Kitten Dolls Made with Silky-Smooth Air Dry Clay

How to Make Adorable Baby Animal Dolls – the Book

My new book about how to make animal dolls has now been officially published. It’s available on Amazon.com. The following videos show you how to mix up the air-dry clay using a kitchen scale, and how to soft-sculpt the adorable toes on the baby animal dolls. If you have any questions, feel free to ask!

And do show us your own dolls when they’re done. I’d love to see how your dolls come out, and I know my other readers would enjoy seeing them, too.

Click here for the recipe and mixing process for the Silky-Smooth Air-Dry Clay

Soft-Sculpting the Toes:

More resources:

If you’re interested in designing your own doll clothes, you might find some inspiration at the Old Fashioned Baby website. Their patterns are too big, of course, but they could be adapted for smaller dolls. I really like this one

And of course, if you really want to get carried away with doll clothes and accessories, you can’t find a better resource than Finishing the Figure: Doll Costuming, Embellishments, Accessories

If anyone’s wondering, I used an inexpensive sewing machine for all the dolls in the book. I ordered the Brother XL2600I machine from amazon.com. I needed a new one because I gave away my old machine years ago, when I got out of the doll-making business. Fortunately, this machine was easy to use, right out of the box. (I’m definitely not mechanically inclined!)

I purchased some of my dress fabric from artists who sell their printed fabric designs online. The Jungle Babies fabric by maudie&ma is here. Several of the other dolls were dressed in fabric designed by Sharon Turner. The other dolls were dressed in either left-over cotton velour, or fabric from recycled T-shirts and clothes that I found at the local Goodwill store.

All of the cotton velour that I used came from Weir Dolls and Crafts. It’s the only online source I could find that sells fat quarters, although there may be others that I’m not aware of. They ship really fast. I also purchased my doll needles and some of their wool stuffing from them. I really like the wool stuffing, but the polyester fiber from Walmart is obviously less expensive.

26 Comments

  • oops that’ll teach me to dive right in without chenikcg. I read front cover’ and missed the rest it seems but just had another sqizz at page 60 and fun and funky is aptly named. Congrats Elaine, it’s a marvelous tutorial.

  • Hi Jonni,
    I’m excited about this mache recipe! I want to make little houses for my Christmas mantle. However, I was wondering what the life was for the finished projects? I just imagine the toilet paper being very acidic–unless the other things in the mixture make it less so. I have some linen paper pulp for paper making but I’m not sure if I’d want to use it for this. I also have some Calcium Carbonate and was thinking of experimenting with it in the place of flour. Paperclay puts the x in expensive and this seems like it would be a lot less struggle than the regular paper strips and wheat glue.
    Thank you for all your time and effort!
    Lisa

    • Hi Lisa. The joint compound is made out of calcium carbonate, which should completely neutralize any acid in the paper. I haven’t tested it though. One of these days maybe I’ll do that, but I don’t’ have a laboratory that could really test the material for archival qualities. When you do your own tests and experiments, please let us know what you find out.

  • Oops me again. I am a different Karen from the one asking about the mold and how long is the clay ‘usable’. I am the salt Karen.

  • Hi Jonni, A couple of quick questions on your clay. I think you use Angel soft toilet paper. Is that correct? one ply or two? Also, how long can this clay stay good? I mean, after you put it in a zip lock bag, how long can I keep it before it may dry out? Love your tutorials! Keep them coming!

    Karen

    • Hi Karen. I don’t think it matters what brand you use. I used Angel Soft before, because it seemed like the cheapest brand. Lately I’ve been using the Scott toilet paper, one ply, and it works just fine. If you measure the paper, it doesn’t matter if it’s one ply or two, since it’s all going to fall apart into little bits anyway.

      The clay may get mold on it before it dries out. If you keep it really well covered, it will stay workable for a long time. A few drops of oil of clove might keep the mold out of it for a while, too, but I haven’t tried it. Mine starts to grow green stuff in about a week, if I add bleach to the water the paper is soaked in. (Chlorine is a gas, so it goes away after a while). The oil of clove might make it last longer. Keeping it in the fridge might help, too. If you think you’ll need it to last a really long time, you might want to make smaller batches, and just start a new one when you run out.

      • to follow up with the length of time the clay is usable….. just thinking off the cuff…. what makes the clay get mold? is it the combination of the flour, cornstarch and water? if so, could a powdered hardware material not mold as quickly? Since you are using joint compound and pva glue, do you think there would be a powered compound that would work as well as the flour and keep mold at bay for a longer time?

        • Hi Karen. Fungi do like flour (a good thing, in the case of bread yeast, not as pleasant if you leave a batch of air-dry clay sitting out for a week or two and it turns green). That’s one of the reasons why I make my clay in fairly small batches. Mold will grow on almost anything, even joint compound if you don’t keep it covered. It takes longer than with organic products, but if there’s moisture, mold will eventually find it.

          That’s not to say that a really inventive person might not be able to find a combination of ingredients that mold would never attack – but I haven’t bothered to worry about it very much. It’s traditional for paper mache, in all its forms, to attract mold if you don’t let it dry thoroughly, and that’s true for my clay recipes, too. Adding oil of cloves or bleach will slow down the natural processes, so you have lots of time (within reason) to work. I don’t know if the commercial Creative Paperclay will mold or not – but if it’s labeled non-toxic, it probably will if it isn’t allowed to dry quickly enough.

          Just my opinions, of course – if you do some experiments and develop a recipe that works as well, but never molds, I hope you’ll share it with us. Experiments are fun.

          • instead of using mineral oil maybe coconut oil might be better it has
            anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties it might help with the growth of mold and a few drops of peppermint oil might help because of its anti-fungal properties oh and peppermint relieves stress
            mmm the smell of peppermint when making things with paper clay 🙂

            its good to pass ideas around 🙂

            • Good idea, Rachelle. I’ll try that next time I make the original recipe, and see how it works out. I love the smell of coconut oil.

            • Coconut oil doesn’t go rancid like other oils do which is great
              and it will mix better with the clay because the mineral oil
              does not sink in to the toilet paper or flour .mineral oil just sits on top of any surface that you put it on it might also be why some peoples clay is to dry or not holding together when mix.
              🙂

            • I think the dry clay issue comes from too much paper, or too much flour or corn starch – but I’m definitely going to try the coconut oil.

            • I live in the Southeastern US — Humidity Central –where mold is considered a dominant lifeform. Anyway, I add salt (about a tablespoon) to Jonni’s Silky Smooth Air Dry Clay and to the regular flour and water mixture. It works beautifully. I do not recommend adding it to the gesso unless you are trying for a crackle look. I would still test it first before using it on an important project (I tend to be very cautious about other people’s work).

            • Just to clarify, I am a different Karen than the one asking about the mold and how long the clay is usable. I am…the Salt Karen.

  • Jonni, I received my copy of “How to Make Adorable Baby Animal Dolls”.I have only read it and it is great. I love the size, and it is so easy to follow. I can’t wait to start some of the dolls. I’m still slowly working my way through your other book. Life and work keep slowing me down. Great books!!!!

  • Jonni I am a real fan of your works of art. I have three of your books and love them. I am the coordinator of the Art Doll Studio an online doll club, called Cloth Doll Artistry on facebook. (Also part owner)
    I suggested to the gals for our next project/challenge, (have four a year) that we do a mache project………….they love the idea but do not know where to begin. I have done very little myself but want to learn.
    The last challenge for 2013 will cover from October 1st thru December 20………..so we have three holidays in that time span. I would love to do a stump doll Santa or Angel…………..I know you have a santa mask, have you made a full head as yet? I am looking for ideas, they are doll artists so can handle that part of it,………….HELP, any suggestions are welcome……….and would it be easier to use you new clay recipe? Thank you for your time and look forward to hearing from you, Kat Lees

    • Hi Katherine. The challenge sounds fun – I hope we get to see what you all come up with.

      I’m not quite sure what you mean when you ask if I’ve made a full head. Do you mean a Santa head? The answer to that would be “no,” but I’ve made plenty of heads of animals, and a few people. (I have to admit that I didn’t know what you meant by “stump doll,” so I ran out to Pinterest to see some photos.)

      I used the new air dry clay recipe for my dolls – in fact, that’s why I developed that recipe. You can get a very smooth surface – porcelain-smooth, if that’s what you want – and that isn’t possible with the original paper mache clay recipe. However, you do need to use the new clay in a slightly different way, because it isn’t sticky. I won’t stick to itself, I mean, so you do need the glue and water mixture that I mention in my book. If you’ve used Creative Paperclay, you’ll be very familiar with the process.

      Good luck – and you have a beautiful website, by the way. I’ll go take a look at it now.

  • Hello all- I had posted my first doll on the daily sculpture page and Jonni asked if I would put a pic on the doll page. So here it is.
    Jonni’s instructions were great and easy to follow. After varnishing and looking at it, I realized that I should have made the cheeks fatter to look more like a mini lop- live and learn. I had trouble getting the body to stay on the head with just gathering around the neck so I came up with another solution. I made a thin casing on the top of the body and threaded a computer tie to attach the body to the neck. It worked great! I then just threaded the excess tie into the casing. It made a very study attachment. You can’t see from the picture, but I also used fleece material instead of velour like Jonni does. It was just what I had on hand but it worked fine.
    This was made for a gift for my daughter who has a mini lop with a brown nose. I gave it to her today and she just loved it! She assured me that she would not let her bunny play with this one- it would probably eat it!
    I hope you have as much fun making your doll as I did!

  • Hi Jonni-I just found the new tab about the doll book! I hadn’t realized that the book was officially on the market! Did you tell us? Did I miss it? You should announce it officially! Anyway, I have just ordered it and can not wait to get it. A mini lop would make an excellent housewarming gift for my daughter who just moved to a new apartment! (she has a real mini lop) Anyway, good job and congratulations on completing the book.
    Also, the video on making the soft sculpture toes was excellent. Easier than I thought. Dental floss is a great idea as it is so durable. I guess fishing line might do as well too.
    How exciting! We have been hearing about the labor pains and now we get to see the baby! And yes, I will post the new doll I make when I can get it done- just knew you would ask!

    • Heh – no I haven’t announced it yet. The book is done and officially available, but the tech guys at CreateSpace are trying to fix a problem with the “search inside the book” feature. For some reason, all the letters are showing up as weird rectangles. The real book isn’t like that, obviously, but I don’t want to confuse too many people. Fortunately, it was really easy to contact them, and it should be fixed sometime today.

      Thanks for all you kind thoughts – I am really excited about this book (and really happy that it’s finished). I can’t wait to tell everyone about it.

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