How to Make a Rag Doll

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A rag doll is soft and cuddly, and it can be made in the image of its owner. Making a rag doll is a relatively inexpensive project.

First, Some Background

Rag dolls have been around for centuries. They have been found in the ancient tombs of children. Unfortunately, the oldest dolls that still exist date only to the 1700s. This is because the dolls are made of fabric, and the fibers of the cloth decay over time.

Traditional American rag dolls were made from scraps of fabric.The bodies were stuffed with small bits of fabric, and the clothes were made from old clothing or leftover remnants.

Things You'll Need

  • Newspaper
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Fabric: 1/2 yard of muslin or inexpensive cotton for the body
  • Polyester fiberfill
  • Needle and thread
  • Yarn: use any color 
  • Pencil
  • Fabric paint or permanent marker

Step 1: Make a Pattern

Use a piece of newspaper and trace out a pattern for your rag doll. The pattern should look like a traditional paper doll with arms outstretched and legs slightly apart.

Tip

    • Your doll will be symmetrical if you fold the newspaper in half, draw half a doll, and cut out the doll, leaving the fold uncut.  
    • It is easier to make a bigger doll. Try to make the doll at least 16 inches tall. Don't make the arms and legs too thin, or they will be hard to stuff. 

Step 2: Cut Out the Doll

Lay two pieces of fabric on the table with right-sides facing each other. Put the pattern on top and trace around the pattern. Make a dotted line 1/2 inch from the pattern line for your seam allowance. Cut the doll out along the dotted line.

Step 3: Finish the Body

Sew the doll together -- along the solid line, on the wrong sides of the fabric, leaving a 2-inch opening at the side of the body. You can hand-sew or machine-sew the doll, whichever you find easier. If you hand-sew, keep the stitches small.

Turn the body so that the fabric is right-side-out and all raw edges are inside. Stuff the doll with polyester fiberfill. Hand-sew the opening shut, using a slipstitch.

Tip

  • Use a chopstick or a pencil to push the stuffing into the arms and legs.

Step 4: Make Hair

Cut a piece of cardboard the length of the doll's hair. Place a piece of ribbon across the top of the cardboard. Wrap the yarn around the piece of cardboard many times. When the hair is thick enough, tie the ribbon into a loose knot. Cut the yarn at the bottom of the cardboard. Hold the ribbon and hair in place using a 2- to 4-inch piece of fabric the same color as the yarn.

Lay the yarn across the matching fabric. Spread it out evenly. Use a piece of tape to keep the yarn in place. Sew the yarn where the ribbon was but don't catch the ribbon in the stitches. Remove the ribbon, and you've made a wig. Hand-sew the wig onto the doll's head. Use thread the color of the yarn and wig fabric. Sew on the wig fabric and keep the stitches small. Let the yarn flop over the stitches. Sew until the wig is on securely.

Step 5: Make a Face

To make the face, you can embroider it, draw it or leave it faceless. Many of the early dolls had no features. Use a pencil to lightly mark where the eyes should be on the doll's face. Dip the eraser end of a pencil into black paint. Press gently over the marked spot. Repeat for the other eye. Use a red permanent marker or fabric paint to draw the mouth.

Give That Doll Some Clothes

Things You'll Need

  • Fabric scraps
  • Measuring tape
  • Large mixing bowl (optional)
  • Disappearing marker or chalk
  • Scissors
  • Needle and thread or sewing machine

Step 1: Cut a Circle

Trace a circle of at least 19 inches in diameter onto your fabric. Cut out the circle.

Tip

  • A large mixing bowl should make the right-sized circle.


Step 2: Size It

Cut a 2-inch slit in the middle of the circle to form the neck opening or the collar. Cut another slit, perpendicular to the collar slit, extending to the bottom of the circle or hem. Try it on the doll to ensure it's large enough. It should look like a cape. Take it off the doll.

Step 3: Shape It

Fold the circle wrong-side out so that the long slit is in the middle of the back of the dress. Lay the doll on top of the dress. Make six dots: one dot under each arm, one dot at the end of each hand and one dot by each knee. Cut out a smaller circle for the head.

Connect the dots to form an upside-down "V" with the point under the arm. Sew along the "V." Leave a 1/2-inch seam allowance and cut out the leftover "V." Turn the dress to the right side so that the raw edges of the seams do not show.

Step 4: Finishing Touches

You may wish to embellish the dress with ribbons or lace or pockets, patches or jewelry. You can make shoes with fabric or by drawing them on with marker or painting them on with fabric paint. Place hair ribbons or barrettes in the doll's hair.

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