Artisan, Megan Noel, takes you through the steps to make this beaded doll. Consider adding a present like this to your list this year.

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Thoughts on Beading A Doll


An excerpt from Shaman Dolls, by Megan Noel, a book in progress.

There are really no hard and fast rules for HOW to bead a beaded doll, once you have learned the stitches. My dolls evolve as things come to me. I generally pick a spot, and start, with the rest of the doll flowing out from there. Often I do the face first; as it sets the mood, but students have told me they like to start with the back on their first doll, because by the time they get to the front of the doll they have had some practice.

I do not usually plan my dolls, but if you are someone who needs a plan you can go ahead and do that. Take your doll pattern and trace around it on a blank sheet of paper, then draw and doodle on it to your heart's content. Experiment with different designs and color schemes. If you want, you can draw right on your doll and use those marks as guidelines. I sometimes draw a bit on my dolls but like the keep that to a minimum since it could show through the beads. If I want to draw on my doll, I usually draw on the back, on the interfacing. This also works when you are using dark colored interfacing that ink does not show up on. (You can use gel pens on dark fabric but they can be kind of gloppy.)

So really, depending on your personality, you might plan your entire doll out ahead of time or you might just pick a bead, sew it on, and go from there. I usually use a combination of the two approaches. Generally to start I will select some colors of seed beads, mostly colors that go together and a bit of contrast, then some larger beads, charms or sequins, and mix it all together to make "bead soup." This really helps if you are used to always following patterns and are trying to be looser--it kind of forces you to be a bit more random. But if mixing up beads horrifies you, it's okay to keep them sorted out also. A ceramic watercolor tray can be good for that. The plastic ones are less expensive but being lighter w eight are more inclined to tip over. If you have pets you'll understand what I mean about that. Following is a dolls, as it progressed, along with notes. I hope this will help you see how a beaded doll might evolve. Even if you can only spend a few minutes a day, you will see your doll come to life before your eyes.


For the Bird Shaman doll I created a polymer face. I wanted a human face peering out of a Raven mask. I made a mold from a carved bone face, made a polymer face, baked it, then molded the mask around it and baked it a second time. I chose white, ivory, and ecru colors for the Raven. Many cultures have myths that the Raven was once white before some incident turned her black. Many of my ideas have been inspired by mythology and folktales. There are many types of polymer clay that you can use, but for this doll I used a brand called Cernit, and I sanded the finished mask with fine sand paper then buffed it with a rough cloth. Denim works well for this. If desired you can also accent the features by rubbing with ink or acrylic paint, but I wanted the whole doll to be light colors so I did not do that here. Notice the use of sequins they are fun to use and cover a lot of area. I like to stack, layer, and overlap them. You can get different effects by placing them cup up or cup down.

Next I worked on one of the arm/wings. When I want items to hang down under the arms, I usually attach them in the fringe, which is done last, but this time I decided to have the feather charm suspended from her hand. The fringe will hang down below that and give the doll even more texture.

Next I started beading down the chest, working on the flower petal shaped area. I used backstitch for the petals

A close up of flower petal shaped area. shows the shape of the petals is further defined by doing each row in a contrasting color (within my color family.)

The petal pattern extends up to the left shoulder and then I worked glass flowers and beads into the pattern. I also used some flowers made making tiny stacks of one large bead and one smaller bead.

The left arm has a small leaf at the bottom that overhangs, like the feather on the right. As I worked my way to the lower portion of the body I worked n more ivory beads. I also used the leaf bead to bisect the body, lending some symmetry to the piece, yet there are still abstract elements as well. The rings around the leaf are worked with backstitch. The variation in colors emphasizes the design.

To finish off the front of the doll and to contrast the ivory on the right side, I made the lower left portion mostly white.

The focal point of the back of the doll was the vintage scarab bead seen on the right. That was the first bead I sewed onto the doll. I framed it with Peyote stitch. I then worked a semi circular pattern on the right arm/wing and echoed the flower petal motif on the front using the clear leaf shapes shown here.

As before The dagger beads on the left extend down below the bottom of the arm. The head features a sew through button, surrounded with rings of beads to accent the design.

Note that I used more sequins on the back, also layered and overlapped. I also incorporated a silver bird charm on the left arm, stitching across the tail to keep it from flopping around. I often use this trick to secure charms. The flower on the lower arm is attached using a variation of stacks. I went up through the bead three times, to secure the flower with three seed beads.

I have been trying to get away from using doll stands, so this doll hangs from a tree branch. I drilled holes through the branch with a rotary tool and threaded the beaded strands through. The doll is best hung so that both sides can be seen. I had a lot of fun creating the fringe for the Raven Shaman. I collected many silver and bone charms of birds and feathers, and also incorporated leaves, butterflies, and dagger beads.