Make Dolls for Your Dolls!

American Girls' Rag Dolls

The American Girls Historical dolls each have one of their very own dolls! A few of these are simple enough to make at home. Check the catalog and look for girls that have simple rag dolls. Sari (Kirsten's doll) is a good one to start with, as her dress and costuming are simple as well.
Draw a pattern on a piece of paper. The doll shape should be about 7" tall at most. Also, remember to allow for a seam. This should resemble a gingerbread man. If you have a large cookie cutter, you may be able to use it to draw your pattern!
Cut out the shape. Pin it to doubled material, and cut out the material. Sew this together, right sides together. Leave a bit unsewn for reversing and stuffing. After stuffing, finish off the body.
From here, work on the face (a few simple stitches with colored thread).
The clothing is the most difficult; that's why I began with Sari, since I felt her dress would be pretty easy to do. I'm not an experienced sewer, and I found her outfit easy. Use the pattern itself as a guide for how large the clothing should be.
For the body shape, I used Morrissey Patterns: Mona, from the following pattern kit: However, I think the rag-type doll would be easy to make without a pattern (and the clothing is too simple for the American Girls Collection's dolls), though this pattern is definitely worth getting because it also has the below doll pattern and a pattern for a dog and teddy bear as well. If you use this pattern for your American Girl dolls, be sure to use the middle-sized pattern.
This image shows the two Sari dolls I have made (one is for a friend). The one on the left was my very first try at a look-alike American Girl's doll. Unfortunately, I followed the pattern that I had a little too closely, and didn't keep in mind Sari's photo in the catalog--for example, Sari has no "feet," but rather little points, and her arms aren't straight out. In addition, I had no pattern for a dress, apron, or scarf, so I had to "wing it," and being new (and bad!) at that, poor Sari ended up with a very short mini-skirted dress and short sleeves. This isn't evident in the photos, but I had such a hard time with the first Sari's clothing that it's actually somewhat sewn onto the doll and not removeable. Now I'm learning how to make clothing that will just fit and can be removed, though I doubt the AGs will be changing their dolls' clothing. ;)
I also figured out how to do the hair correctly, though it doesn't show up well here. You take three very long pieces of yarn, braid them together, and begin on the lefthand side of the head, making one hair loop. Then you go around the top of her head, around the back bottom of head, around the top of her head again, and end there with another loop. This makes a "double braid," as seen in the catalog. In my second try I made this braid as tight as possible, so it would look better. I also made the doll a tad bit smaller, so it would be a better size for Kirsten (this scan is really them side-by-side, so it's to scale).
These dolls were made about a month apart, I believe in November and December of 2002. This shows how quickly you will learn to sew if you start!

Addy's doll Ida Bean is a bit more difficult than Sari to make, because the skirted part of her dress is "pieced." This means it's sewn on separately from the top, so that it can be made full. I would recommend making Ida Bean second, if you need sewing experience. She is pretty challenging to make. I do the dresses without any pattern, and this one was my second try!

Hair note: I sewed Ida Bean's hair on before sewing the doll together. I used the sewing machine to sew it on. It's pretty thick in the back. Then, after sewing her together, I used a thick black twine to add some hair to the top of her head (bangs) as well. I didn't have any red ribbon for the bow, so I used thread, braided.
Earrings tip: I used hooks which are used for closures when making doll clothes. I just wanted something cheap that was laying around the house. These aren't perfect since they're silver rather than gold, but it worked for me! As you can tell, I'm thrifty when making dolls! The Sari dolls cost nothing, and this doll only cost a little over $1 for the dress material (I had everything else I needed).

This is my favorite! She was so much work, but I had a great time making her. If you'd like to make a rag doll for one of your AGs, I have some tips on what I did. By the way, this doll is historically accurate for both Kit (1930s) and Molly (1940s), as well as modern day American Girl dolls or other 18" dolls.
  • I sewed the hair on and embroidered the face on before sewing together the two pieces of the doll. I used a sewing machine...I just don't have the patience for doing that by hand. As with Ida Bean, I touched up the very top of the hair (bang section) with some extra yarn.
  • To make the doll more floppy, you can sew in the areas where limbs would be on a person (after stuffing). For example, I sewed where the arms and legs meet the torso, as well as at the "knees."
  • You can look at Raggedy Ann books for ideas on clothing and facial features. One thing you shouldn't forget is that she has thumbs on her hands, unlike the AG dolls.
  • I sewed feet and stockings on (they aren't removable).
  • The clothing I made is removable, so that if anyone decides to look, they will find a miniature embroidered "candy heart" on her chest. (I did this by hand since I don't have one of those new super sewing machines.) Don't forget the bloomers and apron!
  • You can also make the dolls for American Girls that are not rag dolls. You just need to look around for similar dolls and then give them new outfits.

    This doll is based on Molly's Red Cross nurse doll. First I found an inexpensive plastic doll, but unfortunately she ended up being a little short compared to the authentic nurse doll. I used scraps to sew a dress (blue ticking), cape, apron, bag, and hat. Although the doll has long hair and the hairline can be divided down the middle like Molly's doll's hair, I couldn't get the long hair to stick down, so for now it's tucked under the cape. The hair is also the wrong color (reddish brown).
    I didn't have stockings for the doll. I could have painted them on but I thought it might chip off too easily (?). I used the shoes that came with the doll, since in Molly's original book the doll had brown/grayish shoes rather than white! Or maybe this nurse has dirty white shoes. :)

    Other Dolls

    I got the Morrissey Doll pattern listed at the bottom of this page: (Stuffed Toys and Dolls for Dolls). The pattern contains 12 patterns; three sizes of four patters (rag doll (Mona), pretty-faced doll (Sissy), dog, and teddy bear). The pattern is only $4.75...but I actually ended up getting it for free with a large order!
    I wanted to have a doll for my My Twinn Baby, so I made the large Sissy doll, using coordinating material to an outfit I had made for that doll. I adapted the face and hair, but the clothing you see here is from the clothing pattern that comes with the pattern.
    The scan doesn't really show the difference between these two dolls. Sissy is pieced...for example, her head is three pieces rather than two, and the torso is made separate from the limbs. So it's more challenging to make, but also a lot better looking (more three-dimensional) when finished.
    I had a really fun time making these dolls for my dolls! Next I hope to try and make Molly a rag-doll nurse doll or maybe even a Raggedy Ann. (We have a very old pattern from around Molly's era that I might look at for reference or reduce in size.)
    The good thing about these patterns is that they use so little material, you can probably make them for free. Both of these dolls were free, except that I had to use purchased button eyes for the Sissy doll.

    Crafts for Kids

    I made these dolls mostly as "practice" for making full-sized dolls. After I made a couple of them, a young friend saw them and immediately wanted one of her own! The nice thing about these dolls is that they're very easy to make, especially the rag doll pattern (the pattern I used to make Sari for Kirsten). Because this doll is so easy to make, we were able to create her a doll in just a short amount of time. I let her do a bit of the sewing, all of the stuffing, and the red cheeks. She had a great time and who knows? Maybe some day she will be making dolls, too! :)


    Following are three dollies that I have made as gifts for people. All of the dolls used the "Sissy" pattern from the pattern kit mentioned above. Although the patterns are meant for miniature dolls for your own dolls, I found that they also make nice little dolls for people, too! Everybody loves "miniatures." :)
    This doll was made for my mom. She kept seeing me making these little dolls and then hinted that she wanted one, and later hinted that the one with the crooked head was the one she wanted! I made the head crooked on purpose, to sort of give the doll an innocent or quizzical look...I thought it went with the googly eyes! The outfit this doll has on is dark green velvet (it showed up very dark gray in the scan). My mom loves green, so I thought it would be fun to make the doll wearing her favorite color.
    This doll shows how you can do "whispies" with the hair, using yarn. For the whispies I took a very small piece of yarn (it typically sections off into four strands; use one strand), put it through the eye of a needle, and then put these on the head. It's pretty hard, but looks great when you're done!
    I gave this doll a really elaborate, loose hairdo. She has her hair divided down the middle and in two braids in the front, a hairband, and then the hair goes toward the back. There are all sorts of ways to do doll hair...if you look at doll patterns you'll find different ways. With this doll I combined two different ways of attaching hair!
    One of my favorite things about making these dolls (and I'm still really bad at it--something these scans don't don't be afraid to try!) is to see the "personalities" they get, just by the hairstyles or the faces you give them! I thought this one looked a little like she would be the popular girl in school, while the first one looks like she'd be shy and the one below looks like she'd be a goof-off. I thought the googly eyes really help in giving them more of a personality than the shoe-button eyes do.
    This dolly was made for a child, so I decided to just have fun making her...after all, I figure she will be headless and armless and legless within a week or two after Christmas! ;)
    The head is very first I thought this was a flaw, but since I couldn't fix it I guessed maybe children love floppy-head dolls, since they can nod and shake their heads, and are thus more fun to play with. The hair is close to a full head of hair so that she can style and play with it.
    I also tried using thicker material for the bloomers...very stiff corduroy! It worked fine, but looks more like shorts than bloomers.
    Don't expect the dolls to be too quick to make. It took me a couple of days to make these, and I go pretty fast and sloppy. Much of the sewing work (attaching limbs and hair) is done by hand. But, they're a fun gift to give, that's straight from the heart!
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