Make a Leavings Doll (no sew!)

You can make your own doll just the way you like it!

By Laura Miller September 29, 2016
My daughter and I learned how to make these dolls from our local historical society. The story is that years ago, before families could afford to buy dolls, children would use scraps (leavings) from sewing projects to make dolls. My daughter loved making her own dolls just how she wanted them! And even though she has plenty of store-bought dolls, the ones she made herself hold a special place in her heart.

What you need:
2 scraps of fabric (6" squares work well)
1 piece of yarn, ribbon or string that's long enough for you to tie
1-2 cotton balls or other stuffing

Marker or pen to draw face/hair
Rubber bands to help hold dolls together as you work

What you do:
1. Lay the piece of fabric for the face so that the "right" side, or side with the pattern, is down. You can use any fabric you like, it doesn't have to be a solid color (our green doll's face has tiny leaves on it).

2. Place the stuffing for the head in the middle of the face fabric, then gather the fabric around the stuffing. Try to keep one side smooth/flat by pulling the gathers towards the back. You may wish to secure it with a rubber band if small hands need a little help to keep it all together. (We used a 4" piece of brown fabric with two cotton balls and the fabric was too small -- 6" would have been perfect for this size doll)


3. Fold one edge of the dress fabric over just a little so there's a clean edge for the top of the hood.


4. Wrap the folded edge around the face like a hood and then gather that piece together at the neck of the doll, making sure the dress fabric covers all the way around the "body".

5. Secure the pieces together with the yarn/ribbon. Tie it shut tightly and tie the ends in a bow. Trim the ends of the yarn/ribbon and bottom of the fabric, if you would like. (Our doll with the brown dress had too much of the face fabric sticking out the bottom, so we trimmed it.) To make a doll with pants, cut the "dress" up the back in the center, and the inside piece if needed. Then wrap each piece around the inside fabric and itself and secure at the bottom. We used clear hair rubber bands.

6. Draw a face on your dolls with a permanent marker, if desired.

7. Have fun playing with the new dolls that YOU made! These little ones are easy to carry along and can even travel in your pocket or clip to your backpack!

  • Fabric - There's no need to buy fabric for this! You can use old towels/washcloths, worn out or outgrown clothes, or you can do what we did ... ask friends and relatives who sew for some scrap pieces! We asked Grandma and got lots of pieces to choose from!
  • Size/shape - The scraps of fabric don't need to be perfect ... they don't HAVE to be square and size isn't that important either ... use what you like to get the look you want. Just adjust the size of the stuffing of the head for the size of the fabric. We used a 4" square for the face of the doll in the orange dress, but it was a little smaller than we wanted it to be. The orange dress was a 6" square and it was perfect. 
  • Stuffing - For the doll in the brown dress, we used craft pom-poms as stuffing for the head, but it turned out just a little smaller than we wanted. For the one in the orange dress, we used 2 cotton balls, but we also considered using dryer lint to get the full "leavings" effect.