• Karole from Kimberling

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


I really wanted to impress you this week by telling you how Beta testing Simplicity pattern 1391 last week made sewing this Civil War outfit so much faster -- I really did.

But things didn't work out that way.

The pantaloons and bonnet, which were made according to pattern directions, did go faster; especially since the type of fabrics I used were very similar to those in my Beta-test. The dress should have been easier -- no peplum, no sleeve caps; simpler trim/piping -- but based on my Beta-test last week I decided to modify the pattern. The jacket, well, it was a Beta-test.

The Pantaloons

They are a little longer than the pattern calls for -- I took a narrower hem and added a wider double lace.

The Bonnet

The fabrics were similar to those used in my Beta-test last week - a poly-suede, cotton lining, ruffled lace for the inside brim , and satin ribbon for the ties. In the Beta-test, I had found that fusing the interfacing to the poly suede caused it to shrink a bit -- so this time I ironed the fusible web to the cotton lining pieces.

The Separate Belt

The pattern called for ties, but I found out last week that the suede ties on the dress had a lot of bulk when tied into a bow at the back. Since I was going to make a jacket that went over the ties at the back. I thought it best to skip the ties to reduce the bulk. In my stash was this wide, dark brown, picot edged taffeta ribbon. I made a flat bow (which I should trim more on the right side), sewed Velcro below the bow, and a small flower on the outside. There still is some bulk at the back, but the bow on the belt can be turned to the front or side of the dress, or left off.

The Dress

Based on last week's experience, I decided to fully line the bodice, and re-drew the back bodice piece to eliminate the self facing. That took a little extra time. What took more time was finding coordinating fabric to replace the old bodice and sleeves, and cutting them out, as well as the bodice lining. What took a lot more time was cutting out more dresses using the modified pattern -- more modern looking dresses -- which, of course. meant cutting out coordinating hats and petticoats (using other patterns.) I also lengthened the new bodice piece to make a blouse pattern, and cut out a few skirt and blouse outfits -- which added a total of 7 more Ziploc-ed outfits to my Rubbermaid bins.

To coordinate the top of the dress better with the skirt, I added a tab down the bodice front and trimmed it with the same fabric used for the skirt. (Had I not replaced the original sleeves and bodice, I wouldn't have had the fabric to do that.)

I did lengthen the skirt a little by making a narrow hem and sewing a longer lace at the bottom. A narrow dark brown satin ribbon was sewn at the top of the lace.

The Mandarin-type Collar

Instead of the Peter Pan type collar used for the Beta-test, I used the Mandarin-type -- high neck collar included in the pattern. This is a simple collar to put on, and will hide the neck-string-space on an American Girl doll. It is one piece, cut on the bias, that is folded over and sewn on at the dress neckline. Very simple to do. I used a poly-suede for the collar, so, even on the bias, it didn't have much-give to it, but I was pleased with the result. I will be using this collar and technique again.

The sleeve cuffs. I do not like the way this pattern addresses sewing cuffs on the long sleeves. It calls for sewing the cuffs so they are open, and keeping about 2 inches of the sleeve under-seam open. (The cuffs are not wide enough to go over the hand of an American Girl doll if they are sewn shut.) The problem is that, when sewn as directed by the pattern, the cuffs do not overlap enough to sew on a snap or put in a buttonhole and button to close the cuffs. I had to sew a hook and hand crochet a loop for it to hook onto, at the very ends of the cuffs so that the cuffs would close after putting the dress on the doll. It looks tacky, and, given that the openings on the cuffs are at the under-arm seams of the sleeves, it also looks odd. I have two recommendations for the long sleeves on this pattern. One: Cut the cuffs wider so you can sew them closed, or overlap them with enough room to sew in snaps. Two: Lengthen the sleeves and put in elastic (and elastic casings) at the end of the sleeves and eliminate the cuffs altogether. (I have written a warning to myself on the pattern jacket noting the problem with the sleeves/cuffs.)

The Jacket

This was my first time making the jacket included in Simplicity 1391. The jacket is fully lined. The fabrics used are the same ones used for the bonnet. If you have read my previous posts, you probably know my biggest challenge. The pattern calls for buttons down the front of the jacket. The space in the front where buttons and buttonholes are to be put is very narrow, so even if I was going to try to put buttonholes in this poly-suede fabric (which I wasn't), there is not a lot of space in which to put them. From the picture, you can see that I have not yet put on any closures. What I am thinking of doing is sewing a row of small buttons down both sides of the jacket that don't fasten at all.

With any luck, I can post this, and get those buttons sewn on before midnight.

Have a good week . . .

PS. Got the buttons on before midnight!

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