• Karole from Kimberling

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

Updated: Mar 27, 2018


Inspiration provides my motivation to sew. Something triggers my imagination, and I think, "I could make a _ _ _ _ _ _ outfit." Then I have to figure out exactly what that outfit should look like, and how I'm going to create it.

TRIGGER: Black Patent Boots with Silver Chains

INSPIRATION: Rock Star Outfit (a no-brainer)

One day while browsing doll shoes online, I found these black patent boots on sale from an eBay vendor in the United States and thought, "Rock Star."

There were no rock star outfits among my ninety-four outfits already cut out and stored in Ziplock bags, but, inspiration dictated that one was needed to go with those boots. If I worked quickly, I could have a rock star outfit sewn by week's end, and because the eBay seller was in the United States, the boots would arrive by then, and my rock star outfit would be complete.

I needed to work fast, before inspiration struck again and I got side-tracked.

For me, creating small world fashions is one part inspiration, and nine parts WORK; the steps in my process are something like this:

  • Step One: Inspiration for an outfit - Takes seconds.

  • Step Two: Sketch out a few concepts of what the outfit could look like - About an hour. I have no drawing skills, but no-one else is going to see my sketches, so stick figures, with something sketched around them, only need to have meaning for me. I use colored pens to emphasize anything important -- that is the extent of my artistry.

  • Step Three: Find patterns for all the pieces in the outfit - One to two hours. I often must combine parts of different patterns to get the outfit I envision. I am not experienced enough to design fitted articles of clothing for dolls, but if I can't find a pattern for the component of an outfit, I will attempt something simple, which can mean changing the concept (back to Step Two).

  • Step Four: Find the fabric, trims, purchased components/accessories, and notions to execute the concepts - Takes me hours, and is critical for achieving the look for an outfit. Even if I already have all these things, it takes me a long time to complete this step, because, when trying combinations of color and fabric, the design concept or pattern usually needs to be adjusted for the materials that will be used. And . . . because, to find the "right materials" for an outfit, I must cover every horizontal surface in my house -- sofa. chairs, tables, beds -- with materials that "might work." About the fabrics, trims, notions & accessories. Six months before I started sewing doll outfits, I began buying trims, elastic, embroidered tulle and lace, and, hats, and doll shoes -- at bargain prices (along with long wait times, and some hassles) -- from China (via eBay.) My fabric purchases were mostly local -- estate sales, thrift stores, flea markets, etc. I bought patterns online at Etsy and eBay, as well as at local fabric shops when they went on sale.

I also bought articles of doll clothing -- bathing suits, shrugs, knitted vests -- from Etsy and

Ebay sellers in the US; well-made items I liked and felt could be incorporated into my doll


  • Step 4: Cut Everything Out - For an entire outfit, can take me an hour. Step 3 is critical to getting the right look for an outfit. Step 4 is critical to sewing a garment that fits your doll. When cutting out and sewing doll clothes, being off 1/16th of an inch can result in a garment being too big or too small. So, I iron the pattern pieces and the fabrics before I pin and cut.

Personal Disclosure: Usually, my inspiration generates enough energy for me to get through Step 4 -- which is why I have so many Ziploc bags full of outfits to be sewn.

  • Steps 5, 6, 7, 8 -- For each piece of the outfit -- Read a pattern direction, sew, iron, fit the piece on the doll. Repeat these steps until the article of clothing is done; and then start on the next garment. The amount of time spent on these steps depends on the outfit, but usually, this is where I spend 70% of the total time to create an outfit.

  • Step 9 -- Add the Finishing Touches -- trim a purchased hat to match the outfit, add a belt, flowers, jewelry,etc. -- Time Spent? -- Depends.


Rock Star costumes fascinate me; they are eclectic in style, unique to the star, and almost all have the same signature color -- black.

The Bathing Suit on the right was purchased from Etsy seller AudreysDollClothes. The black and white stripes made it a perfect choice for a Rock Star outfit, and the bathing suit serves as both a top and underwear for the outfit.

The Skirt (my improvised design) has a wide black elastic waistband. A pleated black organdy lace trim with white sequins at the top and silver sequins at the bottom is sewn to the top of the elastic. The ruffle on the trim hides a short A-line yoke of red satin which is sewn to the bottom of the elastic, A gathered ruffle of red satin, and a gathered overlay of appliqued/embroidered red tulle are sewn to the bottom of the satin yoke.

The Bolero Jacket

The pattern for the simple two-piece lined bolero jacket is in the Nancy Zieman/Joan Hinds 30 Minute Doll Clothes pattern book. The Rock Star bolero is made with a black stretch Poly velour that looks like a sleek fur, and is lined with the same red satin used for the underskirt.

The Wrist Gauntlets are made of a wide patterned stretch lace of silver-grey and black.

The Hat

The brim of the purchased hat is decorated with a black chain (a thrift store find) and a black and red rose pendant found on eBay. The hat has alligator clips on the underside, and came with the feather and netting you see in the pictures (purchased online at

Before signing off today, I'd like to say something about the number of materials I have accumulated for sewing doll outfits.

Somewhere, I believe, there is a Law that states:

You Can Never Own Enough Fabrics, Trims, and Notions.

"But," some of you are probably thinking, "To save money and space in your home, why don't you wait and buy only the materials you need when you start a project ?"

On behalf of fabric addicts everywhere, I counter this very rational logic with:

  • I get my fabrics and notions on sale; you can bet they won't be on sale if I wait until I have a specific project in mind.

  • My local fabric store may go out of business, and do you know how far I would have to drive to find fabrics and trims if that happened?

  • The fabrics and notions I have are unusual. If I wait until I find the right project to use them, they might be discontinued or unavailable.

  • Having an eclectic group of fabrics and notions makes my doll clothes unique.

  • I may be unable to drive to the store to find fabrics and trims when the weather is bad, but I can sew if the weather is bad and I already have them.

  • It's what "avocation-ists" and hobbyists do!

Hope to See You Next Week . . .

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