Monday, May 13, 2019

How to sew the side seams on a sleeveless lined doll dress

How to line a sleeveless doll dress bodice by valspierssews

Doll dressmaking can be frustrating if you are trying to create dresses that make the doll look like a mini person. Have you tried all sorts of methods that apply to people clothes and had no luck.

Are you struggling with 1/4" hemmed neck and armholes or facings and wondering why the dress just looks wrinkly or bulky? 

The question is... to line or not to line.

Can you line a bodice? YES
Can you line a skirt? generally NO. Using a petticoat gives a much better look.

If you love making doll dresses from pretty cotton fabrics that quilters use then lining the bodice with a similar fabric gives a lovely smooth neat finish.

  • Don't get carried away with trying to fully line a bodice so you can't see any exposed seams.
  • These days clothes rarely have a separate lining. 
  • Historically outfits were lined to stop perspiration spoiling the fabric. 
  • You should be lining doll clothes to create the best look. 
  • Just line the bodice but leave the sleeve seams and side seams exposed.

How on earth do I get the side seams enclosed?

Here's how I use lining to create neat a very neat finish both inside and out for a sleeveless dress.
You leave the side seams for last so they are hidden between the main bodice and the lining.
This method eliminates the need for neck and armhole facings or fiddly 1/4" hems.

Start by sewing the shoulder seams for the main and the lining. Baste the collar in place on the right side of the main bodice.

Place the main and lining right sides together and stitch the back and neck and around each armhole.

Turn the bodice right side out and press it.

The hardest part is working out how to do the side seams.

It is a matter of pinning the main sides together and the lining sides together.

If you would like to download a full PDF tutorial showing the process step by step then I invite you to sign into my Free Resources Library.

You will find this tutorial in the How to sew doll clothes module. It is called "How to sew the side seams on a lined doll dress bodice".
There are lots of free patterns for doll sized things as well as tutorials and tips.

I love this little dress. You could make a whole summer wardrobe for your doll with this one design. Just use different fabrics and add some different trims. This is my 1804 The 18" Dress.  There are lots of variations with sleeves and collars and skirt lengths included in the pattern. Buy it NOW

Happy Doll Dressmaking

Friday, April 26, 2019

How to sew a doll skirt with a waist band

How to sew a skirt for doll clothes

How to sew a doll skirt

A friend of mine asked me if I would make an outfit for her vintage doll to replace the original clothes the doll came dressed in. You know how it is. The clothes were just gone.

If you think you are ready to move onto making a gathered skirt with a waist band I am slotting this blog post ahead of more elastic waist variations because I promised to dress the vintage doll.

I have quite a few skirt patterns in my Etsy shop. I have yet to publish them in my Aussie shop. Just let me know if there is something you want me to upload.

I love these vintage suspender skirts

Make sure you check out this tutorial for the Glitter Girl gathered skirt HERE.

And you can find lots more about designing a gathered skirt in this blog post HERE
Also you can join my free resources library.

How to sew a gathered skirt for your doll

The skirt part

This doll is about 14" tall so I am going to use the same size skirt that I made for the Glitter Girl because that amount of width at the hem looks good on this doll too.
I am cutting the skirt strip 4 1/2" x 24". I ended up using the same pattern piece that I used for the netting in this skirt HERE

valspierssews doll clothes patterns

If I was making the skirt for my:

  • 18" dolls I would cut the skirt strip 6" x 30"
  • 19" Gotz Hannah doll I would cut 6" x 30"
  • 20" Australian Girl Doll I would cut 6 1/2" x 30"

This allows for a waist seam of a good 1/4" and a hem of a good 1/4".
I say 'good' because I find that you always need a bit more to cover the gathering threads and you always cut a fraction off when you overlock the hem edge.

Skirt Pieces
Overlock the back facing edges.
Overlock the hem edge and turn up a 1/4" hem.
Press in the back facing about a 1/2".

The waist band

Just remember that the thicker your fabric the longer the waist band needs to be.
My waist band will enclose the waist seam and overlap by 1/2" at the centre back.
This means I need to measure the doll's waist then add 1/2" for the overlap as well as another 3/4" for the seams on each end. I say 3/4" because it always seems to work out as a bit more than a 1/4" overhang at the backs when you pin on the waist band. If you want the skirt to go over a blouse or T-shirt you should measure the doll's waist over the blouse or shirt or add an extra 1/8" on a small doll and closer to 1/4" for big dolls.

The vintage doll waist is a bit less than 8 1/2" so I am going to use 8 1/2" + 1/2" +3/4" = 9 3/4 for my waist band strip.

Because the doll is small I will use a 3/8" finished width for my waist band. For bigger dolls I would use 1/2" finished width. If your fabric is thicker than light cotton or polycotton you should allow an extra 1/4" for folding the seams into the waist band.

Press in a 1/4" on one long side of the waist band.
Pin the right side of the waist band to the wrong side of the skirt.
Keep the back facings folded in and extend the ends of the waist band 1/4" past the skirt backs.

valspierssews doll clothes patterns

Stitch then trim the seam a bit. Press the waist band up towards the seam.
Fold in the ends of the waist band then....
Fold the turned under edge to the front and stitch it down. I use a small patch of hook and loop at the waist in the back.
I now have a skirt pattern I like for this doll. I will be making the outfit skirt next.

If you are looking for patterns for various skirts for various sized dolls you should look out for my Pattern Club opening soon.

New Pattern Club Coming Soon

I am starting up a membership site in the next few months. I already have a few patterns in place and I have 3 great new patterns lined up for the first month's instalment. I will be opening the enrolment for 10 days only. Founding members will have the lowest price of $10USD/month. Every six months over a couple of years I will be opening membership with an increased price. The final subscription fee for a huge pattern resource and continuing new additions will be around $20USD

If you don't want to miss out on the sign up period click the link below and leave your email address. (This is a separate list from my newsletter)

Sign up to be notified when the Valspierssews Pattern Club is open to join

I will still be adding free resources to my Resource Library at 
If you are not already signed up you should check it out.

Happy Doll Dressmaking,

Monday, April 8, 2019

How to sew a doll skirt for 18" American Girl dolls


While researching and sewing for the doll skirts blog posts I came across this old post. I have updated the post. I thought it would also be a good time to revisit the free apron I included in the newsletter last year. You can find it in the Doll Accessories Section in the Free Resource Library

Skirt Length

The skirt looks best with the waistband a bit above the waistline. You need to add 1/2" to each of the skirt lengths listed. 1/4" for the waist seam and 1/4" for the hem. Finished skirt lengths that I like are:

4" for a cute dolly look. (high gather for a Betsy McCall look)

5" for a nice party dress or day dress and a more demure look.

7" for midi skirts and a casual look. (at least mid gather)

9" + shoe height for ankle length just above the floor. (at least mid to high gather)

9 1/2" + shoe height just skims the floor. (at least mid to high gather)

Remember, you need to add 1/4" or 1/2" for the waist seam and 1/4", 3/8" or 1/2" for a hem.

Skirt Width

There are 3 widths of skirt that work well depending
on how much gather you want. I have also found that 
the longer the skirt the more width you need to get 
the right look.

Short skirt/low gather 24" wide

The 4" skirt and the 5" skirt are as long as I would go when using a 24" width for gathering. This little blue skirt is cut in 2 6 1/2" wide pieces that i stitched at the side seams. You can see how to make this skirt HERE

Knee and just below/mid gather 30" wide

This is my usual skirt length and skirt width. I find that 36" for a knee length skirt is just a bit too flouncy. My 1804 pattern has the skirt pattern pieces for the front and the back so you can fit it onto a fat quarter. A 30" gather means you save 6"on trims too. 

You can buy the 1804 Dress pattern on Etsy or on my Australian Website (GST free for Aussies and New Zealanders).

Doll clothes patterns by valspierssews
Just one of the many variations for 1804 dress pattern

Long floor length/high gather 36" to 40" wide

The longer the skirt the wider you want it to be at the hem. Floor length skirts are OK at 30" wide but 36" is better.

This dress pattern along with the princess dress are not published.
I took them down to rewrite the instructions. They will go back up one day.

Long floor length/super high gather 50" wide (Not for the faint hearted. You have to pull up the fabric as much as it goes to get the right width.)

I have only tried 50"once. I used satin fabric for a princess dress and had so much trouble trying to pull it up enough. The gathers also create a lot of thickness so I had to make my waist band about 13" to get it all to fit on the doll. I ended up not liking the skirt as much as the one on the witch.

If you want to make an economical, easy to sew, great looking skirt go for a 24" x 5 1/2" rectangle with a 12" to 12 1/2" Waistband. If you want the skirt and waist band to overlap by a 1/2" you need to fold your fabric to mimic the waist band then wrap it around the doll and any shirt you want to tuck in. The overlap needs to be 1". You can see how I check the waist band length HERE

Waist Band Ease

The wider the skirt (more gathers) or the thicker your fabric the more ease you need in the waistband.

A cut length between 12" and 12 1/2" fits on a 30" gathered skirt so the skirt can be worn over a shirt or t-shirt. Check that the cut length fits around your doll and any tops to tuck in, with a 1" overlap. The super high gather waistband is 1" longer at 13".

The thickness the fabric you are tucking into the skirt also has to be considered. A T-shirt needs more ease than a lawn blouse.
An all purpose 12 1/2" waistband will be my "go to" waistband for my skirts now because I like to mix and match and never know which tops I want to tuck in or how much underwear she will have on. The width is a matter of taste but 3/8" to 1/2" finished width is a good look.
Remember that thicker fabric requires a longer and a wider waist band.

Free Patterns

You can add to your skirt experience by downloading a free apron accessory pattern from the Valspierssews Resource Library

An apron is a perfect accessory because you can create cute, whimsical, romantic, vintage, cooking or themed outfits by just adding an apron in the right fabric.

(The link is to a bundle. I am still testing out the Teachable site. If you have enrolled in the separate sections I am not sure that enrolling in the bundle is necessary. Get onto me at if there is any problem or confusion.)

Find your free apron pattern to download in the Doll Size Accessories section of my Free Resource Library.

Happy Doll Dressmaking,

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Free Skirt Pattern: Part 2 of Gathered Skirts are perfect for doll clothes

Please share this great pattern by Pinning the image above or sharing on FB.

Gathered skirts are a quick and simple garment for any doll.

If you have a skirt or dress that fits your doll you can make a pattern for a gathered skirt.

  • Measure the circumference of the skirt hem
  • Measure from the place you want the finished skirt to start and end. Just above the true waist (narrowest part of the torso) down to just above the knee.
  • Add what is needed for the type of casing you want. 
  • Add what is needed for the hem you want.
  • Measure the elastic around the waist of the doll dressed in a top that will tuck in. The ends of the elastic should just meet.
I have been experimenting with the skirt for the 14" Glitter Girl Doll. I trust it will fit the 14" Wellie Wisher Doll.
Even knowing the 5 steps above there is some trial and error involved. 
  • I tried several different ways to gather the waist
  • I tried several different types of elastic
  • I had to adjust the length a couple of times to get it looking just right.
  • I also found that for the smaller doll the hems and trim made the skirt stick out too much because they made the hem edge to stiff for the length of the skirt
Because I am a designer I like to experiment and see what affect different variables have on the finished garment.

I want to share the latest project with you.

It is a gathered skirt with an underskirt and a top skirt. It has two layers of netting for the underskirt that stick out below the top skirt by about a 1/2". The top skirt has a 1/4" hem and is made from light weight woven fabric that is not too stiff. Patchwork cotton works well.

I stitched the two layers of netting right side up on top of the right side of the top skirt using a 1/4' seam. I didn't trim the seam allowance.

I folded the layers so the seam was enclosed then stitched the casing rows.

It is easy to thread the elastic from CB to CB across the waist edge then you just stitch the CB seam.

If you would like to have a go making this skirt for your 14" doll I have created a new item in the Fashion File and Patterns section of my Free Resources on Teachable. You will have to sign up or sign in if you are returning. 

You get the pattern and a photo tutorial.

If you are new to Teachable, when you sign up I will transfer your email to my mailing list. If you decide you don't want my newsletter it is easy to unsubscribe. However, you will stay signed up to access the Free Resources.

Over the next few months I will be tooting my horn about the amazing sterling silver earrings that I design and my husband hand crafts by cutting out the shapes from silver sheets.
I have just set up another Etsy shop called AussieHandmade.

Even if you don't want to buy earrings I hope you will go and have a look and favourite the shop or a few items. They are really well made but I think he is a bit nervous about putting them out there.

Don't forget: 


Friday, March 8, 2019

New T-shirt Doll Clothes pattern for the 18" Boy Doll

Boy Doll clothes T-shirt doll clothes pattern for 18" dolls by valspierssews. Fits popular 18" dolls like American Girl Doll

Since discontinuing 1801 knit pattern to do a revamp of how it was presented, I have been doing bit on and off. I sat down finally and finished the t-shirt pattern for the boy.

It has a slightly wider neck than the girl t-shirt so it looks a bit more manly.
It has a slightly wider neck band so it looks bigger in general.
I made the armscye straighter as well as a bit lower in the underarm. This gives a more relaxed masculine look.
I made the side seams straight and the sleeves longer.

All these small changes go together to make the boy look like a boy rather than just a boy with a girl's shirt on.

Strangely the boy shirt looks great on the girl. It gives her a more little girl look because it doesn't have all the female fashion features.

I had to make lots of samples to get the look just right.

Get the pattern in my Etsy shop or my Australian shop (GST free for Australian and NZ Customers for 2019).

I intend to offer at least 2 more designs using the same front and back pieces. They will have long sleeves, a faux turtleneck, a v-neck, shorter bodice and longer bottom band to create a sweater vest, also bands and a lower neck line for a tank top.

I wanted to make this 1874 classic knits collection for the boys as affordable and comprehensive as possible and I will do the same with the revamped 1801 for the girls.
Once the basics are published I will have great fun making up lots of ways to create new designs from the classic shapes.
Some of these will be free and some will become retail fashion files.

If you have the old 1801 you will need to print out the back and front and cut out on the slim fit lines. Use the ribbing band pattern pieces and the short sleeve and you will have what you need to make the 1801 Module 1 Girl T-shirt

Here is a comparison between the girl and boy T-shirts.

You can find the 1801 Girl T-shirt with these links too.

If you love my patterns please pin the image at the top of the blog post.
If you love my patterns why not sign up for my newsletter. See the link at the top on the side bar.

Happy Doll Dressmaking,

Friday, March 1, 2019

Gathered skirts are perfect for dolls: Part 1 - Inspiration Overload!

Gathered skirts are easy to make and don't have to be plain or boring. Here I describe some of the exciting styles that you can quickly make for your doll without a pattern

Just a few styles for you to get started with are:

  1. The rectangle with a fold over elastic casing
  2. The rectangle with a sewn on casing.
This petticoat has the top tier with a fold over casing. I just overlocked the top edge and folded the casing over. This one has a centre back seam that makes threading the elastic and finishing really easy.

This skirt has a sewn on waist band that matches the skirt.

I also love this one with the contrast waist band.

3. The sewn on casing opens the door to other styles like ones with pockets built in. 

4. You can have the casing as one long piece or give it side seams to fit in sashes that tie in front or in back. You can have a fitted waist band or an elastic waist band.

5. Ones with panels in the skirt are great for adding pockets that just sew right into the seams.

6. Try ones with panels in the casing so you can have the sash starting in from the side seams. Make the tie narrow and cross it over at the back and tie in the front

Any of the styles can have:

  • Growth pleats in the skirt for decoration

  • A contrast band sewn to the bottom either single with a hem or folded and double

  • or contrast binding sewn to the hem edge
  • or a ruffle of any width to make a tier or a border

  • What about knit fabrics and ribbing for a waist band. You can have narrow ribbing or wide so it folds over like yoga pants waistbands. You can have a tight skirt or a gathered skirt.

  • Then there are endless embellishment ideas. I will have to leave them for another post I think. You can see some great ideas for braids, bows and applique in the examples I have already included.

All of these designs can be easily made into doll clothes skirts. You can see more inspiration on my Gathered Skirts Board. You can make skirts with shaped waist bands or belts and belt loops. I love the ones with the top of the casing made to show as a feature.

In Part 2 I look at how you can determine the waist band for different dolls, what elastic width and length is most suitable and what length sashes and belts work best. Also, how to make belt loops.

In Part 3 I show you how to make some of the different styles.

If you like free stuff you should check out my Free Resources at
Just sign up to see all the free sections.

Happy Doll Dressmaking,