• Karole from Kimberling

Sewing for 18" Dolls - How Hard Can It Be?

Updated: Aug 7, 2018



Last week I had picked out five outfits stored in Ziploc-ed bags, and sewn only two. This week I was supposed to sew another. I had taken the components for a steampunk outfit out of the bag, ironed them, reviewed the instructions, and set the first pieces by my sewing machine.

So, how did I end up sewing a pop singer outfit?

I blame it all on the purple lace.

When I took the pieces out of the Ziploc bag to sew the civil war outfit (Ziploc should be paying me for commercial time, don't you think?), I didn't have lace for the pantaloons, so I went to my fabrics and notions to look for some. In the corner of the room was this purple lace -- not lace trim -- lace fabric 54 inches wide --yards of it, purchased about fourteen years ago when I was going to learn how to sew lingerie (I digress, that's another story.)

"I bet you never make anything with that purple lace," I said to myself.

"Oh, yeah?" I pugnaciously replied -- to myself. "If I have anything purple to match it, I could make a doll outfit."

So, I spent three hours pulling out trims, fabrics, buttons, doll shoes, and other doll paraphernalia, looking for something purple to match that lace. Unfortunately, I found purple patent boots, that matched the purple lace perfectly. I say unfortunately, because I had no plan or pattern in mind, but having met my own challenge to find something purple, was now committed to spending many more hours trying to come up with an outfit.

First, I made the skirt. I had a very wide ruffled white organdy elastic that became the waistband to which two lace tiers -- "THE" purple lace, and a very wide white gathered lace -- were sewn. Before deciding on how to fasten the skirt at the back, I had to decide what this "outfit" was going to be, in order to determine whether any other trim or fabric was needed for the skirt.

Well, I had a purple lace skirt and purple patent boots -- looked like this was going to be a costume -- a pop singer came to mind. Well, pop singers, like many performers, know that glitz shows up best in the spotlight (except for Dylan, Springsteen, Billy Joel, and Johnny Cash); so I added a white ruffled organdy and sequin trim above the purple lace. I then decided that the skirt would be open at the back and would fasten with hooks and eyes.

After three days, this outfit had only a skirt and boots -- and my living room and kitchen table looked like I had held a rummage sale.

Day four: Decision -- Do I need tights/leggings for this outfit? I had two pairs of white nylon leggings already cut out (in Ziplocs), so, I sewed one up, and, while I was at it, the other one too. In the same bag, I had two pairs of long evening gloves cut from the same fabric, so, I sewed those also. (The free pattern for the gloves is offered by Diane Morello, along with her YouTube tutorial at

As it turned out, the leggings wrinkled when the boots were put on, so -- no leggings.

At the end of the day, I hadn't made one thing to complete the pop singer's outfit, but the two pairs of white knit leggings and two pair of white knit gloves would come in handy -- some day.

Day five -- A fancy T-shirt -- that's what this outfit needed. Did I have what I needed to make that? Yes! A Liberty Jane pattern for a knit T-shirt with short cap sleeves, and a bright white nylon 4 way stretch knit fabric with psychedelic silver disks fused to it. Yes! that should work. I cut out the shirt, then I read the pattern directions, which called for finishing the edges of the neck and sleeves by folding them under 1/4" -- twice -- and stitching. Among the obstacles to overcome in order to accomplish this were: my lack of skill sewing with knits, the disks fused to the nylon fabric, and my sewing machine's tendency to eat fabrics if I sew too close to the edge. But I tried; I really did -- and then, threw the shirt pieces into the trash.

Being a die-hard -- a very frustrated die-hard, I took a break, came back three hours later, and reconnoitered. There had to be a way to get something glitzy to go with the skirt.

Of course, there was! In my closet were the swimsuits I had purchased on Etsy from Audrey'sDollClothes. Just what I needed!

Day Six. Putting a bathing suit on an American Girl doll meant I was going to have to find a way of hiding the neck string, and the difference in coloring between the doll's cloth body and vinyl neck. A choker was the answer. It was fashioned from the same trim used at the top of the skirt, and fastened at the back with a hook and eye. Matching finger-less gloves (wristlets) were easy to make from the same trim by sewing it to elastic.

A Hat?

At this point I had an outfit that consisted of three main pieces, two of which (the boots and bathing suit) I had purchased. And -- it took me six days to put it together! How dis-spiriting! I had to do something to make this outfit more . . .MINE!

I have noticed that most female pop singers DON"T wear a hat. Well, mine was going to wear a hat!

In my closet were some purchased "blank" hats that needed to be decorated; but they weren't appropriate.

So, I rummaged through all my patterns looking for a hat pattern that could be used for this outfit, and found a cloche hat -- part of KeepersDollyDuds Downtown 1920s pattern. I had used this pattern to cut out hats and dresses before, but those outfits were still in Ziploc bags; this was my first time sewing the hat.

I needed a bright white fabric with some body to it -- two squares of craft felt purchased at Walmart weeks ago fit the bill. There wasn't enough felt to cut out the band that is sewn at the base of the crown; but a package of wide satin ribbon used to trim baby blankets worked well. (Yeah, I had that for many years too.) This hat pattern was easy to follow, and I am sure will prove to be very versatile for future outfits.

Instead of the half-bow provided with the pattern, I used two flowers purchased on eBay from vendors in China over a year ago (purple in back, white chiffon in front), and made a simple bow with white ribbons for the back.

Ta-da! -- my Pop Singer outfit was complete.

(This is not an outfit that, even part time, should have taken six days.)

So ends The Saga of the Purple Lace.

(What am I going to do with the 2 1/2 yards left over?


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