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,