Friday, September 29, 2017

Earth Angel Warrior: A Modern Paper Doll

The things that made us happy in our childhood, when rediscovered as an adult, can be very healing and therapeutic. For me, one of the most joyful childhood pursuits was paper dolls. The fun was two-fold: they were imaginary friends that I could play with and create stories about, and they usually had a wonderful wardrobe—the kind I dreamed about owning or designing.

As an adult, I have rediscovered the simple joy of making paper dolls. Now my paper dolls are art dolls, with crazy hats, crowns, shoes, mismatched clothing, odd heads, and often wearing wings to help them soar. I search the Internet for paper doll templates and royalty-free vintage paper doll images, combining them with my own faces, fashions and magazine advertising images. I relax and become a child again when I putter with my boxes of doll arms, legs, bodies, clothing and heads.

For my latest doll, which I call the Earth Angel Warrior, I started with pre-cut doll pattern from Retro CafĂ© Arts. Some time ago I purchased (and used) their chipboard doll, but I saved the leftover cutout/negative space to possibly use as a template. I flipped over a piece of Gwen Lafleur’s gorgeous Florentine paper (which I had already glued to cardstock to give it extra strength for doll-making), then traced the arm, leg and body sections, then carefully cut out the parts.

Doll template, Florentine paper, and other supplies.
Body parts were traced on the back of the cardstock/Florentine paper.
Front of legs on left, back of legs on right.
The basic paper doll parts, made with Florentine paper.
Next, I searched through my boxes of scrap paper and doll parts and “auditioned” different elements. I also looked at Gwen’s downloadable “wondrous wings" PDF to see what caught my eye. I knew my doll would need wings, and I tried several of them, settling on some eagle wings. I sifted through my box of doll faces and found a model’s head from a magazine advertising photo which spoke to me. I also found a little piece of an orange mailing envelope and decided to use it for the torso.

I sorted through my collection of doll heads, hand painted faces and magazine photos.
The face and wings were gray-scale, and I felt they needed a bit of color, so I enhanced them with TomBow brush tipped markers and chalks. I added royalty-free vintage boots from The Graphics Fairy, and an upside-down butterfly from Gwen’s PDF for a hat, an idea inspired by artist Mary Jane Chadbourne.
The doll parts placed together, but not yet attached.
The grayscale wings and face, as well as the monochromatic butterfly,
got a color boost with TomBow markers and pastel chalk.
My inner fashion designer decided she needed a skirt. I printed one of the “fabulous florals” PDFs on cotton fabric, then cut a strip, stitched across the top, and pulled the strings to gather it to suggest a skirt.

To print on fabric from an inkjet printer, here’s what you do:
  • 1-Cut a section of cotton fabric about 9” x 12” and iron so it is wrinkle-free
  • 2- cut a piece of freezer paper about the same size
  • 3-place the shiny side of the freezer wrap against the wrong side of the fabric and iron until they fuse and are flat and wrinkle-free (do not use steam)
Freezer paper was ironed on to white cotton fabric in preparation for printing.
After the fabric and freezer paper were fused with an iron, it was cut to 8.5" x 11"
  • 4-using a cutting mat, metal ruler and sharp exacto knife or rotary fabric cutter, trim to exactly 8.5” x 11” so it is the size of a piece of paper.
  • 5-snip off a tiny bit at top left and right corners. This will help the fabric pull through the printer without jamming.

Snipping a tiny bit from the top corners helps the fabric feed through an inkjet printer without jamming.
  • 6-test your printer to see whether to place fabric face down or face up in the printer
  • 7-select the design you want, press print, and it should emerge from your printer
  • 8-peel the freezer paper away, and you will have the printed cloth. If desired, iron the fabric to help set the design and prevent running or fading.
Gently peel the paper from the printed fabric after it comes through the printer.
Two of Gwen's downloadable pdfs were printed on fabric.
For the doll’s skirt, I chose a section about 4” x 8.5”. Rather than keeping the skirt flat, I decided to gather the top to add some dimension. I also added, using a glue stick, a little checkered ribbon at the bottom. Glue sticks are great when using fabric with paper because they don’t stiffen the fabric or cause discoloration. I also added a little rust-colored piece of Gwen’s sari silk ribbon as a belt, which also covered up the stitches at the skirt’s top.

The top few inches of the rose-printed fabric was cut for use as a doll skirt.
Close-up of the skirt fabric, with stitching at top (to be gathered) and gingham ribbon at bottom.
The skirt was gathered at the top and fit to the doll's waist, then glued in place.
The finishing touch was a belt of Gwen's orange sari silk ribbon.
Mini brads were used to connect the body parts and enable the doll to be posed.
The final step was putting all the pieces together. Unlike traditional paper dolls that don’t have moveable parts, and have ineffective little tabs to hold the clothing on, I like to use mini brads to assemble my dolls. With an awl, I hold the pieces in place, then gentle poke through both layers to form a hold. Brads come in many shapes and sizes (like and can be subtle, or used as another design element.

The finished Earth Angel Warrior paper doll, with flora & fauna elements.

When all the elements were put together and I saw the finished doll, I realized that she was made of flora and fauna elements—with the bird wings, butterfly hat and rose skirt. While her face wasn’t traditionally pretty, it looked fierce, confident and interesting, and she seemed like a warrior. So, I decided to call her my Earth Angel Warrior. As a finishing touch, and to echo the flora/fauna theme, I put a feather in her hat and another in her hand.

 We are doing a Gwen Lafluer Artisttribe BlogHop!

One lucky winner will receive $20 Gift Card to the Shop at Gwen Lafleur Studios! All you need to do to enter is leave a comment on any or all of the blog posts during the hop - the more blogs you comment on, the more chances you have to win! (One comment per person per blog please.)
You have until Sunday, October 1st at 11:59 p.m. mountain time to leave your comments. The winner will be announced on the Gwen Lafleur Studios Facebook page ( on Monday, October 2nd.

Please visit the blogs of the other Artisttribe bloghop participants:

  • To visit artist Mary Jane Chadbourne's website, click here
  • For the Retro Cafe Art website, click here
  • For the Graphics Fairy website of vintage downloadable images, click here


Jackie PN said...

You and this doll are just Brilliant!!!
I am so happy that you have shared each of your steps- what an incredible make! I was reading along and kept saying, omg and OMG and omg! I would have never thought of some of those ideas you used to create Earth Angel Warrior,but am glad that you did and have shared! You totally had me sold when you pulled out your box of faces, you really have a box of faces?hehee Then the skirt made out of fabric from Gwen's download?!!! Blew me away! Can't wait till I get that paper doll group set up!

Well, let me tell you, this is a fabulous post and fantastic Earth Angel Warrior paper doll! Bravo!
hugs,Jackie xx

Jean said...

Ohmy goodness! So creative and delightful!

Karenliz Henderson said...

WOW she is gorgeous. I love the technique of printing on fabric using freezer paper. I must try it.

Lynda Shoup said...

Linda, your Earth Angel Warrior is a perfect character for modern times. She seems to be taking the task of protecting flora and fauna to heart. I love the way you combined the elements. I have always loved paper dolls and you have inspired me to want to take up the pastime once again.

froebelsternchen said...

Your Earth Angel Warrior is a WOWSER - you put so so much love in every detail! Gorgeous crafted! Thank you for joining your progress!

Gwen Lafleur said...

Linda this is fantastic! I love the doll, and printing the collage cutouts on fabric and using them to make a skirt was genius! So fabulous!

Felicia said...

Do it Earth Angel Warrior! LOLOL Love, love your doll! I admire anyone who collage's especially with amazing pieces that are small like this! So time consuming! Love her! :)

TGonzales said...

So imaginative! What a great project!

Mary Holshouser said...

She does look like a warrior that I wouldn't
want to cross. thanks for sharing the
designing elements. You came up with
a great idea.

SandeeNC said...

This is amazing and you really have me wanting to make. I also had an "aha" moment when I saw you attached the wings to the arms! Awesomely creative!

Edwige V. said...

She's amazing ! Never thought of making paper dolls and now I just want to ! So cool you joined Gwen's tribe !

Jill McDowell said...

Linda, your Earth Angel Warrior is Moxie in a floral skirt! Love her attitude. You have completely opened my eyes to a new art form. Love your tips for printing on fabric, putting that one directly into my toolbox! Thanks for a great tutorial and inspiration. You rock!

Darlene K Campbell said...

HI Linda, Such fun to come here and see your development of one of your famous dolls. (Always been a fan.) The skirt..oo-la-lah) I'm inspired to make a doll. Thank you for the beautiful and easily laid out tutorial. Cheers & I'll stop by again.