How to make a Victorian doll

By Maria Kielmas
Victorian dolls make popular heirlooms.

Victorian dolls are collectors’ items for adults and children. The reign of Britain’s Queen Victoria over the second half of the 19th century was a period when doll making became a major industry. It produced sumptuously-dressed figurines that represented fashionable ladies. Clothes were gathered, pleated and trimmed with lace and velvet. Homemade Victorian dolls reproduce this past splendor at a much lower price.

Pour the slip into the moulds and allow to set for one hour. Open the molds and remove the casts. Allow the casts – the greenware – to dry for between 24 and 48 hours.

Examine the greenware pieces with the magnifying glass for any faults or ridges. Remove ridges and dust from the greenware gently with an abrasive cloth such as nylon or with fine netting. This is a slow process and can take up to four hours.

Place the greenware on supports inside the kiln and fire for 24 hours at 2200 degrees Fahrenheit. Allow the greenware to cool inside the kiln until the temperature falls below 100 F. Remove the greenware from the kiln and allow to cool completely.

Sand the greenware with fine sandpaper until the surfaces are smooth. Wash the greenware in warm water and gentle detergent to remove the dust. Allow the pieces to dry.

Paint the doll’s face adding eyes, lashes, eye brows and rouge color on cheeks. Add a gentler blush color on the arms, chest plate and legs. Allow the paint to dry. Rub the painted pieces gently with wax paper for a glowing effect.

Outline the doll’s torso shape on the fabric with the marker chalk. Cut out two body shapes from the fabric. Stitch the two pieces of fabric together leaving holes for the arms, legs and chest plate.

Turn the stitched torso inside out so that the seams remain on the inside. Place the stuffing gently and slowly inside the torso. Glue the porcelain legs, arms, chest plate to the torso. Glue the head to the chest plate.

Fit and glue the wig to the doll’s head. Dress with choice of Victorian clothing and hat. Trim the skirt and hat with lace or velvet for a more elaborate finish.

Tip

Avoid pouring the slip during rainy or damp weather as the humidity may stop it setting correctly.

Fire the doll’s head in the kiln in between coats of paint for the face to achieve a deeper expression.

Warning

Use the goggles and face mask to protect yourself from fine dust during the greenware cleaning and dusting.

About the Author

Based in London, Maria Kielmas worked in earthquake engineering and international petroleum exploration before entering journalism in 1986. She has written for the "Financial Times," "Barron's," "Christian Science Monitor," and "Rheinischer Merkur" as well as specialist publications on the energy and financial industries and the European, Middle Eastern, African, Asian and Latin American regions. She has a Bachelor of Science in physics and geology from Manchester University and a Master of Science in marine geotechnics from the University of Wales School of Ocean Sciences.