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Handmade Kids How-To: Fabric Nesting Dolls

Nov 18, 2010

by madebyjoel handmade and vintage goods

HT_Joel_bio.jpgJoel Henriques is an artist and toy designer who lives with his wife and three-year-old twins in Portland, Oregon. He is author of the blog Made by Joel and is currently writing a modern toy/craft book that will be published in Autumn 2011 by Trumpeter Books. Joel’s paintings can be seen on his personal site.

Fabric Nesting Dolls

I love nesting dolls and always thought it would be fun take the element of hidden surprise and use it in a toy more suitable for the 0-3 age group. A friend of mine, who is a nesting doll aficionado, came up with the great idea that I should make some out of fabric. They’re very easy to make and fun for older kids, too. You can stand them up or even use them as hand puppets. My kids had a great time acting out scenes with the dolls and also tucking them inside one another.

Below are some simple directions if you want to try them out. They could also be a fun gift idea for the holidays.

HT_nesting_1.jpgYou’ll Need:

Fabric (I used a natural denim for the front and fleece for the back.)
Scissors and/or rotary cutter
Sewing machine (or hand sew)
Fabric pen (I use Painters Opaque Paint Markers by Elmer’s. They’re non-toxic and great for fabric.)


HT_nesting_2.jpg1. Cut two rectangles of fabric for each doll. Round the tops if you’d like. (From largest to smallest, my rectangle measurements were about 9.5″ x 6″, 8.5″ x 5″, 7.5″ x 4.5″, 6.5″ x 3.75″. For the denim leave an extra 1/4″ at the bottom for step two.)

2. On the denim pieces, fold a 1/4″ at the bottom and sew across. This will keep the bottom edge from fraying.

HT_nesting_3.jpg3. Stack the two fabric pieces for each doll, right sides together, and sew around the edges of the sides and top, leaving the bottom edge open.

4. Turn the dolls right side out.

5. Using a fabric pen, draw a figure on each doll. (Your child may draw the figures if he or she is old enough, or you can even use previous drawings as a template and draw it yourself. You may also use the figures in my paper city for design ideas, which is what I did for these.)

6. Using a hot hair dryer, blow the pen ink dry. It will then be permanent and even withstand washing.

7. Start nesting!


Thanks, Joel! Visit Made by Joel for more enticing projects for kids.

 Sewing Projects | More How-Tuesday Posts | Handmade Kids on the Blog


  • TheUntamedHeart

    TheUntamedHeart said 7 years ago

    Super cute!

  • DevineCollectible

    DevineCollectible said 7 years ago

    Oh my, how very sweet! Just way too cute, peace, DevineCollectible

  • artwearline

    artwearline said 7 years ago

    great ideas!! love it!

  • CarryTheWord

    CarryTheWord said 7 years ago

    What a cute idea!

  • damenandroscoe

    damenandroscoe said 7 years ago

    This looks like something that even a sewing-machine novice like me could handle!

  • mousesong

    mousesong said 7 years ago

    I MUST do this this weekend... and I don't even have kids, haha. Handstitched... I REALLY need to pick up a sewing machine this Black Friday :)

  • mgebreab

    mgebreab said 7 years ago

    what a clever idea I love these thanks for sharing :)

  • PlumeandPetals

    PlumeandPetals said 7 years ago


  • VivaGailBeads

    VivaGailBeads said 7 years ago

    This is so sweet and clever! Thank you for sharing!

  • helenapuck

    helenapuck said 7 years ago

    What a wonderful activity! My boys are going to love it.

  • hattieshouse

    hattieshouse said 7 years ago

    cute as a pie...looks like a weekend project to me!

  • theroyalart

    theroyalart said 7 years ago

    awe, i love nesting dolls. those are cute

  • thepinqueen

    thepinqueen said 7 years ago

    I love them all !!!

  • HaleyByHand

    HaleyByHand said 7 years ago

    Great idea! I think my kids and I may have to make these as gifts this season:) Thanks for sharing!

  • breations

    breations said 7 years ago

    These are so cute!!!

  • VintageMarketPlace

    VintageMarketPlace said 7 years ago

    OMG these are adorable!!! I want some

  • expressyourself

    expressyourself said 7 years ago

    So cute!

  • ikabags

    ikabags said 7 years ago

    Adorable , many many thanks for wonderful article :)))

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 7 years ago

    These are so cute, never knew you can so easily draw images on cloth with fabric pen - good to know!

  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 7 years ago

    The puppets are so cute! The nesting ones are a great idea.

  • bylynnkrestel

    bylynnkrestel said 7 years ago

    not just for cute!! thanks for sharing!!

  • HelloShoes

    HelloShoes said 7 years ago

    Oh I love these puppets and finger puppets:)

  • rikrak

    rikrak said 7 years ago

    oh this is a wonderful project! thanks. and i love the fun bright colours. woohoo!

  • BubbleGumAndButtons

    BubbleGumAndButtons said 7 years ago

    Love it! I think Santa may need to bring these to leave in someone’s stocking!

  • countrypatches

    countrypatches said 7 years ago

    Wow, that's easy to make and kids would love it!

  • Humanidad

    Humanidad said 7 years ago

    Love them! Great project!

  • choisette

    choisette said 7 years ago

    hand puppets. yikes.

  • melondot

    melondot said 7 years ago

    so many designs that you could add! you could even use your child's artwork of mom, dad, brother, sister and scan to do an iron on transfer.

  • CocoaBeans

    CocoaBeans said 7 years ago

    those are just the cutest:)

  • treasurebooth

    treasurebooth said 7 years ago

    Fabulous project! Love this :) Back in my preschool teaching days, we would have loved to do something like this, super neat.

  • cozyblue

    cozyblue said 7 years ago

    love this!

  • MegansMenagerie

    MegansMenagerie said 7 years ago

    Adorable! Great project =)

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 7 years ago

    So cute!!!

  • nowonder

    nowonder said 7 years ago

    So beautiful and creative! I think it could be hours of funs for the kids to play with!

  • Pipkyn

    Pipkyn said 7 years ago

    These are amazing and so simple too! I know a couple of nephews who would love some... no rest for the crafter!

  • IcingOnTheCupcake

    IcingOnTheCupcake said 7 years ago

    So fun, what a cute idea!

  • rarebeasts

    rarebeasts said 7 years ago

    Teaching our kids how to make is the future, well done.

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage said 7 years ago

    lovin it!

  • TheBoominGranny

    TheBoominGranny said 7 years ago

    I love Joel! I have been following his blog for almost a year now. He has the best ideas and the cutest kiddos to demonstrate. Great Job!

  • oguerrero

    oguerrero said 7 years ago

    What a great idea, so cute! Thanks!

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 7 years ago

    So cute! That could keep kids busy for a while, awesome!

  • PurpleVixen

    PurpleVixen said 7 years ago

    i would love to do this with my kids

  • SoulRole

    SoulRole said 7 years ago

    this is such a great adorable EASY idea!!Thanks so much!I can add that to the million other projects on my to do list!Aloha!

  • anticovalore

    anticovalore said 7 years ago

    adorable, thank you!

  • RegalCottage

    RegalCottage said 7 years ago

    This is absolutely adorable, and so much fun! Thanks so much for including my Sweetest Matryoshka doll set here.

  • beliz82

    beliz82 said 7 years ago

    Very very cute Thank you for sharing

  • heidiburton

    heidiburton said 7 years ago

    Thanks so much for sharing, I have a friend who would love these (& her little daughter)

  • AshlandHill

    AshlandHill said 7 years ago

    Great idea! I'm going to try this with my little niece!

  • BPvintage

    BPvintage said 7 years ago

    adorable! thanks for sharing the craft!

  • Verdurebydesign

    Verdurebydesign said 7 years ago

    That is such a fantastic idea! I live nesting dolls and they live on my kitchen window. Guess what my family will be doing this weekend. Thank you for so generously sharing!!

  • paulofnavarone

    paulofnavarone said 7 years ago

    hey. mmm. this is really good. makes me want to get a fabric pen and fool around.

  • WhisperingOak

    WhisperingOak said 7 years ago

    Very nice, and you get to work with your kids.

  • Asianexpressions

    Asianexpressions said 7 years ago

    What a fun project to share with your children! Thank!

  • TheCakeStandBoutique

    TheCakeStandBoutique said 7 years ago

    What a fantastic idea... will be a hit with my one year old...thanks!

  • LalisLittleWorldOn

    LalisLittleWorldOn said 7 years ago

    The moment I saw this, I said to myself " I have to make these :-D"...and I will, first thing tomorow...super adorable and great fun for kids! Thank you!!!!

  • LalisLittleWorldOn

    LalisLittleWorldOn said 7 years ago

    The moment I saw this, I said to myself " I have to make these :-D"...and I will, first thing tomorow...super adorable and great fun for kids! Thank you!!!!

  • baconsquarefarm

    baconsquarefarm said 7 years ago

    Great dolls for traveling or when you want your kids to be on the quiet side of dinner out, church even. Thanks for sharing.

  • ablemabel

    ablemabel said 7 years ago

    What a great project to do with my kids on Thanksgiving break! Thanks!

  • DearAdam

    DearAdam said 7 years ago

    Great, inspiring, just wonderful!! Thanks so much for sharing!!

  • beachglassshop

    beachglassshop said 7 years ago

    how much fun is this going to be? thank you so much for sharing!

  • pthaylo

    pthaylo said 7 years ago

    Haha! That is awesome. Thanks for sharing!!!

  • GemmaBeads

    GemmaBeads said 7 years ago

    Great project! I love your blog and your ideas. I've used some of them with my girls. They especially love the paper city and the mobile we made with interlocking circles. You rock Joel!

  • PoleStar

    PoleStar said 7 years ago

    adorable! Love your blog! I've had it on my RSS for many months now.

  • ohhellodear

    ohhellodear said 7 years ago

    This is just fabulous! I have to make some for my daughter for Christmas. Oh dear! Not another thing on my to do list.

  • heacollins

    heacollins said 7 years ago

    Lovely idea!! I want to make some. We are buying my daughter a wooden puppet stage for christmas so these little nesting dolls would go well with it too!

  • pearlygrae

    pearlygrae said 7 years ago

    I am so impressed with your art.....Thanks for sharing!

  • vintagefusionjewelry

    vintagefusionjewelry said 7 years ago

    so fun!

  • lindaburley

    lindaburley said 7 years ago

    What an adorable idea!

  • ThePattypanShop

    ThePattypanShop said 7 years ago

    Soooo cute!!!

  • thriftyAustin

    thriftyAustin said 7 years ago

    My son would love these! He's always begging to play with my wooden matryoshkas!

  • graphicspaces

    graphicspaces said 7 years ago

    Simply adorable!! Love this idea!!

  • MerCurios

    MerCurios said 7 years ago

    How adorable. Creative yet simple, love it!

  • isewcute

    isewcute said 7 years ago

    Good simple fun! I love it!

  • GottulaStudios

    GottulaStudios said 7 years ago

    I love this, we bought wooden Russian dolls for my daughter and my 3 year old son is working on destroying them one by one. I'll have to make some for him now!

  • vivikas

    vivikas said 7 years ago

    Really great idea for kids!

  • undermyfeet

    undermyfeet said 7 years ago

    Great project!

  • BonTons

    BonTons said 7 years ago

    such a fun project to do with the kids!

  • vintagenuthatch

    vintagenuthatch said 7 years ago

    Too cute!! What a great idea!

  • gaylepritchard

    gaylepritchard said 7 years ago

    These are so very cute. Thanks for sharing!

  • econica

    econica said 7 years ago

    adorable! I have to try this with my kids!

  • kadydesigns

    kadydesigns said 7 years ago

    Super Cute!!!! Can't wait to try this and it might just be a Christmas present for a special little girl. Thanks for sharing!!

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 7 years ago

    I love hand puppets and nesting dolls! Great fun for kids of all ages.

  • akcopperraven

    akcopperraven said 7 years ago

    i love it !! kids toys are soo cute and this one looks like a fun one they can get hands on with...i will have to try it with my five year old, david !!!

  • 41Hawthorne

    41Hawthorne said 7 years ago

    As doll designer in another life, I so appreciate this idea and its beautiful simplicity. I look forward to seeing your book!

  • sohomode

    sohomode said 7 years ago

    love this :) cant wait to it with my kid

  • BasahanAlit

    BasahanAlit said 7 years ago


  • CositasSeriasVintage

    CositasSeriasVintage said 7 years ago

    Great idea!!!! My step son will love working on this project!

  • thejumbledbag

    thejumbledbag said 7 years ago

    way cute!

  • TheWhimsicalMuse

    TheWhimsicalMuse said 7 years ago

    How cute! I've been starting to think of fun crafts to do with my kid next week when she's off of school. This looks like so much fun to do with her!

  • QuinneHope

    QuinneHope said 7 years ago

    Love it... thank you!

  • JojosBootique

    JojosBootique said 7 years ago

    What a cute idea! I need to try it out next weekend when all the kids come over . . .

  • ThreadAndThumb

    ThreadAndThumb said 7 years ago

    Eeek! TOO cute. I LOVE this.

  • amykempf

    amykempf said 7 years ago

    I love it! My son was adopted from Russia and that would be a fun project to do with him.

  • asherjasper

    asherjasper said 7 years ago

    adorable - i want to make some :)

  • iheartmy

    iheartmy said 7 years ago

    These are so adorable! I think I'll make some for the little ones for Christmas! Thanks!

  • seahorsegal

    seahorsegal said 7 years ago


  • annyschoo

    annyschoo said 7 years ago

    cute concept. It will be a great project for my daughter and I to do together. Thank you for sharing.^^

  • naturescorner

    naturescorner said 7 years ago

    Father of twins: Lucky man. I know; mine are 32.

  • studiocatb

    studiocatb said 7 years ago

    Soooo cute! Thanks for sharing with us = )

  • mette

    mette said 7 years ago

    i love this! another great craft to make with my daughter - huge fan of your blog - thank you for sharing your awesome ideas!!

  • fairydtales

    fairydtales said 7 years ago

    Great idea!!!

  • OrchidBlack

    OrchidBlack said 7 years ago

    My daughter will adore these.

  • TanjaDesign

    TanjaDesign said 7 years ago

    Lovely! I sewed something similar (kind of gugnol, with arm) for my kid's preeschool class and left white so kids could draw their own characters on it. It was so fun for them!

  • Avarae17

    Avarae17 said 7 years ago

    These are so cute! You are soo clever, Not sure how you get the time with twins! :)

  • quirkybeauty

    quirkybeauty said 7 years ago

    Oh great idea! I may do this for kids holiday presents. Thank you. :)

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 7 years ago

    So cute, love the idea that they stack together. Also those kitty finger puppets at the end there are adoreable.

  • ALLthangsOLDbutNEW2u

    ALLthangsOLDbutNEW2u said 7 years ago

    so cute would make some great gifts

  • MysticalRaindrops

    MysticalRaindrops said 7 years ago

    Cute project to make for the kiddies!

  • aimeere

    aimeere said 7 years ago

    fabulous idea!

  • thebadgerset

    thebadgerset said 7 years ago

    These look really great! Great gift for children at christmas!

  • SavoyFaire

    SavoyFaire said 7 years ago

    Great fun! Love puppets and a new take on them is great. Soft and safe toys how refreshing and wonderful.

  • AboutAStamp

    AboutAStamp said 7 years ago

    These are so cute!

  • bigbluebed

    bigbluebed said 7 years ago

    Such a great idea xx

  • organicpinklady

    organicpinklady said 7 years ago

    Love it! They're adorable!

  • fireygoddess

    fireygoddess said 7 years ago

    totally adorable!

  • missbrache

    missbrache said 7 years ago


  • merryandmod

    merryandmod said 7 years ago

    Thank you for this idea - I'm going to use printable fabric to create a puppet for each member in my family as a holiday gift for my niece and nephews. So (sew!) easy!

  • PearlyNotes

    PearlyNotes said 7 years ago

    so cute, love it !

  • TrimsNmore

    TrimsNmore said 7 years ago

    What a cute idea. Of course if your looking for trims....

  • dollybirdboutique

    dollybirdboutique said 7 years ago

    love theses so cute x

  • studiotempera

    studiotempera said 7 years ago

    so lovely hand puppets..!!!

  • ApplewoodHandwovens

    ApplewoodHandwovens said 7 years ago

    Very clever... and so simple! Great Idea...........

  • charlottelyons

    charlottelyons said 7 years ago

    how brilliant and simple!

  • JillRuth

    JillRuth said 7 years ago

    I adore puppets...even have a piano turned puppet theater in our basement. Thanks so much for this tutorial and great idea!

  • dobleele

    dobleele said 7 years ago

    Very cute!! :)

  • angelcottagecreation

    angelcottagecreation said 7 years ago

    my 7 year old has just read this post over my thinks we will be making puppets tonight!! great tutorial...many thanks!!

  • piecesofelises

    piecesofelises said 7 years ago

    This is something I have to try! I literally made 300+ paper dolls when I was a kid, and it was kind of embarassing. This is a more durable, usable form of what I was trying to do.

  • CEDesign

    CEDesign said 7 years ago

    cute and fun.

  • BridgetMarieCreation

    BridgetMarieCreation said 7 years ago

    I just made these for my nephew and niece for Christmas! I did personalized figures for each member of their families. They turned out really cute and were very easy to make and I didn't have to buy a thing! Thank you so much for the great idea. Perfect!

  • ItziandBitzi

    ItziandBitzi said 6 years ago

    love this idea! I think i know what my nieces are getting for Christmas...if I can whip some of these up real fast!

  • JPeskie

    JPeskie said 6 years ago

    Love this idea... Super easy, and turned out very cute! The characters were easy to replicate. My 19 month old daughter loves them!

  • modernrepeat

    modernrepeat said 6 years ago

    So cute and so easy! Thanks for sharing.

  • ShabbyNChic

    ShabbyNChic said 6 years ago

    I absolutely love this! I would love to make them to look like our family - what fun!

  • hana31

    hana31 said 6 years ago

    Fun for me to make! Fun for kids to PLAY! Thank you for sharing!

  • dianapantz

    dianapantz said 6 years ago

    these are so super cute. i made my own, and they turned out great! cheers.

  • deadeville

    deadeville said 6 years ago

    so beautiful what a great idea!!

  • RiyaK

    RiyaK said 6 years ago

    Lovely easy way to make it .. Thanks Riya-

  • allyadeney

    allyadeney said 6 years ago

    These are just adorable. And sooooo simple . Thank You! I have included them in a list of great tutorials to make for little boys and girls for Christmas. If you would like to have a look you can see it here… Thanks for taking the time to put this together for us. Ally on harrysdesk

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  • Crafts/Hobbies | Pearltrees said 2 years ago

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  • GreatRussianGifts

    Great Russian Gifts from GreatRussianGifts said 1 year ago

    Cute craft. You can add beads, ribbons and color to make it even more appealing to kids.

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