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How to Make Rag Dolls

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I love crafts works. I made my first rag doll when I was 10 as a class project for a jumble sale, and I made my first rag rug when I was 16.

Making rag doll toys is easy and fun. One need not be creative or talented to create raggedy dolls. And they make wonderful toys for children because they are soft, cuddly, and washable.

Rag doll toys, also known as raggedy dolls, are soft toys made from cloth fashioned into dolls. Hundreds of years ago, and even till today, these soft toys were created at home as crafts, and were made from discarded, worn, or spare pieces of materials, and were stuffed with same.

Ragdolls are one of the most ancient children's toys ever crafted and relics of it has been found in a child's grave dating as far back as 300 BC.

It easy to make a rag doll. It is a fun craft that both children and adults love and because they can be made in all shapes, sizes, configurations, and colours, you don’t need to be creative, skilled, or talented to make a great raggedy doll.

Characters to use abound, even in our subconscious minds. We can always imagine what character and features our rag doll will have. Long skinny arms and legs, fat or skinny torso, a huge over-sized head, stumpy arms and legs, or a simple yet proportionately shaped doll. If you can imagine it, you can make it.

Ideas for rag doll toys can also be found in children's books, comics, and on the internet. There are also free dolls patterns and templates that you can download online.

They make wonderful soft toys for children because they are flexible, warm, and cuddly, but because they are soft toys that can harbour bacteria, as long as the right fabric scraps are used, they are washable.

How to Make a Rag Doll

Before you begin your craft, you must first decide on what type you want, its body shape, whether you want to make a large doll, a small one, or a miniature. Once you have decided on that, you want to choose the appropriate fabric colours to suit your choice.

For instance, for different skin colours, you want to choose colours like cream, brown, tan, sand, or pink. For the extremes, you can go for black or white. The rag doll’s body must be a solid colour, without a pattern or any particular texture.

Materials required

You don’t need to buy new fabrics to make a rag doll, but you can if you wish, as long as what you purchase are fabric remnants, in which case, you may not need to spend more than a couple of dollars. If you intend to use old materials around the house, instead of discarding them, recycle them and make them into soft dolls. Ensure that you wash and iron them before cutting them into pattern pieces. It is best to use cotton. Do not use stretch materials either.

  • Scraps of cloth or old pillowcases, bed sheets, clothing, or curtains
  • Needle and thread
  • Tailor’s chalk
  • Polyester filling or soft fabric scraps
  • Buttons (for the doll’s eyes)
  • Paint Pens
  • Elastic
  • Fabric glue

Tools Required

  • A pair of scissors
  • Pins
  • Safety Pins
  • Sewing Machine
A rag doll toy can be any shape, size, type or configuration that you desire. There is no hard and fast rule as to how one should look.

A rag doll toy can be any shape, size, type or configuration that you desire. There is no hard and fast rule as to how one should look.

The doll’s head and body patterns are easy to make with a sketch and simple measurements if you decide to DIY. First practice sketching its outline on paper until you get it right. The head’s shape can be a round or oval shape. The torso is easy. All that is required is to again, practice with a sketch on paper. The shape can be a square or rectangular shape, but it is best to keep the torso rectangular.

The arms and legs are even easier to shape out. For the most simple-to-make rag doll toys, just sketch, again on paper, four cylindrical shapes, two longer (legs) than the others (arms). Try to make all the parts as proportionate to each, as is possible, but there is no hard and fast rule about that.

If you find this too time consuming (it isn’t), you can order for rag doll patterns from online art and craft stores.

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Once you are satisfied with your patterns, it is time to transfer the shapes onto your cloth by drawing their outlines. Follow these guidelines:

  1. Include a seam allowance of at least 1 inch. It’s important to start off by making rag doll toys shapes a little larger than you want the finished doll to be. There must be ample allowance for stuffing.
  2. Double the material. Remember to keep the right sides of the fabric together, and on the inside. Cut out your pattern along the outermost (allowance) line.
  3. Stitch with hand (or sew with a sewing machine) the outline but leave an opening where you will pass the filling through.
  4. Relieve the seams around all curves and corners by cutting triangular notches in the seam allowance. You will find these in the arm joints, between the legs, the corner of the neck and shoulders, and the head.
  5. Turn the doll inside out.
  6. Start to stuff with polyester filling (recommended) or scrap soft cotton fabrics. Make sure you fill it until it feels very firm to the touch.
  7. Stitch to close the stuffing opening by turning the edges towards the inside and then stitching it close by hand or with a sewing machine.
  8. To form flexible limbs, stitch straight across the arms at the shoulder points, and the legs at the hip point. This allows the rag doll to swing its arms and legs with ease. It will also make it comfier and warmer to hug and hold.
A ragdoll pattern showing the different body parts.

A ragdoll pattern showing the different body parts.

The Exciting Part of Rag Doll Making

Decorating these cloth dolls is one of the really exciting and fun parts of making rag dolls.

The face – Use bold buttons for the eyes, and glue or stitch them into position. Use a different button for the dolls nose. You will find millions of buttons appropriate for these. You can also paint on the eyes and the nose. Alternatively, if you are good at embroidery, you can embroider the eyes and the nose. For the doll’s mouth, use felt material cut out in the shape of lips.

Clothing - You can sew plain, pretty, or chic clothes for rag doll using leftover or recycled textile materials. If you can't find old clothes to recycle or the ones available don’t look cheery enough to make and dress up the rag dolls, you can source for fabrics to use in other ways. Ask friends or family, you never know, they may have what you need, and even decide to join in the fun of rag doll making.

Hair – Attaching rag dolls’ hair can be a bit of a challenge, but it is not as hard as you may believe. Materials to use for hair include knitting wool, or yarn, or thin strips of fabric. Choose whichever hairdo you desire for your doll, hair, Goldilocks waist length hair, crazy Afro hairdos, crimped, cropped, kinky, twisted, or plaited. Your new ragdoll needs to have a personality, and what better way to achieve this than with its hairstyle.

Footwear – Choose a colour to complement the dress. You can use felt or a textured material for ragdoll shoes. They are easy to make and can be made to be fixed or removeable.

Further Reading:

DIY - How to Make Rag Doll Hair With Yarn, Rags, or Mohair

Miniature Hand Tools for Dollhouse Furniture Making

Raggedy Toys

Raggedy Toys

Making Ragdolls as Gifts to the Less Privileged

Have you ever considered making a collection of rag doll toys for the less privileged, especially children in orphanages? They will make great and warm-hearted Christmas (or other celebration) gifts.

To make a collection of rag doll toys to give away, a family, group of friends, an individual, or students can come together and make these simple soft toys. These can be given to churches, mosques, and other religious groups that have children charity organisations in both your locality and in other regions of the world.

Parents can engage their kids in this fun art of rag doll toys making while at the same time, teach them to imbibe the spirit of giving to those less privileged than they are. They can imbibe the pleasure of giving this way.

Teachers can create a class project. Tell the kids to bring old material from home or buy bulk fabric for the doll's body. Coarse materials like jeans are not good to use for soft toys like this.

And finally, adults can pursue a special rag doll toy making business venture and sell their crafts on eBay and Amazon. A guide on rag doll making will teach you how to profit from rag doll making.

Rag dolls can come in all shapes and sizes. Here are two different types of soft dolls, Beauty and the Beast.

Rag dolls can come in all shapes and sizes. Here are two different types of soft dolls, Beauty and the Beast.

© 2009 viryabo

Your Views Are Welcome

Katy Gibson on December 21, 2019:

Hi can you tell me where you got the blonde rag doll with the flower dress please

peachy from Home Sweet Home on July 18, 2015:

I want to make a rag doll too

Molly Layton from Alberta on June 04, 2015:

This is so adorable. I want to make them just because.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on May 10, 2015:

So glad you found it useful @Stevegideons.

I'm sure she'll love it.

Stevegideons on May 05, 2015:

Thanks for sharing this insightful post. I've learn t so much and should be able to surprise my little angel with a handmade rag doll.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 29, 2013:

Thanks newby.

newby on January 29, 2013:

your ideas totally rock

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on March 15, 2012:

Thanks Enlydia.

Enlydia Listener from trailer in the country on March 15, 2012:

Very nice...glad I found this today.

chels on January 03, 2012:

thankyou so much you saved my day you are awsome

2uesday on December 20, 2011:

Hi this is a good idea and well explained too, they are cute and look like good fun to make.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 18, 2011:

Hi Becky,

Thank you so much for your nice comments.

Rag dolls are so simple and such fun to make that they make such wonderful gifts for the underprivileged young ones. All it requires is some love, pieces of fabrics, and a couple of hours.

Thanks for adding a link to your Vintage pattern hub. I so appreciate it and its also an inspiration to me in the sense of its being appreciated.

I read your profile and i see that you have a great interest in antique arts and collections as you've worked in that field for many years. I absolutely love topics on vintage and collectibles as well.

I shall be following you and your articles, because you have topics of interest to me.

Thanks and GodBless

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on January 18, 2011:

Crazy zebra, Thanks for visiting and for finding time to leave a comment.

Hope to see you again.


Becky from Oklahoma on January 18, 2011:

This is such a wonderful Hub, full of ideas, plans and instructions on how to make adorable rag doll toys. I love the idea of making the rag dolls for children in orphanages. I have a Hub about Vintage Pattern Preservation and will add a link to your Hub. Thanks for an awesome Hub.

crazy-zebra from Midwest on December 30, 2010:

very interesting. I did not have time to read all of it but I will come back to it. thanks for sharing.

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on December 18, 2010:

That is so fantastic and very thoughtful of you craftybegonia.

The children do deserve as much as we can give, and items crafted with love make better gifts for them IMO.

Thanks for your nice comments and for your visit.


craftybegonia from Southwestern, United States on December 18, 2010:

You're right! There is nothing like giving to get some joy into you for the Holidays! We just made a boxful of my Funmigurumi toys for an orphanage and feel really good about it. I recommend to anyone!

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on December 05, 2010:

Thanks for your nice comments KC. Glad you find this useful.


K.Craig from Waterbury, CT on December 04, 2010:

I'm always trying to find new dolls to make for my daughters.

Great Article, from a very giving person!

viryabo (author) from Lagos, Nigeria. on November 20, 2009:

I know Keira, and so cuddly too! The good thing is that one need not spend money to achieve this. Lets hope this is a great Xmas for these wonderful kids.

keira7 on November 20, 2009:

They are so cut. I love dolls even if I am not a kid anymore. Viryabo this is a very great hub, I do hope that a lot of peoples will give donation this year, because after all Xmas its for others first, specially the Orphanage. Great thinking, my dear. You certainly are so generous. God Bless you my dear.:)

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