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,