. Admittedly if it's something I've done recently I would be ok. I'm not hopeless with everythingI have to say, but for example though I know if cutting out something with a pile I would need to cut 2 pieces out with the pile running the same way I could still quite easily cut something out the wrong way. I'm so dozy at times it's hard to believe!
As for the 365 journal, I like doing it 'cos it does only involve minimal writing to record daily life ;-)
Anne xx

Terri Kahrs said...

Holy Cow! This journal is amazing, and how wonderful that you had a friend who was willing to help sew in the signatures. To be honest, I'd have never thought to use a zipper foot! Beautifully done, Elizabeth! Hugs, Terri xoxoxo

Debby said...

WOW!!! I love this, so beautiful.

Halle said...

Wonderful! Looks like you had fun making this one!!

flowerdisco said...

beautiful fabric and album. thanks so much for visiting.

Anitra Cameron said...

It's wonderful--a real treasure! I'm so glad you shared the instructions!

Angela Toucan said...

bookmarking this one, I'll be back to read it properly soon. looks fab thanks

Colleen - the AmAzINg Mrs. B said...

This is fantastic! And THANK YOU for showing the step-by-step! I will be adding you to my site and am now happily a follower of yours! I came by way of Totally Tutorials..and happy I did :-)

Lynn Cohen said...

I adored making my own paperdolls as a child. So this really drew my attention!

Sherry said...

What a brilliant, fabulous project, I love it!! Thanks for sharing. That fabric is beautiful and I love what you've done with it.

Unknown said...

you did a wonderful job and the tutorial turned out I have to wonder what you were so worried about!!!! I need your address to please...will you email it to me? Melinda

Angeline Rood said...

Elizabeth, thanks for the tip about using the zipper foot for sewing the signatures. That was something I always struggled with.

SewPaperPaint said...

How stinkin' cute is that! I want one!!! I adore paper dolls and the fabric is a new element for me! How fun!
Autumn Clark

K J D said...

This really is a gorgeous project.... I really have enjoyed your blog - I am just going to add myself as a follower!!!