Sewing a Handmade Heirloom Rag Doll

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Rachel Stone

Hello friends! I’m thrilled to bring you today’s post on making a handmade rag doll! If you read part one you saw where we converted a vintage suitcase to become a “trunk” to convey this rag doll to her new mama.

Before beginning the doll I come up with a color palette, this helps give personality and cohesiveness to the doll’s face, name, clothes,  accessories, and “housing”. 

This sweet collection of fabric from my local fabric store has an array of colors perfect for the doll I have in mind…

Gorgeous, dreamy colors perfect for doll dresses and the “trunk” lining!

This particular doll will be a combination of the pattern my aunt used in creating my doll when I was a little girl and the adorable pattern in this book.

The main difference between the doll patterns is the hands and feet. I’ll be designing my own style face.

To begin the face I sketch the details on paper, tweaking the until it looks right. The paper is then taped to the window as a sort of light-box and traced onto the “skin” fabric. 

Next the colors for the face are chosen to coordinate with the color palette and embroidered on. Here is where the personality starts to take shape and I begin getting excited!

Each doll is given a special name which is hand embroidered to their tummy. Here is Lilac with the torso complete and her legs stuffed and ready to go. Looking on from above is my doll, Lucinda, from the original pattern.

Lilac’s feet are in the new style, a bit more rounded and shorter to accommodate shoes. The original pattern has what I call “canoe” feet and they haven’t fit any shoe we’ve tried yet… I’m hoping this style will find a shoe that fits.

In the original pattern the hands are “popsicle” style without fingers. These tiny fingers are a challenge to sew and stuff!

Once the limbs are attached the body is stuffed and it’s time for hair! This doll is the first where I’ve used a wavy yarn, it was great to work with and so soft!

The quilting pins create the hairline and part to give the hair a style. Hair usually takes a day to do… and then the doll body is done and ready for clothes!

My goal is send each doll with at least two dresses so the nieces can have the fun of changing their clothes. For this little dress I ran several rows of pintucks and some floral trim down a section of fabric before cutting out the bodice. I also added piping to the Peter Pan collar.

Pressing helps things go together better!

Here I am placing the collar to be sure it’s centered. Lilac was a good sport and sat still.  😉

Lilac is the only doll (so far) to have earrings ~ she looks so elegant! The earrings are round pearl buttons.

Now for the second dress. With the doll made and first dress down I have a better feeling for the overall style of the doll. For this second dress my aim was a dress with a bit of the Empire Jane Austin style. To achieve this I raised the waistline and lengthened the skirt. 

As you can see I took care to “fussy cut” the sleeves and bodice so that the floral motifs would be centered. These special design touches are such fun!

Bodice done (the hardest part)! Next the skirt is gathered on and sewn to the bodice.

Lilac is now done and dressed! She got to meet Lucinda and spend the afternoon chatting about her trip.

Ready for her journey, Lilac is thrilled with her newly renovated travel trunk and wanted to show you her everyday dress. She especially loves the silk roses on the sleeves and at her waist. 

Her hair is nice and tidy in a braided crown.

The row of button down the back are faux. For ease of dressing each garment closes with a strip of velcro for those hasty, little fingers!

To see the DIY process of making over the vintage trunk for Lilac’s travels see the previous post.

All packed in her “new” trunk and in her best dress Lilac is ready to begin her journey to her new home! And I can hardly wait to see the reaction of our little niece when she sees her new handmade doll!

As soon as she saw the doll she squealed “my special doll”!

Learning how to dress Lilac. Happy birthday little darling!

Here’s our little herd of nieces with their dolls!

Thank you for following along with the makings of this handmade rag doll. If you enjoyed the trip please post on Pinterest and share with a friend!

If another post on handmade dolls or other items interests you, please leave your comment in the box below! 

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Author: Rachel Stone
Rachel is passionate about creating a comfortable and beautiful home for her family. She also loves to share the lessons she is learning with her wonderful audience both on this blog and her YouTube channel.

20 thoughts on “Sewing a Handmade Heirloom Rag Doll”

  1. I love this. I have made dolls like this. They are such fun. I will have to send you a photo of one I did in a wedding dress. This one could not be dressed and undressed. I added it to my regular doll collection.

    I dont know how to send you a photo on here though.

    The nieces really love their dolls.

  2. Good morning, Mrs. Rasbeary,
    I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and yes they do seem to enjoy their dolls! Doll making is fun (even if tedious at times). Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. Am email with the photo would be great – I’d like to see the doll you made! Have a lovely day!

  3. Rachel,
    Loved this blog! Great job on the dolls and on the presentation. The little girls are adorable!! Which ones are whose?

  4. Rachel, love this blog!! Great job on the doll and the presentation! The little girls are adorable! Which one belongs to whom?

    • Hello Miss Audrice,
      Thanks for stopping by, I’m glad you enjoyed the post, it’s always nice to get feedback! The girls on the left are Carrie’s, the other two are Evan’s. Are there other posts like this that you’d like to see?

  5. I love the handmade dolls and case! Lilac’s hair is beautiful! Your are a special aunt. Your nieces will treasure these dolls forever!

    • Hello Miss Pam,
      Thank you for taking the time to enjoy the post, it was such a fun project! It was the first time I’d used the wavy yarn for hair, thanks! Since making Lilac I’ve completed another doll for the youngest niece, I’m so glad they like dolls. Have a lovely day!

  6. Hi Rachel,
    This doll is precious and I know your little niece loves her.
    Enjoyed that you showed each
    step of making it and you made it look easy.

    Your fan

    • Good morning Mi Mi!
      Thanks! I’m glad you didn’t find the step-by-step photos boring, it was worth it to see our little niece’s face light up. I appreciate you taking the time to leave a comment and word of encouragement. Have a lovely day!

  7. Hey Sweetie,
    You really did a great job on that doll. I loved watching our little niece’s face light up when she saw her for the first time. You do good work 🙂

    Your Man

    • Hi Matt,
      Thank you for not minding the doll project taking over the kitchen for awhile.
      It was worth seeing the joy on her little face!

  8. Beautiful work Rachel! Lilac is sure to be a treasure for many years. Love that wavy yarn hair and her pearl earrings. ~Terri 😀

    • Hello Miss Terri,
      Thank you! My aunt gave me a handmade rag doll when I was a little girl & it’s such fun to continue the tradition. You would know all about wavy hair!
      Thank you for stopping by and leaving a comment, have a lovely day!

  9. The doll is adorable and your attention to every tiny detail like the earrings, little rosettes, etc. is amazing! Also, the fact that you are carrying on this tradition will make the girls dolls as special to them as the one your aunt made for you!

    • Hello Miss Ilene!
      It is a blessing to be a part of the family tradition, besides that fact that it’s fun! I’m glad you enjoyed the post – thanks for taking the time to enjoy the post and leave a comment!

    • You’ve done such an amazing job with making all these special dolls. I know the nieces will treasure them for the rest of their lives, just as I have done with the doll you made me when I was their age. You’ve started a wonderful tradition.

      • Good morning, Annie!
        It’s special to be a part of this traditions and give so many wonderful memories to the nieces. Thanks for taking time to enjoy the post. Have a lovely day!

  10. Rachel,
    You amaze me! Those sweet faces – the dolls and the nieces!
    And…I love the names on the tummy. I’m smiling.
    😊 Robin

    • Good morning Miss Robin!
      I’m glad you found joy in this post, making special things for others makes me smile too!
      Have a lovely day,

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