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How to Make a Topsy Turvy Doll from any Rag Doll Pattern

How to Make a Topsy Turvy Doll from Any Rag Doll Pattern - a free tutorial from Shiny Happy World

I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately for a pattern for a topsy turvy doll.

Weird. I have no idea what has prompted the sudden influx.

I’ve had a topsy turvy doll on my Big List o’ Things to Make for a long time now, but the number of requests recently made me move it to the top of the list.

As soon as I mentioned it to Jo, she was full of IDEAS. She immediately started lobbying for a day and night doll. Not an awake and sleeping doll, but a doll with one girl all sunshine and bright, and another girl all deep indigo and starlight. She specifically asked for the night doll to have “dark blue hair – the darkest blue felt you have – sprinkled with tiny little embroidered stars in pale yellow.”

OK then. I can do that!

Instead of creating a pattern especially for one topsy turvy doll, I thought it would be more fun to show you how to turn any of the Dress Up Bunch dolls into topsy turvy dolls. You can apply the same basic technique to work with any rag doll pattern.


So here we go. . .

To make a topsy turvy doll you’ll need to make two identical doll tops and no legs. The body will need to be chopped off at the waist so you can sew two bodies together.

Prep the Pattern

Where to cut the body pattern pieces to make a topsy turvy doll - part of a free tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Measure down 4 1/2 inches from the top of the body front and body back pattern pieces of any Dress Up Bunch doll pattern. Draw a line parallel to the top of the pattern piece and cut off the bottom of the pattern. (if you’re using another pattern you’ll need to figure out where the “waist” of the body piece is and add 1/2 inch seam allowance before you make your cut.)

Cut Your Fabric

Cut out all the pattern pieces for two dolls except the legs. I usually use skin-colored fabric for the body, but I don’t like having to put a shirt on a topsy turvy doll so I cut the body pieces from fabric to match the dress. Only one doll half needs to have a stuffing opening, so cut a total of 3 doll front pieces and 2 doll back pieces.

Cut two pieces of fabric for the reversible skirt – each 10 1/2″ tall and 30″ wide. (You’ll need to calculate your own measurements if you’re using a different rag doll pattern.)

Leave One Stuffing Opening

Partially sewn doll back showing a stuffing opening

Sew the two body back pieces together leaving almost the entire seam open for turning and stuffing. Don’t skimp on the size of the opening! You’ll be pulling a lot of fabric through here! I only sewed about an inch at the top and an inch at the bottom.

Press the seam open, then sew it to the back head piece. I stuck my turning stick through the stuffing opening so you can see it.

Sew Two Doll Tops

partially made rag doll - inside out showing the backs of safety eyes

Follow the regular pattern instructions to make two doll tops, leaving the bottom open.

Man – these dolls look so creepy from the inside!

The second doll (the one without the stuffing opening) will use body front pieces on the front and back.

Make the Skirt

Fold one skirt rectangle in half so the short ends are lined up, right sides together, and sew those short ends together with a 1/4″ seam allowance. Press the seam open. That makes one (ungathered) skirt.

Repeat for the second skirt.

Turn one skirt tube right side out and put it inside the other tube, lining up the seams you just sewed. Now the right sides are together. ๐Ÿ™‚ Sew the two skirt tubes together around the bottom of the skirt using 1/4″ seam allowance.

Flip the skirt so it’s right side out and press that bottom fold nice and flat.

Masking a reversible skirt for a topsy turvy doll - tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Oooh! It’s looking nice! Both sides of the skirt are the “right” side. For now make sure it’s turned so that the fabric on the outside is the one matching the doll with the stuffing opening.

Gather the Skirt

I’ve got a video tutorial here showing how to gather. For this project I used the “old-fashioned” method of sewing two rows of basting stitches around the top (raw edge) of the skirt – sewing through both layers as if they were one – then drawing up the bobbin threads to gather up the fabric.

Fold the top of the skirt in half and half again and use pins to mark the four equal sections.

Fold the center front of the doll with the stuffing opening and mark the center front point. (The sides and center back are already “marked” with seams.)

Gather up the fabric of the skirt and stuff the skirt inside the doll with the stuffing opening, matching the center back seam of the skirt with the center back seam of the doll. Match the remaining pins to the remaining seams on the doll. Adjust the gathers so that the top of the skirt fits the bottom of the doll, adding additional pins as needed.

partially made topsy turvy rag doll - shown inside out

I’ll be honest. This part isn’t much fun. It’s not hard, but it takes some patience and fiddling.

Sew the top of the skirt to the bottom of the doll using 1/4″ seam allowance.

Add the Second Doll

You’re almost done! Turn the second doll right side out and stuff it inside the first doll and skirt. Make sure the back of the head is on the side where the stuffing hole is, and line up the side seams.

How to Make a Topsy Turvy Doll from Any Rag Doll Pattern - a free tutorial from Shiny Happy World

Sew around that same opening, this time 1/4″ from the first seam you sewed joining the skirt to the first doll. That means your seam allowance this time is 1/2 inch. This way you double-sew the skirt (extra-strong!) and also make sure all your basting stitches from gathering are well-hidden.

Turn Everything Right Side Out

You can do it – just be patient and go slowly. First pull the second doll outside of the first one, then pull the skirt through the stuffing hole and keep going until everything is right side out.


Stuff the doll, sew up the opening as instructed in the pattern, and you’re done!

How to Make a Topsy Turvy Doll from Any Rag Doll Pattern - a free tutorial from Shiny Happy World

So. . . what two Dress Up Bunch dolls will you choose to join together? I used Poppy and Violet, but I’d love to see Pip and Spot, or Pip and Squeak. So many fun possibilities!

Normally the Dress Up Bunch dolls are very easy patterns. Turning them into topsy turvy dolls bumps them up a notch in difficulty. It’s not hard – it’s more about patience than actual skill – but I do NOT recommend this as a first project. Make a regular doll first, then start practicing radical, Frankensteinian surgery. Ok? ๐Ÿ™‚

Happy sewing!


  1. Linda SAYS...

    Very well written tutorial. Thank you.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Betz SAYS...

    Brilliant! What a great tutorial! I love that you used your existing patterns as a jumping off point.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks! I thought working with an existing pattern would be extra fun – and I can’t wait to see what kinds of combinations people come up with! Topsy turvy dolls are such storytelling dolls. ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Jane SAYS...

        55 years ago, when I was a little girl, I had a topsy-turvy doll that my mother made for me. One was a little girl with a red hood, and the other was an old grandmother. They had yarn hair and embroidered faces. I could play Little Red Riding Hood with the. It was great fun,

  3. TerriSue SAYS...

    What a fantastic tutorial! I’ve always been intimidated by topsy-turvy dolls. You made the whole process make since and seem relatively easy. I have had one topsy-turvy doll and it was quite a bit more involved…… had Dorothy from the WOZ on one side, all cute in her gingham and pinafore. Then when you flipped her over there was Toto standing on a green, short fake fur hill, with the yellow brick road winding up one side to him at the top. Sparsely scattered on the grass were some white daisies, for as you know they had had enough with the poppies. You are right Wendi, these dolls make wonderful story telling toys. After being tucked into bed I would entertain myself flipping them over and over telling myself of their adventures until I fell asleep. Maybe this will give someone the idea of having Beatrice or even Meep popping out of a hole in the ground. You could get very creative making your hole and the area surrounding it. Thank you again for a great tutorial Wendi.

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      I know I would love to embroider all the details on the skirt if I went in that direction. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve also seen some where the legs are appliqued on the skirt – which works great for a boy or other character who wouldn’t be wearing a skirt.

    • Romila SAYS...

      Terrisue, I would love to see photos of your WOZ doll!

  4. Sumara Ghizze Pio da Silva SAYS...

    Thanks about the pattern this dolls, its love! Sumara

    • wendigratz SAYS...

      Thanks so much! ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Stephanie SAYS...

    Don’t take this the wrong way but I think I love you. This tutorial is so wonderful! I bought a topsy turvy pattern last year and still haven’t made it. I am not a beginner but the instructions were so unclear. My mother in law just asked to make some for Christmas presents and it now seems more doable. Thank you for being so generous with this information! You’ve really made my night.
    p.s. Your daughter has excellent taste. Starlight is so perfect!

  6. Shelley SAYS...

    Hi! I wonder if the sudden increase in interest in topsey turvey dolls might be because Disney has come out with a line of soft plush princess topsey turvey dolls. They seem to be availabe only in the park. I saw them and decided to make my own.

  7. Ann SAYS...

    Thank you for simplifying the topsey turvey pattern!
    I have been working on some designs for just such a
    doll (Little Red Riding Hood and other older story book
    characters) to enter in both our local and state fairs in
    the fall. Seeing your instructions is a great help, as
    always. I’m so glad to read your site every week!

  8. Kay SAYS...

    How lucky I am to subscribe to your website because you are a sweet and generous lady always wanting to provide so many things useful, fun, and wonderful.
    Today’s email for me is simply a case in point.
    Thank you.

  9. I can’t wait to get sewing. Thank you for the pattern.

  10. Pingback: Cool DIY Rag Doll Projects

  11. daniela SAYS...

    Grazie per questo tutorial

  12. LeAnna SAYS...

    This tutorial was fantastic! I used Violet for both sides, but changed the colors. I’m not great with a sewing machine and so I was a little nervous, but it turned out great! I wish I could upload a picture to show you! Thank you for a great tutorial!

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  15. Lenita Araรบjo SAYS...

    Fiz duas bonecas, mas as saias…hum….deu ruim. Mas com essa aula. Farei de novo. Obg

  16. Jill SAYS...

    Just finished my first Topsy Turvy doll for my granddaughter’s 2nd birthday. I was going to make a doll with clothes until I had her at my house and spend all morning redressing the dolls at our house. She can get the clothes off but can’t get them back on. I think this will solve that and I’ll wait to make a dress up doll for when she is a little older. My skill level is advanced so I made some adjustments by adding sleeves (puffed on one doll and long sleeve on the other) and an apron for one. I had so much fun and am really happy with how it turned out.