Saturday, July 8, 2017

Tutorial: How to Make a No-Sew Doll Kimono

Learn to make a kimono for any doll.
I recently got a request from a client for some handmade kimonos for her Japanese Gofun dolls. Although I have heard of Gofun dolls I wasn't very familiar with them, so I looked them up to see if I could find a clothing pattern. Well, I discovered there are no patterns, probably because most Gofun have pinned-on or sewn-on clothing. Gofun dolls are tourist dolls from Japan. Sometimes they are jointed and free-standing and other times they are wired-armature dolls fixed to a stand and posed in position as a dancer, fighter, or musician, most typically. Although their clothing looks extremely rich and detailed if you look closely you will see it is mainly just hemmed cloth wrapped and draped over the doll. Since my client is in the UK it would be especially cost-prohibitive for her to ship me the dolls to dress them, and it's really pretty easy to make these clothes yourself.

You will need a few materials.
To get started you will need your doll as well as some straight pins and wired ribbon in wide and narrow widths. Then you will need some really wide unwired ribbon or just hemmed cloth, such as a scarf or handkerchief. If you have basic sewing skills you might want a needle and thread as well.

Fold over the edge of the wired ribbon.
Begin by making the sleeves. Fold over the edge of the wired ribbon. The larger your doll the wider the wired ribbon you will need.

Fold the sleeve over the arm.

Cut the ribbon for the next sleeve.

Lay your doll on the ribbon with the ribbon under her shoulders, as shown. Place the folded edge on the doll's arm and bend the ribbon over the arm to make a sleeve. Extend the doll's other arm to see how long your piece of ribbon should be. Allow enough length to fold the edge of the ribbon over a couple times after you cut it.

Poke the wire from one corner inside the sleeve.
After you have folded the ribbon on both hems and folded the sleeves over the arms, you can use the wire on the edge of the ribbon to attach the sleeve. There is almost always wire poking out of the edge of the ribbon and if not you can coax some out at the cut edge. Poke the wire from one side of the sleeve edge into the other side to close the sleeve. If you can sew a little you can also just sew a stitch at each wrist to hold the ribbon in place.

Wrap the unwired ribbon around the doll to make a skirt.
Now take your unwired ribbon or hemmed fabric and wrap it around the doll's waist. Wrap it again around her knees and again around her calves and then bring it up and wrap it around her waist again. Pin the skirt in place as shown. If your doll has a cloth body you can pin the fabric right to the body. If you can sew you can put a stitch or two in the waist to hold the fabric in place.

Cross the ribbon over the chest.
Now take your narrower wired ribbon and lay your doll's neck on the center of the length of ribbon with plenty of ribbon on each side of the neck to wrap around the chest and waist a couple times. Draw the ends of the ribbon over the shoulders and cross them over the doll's chest. The ribbon will go over the tops of the sleeves. Then raise the arms and draw the ends of the ribbon under the sleeves toward the back of the doll. Make sure you are covering the straight pin in the skirt.

Wrap the ribbon around the waist.
Now take the ends of the narrower wired ribbon that you have crossed over the chest and wrap them around the back of the waist and then to the front of the waist passing under the arms and sleeves this time. Pull the ribbon tight, wrap it around the back of the waist again, and knot it.

Knot the ribbon in back.
Make the knot a loose knot like an Obi sash. Then shape the ends of the ribbon as desired.

Shape the sash.
The finished kimono

The back view
As you begin to explore the possibilities with this method you will see you can create all kinds of kimonos and other clothes. You can tie the bodice sash in front, for instance, or leave the ends of the ribbon really long to create a train. You can make a shirt by wrapping ribbon or fabric around the arms and torso as you did with the skirt. This type of clothing works best for a display doll, obviously, and not a play doll. The Gofun dolls are meant to be collector dolls and decor, not play dolls. As always, I am happy to take custom orders for dolls and clothing, as long as I can find a pattern for the clothing. You can contact me to place a custom order

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