Tuesday, August 30, 2005

In which I show how I make a doll's dress

If you have clicked over here from, welcome! In addition to this post, I have other tutorials on dollmaking and dressing. I've listed them at the end of this post. -Updated 2/28/13

I mentioned that I am in a few doll swaps. I'm not giving anything away by showing this because I already asked Elaine if she liked the fabrics I picked. This is, of course, a dress for the little girl doll from book, Dolls to Make for Fun and Profit by Edith Flack Ackley. The first step is assembling my fabric, pattern pieces and instruction. I photocopied the patterns from the book onto cardstock. This makes them so much easier to trace around.
The bumblebee fabric will be used for the doll's pinafore. (I'll share that later!)
Pattern pieces are cut out and ready to sew.
Mr. Bendy and I are ready! First we sew the two shoulder seams. (Do you love my vintage thread? I do!)
Next I sew the two collar pieces. This is gorgeous organdy from India that I bought on ebay. Organdy is like no other fabric I know. It creases like paper, and yet it is cotton. Here you see one side already sewn and turned. I've just stitched the second piece and am about to turn it.
I've sewn lining pieces out of some beautiful dupioni silk. I chose it because it is very light and will not add a lot of bulk. The lining serves two purposes. It makes attaching the collar much easier and I can create a really clean finish for the dress. You'll see what I mean at the end! So I've sandwiched the collar between the lining and the bodice which are right sides together. I've sewn up the two back edges (in brown thread) and all around the edge of the neck (in white thread).
This is how the bodice looks after turning it right side out.
Here I've attached the sleeves. I took a small running stitch along the very curved upper edge and then gathered it to fit the arm. I pinned it to the arm hole and stitched them together. I've learned that when sewing a gathered edge to a straight edge, it is best to have the gathered edge facing you. This way you can be sure that you're not flattening any of the gathers. It's bad to flatten gathers. You end up with "clumpy" areas instead of pretty, fluffy areas.
Here's a view inside the arm. You can see both my gathering stitch and the stitching that attached the sleeve to the bodice.
Here I have gathered the bottom of the sleeves. Next I sewed the arm bands (RST) to the gathered edge. It is only after this point that the side seams of the bodice are sewn along with the underarm seam. That might be more understandable in the photo below.
Now the arm bands need a clean finish. I turn it up to the inside and fold under the raw edge. Then I make itty bitty little blind stitches. This is the most persnickety part of the process, but when it's done, it's beautiful!
See, didn't that turn out well? You can't even see the stitching!
Here I have prepared the skirt. I've done a rolled hem along each side and a larger hem along the bottom. The top of the skirt is gathered and then sewn to the bodice.
This is one of the nicest touches. Remember the lining? Well, one of the last steps of the dress is to sew the side seams of the lining and then blind stitch the lining to the bodice. Around the edges of the sleeves and the edge of the bodice. No raw seams!
Here is where I disappointed myself. Big time. Here is a really important tip to my fellow dollmakers: Do not ask your husband for his opinion! "Honey, do these buttons look too big for this dress?" "No, they look fine." Hah! They are too big, but I was blinded by their pretty yellow color. I'm not very good at buttonholes either as is glaringly obvious. If I could re-do it I would, but the buttonholes are done. Oh well, all of this is on the back. *sigh* Sorry, Elaine!
And here is the front of the finished dress. From here it looks wonderful! And that is how I sew a dress. Some parts of it could have been done with the machine, but I really do enjoy hand sewing.

Okay, you can laugh when I say this, but I like to hope that years from now someone will really look at my tiny dresses and marvel at their good construction! Maybe they will say, "Oh look at the tiny invisible stitches!" I like that thought!

Other posts where I've written about making Edith Flack Ackley dolls:
In Which We Dress the Old Fashioned Doll
Making Little Doll Shoes
Tips for Making EFA Dolls

I am also the moderator for a Yahoo group called Edith Flack Ackley Cloth Dolls which has many great knowledgeable members to help you. We have a great links list and files which include free patterns and a wonderful photo gallery of dolls made by our members. You're welcome to join us!

I started making dolls when my mother was battling cancer. It became a sanity-saving hobby for me! I don't make many dolls anymore, but they will always be dear to my heart. I hope that what I've learned and/or accomplished in the dollmaking field can be a help to those who are new to this wonderful craft! Hugs to all, Bettsi (2/28/2013)

9 friends said....:

  1. Oh my gosh, Bettsi, I'm so impressed! Beautiful work! Josephine

  2. Great Tutorial! I love seeing these step by step pictures.

  3. This is a fantastic tutorial! Thank you so much! I can't wait to try this, I am always so intimidated by making doll clothing!

  4. Thank you, Friends! (I blush!) Bertha, seriously, if you ever get stuck, just email me.

  5. Brilliant tutorial, thankyou !

  6. How beautiful! All that little fiddly work is making my eyes and fingers hurt just thinking about it, but your end result is really stunning.

  7. This is a sweet little dress, and I know that one day, someone else will also truly marvel at the time and care you took to make it, and they'll be just as impressed as I am, with those tiny little stitches.


  8. I made a little plaid dress with a red collar for my little girl's doll using your tutorial. Turned out beautifully!! Wish I could figure out how to send you a picture :) Thank you for the easy to follow directions. ~CJ

  9. CJ, Thank you so much for letting me know! I'm glad this was helpful.


Thank you so much for taking the time to comment!