Folk Rag Doll

How to make a traditional folk rag doll, starting with the basic doll form made of fabric and stuffing.
folk rag dolls made from simple materials

folk rag dolls made from simple materials

Photo by: James Calloway

James Calloway

Materials and Tools:

cotton fabric
pencil or disappearing fabric marker
polyester fiberfill
needle and thread or sewing machine
cutting mat
poster board
straight pins
pencil or knitting needle for stuffing
Loctite Creatively Yours GlueB.
doll hair
rub-on doll faces


  • Select the color of the cotton fabric to represent the doll's skin tone. Kathy selected a darker fabric.
  • Make a one-piece pattern for the doll's head, body and arms in the shape of the pattern pictured. Or create your own design. Draw the pattern on poster board and cut it out.
  • Place the pattern on a double thickness of cotton fabric, and trace around it with a pencil or disappearing fabric marker. Don't be concerned about marks on the fabric: the markings will be on the inside of the doll. Flip the doll pattern over and trace around it in the reverse position. This will create a total of four pieces, two for the front and two for the back of the doll. Cut out the fabric. If you feel more comfortable, pin the two pieces of fabric together before cutting. When cutting the doll out, make a notch along the center of the doll about halfway down the length of the center, where the legs begin. This will be used to indicate a stitching end point for stuffing the doll.
  • Using a 1/4" seam allowance, join the two front pieces of the doll together along the vertical center line, right sides together, by hand- or machine stitching from the notch to the top of the head. The seam will be in the center front of the doll.
  • Using a 1/4" seam allowance, join the two back pieces of the doll together along the vertical center line, right sides together, by hand- or machine-stitching. Start at the notch, where the legs begin, and stitch upward toward the head for 1". End the stitching, then begin stitching again at the neck and continue to the top of the head. The opening should be about 2" and will be used to stuff the doll.
  • Pin the doll's front to its back, right sides together. Stitch all the way around the outside edge.
  • After stitching, turn the doll right side out, using a pencil or knitting needle to push out the fabric of the arms and legs.
  • Apply a rub-on doll face to the head before stuffing. Or draw the face yourself, using fabric markers and blush.
  • Stuff the doll with polyester fiber fill, inserting it through the opening in the back of the doll. Use small amounts of filling at a time, and push the material into the arms and legs with a pencil or knitting needle. If you want the doll more lovable, put in less stuffing so it's nice and soft.
  • When the legs have been stuffed, stitch across the top of them from one side of the doll to the other so the doll can sit.
  • Finish stuffing the body. Close the opening with an overhand stitch.
  • There are many styles (and colors) of hair on the market, including braids, curls, long straight hair and kinky hair. If you're making a doll for a child, be sure to stitch all the hair in place. Kathy made a doll for display only, so she glued on the hair using a fabric glue called Loctite Creatively Yours Glue. Squeeze the glue on top of the doll's head, and glue down the hair. Then trim the hair, make pigtails or wrap the hair in a bun at the back.
  • Glue on wiggle eyes, a heart mouth and a pearl or bead for the nose, using Loctite Creatively Yours Glue.
  • Dress the doll as you wish.

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