DiY American Girl Doll Bed, Part 1

 Can you keep a secret?  I’m counting on the fact that my daughter Maggie doesn’t read this blog, but I am so excited about her gift from Santa this year that I think I might explode if I try to keep it all bottled up.  So shhhhhhhhhhhh!

Every family “does” Santa a little differently which definitely makes things a little interesting now that our kids are a little older and starting to compare notes with their friends.  For instance, we do the Elf on the Shelf, a fun tradition we started last year, but yesterday at church I overheard Maggie discussing her elf with a few friends, some of whom have an elf and some who don’t.  She didn’t seem to make anything of it, but I’m guessing that we don’t have much time before she figures out all the inconsistencies.  In the meantime, I am just trying to soak it all in, knowing this might be our last year with 2 true Believers.

In our house, on Christmas morning there is always one “big” gift from Santa–usually the thing they’ve asked for–along with a few stocking stuffers.  Past Santa gifts have included their play kitchen, bicycle and tricycle, & a play table.  Santa always brings each family member a special glass ornament in their stocking, usually related to an event or interest that year, and the highlight of the morning is seeing which ornament everyone got.

We haven’t gone to see Santa yet because she is currently in utter agony over what to ask for.  I have never seen a child quite so tormented.  You see, this year she has discovered the joy of American Girl.  My dad bought her a doll for Christmas a few years ago–something he has done for all his granddaughters–but she was a bit young and not that interested until this past August when we went to visit Edie and her sweet girls.  She spent 3 days playing American Girl dolls with them and has never been the same.

A few weeks later, my husband Chuck took Maggie on a trip to Chicago to visit family and he took her to the American Girl store. She came home with a new outfit for Lanie (her doll) and a catalog, which she has since spent countless hours poring over (and which we have since had to tape back together more than once.)  In her little 6-year-old brain, the biggest problem in her life right now is whether to ask Santa for a bed or a closet for her Lanie doll.  She knows she can only ask for one thing but she just. can’t. decide.

The dilemma for Chuck and I is slightly different, because whether she chooses the $225 doll bed (yes, she has managed to fall in love with the most expensive bed in the catalog) or the $349 closet (are you kidding me?!!), there is really no way we can justify spending that much money on a piece of doll furniture, regardless of her final decision.  But after watching her pine over that catalog for months and talk about almost NOTHING but doll beds and closets, I also don’t want to break her tender little still-believing-in-the-magic-of-Santa-Claus heart.

So what’s a mom to do?

I was seriously stuck until last weekend, when I explained my dilemma to my friend Melissa.  She promptly responded, “You’re so crafty, why don’t you just make her a bed?”

I am a little embarrassed to admit that despite all the craft projects I’ve taken on this year, it hadn’t even occurred to me to make a doll bed.  I mean, duh!  But that conversation must’ve been a sign because the very next day I was at Michael’s picking up supplies for a different craft and I stumbled upon the wood aisle, where lo and behold, they had both an unfinished bed AND wardrobe for 18″ dolls.  Two 50% off coupons and $35 later, I had myself a top secret Santa project.  I picked up some cute fabric, batting, and foam at Hobby Lobby, which with sale prices and coupons came to about $20.

I couldn’t wait to get started but completing this project is definitely going to be a challenge, since there is very little time that Maggie is NOT around!  However, Husband did take the girls out for a few hours this weekend, which gave me a chance to get started on the quilt, mattress, and pillow.  Painting will come later, in Part 2!

Here is what you will need:

unfinished bed for 18″ dolls (available at Michael’s–use a coupon!)
sewing machine
pinking shears
fabric–1 yard of each of the 2 main patterns, 1/4 yard of the 2 coordinating patterns
2″  thick foam piece.  The square I bought would make 2 mattresses (use a coupon!)
quilt batting
electric knife
ruler or tape measurer
glue gun

Start by measuring the foam for the mattress, since you will need the mattress to figure out the correct size for the quilt.  I simply measured the bed, then marked the lines onto the foam with a Sharpie.

The easiest way to cut the foam is with an electric knife.  I’m not sure what would work best if you don’t have one.  (If you have an idea, feel free to leave a comment below!)

Check to make sure your mattress fits the doll bed base, then trim if necessary until it fits perfectly.

Next, using your mattress as a size guide, cut out a square of your main quilt fabric.  Cut it slightly larger than you think you will need the quilt to be.

Using your first square as a guide, cut out a square of quilt batting and a square of your contrasting quilt fabric.

Place the 3 layers so that the 2 fabrics are facing out and the batting is in the center.  Lay them flat on the table, then trim square so that the top and bottom are flush with the mattress and there is about 4-5″ on either side.  This will be the size of your quilt.

Next, cut 2 strips of your first contrasting accent fabric that are about 4″ wide and as long as the top and bottom edge of your square.  Use an iron to fold the two edges in (as shown), then in half once more.

Pin these pieces in place over top and bottom edges of quilt, then stitch into place.

Repeat this step for the 2 side pieces, using your 2nd contrasting fabric, but this time fold in the ends to make an angled corner.  I was worried that my quilt would be too stiff to hang down on the bed so I also inserted a penny into each corner.

Stitch into place, then stitch corners down, being careful not to sew over pennies!

To help keep the batting in place and to help the quilt lay better on the mattress, mark with pins where the “fold” lines should be, then stitch along that line on both sides.

When it is finished, it should lay like this on the mattress.

To cover the mattress, cut a piece of fabric that will fit all the way around the foam and hangs over about 3″ on either end.  Fold in half with right sides together, then stitch ends together to form a long fabric tube.  Squish foam into tube so that seam runs along one of the bottom corners.  Use hot glue gun to finish off ends like you are wrapping a present–be sure to use plenty of hot glue!

For the pillow, just cut two small rectangles of fabric, place right sides together, and stitch all the way around edge, leaving one small 2″ opening.  Turn right side out, stuff with pillow fluff, and stitch hole closed.

Voila!  You now have a gorgeous doll quilt, mattress, and pillow just waiting for an extra special hand-painted bed to go with it.

Read Part 2 HERE

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Do your kids still believe in Santa Claus?  What are your family’s Christmas gift traditions?   If you have girls, have they joined the American Girl doll craze?  How do you feel about it?

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{ 20 comments… add one }

  • Dawn December 3,

    That Melissa–she is so wise! Love this and it already looks even better than the one Princess picked out in my opinion. Plus, this way since it’s not exactly like what can be purchased, you can say that Santa’s elves made it special just for her. My children all want the slushie cubes advertised on tv and we’ve told them we’ve heard they don’t work well. Eddie’s response is, “Just ask Santa. He can make one that works!” I love the fact that he still believes so wholeheartedly, especially since he reasoned out why the Easter Bunny doesn’t exist when he was still 3. I want to keep him believing so much that I’ve almost convinced myself to buy a $229 frozen drink maker (on sale for $151.25-$20 rebate–still a ridiculous amount for a slushie maker). So, I understand this post oh so much.

    And, I ordered some American Doll items for my niece the past two years and get catalogs constantly. If you would like any, let me know, though it may be safer not to!

    Betty who is 4, has asked this year for an American Girl Doll. I bought an Itty Bitty last year on sale when the baby was about to be born, but Betty ended up with too many gifts and I figured she wasn’t really ready yet so it’s stored away. Now she wants a big doll. Oops! But, now that I see this, perhaps I’ll enhance the baby doll with some great homemade furniture and see how much she plays with it before getting a whole other doll.

  • Gail December 3,

    So much cuter than the “real” one! My daughter is crazy about American Girl stuff too and it is SO expensive! I love this!

  • Alisha December 3,

    Oh my goodness – the price for the A.G. doll furniture is killing me! But how fabulous that you are making one!! That is amazing (although not at all surprising). 😉 Is it wrong that I’m jealous of a doll’s bedding? Love the materials you used — Princess is sure to be very happy on Christmas morning!

    Growing up, we always came down on Christmas morning to a “pile” from Santa…and from what I remember, it really was a PILE! My mom tended to go overboard (although she was quite thrifty and would shop the after-Christmas sales and put things away for an entire year!). I tried the same thing with my own kids last year, when my kids were 1 and 2….and I can honestly say I will never do it again! I love the memories I have of my own Christmas mornings, but it was just too much stuff! This year we are doing one big gift for them to share (a KidKraft kitchen), plus one (maybe two…it just gets hard to control the urge to buy them everything they “want”!) small gift for each of them. And a stocking, of course! We also do an ornament each year.

    P.S. We also are starting the Sinterklaas tradition with our kids this year– we’ll all be putting our shoes out on Wednesday night. Sinterklaas was a favorite tradition of mine as a child!

  • Faith December 3,

    Thanks for sharing! I found a beautiful American Girl Doll Farmhouse Bed with plans on She has some beautiful doll furniture plans that are free and easy to make. I was at a loss for bedding, so I am glad you shared this! Our daughter is 7, and this will be her first American Girl Doll. They are sooo expensive that I have refrained from purchasing one, beacuse I can’t justify the price :) . My in-laws are buying her one for Christmas, and my dad made the bed from the plans I found. I know she will be excited.

  • Mom December 3,

    So GLAD I have boys.. Get to avoid the whole american girl doll thing!

  • Crystal L. (Crafting & Rambling) December 3,

    Oh. My. Goodness. You’re amazing (which I already knew)….thank you!!! :) Our girls now know about AG dolls too….but they already know we can’t do the “real” ones…and that if they receive a doll, it’ll be the Walmart/Target versions for 1/3 the price. :) But my, oh…my! I love this bed/wardrobe idea!! :) I might just have to go take a look for little beds at Michaels! :)

  • Afsana December 4,

    That is so creative! I got an American Girl catalogue in the mail recently and I couldn’t believe how pricey that stuff was! I can’t wait to make a bed for my daughter at just a fraction of their prices. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • Azure December 5,

    Holy cow those are expensive! I’m never letting anyone give my daughters the American Girl dolls! We’ll just stick to reading their books.

  • Lina December 10,

    Thanks for sharing this – I’ll definitely be reading and re-reading as I attempt to help Santa make three of these sets for my princesses. Good thing my mom is coming! I just bought the beds off Etsy at this shop for a reasonable price. This is our first foray into AG – wish us luck! All I can say is thank God for Grandparents and Aunties!

  • Sharon December 17,

    I have picked up 3 AG dolls in yard sales ranging from 20 to 30 dollars. I gave one to one of my granddaughters because the other one in another family has two AG dolls of her own. I knew this would be the only way this GD would ever get a true AG doll.

  • sienna March 16,

    i loved it i need to make a matress for this doll and know i now how to do it

  • Anonymous December 30,

    well my princess did read your blog, thankyou very much!!!

  • Laura January 7,

    Our 4 year old granddaughter was given Emily and Molly for Christmas. Fortunately Papa is a carpenter. He made two doll beds and an armoire with a drawer at the bottom. All were painted pink and white. The look on her face was priceless! Since I was sick for the week before and during Christmas I was not able to make the matching pj’s for her and the dolls. I had already cut out the patterns and was ready to sew. Hoping to get started this week with the pj’s and mattress covers. I am going to use your idea for the mattresses. Thanks for the idea.

  • Anonymous January 18,

    I collect American Girl dolls and I don’t like to put them in some brands of clothes ( like some Target or Walmart outfits) because they don’t always look as good but I found one brand of doll clothes called Sophia’s that I like, I’ve seen them at local doll stores and I know my grandma orders them online. If your daughter(s), niece(s), etc still like their dolls when they’re older and are more biased towards the American Girl brand it may be a good option, I love the bed and especially the bedding it’s super cute and I will definitely try this for my dolls, the fabrics look so happy and cute!

  • Mark January 24,

    I can relate to your child’s American Girl doll obsessions. My daughter convinced me to buy her “Kit” and that was all it took to start her obsession. She is 10 years old and was able to save wnogh birthday and Christmas money for 5. Like you I can’t justify spending that much money on furniture. I am on your site looking for a mattress idea for the bink bed I built from scratch for 25$. I would love to share a photo with you and your followers but don’t know how to post it. Its a very cool bed and took me about 2 hours to build. I am working on bed #2 now.

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  • MARGARET April 15,

    LOVE the ideas but wanted to share how we help Santa at our house I found it solved some of the logic gaps and allowed us to enjoy Santa a few extra years(more that they wanted to believe and this was a great excuse). I made a deal with Santa many years ago because he is so busy Christmas Eve I have him drop off the gifts early and I do the wrapping for him and put things out Christmas Eve.This allows him to have more time to deliver to other families on Christmas Eve. It answers in case they find the hiding place(no need to hide just an off limit closet where I keep all the gifts from me and from Santa) and no explaining how Snta uses the same wrapping paper s I do or the same tags (I actually just print up a page of to______ from Santa on the computer , 1 page worth per person and save the extras for next year) )


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