Beautifully hand-embroidered eyes on a handmade doll really will make the world of difference to your completed piece. While hand-drawn eyes can be very successful, but there is something more expressive and unique about intricately stitched ones, even something as simple as French knots.
Photo via Sophia from Studio Escargot
You don’t have to know how to draw to give great expression, there are so many incredible dolls out there for you to be inspired by and enjoy. A simple line can be effective in showing a sleeping lady or a French knot with a large smile gives a innocence and naivety which is endearing.
Examples of doll eyes
The following examples of embroidered doll eyes from talented makers show a range of styles and expressions you can achieve to add character and warmth to your dolls faces, the eyes can entirely change the feel of the whole piece. From wide, bright eyes giving an innocent and excited feel to closed, downcast eyes making the doll feel more “grown up” and edgy.
Photo via Marina Rachner
Photo via Annie Montgomerie
Photo via Annie Montgomerie
Photos via Supercutetilly
Photo via Supercutetilly
Photo via Viv from Hens Teeth
So what character is your doll going to have? Sleeping to encourage the child to close his/her eyes at bedtime with big wide and beautiful with large lashes? Surprised? Sad?
Once you have decided on the emotion your doll will have, this will dictate the style of eyes you feel is right for your doll. Now, the next step is to find the right stitch to achieve the look. Hundreds of stitches are available but here are the top three I use every day.
How to embroider eyes
Simple French Knot
I use a double thread of silk to create the French knot as we want the knot to be big and noticeable. The thicker the thread the bigger the knot.
Step 1. Bring your needle up through the material.
Step 2. Twist the tread around the needle three or four times (the more you go round the needle the bigger your knot will be).
Step 3. Place the needle back into the fabric just next to where you originally brought it up, keep the thread lightly taut in your left hand whilst pulling the needle and thread through the back of your fabric with your right hand.
The perfect stitch to create lines is the backstitch. Bring your needle and thread up and make a make stitch about 5mm long. Bring your needle up along the line you have created with your water soluble marker, pencil or transfer pen again about 5mm space from the first stitch. Then bring your next stitch backwards into the whole of the last stitch. You have created a back stitch.
This stitch is great for filling in color of eyes. Bring your needle up threw the fabric and pull it down across the length of the marked eye. Continue this motion keeping the stitches close to gather to give a nice block feel.
These are just a few very simple ideas to get you started, but the possibilities are endless! You could add fabric and make appliqué eyes with perpetrated irises, you could use stem stitch instead of back stitch or you could feature a bead or sequin instead.
Practice your ideas on scraps first or make a sampler of different eyes to keep for future reference, as they do take a little time to master and get just right. Once you have the hang of things, I promise you will be delighted with the results!