I remember playing with my mom’s Matryoshka dolls (I don’t know where she got them or if there is even a story there — I think one set was the constellations or something, not even people) when I was a kid, and there is something really soothing about the order of the entire process. The nesting, the fact that you can line up the pattern along the “crack” in the doll just perfectly, lining them all up in size-order, etc. I just always really enjoyed them.

So I’ve been looking for a nice set of nesting dolls for Anneliese for a while, but most of the ones I find are crazy-ugly OR crazy-expensive. So I took matters into my own hands. I bought an unfinished set of nesting dolls from etsy.com and planned to paint them. Like… six months ago. But it’s finally happened!

I got a set of 7 because I wanted to paint them in rainbow colors, including indigo.

I started out by sketching some designs onto paper, then drawing the ones I liked onto the dolls directly with pencil. I have to be completely honest — most of the designs were either from or inspired by my awesome “day tripper” bag which I’m pretty much in love with. But if you google imgage search folk art you’ll come up with a lot of different simple/bold/adorable designs you could add to your dolls if that’s the style you’re after.

The first thing I painted was their kercheifs, in the rainbow colors. After that, I painted their bodies a lighter version of the same colors (just added some of the color to white).


The next night, I painted their skin and hair. I decided to make them all different because it’s just more interesting and less creepy than having little clone-dolls pop out of each other.


After that, I was free to paint all of the little details. It took a while and some very very tiny paint brushes. But I have to say that I’m very pleased with the results! I haven’t decided yet whether to seal them or not… I bought a clear acrylic spray sealer to use if I do decide to. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea, would it?

Here’s the largest lady:


Mrs. Marmalade:


Yellow, green, and blue:


Indigo and violet.


And to give you an idea of scale for these suckers… my hand. The tiniest one is TINY.


Group picture! The whole rainbow of friends.


I think Anneliese will enjoy them. Hopefully she’ll have wonderful memories of playing with them.


14 Comments on Handmade Christmas–Part 4: Hand-painted Rainbow Matryoshka Nesting Dolls

  1. Cristina says:

    Amazing! I love the idea and the simplicity of your drawings. They just look perfect to me! Thanks for sharing!

  2. DEVON says:

    Where/how did you make the shapes (the actual dolls)? Is this something you carved or bought?

  3. […] made these little Matryoshka toys for my kids a couple of years ago (here’s my post on the process), and they love playing with them. Sometimes they nest them and take them apart. Other times, they […]

  4. Lindsey says:

    I know you made these for her when she was very young…when do you plan on letting Anneliese play with these dolls? I am wondering because I was considering making something similar for my son for Christmas…he will be 1.

  5. Melanie says:

    AHA! Found them! Thanks!

  6. Melanie says:

    I have a daughter who is both obsessed with my Matryoshkas and loves the colors of the rainbow…in order. So perfect. I haven’t found a set to paint I liked so much. Where did you find there?????

  7. Barbara Alexander says:

    Truly adorable!! All of these things you are making aren’t just gifts–they are heirlooms!! You should sign and date them for future generations.

  8. HollyLynne says:

    They’re perfect! I’m thinking of doing a set now. What kind of paint did you use?

  9. MyMissD says:

    My mother has some of these dolls and she got them from Russia (threw a missionary there).

  10. Nichole says:

    I agree. Seal them! They are just too cute! I couldn’t imagine the patience to paint all the little details. They turned out beautifully! I am also not artistic in any way shape or form so I just bought some little Chinese looking ones at World Market during their black Friday sale. She loves them!

  11. Apple says:

    I would definitely seal them. It will make them shiny and pretty looking. She’s gonna love them! 🙂

  12. Jennifer says:

    Those are awesome! SO adorable : ) I definitely think you should seal them. It would be such a shame for your cute paint job to be ruined if something should happen to them.

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