smiling bonsai baby plush doll happy with his her its leafy hair-do

Bonsai Baby Plush Doll from Upcycled Tee

Years ago, when we first moved into our current home, I was given the task to buy our first co-owned item.

I was thrilled, while my +1 might have been worried for his pocket.

It wasn’t a designer sofa, or an heirloom candelabra, or a make-up surrounded by lightbulbs.


That is how much I spent on our first item in the place we now call home.

It was a plant. A hardworking plant that cleaned the air and made our apartment home.

I loved it. I loved it so much I feared it wasn’t drinking enough. I was attentive, I was constantly watering. I loved it until it died.

That was the end of my plant journey. Since +1 has taken over the caring for all the plants that  is now brimming in our home.

This softie bonsai is made for remembering that first baby we both loved.

Make Bonsai Baby Plush Doll


Who doesn't like plants & babies? This little bonsai baby plush is def gonna make any room brighter with its hand-stitched smile. Handmade from recycled tee, it is an upcycled project, kind to its own kind. Save this tutorial and free printable sewing pattern for download later. // Marn Made It

Layout & Cut

Using old recycled tee shirts, I cut out 2 pieces according to the bonsai baby plush doll sewing pattern.

Yes, you read me right, it is old, and already recycled once. From a tee shirt, it became a furoshiki (Japanese style wrapping cloth), and now soon-to-be a soft toy baby.

Place sewing pattern on fold, cut 2 pieces //Marn Made It



You will notice in some of the instructional photos below features a blue checkered fabric instead. I made 2 dolls with the same pattern. I will update this post when the related post is done.

Anyway, rest assure the yellow and blue pieces were cut from the same sewing pattern.

fold diagonally sew a short stitch along the snipped corner

Fold the piece diagonally, aligning the sides of the little square cut out.


sew fabric diagonally, aligning the straight sides of the square cut out

One side at a time. Flip to the other side to do the same.


align front & back pattern pieces // Marn Made It


Now that you have two identical pieces, align front and back.

It is going to be a little hard because the tee shirt fabric is floppy and stretchy.

To further complicate things, the 4 short stitches you just made is called darts.

Darts make a flat shape more three dimensional. In other words, it is going to be fiddly to line them up but just try okay.

Sew around the parameter with 1/4″ allowance, leaving a small gap of approx. 1″ for stuffing (as indicated by the free downloadable sewing pattern).

The gap is on top.


Sew around the doll shape, making sure to leave a gap on the top for turning, stuffing, and adding hair. // Marn Made It

Cut Notches

Cut notches into the seam allowance for a smooth surface.


Sorry for the blurry photo, the sky turned and I must have over estimated my hand stability.

The point is, look at the little cut outs, they are notches.

Cutting notches helps smooth out the curves after the doll is turned inside out. This step reduces angular doll faces (unless that’s your intention), and puckered necks.

Then, turn it inside out.

Apologies: the following photos are of the blue doll again. f

The 2 plushies were sewn and closed in different positions. As indicated in the sewing pattern you can find on this post, the blue is stuffed at the bottom, yellow from the top. 

If you are very confused please leave me a comment, I will try to explain to you step by step. 


turn shape inside out with chopstick

Turn it inside out.

If you have chunky fingers or for whatever reason you do not want to, use a chopstick, a pencil, anything that is pointy but not sharp.

Push slowly along the seams.


deflated doll without stuffing


There you go, a doll waiting to be stuffed.

Stuffing the Bonsai Plush

Out comes my favourite chopstick again, this time to push in the stuffing.

I’m using a polyester fill here. Where I am, it is difficult to get my hands on anything else.


check for desired fullness by constantly squeezing the doll as you stuff


Squeeze the doll as you stuff, to check for fullness.

At about 3/4 of the desired size, bring out your remnants from cutting the pattern.

Now, you have a reason to have a separate craft room bin.


stuff with fabric remnants


Stuff remnants into the body, right underneath the polyfill.

Sequence in the yellow doll

  1. Push remnants into bottom
  2. Then, fill up with polyfill.

Fabric remnants make a much denser filling. In this project, the weight stabilises the doll when it stands.


reshape doll again


Hand-Stitch Doll Face Using Sewing Thread

Embroidery Supplies

  1. Pilot    Frixon Highlighter Marker (in Blue)
  2. Self-Threading Needle
  3. Common Sewing Thread, 4 pieces (Polyester, Colour Chocolate Brown)


draw face with disappearing marker


Start with a french knot at the tail end of the thread.

Insert from the gap on the top of the head, into the eye.

Complete 1 eye with backstitches.


emberoider doll face using 4 threads


Move on to the nose.

Then, the mouth.


finish face embroidery stitch in the centre // Marn Made It


On to the other eye.

To close, make a french knot on the surface of the fabric.


pop the knot through the head of the doll // Marn Made It


Insert needle into the doll head, making sure it goes through completely.


Popping the knot into the doll's head. // Marn Made It


Yank the thread tail quick and hard, until you feel the knot popped into the head.

To be honest, I really enjoy doing it, almost as much as opening champagne.

While, maintaining the tension, cut the tail off as close to the fabric as possible.


Leafy Hair from Felt Remnants

cut random shapes from small felt pieces to make leaf-hair for our doll // Marn Made It


Cut out pieces of felt, random leaf-like shapes will do.

I have tried cutting out rounded realistic leaf shapes. After an hour and calluses on my fingers, I t didn’t look any more plant like.


Sew through the centre of each leaf with a contrasting colour on the sewing machine // Marn Made It


Using a sewing machine with a long stitch length, sew the leaf-shapes, through the centre, roughly.

Take care to reinforce with a back stitch at the beginning and end of each leaf.


Arrange by hand to desired effect, resulting in a felt-leaf bouquet // Marn Made It


Snip the thread in between, gather the ends with your fingers.

Arrange them in any way you like.

My aim to look natural. Not too symmetrical.


keeping the shape as much as possible, sew across 1/4" from the baseline, to keep the leaves from shifting while we attach them to our bonsai baby doll. // Marn Made It


Flatten the felt-bouquet. What an anti-climax, I know.

Arrange it and make sure it is no wider than 3/4″ or the size of the gap you left opened on the doll earlier.

Stitch across the bottom with 1/8 – 1/4″ allowance.

It is sad looking now, but it makes your life happier. This stay stitch keeps the many pieces from shifting when you attach it to your doll later.


Attach Hair to Baby Softie


Whip stitch felt-hair into position // Marn Made It


Place the hair into the gap.

Using 2 threads, whip stitch the hair into place, at the back only. Tie a knot to secure, but do not cut the thread.


add more stuffing to the doll to increase the doll head's fullness. // Marn Made It


Stuff in a little more stuffing at this point.

With all the facial feature hand stitches, the squeezing while attaching the hair, the head would have flattened a lot by now.

Additional stuffing ensures that we maintain the roundness of the head while slightly altering the expression.

With the same needle and thread still hanging at the back, whip stitch the remaining gap.


smiling bonsai baby doll happy with his her its leafy hair-do


He or she it is happy with the leafy hair do. As am I.


Wouldn't it be nice to have a few more of these around. They don't drink water and they smile.


Bonsai baby doll requires no water to grow.

It feeds on your heart for the environment, and of course, your old clothes.

2 differently shaped bonsai baby Dolls from the same sewing pattern // Marn Made It