Cloth Dolls, Rag Dolls and Doll Making

Dolls are not just for little girls any more. Women are making, keeping, buying and collecting dolls for themselves. Of course, there are dolls for the little women too.

These ragdolls come from an Etsy shop. PeetiePie.

I still think the best dolls for girls are cloth (rag) dolls. You can play with them, cuddle them, sleep with them in your bed, they won’t break if they fall out of bed and – best of all – you can put them in the laundry to wash them.

Another nice thing about cloth dolls is the availability of the material to make them. Cloth is not hard to find. You can buy it new or recycle old clothes (socks work well), bedsheets and pillowcases. You can even make them from some old blankets (like wool, felt, satin and silk) to give them some extra texture.

Rag dolls are stuffed with rags, worn clothes, bedding, anything that can be stuffed inside a doll to keep it both cuddly and washable. This is a great way to use up small scraps of fabric left over from sewing bigger items. Save it all in a cloth bag you can keep adding more to and then stuff away when you have a doll ready to be filled and sewn up.

If you have a pattern you can pretty much get started doll making the same day. However, a pattern isn’t necessary. Trace one side of a human shape (like making paper cut-out dolls or creating your own gingerbread people pattern) on paper. Fold the paper and cut out the shape. This should give you a whole pattern with one head, two arms, two legs and the body trunk holding them all together. If you don’t like your first shape or the dimensions, do it over again.

So far this will be a stiff doll, no bendable joints. You can change that by sewing a straight seam through the legs and arms – after the doll is stuffed. Just use your fingers to manoeuvre the stuffing inside the doll then sew in the gap. Give the doll knees, hips, elbows and shoulders. Don’t sew the neck this way. You don’t want her head to be droopy.

Add some extras like buttons for eyes, yarn for hair and embroidery thread to give her a face. Some people will paint the face instead but I prefer a face that will outlast paint and not fade as paint tends to do over time.

Don’t forget to make doll clothes and accessories like hair ribbons, shoes and a purse too. You can reuse old baby clothes for some of this or be your own fashion designer and create fashions for the dolls you make.

Look at other dolls and doll patterns for more ideas.

Cloth rag dolls are an old, well loved idea.

A rag doll, found in a child’s grave dating from 300 BC Rome is on display at the British Museum. The doll was created from coarse linen and stuffed with rags and papyrus. Remains of coloured wool were found on the head and body. There is a small blue, glass bead attached to the side of the head which suggests it was a hair ornament worn by a female doll. Children in those days also had doll houses and miniature furniture.

The doll was made in Egypt. It likely survived to modern times due to the dry climate there. Old dolls were often made of rags, wood, bone or fired clay. They could be stuffed with rags, sawdust, leaves, or feathers. No doubt other unique materials have been used to stuff a doll over all the years rag dolls have been around. Likely there have been dolls farther back in history but the materials used tend to be perishable so they did not last long enough to be found and accounted for.

The above dolls are also from PeetiePie. I couldn’t resist the girls with glasses.

Cloth and Rag Doll Links