“I truly believe that anyone who has basic hand and machine sewing skills can successfully complete this doll with these detailed and photo-rich instructions. If you feel you’re not up to the challenge right now, you can reach out to a family member or friend who sews and offer to do an exchange of skills. Every child deserves a beautiful doll to cherish for years to come! ”
Katja Magus, author of this pattern and the article “A Doll for Every Child” in the Living Crafts Winter 2012 issue
MATERIALS (to make two dolls)
- Cotton knit fabric in skin color (½ yard) *
- Wool batting (½ lb) *
- 2” wide tubular stockinette (1 yard) *
- Doll making needle (5” long) Note: a regular sewing needle will NOT work*
- Embroidery floss in colors for eyes and mouth
- Cotton twine or sturdy cotton yarn (white)
- Sewing thread to match skin tone fabric, hair color, and clothing fabric*
- Regular sewing needles
- Red beeswax crayon or natural rouge/blush for cheeks *
- Double pointed knitting needles (size 3) for knitting hair cap
- Wool yarn (mohair is best) for hair (1 ball) *
- Small pieces/scraps of knit fabric for clothing/diapers/etc. (can be from recycled clothing or there are beautiful cotton velours from the listed sources) *
- Optional ¼ inch elastic for doll gown and pants
- 2 closures for each diaper (sew on snaps, hook and loop tape fasteners, etc.)
- Sewing machine (or lots of time and patience!)
- Living Crafts “A Doll for Every Child Doll” Pattern: LivingCraftsDollPattern.
Note: If making twins, do each stage (inner head, skin, etc.) at the same time so they will be more consistent in shape and size.
Making the inner head:
Measure and cut a 10” piece of tubular stockinette. Tie off one end about ½” from the end using a 10” piece of cotton string. Trim ends of string. Turn tubular stockinette inside out and set aside.
Lay out wool batting and separate the layers until it is one thickness. Tear off a long strip (going “with the grain”) about 3” wide and as long as you can.
Wrap the wool into a ball, pulling it firmly and changing directions as you would when winding a ball of yarn so that the ball stays round and very firm. Continue until ball is 9-10” around the “equator.” It should be firmly enough wrapped to stay together when you set it down. A soft head will lose its shape quickly, so take it apart if necessary and re-wrap until even and firm.
Tear off a square of batting about 10” by 10” and place the ball onto it, gather the square around the ball as you would if making a tissue paper ghost.
Cut a piece of cotton string 18” long and tie tightly around the stockinette very close to the bottom of the ball. This creates the neck (it should be about 2/3 head and 1/3 shoulders). Trim ends of string.
Working with the tubular stockinette and the wool under the head, arrange your doll’s shoulders so they are going side to side under the part you wish to be the face. Push in the wool stuffing that is hanging out the bottom of the tubular stockinette and sew the bottom shut using a whip stitch (it won’t show). If the wool won’t fit, tear some off. Once sewn, the bottom will resemble a clamshell. This is the doll’s shoulder pad.
Cut two 24” pieces of cotton string to become the “eyeline” and “earline” and set aside. Working as if the head was a globe, first examine it to see which side you’d like to be the face and keep this side towards you. Tie the first string around the head at the “equator,” starting with the middle of the string at the back of the head, bringing the ends towards you, tie a half knot in the middle of the face, bring the ends back to the back of the head, and pull tightly to indent the face. Tie a double knot at the back of the head.
For the “earline,” do the same with the second piece of string, this time starting with the midpoint under the chin, tying the half-knot at the top of the head, pulling tightly, and tying the double knot under the chin. Rearrange strings as necessary to keep them even and straight.
Using sewing needle and light thread, stitch the section where the two strings meet at the ears, using deep stitches to catch the underlying wool and stitching between the strings in an “x” shape so they won’t move out of place in the next step. Repeat on other side.
At this point your doll’s head should be pretty symmetrical, but it won’t look much like a baby. Now for the magic, at the back of the head, pull the “equator” line down under the head to the back of the neck, to meet the neck string. Your doll will now have a smooth round curve at the back of the head just like a real baby. A doll is born! Take a deep breath; the hard part is over.
Preparing the doll’s skin:
Spread out your piece of skin tone fabric. If using the source listed above, it will be a tube, so there is no need to double up the fabric. If using other fabric you will need a double thickness. Lay out the pattern pieces for the legs and arms onto the fabric with the direction of stretch going from side to side as indicated on the pattern pieces. The pattern pieces DO NOT include seam allowances, so add at least ¼” before you cut, either by eyeballing or using a ruler. In between the legs it is impossible to add ¼”, so just cut a slit to the top of the legs as marked on the pattern piece.
It may be helpful to trace directly around the pattern piece onto the fabric with a contrasting soft pencil so you have a “stitching line,” this is especially important around the hand and thumb and at the bottom of the feet. Set arm and leg pieces aside.
Now it’s time to trace the head shape onto fabric so your doll will have “custom” head skin. Place the doll’s face next to a fold in the fabric tube, so that the forehead and chin are touching the fold. Holding your pencil straight up and down and starting at the top of the head, trace the doll’s head, creating a moderately straight line from the front forehead to where the head starts to curve at the back (if you curve down at the forehead, when sewn the skin will have a “widow’s peak”), down the back of the neck, indenting at the neck string and out again at the shoulders and then straight down 4-5,” ending with a straight horizontal line at the bottom. If your shoulders are significantly narrower than the head, add a little there, because the inner head has to be pushed thru the shoulder area as it goes up. Again, add seam allowances before cutting.
Machine sewing the skin pieces:
These steps can also be done by hand using small straight stitches. On all pieces, use a skin tone thread, regular straight stitch on your sewing machine and backstitch at the beginning and end of each section. Leave the space between marks/notches open (shown on pattern pieces as lines and in photos as pins).
Sewing the legs/torso: Sew from the underarm notch down the outside of one leg, up the inside, make a gentle curve over the crotch and come down and up the other legs, ending at the armhole notch.
Sewing the arms: Beginning at one notch, carefully sew around one hand and thumb, stop at the next notch and start again on the other arm. Go slowly to achieve a good finished hand shape.
Sewing the head: Using your pencil line as a guide, start at the forehead and sew around the head and down the shoulders, but leave the bottom open so you will be able to place the inner head inside.
Clip into the curved areas of fabric seams right up to the stitching (but not touching it) using sharp scissors, especially at the back of the neck. You can try turning the hand and foot fabric right side out. If it is hard to turn it smoothly and you see little bumps all along the seam, turn it inside out again and trim the seam to 1/8” in those areas.
Creating the finished head:
Place the inner head inside the head skin, being careful to place the “face” towards the smooth front of the skin and having the stitching line go down the back of the head. You may have to squeeze the head a little, but if stuffed firmly, it will recover well with a little squishing.
If the doll’s head has a point at the forehead, fold it back in a triangle as if wrapping a package and stitch it down. It will not show under the hair or hat.
Cut another 24” piece of cotton string and tie it around the neck as before to redefine the neckline, pull any gathers towards the back, pull the string tightly and tie off at the back. Leave longer ends when cutting so they are easier to tuck in when you sew the doll’s body together. Set aside the finished head.
Stuffing the arms and legs:
While stuffing the arms and legs, it is helpful to tear off a large rectangle of wool and lay it over your fingers before placing it down into the arm or leg hole.
Add additional tufts of wool inside the tunnel your finger created, this way the layer closest to the skin (which will show!) is smooth and free of lumps. A firm dense doll will hold up to “love” over the years better, but the doll also needs to be flexible enough for the child to bend the arms and legs while playing.
Stuff each arm, hand, and thumb (roll up a little ball of wool for the thumb), leaving the spaces where the seam is open free of stuffing.
Once the arms are stuffed, hold the arm piece “thumbs up” and reach up through the bottom opening, and then through the top opening of the arm piece with your fingers. Grab the shoulder pad of the head and pull it down through this opening. Fold the raw edge of the top opening towards the inside around the neck.
Stuff legs (using same method as the arms) up to the crotch, then repeat the “wool folding” technique for the torso area by wrapping your hand in a large rectangle of wool and pushing it into the torso. Add extra wool into the pocket near the bottom at the back for “cheeks” (pick which side is the front and back for your doll) and extra wool in the middle of the front for a tummy. Some wool from the pocket should be sticking up out of the torso skin and that is fine.
Nestle the head/shoulder/arms piece into the torso, making sure some of the torso “pocket” wool comes over the chest and back to create continuity. If you can’t get the shoulder to fit deep into the torso (right up to where the seams stop), take out some wool from the torso until it fits. Tuck in extra wool.
Once the shoulders are snug in the torso, fold the square corners of the torso in towards the neck (on front and back). Also fold under the raw top edge about ¼” across the front and back neck. Once sewn, this folding of the torso skin will create the arm crease that allows the doll’s arms to bend forward.
Using contrasting pins (don’t lose any in the baby, some people like to count them first!) and beginning at the armpit, pin the torso skin to the shoulder piece using straight pins stuck straight in towards the stuffing.
Make sure all the raw edges are folded under and the shoulder stays snug to the torso. Work your way up to the shoulder seam with pins and then across the neck.
At the shoulder the front skin will overlap the back and the pin will act as a “button” on overalls, holding the seam in place.
Using skin tone thread, regular sewing needle, and a blind/invisible stitch, sew one long continuous seam beginning at one armpit, up across one shoulder, around the front neck, across the other shoulder, around the opposite arm hole, back across the shoulder (just slide your needle underneath, no need to sew it again), across the back neck, and finishing back at the first armpit. When sewing the shoulder, you will sew a straight line across the shoulder to the neck, If you’re having trouble visualizing it, take a look at a t-shirt for help, one seam all the way around the armhole and one seam from the shoulder to the neck. Tuck in any strings and raw edges as you sew.
At this point your doll’s body is perfectly presentable, so if you’re running short on time, skip to the face section and start there. Otherwise, it’s time to do some “sculpting:” The use of stitching to define various parts of the dolly’s body. Sculpting is done with a doubled skin tone thread and a regular sewing needle. Though if you find your needle is getting “lost” in all the stuffing, try the doll-making needle.
Leg creases: Have your doll sit up on the table so you can see where the natural creases will be, mark the beginning of each crease at the crotch and the end at each hip with a straight pin.
Sew a line of running stitches along each crease, pushing your needle straight through all the layers of the doll’s leg and out again at the back, making sure to watch what the stitches look like at the front and back of the doll.
Pull up tightly as you go to indent the leg at the crease. Secure threads.
Bottom “cheeks: On back of doll, sew a line of running stitches from the crotch up about 2” along the middle of the bottom to form “cheeks.” Pull up tight to gather the stitches and secure threads. You may need to run another set of stitches in the same line if it is hard to secure. Push wool in from surrounding areas to further fill in the “cheeks.”
Belly button: Mark placement of belly button with a straight pin and sew a circle of running stitches ¼” to ½” in diameter around the pin. In general, a larger circle makes an “outie” and a smaller one, an “innie.” Pull up tight and secure threads.
Embroidering the face:
You must embroider the face before adding hair or a hat, because the knot ends of your eye and mouth floss will show at the back of the head. Mark placement of the eyes and mouth using straight pins, placing the two eye pins along the eye line and the mouth pin midway between the eye line and the neck string in an equilateral triangle with the eyes.
Cut a 24” length of each eye and mouth colored embroidery floss, divide the eye floss into 2 parts with 3 strands in each part. Leave the mouth floss as is.
Using one of the pieces (3 strands) of eye colored floss, thread the doll making needle. Poke the needle straight into the doll’s face slightly to the side of one eye pin and through to the back of the head.
Take the needle off the thread and make a knot at the back of the head, there will be floss hanging out at both sides of the doll’s head. At the front, pull on the floss to take up the slack at the back and rethread the doll making needle. Make 4 horizontal stitches across the eye pin (remove after first stitch) and then 4-5 vertical stitches covering the horizontal ones.
Make sure to “dip into” the underlying wool stuffing as you do the eye stitches, as they will hold up better if anchored in. The entire eye should be about ¼” square. Push needle through the face until slightly to the side of the other eye and repeat stitching for other eye. (Photo 34- DSC04482)
On last eye stitch, push the needle all the way thru to the back of the head and tie off.
For the mouth, use the same starting technique and all 6 strands of the mouth colored floss. Begin the mouth with one straight stitch centered across the mouth pin, about ¼” long. As you finish the first mouth stitch, come up slightly to the side of the mouth and at an upward angle doing one stitch back towards the first mouth stitch. (Photo 35- DSC04484)
Repeat on other side for a gently curved mouth, 3 stitches total. Push the needle through to the back of the head and tie off.
The colored knots at the back of the head will be covered with hair or a hat and are easy to snip off later if you need to replace the eye or mouth over time. You can certainly customize eye and mouth color to match the recipient of the doll or as your heart desires, but I do believe that as waldorf philosophy suggests, simple and realistic faces are best. This leaves room for the child’s own imagination and also allows the doll to be more “sympathetic” in times of sadness than a doll wearing a large smile.
Instructions for knitting and sewing the hair:
Almost any natural fiber yarn can work for doll’s hair but this knitting pattern was written for the mohair doll hair yarn found at the sources listed above. You will need to adjust the needle size and perhaps the pattern if using other yarns. The pattern is the same for both the straight mohair and the curly boucle yarns. Patterns for sewn doll hair, long hair, and crocheted hair can be found in the books listed in the doll making resources or by searching the web.
Gauge note: this cap is so small, that doing a gauge swatch would be tedious, just start making the cap and if you can’t get it on the doll or it’s too big, change needle size or # of starting stitches and try again.
Knitting pattern for hair:
1. Using size three double pointed needles, cast on 30 sts in the round, placing 10 on each needle.
2. Knit every row until 3” long, then begin decreases every other row.
3. First decrease row: K3, k2tog, repeat until end of row.
4. Knit 1 row.
5. Second decrease row: K2, k2tog, repeat until end of row.
6. Knit 1 row.
7. Third decrease row: K1, k2tog, repeat until end of row.
8. Knit 1 row.
9. Fourth decrease row: K2tog, repeat until end of row.
10. Break yarn and using yarn needle thread through remaining stitches and weave in yarn ends on whichever side of the cap you choose as the “wrong” side. The cap is fully reversible, but I find the inside/purl side to be the most realistic hair. The cap may look too long, but the extra length will be taken up by the width of the doll’s head and any extra can be tucked under at the hairline while sewing it onto the doll.
11. Stretch the finished cap over the doll’s head, adjusting it along the hairline so it looks natural. It should touch the base of the neck and come in a little near the cheeks. (Photo 36- DSC04487 and Photo 37- DSC04488)
You can pin it if necessary but mine usually stay put pretty well. Using sewing thread to match the hair color and a regular sewing needle, blind or whip stitch the hair along the hairline beginning at the back neck, making sure to “dip into” the underlying wool stuffing to anchor the hair. Secure thread ends. For a wilder look, you can ”brush out” a mohair cap (not boucle) with a stiff hairbrush or clean metal cat brush to make slightly longer hair (you can even put a bow in it).
12. As a final touch, you can add color to the doll’s cheeks using eco-friendly non- toxic rouge/blush or with a red beeswax crayon. For the crayon, first rub the crayon on a scrap of cloth and then use that to add color to the doll’s face. For either method, make large gentle circles of color on the “apples” of the cheeks. You will need to reapply the color every once in a while, but be careful not to let the child see you “coloring” on her doll.
Congratulations, you have completed a beautiful doll!
I can complete a doll in 4 uninterrupted hours or in many small bits of time over a few days, but give yourself much more than that if this is your first doll.
To save time, skip the hair and add a hat, the doll can “grow up” over the next year and be presented later with a full head of hair.
Present a finished doll without clothes, wrapped in a blanket or play silk and let the child know that making clothes will be your special project together.
Also to save time, skip the face embroidery. Many cultures have created faceless dolls for their play and I think this would be especially suitable for a young toddler. (see pictures of Avery loving the unfinished dolls)
For the younger child, loosely sew on the cap and gown to avoid dolly being left naked all the time, these can be unsewn later as the child matures.
Treat the doll as if it were real and your child will follow your example, make sure it is rocked, clothed, and carried gently. When picking up toys, treat the doll with reverence and make sure it has a special place to sleep.
Making accessories for the doll, such as, scarves, sleeping bags, rugs, hats, and blankets are wonderful ways for an older child to relate to a doll, while practicing their hand crafting skills at the same time. Older siblings can also be involved in helping to ready a doll for a younger sibling.
Most dolls only need to be washed about 1–2 times per year. The general rule of thumb is to wash a waldorf doll as you would wash a real baby. Run a sinkful of warm water and place the doll in the water, gently surface wash using mild soap, dunk the doll a few times to rinse (no squeezing, rubbing, etc.) and wrap in towels to dry. The drying may take 24–48 hours so you might need to do it “on the sly” so your child won’t be too anxious about it. A doll that has been washed can have new “cheeks” applied and a new outfit. Then, presented again to a grateful child – rather than giving a new doll each year!