Doll Clothes Patterns: Reuse and Recycle Your Old T-Shirts

Here’s another fun project you can cut and sew without needing to buy doll clothes patterns.

Look in your closet for cotton knit fabric you can recycle and reuse to make your doll a rag scarf. All you need are two or three old t-shirts in coordinating colors. If you’re creative, you can use white t-shirts and dye them before cutting the strips.
Be brave with your color choices. Experiment. Mix and match until you find striking combinations, like sky blue, aqua and teal …or maroon, apple red and pumpkin.

The ‘rag boa’ shown in the Alabama Stitch Book by Natalie Chanin with Stacie Stukin inspired our doll’s scarf. We converted their human-sized project to a doll-sized scarf. We made the finished scarf 27 inches long f
or one of our 18-inch tall American Girl dolls, Julie.

To begin, cut strips of cotton knit in three graduated widths. For example, cut strips 3 inches, 2 inches and 1 inch wide, using a different color for each width. Make each strip 27 inches long, or as long as the finished scarf. These important dimensions are the only doll clothes patterns you’ll need to complete this project.

Please note: It’s important to cut the length of the scarf (the 27 inches) on the straight of the grain of the knit. This is the direction of the stretch.

Stack the colored strips as shown in the photo, using the width of each strip as a guideline. For example, from the bottom to the top, layer the strips by the width. (1-2-3-2-1) Start with the orange strip that’s 1 inch wide, then add the brown 2 inch strip, then the light blue 3 inch strip, add another brown 2 inch strip and finish on top with another orange 1 inch strip. Sew the stack of five colored strips together lengthwise, with your stitches running down the center of the strips.

Finish by making parallel cuts in the stack of strips about one-half inch apart, the entire length of the scarf, to create the rag effect. To avoid cutting through the center of the scarf, stop cutting about one-eight inch before you reach the center seam line.

Wash and dry the scarf to get it to curl. Pull each small piece from the end, to make the knit roll up and curl more. Then, fluff the scarf with your fingers until it looks full. Now your 18-inch doll has a cute and colorful scarf.

The next step is to select some great doll clothes patterns, and give the rest of the old clothes in your closet a new life. Your dolls can have an inexpensive, fashionable wardrobe from your recycled hand-me-downs. And, you can help save the earth. Cool, dude.

Here’s a close-up, so you can see it better.

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39 Responses

  1. Angie Says:

    LOVE THIS! I can’t wait to do it with my girls this weekend.


  2. Mary Erin Campbell Says:

    love it! I learned how to sew from my mom and we thought this would be a good recycled project for my american girl doll.

  3. Perrine Says:

    I really like your how to as well as the one about the christmas pixie. I was wondering if I could translate it in French and add it to my list of how to as explained in my french post.
    Of course, your website would be quoted and there would be a link!
    Thank you,

  4. admin Says:

    I’m pleased you like the project. Yes, you may translate it into French and add it to your list. Thank you for providing a link back to my blog.

  5. katiebeth9696_from_youtube Says:

    Totaly cool! Thanks I love it!

  6. admin Says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing your ‘rag scarf’ video. Please send me the YouTube link when you’re finished.

  7. Raequel Says:

    I tried making these three times and cannot get the fabric to curl. Any suggestions as to what I may be doing wrong?

  8. admin Says:

    To get the scarf to curl, you need to wash it and dry it in the dryer when you’re finished. Then gently pull on the strips and fluff it.

    Also, you should be using 100% cotton fabric. I don’t think synthetics (like polyester) fray as well.
    Hope that helps.

  9. Sandra Miller Says:

    I have made dolls clothes for my daughter and my granddaughter but until I saw your site I had never thought of accessories.This Christmas my little granddaughter has two dolls with stacks of clothes but also lots of other bits that I am sure she will love. The scarf, head bands, hobo bag, belts, necklaces all in toning colours. You have a wonderful site with fantastic ideas that inspire the creativity in others. the rule was what would I like to wear with this dress or outfit and then off I went. We will be seeing our little girl soon and I will spend some time teaching her to make scarves and other simple things for h er dolls as well.

    Thank you so much

  10. Ariana Says:

    Wow, this is really cute! I love making doll clothes and am always happy to find a new project!

  11. Mindy Says:

    Also Raequel, to get it to curl, make sure you are cutting the fabric length in the correct direction. Pull on the fabric, the fabric should should stretch the width of the scarf, not the length. Hope this helps.

  12. Cyndy Says:

    I have a question about the curl too. In general, when you cut “with the straight grain of the knit”, is that usually vertical cuts on a normal tshirt, or horizontal? I am thinking vertical, but I wasn’t sure.
    Thanks! What a cute idea!

  13. admin Says:

    The grain on a typical t-shirt runs top to bottom. The tiny strips you cut at the end of the project need to be cut parallel to the grain.

    So, when you cut the 27 inch long strips to begin the project, cut side-to-side across the t-shirt.

    Then when you make the parallel cuts “in the stack of strips about one-half inch apart,” those little strips will be cut along the grain of the fabric. They will curl when pulled lengthwise.

  14. Cyndy Says:

    Thanks Peggy. I just love this idea. I have been experimenting, and I don’t have it quite right yet. I will try the way you say.
    Another problem I have is the little strips stay separated, kind of flat, in some areas after washing and drying. Maybe cutting the other way will help.
    Thanks for your response!

  15. VikkiA Says:

    This rag scarf is adorable!! Thank you so much for translating it into doll size and sharing your creativity!

  16. Hannah Says:

    Omg thats so cool!

  17. Vivi Says:

    This is awesome! Perfect for earth day! It’s soooo reusable and my school ascension is having a truck come to pick up reusable electronics! EARTH DAY!!!

  18. Natalia Says:

    Thank you so much. Can’t wait to make it for my daughters doll!

  19. Fern Says:

    I wasn’t even going to look at a pattern that said it was for a scarf made out of old T-shirts! What a pleasant surprise – it’s really cute! Now I can’t wait to get home and make one! Thanks

  20. Judith Watson Says:

    I love this idea. I am making doll clothes for my grand daughter’s AG doll, as well as for her friend’s dolls. I am also attempting to make them to sell. Love this scarf. I want one for myself to wear, also. So will look for the grown up pattern version. Thanks so much. Keep coming with your great ideas.

  21. Kay Says:

    I love, love, love your site. I’ve just started making clothes for my oldest granddaughter’s AG doll and 3 other granddaughters’ baby dolls. I have loved making doll clothes all my life from the time I was a little girl, but didn’t know how then, and didn’t have time when my daughter was growing up. I’m playing catchup with my granddaughters and am loving it.

    Thanks for the free patterns and ideas. I love to reuse, recycle and re-purpose. I have just made a t-shirt quilt for my niece. The leftover pieces make great AG tees, turtlenecks, leggings, etc. I cut the pieces so that the existing hem is the hem for the garment. I also used two 25-cent place mats that I found at the thrift store to make a cute, cute, cute jacket. Just cut the front pieces from 2 of the corners of the place mat. Cut the back piece and sleeves with the bottom and cuff edges along the edge of the place mat. Sew the shoulder seams, the sleeves, then the side seams. Bind the neckline and you’re done. So easy, fast and cute.

  22. admin Says:

    Thanks for the excellent idea for recycling place mats.

    Maybe I’ll take a trip to the thrift store and do a blog post about it.

  23. Heidi Says:

    Love this idea. Have everything ready for my girls and nieces to do these. Love the hobo bag and money. Thanks

  24. Carla Unruh Says:

    What a cool scarf idea! Thanks for sharing.

  25. Priscilla Says:

    I love it! I found it easier to use pajama bottoms. There are so many different prints and cute too.

  26. Denise Says:

    This project was perfect. – Two of our Junior Girl Scouts made two of these scarves for their Art To Wear badge: one for their dolls and one for themselves. (I just doubled the measurements of the doll’s.) They came out wonderful and the rest of the troop will be so jealous! Thanks so much!

  27. admin Says:

    Wow! It’s been sooo long since I was a Girl Scout. Back then, we didn’t have an ‘Art To Wear’ badge. Sounds like fun.

  28. Pam Stuvek Says:

    I just found this website and I have been having so much fun looking. You can be sure that this will be one of my favorite sites.

  29. Judi Says:

    I’m new to this site and am loving these ideas! Very cute!!

  30. Barb Says:

    OH no!! Another grand idea! I’m so excited! It is going to be so much fun making things for my granddaughters!

  31. Cynthia Says:

    I’ve enjoyed your patterns very much. My daughters and her friends have benefitted. Love your emphasis on recycling.

  32. Jaonne Says:

    So glad I found this site! Grand daughters live in TX – I’m in Mn. Heading to Costco tomorrow hoping they have the dolls so I can fit outfits before “Santa” sends them. Your info is wonderful. Can’t wait to hit the thrift shops and get busy.

  33. adela Says:

    That is a grea idea!Thank you!

  34. Skye Says:

    I love this! I have already done the hobo bag and I’m waiting for the play money. I have tons of t-shirts I want to throw away, but now, my doll will have hundreds of scarves! Thanks so much! :)

  35. Skye Says:

    I just made this… so easy and cute! Thanks so much!

  36. Skye Says:

    Hi again… this scarf still looks great! I looooooooooooooove it!

  37. Teresa Says:

    I loved this—made it in a jiffy, washed and dried it and it is sooo cute. Everyone adores it. thank you for sharing such a cute idea.

  38. Christian Says:

    Check out Macy’s they have all of the up to date fashion.. We can also try Marshalls, or perhaps Target they have a lot of that type of stuff.

  39. Karin Says:

    Just love the site. At breakfast this morning one of the gals told me she’s sewing for granddaughters. She has four. We had a great conversation about the Doll clothes. It’s nice to have the same interest. Love the a-line dress it pattern. It reminds me of the dresses I used to wear.

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