• Karole from Kimberling

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


One week I'm sewing Eliza Doolittle's Flower Vendor outfit; the next -- Carol Burnett's Cleaning Lady outfit.

What do they have in common, besides the wonderful nostalgic feelings they evoke?

1. The patterns used for the skirt, blouse, and long jacket/vest are the same (with some modiications.)

2. Both outfits were supposed to look like second-hand clothes, and presented the challenge of how to coordinate uncoordinated fabrics to create an appealing overall effect.

3. Both outfits required me to create/modify a prop -- in this case, the mop.

The Blouse and Skirt

Both were made using Butterick 5110 (View D for the blouse with the sleeves from view F; View E for the skirt. The picture of the pattern jacket is in last week's blog post.)

The blouse opens down the front, has a pleat in the back, and has long sleeves with elastic at the wrist. Instead of using bias tape at the neck and front blouse openings, I increased the width of the center front pattern piece by 1/4", lined the bodice with the same fabric, used Ultra-thin Velcro for the center front fastening, and hand-sewed buttons down the front. Lining the bodice, meant that I had a pleat in the back and in the back lining. Fortunately, that did not add too much bulk.

I cut the skirt pattern piece 1/2" wider at the center back, so I could sew Ultra-thin Velcro down the back of the skirt (waistband and 2/3 of skirt length.) The extra 1/2" on each side enabled me to turn the raw edge under 1/4" for a finished edge, and gave me enough room to fold the finished edge again 1/2" and use 3/8" Ultra-thin Velcro for the back closure.)

If you notice, even though the floral and plaid fabrics don't match, the dark green stripe in the plaid loosely coordinates with the dark green of the blouse. The bright lime green polka dot knickers clash (as they should), but they are still a shade of green, and very little shows -- so they are noticeable, but don't overpower the skirt and blouse.

The Sleeveless Coat/Vest

From the publicity photo of Carol in costume, it looks like the "vest" she is wearing is a poorly fitting man's suit coat with the sleeves and buttons cut off. Making a suit coat and cutting off the sleeves to achieve this look requires an effort that exceeds my passion for authenticity. Instead, I bought a charcoal grey sweatshirt at Walmart on sale for a dollar, and used the pattern I modified for Eliza Doolittle's coat -- minus the sleeves, lining, and collar -- to cut out a long, sleeveless vest. After sewing shoulder and side seams, I then pulled the fabric out of shape, and sewed a line of stay stitching 1/2" from all raw edges. (In last week's blog post, there is a picture of Read Creation's Riding Jacket pattern, with a discussion of how I modified it for Eliza Doolittle's costume.) A lot of the sweatshirt is left for other projects.

The Knickers/Pantaloons (Simplicity 1392, View E)

The pantaloons (top row, second from the left) come below the knee, but lace has been added to get that length. I needed the pantaloons to be that length, but adding lace wouldn't look right, so I lengthened the pant leg so the fabric could be folded under to form a casing for the elastic with a ruffle below it.

The pattern calls for making a self casing at the waistline, but had I followed that direction, the top of the pants would be below the waistline, so I sewed white frilly elastic at the top of the pants instead -- which resulted in the fit I wanted.

The Shoes & Socks

The cleaning lady wears over-sized brogans with untied laces and socks that droop. I had purchased the socks and work boots at different times during the past year. The socks are crew length, and just pushed down to look stretched out. I turned the top of the boots down, and tied the laces over the tongue to mimic that effect.

Red Hair with Bangs?

I don't own an 18" doll with bright red hair, and figured most dolls weren't made with that shade of hair, which would certainly limit the number of people who might want to buy this outfit. So, I did what I always do when searching for answers for small world fashions -- I logged onto eBay. First, I confirmed my suspicions about how few dolls had that color hair. Next, I verified that buying a wig to go with this outfit would border on infeasible -- in terms of finding one, and adding to the cost of the outfit.

"What about hair pieces?" I thought. "They have those pink hair extensions for dolls, maybe they have something in red." While searching, I found this: " 10cmx100cm DIY Welf Fringe Wig High-temperature Wire Hair for 1/3 1/4 BJD Do PL " -- hair fringe about 4 inches long that, I guess. is used for making doll wigs or hair. A 25 inch length cost $1.42.

And they had it in a light red auburn color! Bingo!

No way was I going to make a wig -- BUT -- 4 inches was enough to make bangs -- AND -- if I sewed it to the mobcap/dustcap -- the outfit could fit almost any 18" doll.

I often talk myself into these things -- but, what the heck, I was going on vacation in a few days, so, it might be at the post office when I got back -- since the vendor was in China. It was only $1.42, so I ordered two, cut out the rest of the cleaning lady's outfit, put it aside, and went to work on something else.

The fringe came almost 3 weeks later, a few days after I got back from vacation.

So, a few days ago, I started sewing the cleaning lady's garb.

First up -- The Mobcap/D with Fringe.

Cutting out the mobcap. You don't need to purchase a pattern for a mobcap -- especially a plain one. A ten-and-a-half inch dinner plate served well as a template. I cut two pieces, sewed right sides together -- leaving 3 inches open to pull the cap right side out -- and for the opening needed to insert the elastic.

Sewing the Two Lines of Casing Stitches (Through which the Elastic will be Threaded)

After pulling the cap right side out and pressing it flat, I sewed two parallel lines of stitching 3/4 of an inch and 1 1/4 inches, respectively, from the edge of the cap -- leaving a gap of about one inch right above the opening at the edge of the cap. (needed for inserting the elastic.)

Adding the Hair/Fringe - Setting the zigzag stitch so that it was narrow, and starting at the back of the mobcap (at the opening on the edge), I sewed the fringe right above the top line of casing stitches (the stitching closest to the center of the cap), so that the hair/fringe extended beyond the outer edge of the cap. When reaching the back of the cap (full circle), I locked in the stitching and cut off the remaining fringe. (Less than one length of fringe was needed.)

Inserting the Elastic Taking 1/4" elastic and using the doll's head to determine the right length, I cut it, inserted it into the casing, and then sewed up the open edge of the cap.

Cutting the Hair/Fringe - After placing the cap on the doll's head in the position I wanted, I then cut the fringe over the doll's eyes to form bangs. With the elastic inserted in the cap, the fringe was bunching, so the bangs were not perfectly even when I cut them. I could have taken the cap off the doll, stretched the elastic out and then cut the bangs, but I didn't want a precise cut for this outfit.

On the left is a picture of how the cap looks on an American Girl doll with long hair without putting her hair up under the cap. The long hair can easily be pinned up under the cap.

The Work Gloves

American Girl dolls don't have individual fingers, so making working gloves shouldn't be that hard.

Trial and error isn't really a technique, it's more ... well, a trial; and that's how I made the gloves. I traced the doll's hand, made a catcher's mitt kind of pattern and sewed, tried on, trimmed, sewed some more, etc. I used a scrap of white medium weight cotton for the gloves, and brown frilly elastic at the wrist to keep them on. They are not a work of art -- but then, again, neither are working gloves.

After leaving my blog draft, while straightening up my home office/doll supplies storage facility, I found a free mitten pattern that comes with a tutorial. It would have worked really well with a one way stretch fabric. The tutorial demonstrates a novel way of sewing the mittens from the pattern without cutting the pieces out -- I SHOULD HAVE TRIED IT! Here's the link:

The Mop

I thought a mop would be a good prop for this outfit, so I crafted one with a dowel, Wright's cotton piping, and clear Gorilla Glue.

It's time to get back to those outfits in Ziploc bags waiting to be sewn.

Maybe next week.

Hope to see you then . . .

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