My four-year-old daughter and I could create a hundred rag dolls and not tire of their charm. It’s impossible not to finger the softness of well-worn fabric given a second chance. And nothing is more easy or satisfying to make—no sewing required. With just a few minutes and a few knots, your hands can take old rags and breathe them into a new kind of being.
Our ancestors thrived in the high mountain desert we call home, using and reusing every little scrap of food, fabric and fuel at their disposal. My daughter and I began experimenting with making no-sew rag dolls after visiting a 160-year-old pioneer fort in our area.
Following is a tutorial for a doll my daughter and I created together. It’s perfect for collaboration with little hands.
Remember, exact measurements and sizes are not important. Numbers are given as a general guide only. This activity is meant to give life to whatever fabric scraps you have around the house, whatever their shape. Even an old towel can be resurrected into a special doll.
13-18 2-inch strips of fabric scraps. Plain, neutral colors work nicely. An exact length is not important but will determine the size of your doll. (12-20 inches or so works well.)
Two rectangles (10 inches by 6 inches or so) of printed fabric scrap for an apron and kerchief.
Begin by cutting some old fabric into 13-18 two-inch strips. (I’ve used an old flour sack here.)
Roll one or two strips into a ball. This will be the head.
Take one or two strips and fold them over the head at the center point.
Take a strip and tie this off, just under the head.
Set two or three strips over the top of the head at the center.
Tie these strips off just under the doll head.
Fold the top half down (Think of pulling a dress down that has blown over your head.)
Repeat the last three steps on the other side of the head so the doll has the beginnings of a skirt on each side of her head.
Take one or two strips and fold each end into the center. (These will be the arms.) Twist the arms a little. Place them under the center of the doll, with the rags split on either side.
Make the apron: begin by cutting out a rectangle and strip from a patterned fabric scrap.
Fold rectangle over strip at center.
Tie the apron around the doll tightly to make a waist just below the arms.
Cut out a kerchief from a rectangle of patterned scrap fabric. The kerchief is seen as the big triangle here. Discard small triangles.
Tie kerchief on the doll’s head, and enjoy your doll!
Arianne Cope is an award-winning journalist, novelist, and photographer living in scenic Southern Utah. She homeschools her four children and blogs about her journey to become a more mindful parent at stillparenting.