I haven’t showcased a lot of home made doll fashions on our Instagram feed, but I definitely plan to share more. I also do not claim to be an expert, but I have been sewing for over 30 years.
One of our Dolly Resolutions is definitely to sew more clothes this year. Sewing and my love of fashion all started with my Barbie’s when I was a little girl. I can still remember sitting next to my mom when she made a little skirt for my first Malibu Beach Barbie. It was one of those skirts made out of pre-gathered eyelet trim finished with a small snap (wasn’t that everyone’s first skirt?). Being an ambitious youngster, I thought I could do a lot better! I can still remember this little black suit I made with a rhinestone accent at the waist, oh how I wish I had a photo of that outfit!
Over the years, I have gained a lot of insight and tips from other sewers and crafters, so I have a good list of items that can be helpful in your sewing adventures. In addition to thread, needles, and a sewing machine (if you have one), there are many notions and tools I find very helpful for making doll clothes or one-sixth scale fabric home decor.
Clockwise from the top: metal yard stick, dressmaker’s shears, rotary cutter, applique pins, tape measure, embroidery scissors, seam ripper, chalk pencil, basting tape, mini iron, and edge turner. We’ll go into further detail for each of these items below.
Most of these items can all be purchased at your chain or local fabric centers. For a few of the items, I have provided links to where you can purchase them.
It’s important to have a pair of good dressmaker’s shears that you only use for fabric and that are sharp. I can’t say I’ve always been good about this, but I just love my Ghinger scissors. I’ve had them since I worked at a fabric store as a teenager. I’d also like to give a little advice to my fellow lefties; please get yourself a proper pair of scissors made for left-handed use. You are selling yourself short if you settle for using right-handed scissors, after all we are some of the most creative folks out there (get the right tools). I also use a pair of embroidery scissors for trimming small threads off of garments. These are great for cleaning up prepackaged fashion packs as well. To purchase them yourselves, click on the links below:
BTW, the right-handed Ghinger’s come in gold too!
I like to use small applique pins for tiny garments. You can definitely use regular pins, but I find the small pins help with accuracy on small pieces of fabric. Sequin pins can also be used, but they just have the tiny flat head so they can be harder to pull out when using a sewing machine. Pinning your pieces together is crucial for good construction of a garment.
A flexible tape measure is great for measuring around your dolls body parts to make sure the pattern or fabric you are working with fits. With so many doll sizes you are probably going to be customizing sizes a lot.
These chalk pencils are great for marking seams or fastening points. They come in several colors and the chalk can be brushed off with the small brush or a damp cloth. It’s also handy to have an old fashioned pencil sharpener or eye pencil sharpener to keep a sharp point.
This mini Clover iron has been life changing for pressing small hems and collars on doll creations. I generally use this in conjunction with a regular iron, but this will do most of the work needed. You can find this on Amazon here .
Let’s face it, you are going to make mistakes, so having a seam ripper to remove stitches that went wrong is mandatory. Sewing takes patience and it will test that, but stick with it!
This sticky tape is great for keeping seams in place or making quick hems. The tape is close to clear once the outer layers are removed and it can be found in about 3/16″ width. This is similar to the larger “human” version of Stitch Witchery, but doesn’t need to be ironed on.
This is a must for any sewing, but definitely for turning small edges and corners. This one is made out of bamboo and it won’t tear your fabric like scissors might.
Fray check will stop fabric from fraying which is great for small garments where you are using delicate fabrics that you may not be able to serge or fold over twice. I’ve even used this to seal the edges of a heavy chenille fabric for a diorama carpet.
Rotary cutters are just a great tool for making straight cuts or cutting several layers of fabric at once. Think doll bed spreads and pillows or just cutting down a large piece of fabric to a workable size. You can find this one on Amazon here .
metal yard stick
This is something I can’t live without for crafting so it will surely show up in another essentials post down the road. This can be used to mark lines with the chalk pencil and then the Rotary cutter. A traditional wood yard stick will just get sliced up if you use it with sharp objects. This might be something you have to purchase at your hardware store.
Rotary mats are great for all sorts of crafts and sewing projects. They are gridded with measurements and can be found in a variety of sizes. Place them on a work surface or the floor and it will protect that area. You can see mine are well loved!
Most pattern companies made fashion doll patterns, but many companies like Vogue and Butterick no longer make them. You can still find patterns made by McCall’s at your fabric or craft stores. They make great templates for designing your own clothes. Keep in mind though, they are made for the original Barbie bodies, so they do need some adjustments. The bust area is generally too big and the waist and hip area are too small.
You can find many discontinued patterns for sale on Etsy and find templates for basic patterns online using a Google search or Pinterest. When using downloaded patterns you have to make sure you print them to scale. Often these patterns will have a scale reference that you can match up on your computer to make sure they will print at the right size.
Left to Right: Tall, original, curvy, MTM, new original, petite, Skipper, and Stacey (pardon the doll nudity).
With so many body options available for your fashion dolls now, I keep a few extras aside just for fit models. That way you don’t have to man handle your favorite dolls while making creations for them. I store them in a magazine file on a shelf above my work table.
With all this talk of sewing implements, I am dying to get to some sewing! Did we miss anything that you find extremely useful with your doll sewing? If so, please comment below!
As always, thanks for stopping by! We hope you picked up a few tips you will use in your doll creations! If you’d like to get email notifications when we post, please be sure to hit the Follow button.
A la prochaine
Rie & Bruni