• Karole from Kimberling

Updated: Mar 26

What Type of Petticoat Is Needed for This Dress?

Usually, I make a doll dress, look at it on the doll, and decide whether it needs a petticoat. But for this dress, the petticoat is a critical component. What Dress? The one Anna wore in "The King and I."

Three months ago, I decided that making Anna's dress would be my next project, and have been dithering and procrastinating ever since.

My analytical self said, "Just begin -- "DO SOMETHING! -- Write down the tasks that need to be accomplished, prioritize them, and start on the first one."

I don't listen to myself very well, so it took a while, but I finally made a list.

The first task on the list was to list all components needed for this costume -- which are: the ball gown, the petticoat, the gloves, the fancy hair net, and the shoes (Since one cannot see the shoes, they can be purchased.) Task 1 complete.

The second task was to gather materials needed to make each component.

  • For the gown, I needed a pattern -- one I could modify to achieve the "look" of Anna's -- and, I needed fabric. I found a pattern that I thought would need only minor adjustments, and settled on a satin that, although not exactly the same texture and color as Anna's, was probably as close as I was going to get. [I will blog about the gown when it is finished.]

  • The accessories - gloves and hair net. I had fabrics for both, and a pattern for the gloves.

  • The Petticoat

I had a light cotton blend and a wide, heavily embroidered cotton trim that I could use for the petticoat.

I also had fabric-covered plastic boning, and cotton cording that I thought might work to shape the petticoat. I had never used either.

The third task was to determine the order in which the costume components should be made.

  • The accessories aren't needed until the gown is finished. They can be made last.

  • The skirt of the gown cannot be cut out until its length is established. The length of the gown depends on the width, shape and fullness of the petticoat underneath, so the petticoat must be made first.

Designing the Petticoat Looking at Anna's dress, two things are obvious:

1. The waist of the petticoat cannot be bulky; if it is, it will ruin the lines of the fitted bodice.

2. The shape and structure of the petticoat is critical to the shape and movement of the gown's skirt .

Petticoat Prototype

What you see on the right are two petticoats made with the same fabrics.

  • The top section of the petticoats are made with a lightweight lawn type of fabric. A wide bias strip made of the same lightweight fabric was used to make the waistbands. Quarter inch satin ribbons are threaded through the waistbands and tie at the back.

  • The bottom sections of the two petticoats are made of the same heavily embroidered cotton trim. The differences between the two are:

- The petticoat on the right has fabric covered boning sewn around the inside of the skirt approximately two inches from the bottom.

- The petticoat on the left has two rows of

bias tape sewn around the inside; one row about 2 inches from the bottom; the other row about 5 inches from the bottom. Cotton cording was pulled through each row of bias tape.

As you can see, the cording does almost as good a job at holding the shape of the petticoat as does the boning. The channel to hold the cording needed to fit closely around the cording. A little room was needed so that the cording could be pulled through the bias channel, but the snugger the fit, the firmer the cording, and its ability to hold the shape of the petticoat.

The petticoat on the right, with only one row of boning, falls more gracefully than the one on the left, and will look better under Anna's gown. The petticoat on the left with two rows of cording bells out at the hip, and would go well under a Tudor style gown.

Technical Notes

  • The top edge of the upper section of the petticoats is gathered at the waistband. To reduce bulk, the upper edge of these sections are not as wide as the bottom edge. (The bottom of the top sections have to be as wide as the bottom sections; in this case 36 inches.)

- The length of the top sections were measured to be the length from waist to right below the doll's hip plus 1/2 inch (for waist and bottom section seams.)

  • The bottom sections of the petticoats (made of heavily embroidered cotton trim) are 36 inches wide.

- The length of the bottom section of the petticoats was determined by measuring from the doll's waist to the top of foot; subtracting the length of the top section (without seam allowances); and adding 1/4 inch for the seam at the hip. (The embroidered fabric has a finished edge, so no allowance for a hem was needed.)

  • I used a bias tape maker to make the bias tape for the cording channels. Bias tape makers come in several widths -- I have a set with 4 different widths. These come in very handy when you need to use bias tape and want to match the fabric you are using for a garment. You simply cut bias strips out of the fabric you want (the bias tape maker packaging will indicate the width of the bias strip you need (or you can experiment); pull the strip through the tape maker; and press it with an iron as you pull it through. - Bias strips are strips of fabric cut diagonally across the fabric -- at a 45 degree angle from the selvage.

  • Wide bias strips of the lightweight fabric were cut to make the petticoat waistbands. These strips needed to be wider than the bias tape makers I had, so I cut the strips, and pressed one long edge under 1/4 inch before sewing the raw edge to the gathered top section of the petticoat.

  • To make the waistband of the petticoat adjustable, I chose 1/4" satin ribbon to pull through the waistband. Elastic would have added too much bulk.

Petticoat -- Done! (and it only took 3 months)

Gown, Gloves, and Hairnet To Go!

  • Karole from Kimberling


Lesson Learned: Making things Simple, Isn't Simple

I was certain after finishing my first "Simple Lines" dress and jacket pattern, that things would go a lot faster the next time -- especially if I chose something like a basic hat - a hat with only a few pattern pieces; one that would sew up quickly, and could be made with fabric remnants and scraps.

Two weeks and five prototypes later, a two piece hat pattern emerged -- a pattern with a soft teardrop shaped crown and a hat band of graduated width. Pictured below is the first hat I made with the pattern; the point of the teardrop crown is in back, the highest width of the band is also in back -- giving the hat a downward slope towards the face. The crown and band are made of thin white felt. The crown lining is a vibrant turquoise satin. Since the hat is made of felt, no interfacing was necessary.

I was very pleased with the result. Because the felt was not bulky, it was easy to work with.

But, felt doesn't come in many colors, and a basic hat should be able to coordinate with many fabrics and color schemes, so I made the next hat with a soft wool flannel.

My choice of fabric was easy. I was in the process of making a turn of the century outfit -- one I thought a teacher might wear in the early 1900s. (The outfit was inspired by a "Back to School Wardrobe Challenge" --outfit to be completed by August 24th -- issued to members of Facebook group " No Drama Doll Sewing and Creation.") I figured that in the early 1900s teachers couldn't afford extensive wardrobes, so a few sturdy, coordinated pieces of clothing would be appropriate. Having found a gorgeous soft flannel wool remnant at a yard sale a week before the challenge, I cut out a Victorian skirt from the wool, but didn't have much left for anything else. "A match made in heaven," I thought, and cut out a hat from scraps of the wool flannel.

To make the hat more of a "working girl's" hat, it needed to be less dainty than the first hat, so, I put the more rounded end of the teardrop in front, and the higher end of the hat band in front.

The wool did need more structure for the hat, so I added iron-on Pellon interfacing (made for shirt collars and cuffs) for the hat crown and band. I also chose the same wool for the crown lining.

Hit & Miss

I was feeling pretty confident after making these two hats, and thought the first hat might make a beautiful headpiece for a wedding dress if it were made of satin.

The turquoise satin was the only satin in my inventory, so the turquoise satin it would be. It was of medium weight, but not firm enough for the band to hold its shape over time, so I put interfacing in both the hat crown and band. .

Results? Two partially completed satin hats that ended up in the wastebasket!

My take-away from working with the satin is that it the satin is not stiff enough for the band to stand up without interfacing, but it becomes inflexible after the interfacing is added, causing the satin to crease and bunch when the crown is sewn to the band.

When faced with two failures in a row, there were only two choices -- try another fabric, or give up. (You're right -- there was really only one choice!)

Cotton velveteen was my fabric choice for the next hat, because I had cut out a black velveteen weskit for the 1920s teacher's outfit, and had some left over. On each of the first two hats, the fabric used for the crown and band were the same, so I decided to look through my fabric scraps for a fabric that would work well with the black velveteen, and found -- a bright orange-red and pink flowered velveteen remnant with a black background. Interfacing was added to the crown and band, and one of the ribbon flowers (instructions for bow are provided in the pattern) was sewn on the back band.

The hat pattern needed to be tested with at least one other fabric, cotton being the most common fabric available. I knew exactly the cotton print to test, because I am in the middle of designing a fancy dress pattern for intermediate sewers, and wanted a hat to go with it. The pattern is only partly done, but on my cutting table was the cotton fabric and some lace trim with which I was going to test it.

This version of the hat is made with the point of the teardrop facing forward and the lower part of the graduated band in front. The 100% cotton print is used for the crown and band, with an overlay of lavender lace sewn to the band before assembling the hat.

(This hat will now motivate me to get the rest of the outfit designed and sewn.)

Final Hat Pattern -- With Embellishments

The original pattern was a for a simple 2 piece hat with 4 possible variations: two positions for the teardrop crown (point in front or back), paired with the high section of the band in front, or the low section of the band in front.

When using rich fabric or colorful prints, it may not be necessary to embellish the hat further. But, if embellishments are added, they should be simple enough for the beginner seamstress to make. Here are the first two hats; one with a simple hand-sewn lace veil added, the other with a Yo-Yo and felt flower. Directions for making these, as well as a simple ribbon flower and two ribbon bows are included with the final pattern.

I can't really say that designing and testing this pattern -- which is a lot simpler than my jacket and dress pattern -- went any faster.

What I can say is that I am getting more comfortable and patient with testing, experimenting with alternatives, and adjusting the pattern along the way.

Now, If I could just get a magician to get my notes and sketches transferred to legible pdf files!!!!!

P.S. As you have probably guessed, I didn't finish my Back to School Wardrobe entry on time. I didn't get it done by the deadline, but today is still August 31st!


  • Karole from Kimberling

Updated: Jul 19, 2019


The first time I do anything, I know it will take at least ten times longer than it should for me to "learn the ropes." This effort was no exception.

My initial motivation for designing this 18 inch doll pattern was to modernize Kaya's wardrobe.

[Kaya is American Girl's Native American doll.]

Sewing patterns available for Kaya seemed limited to the traditional clothing worn by Native American women prior to the 1900s.

I wondered if I might be able to design a pattern for Kaya that would give her more modern wardrobe choices, while retaining the simple elegant lines of traditional Native American dress.

And because the simplest clothing lines provide the most versatile canvases for sewers to experiment with fabric textures, prints and colors, this new pattern could also be shared with Kaya's friends.

From Motivation to Concept

To my way of thinking, there are several aspects of traditional Native American dress that should be included in this pattern: a comfortable fit; an A-line silhouette; wide 3/4 length sleeves, and a tailored look without gathers and flounces.

So, with a pencil, and copy paper, I sketched several concepts that might meet these criteria. Since I have no artistic ability, my renderings looked more like a one minute Pictionary exercise.

These renderings led me to a basic concept. The pattern would have two components -- a semi fitted, sleeveless dress with a tailored skirt, and a short jacket with wide 3/4 length sleeves. When worn together, the dress and jacket would have lines similar to traditional Native American dress.

Because I wanted the pattern to be versatile, I decided the dress would have two skirt options -- an A-line skirt and a sheath/pencil skirt. As I tested different modifications of the pattern to improve the fit, I determined that two lengths of each skirt would add more versatility -- an over-the-knee length (more in keeping with traditional Native American dress) and a length coming just above the knee.

The decision for the dress to have a separate bodice and skirt, instead of the bodice and skirt being one piece, was also made for versatility; a separate bodice and skirt allows for greater experimentation coordinating fabric textures, colors and prints.

The curved, asymmetrical overlap of the jacket in front, preserves the loose, semi-fitted style of traditional Native American dress, as well as its soft curving lines.

From Concept to Pattern Prototype

Over the two years I have been sewing 18 inch doll clothes, I have modified many patterns, and created my own bodices, skirts, etc. to fit the look I was trying to achieve; such as, an Eliza Doolittle flower girl outfit, a Minnie Pearl outfit, a Scarlett O'Hara barbecue dress, and replicas of clothing my Mother made for me over sixty years ago. So, I had a collection of my own dress, blouse, sleeve, vest, and skirt patterns that fit the American Girl doll well. Starting with them, I patched together a pattern that I thought would work, and sewed my first outfit.

Here is the first outfit made with the test pattern.

When I found the fabric you see on the dress bodice, the large scale of the stylized feathers caused me to hesitate. But, the feather theme and the coral and turquoise colors fell so much in line with a Native American theme, I couldn't resist it. I already had the turquoise peach-skin fabric, and orange heart buttons in my stash, so the rest was a no-brainer. I chose to make the sheath skirt, with the over-the-knee length, and as you can see, the original pattern did not have a short stand up collar.

Happy with this result, I deemed only three pattern changes necessary; the dress needed some type of belt (you see a purchased belt here that has been cut down), the sleeves on the jacket should be a little shorter, and the shoulders of the dress needed to slope down a little more. I made those changes and added a cummerbund to the pattern. I also thought that a mandarin type collar might be a good bodice option, so also added it to the pattern.

Writing the Pattern Instructions

Before writing instructions, it was necessary to test the pattern changes and additions. To the left is the result of test two with cummerbund and stand up collar. The fabric on the jacket and skirt is a white stretch denim with a subtle geometric print.

The dress bodice, stand-up collar, jacket lining, and cummerbund are two coordinated geometric cotton prints in white, turquoise blue and goldish-brown.

Happy with these results, I was determined to write instructions and take relevant pictures while making a dress with an A-Line skirt and stand-up collar.

One of my objectives was to produce a pattern and instructions appropriate for a person at an advanced beginner sewing level; a person with basic experience sewing on a sewing machine, and some experience sewing from a pattern.

So, as I sewed my third dress (an A-line daisy print dress with stand-up collar), I took pictures with my digital camera, and hand wrote instructions. When done, I uploaded the pictures to my computer. and from my hand-written instructions created an MSWord document, inserting pictures as appropriate.

Testing the Instructions

What is clear to me in a set of instructions is usually clear to everyone else, because I have no hands-on talent for understanding spatial concepts, and if I get it, so will everyone else. This does not mean that I if I write a set of instructions that I understand, everyone else will understand them. So, I found a friend, new to sewing doll clothes, and asked her to make a dress and jacket for me.

Surprise! I did not expect my friend to sew from instructions downloaded to her smart phone! I know that, unlike me, many people do not have to print instructions to paper to use them. But the screen on a smart phone is too small to evaluate instructions and pictures at the same time, which is necessary to get the full value of the detailed instructions. My friend provided valuable feedback for improving the instructions, which included adding a notice to potential seamstresses, that using a smart phone to read detailed directions is not recommended. Here are pictures of two other outfits made during testing.

Another Surprise -- scanning pattern pieces into Adobe Acrobat to create a pdf file did not go smoothly. The reason I use Adobe is to fix the formatting of what I am scanning, so people downloading the file see the pattern the way I created it. However, when I scanned in 7 sheets of paper containing pattern pieces in landscape format; Adobe chose to scan some of the pages in portrait, and others in landscape. I still am not sure that when a person downloads the pattern file she will get all pieces of the pattern on the printed sheets.

Before I attempt to create another pattern, I will need to get more specialized software that will not require me to scan pattern pages into Adobe.

Or, perhaps it is my old printer/scanner that needs replacing, and a newer one would interact better with Adobe.

Or, perhaps a more patient person would have found a way to force Adobe to do what she wanted . . .

If my next post is to be my next pattern .... It will probably be a while!

PS: Several of you have asked when this pattern will be for sale. It is for sale in my Etsy shoppe KimberlingCouture. Here's the link.

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