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3-D Fabric Eyes For Cloth Dolls

Make that face POP!

3-D Fabric Eyes For Cloth Dolls

Needle sculpting a cloth doll head creates a fully-defined nose and mouth.  Wouldn’t it be nice to add a little POP to the eyes?

Here’s a tutorial that demonstrates how to “sculpt” fabric eyes.  The result will be a whimsical, charming, and unique face.

My secret to creating whimsical fabric eyes for cloth dolls:
  • Fabric for eyes – Plain muslin or cotton quilters fabric (Off-white or white)
  • Pencil – mechanical or very thin point
  • Fabric medium
  • Paintbrush
  • Scissors
  • Colored pencils of your choice – for coloring the eyes (and doll face, of course)
  • Micron pen (optional)
  • Fabric for eyelids – use what you sewed the cloth doll head from
  • Sewing machine with off white or white thread and bobbin (to match the eyes)
  • Applique needle and thread as above
  • Stuffing fork and a small amount of stuffing
  • Small pins (the kind they use at the dry cleaners, or as small and thin as possible)
  • Fabric glue
  • False eyelashes (if desired)
Begin with a cloth doll head that is stuffed and ready for eyes.  Mine already has finished nose and mouth, but you can begin with a clean slate of you like.
1.  Using a coin, trace two circles on the muslin fabric using a coin.  The bigger the doll, the bigger the coin.  A dime is a good size for an 18″ doll, and a quarter will make a very whimsical face.
The size coin will depend on the size of the doll’s head and your personal taste.  The larger the eyes, the more whimsical.  For a 20″ doll, I felt a quarter was a little too large.  I used an Israeli coin about the size of a the nickel  — part of the “stuph” I have lying around on my coffee table – more accessible and interesting than my wallet! 🙂
Hint:  I recommend making two sizes just so you can have something to choose from when you’re ready.
Be sure that you leave enough extra fabric on the bottom so you can fold it up and double it later.  Remember, we are going to sew and lightly stuff these eyes, so they will need a back as well as a front.

2.  Brush on some textile medium, and allow it to dry.

3.  Using a white jelly roll pen, color in the circles.

4.  Color over the jelly roll pen with an off-white colored pencil or pastel.  Coloring over the jelly roll can add a little depth.  Tip: I don’t like pure white eyes.  I think that off-white looks more realistic, but that’s my humble opinion.

5.  Color the iris into both eyes.  Leave the white “catch light” off.  You’ll probably want do a little touching up later, which is fine.  The white will be the final touch.

6.  Folding the fabric RST (covering the part you just colored), sew the eyes over the TOP half.  You can use a sewing machine or do it by hand.  Use very small stitches.  I did mine by hand on the couch with a cup of tea.

7. Cut the eyes out.
8. Snip an “X” on the back using small embroidery scissors.

9. Turn the eyes right side-out using a small hemostat or other tool that you use for turning fingers and doll parts.


10. Lightly stuff the eyes with a stuffing fork and fiberfill.

Remember I suggested making two sets of eyes?  Choose the ones you will use for your doll.

These eyes may look a little [ok, a lot] funny right now, but they will look great when the face is done!

11.  Using an Exacto knife or a sharp pair of embroidery scissors, make a slit in the eye area.

12.  Add a little fabric glue to the back of the eye. 

13.  Slightly press the bottom of the eye into the slit, and pin the top in place with very small pins.  Be sure that the slit is not as long as the diameter of the eye, or it will be visible.


14.  Cut out a piece of fabric for use as an eyelid.  There is no actual pattern for it – you will need to be creative according to the shape of with your doll’s face and the size of her eye.  Use your fingernail or an iron to turn under the bottom edge and glue down some eyelashes.  Allow to dry.

15.  Using a toothpick, add some glue around the edges, leaving a very small open area for stuffing. The opening can be at the top or the side.   Pin in place and allow to dry.

16.  Lightly stuff the eyelids with fiberfill and carefully close up the open area.

17.  Color the eyelids as desired.  I like to use textile medium and mica powder.  You can use colored pencils, eyeshadow, or whatever you usually like using to color your doll’s face.


Your doll might look something like this:


If you like this technique, try making round 3-D eyes made from clay instead of fabric.  That tutorial can be found here.

Eye hope you will try making whimsical eyes!   Thank you for reading, and  Have a dollightful day!

This dollightful tutorial was originally posted in 2010 and has been spruced up.  The original photos remain for the purpose of nostalgia.  Eye hope you’ll try this technique!

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