Monday, January 20, 2020

Pattern Designing: from pencil and paper to Illustrator

valspierssews doll clothes patterns
This is where I spend a lot of time. I can scoot my chair between the sewing machine,
overlocker, desk and computer.

If you want to draft lots of patterns quickly and easily you need a computer program.
If you are a keen designer of doll clothes for yourself it is easy to use paper and pencil and you don't have to learn how to navigate that drawing program.

If you have a growing doll clothes pattern business then you may have something in between the latest version of the best designing program and a drawing program not really made for drafting patterns.
This is where I am at the beginning of 2020.

I started my designing business using paper and pencil, then I scanned in the drawings and made them into a PDF file to put on what used to be Craftsy. My instructions were done in Apple Pages as paragraphs with some images between. The Applique Tote was the first pattern I published. It is not in the shop now but I have it on my one day list to revamp and republish.

I moved onto using a drawing program called Fireworks to draw pattern pieces for a while. I knew about Adobe Illustrator but I didn't really want to learn a whole new program. It is quite draining on the brain learning something so new. So I stuck with fireworks for a while. My drawing got a little better. This little skirt is also one of my first designs. Once again , it is not in the shops but is on my one day list.

A few years ago we bought ourselves a cutting machine that worked with svg files and this inspired me to start getting my head around Illustrator. Fortunately I had an older version on my computer that was part of the Adobe suite I got when I was a teacher. By this stage it wasn't possible to buy Illustrator outright. It is a subscription model now and $20USD a month is just a bit out of my comfort zone at present.

Also I am not too keen to rush into the latest illustrator because it is quite different from my little old version and I will have to allocate quite a lot of time getting up to speed.

It has taken me 3 years to get to this point. I am quite proud of my efforts to improve my drawing and my layout design for the instructions. I am now including the doll in lots of my drawings and I even had a go at adding some scenery.

It takes me hours to create these diagrams even now that I have lots of experience but I just love the way they look. While I am working I can hear the birds and see them when they go in the bird bath and I can step out the back to rest my eyes. I love working hard but I love to rest hard too.

I will go into more detail about how I actually draft pattern pieces in my next post about "Business works"

Make sure you have a look at my free patterns and my paid pattern club HERE. This is where all my creative energy is directed. You can enrol in teachable first or enrol through either the free pattern resource library or the pattern club. Click on each to find out more. Visit my Teachable site.

Happy Doll Dressmaking,

Sunday, January 12, 2020

What to do with your 18" doll dress pattern

Doll clothes Patterns by valspierssews
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Have you ever been looking at doll clothes or people clothes pictures on Pinterest and seen the perfect dress for your doll?

Don't you wish you could recreate the design using patterns that you already have?

What you need is a great fitting doll clothes pattern or two that allows you to easily draft new designs.
Doll clothes patterns by valspierssews

My latest spring design that will be published in March was inspired by a dress I found when I did a Google search for Spring dresses.

I took a screenshot and thought about what patterns I had that had pieces I could use without any fancy drafting.

The 3/4 fitted sleeve I took from a dress in my 60s Vol.1 collection but the sleeve piece 7 from 1806 Blouse should do the job. You will just have to cut it off at the elbow.

I didn't want to have to experiment with ruffle depth so I used the skirt from 1804a Scallop bib dress.
It has a hem band that I like the width of. This design also had the front and back bodice pieces.

I know from experience that a normal gathered skirt looks silly with a 3 x gathered ruffle. It is just too out there for the size of the doll.
So I folded under the pattern pieces for the skirt strips so the front strip was 6 3/4" to be cut on the fold and the back pieces were 7 1/2". This gives me a 24" skirt.
I then took the hem band pieces and cut each 1 3/4" wide. I taped them together then adjusted the length to be twice the skirt front pattern piece. You could do this with plain paper too. You don't need the hem band pattern piece.

The hem ruffle is twice the skirt hem.

When you cut the ruffle you need to cut 2 on the fold. I stitched them together at the side seams then I turned up a 1/4" hem. I gathered using a single row of long stitches.

For the sleeve ruffle you need to cut 2 ruffles twice as wide as the sleeve hem edge. Fold under what you don't need on the hem ruffle pattern piece then cut 2.

The ruffle needs to be twice the width of the sleeve hem edge

I folded over the excess from my hem ruffle pattern piece to cut the sleeve ruffle

Of course you can always wait for me to publish this design as a stand alone pattern. It is an extra pattern for the March Pattern Club so the price will be just $6AUD in the shop. Look out for it in March 2020.

Valspierssews Doll Clothes Pattern Club
Join the Pattern Club now

You can see my whole range of doll clothes patterns on Etsy

Doll clothes patterns by valspierssews
Just one of the add-on bib designs in this pattern

Happy Doll Dressmaking,

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Do you wash your doll clothes?

Newly washed nightie. Good or bad? See below.

Every now and then a discussion on washing doll clothes and the fabrics used to make them starts up.

If you are not sure about washing your doll clothes or the fabrics that you use to make them then you should read on. I have included articles, tips and tests and my conclusions about:

  • Ways to wash
  • Colour fasting
  • Pre-washing
  • Shrinking
  • My recommendations

Ways to wash

Efferdent denture cleaner in a litre or so of cold water will clean most doll clothes and keeps them looking as new.

Dishwashing liquid in cold water is good for getting greasy marks out of doll clothes. This probably would work for my clothes too. I am always getting greasy spots on my tee shirts.

You can read more about these methods on this website -

Colour Fasting

Reds and deep dark colours can run and ruin white collars or cuffs or trims so it is best to try colour fasting such items before washing. This is done with salt and vinegar in cold water. You can get the details on this website -

I thought my dark velvet fabrics might run but surprisingly the swatches I tried seemed very good. What I thought might be colour was mainly reflection. I would never consider washing a doll dress that I made of velvet but it is good to know that I could spot wash it without creating a big faded spot.
The dress I made also has a detachable collar. A good idea if you think a white collar might get stained.

There maybe a slight colour in this water. This was my expensive velvet.

The colour fasting directions are for people clothes and says you can safely put then in the wash after the process. I would never wash doll clothes in a washing machine. I would stick to hand washing even if I new the item was colour fast.

I have only occasionally had the need to wash doll clothes and I have always done it in cold water with a bit of washing powder or liquid. I swish them around then lay them on a towel in the shade to dry.
The instructions on this website - - are pretty comprehensive and I imagine that if I had lots of second hand clothes I would want to give them a good wash.

Prewashing fabrics

When it comes to prewashing I am of the opinion that prewashing makes fabrics look used.
Also, if I know that a fabric is not colour fast then I probably wouldn't buy it. No one wants their doll body to get stained. If I want bright colours I will buy polycotton.
These days cotton fabric used for quilts doesn't need prewashing. I have made several quilts and washed them when they needed it. They washed perfectly. So quilting cotton is great for doll clothes.

I love rayon fabric for doll clothes because it has a nice soft feel and it falls well for a small garment. It is probably the only fabric that I would consider prewashing because it shrinks a lot.

You can find details for prewashing a variety of fabrics in this article


I decided to wash the flannelette nightie I made for the doll. I know that flannelette shrinks a bit but I thought I should check how much.
I used cold water and some dish washing liquid. Maybe a wool wash would be less harsh if I tried this again or perhaps a fabric softener after washing.

I swished it around in the kitchen sink.

I squeezed it as dry as possible then shook it out to reduce creasing.

I just hung it on the line but laying it on a towel and pushing it into shape would be a good idea for more delicate items.

I was surprised how stiff it went after washing. I didn't like how it felt and looked. I wouldn't wash flannelette for the dolls unless the doll clothes were second hand. You would need a fabric softener to  stop it gong stiff. I would try to spot wash and only if it was absolutely necessary.

What about shrinking? 

This is before and after. I guessed that it had shrunk just a bit.

After: it is a bit shorter and doesn't fall
as softly.
Before: it looks fluffier and it feels softer

When I put the pattern pieces next to the sleeves and skirt I could see that the sleeves were 1/4" shorter and the main skirt was 1/4" shorter. The nightie didn't seem to be any tighter in fit so it doesn't shrink on the cross grain, mainly the lengthwise grain parallel to the selvedge.
So, I am not going to wash or prewash my flannelette.

Just a note about flannelette. I think the same fabric is called flannel in the US. It is highly flammable and should not be used for nighties or flowing clothes on children. I think it is illegal to manufacture nighties in flannelette for children. Children's pyjamas should be close fitting to reduce fire danger from heaters, fires or candles.
Original flannel is made from wool. So historical flannel nighties are made from wool flannel not cotton flannelette.

My Conclusions

  • Don't wash doll clothes unless they are second hand and you want to clean them.
  • Musty smelling clothes from storage can be aired
  • Stains should be spot washed
  • Rayon needs prewashing by hand. It frays a lot if machine washed.
  • Basically no other fabrics need prewashing
  • Avoid fabrics that run but this is not necessary if you don't wash your doll clothes.
  • The harmful affects of chemicals used in fabric manufacture are a problem for people who work in the factory and are exposed to lots of chemicals often.
  • Formaldehyde can cause a rash when new clothes are worn without washing. This is because large areas of your skin are exposed and formaldehyde dissolves in moisture and sweat so it can penetrate the skin.
  • I thought this fact sheet on formaldehyde was informative. I don't seem to have a sensitivity to it but I always wash new clothes for people, sheets and towels.

Your Comments

  • All fabric must be pre-washed to remove chemicals used in fabric making. It is not good for children to play with unwashed fabrics
  • All fabrics should be pre-washed to remove dirt and grime accumulated after manufacture from handling in transport and being on shop shelves.
  • Fabrics from shops that look clean don't need to be pre-washed
  • The small amount of fabric in doll clothes doesn't seem to cause a problem when handled so pre-washing is not needed.
  • A personal sensitivity to the chemicals in fabrics means they have to be pre-washed before being handled for sewing.

Leave your comments on either my Facebook page or my Facebook Group

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

October Pattern Club 2019: New doll clothes patterns every month

Make this great outfit from October's patterns.

These cute 50s style trousers have slant pockets, elastic in the back and suspenders that cross in the back.

The turtle neck sweater is perfect to wear for the colder weather. It is easy to make with collar and cuffs from the same knit fabric. No need to find matching ribbing.

You can download these patterns now, inside the Doll Dressmaking Pattern Club.

READ MORE about the pattern club.

As an extra for Halloween there is an easy to create spooky eyes costume made from a variation of the turtle neck sweater. A full pattern for this round neck sweater and instructions and diagram for the applique eyes is ready to down load and save as an idea for next Halloween.

I made this little round neck sweater from stretch velvet and I used lace trim to hem the neck and wrists

All these patterns were available for download in October. There was also a Limited Time Special of the cuffed 50s shorts. The shorts were available for October only. You can find the cute cuffed shorts in my shops now. 

In Etsy  or

on my website

You can enrol in the Pattern Club now. See more HERE.

Happy Doll Dressmaking,