Textile Art and Design

I define my creations as Soft Sculpture Cloth Art Figures or Decorative Textile Figures, rather than dolls. They are created purely for aesthetic expression, communication and contemplation and not as toys.

Today, soft sculpted cloth figures have become a recognizable  art/ craft form encompassing a wonderfully diverse range of textile and art techniques including portraiture; caricature; characterisation; fabric manipulation; quilting/needle sculpture; beading; embroidery; painting; dyeing and printing; knitting; weaving; crochet; fashion/costume design and all sorts of other textile embellishment.

Click on links below for more inspiration

Block printing; screen-printing; 
digital print

EMBROIDERY: machine embroidery; hand
embroidery/ stump work.

TEXTILE TECHNIQUES: felt & felting; crochet;
knitting; weaving.

FABRIC MANIPULATION: Trapunto/ quilting;
appliqué; folding; pleating; gathering; layering; fraying etc.                         

DYED FABRICS: tie dye; batik; natural dyes

Textile representations of the human form have been part of our social and cultural history for centuries. Few examples survive today due to the perishable nature of the materials used and undoubtedly the over-handling of the items. Those that do exist, provide insights into culture, fashion, fabrics and the economy of the times in which they were made. Historically, however, these cloth figures were used for  psychological/emotional, social and cultural purposes. Referred to as dolls, they were used as toys; aids for medical staff and mannequins for costumes, rather than purely as pieces of art and craft.


Observe and explore the work of Textile Figure
Artists. What is it about their styles and techniques that you admire?

Collect swatches as well as drawings and
photographs of people, faces, clothes, body parts and textile figures to use as Design Influences.

Create an Ideas Scrapbook as a reference base
from which you may develop your own soft
sculpted figure designs.

Investigate a range of materials and techniques
and learn how to mix and use colour, textiles and

Expand your practical skills in design and
manipulation of textiles through the use of
appropriate technologies.

Develop your creativity and communicate/ express ideas /feelings using a range of skills in a variety of contexts.

Apply the various decoration techniques to create your own unique textile sculpted figures.

From the often Picassoesque spirit figures to the highly embellished textile art figures; this is a medium that affords much diversity and creativity. My creations are not playthings, other than those specifically made as rag dolls.

Some designers stick to Prims and Raggies or Faeries and Trolls for example. I guess my preferred style would be cloth art/ornamental figures; for me variety is the key as I feel it is important to explore many types of cloth figure in order to develop and mature as a designer/artist.

I am not necessarily a designer who sticks rigidly to one type of cloth figure as this Blog http://textilecreationsuk.blogspot.com  will confirm. I am the author of Fiddly Little Fingers and Tricky Toes (Madeleine Sara Maddocks)

Indeed, when I entered the Goth Competition Challenge for my Internet Support Group: Clothdollmakersuk, I made a Modern Goth Ornamental, Cloth Art Figure and then created a Romantic Raggy Goth and also a Prim Goth.
YOUR CHALLENGE: create a Gothic Mermaid.

WHERE DO I GET MY IDEAS AND INSPIRATION? Having a vivid imagination, inspiration has come to me from everywhere and anything. I spent a year on a graphic design course, where students were constantly reminded that: ‘There's no such thing as an original idea’ or in other words, people take their ideas from many sources to create their own designs. It can be a remark someone has made; a piece of fabric; a colour (such as gold for my belly dancer); blackberry coloured beads for RubyFruiticosa; a concept, (such as the elements) for my earth figure; a theme, (such as Mermaids) for Anemone, a TV programme (such as 'Young Musician of the Year') for my Flautist, a fairytale story for Princess Lathyrus and so on. 

Creating a Design Inspiration Mood Board is a great way to visualize many aspects of a design: colour, textures, fabrics, and style. When I'm exploring the design concept I gather swatches of material, trims, feathers, textile yarns, beads, buttons, findings and any other materials to give me an impression of what the cloth figure could look like to evoke a concept or the feeling of a potential design.

It's also fun to gather and paste photos, magazine cut-outs, and objects on my board, plus sketches and brain storming notes to remind me of ideas that were stimulated by researching the topic. It liberates my ideas and allows more freedom to imagine and create without the restrictions of a rigid, final design.

I also love children’s stories and creative writing and feel that the art of creating my characters in cloth stems as much from this influence as any other; each cloth figure having a story of their own to tell.

I also admire the work of Patti Medris Culea; Julie McCullough; Lisa Lichenfelds; Barbara Willis, Antoinette Cely and Jill Maas, to name a few of my cloth figure heroes/influences.

I began my textile journey in 1990 by making conventional rag dolls with limited sewing skills. I do not have a background in textile or fashion, but learnt the hard way, by trial and error, on my own in my hobby room. By 1999, I was introduced to a whole ‘other world’ of artistic expression through more sophisticated soft sculpture cloth figure creations through the Internet and an Australian Pen friend.
Taking a City and Guilds in Patchwork & Quilting in 1993-1996 helped develop my 'naive'/ novice sewing skills enormously.

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO MAKE A CLOTH FIGURE? My answer to that would be a
couple of hours here, half a day there. I am hopeless at noting down how much time it takes. I think it must be my artistic temperament and the fact that I have so many things on the go every day. When I'm making a figure, I'm not bothering about stopwatches and record keeping; I'm creating. The idea can be buzzing around in my head for some time, sometimes on and off for months or even years. Other projects and chores invariably take precedence, which can seriously interrupt the flow. To give you an idea, though, it took me three hours just to make Cushionella's lower legs.

WHAT ARE MY CREATIONS MADE FROM? I use beading, embroidery, fabric manipulation, textile embellishment, printing, dyeing and painting, needle sculpting to create imaginative textile characters. I use high thread count cotton fabrics, silk and other textiles, yarns and threads; plus chenille stems to wire the fingered hands and a good quality polyester filling.

At one time I found the fingered hands difficult, so I set myself the task of mastering the technique over a solid week. Consequently, I have now written and self-produced a book ‘Fiddly Little Fingers and Tricky Toesabout fingered cloth doll hands and feet, which has proved popular all over the world. Another aspect textile artists initially find difficult is the face, which conveys the character, age and personality of the cloth figure. It requires planning, care and attention.

It is always fatal to think 'I'll just quickly do...' or 'I'll just quickly sew...' because you can almost guarantee that the simplest little thing you plan to get out of the way will go wrong and you'll have to start it all over again, whilst other tasks that might appear tricky can go together quickly and easily. I started out being impatient about seeing the finished design and would rush through the boring stages.

Now I take my time and try to avoid setting myself deadlines. It is important to enjoy the journey; the making/ designing process, not just the end result. I make mental or written lists and check them off, which is more rewarding and allows ideas to germinate, as you mull over technical aspects of a design.

I took a City & Guilds Patchwork & Quilting Course many years ago as an absolute novice at sewing and learned so much that it led me into designing and making my soft sculpted textile figures. 

Below are also my own designs:

Appliqué wall hanging in memory of our beloved ginger tom, Dill.
Block pieced fire engine cushion of my own design and Hoses & Ladders quilt using various techniques

One of a kind Winnie the Pooh Appliqué quilt designed by me. 

I now enjoy knitting and crochet projects.

Thank you for your interest in my textile design journey,
Soft Sculpture Cloth Figure Artist ~ Madeleine Sara Maddocks


  1. Hi Maddy..I have seen your lovely work before but hadn't realised you live in Devon. I am also a Devon doll maker. Love your blog, so much information

  2. Hi Norma, Thank you. That is lovely to hear. Yes I live in South Devon. So, whereabouts have you seen my work before?


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