Step by step directions to sew the body and hair for a plush doll.
2/3 yard of preferred skin color flannel (recommended) or other cotton fabric with minimal stretch (A twin sheet from the thrift store will make 3-4 dolls for a few bucks)
2 squares of felt in preferred hair color (33 cents each at the box store)
2 eyes, or felt in colors to make eyes and facial features (upcycle from stuffies, or available online- listed as shank doll eyes)
Thread in flesh and hair color
Stuffing (deconstructed stuffies and throw pillows work great for this!)
1/4″ seam allowance on all pieces, except the sole of the foot
Though not necessary, I recommend tracing the printed pattern pieces onto freezer paper. One side of the paper has a thin film of plastic that can be ironed to the fabric for a nice fit. The pattern piece easily peels off the fabric and can be reused, infinitely, it would seem! I keep these pattern pieces in labeled envelopes. Here’s a tip: trace commercial patterns on to freezer paper. Without cutting, all the sizes of the pattern can be used. This is especially useful for children’s patterns. They grow so fast!
With right sides facing, pin two arm pieces together. Sew around the outside of the arms, with the edge of the presser foot touching the edge of the fabric. Go slow and pivot as necessary. Try not to pull or force the curves of the arms through the machine.
Slash the curves of the arms, careful to not cut the stitching. This keeps the fabric from binding and puckering when the piece is turned right side out. Turn the piece, press with an iron and stuff. Set aside.
The leg pieces are cut on the fold. Unfold and press with an iron. Pin the foot top to the ankle area of the leg piece. It is the end that is not completely straight. It will be an awkward fit, but don’t worry. Sew slowly and back stitch at the start and stop to secure the piece. Be sure right sides are facing!
Fold the leg pieces in half, matching the ankle seams.
Attach the soles to the feet. The notch on the inside of the sole is to indicate the left and the right. This is especially important if you are using a fabric that does not really have a “right side.” The notch at the back of the sole will be pinned to the seam of the leg – the heel.
Pin the sole to the heel of each leg – just one pin. Now, check to make sure there is both a left and a right foot before sewing. Place the seam of the heel, with the sole attached, under the presser foot. Sew slowly, easing the foot top to the sole. Be careful not to stitch too close to the edge of the fabric; fraying will occur.
When the sole is sewn to the foot, check to make sure the stitching isn’t too close to the edge of the fabric; it can fray and cause the doll to fall apart. If you find stitching too close to the edge, put it back in the machine and sew a new seam (see the red circle on the left). Turn the legs right side out and stuff. Set aside.
Pin the lower half of the back and sew in place with a 1/4″ seam (don’t forget to reset the needle for this!). Do not sew the tab at the top. This will be the area where the entire doll will be turned right side out. Open the piece and press well. The tab pieces should be press in place as shown below.
Open the body front and press well with an iron. Place the front on the back, right sides facing, and sew the sides and shoulders, as shown below.
Mark the eyes on the face before removing the pattern.
Use one pin to match the side head piece to the face piece at the notch.
Ease the side head onto the face; sew slowly and adjust every few stitches. (see video)
Open the neck of the body. Match the notch on the face, with the middle of the neck of the body. Be sure the middle of the neck is aligned with the middle of the face, it will determine which way the doll will look when finished. Be sure to sew a straight line when connecting the neck and the face, it determines the tilt of the head.
Place the doll with the back facing up. Insert the legs into the body with their seams facing up, towards you. The toes should be facing the table.
Pin the legs in place. Be careful to line up the edges of the fabric for the legs and the body. Uneven placement of the legs will cause feet to angle or legs to splay. Clip the corners of the seams to ease in turning. Bring the legs right side out, but leave the top of the body as it.
The top of the body will still be wrong side out, as shown. Insert the arms.
For the arms to fall to the sides, the arms seams must be positioned opposite of the shoulder seams. The picture on the left shows the arm and shoulder seams matching. This will result in the doll that can’t put it’s arms down. On the right, the seams are opposite, resulting in a doll with natural posture.
It may seem a little confusing, so imagine the shoulder opening as a clock. The shoulder (body) has seams at noon and six. The arm, once it is inserted, will have seams at three and nine.
One in place, pinch the shoulders down and match the seams. Pin in place and sew. Backstitch a bunch and really make sure that piece is in place. Dressing and undressing the doll will put extra stress on the seam, so make sure it is plenty secure.
Turn the doll right side out and place the eyes. You can skip this step if you are planning to sew on flannel eyes, or have some other master plan. I have a variety of eyes that I bought cheap at a box store. These eyes are also available in small packs of a particular color, and some specialty shops sell them by an individual pair. Another idea is to salvage a pair from an old stuffy or doll and give them a new body. The ones I used have a textured shank to keep the eyes in place. It works for my personal purposes. Use whatever works for you, keeping in mind that any features may cause a choking hazard for some.
Turn the head inside out and match the seams of the neck. Pin the back of the head in place and sew. Stuff the doll, beginning with the head. Stuff as much as you like, but to keep the head upright, it is essential to stuff the neck well. The stuffing used is a personal preference. I had some stuffing set aside from old stuffies and pillows. It was slightly matted from use, so it required some pulling apart and fluffing. This would be a great job for a kid – tear apart clumps of stuffing.
Sew the back of the doll with a hand needle and thread.
Now that the doll is done, it is time to give it some hair, if that’s your plan. The included pattern creates a skull cap from which to build your hairstyle. Sew up the hair the same as the head of the doll. Match the notches and ease the hair side onto the hair crown.
Put the hair on the doll, like a hat, and trim your desire hairline. Pin the hair to the head. Using a needle and thread, hand sew the hair to the doll head.
Hand sew the hair to the head. Be advised, the hairline shown is trimmed for the purpose of her unique hairstyle, and is not the actual shape of the included pattern.
For this hairstyle, I cut squiggles of felt and pinned them to the scalp. When the scalp was covered, they were removed, and each stitched around the edge with a running stitch. The thread was pulled tight to create a rippled effect for each lock of hair. The hair was then stitched to the scalp. Bangs were added, and partially sewn to the scalp to allow for some movement. a ponytail was created and sewn to the back of the head.
For this hair, I cut long rectangle pieces of felt with a pinking shears., leaving the tope of the piece intact for a hair tract effect. Layers of tracts were secured to the scalp to create a bob effect. One rectangle piece was attached to the part line, by the middle.
For this short hairstyle, two large squares of felt were joined to the scalp at a part and the hair was cut once it was in place. The strips of felt can be twisted to create a styled look.
Braids are particularly easy. For this Laura Ingalls look, I attached to felt squares to the scalp at the part line. The squares were then trimmed into strips, while on the doll. Each of the strips were stretched to give it some texture, but be careful not to break the strips if you do this. To prevent breakage, each strip should be wider than 3/4″. One the strips are cut and stretched, they can be braided and secured with a knotted piece of felt.
Another option for hair is to use yarn. This takes considerably more time, but the results are nice. Cut lengths of yarn that are double the length you would like for the hair. Fold them in half and sew them directly to the scalp in rows, starting with the neckline; ending with the bangs.
Options for the face are endless. For the Lizzo doll below, all the features were cut from felt and handsewn. It is delicate work that can have amazing results if you are so talented and time rich.
I found it best to glue a felt smile in place. If it falls off, it can be easily replaced, and it doesn’t leave those unsightly stitching marks around the lips.
For a nose, cut a shape of felt and glue it on. The great thing about using felt to build features, is that it will stick to the flannel body easily. It makes placement easy in that you can stick the feature to the face and step back to have a look from different angle before making a glue commitment.