Making Button Dolls

Q. I would like to know if anyone has directions on how to make button dolls. I have many, many buttons from my mother and grandmother and didn’t want to throw them away. Thought this might be a good project to use for Christmas gifts, but can’t find directions anywhere. Thanks for any help. Tonis

First, sort out your buttons, both by size and by color. See if you can enlist children to help since this can be tedious if you have a lot. Lay out your buttons using the sizes and colors that you need. I have used a large shanked button in red or black or yellow for the top of the head, large pink or white buttons for the head, small pink or white buttons for the neck, slightly larger buttons for the arms (red, blue, purple,  green or whatever color you like or use and assortment for a striped effect), a couple of small pink or white buttons for hands. Medium or large buttons for the body in colors or stripes to match the arms, then switch to a solid for the bottom half of the body and the legs, using medium small buttons for the legs, ending with a couple of brown or black buttons on each leg for the feet.

A. Use a good sized long needle and a long piece of strong thread. Starting at the top of the right leg, go down to the foot and back up, tyiing off the leg, but NOT cutting the thread. Repeat with the left leg. Go up the body buttons on one side, then add in the right arm down to the ‘hand’ and back.

Tie off but do NOT cut thread. Do left arm the same. Be sure to leave space between the arms so that you will be able to go back down the body later. Center neck buttons and then head buttons and go through holes on one side. if using a shanked button, go through it several times at the top of the head, then go back down through the head, neck and body and back down one leg. Tie off at bottom of foot.

Large button 1 inch or bigger

Medium button 5/8 to 3/4 inch

medium small buttons 3/8 to 1/2 inch

small button 1/4 inch

For a girl doll, you will need graduated sized buttons for the bottom of the body and skirt. Make the legs shorter. Mary

Instructions for Button Dolls

A. Due to a couple of requests for instructions, this is how to make the button dolls. Hopefully, I will be adding photos later on to illustrate some of the steps. I hope you can understand them.Our homemaking leader got the fabric and buttons at a piece goods outlet really cheap. You can get the beads, hair and hat at a craft store. These cost about $2.50 – $3.00 each to make, which means that she got the buttons out of a bin for about 2 cents each. They didn’t have any cheap buttons where I bought my supplies and I was too lazy to drive to the piece goods store, so I used some pony beads I had on hand.

First of all, here’s what you need:

(6) 1/2" wooden beads (legs)

(2) 1/2" buttons with eyes on the backs (shoes–get a shoe color)

(1) 1-1/4" high bell-shaped wooden bead (body)

(18) 1/2" 2- or 4-hole flat buttons (this is for the sleeves–get a color -or colors- that matches dress fabric) OR if buttons are too expensive, I used 8 pony beads to match the dress.

(2) 1/2" flat buttons (these are for the sleeve cuffs–get a different color

than the sleeves, maybe slightly larger–a fun shape like a flower or heart

is also cute.

(1) 1" wooden ball or bead (head)

(1) small hat–about 2" across the brim

Curly doll hair–small curls–any color you like. One package does a LOT.

Small artificial flowers, ribbons, etc. (to match dress) for hat decoration.

Fabric for dress– 3" X 11" with tiny pattern or stripe.

1/2" lace–about 11"

Supplies you will need to do the finishes:

Flesh-colored acrylic paint

Fine-point black permanent marker

About 4′ of lightweight string–crochet thread is perfect.

Hot glue gun

Scissors

Needle & thread

Pencil

Prepare the Dress

1. Turn under sides and bottom of fabric about 14" and sew. Sew lace to inside of bottom hem so that it shows. (If you are doing this for homemaking, it would be wise to have someone do this step ahead of time.) 

2. Hand gather top (raw) edge of fabric with needle and thread using small stitches about 1/8" to 1/4" from edge. Gather it up and tie the ends of the  thread together. Gathers should not be so tight that the raw edge of the fabric puckers. You want it to be able to lie flat. 3. Hand stitch the bottom edges of the dress together or glue together with a dab of hot glue.

Head (Part 1)

Paint the 1" bead with flesh colored paint and allow to dry while you work on the rest of the doll. Optional: Paint the leg beads flesh also. I painted mine because the store wrote the price on each bead and I didn’t want it to show.

Arms and Legs

1. Divide the string into four approx. 12" pieces.

2. For each leg and foot, thread the string through the eye of the "shoe" button and center it on the string. Then thread both ends of the string through three "leg" beads and slide beads down to the "shoe."

3. For each sleeve and cuff, Thread the string through 2 holes of the "cuff" button so that both ends of the string are on the back side of the button. Center the button on the string. Thread 9 of the "sleeve" buttons onto the strings, putting one string end through each hole. If you are using 4-hole buttons, use the kitty-corner holes. If you are using pony beads, thread both ends of the string through the center of each beads, like you did for the legs.

Body Assembly

1. Thread the strings of the legs up through the "body" bead and out the top. The top "leg" bead should be below the lip of the body. The best way to gauge where they should go is to set the body on the table with the legs out front as if the doll were sitting down. Pull the strings tight enough so that the top leg bead rests against the body. This makes it so that the doll can sit on things. Secure the strings to the top of the body with a drop of hot glue. Trim the strings when glue is cool.

2. Attach dress to top of the body with a drop of hot glue. Gathered portion should be centered on top of body.

3. Attach arm strings to top of body/dress with hot glue. The best way to describe how to do this correctly is to pretend that the rounded edges of the body going from the top to the side is the shoulder of the doll. The strings should be attached so that the top button (or bead) is even with the shoulder. You don’t want them too high up or you won’t be able to get the head on, and you don’t want them too far down or it won’t look right. The opening in the fabric goes in the back, so place the arms so that there is one on each side, slightly toward the front. Attach with hot glue and trim the strings when glue is cool.

4. Attach the painted head to the body with hot glue

Head (Part 2)

1. Cut hair into 9-10 wringlets, approx. 1" long each.

2. Place hat on "head." (Don’t glue yet) Place the hat at an angle slightly toward the back of the head–you don’t want it to be squarely flat. Hold it in place and draw a light line around the head where the hat goes. This will the the line that you follow when attaching the hair.

3. Start with the bangs. Cut a wringlet about 1/2" long and attach it sideways to the front of the head with a little hot glue. Place it so that it lies flat just barely above the pencil line. It should look like bangs.

4. Starting at one side of the bangs and working around the head, attach the wringlets one at a time with a dab of hot glue. Place each wringlet so that the top is slightly above the line.

5. Attach decoration to hat (flower, ribbon, etc.)

6. If you’re working with a mesh hat, put some hair inside the hat so that  the bald spot on the doll’s head doesn’t show.

7. Attach hat to head with a few drops of hot glue. Hold in place till glue cools.

8. With permanent marker, draw face on doll. This does not have to be elaborate– just two oblong dots for eyes is good, or you can add a small line for a mouth. Eyes look better if they are fairly close together. Two or three tiny eyelashes can be added to each eye.

4 thoughts on “Making Button Dolls

  1. Mary Wewer says:

    I have made over 800 button dolls, the first one I made was just from looking at one , I have not seen any made just like mine .Check out my page on Facebook Mary’s button babies

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