How to Make a Zippi Doll


Make this fun Zippi Doll from scratch with LED eyes which light up when it is held upright.


Learn how to:

  • Use a standard LED in a soft circuit
  • Create a circuit using a tilt switch

Level of difficulty:

  • Intermediate.

Parts list:

In order to make your Zippi Doll you will need the following:

You will also require the following equipment:

Optional items for decoration – not an exhaustive list:

  • Extra buttons.
  • Ribbon.
  • Felt for enhancing the eyes.
  • Wool for hair.
  • Fabric for clothes.
  • Sequins, beads etc.
Once made please remember that this is not a toy, and is not suitable for small children to play with.

Step by Step guide to making your Zippi Doll

Step 1

zippi_doll_1 Carefully cut out the paper final design template (see template at end) around the Zippi body. Cut out the mouth hole accurately – fold the paper in half to start the initial cut. Pin the template securely to one piece of fleece, making sure that the right side of the fleece (fluffy side) is facing upwards.


Mark around the edge of the template with pencil or tailors chalk – including cut out for mouth. Cut out around the design carefully. Also cut out the mouth hole accurately – fold the fleece in half to start the initial cut. Remove the pins and the template/pattern. Repeat for the back without the cut out for the mouth.  

Step 2

zippi_doll_3 Take the 14cm square of felt and the zip. Position the zip horizontally, 7cm up from the bottom of the felt square with the zipper to the right. zippi_doll_4 Place the cut out fleece with the mouth opening on top of the zip and felt with the 7cm longest side of felt to the bottom.Line the mouth cut out with the zip teeth, making sure that the zipper is to the right hand edge of the opening. Be careful not to move the zip. Pin all three layers in place near the zipper teeth. zippi_doll_5 Sew around the zip using a sewing machine set at straight stitch length 3. Keep the stitching 3mm from the edge of the fleece.Start at the corner furthest away from the zipper. zippi_doll_6 Sew 2/3rds of the way down the zip and stop, leaving the needle down. zippi_doll_7 Raise the presser foot and undo the zip.Lower the presser foot. Continue sewing around the zip, making sure your needle is left down when you turn the corners. zippi_doll_8 When you are ½ way up the other side, stop sewing and leave the needle down. Raise the presser foot. zippi_doll_9 Do up the zip. Lower the presser foot. Continue sewing around the mouth until you reach where you started sewing. zippi_doll_10 Remove the zippi doll and pull loose threads through to the back. Knot and trim. zippi_doll_11 Using a small sharp pair of scissors, cut away the rectangle of felt from behind the zip teeth – be careful not to cut the zip teeth.  

Step 3

make_basic_e_textile_circuit_5 Identify the LED legs. The easiest way to identify the positive and negative leg is by the length of the legs (see diagram left). The long leg is the positive '+' and the short leg is the negative '-'. make_basic_e_textile_circuit_6 The other way of identifying the negative ‘-’ leg is by the flat edge on the LED (see diagram left). This can be very useful if you have formed your leg into eyelets. zippi_doll_12 Decide where the LEDs (eyes) are going to be and using a large tapestry needle poke a hole 1.5mm above and 1.5mm below the centre point of the eyes (3mm gap). Repeat for the other LED. Push the LED legs carefully through these holes from the fleece side, so that the legs come out on the felt side. Important – make sure the longer +ve leg (this is the longer leg) is in the top hole. zippi_doll_13 Using small, round nosed pliers, coil one of the LED legs around the end of the pliers to form a small circular shape.Place this flat on the felt, making sure the LED is flush with the fleece on the front.Repeat for the other LED. For more detailed instructions on this step see our basic e-textile circuit tutorial. Sew on any additional decoration at this stage, button for nose, wool for hair, etc.

Step 4

zippi_doll_14 Attach the battery clip to the felt using a small piece of double sided adhesive tape – make sure it is not over the zip, near the edge of the felt or touching the LED coiled legs. Attach the tilt switch to the felt using a small piece of double sided adhesive tape. Position the switch vertically with the legs nearer the zip if you want the eyes to light up when he is upright. If you want the eyes to light up when he is lying down, place the tilt switch legs away from the zip. zippi_doll_14 Make sure the stitching is planned for the circuit. (See picture to the left). Using conductive thread sew between the components. zippi_doll_15 You will need 3 separate lines of stitching:-
  1. +ve battery to one side of the tilt switch
  2. the other side of the tilt switch to all the +ve LED legs
  3. -ve LED legs to the –ve side of the battery
Ensure the thread is really secure and not touching any components or crossing over other stitch lines. Use small running stitch. zippi_doll_15a It is important to create tight and secure connections at the point where the thread attaches to the battery holder and LEDs. The thread must be attached tightly to these items, so that a good electrical connection is established. Each joint should be stitched through a number of times, each time it should be pulled tight, to ensure this is the case. zippi_doll_16 When complete, test the circuit with a battery. Continue to step 5 if it works, it not refer to our fault finding in e-textiles resource.

Step 5

zippi_doll_17 Fold the bottom edge of felt up to meet the top edge of the felt. zippi_doll_18 Pin in place. Measure in 1cm in from the right zip edge and 2cm in from the top right edge – join these two marks with a pencil line. Repeat for the other side. Using the sewing machine, sew up this diagonal line, across the top and diagonally down the other side, to the other end of the zip. Secure the ends of the stitching. Carefully trim the felt back to 0.5cm from the stitch line.

Step 6

zippi_doll_19 Take the other piece of fleece and place so that the right side of the fleece (fluffy side) is facing upwards. Place the front side of the Zippi doll face down on the fleece and pin in position. zippi_doll_20 Machine stitch around the edge of the Zippi doll 0.5cm in from the edge.Leave a gap of 6cm to the right hand side of the head – this is so you can turn the doll the right side round and stuff – mark the start and end of the gap with double pins so you don’t forget to stop when sewing. Use a stitch length of 3. Take care that the fleece does not get snagged underneath the needle by going slowly and leaving the needle down and raising the presser foot when going around curves. Reverse stitch at beginning and end of the gap.

Step 7

zippi_doll_21 Turn him the right way round through the hole and turn through ears, arms and legs. zippi_doll_22 Stuff the body using fluffed up polyester wadding. Sew up the gap using ladder stitch.   Download the zippi doll template here Download a pdf version of this page here pdf_icon.gif Learn more about the author


Rob Haywood

Rob Haywood

Hi Claire, Each doll just needs one of the LED kits, at £2.20 each or £2.00 each for 10 or more, and a tilt switch at £1.05 or 85p for 10 or more, so on a volume order that would work out at £2.85 per student.



Hi How much does the zippi doll cost for the electronic sundries only? I want to introduce e-textiles (complete beginner) as cheaply as possible due to the volume of pupils. Fantastic website by the way!! Any help and advice much appreciated. Many thanks

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published