• Karole from Kimberling

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

Updated: May 2, 2018


"Why are you asking me?" -- you may ask.

Because, when I bought the pattern -- McCall's 2609 -- the views on the jacket cover appeared to be of historical outfits, but nowhere on the jacket or instructions does it state what periods the outfits are from.

And because I have no expertise in historical fashion.

And because I sew what I like, and only when I have to describe the outfit I have completed to someone else does it occur to me that it would be easier to describe the outfit if I could associate it with a fashion period.

One thing I am sure of is that the style is American. In my very recent online research I have found dresses (also skirts and blouses) with bolero jackets that have wide three quarter length sleeves -- in pictures from the 1860s -- so, mid nineteenth century is probably a good approximation.

View D in the bottom right corner is the pattern I used for my doll's outfit, along with the drawers in the upper left.

I would describe this pattern as one with historical styling in that the lines and accessories (petticoat, drawers, and undershirt) approximate the look/style of the period. Since joining several Facebook groups dedicated to making doll clothes, I have learned that there are patterns for 18" dolls that more accurately depict styles from the periods they represent, as well as employ the sewing techniques and fastenings used during those periods.

My choice of fabrics posed the biggest challenge in sewing this outfit. The edges of the satin brocade pieces unraveled easily, so it was necessary to finish/overcast all edges right away.

Very few adjustments were needed for the pattern to fit the 18" American Girl doll.

The Skirt.

I usually cut the waistband longer than the pattern piece and adjust it to the doll's waist, and anything it must go over, before attaching it to the skirt. Because the brocade caught on things easily, a snap was safer for the waistband closure than the ultra-thin Velcro I usually use. No other adjustments were needed for the skirt.

The Bolero Jacket

I sewed white baby size rick-rack between the lining and jacket fabrics -- around all the edges of the jacket and on the lower sleeves. The hook and eye closure at the top the jacket front was omitted. No other adjustments were necessary.

The Blouse

Other than adding the white cotton trim at cuffs and collar, no other adjustments were needed to the pattern. The blouse is not lined; it has traditional facings. Personally, I like blouses that have a lined bodice. Had I not cut out this outfit over a year ago, I would have chosen a blouse pattern with a lined bodice instead of using this pattern. Because the fabric I chose for the blouse was a medium weight cotton blend, the facings do not show through when the blouse is on the doll. However, had I used a lightweight or sheer fabric for the blouse, I don't think I would have been happy with the results. (The fact that I don't have a serger, and my overcast stitching on the edges of the facings does not lie flat, has a lot to do with my preference.)

The Drawers

These are more like pantalettes than the split drawers worn under mid 1860s gowns. I did cut the legs a little longer than indicated on the pattern and did not add a separate casing -- I turned the top of the pants fabric under to form the casing for the elastic.

I have learned over the past year that there are several ways to sew a lined jacket, put in back closures on blouses and dresses, and attach sleeves to blouses and dresses. Now when I cut out a pattern, I read the instructions and decide if I need to make any pattern adjustments in order to get the look I want, and use the fastening I want.

In the meanwhile, I still have ninety outfits already cut out, for which I must adhere to the pattern directions.

Hope to see you next week . . .

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