18” Doll Cardigan with Lacy Raglan Seam


18” Doll Cardigan with Lacy Raglan Seam

After knitting two little baby sweaters in the “top down” raglan design, I decided to try a couple variations. One way to practice a concept is to make doll clothes. The 18” dolls, like the American Girl Dolls and those like them are large enough to judge results, but small enough to work the project up quickly without too much material. Here is picture of the finished sweater and the pattern for making it.

This is the story of this pattern for a lacy cardigan for an 18” doll. My approach to many projects is like sighting in a gun. Try it, fix it, try it, fix it again.


I had been using US 5 needles for the baby sweaters so I had a gauge for them using baby yarn. I really wanted to use worsted weight since I have so much of it so I measured the dolls and guessed at the gauge. If you are a regular reader you know that I am lazy and optimistic when it comes to gauge.

My plan was to cast on some stitches (40), knit some ribbing (K1P1 for 3 rows), use a single stitch as the raglan “seam”, increase before and after each seam with a YO stitch (to create holes in a lacy pattern), create front plackets (K4) at the start and end of each row, create buttonholes with YO (4 evenly spaced), and finish the body and sleeves with ribbing (K1P1 for 4 rows). Easy peasy, right?!

Here’s how I came up with 40 stitches to cast on:

Front Placket – 4

Front – 3

Seam – 1

Sleeve – 6

Seam – 1

Back – 10

Seam – 1

Sleeve – 6

Seam – 1

Front – 3

Front Placket – 4

I first guessed that the raglan region should be about 16 rows. That would give me 8 increases since increases are only done every other row on the right (knit) side. Each increase row adds 8 stitches, one before and one after each of the 4 seams. Half of those stitches are in the body and half are in the sleeves. That gave me a body of about 58 stitches and that seemed like a good starting point.

When the body was done and the sleeve stitches were still on their holding yarn, I tried it on the doll. Big moment.

It was passable. If I were in a hurry to give the sweater to someone I would have finished it, sewn on the buttons and sent it away. But I was really interested in perfecting the pattern so I didn’t even finish the sleeves. There were several things I didn’t like about this first attempt and set out to fix them.

  1. The worsted weight yarn on the small size 5 needles was so bulky that it filled in the spaces around the raglan seam and holes obliterating them visually. The lace didn’t show up.
  2. The sweater is generally just too big.
  3. The buttonholes were created in the front placket by K2, YO, K2tog. To space them evenly I tried to recreate this look working back across on a purl (WS) row. As you can see from the picture, I did not get the horizontal spacing right. Sometime I will work on that issue, but for now, all buttonholes should be created in the same direction, at the start of the knit (RS) rows.

There really was not choice but to switch to a lighter weight yarn. I guess the worsted weight yarns will just have to wait for a different project. I chose a Lion Brand  Wool-Ease sportweight yarn (5 oz = 435 yards) color 232 “Wood” and knit the exact same pattern with no changes. There was really no quick way to tell how much effect the lighter yarn would have on the sweater’s fit. So this was shot number 2.

The sweater was too small. I was starting to feel like Goldilocks. So I decided to extend the raglan seam 2 rows, extend the length of the body 4 rows and extend the length of the sleeves.

This third attempt was pretty close to the target. I think the sleeves are still a little short. Four to six more rows and they will be perfect.


I like the pattern and I think the details in the raglan seam show up much better with the lighter weight yarn.


Just for fun, I have included these two pdf documents to show how to make a pattern reader that acts as both instructions and a row counter.

Doll Cardigan Reader Version

Pattern Reader

Full Disclosure – This was not my idea!


Print the instructions and trim them. Print the reader and use a sharp cutter to slice along the lines. Insert the instructions into the gap. As you can see, only one row at a time is visible. At the end of each row, slide the instructions up to the next line. Using this device, there is no need for a separate row counter. In this example I figured out exactly how many stitches were in each row and described what to do with them. You may think this is excessive in detail, but I’m sure some new knitters (or those who get disturbed often) will appreciate it.

I hope you enjoy the sweater pattern. Post a picture of your sweater in the comment section if you make one. I would enjoy seeing them.

As always, your polite and helpful comments are welcome.


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.

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!