18" Doll Mattress Sewing Tutorial

Submitted by Ana White on Thu, 08/11/2011 - 18:20
| Print this plan

Make your own doll mattress for American girl doll furniture and beds with this simple step by step sewing tutorial designed for beginners.

I'd be the first to tell you that sewing intimidates me.

Because a board does what I tell it too. And it stays straight when I cut it. Fabric, well, doesn't. At least not for me.

I've sewed doll mattresses before in the traditional "box cushion" style, which means cutting six different pieces of fabric, and then accurately sewing them together in a 3D box, with corners matching. It was never a fun or easy process.

But this time, Grace Grandma showed me something really neat. And 10 times faster. All you do is sew two squares of fabric together, and then you clip the corners with seams, and you've got a box cushion without all the fuss!

I could not believe how easy this doll mattress was to make for Grace's American girl doll. In this tute, I've included how to size for any size doll mattress (or even a dog bed or nap mat or floor cushion!) and you can skip the tufting to save steps.

Cut to size


Shopping List

For one mattress finished size 10" x 19" I used:
1/2 - yard of fabric
Stuffing from recycled pillows and stuffed animals
Mix-matched buttons

Cut List

2 - Pieces of Fabric 2 1/2" wider and 2 1/2" longer than the desired finished mattress size (for 2" thick mattress)

General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!


Step 1

Determining Size

Determine the desired length and width of your doll mattress. For Grace's American Girl, we decided to make the mattress overall 10" x 19" finished dimensions. This also fits the doll bunk bed (shown in photos and plans available here).
Then add 2 1/2" to each of these dimensions. For Grace's American Girl bed, the dimensions are 12 1/2" x 21 1/2". Cut two pieces of fabric to the determined measurements.

Sewing the Edges

Sandwich the two piece of fabric right sides together and pin. Baste with 1/4" inseams around all sides, leaving a 3" opening for inside/out-siding the doll mattress.

Step 2

Clip Stitching Corners

Now this a little tricky, but once you "get" it you'll breeze through. Open up the corners so the seams you stitched in step 1 are matched up, and the corner forms a 90 degree angle, with the seam down the center. Pin. Then line a ruler up with this seam and mark a 2" clip off the corner. Sew a seam right on the mark you made.

Grandma did the sewing on this one.  We are giving these mattresses away as a gift, and her sewing is so much better than mine.

Step 3

Seam Check

If done correctly the seam will look like the above diagram, and you can see the mattress taking on a box cushion like shape.

Step 4

Finished Corners

Once you have clipped seamed all four corners, inside outside the mattress and check your corners.  They should look like this corner.


You can fill the mattress with 2" thick foam, bean bag filler, or in our case, recycled pillow and stuffed animal stuffing. If you use pillow stuffing, fluff and fill but don't overfill.  Hand stitch opening closed.

Step 5

Step 6

Layout Buttons

Next, lay the buttons out in a desired pattern. Note that you will need twice as many buttons, for the top and bottom. Once you are happy, mark the location of the buttons on front and back.

Step 7

Pin Mattress

You will want to pin the mattress in multiple locations just to keep the mattress tops and bottoms from "moving" as you sew buttons on and ending up crooked.

Step 8

Sew Buttons

Then just start sewing the buttons on, one on top and one on the bottom.

Step 9

Admire Your Hard Work

Oh yeah, looking pretty!  Keep it up!

Step 10

Pillows and Blankets

With the remaining fabric scraps, Grace's Grandma made a blanket.  From her scraps from the 80's she found this quilted fabric and made a few pillows as well.  Just figure the finished dimensions, add 1/2" to length and width, cut and sandwich right sides together (step 1), inside outside and stuff.  

Step 11

No Buttons

And I wanted to show you that you don't have to have the buttons. You can make this mattress in just two simple step.
Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.


Tsu Dho Nimh

Fri, 08/12/2011 - 06:29

Oh yeah! Fake boxes. My favorite cushion technique.

If you are a perfectionist, you can sew a small tuck into the fabric from corner to corner to enhance the boxed look.

I combine that with an "envelope back" cushion cover, like used for pillow shams, where the back just overlaps. It makes nice couch cushion covers.

Cherie Heltne (not verified)

Fri, 08/12/2011 - 08:39

What fabric is that? It's amazing!


Sat, 08/13/2011 - 10:06

This project is more where my talent lies although I have high hopes of making the beds to put them on too. Last year I made all my girls in daycare baby doll diaper bags full of clothes, changing pads, etc. I love the idea of making them beds with mattresses and maybe blankets and rag dols to go with it. I'm very new to woodworking so we will have to see if I can figure it out well enough for gifts. I love your plans, so far on my first project very easy to follow. I can't wait to start on the baby doll stuff!

Guest (not verified)

Thu, 08/18/2011 - 13:06

This is how I made my Grandaughters (x4) mattress for their doll beds, except I did NOT use buttons. In the place of buttons I used embroidery thread and make tucks. The reason I did this is because of their ages, 4 - 14 months. I am in the process of making the beds to go with the mattresses. Did it a bit backwards because of the heat in my state. Trying to plan ahead for Christmas gifts!!!

Thanks for all you do Ana!!!

Loretta (not verified)

Wed, 10/12/2011 - 13:27

At our daughter's request my husband made the bunkbed for our granddaughter for Christmas, so of course I got out my sewing machine and made the mattresses -- twice!

For the first 2 mattresses I used your dimensions: 12-1/2 x 21-1/2. Got the mattresses all stuffed and found them to be too short for the bed by about 2 inches! Well, I wanted the mattresses to fill the entire space, so I made another set using my dimensions: 12-1/2 x 24, and they fit perfectly.

I think what you forgot to figure was those nice boxy corners actually take up an extra 2-1/2 inches on each end of the mattress. Anyway, just thought I'd pass this along for anyone else making them.

The first set of mattresses won't go to waste, as I figure that our granddaughter's dolls will need a place to sleep when they come down with her to spend the night! It's all fun isn't it?! Thanks for the pattern!

Dianne (not verified)

Sat, 11/10/2012 - 17:07

Hey Loretta,
I know what happened because I almost did the same thing. At first I printed out the PDF format which does not show pictures. I realized my mattress was going to be the wrong size. I went back and looked at the pictures. On step 2, you place your ruler across the triangle and slide it down until the bottom of the triangle from side to side measures two inches - not from top down. When you do this, from top down only measures one inch. Does this make sense? Look at the picture and you see the two inches are across the bottom not up and down.

Free Plans Made Possible By Our Sponsors