Step by step directions to sew the body and hair for a plush doll the size of American Girl, or Our Generation dolls. The limbs and body can be weighted for pose-ability!
1/2 yard of preferred skin color flannel or other cotton fabric with minimal stretch
4 squares of felt in preferred hair color
2 eyes, or felt in colors to make eyes and facial features
Stuffing (and weighting materials, if desired)
3/8″ seam allowance on all pieces
Print the pattern actual size. To see directions to do this, click here. Assemble the face piece by taping together the face and back of head at the shaded area.
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. To see a suggestion for weighting the limbs, see this video. 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! Snip the curves to allow movement.
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.
With right sides facing, sew the bottom darts with 1/4″ seam allowance.
Place the body back pieces onto the body front, matching the notches at the shoulders; right sides facing. Sew the front and back pieces together at shoulders and sides. Leave open the bottom, neck and armholes, as shown below.
Mark the eyes on the face before removing the pattern. Without pinning, guide the side head over the face piece while sewing. See the video below.
Turn the head right side out and sew to the body at the neck/shoulder area as shown below.
It’s tempting to put on the face now, but don’t! The features of the face will be off-center because of the seam allowance, and may interfere with the presser foot, especially if you choose to use commercial eye studs. Sew the back together from the bottom to the tab only. Do not sew all the way up; you will need this space to turn the doll right side out.
Place the doll face down. Insert the legs into the body with their seams facing up, towards you. The toes should be to the doll’s face. Make sure the feet are left to right before inserting. Pin the center seam of the back to the center of the front at the crotch area before adjusting the legs into place.
The tops of the legs should peek out a bit so that they are sure to be sewn in well. Sew the bottom of the doll, attaching the legs into place and turn right side out.
Insert the arms into the arm holes and pin into place. Be sure the thumb faces up, toward the face, for proper placement.
The finishing touches:
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 the individual pair. Another idea is to salvage a pair from an old stuffie or doll. 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.
Here’s a tip for the eyes:
Turn the head wrong side out and match the neck seams. Pin into place and sew the head dart.
Sew the head dart with a stitch that slopes toward the folded edge for a smoothly rounded head.
Stuff the doll, beginning with the head. For this style of doll, it isn’t a good idea to weight the head, but a good idea to insert a weighted parcel for the body. This will help allow the doll to sit upright in a variety of positions. 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 that were washed and deconstructed. It’s the cheapest stuffing out there!
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 top 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 two 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″. Once 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.
Unlike the commercial version of this doll, this one can be posed for super-fun play! Enjoy!!