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.
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.
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.
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.
To construct the new pants:
- 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.
- Turn down the material at the waist and sew across to create the elastic casing.
- 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.
- Stitch the center back seam.
- Turn up the hem on each leg and stitch in place.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.