Friday, October 26, 2012

Creating A Custom Baby Doll (Part One)

Amelia loves baby dolls. In fact, it's a bit of an obsession with her. Last summer, she decided she wanted a realistic-looking baby that could wear real baby clothes. Instead of buying one ready-made, I thought it would be a good summer project if we made a reborn baby doll together. It took a week of solid work, but the end result was worth it. Meet baby Jacob:
He's not perfect but he's real enough for my six-year-old "little mama" and, when she insisted on taking him to Disneyland two weeks ago, a few well-meaning park employees asked to check his height before letting him board the roller coasters.

There are a lot of great online tutorials that will walk you through making a reborn doll for an adult collector. I'm going to focus on making a custom doll that a child will love. This is a fun project because it allows your child to pick out the doll's hair, eye, and skin color. They can also choose how heavy the doll is (Amelia likes her dolls to weigh up to five or six pounds - as much as a real baby), and whether or not the doll will take a pacifier. The whole project costs about $60. It's not cheap, but it's still much less expensive than buying a boutique baby doll from a catalogue. And a reborn baby will take real baby clothes, which you can find at a yard sale or thrift shop. Here's what we used to make Jacob:
  • A somewhat realistic-looking baby doll
  • Acrylic paints in purple, lavender, and flesh tones
  • Colored craft sand in purple (Optional)
  • Oil paints in flesh tones (flesh tints and browns) and cadmium white.
  • A cloth doll body, either purchased or handmade
  • Acrylic doll eyes in the color of your choice
  • A doll wig that will fit your doll
  • Fiberfill stuffing
  • Platic craft beads (Optional)
  • E600 glue or another sturdy craft glue
  • Neodymium or rare earth magnets (Optional - Available at Radio Shack or Hobby Lobby. DO NOT USE regular craft magnets)
  • A standard pacifier (Optional)
  • Paintbrushes
  • Makeup sponges
  • Cotton Balls
  • Acetone (Available at beauty supply shops)
  • Colorbox ink pads in rouge or pink tones
  • An X-Acto knife
  • Cable Ties or strong beading cord
  • Soft scrap fabric
  • Watercolor Pencil in the same color as your doll wig (Optional)
  • False eyelashes (Optional)
  • Tacky Glue (Optional)

Recently, Amelia has been hinting that she'd like baby Jacob to have a sister, so I'm making him a
twin. I started with a Berenguer Lots to Cuddle Baby that I found at Wal-Mart for about $20.
As you can see, she's a cute doll, but she doesn't have a lot of personality yet. The first thing I did after taking her out of the box was remove her head and limbs from her body. I did this by taking an X-Acto knife and very carefully cutting into the cable ties that were keeping her limbs attached:
I tried not to cut into the plastic, although it's okay if you do, providing that you cut into the part that's covered by the cloth body.
After you're done, you should have a creepy-looking collection of baby parts. This would be such a great Halloween display!

The next step is removing the factory paint from the doll. There's a bit of a debate online about whether you should use acetone or non-acetone nail polish remover. When we made baby Jacob, we tried the non-acetone remover and found that it didn't work very well. We really had to scrub to remove any paint. Pure acetone, available at beauty supply shops, worked much better. Just make sure to wear gloves if you wear nail polish or have acrylic nails, and don't work on top of a wood or painted surface.

A little acetone goes a long way, and a quick swipe with a cotton ball will remove all of the paint.
Here's what the doll's face looks like with all of her paint removed. I didn't remove the paint from the hair, because I'll eventually be covering that up with a wig.

After removing the paint, I gave the doll a "bath" in warm, soapy water and dried her thoroughly.

She's currently hiding away, awaitng the next step: getting a pacifier!


  1. hi helloo how much you saling your custom doll for???????

    1. I'm sorry, but I just make dolls as gifts for my daughter and my nieces. Thanks so much for your interest, though.