• Karole from Kimberling

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


Given Sherlock Homes is the greatest sleuth in literature, this girl should be a contender.

That was my thought process, when I decided to create a Sherlock Holmes outfit for our girls.

The journey creating this outfit is a tale of success, failure, and compromise. ... followed by success.

STEP ONE: -- Sketch a Concept.

I didn't do that this time. Instead, my original concept for the Sherlock look was arrived at by finding book covers and picking one I liked. The Sherlock Holmes outfit I originally decided on would have a caped raincoat, a funny looking hat with earflaps, a working girl's skirt and blouse, a vest to match the coat, perhaps a modified tie, and serviceable boots.


The Coat and Cape

I didn't have a pattern with the lines and length needed for the coat and cape. But, months before, I had saved a Victorian Caroler coat pattern (with cape) by KeepersDollyDuds in my Etsy favorites list that I thought would work. (When I had saved the pattern, my plan had been to make a Victorian coat similar to the one pictured on the pattern cover.)

Imagining the pictures on the pattern in a plaid or hounds-tooth print without the bonnet and trim, helped me decide to purchase this pattern for Sherlock's caped coat.

The Deerstalker Hat

I went through all the doll patterns I had in my collection looking for a hat pattern and the closest one I found was a baseball cap, which had possibilities. Not knowing what the hat was called, I searched Ebay and Etsy for 18" doll patterns that included, the words, hat, cap, and hunting, and came across this pattern in Etsy shop UpCountryCrafts3 -- called Deerstalker Hat Pattern. For $3.99, I wasn't going to try to modify the baseball cap pattern I had (and hadn't yet used) -- I mean, look at this hat, it was not only perfect for my Sherlock Holmes outfit, I now knew what to call it.

The Blouse: Farmcookies Bodice Basics Pattern

I had already sewn several articles of clothing -- a dress or two, and several blouses -- using this pattern, and it was the first one I thought of for Sherlock's shirt/blouse.

The pattern provides several bodice, collar, and sleeve options. I chose the long sleeve and plain front options, lengthened the bodice to blouse length.and added a small rounded collar.

The Vest

As I mentioned in last week's post, I had created my own vest pattern and had several versions of it. The only question was whether the front should overlap and have buttons. I decided that it should.

The Skirt

No question, I was going to use the skirt pattern in the Hint of History Victorian Walking Ensemble pattern that I discussed in last week's post. If it were made of sturdy fabric without the bustle, it was the perfect style for a female sleuthing in the last quarter of the 19th century.

The Shoes needed to be practical for walking the wet London streets. I had purchased a pair of brown (faux patent leather) boots almost a year before that would work well.


This actually was the easiest step for this outfit since I had everything I needed: a lightweight unbleached muslin for the blouse, a drab olive and beige checked medium-weight woven cotton fabric for the coat, cape and vest, a lightweight cream satin for lining the cape, coat, and vest, and a heavy tightly-woven olive drab woolen fabric -- very much like an army blanket -- for the skirt (and possibly the vest.) I also had several button choices for the coat and vest, and a thin greenish brown grosgrain ribbon for the hat.

The tightly-woven woolen fabric was like using felt -- only much heavier -- seams did not require finishing (although they did need to be top-stitched to keep them flat), the skirt could not be hemmed and, and if used for the vest, the vest could not be lined. Only the skirt pattern needed to be changed; it had to be shortened, since no hem was needed.


This step always requires concentration, but, other than that, cutting went as well as could be expected. I cut two versions of the vest -- an unlined vest with the heavy wool fabric, and a lined version using the checked cotton and lightweight satin fabrics.

And while I was at it, I cut out two other Sherlock Holmes outfits -- with different fabrics.

To this point things were going so smoothly, that I was unprepared for the challenges to come.

You have noticed that the Sherlock Holmes outfit pictured has a cape -- but, no coat -- haven't you?



I sewed the fashion components of the Sherlock outfit in this order. Blouse, skirt, vest, hat, coat, and cape because I had never used the hat or coat pattern before and wanted to get the easier items out of the way.

Knowing the coat was going to be the most difficult and time consuming, I left it (and the cape) for last. As it turns out that was a poor decision for several reasons.

I had never used the Victorian coat pattern before, but because there was so much time and effort required to sew it, I decided to skip making a prototype. As it turned out, the coat was shorter than I had expected, and was too tight to put over the vest and long sleeve blouse. I contacted Eve Coleman (KeepersDollyDuds) in a panic and she worked with me to identify what went wrong (even though hundreds of these patterns had been purchased by others and used successfully.) I assured her I had taken special care sewing the coat, had also cut out two others from the pattern, and needed to know what went wrong before sewing them. Eve decided to mail me the pattern printed on her printer to check whether or not my printer was the culprit.

While waiting for the pattern pieces to come, I wanted to finish the Sherlock Holmes outfit, and searched for something in my fabric stash to make a collar for the cape, a fabric that would match the cape and hat, so that the cape could stand alone as a main component of the outfit.

In my stash, I found a sample square of cotton velour upholstery fabric for the collar that matched the cape perfectly. The same grosgrain ribbon used to tie the ear-flaps to the top of the deerstalker hat, also served as ties for the cape. As you can see in the above picture of the finished Sherlock Holmes outfit, these modifications worked well.

Several days later, the pattern pieces arrived in the mail. Immediately matching my pattern pieces to them, I found they were exactly the same. Back to my sewing machine -- the machine I have been using for years. The sole plate on my machine has markings for 3/8", 1/2" 5/8" -- up to 1 inch. Having measured the accuracy of these markings before, I had assumed that when I sewed to the edge of the presser foot (where there are no markings), I was sewing a 1/4" seam. Turns out that was not so. The distance from the needle to the side of the presser foot that came with the machine was 1/16" wider than 1/4". Given that there are more seams in a princess style coat than a regular coat, and that my guide was off 1/16", I estimated that my coat was 3/4" smaller than it was supposed to be, which is what accounted for how tight the coat was at the chest and shoulders. How embarrassing! I sent an email with an apology to Eve Coleman who couldn't have been more gracious. I then went on Amazon to find a presser foot for my Singer that would give me an accurate 1/4" measurement.

But, I owed it to myself (and Eve Coleman) to demonstrate that the KeepersDollyDuds' Victorian coat pattern was a great pattern for Sherlock's raincoat. By my sewing machine, were two Ziploc bags containing the other two Sherlock outfits I had cut out. "One," I said to myself. "You only need to sew one of them."

And . . . . Here it is!

Thank you, Eve.

Hope to see you next week . . .

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