Tips for Sewing Doll Clothes

I have sewn no small number of doll clothes in my 11 plus years of mothering girls and yesterday as I was working on yet more clothes with my girls for their 18" dolls, I was thinking there are some things I've learned along the way to make sewing doll clothes fun and easy. I can whip them up pretty quickly these days, so I thought I'd compile some of my methods here for you today. 

Tips for sewing doll clothes by Nikki Schreiner of PinCutSewStudio.com

Tips for sewing doll clothes by Nikki Schreiner of PinCutSewStudio.com

1. Stock up on patterns when they go on sale! The Big 4 Pattern companies run sales on their patterns online often, which is when I buy them because I don't have a big chain fabric store. If you do have a Hobby Lobby or Joann's store near you, you're extra lucky because they go on sale for a couple bucks very often. Simplicity now has official American Girl branded patterns! I asked a mainland friend to pick two up for me at her store's sale yesterday. We don't have American Girl dolls, ours are different brands, but most patterns for 18" dolls all fit the same, or with a few minor adjustments. Of course you can find great pattern online too, both free and otherwise. 

2. Choose fabrics wisely. Yesterday Natalie wanted this cute ruffled skirt, but she picked out costume satin for the ruffles! Ummmm, nope. I encouraged her to pick something that doesn't ravel so I could avoid narrow hemming all those ruffles. We went with two colors of cotton lace. They don't ravel and are easy to gather. It saved me work and it saved the skirt from looking super messy over time. If you do use fancy fabrics, read on and I have tips for those too. 

3. Get creative with fabric choices! Doll clothes make a great use for the small scraps of garment fabrics you don't know what to do with, but even if you don't have a fabric stash at all, they're a great reason to raid your giveaway bag! Before Casey took a load of stuff to Goodwill yesterday, I dug out some workout shirts (great for doll leotards, swim suits or leggings) and some t-shirts to use for doll tees. You can use any of your cast off clothing to repurpose into doll clothes, it's so much fun to get creative and a great upcycle project. For doll camp last week, we used this free pattern and made all the pajama shirts out of my family's unwanted t-shirts! 

I made these boots for Natalie's doll from a scrap of genuine leather! Be sure and buy a leather needle for your machine if you attempt this.

I made these boots for Natalie's doll from a scrap of genuine leather! Be sure and buy a leather needle for your machine if you attempt this.

4. Finish seams smarter, not harder. Doll clothes don't get washed like your regular clothes do, so you don't need to finish the insides quite so much. But, they are going to be used and played with and you don't want to end up with a ravely mess either. Here's what I do:

  • If you have a serger, use it. If not, use some pinking shears on the bigger inside seams after you sew them. If you don't have pinking shears, you can still use cottons, but avoid satins and other fancy fabrics that ravel a lot. Fabrics that don't ravel at all include any knits (stretchy t-shirt fabrics), felt, fleece, and most lace. 
  • If you DO decide to use a fancy but ravely fabric, try using a zig-zag stitch on all your inside seams after sewing them. This will prevent a lot of raveling.
  • Use Fray Check or clear nail polish on the ends of ribbons and trims.

5. Sew in the flat. This is a trick that makes sewing doll clothes a ton faster, in my experience. Sewing in the flat means you do certain steps before sewing sides seams. Like sew the sleeves on, make hems, add trim, etc... anything that helps you avoid sewing tiny tubes or circular hems. Yesterday I made a doll leotard and sewed all the hems first, before sewing the sides and crotch seam, so I wouldn't be trying to make those little hems after the fact! Big time saver. 

6. Closures. I makes closures on my doll clothes two ways. The first is to cut a strip of Vel-Cro to size and then cut it in half length-wise. I then stitch it onto either side of the back opening, using a zig-zag stitch right down the middle (backstitch really well!) This is much faster than sewing around all four sides of a full-width piece of Vel-Cro. My other method is to use these Babyville Snapsetter Pliers and their snaps made for cloth diapers. This was a great investment, I use it all the time, for doll clothes, costumes and other little projects like business card holders, for example. 

The year I made the girls and their dolls matching Easter dresses. Look how tiny my kids were!! 

The year I made the girls and their dolls matching Easter dresses. Look how tiny my kids were!! 

7. Fit to the doll. Layla's doll (the blond doll in these photos) is a Journey Girl and is skinnier than most other brands of 18" dolls. I ignore the elastic guides on the patterns and just fit the elastic to the doll's waist. Or when something is too big for her, I just size it up when I'm done, usually taking in the center back, or just moving the closure over until it fits how we want it and trimming off the excess. 

Victoria in her nightgown and robe. 

Victoria in her nightgown and robe. 

I hope these tips are helpful! Doll clothes are so much fun, they're some of my favorite things to make! I usually make an outfit for the girls for their Christmas stockings, or Easter baskets. Don't worry, Kelby doesn't get shafted, I've been known to make him some clothes for his Build-a-Bear. Bearwear patterns is the best source I've found for those, if you're interested. I even made him an army outfit out of Casey's old BDU's :)

Some of these pictures are several years old now. It's nice to see there's been some positive progression of my photography skills, haha. 

If you have more tips, resources or questions on sewing doll clothes please share in the comments! 

Cheers and happy sewing :)

 

 

2 Comments

Sewing Camp Wrap-Up!

Sewing camps are over! I'm sad! And tired! Haha. I taught 28 kids to sew this Summer. And the best part is, many of their moms tag me or share with me pictures of them sewing at home on their own. That's the goal, after all! I had a fun group for my last camp and I'm about to unload all those photos on you here, BUT FIRST, I cannot wait to share with you the promotional video my talented friend Liz MacMurray made. I've watched it so many times, it just makes me so happy. If you are local and want something unique for your family photos this year, check out her site and just FYI, she's running special mini-sessions right now!! 

Both July camps were themed around sewing for 18" dolls and they were so much fun. We made a lot of things and the girls had a blast! This past week they ended each day just trying the clothes on their dolls and making up silly fashion shows. 

On the last day of camp, we made flip flops and visor out of craft foam, then we have a runway fashion show and then we have pizza and watch an American Girl movie (last week's vote was Lea, but this week they voted Isabell). But this time around, almost everyone just wanted to keep sewing during the movie! They made all kinds of doll tote bags, pillows and other little things, a few even designed little pet beds for their dolls' pets and Natalie made a doll-sized drawstring backpack. They turned the t-shirt pattern around to make jackets, made matching p.j./sleep mask/pillow sets and just got so creative! 

And now I'm going to take a nap. 

Ha! Not really, I actually have some sewing to do today ;)

Cheers and happy sewing! 

Comment

Super Easy Doll Tote Bag Tutorial

I was brainstorming simple doll sewing in case we had extra time today at sewing camp. I knew that tote bags for dolls would be super easy, so I showed the girls how to make this simple version. I didn't have a pattern and I hadn't made these before, but it was no problem to just wing it. They turned out great, they were really fast and most of the girls made more than one, they loved these! Then Natalie made a bunch after camp was over and our neighbor came over this afternoon and they made even more! 

Doll Tote Bag free tutorial by Pin, Cut, Sew Studio

Doll Tote Bag free tutorial by Pin, Cut, Sew Studio

I made a very simple tutorial here for you, and you don't even have to print a pattern :) 

For the pattern, take a piece of regular ol' printer paper and cut it (or just fold it) in half, hamburger style. Place this on your fabric, just one layer, and cut it out. 

Next, hem one of the long edges. For the kids, I didn't have them turn the raw edge under twice, I wanted to keep this super simple for them, but here you can see, I did hide that raw edge. 

Next, cut some ribbon for your straps. I cut mine 7", but anywhere between 7 and 9" would be great. Pin them onto the wrong side of your top edge where you'll want your handles to be when it's folded in half. It may help to fold it in half widthwise just to see where you want them and make sure they match up. 

Then sew them in place right over your previous hem stitching. Now an adult or advanced sewer could totally do the hem and sew the ribbons on in one step, but for kids, it's easier for them to do this in two steps and it doesn't bother them that there are two lines of stitching showing if it's not perfect. It might bother you, moms, but it won't bother them and that's what matters! ;) I let the kids try zig-zagging this step and they thought that was fun and looked cool. 

Okay, last step, fold your tote in half, pretty sides together and sew down the side and across the bottom. 

You're done already! You can trim those raw seams with pinking shears, or not, whatever you want. Clip that corner and turn it right side out. You may also want to add some Fray Check or clear nail polish to your ribbon ends to keep them from fraying. 

These are some the girls made!

Natalie and her friend Hailey can't stop making tote bags for their dolls! As you can see, Victoria and Samantha are very happy to wear them all. 

Cheers and Happy Sewing! 

2 Comments