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How To Make Russian Doll Family Portraits

Capturing each incarnation of family as it evolves with time is a constant challenge. Photos are great but it’s nice to change things up and these stylised Russian doll family portraits will provide a quirky and original way to document your family as it is now.

Make these cute Russian Doll family portraits of your family using blank dolls and my free templates

As my son is currently in Australia and the family cat is getting on a bit I decided that making these Russian doll family portraits  now would not only be a great way to re-unite the family (in spirit anyway) but would also make an amazing addition to the new gallery shelves in our kitchen re-vamp! My first action was to find recent photos of all the family

To make Russian doll family portraits you will need recent photos of all the family like these

As I was making these it occurred to me that others might like to do the same so I have put together this tutorial and some templates help.

Materials Needed For Your Russian Doll Family Portraits:

If you gather the materials pictured you will be able to make your own Russian doll family portraits

If you are looking for blank Russian dolls you can find some on Amazon (not an affiliate link) but if you want the ultimate selection of family member numbers and shapes try Russian Crafts.


Assemble the kit pictured so that you can make Russian doll family portraits

Step One:

Print out the free templates for each size of your Russian Dolls and cut out the appropriate hairstyles, clothing etc. for your family. Glue them onto the template to assemble your family.

Cut out the most appropriate parts of the templates and glue onto the base to assemble your own Russian doll family portraits

Step Two:

Using a fine grade sand paper sand your dolls to remove any rough surfaces or little nubs left by the manufacturing process. If there are any dents, holes or cracks you can use wood filler to fill them and allow it to dry.

Use a fine grade sand paper to remove rough patched from your doll blanks

Step Three:

Using a soft pencil transfer the designs onto the wooden dolls. Only bother transferring the lines for the clothing and hairstyle at this point (the paint will cover any more detail and you will end up re-drawing it!). Use masking tape to put a centre line down the front of your dolls and across the dome of the head, run a pencil along the edge of the tape to give you a line. Then put another piece at right angles across the top of the dome/head to give you a cross. This gives you a way to line the ears up! You can also use masking tape to help you draw (fairly) straight lines around the circumference of the dolls.

Use masking tape to help you line things up and get a nice finish when transferring your designs to the Russian doll family portraits.

Step Four:

Separate your doll halves and put masking tape around the rims on the lower halves. For taping inside the top halves it is easier if you cut thin strips of making tape to do this with, rather than doing the whole round in one length.  You don’t want paint to get onto this area or your dolls won’t fit together properly so it’s worth taking the time to do this with some accuracy.

Use short lengths of masking tape to cover the joint area in the middle of each doll. This means that they will still fit together

Step Five:

If you aren’t confident in mixing paints to make different colours I have a couple of pieces of advice for you

  1. Buy small bottles of pre mixed craft acrylics in the colours you need from Hobbycraft or The Range (for example the Decoart range).
  2. Use a paint mixing helper like Try Colours to get the colour you are looking for then jot down the recipe (how many brushfuls of each colour you need to make the recipe).

Again, you can use masking tape to give your painting straight lines if you don’t have a steady hand. I recommend painting in this order as it means you swap between top and bottom halves giving colours a chance to dry.

  • Skin tone on head and face.
  • Lower half of clothing (trousers or skirt)
  • Hair
  • Shoes
  • Upper clothing (pale colours first and allow them to dry before adding the next one)

Outline the area with a fine brush first and then you can “fill in” with a larger brush if the area is big enough. It is really worth using decent brushes for this rather than the ones that came free with your kid’s art set. You will get a smoother finish and much more accurate lines.

Start painting with pale colours first. Outline with a fine brush and then fill in. Swap between halves to allow drying time.

Don’t overload the brush with paint or it will go *splodge* and spoil your design.

Step Six:

Repeat the painting process with all of your dolls. If you go over the lines or make a mistake LET IT DRY and then paint over. If it is a pale colour it may take a couple of coats with drying time in between to cover it but it will work.

Leave all the halves to dry.

Step Seven:

When all the paint is thoroughly dry take your pencil  and tracing paper. Trace the facial features, the collar and the hairline off of your original design. Flip the tracing paper over and trace over those same lines on the back.

Use a soft pencil and tracing paper to transfer the face designs to the dolls. Go over the design with Sharpie

You can then put this paper (back around the right way) onto the face area of your doll and re-trace over the lines with your pencil. This will leave a copy of the features on the doll. If you are not happy with the result you can use an ordinary rubber to erase the marks and try again.

Once you are happy with the facial features on your Russian doll family portraits take the Sharpie pen and line them in. You can also outline the edges of the clothes and details of the hair if you wish to.

Step Eight:

Set up the halves on Newspaper outdoors and spray with a THIN coat of spray varnish/sealer. It is really important to spray thin coats and build them up. If you spray a thicker coat the paintwork will run (as you can see in the picture below).

Spraying varnish on must be done in thin coats or the paint will run as in the picture.

If your paint does run you can leave it to dry and then re-paint and re-varnish but it is best to avoid it all together.

Leave the dolls to dry thoroughly.

Step Nine:

Remove the masking tape around the  joints of your Russian doll family portraits and enjoy!

Once all varnish is dry remove the masking tape and assemble the dolls.

Now your dolls are finished. I can’t wait to get a reaction from Australia about mine!  I would really love to see them if you do make any so please share to my Facebook page.

If you want to download the templates and make your own click on the image below.

Click on this image to download the free templates pictured

Finished Russian Doll Family Portraits

Displaying My Wares…

I have butterflies in my tummy this week because I am taking the plunge and finally offering some organised crafting evenings to paying customers (gulp!)

I order to do that I wanted to show off a display of the kind of things they could make if they came along.  I needed a display of some sort and it had to meet quite a few criteria:

  • Portable
  • Robust
  • Quick and easy to set up.
  • Attractive (of course), but not take attention away from the product.
  • Flexible
  • Cheap or free!

A couple of months ago I rescued a wooden wine crate from the bin of the wine warehouse next door to where I work (I know, lucky girl on both counts!) and I have been saving it until inspiration hit me.

After a quick trawl of Pinterest (Any excuse ;-)) inspiration struck in combining a number of the things I had seen in my travels.

I waxed the crate using Annie Sloan clear wax and drilled holes at appropriate intervals to hold dowel rod and…

Wine Crate Display Collage

I cut a back board from left over mount board (used during making my “Typographic Kitchen Wall Art”) so the colour of that can be changed whenever I like and voilà!  Total cost £3.65 (for the dowel rod)!

Linking this up to The Turquoise Home’s “Work it Wednesday”.

Up-cycled Door Garden Trellis


We up-cycled an old interior door into a really lovely  trellis for a climbing Clematis in our back garden.  The entire project cost around £10 and I think that is it sturdier and looks better than most of the flimsy trellises you can buy at garden centres.

The cost was minimal as we already had a lot of the materials from other projects.  If you had to buy the paint etc. from scratch it would still be under £20 with plenty of materials left over for other projects at the end.

As I mentioned in my “DIY French Style Door Finger Plates” post we are gradually replacing all the interior doors in our home with nicer ones and the next to be replaced is the one in our living room.

Up-cycled Trellis-5

We have an ugly compost bin in our back garden I have been desperate to hide for a while and I bought a gorgeous Clematis a few weeks ago and had been meaning to get round to putting some trellis up to block the compost bin and allow it to grow along.

Up-cycled Trellis-4

Inspiration struck and thanks to some wonderful hard graft by my wonderful “Boffin” it became a reality.  Here’s how:

What Kit Do You Need:
  • Old interior door. (I think the panelled kind would work best but feel free to experiment).
  • Screwdriver
  • A gorgeous assistant ( to hold and help move the door).
  • Outdoor wood paint (I used Cuprinol Garden Shades in Pale Jasmine).
  • A paint brush.
  • Galvanised outdoor wood screws (I needed at ones that were 60mm long).
  • An electric drill.
  • A 6mm drill bit suitable for use on wood.
  • A pilot drill for the screws you are using.
  • A jigsaw with a blade suitable for wood.
  • Clamps
  • A work surface you can clamp your work to (a work-mate or similar).
  • Chicken wire (approximately 2m in length, the roll we bought was 75cm wide).
  • Tin snips or wire cutters.
  • Padded gloves.
  • A staple gun and staples.
Step One:

Take the door off of it’s hinges and remove all the other furniture ( I left a couple of bit on because I like the interest they added but you may want to remove absolutely everything).


Using the 6mm drill bit and drill make holes in all four corners of every panel you wish to remove. (Boffin did this so quickly I didn’t get to take a photo but you can see remnants of the holes in this shot!).

Up-cycled Trellis-2

Step Three:

Use the jigsaw to cut out the panels (please wear goggles and remember to clamp your work securely so it doesn’t move whilst you are using the saw).

The holes should make turning the corners simple.

Up-cycled Trellis-1

Step Four:

Paint the bottom edge of the door with the exterior wood paint (to stop the damp from the ground below rotting the wood).  Allow to dry thoroughly.

Up-cycled Trellis-9

Step Five:

Spread the roll of wire along the back of the door an use tin snips to trim it to length (you might want to wear gloves for this as chicken wire can be quite nasty).  You can fold the ends over to make sure that they don’t stick out and catch on anything.

Up-cycled Trellis-3

Step Six:

Using the staple gun staple down the solid middle of the door.

Up-cycled Trellis-6

Step Seven:

Again, using the staple gun staple around the edges of the piece of wire.

Up-cycled Trellis-7

Step Eight:

Work out where you want to put your screws to secure the trellis to your post or wall.  Pilot drill holes and use enough screws to hold your trellis securely in place.

Up-cycled Trellis-10

Use a spirit level to make sure that the trellis is level.

Up-cycled Trellis-13

Step Nine:

Paint the rest of the door with the exterior paint and allow to dry.

Up-cycled Trellis-16

Step Ten:

Plant up your plants as you wish and secure them to the wire with soft string or ties made specially for the job!

Enjoy your new improved view!

Up-cycled Trellis-19

I hope you enjoy your trellis as much as I am going to enjoy mine, happy summer days x

I’m linking up this week to “The Scoop”, “Link It or Lump It”, “Work It Wednesday” and “Share your Creativity”  come over and see what else there is.

Five Lessons Learnt About Up-cycling Pallets

Inspired by Pinterest (how many well intentioned crafting misadventures start with those words I wonder?) I have decided to build a garden bench for our garden using as a base two old kitchen chairs I bought at our local rubbish tip for £10.00 the pair.

I assembled the rest of the materials I thought I would need thus.

Two Chair Pallet Garden Bench-1a

Loads of people seem to be using old pallets for wood for their project and we had one that our bathroom tiles were delivered on so I decided to use this.  Boffin and I took it apart last weekend.  This is where I learned my first lesson.

Lesson #1 –

Taking pallets apart whilst keeping the timber in one piece is both HARD work and tricky.  I used a crow-bar, claw hammer and my trusty (and much loved) Bosch PMF 190E to take it apart. Which leads me onto lesson 2.

 Lesson #2 –

Unless you’re a much better woman than me (which you may well be!) you only save around 80% of the timber.  The rest splits and splinters no matter how hard you try to avoid it.

 Lesson #3 –

You are probably going to need more pallets than you think.  I went and asked politely at the wine warehouse opposite my office (I know, there are a million jokes there 😉 ) for another pallet.

 Lesson #4 –

The materials may be cheap or free but it will probably cost you a couple of replacement blades for your power saw of choice. I ended up sawing through some of the nails in order to get as much of the wood off in one piece as possible and it is hell on the blades.

Lesson #5 –

Time.  I spent the first 90 minutes of Saturday putting together the frame of the bench with the wood that we had got from the pallet the previous week

Two Chair Palet Garden Bench-2

I spent the next four hours (and a trip to the local DIY shop for more blades) getting the second pallet apart in more or less one piece!  I was so shattered by the time I finished I had to take a break!

I finished the day feeling shattered and a bit discouraged.  A good nights sleep has taken care of the discouragement but now I’m hunting for the time to finish this before we go on holiday in two weeks time!

Any advice about working with pallets gratefully received and if anyone has a way to slot a few more workable hours into the day I’d be grateful too!

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