Simplicity 4940 - 18" Stuffed Rag Doll and Wardrobe (1954)

Simplicity 4940 makes a simple doll which can be dressed as either a boy or girl. The instructions have a copyright date of 1954.

The doll is 18" tall, with mitten hands, and feet sewn in a contrasting color to look like boots. There are no shoulder joints, so the arms stick straight out. The wool yarn hair is sewn only along the top seam, leaving the back of the head bald. Although not indicated in the instructions, the back of the head could be sewn in a fabric to match the hair. The same embroidery transfer is used for the face whether making a boy or girl doll; the maker is instructed to cut the hair shorter for a boy.

The clothing consists of a short sleeved shirt with a Peter Pan collar; skirt, shorts or long pants, all with suspenders; and a jacket with patch pockets. The jacket has a contrasting lining, collar and cuffs, with matching cuffs on the pants. The pants and shorts have front pleats. There is a petticoat, but no panty.

This simple pattern would be good for a beginning sewer. The cute clothing gives this doll a bit of style.

McCall #820 - Raggedy Ann & Andy (1940)

Raggedy Ann and Andy were storybook characters created by Johnny Gruelle in the early 20th century. They are the most popular dolls of all time, and have been mass produced by a series of companies under license since 1920. This McCall pattern, copyright 1940, was the first one published for home sewers. It makes 19" Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls wearing their usual outfits, plus a hooded cape for Ann. When the pattern was reissued in the fifties, McCall's used the same stock number (820) but the envelope has a different illustration.

Raggedy Ann and Andy here have the same separated pancake style construction that has been used to make the commercially available dolls for generations. They have oversized mitten hands, yarn hair and button eyes. Transfers are included for their embroidered facial features and the hearts on their chests. The maker is instructed to use striped fabric for their lower legs and black for their feet, just like the store bought dolls.

Raggedy Ann's outfit includes a dress with set in sleeves and a pleated ruffle at the neck; drawers gathered below the knee; an apron; and the hooded cape. Raggedy Andy's shirt and trousers are sewn together to make a one piece garment. His sailor cape and black tie complete his outfit.

These dolls are classic Americana. What more can be said?

Ella's Original Doll Pattern #41: Cicely, Circa 1810 Bride Doll

Ella DeHart self published many doll patterns in the 1960s and '70s. Many, like this one, are Barbie-sized. Cicely is dressed as a bride in the Empire style of the early 19th century.

Cicely has a quarter-seamed head with ears, an hourglass torso with separate bust pieces to stitch over her body after stuffing, and a shapely bottom. She has stitching to indicate fingers. She is to be made of skin-toned percale, fine linen or any cotton. The maker is instructed to cut the head pieces on the bias to make the cheeks rounder. Hair can be darning thread, yarn or a wig; very little direction is given on this and style is left up to the maker. (A common hairstyle in this period was for the hair to be worn up, with little wispy curls around the face.)

Cicely's wedding outfit includes a gown with Empire waistline, pleated bodice, and overskirt with vertical gathers at the hemline; pantalettes and petticoat; veil, gloves and slippers. She should have a bouquet of tiny flowers. Although instructions call for the ensemble to be all in white, it should be noted that brides didn't always wear white at that time.

This pattern looks like it would be rather tricky to make, with a lot of detail on a relatively small doll. What do you think? Have you made one of Ella's patterns?

Fairy Tale Doll Patterns from the Marcy St. Doll Co.

This pattern makes three different fairy tale rag dolls from the same basic pattern. There are five 11" x 17" sheets included; one for the doll, one for the basic dress, underwear and shoes, and one page each to customize the doll as Red Riding Hood, Snow White or Alice in Wonderland. The pattern is copyright 1980 by Deborah Anderson, a cloth doll artist who ran her Marcy St. Doll Shop in downtown Portsmouth, NH for many years.

The doll has an unusual construction with a four piece head shaped by forehead darts; darts and inset arms in the torso; and a separate foot piece. The arms have mitten hands with stitching to indicate fingers. Facial features are embroidered, but buttons may be used for eyes if desired. Muslin is recommended for the dolls; their hair is made from yarn. The instructions are clear, but not very detailed. This pattern would be best for an intermediate sewer with some doll making experience.

Alice in Wonderland's pattern has a pinafore to go over her dress. Her hairstyle is straight with bangs. Red Riding Hood has a cape with hood. Her hair is styled in braids. Snow White's pattern has a long cape gathered with elastic at the neckline to form a collar. She wears her hair in curls tacked to her head.

This is an interesting, but hard to find pattern. I would love to see one of these dolls made up.

Vogue Pattern #2036 - Peter 'n Polly dolls

Vogue pattern #2036 is not dated, but I would guess it to be from the early 1980s. Peter and Polly are 24" boy and girl dolls made from stretchable knit fabric. She is dressed in old fashioned style, while he wears more contemporary clothing. A transfer is included for their faces.

Both dolls are made from the same body pattern. They have flat faces with small round stuffed noses. The backs of their heads are made from four sections, like the segments of an orange. Their torsos are seamed at the centers and sides, and have some shape. They have mitten hands and front seamed legs with flat soles. Arms and legs and stuffed first, then attached to the torso. The dolls have appliqued felt eyes and embroidered noses and mouths; Polly has embroidered eyelashes and freckles. Their hairstyles are created by stitching rug yarn to twill tape, then stitching the tape to the heads, and gluing the hair in place.

Polly wears a simple long-sleeved dress with eyelet ruffle trim, apron, petticoat and bloomers. Peter wears a long sleeved shirt, pants with rolled up hems, and a jacket with front zipper and appliqued sailboat motif. The  instructions called for hammered on snaps, and a zipper for Peter's jacket, both of which are unusual in doll clothing construction. Vinyl, synthetic suede or leather are recommended for their shoes. They wear purchased 3 month size socks.

These are fairly simple dolls, but with some unusual details. If you have made this pattern, please leave a comment and tell us about your experience.

Little Women designed by Joan Russell for Women's Day, 1963

Four patterns to make dolls representing the characters from the classic novel, "Little Women," were issued by Women's Day magazine in November of 1963. The designer, Joan Russell, created many wonderful patterns for Women's Day in the '60s and '70s, but Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy are among her best, in my opinion. What I love most about these dolls is that each doll is an individual, with her own body pattern. Most mass-produced dolls of the March family girls use the same body, and often the same face for all four sisters, despite the fact that the characters at the beginning of the book range in age from 12 to 16. The patterns are printed on oversized sheets of plain paper. The whole package cost fifty cents.

The finished dolls range in height from 17.5" to 20". Their heads and torsos are pieced in quarters, with seams at the front, back, and each side. The dolls have stuffed lower arms with stitching to indicate fingers; the upper arms are left unstuffed. They have embroidered features and synthetic hair.

Each doll has two outfits. Amy and Beth each have a day dress and a nightgown. Amy has a cape and Beth a coat. Jo and Meg each have a day dress and a suit outfit of jacket, skirt and blouse. There are instructions to make undergarments for each of them. Meg has slippers while her sisters wear boots. Instructions to make wardrobe trunks are also included.

McCall's 7432 - 17" Mary Poppins doll

This great doll pattern was released in 1964 to tie in to Disney's "Mary Poppins" movie starring Julie Andrews.

The doll is 17" tall and is designed in a separated pancake style for easy construction. She has mitten hands and is jointed at the hips and shoulders. She has crewel wool yarn hair and embroidered features. A transfer is included for embroidering her face and the pattern on her carpetbag.

What makes this pattern special is her interesting outfit. Her "Nanny costume" consists of a long skirt, lace-trimmed "pettiblouse," full-length felt coat with pleated back seam, embroidered carpetbag, gloves and stockings, unusual felt hat and boots, and crocheted scarf.

For those who are tired of making the same old thing, this vintage pattern offers a breath of fresh air. It would be interesting to adapt the wardrobe patterns to try and make some of the other outfits from the movie for the doll to wear. The accessories, particularly the carpetbag, would be useful for other dolls as well.

I would love to hear from anyone who has made this pattern.

Design 7339 - 32" Baseball Head Boy doll pattern

This mail order pattern came in its original Alice Brooks envelope. There is no copyright date on the pattern, or postmark date on the envelope, but the zip code used in the address indicates it was mailed sometime after zip codes were introduced in the mid-sixties. This is a transfer pattern; unfortunately the ink from the transfer has bled through to other sections where the pattern was folded.

The pattern makes a baseball-head style boy doll, 32" tall, with embroidered features and "straw yarn" for hair and eyelashes. Because of the large size of the doll, two entire sheets are required for all of his body parts to fit. No clothing pattern is provided; instructions call for "discarded or outgrown" size 2 clothes for him to wear.

He is a cute boy with freckles and applied ears. His hands have separated fingers with the exception of the third and fourth fingers which are joined together. The eyelashes are another unusual touch. The maker is instructed to stiffen them with clear nail polish, if desired. Depending on the stuffing used, this doll may be very heavy. A large upholstery or mattress needle is recommended, with heavy string or rug cotton, to join his arms and legs to his body.

There are many patterns to make both a boy and girl doll, but very few that make just a boy by himself. Of course, a pattern for a girl in this size was also available.

Design 7083 - Doll Toaster Cover

I got this pattern in its original Alice Brooks envelope, ordered from the Hartford Courant, with a postmark date of 1961. It makes a doll toaster cover with the doll's head, torso and arms on a cardboard base that sits on the toaster, which is covered by her skirt.

The doll part of the pattern is a transfer; the pattern for her outfit is meant to be cut out and used as a tissue paper pattern. She has a very exotic-looking face with features that may be embroidered, painted or drawn with crayons(?). She will be about 7" from her waist to the top of her head. The instructions call for "straw yarn" for her hair. She is made with separated pancake construction and has mitten hands.

This pattern, with the same illustration, was also sold as #7073. I'm not sure if the pattern pieces are different at all; but the instructions are a little more detailed and the pattern is called a "Multi-Stamp Transfer Pattern."

I was amazed in researching this pattern to see how many different doll toaster cover patterns were produced. It must have been a fad at one time.

Made to be Loved - 6 dolls with outfits 1955

This pattern is copyright 1955 by the Educational Bureau of Coats and Clark, makers of thread and sewing notions. It consists of a 22" x 17" sheet, printed on both sides and folded in quarters, which has the instructions and clothing patterns; and an 11" x 17" sheet which has the body patterns.

This pattern was apparently made for school use - it indicates that a teacher's file copy is available free upon request, and the pattern leaflets are 5 cents each or 25 for a dollar. The description on the cover reads, "Take your choice from this most adorable of sextets and see what Mother's scrapbag will yield for his, her, or their outfits."

The dolls make up at 14" tall and are separated pancake style. The neck is sewn to the back of the head to give the doll a chin. They have mitten hands, embroidered features and yarn hair. All six dolls are made from the same pattern. The maker has a choice of three different faces to embroider, with three different girls' hairstyles, and one boys' hairstyle.

This pattern has very detailed instructions with lots of clear illustrations - excellent for a beginner. The clothing patterns include underwear, two hats, and shoes to be made from felt. Socks are to be purchased. All outfits are made to be removable.

Betty Ann, pictured below, was made by Caroline Snow of Warner, NH in 1966. She is one of my favorite dolls.

McCall 1007 - Clown & Donkey pattern

McCall pattern #1007, published in 1942, makes a clown about 14" tall, in two variations, and a donkey about 6.5" tall.

There has been some debate among vintage cloth doll collectors as to whether this pattern was designed by Edith Flack Ackley. Those who feel it was not, say that she put her name on everything she designed, and her name is not on this one. Those who feel it is her design point to the fact that the clown pattern is virtually identical to the one in her book, "Dolls to Make For Fun and Profit," published in 1938. It may be that her name is not on the pattern because she designed the clown but not the donkey; or it may be that McCall purchased the right to her design, but didn't credit her because of changes they made; or it may be that they copied her design, without feeling the need to credit her. If you have an opinion on this, or any further information, please feel free to leave a comment.

The clown is a pancake doll, double stitched across his shoulders, elbows, hips and knees to create joints. Both clown and donkey have embroidered features, with a transfer included for the embroidery. The clown's hair is made by sewing loops of wool yarn to his head. For one of the clowns, you make short loops and leave the top of his head bald. The illustration makes it looks like he has ears; but it's just the way the hair is sewn on (see the photo below). The other clown has longer loops, all over his head, which are then clipped shorter. The donkey has a yarn mane and braided tail.

The clown's costume consists of separate trousers and a jacket which is made to look like a shirt and vest. The two costumes are similar but not identical. The jackets are made to be removable, but the trousers are stitched to his body. The shoes may be made from leather, oilcloth or felt, and they are stitched to his feet. A scrap of ribbon makes his tie.

The doll shown below is beautifully made. He is not marked or tagged in any way. He was purchased at a doll show in New Jersey.

McCall #1014 Upside-Down Doll or Single Dolls 1942

McCall #1014 makes an "Upside-down" doll (what we would now call a topsy-turvy doll) or two different single dolls. The dolls with legs will measure 15" tall. This pattern has a copyright date of 1942.

The single dolls have identical body construction, with different embroidered faces and different hairstyles. One face has a serene expression, while the other has a surprised look. The maker is instructed to use "Shetland floss...embroidery wool or four fold Germantown" for the hair. There are darts in the back of the head to shape it. They have mitten hands and no soles on their feet.

Each doll wears a dress with short puffed sleeves, but trimmed differently. There is no underwear pattern for the single dolls. The dresses are made to be removable, even on the upside-down doll. One doll wears a hat, the other has a bow in her hair.

Dolls made from this pattern are not as commonly found as some of the other topsy-turvys. Black/white dolls, storybook dolls like Red Riding Hood/wolf/Grandma and awake/asleep dolls seem to have been more popular than blonde/brunette.

Glossary of Terms for Vintage Cloth Doll Patterns

There is an infinite variety of ways that a cloth doll can be constructed. But many vintage cloth doll patterns fall into a few basic styles. Here are some of the terms I use on this site to describe those methods.

  • Pancake - these dolls are made of just two pieces, one for the front and one for the back. An Edith Flack Ackley doll is an example of a pancake doll.
  • Modified pancake - still two pieces, but with darts to give the doll a little more of a three-dimensional shape. Simplicity 7234 is an example of a modified pancake.
  • Separated pancake - the body parts are all made of two pieces, a front and a back (or a right and a left), but they are sewn and stuffed individually and then joined together.
  • Baseball head - this type of doll has the head constructed with two vertical seams down the face - usually right through the centers of the eyes - like the seams on a baseball, to make it round. Design 7143 is an example of a baseball head.
  • Thread jointed dolls have separate arms and legs attached to the torso by a sturdy piece of thread or string. For thread jointed legs, the thread would be inserted at the outside of the top of one leg, go through the leg and the bottom of the torso, through the other leg and be secured on the outside. Arms may be jointed in the same way, through one arm and the top of the torso, and through the other arm. Baseball head dolls like Design 7339 are almost always thread jointed. Ella DeHart's George and Martha Washington are another example.

I will add more terms as I go along.

Popeye, Olive Oyl & Swee'Pea mail order patterns 1979


Popeye, Olive Oyl and Swee'Pea patterns were issued in 1979, on the 50th anniversary of Popeye's debut in the comic strip "Thimble Theater" by E.C. Segar. The dolls are 16", 18" and 12" tall respectively. They were advertised in newspapers and magazines.

These dolls have some unusual construction details to make them resemble the original comic characters. All three have baseball style heads, but Popeye has a large chin piece added on and stuffed separately. Olive Oyl's torso is a rectangle with long thin neck, arms and legs. Their legs are constructed like pants, joined at the top. Swee'Pea has curved legs under his sacque. All have applied noses and felt eyes. Their other features, including Popeye's tattoos, are embroidered. Olive has yarn hair. Instructions to make Popeye's pipe and spinach can are included.

The instructions call for peach-colored nylon fleece or double knit to make the dolls. Popeye's body may be made from woven fabric rather than knit. Their clothes are made to be removable.

These patterns seem to be fairly common and are widely available as photocopies, despite being technically still under copyright. The lack of a date on the pattern, or any copyright information, may lead some to think they are older than they are.

Dolls that I have seen made up from these patterns are a couple of inches taller than what the patterns indicate. Not sure if the patterns are sized incorrectly, or it's caused by the stretching of the knit fabrics used to make them. Also, the heads seem to come out elongated rather than round. The maker of these dolls did a great job. I love the fiberfill "smoke" coming out of Popeye's pipe. Doll photos courtesy of ebay seller peggylbyrne.

Little Vogue #1336 - Big Headed Boy & Girl dolls

Little Vogue #1336 makes a 32" boy and girl doll with old fashioned daytime and nighttime outfits. This pattern is not dated, but probably was issued in the late '60s or early '70s.

The dolls have simple bodies but their heads are a little unusual. The face is one round piece, but the back of the head has extra pieces for shaping and they wrap around underneath the face piece to make a chin. Probably because of their large size, their entire bodies are lined with fusible interfacing. The dolls have flat feet (with cardboard inserts), mitten hands, tiny embroidered "O" mouths and large button eyes. Their yarn hair is in a simple style.

The girl's daytime outfit is a granny dress, fashionable at the time. The boy wears Little Lord Fauntleroy style suit and shirt. Both outfits are trimmed with eyelet ruffles. For nighttime, she wears a long nightgown, and he has two piece pajamas.

These dolls resemble the work of children's book illustrator Joan Walsh Anglund, author of "A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You," published in 1958.