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Make a No-Sew Doll Sari

Updated on June 27, 2015

Creating a Sari for an Antique Toni Doll

I want to make an Indian sari for my vintage Toni doll. Just like a little kid, I want instant gratification. I want a sari for her now. There is no pattern for me to cut out and I will use supplies that I already have on hand.

No trips to the store. No sewing. I'll look for ways to make this international costume for her. My first task was to find instructions online for how a sari is worn. Fortunately there are great YouTube videos explaining this.

I found some lovely dolls dressed in saris and they can serve as inspiration as I make a similar sari for my own doll.

Mama's Saris - book available from Amazon

Get Ideas for the Sari from These Photos

My Sister Wearing a Sari

My sister lived in India for over 10 years. You'll notice that her daughter is wearing a child's dress, not a sari. My sister is wearing the rose colored sari and looks very elegant.
My sister lived in India for over 10 years. You'll notice that her daughter is wearing a child's dress, not a sari. My sister is wearing the rose colored sari and looks very elegant. | Source

View My Pinterest Pinboard for Examples of Saris

Here's where I pin my inspiration photos. There are some tutorials too for how to wrap the sari.
Here's where I pin my inspiration photos. There are some tutorials too for how to wrap the sari. | Source

How to Drape a Sari

Videos Explaining How to Wear a Sari - Step-by-step explanation on how to drape a sari

Video Tutorial for Wrapping a Sari

A Lovely Doll with a Traditional Costume

9 inch Neela Doll - Girls of Many Lands by American Girl
9 inch Neela Doll - Girls of Many Lands by American Girl

Take a look at this doll's costume. You'll see in the video and in my instructions below how to create this look with your own doll and a scarf.


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Make the Top for the Doll Outfit

Making the Top to Wear under the Sari - Modeled by my Toni doll

Notice in all the photos of saris that they have a short sleeved, midriff baring top. My goal was to make one without having to sew.

For free fabric, I started with a discarded shoulder pad that I'd removed from a dress. Normally, I would have just tossed it out, but had the inspiration to convert it to a top for the doll's Indian costume.

Repurposing the shoulder pad to make a top for the sari costume for the doll.
Repurposing the shoulder pad to make a top for the sari costume for the doll. | Source

Steps for Making a Doll Sari - Photos by Virginia Allain

Turning a discarded shoulder pad into a blouse for the doll.
Turning a discarded shoulder pad into a blouse for the doll. | Source
  1. I started with some material (previously a shoulder pad from a dress). Measuring it on the Toni doll, it was long enough to serve as the top. This would probably not be large enough for an American Girl doll.
  2. I cut a slit up all the way up the middle and across the bottom to make an upside down "T" opening. Then I removed the padding from inside the shoulder pad.
  3. Cut a short slit to make armholes for the doll. Tuck the rounded bottom up underneath to form a straight line. You can glue that if you want.
  4. The top fits snugly, similar to the tops seen in photos of a sari. This one doesn't fasten in the back, as it will be covered by the sari. You could sew a snap on it if you wanted to close the back.

Video for Draping a Sari - How to Pleat It

You Can Buy a Doll Already Dressed in a Sari - These dolls available from Amazon

Take a look at each one (just click on the picture) to get ideas from the way the dolls are dressed. My favorite is the red sari Indian Sari ~ Outfit and Veil only, Fits 18" American Girl Dolls .

This Red Sari Is an Example of What You Can Make - This fits an American Girl doll

Indian Sari ~ Outfit with Shoes and Jewel, Fits 18" American Girl Dolls
Indian Sari ~ Outfit with Shoes and Jewel, Fits 18" American Girl Dolls

This is about the same size as the Toni doll that I want to make a sari for. I like the simple draping on this one which is easy for a child to put on the doll.


Make the Petticoat for the Doll Outfit

Making the Underskirt for the Sari

This lightweight sock gets cut off at the feet.
This lightweight sock gets cut off at the feet. | Source

Making the Petticoat - The petticoat is worn under the sari

  1. The petticoat should go from the waist to the ankles. It should fit tightly enough at the waist that you can tuck the sari into it.

    Here's what I'm using for the doll's petticoat, a lightweight sock with a fairly tight knit. Check the slide show above to see the example.

  2. Try the sock on the doll to mark or pin the length you want. Make it a little longer than you think you'll need as you can turn it under at the waist. Cut off the excess at the bottom.

Drape and Attach the Sari for the Doll Outfit

Choose a Scarf to Use for the Sari

My doll has plenty of scarves to choose from for her costume.
My doll has plenty of scarves to choose from for her costume. | Source
See the final look on the doll below.
See the final look on the doll below.

Wrapping the Sari on the Toni Doll

I'm using a silky scarf for the sari. Look for one with a smaller print or gold threads running through it.

  1. Start in the front and tuck the sari into the waist of the petticoat. Continue around the back of the doll. The bottom of the sari should touch the floor.
  2. When you get to the front again, fold the material in accordian pleats. The top of the pleats is tucked into the waistband. If it doesn't want to stay in place, you can resort to safety pins. In several of the videos, the ladies pin their saris.
  3. Take the loose end of the scarf and drape it from the hip up across the chest and over the shoulder. It should hang down about to the knees in back.

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Silk Scarves - In Case You Don't Have One

Sari fabric comes in many colors and patterns. Silk is the best for this doll's outfit as it drapes beautifully. Nylon scarves just don't wrap in the same way.

Silk or Nylon Scarf?

Actually long silk scarves can be quite expensive. If you don't have one on hand, use rayon or nylon. They don't drape quite as well as silk but are certainly more affordable for making the doll saree.

You can find them sometimes at Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Look around at yard sales too for the right kind of scarf.

Since I had many scarves to accessorize my suits when I was a librarian, I found plenty in my own closet. Since the scarf is not cut or damaged in making the doll's sari outfit, you can use one for the doll and later return it to the closet for wearing.

My Toni Doll in Her Sari


© 2012 Virginia Allain

Tell Me about Your Doll - What kinds of clothes does she wear?

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    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 3 years ago from Central Florida

      @nityanavina-dasi: Thank you for giving me the correct name for this. I really appreciate your help.

    • profile image

      nityanavina-dasi 3 years ago

      The one in Red is actually not a Sari, its called a 'Lehenga'..Its a skirt which is mostly worn by girls in India. This is really nice. My doll is wearing a Lehenga and she is a hearts for hearts doll. Since im from India but born in USA I love dressing my dolls up in Saris,Lehenga's.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 4 years ago from Central Florida

      @heytoto: I should have consulted with you before I wrote this.

    • heytoto profile image

      Karen Kolavalli 4 years ago from Lexington, Kentucky

      C. has the gorgeous Neela doll like the one shown in your links section. I watched the video of how to tie the sari and found their method very confusing! Their finished product is South Indian style, but getting there was nothing like the way I was taught by my in-laws!

    • profile image

      allmonsterhigh 5 years ago

      I had forgotten that I had Toni dolls when I was a child.

    • peggygallyot profile image

      peggygallyot 5 years ago

      Dresses and pants.

    • ara-bella profile image

      ara-bella 5 years ago

      I'm all about the no-sew, lol ... nice lens!

    • CCTVwebmaster profile image

      CCTVwebmaster 5 years ago

      Wonderful lens! Gives me great ideas!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Lovely lens. It was good to see this lovely Indian costume on your doll. I am an Indian and draping a saree nicely is an art and it takes time to learn. I still find it quite hard to mange a saree for more than a few hours. But it looks simply amazing!

    • jlshernandez profile image

      jlshernandez 5 years ago

      How adorable. You are so inventive and creative.

    • SheilaMilne profile image

      SheilaMilne 5 years ago from Kent, UK

      I don't have any dolls but it looks about easy enough for me to make for my grnddaughter's doll.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

      Saris are so beautiful. You did a great job on your doll outfit. I knew there was a reason to keep all those discarded shoulder pads!

    • MomwithAHook LM profile image

      Sara Duggan 5 years ago from California

      Great tutorial - Love your pinterest board too - lots of great pics and ideas.

    • Lareene profile image

      Lareene 5 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This is interesting and a new idea to me thanks.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      I tried wearing a sari when we went to a temple in India. I ha a hard time keeping it on. Better on a doll.

    • aliciamaggie54 profile image

      aliciamaggie54 5 years ago

      This is different. I do not have one of these. I have never heard about this. Like the doll pictures. You always have neat articles. Have a great week.

    • heytoto profile image

      Karen Kolavalli 5 years ago from Lexington, Kentucky

      Chhaya has the American Girl "Girls of Many Lands" Neela Doll--gorgeous doll. It looks like she could sell it for some pretty nice quick cash when she's short! Steve Kaye, you could try a dhoti!

    • profile image

      SteveKaye 5 years ago

      You are really creative. I'm impressed by the presentation that you put together for this lens. Now, if only there were simple clothes for men . . . .

    • Pam Irie profile image

      Pam Irie 5 years ago from Land of Aloha

      Wow, Virginia! You did a great job on making the sari for your doll. :)

    • MerandaJade profile image

      MerandaJade 5 years ago

      I am VERY bad at sewing, but I think even I could manage this! I don't have any dolls, though.

    • lesliesinclair profile image

      lesliesinclair 5 years ago

      Wish I still had my last doll, from the early 50s.

    • CherylsArt profile image

      Cheryl Paton 5 years ago from West Virginia

      Great instructions for making a no sew Sari doll.

    • KarenTBTEN profile image

      KarenTBTEN 5 years ago

      The sari looks so authentic! I guess that was two challenges: first the sari and then the lens. I am thinking your little Toni is also about the size of the little Nahji Indian doll who you show in one of the thumbnails. (She is if she's the 14 inch one.)

      I have a few places where I can feature this lens.

    • norma-holt profile image

      norma-holt 5 years ago

      Your lenses are always so beautiful and inspiring and this one is no different. Top quality lens and featured on Blessed bySkiesgreen 2012-2 Hugs.

    • Sylvestermouse profile image

      Cynthia Sylvestermouse 5 years ago from United States

      What a pretty and simple way to make a no-sew sari for a doll! Most Excellent!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      That is one happy looking doll in her no sew sari and I love the pictures of the family for inspiration for your Virtual Jenga Challenge!

    • Brandi Bush profile image

      Brandi 5 years ago from Maryland

      These are adorable! Saris are so pretty! ;)

    • AnnMarie7 profile image

      AnnMarie7 5 years ago

      Interesting and fun lens. I still like dressing up my granddaughters' Barbie Dolls for them. My mom has some collectible dolls. It's a great hobby, but unfortunately, one that I can't afford. Thumbs up to this great no-sew Sari doll lens!

    • Gypzeerose profile image

      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Angel Blessed for thoroughness, and for the multi-cultural approach. Saris are very beautiful. Pinned to my board "Fun for Kids."

    • TreasuresBrenda profile image

      Treasures By Brenda 5 years ago from Canada

      My doll (the only ones I own) are the growing hear Ideal dolls Velvet, Crissy and one other whose name escapes me. They wear the original clothing they came with but they would be very attractive in a sari, too. Well done, HOW TO page!

    • KateHonebrink profile image

      KateHonebrink 5 years ago

      Love the sari - what a great job of making it AND this lens! Kudos!!

    • GonnaFly profile image

      Jeanette 5 years ago from Australia

      I love your idea of using upcycled clothes. I will be adding a link this to my upcycling clothing lens!

    • profile image

      marsha32 5 years ago

      My teen was in to making clothing for the nieces dolls....I need to show her this page.

    • profile image

      mumsgather 5 years ago

      I'm in love! ... with a Toni Doll in a Sari. Haha. They're adorable. You did a fantastic job!

    • Scarlettohairy profile image

      Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      Wow, you did a great job from start to finish making this Toni doll a sari! All without sewing too! I love it!

    • profile image

      getmoreinfo 5 years ago

      You did such a wonderful job with this lens and I love how the doll looks in the beautiful Sari. I collect antique dolls and most of them are dressed in pretty petticoats. I have also purchased some doll clothes patterns from the American Girl Doll series. That is a very nice picture of your sister wearing a Sari.

    • SheGetsCreative profile image

      Angela F 5 years ago from Seattle, WA

      I don't have a Toni doll but if I did I'd definitely dress her in a sari! Love that you even recycled a shoulder pad to make her outfit. :)