Introduction: A Plush Matryoshka

About: Compulsive thing-maker.

A Plush Matryoshka.

Try saying that 10 times fast. It's hard!

We have several matryoshkas around our house and I have often thought of making one (multiple) in plush form. So I did! I like the idea of toys being hidden inside one another. What looks like one toy holds a fun surprise inside... and another, and another, and another, and another.

Wikipedia says:

A matryoshka doll, also known as a Russian nesting doll, or Russian doll, is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. The name "matryoshka" literally "little matron", is a diminutive form of Russian female first name "Matryona" or "Matriosha."

A set of matryoshkas consist of a wooden figure which separates, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same sort inside, which has, in turn, another figure inside of it, and so on.

Matryoshka dolls are often referred to as "babushka dolls", babushka meaning "grandmother" or "elderly woman".

Step 1: Matryoshka Parts

I started by making a pattern consisting of a head, face, feet and belly. You can print out multiple versions of this pattern in decreasing sizes or simply use the original pattern and trim it by 3/4 of an inch on all sides for your interior dolls. For the smallest doll I used one solid piece of fabric.

Step 2: Matryoshka Faces

Head: I ironed HeatnBond Lite to the back of the face circles and ironed them in place on the heads.

Cheeks: I ironed HeatnBond Lite to some pink fabric and cut out 6 sets of circles in decreasing sizes. To cut 2 identical circles you can fold over the fabric and cut two at the same time. If you don't trust your freehand circle-cutting ability you can trace a coin or other round object. Next I ironed the cheeks into place and sewed a satin (zig-zag) stitch around them.

Hair: I ironed HeatnBondLite to fabric scraps and arranged them on the face pattern circles before adhering them to the faces. I decided to experiment and tried out several different styles and colors. Then I sewed a satin stitch that matched each hair color along the bottom edge of each hairdo.

Eyes: I chose to use buttons for eyes. Don't sew them on at this point though because there are still parts of the face that need to be sewn. You can use bits of embroidery thread to experiment with different features and expressions before you commit.

Mouth: I chose to do simple smiles that extended into the cheeks. I lightly drew the smiles on with a pencil and sewed a black satin stitch over top, then I doubled back over it to make it darker.

Face: To make it pop out from the background I outlined each face circle with a black satin stitch, then doubled back over the whole circle to make it darker.

I suggest doing an image search of matryoshka dolls for inspiration when you make your own. If machine sewing isn't your thing you can hand embroider the faces or even draw or paint them. The possibilities are endless!

Step 3: Matryoshka Bodies

Now it's time to assemble the matryoshka bodies.

I started by sewing the heads to the bellies. Then I adhered iron-on stabilizer to strengthen it. I also added stabilizer to feet and folded it over the edge for extra strength. The area between the feet and the belly is where people will reach in and pull out the dolls so I wanted to make sure this area is sturdy.

At this point I sewed the button eyes on by hand.

Next I stitched decorative ric-rac across the necks and attached double-faced bias tape to the bottom edge of the belly and top edge of the feet.

To attach the feet to the belly I overlapped the two pieces by one and half inches with the belly fabric in front. Then I stitched them together in the corners to hold them in place and trimmed the excess.

Then I used each body front to make a pattern for the back. I didn't worry about matching the front and back fabrics. The more patterns the merrier in my opinion.

I ironed stabilizer to the back pieces as well. If I were to make these again I might try adding batting and a lining fabric for each one instead of stabilizer to make them a bit plumper.

At the last minute I decided to add a loop of ribbon to the top of each one as a hanging device.

Finally, I placed the front and back panels together, outsides facing in, and with my serger sewed around the periphery of each doll. Then I reached in the belly holes, turned them right side out, and ironed them flat.

For the smallest doll, simply attach a back fabric and sew the two pieces together leaving a small opening at the bottom. Turn this right side out, fill it with stuffing, and stitch it closed by hand. This little guy, along with the bodies of all the other matryoshkas, will fatten up the big babushka.

Step 4: Nest Your Matryoshkas.

Now it's time to nest your matryoshkas. Starting with the smallest one, insert each doll into the next one until you're left with one big babushka. Only you will know what lies inside... for everyone else it will be a fun surprise!

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