Sewing for 18″ Dolls – Pants

Sewing for 18” dolls is fun, doesn’t take much material and is a good way for new sewers to understand clothing construction. The only really expensive part are purchased patterns which can cost $20 or more. But you really don’t need purchased patterns to start sewing doll cloths. In a previous post I tried to show how you can make simple skirts and dresses for the dolls, and even their human girls, just by measuring.

Today I would like to show you another technique. You can use clothes the dolls already have to make a pattern.


For the first example, I chose a pair of knit capri pants with an elastic waist. I found them in a bag of clothes I bought at a garage sale. The nice thing about this is that it doesn’t matter if the garments is old or stained or torn. They will work equally well for making a pattern.

Capri Pants Pic 1

Capri Pants Pic 2

Notice that the store bought clothes are not really “high quality” sewing. The seam allowances are small and the seams unfinished.  The hems are just roughly turned under once with cut edges showing. Most of these clothes are mass produced using as little fabric and notions as possible.

But these are just doll clothes. No one is going to prom or a job interview here. So try to keep this in mind when you are sewing. Of course make things as neat as you can, but don’t go overboard trying to make them as good as human clothes. Also, the dolls are not really concerned with comfort, so a thick seam won’t bother them. The goal of this post is to show how young sewers can make inexpensive doll cloths. They should be easy for little hands to get on and off the dolls.

The first step is to take apart the garments. This little device is called a seam ripper. It fits nicely under stitches to break them.

Carefully pick the seams apart and when you are done, you will have a pile of loose thread, two cut garment pieces, and a piece of elastic. Measure the elastic. In this case it is 1/8” wide and 8 3/4” long. It is actually is pretty good shape so you could use it again. Looking closely at the two fabric pieces reveals that they are identical. We can copy one to the pattern and use it to cut two pieces.

Taken Apart 1

pants piece 2

The fabric piece is wrinkled and bent, so iron it carefully to make it flat and easy to trace. You can use the fabric directly to cut a new garment or you can trace it create a reusable pattern. Sometimes I use wax paper but if you want to make more than one garments you will need to use something more durable. Non-fusable interfacing works very well. It don’t unravel, it can be ironed, and it can be written on.

trace 1trace 2trace 3

finished pattern 1

I usually make the first item out of some scrap material just to make sure the garment will fit and that I like the length and style. I this case I used some cheap lightweight knit. Remember to cut two. This is often the case with purchased patterns as well.

cutting 1cutting 3

To construct the new pants:

  1. Stitch the center front seam. I have used a slight zigzag stitch here as I often do on knits to provide a little “give” in the seam. The materials stretches so its nice if the seam can, too.IMG_0643
  2. Turn down the material at the waist and sew across to create the elastic casing.IMG_0644
  3. Insert the elastic. Use a bodkin or safety pin to thread the elastic through the casing. Be sure to stitch the elastic in place when the end reaches the edge of the fabric. Continue pulling the elastic through and secure the second end in place with a few stitches.
  4. Stitch the center back seam.IMG_0651
  5. Turn up the hem on each leg and stitch in place.IMG_0652
  6. Align the inseam and sew the pant legs. Sometimes I start at the center and sew each direction. Sometimes I sew from one pant hem to the other along the entire inseam. It depends on whether the pieces line up well or if they are being difficult.
  7. The practice pants are done. Try them on the dolls and check the fit. These seems to fit fine.

There were a couple things about the pattern that I did not care for so before making additional pairs, I would make the waist area a little higher and use 1/4” elastic. It would be easier to thread through and make the casing easier to sew.

It would also be easy to make these legs shorter to make shorts or longer to make pants. I used wax paper to make a couple quick adjustments.

shorts and pants

Here is the pattern that I made for the knit capri pants. I put it on the scanner and created a pdf that you can print. Set your printer to print the image at 100%. There is a reference line 2” long that you can use to make sure that your printout is the same size as my original pattern.

Knit Capri Pattern

The knit fabric was definitely easy to sew and fit. I didn’t know if the pattern would work as well with woven fabric, which has less stretch, so I made a pair of shorts in woven fabric. They did not fit and I could not get them on the doll. So I found a pair of woven pants and repeated the process. This gave me new patterns for doll pants out of woven material. I am including those patterns as well.

Unfortunately the pattern pieces are wider that the 8” paper most printers and scanner use. So those patterns are included in two pieces. Print them out and tape the two pieces together along the “tape line”.

I have included some pictures of the pants, capris, and short made from these patterns as well.


This is the first pair of pants I made in woven material. Here is the pattern. It is in two parts which should be printed and tape together.

woven pants part 1

woven pants part 2

These denim shorts are cut from the leg of an old pair of work jeans. The faded denim is great! This pattern is also in two pieces which should be printed and taped together.

woven shorts part 1

woven shorts part 2


These board shorts use the same pattern as the other shorts, but I cut them a little shorter in the waist and added a band of contrasting material. The ends of the band are folded under and come together at the front, not quite touching, to allow for the insertion of a string or ribbon. Once the ribbon/string is inserted I usually stitch it at the back center so little hands won’t pull the string out.


These khaki shorts (maybe part of a school uniform) have the traditional “flat felled” seam found in store bought pants. I had the legs of a pair of pants that I had cut off for shorts. So I just centered the pattern pieces on the seam so it would look like I had sewn the sides this way. Nice trick!

As you can see from the pictures, I decided to make these shorts a little shorter so I folded up the pattern a bit. Also, to make the garment symmetrical I cut one piece, flipped it over and used it for the pattern from the second piece. In that way I could line up the seam and make sure they would end up in the same position on both legs.

I hope you enjoy the patterns and that you learned to use old doll clothes to make new ones.

Post any pictures you take in the comments section. I would love to see what you make! If you create some patterns that you like, consider sharing them so others can benefit from your efforts.

Next time I am going to use the same process to make some patterns for tops. Watch for them if you are making doll clothes with little friends!

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.


Knitting Needle Cases – Free Pattern

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chest front

I recently had an old spool chest refinished and plan to store my knitting supplies in it. I decided to sew some needle storage cases to keep my knitting supplies neat in the drawers. I had seen cases for sale but never any that I liked. They looked poorly made and seemed pricey. You will find the instructions for making these two cases and two others (for circular and DP needles) in this post.

green chest

The chest had belonged to my mother for as long as I could remember. It had been painted green at some point. Later someone began to strip the paint but only removed a little from the top. When I heard good things about a local refinisher, I decided to have it restored. It turned out really well.

chest backchest side1chest side2

chest knob

Some of the green paint remains on the handles. I like it that way.

It seems appropriate that if it is not going to be used to store thread, that at least it should be used to store fiber craft supplies. There are enough drawers for knitting, crocheting, and weaving tools and instructions booklets.

To help organize the knitting needles I sewed four separate cases. One case for long straight needles, one for short straight needles, one for circular needles, and the last for double pointed needles. Each can lay flat in a drawer or be folded, stacked, and carried in a bag.

The fabric is cotton duck (sometimes called canvas). It is sturdy, inexpensive, and has a nice industrial look that I like. The binding on the edges is black, half inch wide, double fold bias tape.

Large and Small Straight Needle Cases

The two cases for straight needles are made in exactly the same way as each other. They are the same width, but have different lengths.

1. For the smaller case for 10” needles, cut a piece of fabric 13” wide and 24” long. For the larger case for 14” needles, cut a piece of fabric 13” wide and 33” long.

2. Sew a piece of bias tape on one of the short sides. No need to finish the edges as they will be covered up.

3. Fold the side with the bias tape up 9” as shown for the small case and 13” for the large case.


4. At two places, mark the center 6 1/2” from each edge as shown.


5. Mark the center line with a straight edge and pin the fabric in place so it won’t slip as shown.


6. Stitch along the center line. I ran the stitching back and forth at the bottom and at the bias tape. This is not a prom dress that needs to “hang and flow”. It is a case that may get some tugging so no harm in making it sturdy.

stitching dividers

7. Mark the rest of the divider lines, each 1 inch apart as shown. The outer sections will be a bit wider since this is where the bias tape edges will be applied.

marking dividers1

marking dividers2

marking dividers3

marking dividers4

8. Stitch each dividers as you did the center divider. Stitch back and forth at the top and bottom to make them sturdy.

stitching dividers2

9. Cut and sew a piece of bias tape on the top edge. No need to finish the ends as they will be covered up.

top bias

10. Cut pieces of bias tape to finish the edges. Cut each piece about 26” long so you will have about an inch at each corner to fold under. This will give you a finished corner.

11. Draw a light pencil line as a guide for the numbers. I thought I had a stencil but couldn’t find it. So I just wrote the numbers free hand with a black Sharpie.


The flap folds over to keep the needles in place. The case can be folded in half or rolled up.


Case for Double Pointed Needles


This case is made specifically for the DP needles that I have. I did not make a slot for every possible size like I did for the straight needles. You can adjust the widths of the slots for your own collection. I also have not numbered the slots yet, but will.

1. Cut a piece of fabric 20” wide and 22” long.

2. Sew pieces of bias tape on both 22” sides. No need to finish the edges as they will be covered up.


3. Fold the side with the bias tape up 9” as shown and mark the slots. I decided on two 3” pockets, four 1” pockets, four 3/4” pockets, and three 2” pockets. Starting at the left edge, make marks at the following distances from the left hand edge in inches.

3 1/2  – 6 1/2  – 7 1/2  – 8 1/2  – 9 1/2  – 10 1/2  – 11 1/4  – 12  – 12 3/4  – 13 1/2  – 15 1/2  – 17 1/2


4. Mark and stitch slots. Sew forward and back at the top and bottom of each slot to make it sturdy.


5. Cut pieces of bias tape to finish the edges. Cut each piece about 26” long so you will have about an inch at each corner to fold under. This will give you a finished corner.


This case can be folded in thirds, inward from each edge. It is then the same width as the other cases. The fourth case, the one for circular needles can also be folded in thirds so the stack of all four cases is only 7” wide.

Case for Circular Needles


The circular needle case has 15 pockets, each 6” x 6” to hold the needles. This case is a little different in that I tried to use the selvedge edge of the fabric in several places to avoid fraying. I cut the original piece of fabric with a selvedge edge at the top and didn’t apply bias tape because I was not sure I was going to have enough tape to finish. In the end, I did have enough and added it across the top just to make all the case look the same. Otherwise it would have bothered me. Some of you know what I mean.

I also cut the four 6” rectangle that make up the layered pocket with a selvedge edge. In this way, I could sew them to the main fabric piece without finishing them (which would add extra bulk) but also without having to worry that they would fray and come loose.

1. Cut a piece of fabric 20” wide and 28” long. Cut four other pieces 20” wide and 6” long. Try to use the selvedge edge along the 20” side of these smaller pieces. If you cannot, cut them 6 1/2” long and fold the edge under 1/2” and stitch. This will create a finished edge to sew onto the main fabric piece.

2. Stitch bias tape along the top and bottom of the large piece and along the top edge of the other four pieces.


3. Draw four lines on the large fabric piece for placement of the smaller pieces. The lines should be measured from the bottom edge 14”, 12”, 10”, 8”. Sorry the ruler is backwards in the picture. Sometimes I think in unusual ways.


4. Place the bottom edge of one small piece on the top, 14″, marked line of the large piece as shown. Stitch in place close to the selvedge edge.

circ4circ stitch3

5. Place another small piece on the 12” line, sew in place. Continue in this way until all four small piece are sewn to the large piece.

6. Fold the bottom of the large piece up 6” and pin it.


7. Draw stitching lines measuring from the left hand side at 6 1/2” and 13 1/2”.


8. Stitch these lines, stitching back and forth at the top and bottom to reinforce the stitching.


9. Cut pieces of bias tape to finish the side edges. Cut each piece about 30” long so you will have about an inch at each corner to fold under. This will give you a finished corner.


This case can be folded in thirds, inward from each edge. It is then the same folded width as the other cases. Remember, I didn’t add the top piece of bias tape until the end so it is not shown in some  pictures.

all cases

Here is what the set of four cases look like with my needles in them. They all fold in half or thirds and are then 7” wide.

Even thought I plan to mostly keep them in the spool chest, I did sew up a matching bag to slide them all in for travel.

Now that I have the pattern designed, I plan to make more. I think I will try denim next. The bias tape was the most expensive part of the project so I think I will try to make my own bias tape next time. If I do, I will be sure to write about it.

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome!


Patterns For 18″ Dolls – Elastic Waist Skirt

One of the reasons I learned to sew was to save money. First, I made doll clothes. Later, I sewed for myself and then my children. I was shocked recently to learn how expensive patterns have become. Even patterns for doll clothes can reach $20! But, just as you can learn how to sew clothing and accessories, you can learn to create patterns. Someone had to make them, you might as well learn to make them yourself. It really isn’t that hard. Here are some choices.

  1. Modify a pattern that you already have or one that you borrow.
  2. Cut apart a garment that fits but has become old and worn.
  3. Create a new pattern from measurements.

This post will begin to show you how to create your own pattern from your dolls measurements. Skirts are easy so we will start there.

Elastic Waist Skirt

  1. Measure the dolls waist. Or you can just trust me and use a measurement of 12″.
  2. Cut a piece of 1/4″ elastic shorter than this measurement by 10-20% depending on the stretchiness of your elastic. I recommend cutting the elastic 10 1/2″.
  3. Decide how long you want your skirt. Knee length is about 4 1/2″, midi about 6″, and full length about 8″.
  4. Calculate the width of the rectangle that will become your skirt. A good rule of thumb is to double the waist measurement and add the seam allowance. So in this example double the waist measurement is 24″. The seam allowance is 1/4″ on each edge. So 24+1/4+1/4=24 1/2″.sew001
  5. Calculate the length of your rectangle. Choose a length. I will make a knee length skirt. Add 1″ for the hem and 3/4″ for the top elastic casing. So 4 1/2+1+3/4=6 1/4″.
  6. Cut out a rectangle 24 1/2″ wide and 6 1/4″ long.rectangle
  7. Press the hem but do not sew it yet. Fold up 1/2″ and press. Fold again 1/2″ and press. This hem will be stitched later, after the back seam is sewn, but it is easier to press while the skirt is flathem cropped
  8. Sew the casing. Fold down 1/4″ and the top edge and press. Fold again 1/2″ and press. Sew close to the edge as shown.
  9. Insert the elastic. Attach a small pin to one end of the elastic. Thread it through the casing being careful not to twist it. Pin the end of the elastic so they are not lost.
  10. Sew the back seam using 1/4″ seam allowance. Carefully align the top and bottom edges while sewing. Back stitch at the top and bottom. If the material is fraying, zigzag stitch in the seam allowance.
  11. Stitch the hem close to the fold. Begin at the back seam and overlap hem stitching 1/2″.hem over
  12. Distribute the gathers evenly on the elastic around the skirt.doll


Variations on a Theme

With a few changes in color, length, embellishment and finishing you can make an infinite number of skirts and dresses from this simple pattern. Here are a few ideas.

Yellow and Blue Skirt

This skirt is even easier than the first one because the hem and elastic casing are formed by strips of contrasting yellow material. This one is also a little less full. Gathered skirts are usually 1.5-2 times the waist measurement s0 anything from 18-24″ should work. The piece of fabric was 19″ wide so I just used that measurement. It is also a little longer.


Blue strip – 3 1/2″ by 19″

Yellow strips – 1 1/2″ by 19″  and 2 1/2″ by 19″

  1. Press the yellow strips in half lengthwise with the right sides facing out.
  2. Stitch the yellow strips to the blue at the top and bottom. Press the seams toward the blue material. Usually you would press the seams downward, but it doesn’t really matter much for dolls. So like quilters, I press toward the darker material so that the seam doesn’t show through on the lighter color.
  3. Insert the elastic as before, line up the back seam and sew. Be careful to match the top and bottom as well as the color stripes. Finish the seam with a zig zag stitch if you want.

    4. Done!

Purple Skirt with Rickrack

This skirt is made from a single piece of fabric. It is assembled the same way as the first skirt. But before the back seam is sewn, a single row of white rickrack is added. Any trim would work and you could add multiple rows of trim in the same way. This fabric had a selvedge edge. Usually you would trim it away but for doll cloths it is a nice finished edge and you only have to turn the edge once to form the elastic casing.

Purple strip –  7 1/4″ by 19″

  1. Press and sew the elastic casing and hem.
  2. Decide where you want the rickrack and draw a light line.
  3. Using a straight stitch, sew the rickrack in place.
  4. Insert the elastic as before. Sew and finish the back seam. Be sure to align the top and bottom and the rickrack.
  5. Distribute the gathers and you are done!

Orange Dress

This dress is made in the same way as the skirts. It is cut a little longer, the elastic is a little shorter, and a ribbon is added as a tie at the top and the waist.


Orange dress fabric strip – 11 1/2″ by 19″

One piece of elastic – 10″

Cut two pieces of 1/4″ grosgrain ribbon – one 18″ and one 24″

  1. Cut the fabric and press the elastic casing and hem, but do not sew.
  2. Using a needle and thread, add a loop on the inside only of the elastic casing. Do not let the stitches show though to the front. Make the loop wide enough to fit the ribbon, about 3/8″. Stitch loosely about 3 times. Knot and trim the thread.
  3. Sew the elastic casing and hem. Insert the elastic as before. Stitch and finish the back seam.
  4. Insert the ribbon through the loop. This ribbon can be tied around the dolls neck.IMG_4350
  5. A second ribbon can be tied around the doll’s waist for a different look.


Long skirt with lace trim

This skirt is full length. A piece of red lace has been added at the bottom. It can be worn as a skirt or as a dress. A ribbon strap and/or belt can added.

Muslin skirt fabric strip – 10″ by 24 1/2″

Cut red lace (1 1/2″ wide) trim 24 1/2″ long.

  1. Cut the fabric, press the elastic casing and hem. Sew the elastic casing and hem.IMG_4352
  2. Sew the red lace trim to the bottom of the skirt.
  3. Insert the elastic. Sew and finish the back seam.IMG_4355

This skirt can also be worn as a dress.

One more note about this muslin skirt. The material can be decorated with markers. One mom made a set of these, one for each girl who was attending a birthday party. The girls each  decorated a dress for their own doll.

Make a matching skirt for the girl!

Note: You can use these same skills to make a matching skirt for the girls who own the dolls. Measure their waist and cut the elastic a bit shorter. Thicker elastic, 3/4″ for example, works better than the doll size 1/4″. Decide how long the skirt should be by measuring the girl or one of her skirts. Don’t forget to add 1 1/4″ at the top for the elastic casing (1/4″ for the first fold and 1″ for the second). Add 2″ to the bottom for the hem (fold and press 1″ and then 1″ again). This extra hem depth helps the skirt “hang” better than the smaller 1/2″ hem. Finish the skirt just as you would for the doll.

Hope you enjoy the patterns. Let me know what you think!



Meet My Betsy McCall


This is my Betsy McCall.  She is one of my favorite childhood toys, the only doll I ever really liked.

Betsy Paper Doll

Betsy started life as a paper doll cut-out in McCall’s magazine in 1951. She was included in the magazine until it went out of business in the 90s. The one shown here, from 1963, has Betsy on a camping trip. I love to hike and camp, but can’t image packing a brass bottom blouse and cotton kilt. You could even send away for a cardboard Betsy that these clothes would fit. It was great fun.

Several toy companies made a 3D “real” doll over the years. Mine is an American Character 8″ doll that I received for Christmas in the early 60s. Her body is hard plastic and her joints are articulated. She is very sweet.

She is propped up on the piano because she is in pieces. At some point, I dropped her on a hard surface and fractured her hip. After that my mom taped it in place with cloth tape. It held really well but that hip wouldn’t bend after that. One of her arms broke and my father drilled a hole in the shoulder, put a wire through it and reattached it with a rubber band to the other arm. Both arms worked great. Remarkably, this is almost exactly the same Continue reading