Technique Tutorial: Satin-Stitched Doll Eyes

9.23.2014

I can't count how many times this year I've received e-mails from readers asking if I could make them a ballerina doll because they didn't think they could tackle the hand embroidered eyes. But since I know for a fact that anyone can sew embroidered eyes, I decided to post a tutorial to take the mystery out of it. If you can believe it, I actually find sewing doll eyes to be slightly easier than the blanket stitch on pincushion leaves. Let's jump in!

Technique Tutorial: Satin-Stitched Doll Eyes

 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial

1. So. First things first: embroider the eyes before you sew the hair. That way if something goes so awry that you need to start over, you haven't wasted felt or time sewing the hair (but you won't, because you have this handy tutorial to guide you!).

2. In order to get symmetrical eyes, it's important to start with accurate tracing. In the past, I have taped the pattern to a sunny window and held the fabric on top of it, however my preferred method now is to use a light box, so I don't have to worry about the fabric slipping around on top of the paper or the awkward angle for tracing. If it's still too slippery, go ahead and use a bit of tape to keep everything in place. If you're curious, this is my favorite fabric pen.

3. Sew small backstitches around the eye circles. I aim to have the needle tip go through exactly the center of the traced line or just on the outer edge, then make sure it goes back into the same hole as the previous stitch. Try to be consistent with your needle placement as this will help your circle to be as round as possible. Don't be afraid to take out a stitch or two if your circle forms a little angle. It is way easier to take out a couple of stitches now than to try to camouflage it later. If your circle is persistently angular, your stitches are probably too large.

 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
4. Fill in the circle with satin stitches. Start your stitches right next to the backstitches, or slightly in between them. Try to fill in all the fabric underneath the first time around, but go back and fill in the gaps later if necessary. Start at the bottom of the eye and end at the top. Don't pull the thread super tight, just enough so the thread lies pretty flat and the fabric underneath doesn't wrinkle.

 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
Think you're finished filling in the eye?

 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
Peek-a-boo!

 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
A little gap likes to hide at the top of the eye; use your needle to push the thread downward, hold it with your thumb, and then sew another satin stitch or two to fill in the remaining space.

5. On to the eyelashes! These are just a few little backstitches. I sew the long line downward (2-3 stitches) so the last stitch is even with the bottom of the eye, then add a stitch for each eyelash, sewing the bottom lash first and then the one above. Tie off the knot on the back and trim the thread.

 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
6. This last step is crucial, as it adds some sparkle to your doll's eyes. Sew a single white stitch in the upper right corner of each eye. Aim to have the stitches in the same spot on each eye, even if they aren't exactly where my stitches are. Again, if it doesn't look right, take it out and try again. It's just one stitch and worth a little extra effort to get it the way you want!

 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
On the other hand, don't stress about the inevitable imperfections that are part handmade sewing. My doll eyes are never perfectly even. So when you are struggling a little bit, when you have the urge to just throw it away, sleep on it and take another look in the morning, it's never as bad as you think!

 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
 Retro Mama: Satin stitched doll eyes tutorial
Do you have any questions about hand stitching the eyes? Or is there something else keeping you from making your first doll? Let me know and maybe I can help de-mystify it for you!

Happy Stitching!



P.S. The darling girl pictured above is not my daughter (I know I've been away for a while, but it hasn't been that long!). Isn't she the most adorable little model?

8 comments:

  1. Спасибо! Огромное спасибо,что поделились такой нужной информацией! Ваши куколки-это просто чудо!

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  2. thanks Kim I am sure this will be a great help to lots of us

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  3. Wonderful! I'll try, thank you very much for sharing!! I love these eyes

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  4. Preciosa !!!!me gusta mucho ,besos.

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  5. This is a great tutorial. Thanks for sharing. I will certainly be using this. Did I say thank you?

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  6. very nice,, thank you for info about eye))nice a day !

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  7. Hey! Those eyes look lovely. I will give them a try on the next doll :)

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