Sunday, September 23, 2012

Making Sawdust Doll Bodies

I've been making doll bodies
stuffed with cedar shavings.
I got the shavings from Louis Allen,
a local wood worker.  He is well known
for his wagon making skills, full scale
and miniature, like the one below. 
 He also makes presentation boxes and
small cedar barrel banks for Copper Run
Distillery.  The first "legal" moonshine
distillery in the Ozark Mountains since
the prohibition ended in 1933. 
These cedar shavings are the remnants of
the little cedar banks.  They are soft curls
and smell soooo nice!  Just perfect for
little dolls.  Thank you kindly Allen!
Check to see if your local wood worker
will save you sawdust, or try the local
pet store for cedar bedding.
I started by drawing my body and arms on
a cotton utility cloth.  It's heavier than
muslin, not as heavy as canvas and has a
dense tight weave.  Nice and sturdy for
stuffing and packing the sawdust.
I use a mechanical pencil.  The lines are
thin and the stitching covers it up.
I then sewed on the drawn lines.
I made a second row of stitching on the
outside of the curves of the neck and
underarms for added strength. 
For the legs I sewed black and a very bold
red and white striped cotton together.
I folded the right sides together and
drew the legs and shoes.  I stitched
on the drawn lines.
I cut out the pieces leaving a seam
 allowance of about 1/4 inch, then turned
 them to the right side.  I used a pair of
tweezers to grab the inside of the small parts.
At this point I lightly aged the pieces 
with a brew of PG Tips tea. 
I stuffed my doll bodies while they were 
slightly damp.  I keep a small
spritzer bottle filled with water handy.
When the parts are damp they have
a little stretch, when they dry, everything
is firm and tight.  I also lightly sprayed
 the sawdust when it became unruly!
I used a wooden knitting needle and a
wooden chop stick for stuffing. The
knitting needle has a flat bunt end I
use for tamping the shavings firmly.  The
 end of the chop stick is blunt so it doesn't
 poke a hole through the fabric.
I use the same tools and technique
when stuffing with wool.
 The key is to firmly pack the body parts!
 I stuffed the arms and head first.
I turned to the inside, the edge
of the arm holes.
 I inserted the arms inside the arm holes
and pinned the arms in place.
I used a heavy button hole thread
 and a large needle,
to sew the arms in place.
I stuffed the legs and part way
down the body, then turned under
the bottom edge of the body.
I pinned the legs in place.
I made sure the legs were pointing
the same direction!
I sewed the legs on, leaving the
middle section open. I finished stuffing
the body section then sewed the center
part closed.
Triplets with striped stockings, a
popular 1800's fashion.
I made 2 or 3 large stitches
just below the neckline, this 
 helps to keep the stuffing up
 in the neck of the doll, so
she doesn't get bobble head! 
 Simple little Ozark sawdust pancake dolls
ready for faces and clothing.

Happy Sewing!


  1. I like stuff my dolls with saw dust too, so nice smell ! Thank you again for your great tutoring!
    Hugs Alena

  2. Thanks for the great tutorial. I had never seen the tack stitching below the neck to keep the stuffing firmly up in there. I'm going to use that idea on my next stuffing day. Thank you.

  3. Very good. Nice bodies. I love the red stripe legs. this is a little different from what you will get in the mail. Oh what am I saying ( it's a whole lot different ) but that is the fun. Good instruction. I do love the cedar stuffing too.

  4. This was very interesting, Sherri! I used sawdust as a filler in a paper mache clay once; it made textured hair. The tack stitching below the neck is also new to me; thanks for the information.

  5. What can I say? You're making me want to make a sawdust doll and I am so over my head I won't get to play with dolls for weeks!!! But I can go smell the sawdust you sent me. :~D And I can enjoy Tanney Butternut.

  6. Loved reading about the process and to see the hard work you do for your doll making! just wonderful!


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