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Create Your Own Nesting Dolls

Create Your Own Nesting Dolls
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Matryoshka Dolls have delighted me since childhood.  There is something surprising and whimsical about taking apart a figurine a layer at a time to discover how many personas are hiding inside.  Matryoshkas typically feature folk women in their traditional dress, but modern day matryoshkas are called “nesting dolls” and you can find them today in almost any theme. Robots, zombies, ninjas, mustaches and politicians are among trendy themes for modern day nesting dolls.

Illustration of traditional style matryoshka dolls

You can create your own nesting dolls using colored pencils, paints and ink pens. Blank nesting sets can be found for purchase on the internet. Use your internet search engine to search for “blank nesting dolls”.  Many online shops offer unpainted nesting doll sets starting around $10.

Blank nesting dolls Blank nesting dolls

Some things to keep in mind when ordering:

  • How many dolls will you need to create the set you want?  Nesting dolls come in sets of 3 and onward.  The more nesting dolls you need in a set, the more the cost.
  • Shipping costs vary widely, as do “shipping from” locations.  Make sure to check these before purchasing (i.e. if you are making these for a gift and need them delivered soon, you may want to order your set within quick mailing distance).
  • Many nesting doll sets are small, as in 2 to 6 inches in height.  Make sure you know the measurements of your set so that there are no surprises at delivery.
Traditional style nesting dolls Traditional style nesting dolls

You will need to come up with a theme or design for your nesting dolls.  It will help to brainstorm and sketch these ideas first.  Here are some ideas:

  • “Traditional style” matryoshka dolls
  • A family portrait
  • A written story or poem that carries over from one doll to the next
  • A gift for a friend or family created in their favorite theme
  • A gift for newlyweds–create the happy couple along with their children and pets as needed
  • Favorite places you have travelled
  • Doodles and designs
  • Totem animals
  • Favorite TV, movie or book characters
  • An heirloom set of nesting dolls for a child
Custom designed nesting dolls Custom designed nesting dolls

Custom designed nesting dolls Nesting dolls using doodles and design

Once you decide on a theme and sketch out your ideas, go ahead and order the set you need.  When you are ready to start your project, it will help to lightly sketch out your designs in pencil onto the doll—do NOT press down hard with your pencil as this will make an indent which cannot be erased.

In case you do make an error, there are ways to try and fix it.  Pencil and ink can sometimes be sanded lightly away to correct mistakes.  However, in some cases you may need to amend your design.  When it’s the smallest or largest nesting doll that has been ruined you can simply eliminate them from your set and work around the mistake.  One time, for example,  I was making a Halloween/Day of the Dead set for a friend and I ruined all but the largest doll in the set.  In this case I kept the larger one and went to the craft store to buy 5 mini wooden “peg people” figurines to make skeletons.  The five little skeletons fit inside the nesting doll and I ended up liking this set better than the original plan.

Halloween / Day of the Dead set of nesting dolls Halloween / Day of the Dead set of nesting dolls

As you can see, there are many ways to interpret and create your own style of nesting dolls.  If this is a project that appeals to you, explore the internet for more ways to create your own one of a kind set for yourself or loved one.  You may even want to order more than one blank set so you can keep one and also give one away for a gift.


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Bonnie Thomas


Bonnie Thomas


Bonnie Thomas shares her ideas and instructions for simple Yankee crafts. Bonnie Thomas works full time as a child and family therapist in Southern Maine and is also an established artist and author. She has published two books via Jessica Kingsley Publishing, titled Creative Coping Skills for Children: Emotional Support Through Arts and Crafts Activities and Creative Expression Activities for Teens: Exploring Identity Through Art, Craft and Journaling. Don't miss her latest book, How to Get Kids Offline, Outdoors, and Connecting With Nature
Updated Monday, June 4th, 2012

One Response to Create Your Own Nesting Dolls

  1. Susan Mecca Urbanczyk June 6, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

    How much fun to do this. I love all your designs. Thank you for sharing your ideas and how to’s. A project for the future for Nell and I.

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