Geisha Dolls

March 3 is Girl's Day in Japan. It is celebrated with a display of dolls. In the spirit of cross culture, I have made a tutorial of traditional Japanese paper dolls using western papers.

I apologize for the huge blank spaces. When I try to correct them, they just get bigger so I'm leaving well enough alone.

I picked up a copy of McCall's Needlework and Crafts from 1984. It had an 8 page article on making Japanese paper geisha dolls. I was intimidated but intrigued. Later, I picked up a number of Japanese craft books on the same subject. I couldn't read a word, but vowed to try this craft one day.

Finally I forced myself to sit down and attempt to make a geisha doll. Here is the result. It isn't a hard project; basically just folding paper, but I've included detailed instructions which, unfortunately make it seem more complicated than it is.

small ball of cotton
white tissue paper
Kraft paper (or brown paper bag)
5 different patterns of paper


download the patterns for the face, neck, collar and obi here
download the pattern for the hair here
download the pattern for the inner kimono here
download the pattern for the out kimono here

Cut the 2 pieces of tissue according to the pattern for the face and neck..
Fold one piece into thirds, lengthwise and then in half. This results in a long narrow piece without the edges showing. Pinch off a piece of the cotton ball about the size of a pea and place it in the middle of the other long piece of tissue. Roll up and twist the ends.
Cut out the Kraft paper patterns for the hair.
Roll the two larger pieces around the pencil leaving the tails indicated by the pattern. Scrunch the rolls on the pencil before removing them. Take 3 of the small pieces and form loops. Wrap with 4th small piece and secure with a drop of glue.
Circle the scrunched ends of the large piece of Kraft paper together to form a donut. Glue ends together. Thread one of the tissue paper head tails through the center of the donut covering the joint with the tissue paper covered cotton ball . Tuck the unscrunched part of the bangs between the scrunched donut and the tissue paper. Bangs should curl down over the forehead. Glue bangs onto forehead to secure.
Add the top knot by glueing the ends into the roll at the back of the bangs.
Fold down the tail piece covered with the unscrunched part of the hair. Wrap both tissue paper tails and unscrunched hair pieces with the folded tissue paper. Secure with a drop of glue at the beginning and end of the wrap.
You now have a head, hair and neck.
Cut the collar pattern out of a piece of patterned paper. Fold it in half and place it around the neck. Glue to secure.

Cut out inner kimono from patterned paper. Fold top down twice. Follow pictures below to fold inner kimono over doll.

Cut outer kimono out of patterned paper and fold down edges as indicated.
Cut out kimono liner and glue in place.
Fold as shown in the following pictures.

Cut out the obi, wrap around kimono and secure. Fold up the bottom edges of the kimono to reveal inner and lining of kimonos.
Essentially your doll is finished. You can frame in a shadow box or drill a hole in a piece of wood and glue a chopstick in the hole. Thread the doll onto the chopstick (see picture at beginning of this tutorial). You can also embellish your doll by tucking a fan in her obi and flowers in her hair. I glued beads onto toothpicks and tucked them into the hair as well. Here are some other dolls I made with this technique.

This wedding party was made with wallpaper. The hair is made from crepe paper.


Cindy @ Chalk it Up! said...

This is extraordinary!! One day when I'm brave enough I will try this!~
Thank you again for the inspiration!

Giulia said...

Wow! I want to make it, yes, I love it

Renee said...

Thanks for sharing!

Andrea said...

Cool! TFS!

artycrafty said...

thankyou for showing us how and exposing me to another culture. I love it.

Danielle - Belleza e Luce said...

Hi! I'm passing on the Sunshine BLog award to you! Visit my blog for more info

Gail said...


Thanks for the award. I love awards! Your blog is great! I wish I lived closer so that I could crash one of your fabulous parties.

Bernadette said...

When I could not find wire at home I adapted your creative idea. I follwed all steps but cut thin strips as well as punched flowers. Next I glued the strips to act as stems to a colored matt board before adding the punched flowers.

I will purchase a shadow box fram and hang it in a bedroom.

Thanks for the inspiration!

Viagra Online Without Prescription said...

it is so nice to read about this article regarding geisha dolls, and also the making is fascinating and incredible for anyone who loves them.

Nancy Ward said...


Wanted you to know I posted a link to this tutorial today on my blog, PaperFriendly.

Nancy Ward

LambAround said...

How did I miss this darling post? My boss would love one of these!

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