How to Find OOAK Doll-Making Supplies on a Budget
When I first started creating one-of-a-kind dolls, I spent a lot of money. I bought paints and brushes and sealers. I bought new fabrics and trims and threads. I bought new dolls, some that I needed right away for a OOAK and others that I just thought would make a great project for later.
I bought tools that I thought I would use — tools that I thought would make the creative process easier and that would transform my results.
I bought an airbrush that I only used once. Then I replaced that with a nicer model that I thought would give me more precise results. (I only used that twice.) I never could figure out how to use it without spraying paint all over my doll’s face. (And I never could get past the annoyance of all the noise from the air compressor.)
I bought an expensive embroidery machine capable of creating my own patterns. It took two years before I even tried to embroider anything with it. Now I use it as a sewing machine.
There are countless other examples of materials and tools that I bought but never used, or of expensive brands that I bought when cheaper versions would have done just as well.
Don’t make the same mistake when you are starting out!
There are a number of ways that you can save money on the supplies you need for creating beautiful one-of-a-kind dolls without compromising on quality. Here are a few ideas:
- Buy old clothes from Goodwill and yard sales instead of fabric from the craft store. You can pay just a couple of dollars for items made of materials like 100% wool and silk — which is a fraction of the cost you would pay at a fabric store. You’ll also find more interesting patterns and hard-to-find colors. (Goodwill has saved me when I needed neon camouflage, among others!)
- Choose inexpensive brushes and paints. You don’t have to buy horse hair brushes to create a quality repaint. The right techniques trump the right tools any day.
- Shop in the beauty aisle. Tools that are designed for nail art are often perfect for doll customizing, such as buffers and sanders. These are less expensive than professional tools (like a dremel or a jeweler’s polisher), and they are designed for small areas with sensitive surfaces (perfect for the vinyl on dolls).
- Buy jewelry at yard sales. You can spend a quarter on a pair of earrings that can be broken down and turned into several pairs for dolls. Rather than spending several dollars on beads and embellishments from the craft store that only make one pair of earrings for your dolls, you can spend $1 and get several pairs. (The style also won’t be something that everyone else can find in the store.)
- Repurpose. I have gotten into the habit of saving everything: old watches, jewelry, clothes, springs, washers, you name it. I have been able to raid this stash for items that I wouldn’t have been able to find otherwise in stores. I’ve turned an old night light into a shield, used old earring backs for tiny spikes, and even turned an old school pin into a tiny badge.
While finding quality materials is important, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. Shopping at second-hand stores, repurposing items you already have, and buying items for off-label uses will help you save money while also finding unique tools and supplies.
What other strategies have you used to find budget doll supplies? What are some of your favorite go-to resources? Share your ideas in the comments!