Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Which We Dress The Old Fashioned Doll

It's been a very long time since I posted on this blog! However, it seemed like the right place for a dolly tutorial. This lovely lady-in-the-making is going to be Amy March. She will be the fourth March sister from "Little Women". With any luck, she will be joining her sisters who all live together in New York with Madeline who bought them.

Here she is in her petticoat and pantelets.
Sister Jo March, 2008
Sister Beth March 2008
Meg March, finished 2010
Like her sisters, she is made from the pattern in Edith Flack Ackley's book, "Dolls to Make for Fun and Profit" beginning on page 47. I have heard from other dollmakers that they have found the directions for dressing this doll to be rather confusing, so I thought I would share my steps as I move along in dressing Amy.

Here are pages 58 and 59 in the book showing the "waist" (bodice) and puff sleeve for the doll's outfit.

I am not covering the directions for the skirt because it is very easy and straightforward. I used my sewing machine for hemming and adding the rickrack. My one tip for this step is to invest in doll needles. Do you see that wicked long needle in the photo? It's great for attaching the skirt to the doll because you can sew right through the doll. This way the skirt doesn't have the opportunity to slip and slide while you are sewing it to her. As you can see, I have my pieces cut out and ready.

We start with the waist. I've sewn the darts and the bottom edge in the photo above sits on the dolls waistline. The slashes go around the dolls arms. I think that will make more sense as we move along!

Here, I've folded the bottom of the waist, centered on the doll's waistline and pinned it in place.

Now I am wrapping the rest of the wais to the back. As you can see, there is quite a bit of overlap. Fold in along one edge and pin everything in place.

In this photo I have pinned the doll's arms to her head (!) to keep them out of the way as I blind stitch the waist to the skirt. I find it easier to have her head towards me as I stitch the pieces together.

Here's a close up of the stitchin' action! Tiny little stitch in the bodice, tiny little stitch in the skirt and work your way around to the back.

When you get to the back, slip your index finger under the back seam. You do not want to sew the bodice to the back of your doll because you need the "wiggle room" later when you are creating the neckline.

And this is what you get! Kind of a strapless dress at this point with an extra long bodice! Now we'll get our sleeves ready.

First we sew up the sleeve seam. The we put a running stitch along the flatter edge of the sleeve. Do you see the sleeve on the left above? And can you see that the right edge is a little less curved than the left edge? That right edge is where you will put the running stitch. Do knot your thread before you get started!

I think this is one part where the picture can explain it better than my words! Essentially you are sewing the gathered bottom of the sleeve to the dolly's arm. In the view above, the right side of the dress fabric is facing 'in' to the doll arm.

Then you flip the sleeve up so it is now "right side out".

Here are both sleeves, gathered and attached to the doll along the bottom edge of the sleeve. As you can see, I've started gathering the top edge of the sleeve.

And the sleeve to the doll. Try to do this fairly high up on the shoulder, because we are about to shape the top of the bodice and you don't want your gathers and raw edges to show.

Here she is- ready for the last bit of dress shaping.

See what I've done? I have folded in the raw edges on the bodice top and sides and pinned it to the doll. I always do the back of the dress first.

Here again, it is just a matter of blind stitching directly to the doll.

Now, do the same with the front of the bodice, creating a nice smooth dress front.

And finally, some trimmings! That's my favorite part of being a dollmaker! I love finding old ribbons and rickrack. The pretty white bow trim I found at an antique mart. I just love the girlish touch it provides for Amy. I think it looks like something she would have done herself! And do you see that blue leather glove remnant? That will be her shoes, but that is for another day!
One more little note about dressing the Edith Flack Ackley dolls- we modern dollmakers are quite accustomed to quilters cottons. They're bright and colorful and usually the prints are small scaled. But...they are not always the best choice for these dolls. I forgot that and the dress above is made with quilters cotton. It looks nice in the photos, but in real life it is pretty stiff and thick for the application. I actually enjoy using vintage fabrics if I can get them. They are thinner and softer and drape much more nicely. I just couldn't resist that beautiful blue!

I hope you liked this and found it helpful. If you did, you are welcome to link to the tutorial! I would love to hear your comments!

5 friends said....:

  1. I'm so glad that you've posted this tutorial. I've always wondered at the sewing on of doll clothes, and now I see, that it makes it easier to construct the fancier clothes to do it that way. This post has really encouraged me. Thank you.


  2. Bettsi, your tutorial is excellent, thank you! I could never have figured out the sleeves and bodice by myself.

  3. Oh that was so helpful Bettsi! The few that I've done from that pattern just never looked quite "right"

    Almost makes me want to make another one today! I need to get back into that. I have 4 of my dolls with me (I've moved out and am in the middle of a separation/divorce) but I still have all my sewing supplies!

  4. thanks very much, you make it look so easily...I am from Venezuela, and my english it´s not that good. I would like to have some pattern, it will be very dificult for me to get the book.It´s that possible?..keep doining your beauties....Marisabel


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