Friday, August 28, 2015

Rag Dolls

Several years ago I made a few dolls for Rag Dolls 2 Love, Inc. This non-profit company is run by several women who are in Wyoming and Vermont. The company was started so that children who are orphaned, infected by diseases, have lived through natural disasters  or who live in war ravaged countries have this doll for love and comfort.

Specifications for the Dolls

So that all the dolls are somewhat similar, the dolls must be constructed with the exact smile. They must be made of fabric that would yield neutral ethnicity. With neutral ethnicity, they can be shipped to any country or region. Originality is not required nor wanted to make this doll. It is essential that the pattern given on the website not be changed and all directions are followed. It can be made with a solid color fabric or patterned fabric that hints of no ethnicity.

Though you can notice the various sizes of the dolls on their website, they should not vary in size. If the pattern is downloaded from the Rag Dolls 2 Love website correctly to 100%, the doll will be about 20" in length. They speak about this problem on the website.

Partial Shipment for Fall 2015

Why Rag Dolls 2 Love?

When I was researching charity organizations with which to make contributions, I not only chose Project Linus, Warm Up America, Toys for Tots, and Coats for the Children. I also chose Rag Dolls 2 Love. I'm not sure how I found the non-profit organization but it must have shown up when I Googled non-profit organizations.

There were so many big scraps of fabric in Mama's sewing room that needed to be cycled into something meaningful, as well as the many huge  bags of polyester stuffing.  This project fit the cause with the supplies.

First shippment of dolls sent in 2012

Beginning the Project

For several years before and after my retirement I took care of my mother who had COPD and Alzhiemer's. She didn't scream and wail as much if I was in the same room with her.  So I needed to devise a plan which could keep me busy within her eyesight. During this time of the dementia, she lost all patience and knowledge to complete any type of task. She couldn't remember words and lost the ability to knit and crochet. Keeping her occupied was very difficult. Later her doctor said to keep her television on because it might help keep her focused and not yell. Later, that didn't help either.

I devised a plan. I cut out about 25 dolls, using the gigantic hoard of fabric from the sewing room. I didn't have my light box with me, so I used the front glass door to trace the face pattern on the face-body cutouts. I found a small embroidery hoop in the sewing room, along with black and red embroidery thread. While sitting with Mama, I embroidered about 20 of the faces onto the front face-body cutouts. I also have to admit that it helped me stay focused and calm through the yelling, wailing and screaming. It was a diffcult time for everyone involved in her caregiving.

Giving the Rag Doll a Face

The face details do not have to be embroidered. They can be painted on with fabric paint. Charisse Eaves shows how to use paints to make doll faces. Her techniques can be used, but the face on the Rag Doll 2 Love must be the face given on the website Rag Dolls 2 Love. I wouldn't suggest using permanent markers because they may bleed into the fabric and leave fuzzy edges. Be sure to test the markers on fabric before you use them. There are many kinds and brands of fabric markers that can be used. I have used these fabric markers on other projects. Crafting the faces with fabric markers is quick and easy.

First eye finished using the back stitch, then the satin stitch
Eyes finished and the nose being done with the back stitch

The mouth is being completed using red thread and the back stitch.

Finished face -- I like the face design that Rag Dolls 2 Love chose.
You just have to smile when you see it -- each and every time.

 Assembling the Jointed Legs and Arms

The leg and arm cutouts must be sewn together first using a 1/4-inch seam allowance.  I usually do several at one time. They are then turned right side out. I mark where the first joint is and stuff to that point and pin. Since these are for children, I backstitch all seams and joints to keep the stitches from unraveling.

You notice that I don't mark the joint with sewing marking pens. (When quilting and smocking, I like this pen.) I have learned to mark with straight pens and sew through the pens. Using the marking pens is a good option if you can't do the straight pins.

The first three legs have the first joint stitched. The leg on the right is stuffed, pinned
and read to stitch the first joint.

A closer look at the pinned first leg joint.

The hands are stuffed and the hand on the left is pinned for wrist joint.
The hand on the right has the wrist joint sewn.

Using the pattern for location, the wrist and knee joints are stuffed and pinned.

Stuff the last joint and seam the top of each arm and leg.

Arms and legs for two dolls are finished.

Next the arms and legs need to be attached to the inside (right side) of the body on the face side. Using a basting stitch would be ok. Remember that the seam allowance is 1/4-inch. The thumbs point UP -- very important that they get the thumbs up!

The next step is more difficult but not impossible. The body must be assemblied with the arms inside the body. I find it easier to sew one half the body and then stuff the other arm inside and stitch. I find it easier to do a few inches of sewing, put the machine needle down, the arm up and maneuver the dolls body so that I can make the next inch or so of sewing the body.

Seaming the body together with arms inside the body.
When the body is stitched with the arms inside, restitch the neck so that there is a double seam reinforcement. With sharp scissors, carefully clip into the neck, without cutting into the stitches. If you do not cut into the v-stitching close enough, the neck will be puckered.

Clip the loose threads and turn right side out. Notice, you have not yet enclosed the legs to the body. I find it extremely awkward to stuff a leg in the body and stitch. Two arms and a leg inside the body make it almost impossible to stitch the bottom seamWhen I first did that, I spend too much time ripping out. I found another way to do it.

Turn the doll right side out, checking that the arms are inside the seam properly. Many times I have had to rip out the arms if they are puckered. Another way to prevent this is to hand baste the body together but if you are making 10 or more dolls, its going to take a longer time making the dolls.

One important thing to do, though, is to stitch 1/4-inch around the entire bottom of the body, so that you have a vision of where the seam will be.

Stuffing the body though the leg/body opening on right

Notice that the leg and body on the left side have been stitched . Using the stitch line along the body bottom, the fabric edge is folded inside and basted to assure that the leg is properly stitched in. The seam on that leg is machine topstitched, reinforced with backstitching at the beginning and end of stitching. The other leg is not stitched in at this time but is used as the hole for stuffing the body. Once the body is stuffed, baste the body closed, assuring that the leg is properly stitched in. Top stitch as with the first leg. Remove basting.

The rag doll is finished!

Alternate Construction Methods

The photos of the dolls on the website show other methods of construction. Some of the dolls are made completely with exposed seams. I'm not sure how Ral Dolls 2 Love feels about but that must be OK because the "exposed seam dolls" photo is on the home page of the website.

The doll can be made with both arms and legs in the body with part of one of the side seams left open to stuff. This way takes a lot of patience because it is more difficult to do it.

Charity Rag Dolls

If you have a desire to make these dolls for charity, just get started. Another non-profit organization that makes dolls is Dolls for Africa. The rules for making that doll is completely different from the Rag Doll 2 Love but the doll for that project seems to be more simple and easier to make because the legs, arms, head and body are one inclusive complete pattern. Older children are helping to make them. There are patterns for the doll and clothes for the doll at the Dolls for Africa site.

Other non-profit organizations making dolls are The Giving Doll and Feel Better Friends. These organizations seem to want monetary donations or donations of materials for the construction their dolls. I'm sure there are several other important non-profit organizations providing comfort for children.

There are so many ways to help the world be a better place. The calls to help are in your heart. Listen to your heart. Everyone has been given a special talent that should be shared and there are so many opportunities to share those talents.

Disclosure statement: I have not received compensation for any products mentioned or used in this post.

"Annals of Long-Term Care." The American Geriatrics Society, 28 Feb. 2014. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <>.

"DMC Creative World." Embroidery Stitches. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <>.

"Dolls for Africa." Dolls for Africa. Sri Chinmoy, 2006. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <>.

"Dritz Dual Purpose Marking Pen, Blue." N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <>.

Eaves, Charisse. "Painting Whimsical Cloth Doll Faces Using Paints." YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <>.

"Rag Dolls 2 Love, Inc." Rag Dolls 2 Love, Inc. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Aug. 2015. <>.

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