• Karole from Kimberling

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


TRIGGERS: Felt Doll Jacket on Pinterest, Flowered Cotton Print

Browsing Pinterest one day, I came across a beautiful doll's outfit. The unlined jacket was made of light blue felt and had been embroidered with tiny silk ribbon flowers. The edges were pinked in a scalloped pattern. At that moment I knew I wanted to make a felt jacket with silk flowers. I had never embroidered with silk ribbon, so that would be a new challenge, and my pinking shears had pointed teeth, not softly rounded ones.

I wanted to make that jacket NOW, so just like any compulsive person would, I went to Amazon and eBay, found a book on how to embroider silk flowers, and bought silk ribbon, embroidery needles, and pinking shears with scalloped "teeth". It was going to take a few weeks before everything arrived, so, I had time to get the other materials together to make an outfit. (I justified these expenses by convincing myself that the cost could be amortized over "hundreds of outfits.")

My Bavarian Miss Outfit

(modeled on an Original Pleasant Company American Girl Doll)

As you read, you will see that I didn't start out to make a Bavarian costume. Sometimes inspiration strikes while one is in search of something else. This is one of those times.

The first thing you have probably noticed about this outfit is that there are no silk ribbon flowers on the jacket. By the time the silk ribbon and embroidery book came, the outfit was finished, and I was on to something else. (Item added to my To Do List -- Learn how to embroider silk flowers.)

Designing the Outfit

A few months before, I had found free clothing patterns for the original American Girl dolls on the internet at:, and had printed out the jacket pattern for Addy's wardrobe. With that pattern and a remnant of medium-weight dark brown felt, the jacket became the focal point for the outfit.

I also had this beautiful lightweight flowered cotton fabric, which somehow elicited images of Maria dancing in the Austrian hills in the opening scene of The Sound of Music. Combining those images with visions of a brown felt jacket and gaily flowered dress led to a design for a Bavarian outfit.

The Jacket

The scalloped pinking shears came within days -- so, I cut out and made the brown felt jacket first. Some color was needed on the jacket to tie the jacket to the dress fabric, so I machine embroidered the edges of the jacket and sleeves with an aqua blue thread.

The Dress

I had purchased Farmcookies' Bodice Basics pattern which I really liked, because the back of most Farmcookies' dresses open completely and are fastened with Ultra-thin Velcro -- making it much easier to dress a doll.

After downloading the Bodice Basics pattern,I contacted Kathy at Farmcookies (via Etsy) to ask if the back bodice was wide enough for Velcro or buttons, etc. Kathy not only introduced me to Ultra thin Velcro, she sent a me a sample which I used on this dress. I have been (pardon the pun) hooked on Ultra-thin Velcro ever since. It was easy to sew with, didn't tangle in the doll's hair, and didn't snag most fabrics (some care is needed with fine lace or delicate tulle.) I was so impressed with the Ultra-thin Velcro that I immediately purchased twenty-five yards of the white from Farmcookies.

Because the flowered cotton print was so vibrant and detailed, I chose the most basic bodice from the Bodice Basics pattern -- sleeveless, no bodice overlay, and no collar (instead, gathered ivory lace was sewn at the neckline.) The only other trim on the dress was a flat ivory lace sewn below the hem of the skirt.

The Headband with Fabric Flower

My pattern files contained a recently acquired, free headband pattern for 18" dolls -- found via Pinterest. So, a headband and flower, made of the same fabric as the dress, replaced the more traditional kerchief. The flower was my addition to the headband pattern. (A Google search will get you to several free tutorials on making headbands for 18" dolls.)

The Bloomers/Pantaloons

Before making doll fashions, I had noticed that underwear was the article of doll clothing most often missing from a doll's wardrobe, so, it could not be assumed that a buyer would already have underwear to go with a doll's outfit. I found a free underwear/briefs pattern via Pinterest, and had a few patterns for pantaloons that were included in patterns I had already purchased. Anticipating I would need these when I made outfits, I made about twenty briefs and several pantaloons before sewing any outfits. The pantaloons at the left was among them. Cream colored, with gathered cream lace in the back at hip level and at the bottom of the legs, they looked perfect with the dress.


To complete the Bavarian outfit, I chose serviceable brown lace up boots, boots that Maria might wear to roam the hills of Germany and Austria. These were purchased on eBay.

On a personal note: Yesterday, I returned from a river cruise along the Danube, and flew home from the airport in Munich, the capital of Bavaria. More importantly, my youngest daughter and I were able to take a side trip to the little Austrian town on the Danube where my grandfather was born. (The internet service on ship did not enable me to access my blog -- thus I missed posting a blog last week.)

Hope to See You Next Week . . .

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