Sunday, August 4, 2013


"Mom," said one of my girls (forgot which one) recently, "Can you make us more cardboard Barbie beds?"

Have you ever been asked stuff like this? 
Happens in our house all the time. 
And while I want -and try- to say yes, it doesn't happen often, or immediately. Or even soon.
A person just doesn't have that many hours in a day (or days in a year) to make all the cardboard toys needed for a houseful of children.

So instead of Yes, I replied, "Um... not sure. And even if I could, I don't know when."

And Jenna and Kate ran off and drew sleeping bags on paper for their Barbies and Kens and had massive doll sleepover parties in their cardboard Barbie house. These below are just some of the sleeping bags I retrieved - the others are probably accidentally crushed up in the trashcan. That mini purple sleeping bag is for Barbie's small sister, whose name escapes me.

I love it when the kids improvise. Isn't that what creativity is all about? Working around limitations to make something even better? I think so, anyway. Seeing those sleeping bags made me think of backpacker hotels, though. Which made me think of camping. Which reminded me of camp beds aka cots. So we made some of those for our Barbie clan instead. Much faster than cardboard beds (believe it or not).

Follow along with us?

For the wood frame, we used four regular popsicle sticks and two 12", 1/4" dowels. You can buy the dowels in a 10- or 12- pack at craft stores. 

The popsicle sticks will be nailed to the ends of the dowels. You can just drive the nails straight into the dowel end but I favor predrilling holes in small areas to help with aiming and to prevent the wood splitting. I drilled these holes about as deep as half the length of the nails we were using. Drill all four ends of the two dowels.

Also a matching hole at one end of each popsicle stick.

Locate and mark the middle of each popsicle stick

and drill a hole through each, to fit a bolt, which is shown with its nut and drill bit for size reference. You will need two sets of nuts and bolts.

Now, assemble the frame.

Attach two popsicle sticks through their centers with a nut and bolt. I should probably have included a pair of washers but, well ... these are just popsicle sticks after all.

These are the completed X-legs. Repeat for the other two popsicle sticks and nut-and-bolt to get two sets of X-legs. See those two holes at the ends of the popsicle sticks?

The X-legs will be attached to the dowel ends through those holes 

using wood glue and nails.

Attach only one set of X-legs for now. The fabric bed goes on next. 

Finish (serge or zig-zag) the two shorter ends of a fabric rectangle, then fold the finished edges to the W.S. to make a narrow hem,

like so.

Fold the rectangle in half lengthwise, RS together, and sew the longer, unfinished edges together to make a 1/4" seam.

like so. 
Centralize the seam as shown

 and turn right side out. Topstitch a rectangle as shown:
  • its shorter edges (red) are sewn very close to the edge of the fabric, to seal the hemmed edges and
  • the longer edges (blue) are sewn 1/2" away from the folded edges to make channels for the dowels.

When completed, you will get a fabric bed with sealed ends and channels for the wooden frame.

Insert the free ends of the wooden frame through those channels

and attach the other set of X-legs to the free end with nails and glue.

The cot is finished!

It folds up flat when not in use

and is perfect for exhausted Kens and Barbies and other similar-sized dolls and action figures.

Here is an alternative method for making the fabric bed. And by "alternative", I mean "skips several steps so it's good for lazy people or children but but might be tricky to insert the dowels later".

Same size rectangle as before, but skip the serging-and-hemming stages. Just sew up the single long seam as before,

centralize it

and fold down the top and bottom edges by 1/4",

then turn RS out and topstitch the rectangle as before to form the channels and seal the shorter ends. The result is the same, except that the dowels might get stuck emerging at the ends of the channel because of those folded (but not sewn) hems. Just so you know. Proof that cutting corners per se has its price, but it does save time when mass-producing.

Which we sorta did (mass-producing, I mean).

Because we have quite a few Barbies and Kens that needed somewhere to snooze.

Jenna likes the cupcake cot but my favorite is the manly mustache one. 

All set up and ready for use

or packed away for storage.

Our resident crazy-haired Barbies quite liked them

and immediately sent out invites for a slumber party (although it also works for a triage room setting, really).

The girls approved, too, in spite of these not being the cardboard beds initially requested. It is true that cardboard is still superior, but we must do what we can in a time crunch.

Just for fun, here's a behind-the-scenes look at our photoshoot that day. It took an absurdly  looooooooooong time. I just needed one beauty shot for this post so I could get started on supper preparation but the girls wanted to stage an entire drama on the blanket and no one was on the same bed for more than two seconds and there were doll crises left, right and center. Life with kids = zero efficiency. But hilarious. Wouldn't trade it for anything.


  1. I love them... both the girls' renditions and yours! I can't let Miss C see them until I get supplies, though. ;)

    (Yes, we're home!)

  2. Wow, Ken looks like he was totally beat after playing piano all night in the bar of the local Holiday Inn. Sure hope the tips were good!

  3. Perfect.
    For my friend's daughter in Finland who is stuck on Monster High Dolls.
    The folding flat for ease of shipping to a foreign country really appeals to me.

  4. These are wonderful. I will definitely try making these cots, great use for small fabric pieces and I think the best project I have ever seen using Popsicle sticks.

  5. OMG, Adorable. I don't have kids so I am going to have to find some that like Barbies or any 11ish inch size doll just so I can make these cots. (-:

  6. I have eight granddaughters, those are a perfect gift item! Or a craft to do with the girls. Love the cots!

  7. Oh my goodness. I burst out laughing when I saw Ken face down on the cot. So funny. What an adorable idea.

    1. By the way, I looked online here in the UK to see how much a pack of dowels costs. They cost just over £10 for 12 dowels (that's over US$15). Out of curiosity I looked on the Joanns website to see how much they cost in the US - just $1.50! I wish things didn't cost so much here.

    2. Bummer, Katie! Can you buy a long dowel (like a yard or a meter) and cut it into shorter lengths? Maybe cheaper that way?

    3. Good idea. I will check out the hardware shop next time I'm there. Unfortunately we pay a premium for most craft supplies here.

    4. How about chopsticks, Katie? I was thinking that some of the wooden ones I get at a restaurant would be big enough, and they are sortof free (have to pay for the meal, and remember to bring them home and wash)

  8. Who needs dinner or clean clothes when they can have a barbie glamping set like that!!

  9. Fantastic!!! I feel like Ken some days... Or the crazy-hair Barbie.

  10. LiEr, I love checking in to your blog. Your creativity inspires me. What a great idea. I look forward to creating something similar when my toddler grows up! Thank you again for sharing your craft!

  11. So cute! I love how happy your daughter looks to have all those Barbie cots!

  12. Chopsticks might be too small to drill into? But epoxy that you mix together after you squirt is very strong because its slightly flexible. That might work too.

  13. How fun! A little disappointed it was not a cardboard build :) but these cots are much better than a cardboard bed. 12"+ long chopsticks that is uniformly (or as close to uniform) cylindrical would be pretty hard to find. I agree with Lier that a dowel rod is your best bet. Sooooo when is the tutorial for the Barbie-sized pillows and blankets coming?

  14. These are marvelous! And I would think very adaptable, with somewhat stronger wooden pieces and of course, larger fabric scraps, to American Girl size dolls, teddy bears, and any other such toys that might need a cot. Which I must consider because my daughter, unaccountably, does not like Barbie or any similar sized dolls.
    By the way, the toddler-size "Barbie's little sister" doll is named Kelly. Although there was a whole pack of same-sized friends, so your girls may have made the short sleeping bag for a Kayla, Melody, Gia, or Deirdre. ;)

  15. These are really cool! My daughter is just now getting sort of into playing with Barbies, and I think she'd love these. In fact, maybe I could figure out some type of Barbie tent and we could set up a whole Barbie camping trip...

  16. I like your idea for beds better than mine. I covered cereal boxes with contact paper and sewed lace on wash clothes for bedspreads! No matter, my two girls loved them! I'm just glad they never saw yours! Thanks so much for sharing! I love reading your blog.

  17. That's awesome! Thanks for sharing your tutorial -- I'm going to make these for my kids when they get older! :)

  18. I love them! Love them! I don't think we have as many Barbies and Kens around as you do, but I might shorten the beds for small plastic toys and dinosaurs... Because dinosaurs also need beds to sleep, didn't you know?

  19. it's funny how these cots are "quicker" than the cardboard beds...but when you mass produce them (is 7 considered mass production in your house?!) how quick can it really be?! love all your stuff...i'm currently making strawberries and plants :)

    1. kim91262: Yes, 7 counts as mass-producing! And these cots are really only quicker than the cardboard beds because the cardboard beds (and any serious cardboard project that has working mechanics) are really time-consuming. More time-consuming than people might imagine, actually. Sewing is actually faster!

  20. These are brilliant. Instructions are great. Can't wait to try out this project!

  21. what sizes are the screws for cot

  22. I just stumbled across this on Pinterest. By the date on the post, your three girls have probably outgrown them by now, but my granddaughter will be delighted to have these. Absolutely brilliant idea and adorably executed. Thanks!


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