Lynn Schoeffler © 2009

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A month ago or so, I was making an art doll for a good friend. Never being one for sewing and stuffing tiny little arms and legs, I was looking for a reasonable alternative to that tedious process. Digging through my stash, I found a coil of medium-weight colored wire I had used for hanging another project. Bingo! The discovery of the new nylon-padded pliers made this project immeasurably easier, and lots of fun. You can make practically any bend in your wire with nary a scratch. An added bonus—these pliers can be used to straighten out your beading needles when they get bent!

Here, then, are the instructions for the Lady in Red:


  • Color coated wire, size 16, available in most craft stores.
  • Large hole beads, like Toho squares and triangles, also available in many craft stores.
  • Fabric and lace scraps, small beads, various trims and threads.
  • Polyester or cotton stuffing.


  • Nylon-jaw pliers. These come in wide or narrower jaws; look for pliers that can be fitted with the nylon replacements when the nylon wears out.
  • Small wire cutters.
  • Long needle, such as a Milliner’s needle.


If you plan to make several dolls, cut a dress shape out of plastic. Recycle! Use the thin, hard plastic from food containers—it makes great template plastic. Your doll can be any size you’d like: my Red Lady is about 5 l/2" tall.

You can make the dress in any shape: a triangle, rectangle, or possibly an abstract curved shape. Red Lady has a little crazy quilted dress; the tiny rick rack is painted with Lumiere Bright Copper paint.

For the wired figure:

  1. Using the wire cutters, cut one piece of the colored wire about 7" long for the body and head of the figure. Cut another piece about 6" long for the arms. Keep the wire cutters at a slant, so that you have a sharp edge on this piece. Set aside. ALWAYS USE SAFETY GLASSES WHEN SNIPPING WIRE—IT FLIES !
  2. Straighten and smooth the wire with the nylon-jaw pliers.
  3. Starting at the center of the 7" piece of wire, shape the doll’s head with nylon-jaw pliers. For the Red Lady, I threaded seven Toho square beads onto the wire, and then angled the wire just enough to keep each bead separate from the rest. At this point, my dear husband remarked that she looked like she had purple curlers in her hair. He is quite wrong, however—it’s all the beady ideas she has on her mind!
  4. When you have the head embellished as you want it, use the nylon-jaw pliers or your fingers to make two or three twists at the base of the head, forming the neck. Set aside.

Making the dress:

  1. Cut a front and back dress piece, leaving room for a l/8" seam on all sides. Embellish as desired. Remember to keep beads away from the side seams.
  2. Turn the bottom and top of front dress piece l/8" to the wrong side; press. Repeat with back dress piece.
  3. Keeping right sides together, machine or hand stitch each side with a l/8" seam. Leave the neck and the bottom of the dress open. Clip the corners at neckline.
  4. Turn the dress inside out and press.

Finishing the doll:

  1. Holding the "legs" of the doll together, slip them into the dress at the neckline. Pull the legs down until the top of the dress sits at the neck of the wire figure. Using a small needle and matching sewing thread, close the neck of the dress around the wire neck. Trim and adjust the leg wires to look like you want them—you can bend them to look like feet, for instance. Again, make sure you protect your eyes from flying wire.
  2. Fill the dress lightly with stuffing—watch her figure; you don’t want her to look pregnant (or do you?).
  3. Stitch the bottom hem of the dress closed around each of the legs, with matching sewing thread.
  4. Make a gentle curve in the remaining 6" piece of wire with the nylon jaw pliers for her "arms". Use the sharp point of the wire to gently force a hole into the stuffed dress on one side, right through the seam. Push the wire through the body of the doll, until the desired "arm" position is reached; guide it through the seam on the other side.
  5. Stitch the seams tightly closed around the arms to hold them in place; you may also want to catch the center of the arm curve to the back of the dress with a Cross Stitch in matching thread.

Other ways: "Ms. Green Thang" and "Aloha ‘Oe" both have their arm pieces twisted into the main body wire, which makes them less apt to fall out of position. To do that, you will have to leave the entire top of the dress open, insert the wire body into it, and then close with matching thread around the neck and arm wires.

Aloha seems to be all right with that—but Ms. Thang wants to know what her creator was thinking by slanting her dress to the side. (I thought it looked stylish?) She seems to be telling me not to quit my day job….I won’t ever have a career in haute couture!


Amazon.com has two sizes of BeadSmith nylon jaw pliers, with replacements.

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