Introduction: How to Make a Waldorf 'Knotty' Doll

Knotty dolls aren't exceptionally difficult to make, but it is tricky to get the proportions right. A knotty doll uses a Waldorf head with a 'blanket' body that has knots for hands and feet. It's intended for kids who are too young to benefit from all the features of a full-limbed Waldorf doll who really just want something to snuggle with.

There are lots of tutorials on how to make a Waldorf doll but I actually couldn't find one to make a knotty doll that I liked so I decided to make my own. This isn't a true knotty doll (hence the 'knotty' in the title) because it uses thread to define the 'wrists' and 'ankles' rather than knots, as the only plush fabric I could find was too thick to knot. If you're OK with that approach too then mosey on over to my blog to download the template, and then check out the instructions to make your own doll.

I will give away a homemade Knotty Doll in a beautiful grey color - head on over to my blog for details.

Step 1: Step 1: Materials & Equipment

You will need:

1. 1/2 yard of minky fabric. I found mine in the "Plush/Cuddly" section at my local fabric store. This is definitely enough for one doll and you might be able to squeak two in.

2. Thread that matches the fabric fairly closely; no need to buy new thread if you already have some in roughly the same color as the fabric as the stitches will be hidden in the pile of the fabric

3. Materials for the Waldorf-style head, in very small quantities (all of which can be purchased here; keep in mind that the minimum orders (e.g. 1/2 yard skin fabric, 1/2lb batting, a reel of cotton twine) will keep you in dolls until your kid is in high school...):

a. About 10" x 5" cotton knit fabric for the head 'skin,' with the 10" running up and down the length of the fabric

b. 10" of 2" wide tubular stockinette

c. Doll-making needle for sewing the facial features

d. Regular sewing needles for the detailed facial features work

e. 2 yards sturdy cotton twine

f. Small amount of wool batting: a 10x10" square and a strip about 3" wide and a yard long

g. Template for the doll body, downloadable from my blog

h. Optional: red beeswax crayon for coloring the cheeks

A sewing machine will make your life easier, but it's not essential.

Step 2: Step 2: Make the Head

Detailed instructions exist on making Waldorf heads, so I won't belabor them here. Click over to the Living Crafts blog and follow their instructions for the head - making it 8" in circumference rather than the 9-10" suggested. Make your 'shoulders' quite soft by pulling excess batting out before you sew up the 'clamshell.' Add a nose following instructions on The Silver Penny blog if you like.

Cover the head with fabric as instructed on the Living Crafts blog, ignoring the parts about making and stuffing the body, and then embroider the eyes and mouth. I like to use the doll needle to carry the thread from the back of the head (where knots are hidden) to the front, and then work the actual embroidery using embroidery needles. You can make the mouth smile if you like; a traditional Waldorf doll has a very neutral expression so the child can project whatever emotion s/he likes onto it, but this is much less of a consideration with a doll for a child that is not yet old enough to engage in imaginative play.

Add cheeks in beeswax crayon if you like. Rub the crayon onto a scrap piece of skin fabric, then rub that onto the cheeks. Putting the crayon directly on the cheeks will give you a rather excessive amount of blush...

Step 3: Step 3: Make the Body

If you haven't already, download, print, and cut out the body and hat templates. Tape the two pages together and verify that the check lines all measure 1".

Place the body template on a fold and cut out; repeat to cut a second body (don't cut the hat yet). Make sure the fabric pile runs down the length of the body. Don't be tempted to flip the second body upside down to save on fabric as then your pile will run the wrong way on one piece (ask me how I know this).

Place the two body pieces right side together and sew all the way around with a 1/4" seam allowance, leaving a 4" gap at the top center for the head. Cut the tips off the hands and feet outside the seam allowance, and clip into the seam allowances two or three times at the waist and crotch to make the body sit properly when it's turned right-side out.

Turn the body right-side out through the hole, using a chopstick to ease out the hands and feet if necessary.

Sew a line of running stitches around the top of the neck opening approximately 1/4" from the top (visualize an extension of the seams you already sewed). Exact depth is not critical. Slide the shoulders into the opening and cinch up the running stitches around the neck, making sure your seam allowance is tucked to the inside. Check that the doll's face faces forward. Slip stitch the body to the shoulders very close to the neck by alternating stitches through the body fabric and then the shoulder fabric - I sewed around twice to prevent any accidents of the beheading type that might befall an over-exuberant child.

Photos show the critical steps. Apologies for the crappy lighting; these projects tend to have to happen after my kid goes to bed and in winter that means it's been dark already for hours.

Step 4: Step 4: Make the Hat

Check that your doll's head is about 8" in diameter; you might also wrap the paper template around the head to be sure it fits (don't forget the seam allowance). If all looks good, place the hat template on a fold in the fabric, making sure the fabric nap runs up the length of the hat, and cut out one piece. Sew the seam up the side of the hat. Clip the top triangle off the hat just as you did the hands and feet.

Turn the hat right-side out. Fold approximately 1/4" along the hat opening under to the wrong side, and put the hat onto the doll. Play around with the placement a bit until it looks right to you; make sure the seam is at the center back of the head and that your knots from embroidering the face are covered. Slip stitch the hat to the head.

Step 5: Making the Hands and Feet

To make the hands, make a small knot in the end of a piece of doubled grey thread through an embroidery needle. Place your needle into the seam of about 1" from the tip of one hand and take a small (1/8") stitch horizontally across the wrist just through one layer of fabric. Pull the thread through and try to work the knot into the seam a little to hide it (don't worry if it doesn't disappear completely). Holding on to the hand, wrap the thread tightly around the wrist three or four times, making sure each wrap covers the one before so you end up with a neat wrist. If you decide you don't like the shape or size of the hand, just undo the wrapping and redo it until you are happy. When you're ready, take a few back stitches through the wraps to secure them. Repeat with the other hand, lining up the finished one with the unfinished one so you put the initial stitch in the seam in roughly the same place, and also check that your hands turned out about the same size before you do your back stitches.

Repeat with the feet, putting your initial stitch about 1 1/2" from the tip.

All done! Make sure you have a camera handy when you first give it to a child. Mine couldn't stop herself from giving it a bit of pre-loving to break it in for the intended recipient.

(Note: As with all blankets and toys, this toy is not suitable for an infant's crib.)

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