Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Sewing with Freezer Paper - Tip for New Dollmakers

Freezer paper is an absolute necessity for me when sewing dolls, especially when sewing small, detailed parts like fingers. I find this much easier and more accurate than tracing around a template and sewing on the line - nothing against those who do so, this just works better for me (that, and the fact that my purple air-soluble pens are often too dried up to use, or the ink disappears too quickly here in the moist Pacific Northwest). In addition, the traced line has some width to it, and fingers may get chubby and end up with seam allowances that are to narrow to be turned right side out and stuffed without blowouts (that happens to all of us). Freezer paper also lends some stability to the fabric you're sewing. Plastic-backed freezer paper is usually available in the canning sections of most grocery stores, but you can certainly order it online. I use Reynolds brand as it is readily available locally.

To start, trace the pattern pieces onto the freezer paper. Use a window and natural light if you don’t have a light box. Avoid using a pencil to trace the pieces, as the graphite can stain your fabric if you accidentally sew over the line. Be sure to transfer any other markings onto the freezer paper – any indicated openings, fabric stretch direction, etc. It’s helpful to put the name of the pattern you’re using as well, for easy identification later (I’ve had a torso piece pinned to my wall for years, as I have no idea from which pattern it came). 

Next, carefully cut out each pattern piece from the freezer paper, along the drawn line. Some patterns have darts, so follow the pattern instructions to determine if you need to cut the dart from the paper or leave it drawn.

The freezer paper template is then ironed (plastic side down) to doubled fabric, right sides together. Pin through the layers to prevent the fabric from shifting.

The sewing is done right against the edge of the paper. Sew slowly and accurately. When you come to curves, stop sewing and leave the machine needle in the down position. Raise the presser foot and turn the piece, then presser foot down and continue sewing. Sometimes you’ll find yourself only sewing a stitch or two between turns. Most times you will leave a small section unsewn so you can turn the piece right side out. Other times you will sew all the way around, then cut a slit in one side (e.g., two-piece heads with a front and back only). 

Then trim the fabric to the appropriate seam allowance as indicated on the pattern/instructions. If you’ve left a section open for turning right side out, I suggest making this seam allowance a little wider as the fabric edges can fray a little as you stuff the part, making closure a little trickier. Clip any curves, taking care to avoid snipping through your stitching. If you remove the freezer paper carefully, you can reuse it over and over. 

Unless yours is a simple pancake doll, this technique may not be applicable for all doll parts. For example, use freezer paper to sew the center seams of the body front and back (for a 4-part body), but not when sewing the front to the back.

You can also use this technique with many fabrics, knit or woven. Below is craft velour, which has some advantages. It doesn’t fray, it’s quite forgiving, and is available in a variety of skin colors. Using an open-toed presser foot really helps you see where you're going - whether using the freezer paper OR the traced template method. My (green) presser foot is Teflon coated, so it slides along the fabric easily. 


Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

What an unusual color for a sewing foot. It's great looking!

Deanna Hogan said...

It's a Teflon coated foot, which is supposed to make it slide along the fabric better. Unfortunately, it's so well-used that the Teflon has worn off. Oh, well. I do like the large open area, so I can see where I'm going.

KarenB said...

Very nice--so helpful! Thank you so much! Your dolls are gorgeous and inspiring :).