DIY Envy – Yes, You Can Sew!

Easy Sew Doll

When you see beautiful, natural cloth dolls, don’t you think “I wish I could sew”? You can! This soft baby doll with knotted hands and feet requires only the simplest of sewing stitches, and it will be done in an afternoon (or less).

If you aspire to make a Waldorf doll or a seasonal table covered in beautifully decorated gnomes, you can easily take that first step toward making your own dolls with just two simple stitches: a running stitch by hand and a straight stitch on a sewing machine. Or, you can skip the sewing machine and sew the whole thing by hand.


Why Make Natural Cloth Dolls

Babies, toddlers, and older children love dolls—soft, squishy dolls in warm, natural materials like cotton and wool. There are dolls that work well for every age. It can get expensive to buy more than one of these beautiful heirloom dolls, though, so you might want to learn to make dolls for your child.

This knotted baby doll is meant to be easy grabbed by a teething baby. Even now that they are older, though, both of my children want the dolls I make. They had to negotiate who could keep the doll you see in the photos below.

Finished knotted doll


Small Knotted Baby Doll Instructions

  • Scraps for doll body: 2 pieces 7″ square, 1 piece 5″ square, 1 piece 4″ x 2″ (OPTIONAL)
  • Scrap for doll head: 1 piece 5″ round
  • Hand-sewing needle
  • Thread
  • Small amount of wool or other material (even scraps) for stuffing
  • OPTIONAL: rice to add weight to the doll

There are a lot of options when you are making dolls. I will mark options and make suggestions for other choices.

This doll is small enough for baby hands but not so small that it can become a choking hazard. The shape is simple: two triangles and a round head with a tall, soft hat. The knotted hands and feet will give a teething baby a hard yet secure bump to rub against sore gums.

Time: 30-60 minutes. It took me 20 minutes to make this doll, including photo taking, but I make a lot of dolls. Plan an open afternoon to make it so you can finish in one sitting.

1. Cut pieces. You will need 2 7″-square pieces for the body, 1 5″-square piece for the hat, and one 5″-circle for the head.

OPTION: If you are going to add a rice bag, also cut a 4″ x 2″ piece or two 2″-square pieces.

OPTION: Thinner fabric works really well for a knotted dolls. Cotton bandanas are perfect.

2. Trim hat by folding the smaller square in half and cutting the open edge into a curve.

3. Sew hat seam and turn. Turn edges of body fabric and finish by sewing down the edge if you are using fabric that might unravel. If you are making the doll for a baby, just make sure that there won’t be stray threads that your chewing baby might swallow. Finishing helps prevent that.

OPTION: If you use materials that won’t unravel, like wool felt, you can sew visible stitches on the outside of the hat. Cotton embroidery thread looks nice and bold against solid color wool felt.

4. As you sew, taper the edges as you reach the corners that will be knotted. I stopped the turned edge about 1″ from the corners.

OPTION: I tapered the finishing at the corners that would be tied into the knots. You can also cut a piece of fabric that isn’t square but has longer corners to make knot tying easier.

Materials
Pieces for sewing an easy cloth doll Cut hat for cloth doll
1. Four cut pieces 2. Trim hat in a curve
Finished edges for doll body Tapered corners for knot doll
3. Sew hat seam & turn edges 4. Taper edges toward corners


Prep for Body

5. Look at your pieces. You can already see the shape of the doll coming together.

6. Cut neck hole by folding overbody piece corner to corner then corner to corner again in quarters. Cut a small, 1/4″ piece off the tip at the center of the square.

7. Make sure the hold is small. If you are in doubt, cut it quite small and check that you don’t have more than about a 1/2″ hold in the center of the piece.

8. If you are going to add a rice bag, sew together 3 of 4 edges of the smallest squares. It doesn’t matter if you put pattern in or out, since you are going to enclose the rice bag in the doll.

OPTION: Many homemade cloth dolls are made with a heart-shaped charm at the center. In the baby dolls for my children, I sewed gems inside small heart shapes. I also put rice bags in the lower part of the doll (the doll’s bottom) to help the doll sit.

Doll pieces Cut neck hole for doll
Appreciate your work! Cut neck hole
Neck hole for doll  
The neck hole  


Rice Bag

9. Open the small square.

10. Pour rice in small square. Don’t add too much rice. You want the doll’s body to be squeezable. Also, you need to have plenty of room to sew up the last edge.

11. Sew last edge of rice bag. I just push the rice to one side and use a straight stitch on the sewing machine. I also rounded the corners slightly because I wanted the body not to have any corners poking out.

12. Check the size of your rice bag against the body. It should fit corner to bottom edge with a little bit of edge left to sew the body together.

Open rice bag Pour rice into rice bag
Open bag Pour in rice
Rice bag for a doll Rice bag for doll
Finished rice bag Rice bag fits body


Finish Body

13. Sew lines on underbody to create a square that will fit the rice bag.

14. Wrap rice bag in a thin layer of wool to give the body some softness.

15. Stuff rice bag into square space in body.

16. Sew up each edge of underbody to enclose rice bag and stuffing.

OPTION: You can easily make a knotted doll without a stuffed body. I wanted a doll that would be easy for a baby to grab, but this doll is much easier to make without the body steps.

17. Finished underbody will fit into overbody with the point through the neck hole.

18. The underbody won’t show other than the legs.

Sew square into doll body Wrap rice bag in wool
Sew body square Wrap rice bag
Stuff doll body Sew up doll body
Stuff rice bag into body Enclose body
Doll body pieces Doll body together
Underbody through neck Doll body takes shape


Head

19. Cut head fabric using a compact disc. It’s a perfect size for this doll. Anything round that is 4.5″-5″ across will do. For this head, I used old swatches from a friend who owns an organic fabric store. She didn’t need them anymore, and I knew they would be a great size for doll heads. This whole doll is made from scraps.

OPTION: This is the step that I simplified for a first doll. A Waldorf doll has a shaped head with chubby baby cheeks. This is created by sewing and shaping over a thin gauze then adding the top layer of skin. It isn’t particularly difficult, but there are many steps to learn when making a Waldorf doll head. Learn them! These heads make beautiful little faces for your dolls. For now, though, a ball of wool in a circle will make a fine head.

20. Wind the wool in a tight ball to make the core of the head. Take small pieces of wool and wind around many times to get a round shape.

OPTION: If you use scraps, still wind them in a tight ball to give shape to the head.

21. Place wool ball in enter of head fabric and wrap the circle of fabric around the wool tightly enough to keep it from unraveling.

OPTION: You could also stitch around the head fabric 1/2″-3/4″ from the edge with a long running stitch (a basting stitch) then pull the thread to gather the head fabric around the wool core. I like the other way because I can adjust to the size of the ball, which does change a bit with every doll.

22. Wrap thread around the neck. I went around 5-6 times very tightly then tied a knot with the two ends. This doesn’t have to look great, but it does have to hold tight.

Cut doll head Wool for doll head
Cut doll head Wind wool for head
Wool in fabric circle for doll head Wrap doll neck
Wool in head fabric Wind thread around neck


Attach Head

23. The neck on the head fits through the neck hole on the body. Just gather the flared ends of the head from the right side of the body.

24. Push the neck ends through the neck hole toward the wrong side of the fabric. The head needs to be on the bright, right side of the fabric.

25. Sew the body to the head from the wrong side of the body. I try to stay as close as possible to the neck about 1/8″ away from the neck hole. I’ve shown here just a simple running stitch: poke the needle through body fabric and head fabric close to neck, grab 1/16″ of the fabric then poke back up, skip 1/16″ from the top then take another stitch.

OPTION: If you are using a fabric that won’t unravel, make sure the neck hole is a tidy circle, and just take a visible stitch from the right side. A bold blanket stitch looks very nice.

26. Sew all around the neck hole and tie off securely.

Doll head fits into body Doll head fits through neck
Head into body Head through neck
Sew doll body to head Sew around doll neck
Sew close to tied-off neck Running stitch to attach head


Finish

27. Place the underbody inside the overbody. The long edge of the under body will be the doll’s legs. The point of the stuffed diamond touches the neck where you just sewed it through. You should be able to pin the overbody edge at the sewn lines along the stuffed portion of the underbody. Sew along those same lines.

OPTION: You can also choose just to secure the overbody at the point. This leaves a more open doll.

28. Pull hat onto head with the long, curved seam in the back. The seam should touch the edge of the body at the back with the edge angling toward the forehead. You can pin if the hat seems like it might slip off one side while you are sewing the other

29. Sew hat to head with another simple running stitch that takes 1/16″ from the head then 1/16″ from the hat. This will be a mostly invisible stitch.

OPTION: Whether or not you have an unraveling fabric, you can also use visible stitches to attach the hat. Anything from a simple blanket stitch to more fancy embroidery stitches will cover up the edge.

30. Doll finished but for knotted hands and feet.

31. Tie knots in points to create hands and feet.

OPTION: You could decide to stop at this point and leave the doll without knots.

Sew doll body together Pin hat onto doll head
Sew body Pin hat
Sew hat to doll head Doll nearly finished
Sew hat Almost finished

Finished knotted doll


Resources

Make Your Own Cloth Baby Wipes

Reusable cloth baby wipes

If you are working to replace throw-away products with reusable products, start with the simple things. When you are already cloth diapering, it’s easy to use reusable cloth wipes as well. Recycle and re-purpose what you have to make what you don’t have. I got so many baby washcloths at my baby showers the first time around that I repurposed them as wipes.

It’s quick and easy to make your own cloth baby wipes. All you need is:

  • Old or surplus wash cloths
  • Scissors
  • Sewing machine

That’s it.

If you don’t have cloths, try old towels, sheets, worn flannel blankets. Look around to see what you have that you would like to renew or repurpose as baby wipes.

CUT

I find that 3.75" x 7.5" fits perfectly in a commercial wipes container. I usually cut them square, but it takes some sewing skill to turn a square corner well. If you don’t have that skill, round the corners and make your life easier.

Old washcloth
Cutting old washcloth into baby wipes
Cutting washcloth into baby wipes
Cutting round corners on baby wipes

 

SEW

Ideally, use a serger or overlocking machine. This makes a tough edging that can withstand a lot of washing.

If you don’t have a serger, you can zig zag the edge, either right on the edge (the quick and dirty way) or turning the edge first (longer lasting but harder to do).

Sewing edge of cloth baby wipes
Finishing edge of cloth baby wipes

 

FINISH

Sew in the end. If you just cut the threads, they will unravel. Trust me on this one!

Finished homemade cloth baby wipe
Sew end in into cloth baby wipes
Trim threads from cloth baby wipes
Finished homemade cloth baby wipe

 

Easy! Now you have a stack of your own homemade baby wipes. Start to finish (including the time it took to take photos) I spent 10 minutes making 4 wipes. If you get on a roll, you can easily make one wipe per minute.

While you are into DIY, make your own wipes solution. It’s very easy.


Basic Baby Wipes Solution Recipe

1 Tablespoon mild soap (baby shampoo or castile soap)
1 Tablespoon oil (calendula, almond, olive, or other carrier oil)
2-8 drops essential oil (tea tree for antibiotic properties or any for scent)
1 cup water

Start with what you have on hand rather than buying ingredients. Don’t make too much at once because it won’t last a long time. Plus, it’s nice to change the scent with each batch. I like to keep a spray bottle of the solution near the wipes and spray directly on each wipe as needed, but I also tried putting solution and wipes in a wipes warmer to avoid shocking the baby with cold wipes. See if you can get away with cold wipes before resorting to a warmer.

Following up on a couple of weeks of cloth diaper focus, I’m covering other reusable products you can easily introduce into your family’s routine. Last week, it was reusable sandwich bags and wraps. Next, it’s my favorite recent idea. I’m making a cool reusable product I saw on Pinterest and sharing the photos with you.