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Sewing for dolls

31 July 2014 07:43

I’m afraid today’s post is mainly for the girls  -  we’re making dolls’ clothes.

If you look on Pinterest, there are 1000s of dolls’ clothes patterns, many of them free.  There must be some seriously well-dressed dolls out there!  Sadly, many of these patterns are for American Girl dolls.  They look like lovely dolls, about 45cms tall with a child-like figure.  You don’t see a great many dolls like that here in the UK.  Most British girls seem to prefer Barbie dolls.  The advantage of Barbies is that you can dress them using very little fabric – left-overs from another project.  The drawback is that they are much more fiddly to make.  I thought we’d have a go anyway, with a couple of simple, hopefully easy-to-make items.

Barbie apron

We’ll start with a very simple, straight-forward addition to Barbie’s wardrobe – an apron.  This came from    It seems a bit over-the-top to make a reversible apron, but the alternative – with hems all round- would be much more fiddly to make and it would be difficult to make it look neat.  (But feel free to prove me wrong!)

Barbie skirts

If that’s gone together OK, we’ll move on to a skirt.  You can make a simple gathered skirt as we did last week for a bigger doll.   For a simpler way to insert elastic in a tiny skirt, see Craftiness is not optional.  You can make a slightly less full skirt by cutting the fabric a little narrower.  Or, for an even straigher skirt, cut the fabric not much wider than the doll, leave an opening at the back and fasten it with a press stud or small piece of velcro, turning the top down and top stitching, to make a 'waistband'.

Barbie tops

Barbie will need a top to go with her skirt.   There's a nice pattern by Debbie Colgrove or, for a simpler top, it's back to Craftiness is not optional - it's a great site for all sorts of sewing tutorials.  One of the great things about sewing for Barbie is that it uses so little fabric, you can experiment without feeling that you've wasted a lot of material.  There is also a nice, versatile, dress pattern for Barbie on Craftiness is not optional.

Sundress for a bigger doll

I've used the Craftiness dress and top patterns as a guide to making a sundress for a bigger doll.  So that you can use the pattern for a doll of any size, I'll show you how I made the pattern, first.

Put your doll on a piece of paper and make a mark either side of her body.  You can mark her shoulders, too. (A)

Draw a vertical line half way between the marks. (B)  From now on, only work on one side of the pattern, so that it will be symmetrical.

Using your side and shoulder marks as a guide, draw in the armhole and the top of the dress.  (C)  Now measure your doll’s chest.  Extend the side of the dress (from the armhole) to make it ½, or slightly more, the doll’s measurement. (D)  Decide where you want the waistline to be and draw a straight line at the correct distance from the top. (E)  Add ¼” seam allowance at the top and bottom and ½” at the back. (F)

Place the centre front of your pattern on the fold of the fabric and cut out one bodice.

For the skirt, you will need a piece roughly 1½ - 2 times the doll’s waist by the length you want plus hem and seam allowance.  (See last week’s skirt)

You will also need straps.  It’s easier to make up the dress and try it on to see how long you want the straps.  Cut a piece of fabric twice this length plus about 2cms, by approx., 4cms wide.  (You might want the straps a little wider for a bigger doll.  Cut your fabric 4 times the width of strap you want.)

To make up:

Use a zigzag stitch or overlocker to neaten all edges of the bodice, both sides and one long edge of the skirt.  Gather this edge, using a long stitch close to the edge of the fabric.

Fold under the top edge of the bodice by ¼”, press and topstitch.

Matching the centres, pin and stitch the top to the gathered edge of the skirt, making sure your gathers are even.

Stitch the back seam of the skirt to within about 4cms of the waist seam.  Check that you can get the dress on the doll before you stitch it!

Turn under ¼” on the hem, then turn again to the length you want the skirt and stitch.  I used a fancy stitch for the hem, but you could stitch it by hand if you prefer.

Try the dress on to see how long the straps need to be.  Cut the fabric.  Fold it in half lengthways and press.  Open it out and fold each long edge in to the centre.  Refold along the pressed edge.  You should have a long strip, 4 layers thick with no raw edges showing, except at the ends.  Stitch as close to the edge as possible of the 2 long edges.  Cut the strip in half to make 2 straps.  Neaten each edge.  Pin the straps in place at the front and the back, under the top of the dress.  Stitch carefully over the original top stitching to secure the straps.

Press under the open edges at the back of the dress and stitch on a length of narrow Velcro to fasten the back.

Dress your doll!

Fabric is Elephant Parade (large) by Cara Shanley

Matching hairband

If you’d like to make a matching hairband, cut a strip of fabric 4 times the widthe you want it and long enough to go roughly from ear to ear on your doll.

Fold under each short edge by as little as possible and press.  Then fold the strip as above for the straps.

Insert a piece of elastic between the fold at one end and stitch in place.  It needs to be slightly shorter than the distance round the doll’s head not covered by the fabric of the band.  Cut to length, not forgetting to add a seam allowance.  Put inside the fold and stitch in place.  Now, carefully sew all round the edge of the band as close to the edge as possible, making sure that the open edge, opposite the fold, is secured.

I think all that's missing now is some matching sandals.  I shall have a go at making them in time for the next Crafty Things For Kids post!  [Update: here are the instructions for making matching sandals.] 
What are you making?
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