Making doll clothing is so rewarding and a great way to use up some of your favorite small pieces of fabric. Here I will give you tips on how to sew doll clothes for beginners including choosing fabrics, cutting, stitching, and finishing It is also a great way to teach kids to sew as most patterns are very simple and don't take long to make. The first thing I ever made was a simple elasticized skirt for my beloved teddy when I was 7. I still remember it so clearly. I don't have the skirt anymore but I do have the teddy!
How to Sew Doll Clothes for Beginners Tutorial
Is it Easy to Make Dolls Clothes
Doll clothes are expensive to buy and making doll clothing is a cheaper option that is extremely rewarding. It is easy to make doll clothes in simple designs as most styles are simplified to account for the small sizes. Choose simple shapes and make them look different by changing the fabrics you use as well as embellishing with ric-rac, lace and kid-safe trims.
Free Doll Clothes Patterns
The internet is full of simple free doll clothing patterns and here are a few of mine to get you started. The doll t-shirt pattern is especially popular and a great starter project for making doll clothes. Best of all the sleeves are joined to the body so it really is easy.
- 18 inch Doll Blanket Pattern - You can adapt the size of this blanket for any size doll.
- Doll Pillow Pattern - This is a pattern for the pillow insert.
- Doll T-shirt Pattern - Use up scraps of stretch fabric or upcycle an old t-shirt to make this easy doll top.
- How to Make a Doll Mattress - This tutorial will help you make a mattress for your favorite doll bed.
- Doll Pillowcase Pattern - Make your doll bed look realistic by adding some colorful doll pillowcases.
- Doll Cape Pattern - This vintage-style capelet is fun to make.
Doll Clothing Patterns - Premium
Once you have some confidence in making doll clothing, it is time to create a whole wardrobe! Check out my sewing pattern shop for more doll clothing patterns. There are also matching girl's dress patterns for most of these so you can create a "dolly and me" look. Here are just some of your choices.
Supplies for Making Doll Clothing
Your pattern should give you a list of all the supplies needed to sew doll clothes but here are a few common ones you will need.
- Fabric - See below for more information on fabric. In general, lightweight fabric is best. Look for fat quarters which are often the perfect size for making doll clothing.
- Pins - Most of the time you will just use straight pins. A safety pin can be useful for threading elastic through casings.
- Measuring Tools - You will need a soft tape measure and a ruler.
- Marking Tools - Tailor's chalk or a removable pen. Sometimes you can use a pin to mark placement dots.
- Cutting Tools - Fabric scissors, rotary cutter and mat, pinking shears for finishing seams, and a seam ripper.
- Pressing Tools - Iron and ironing board
- Sewing Machine
- Hand Needle and Thread
What is the Best Fabric for Making Doll Clothing
PRINTS - Fabrics with small-scale prints work the best as larger prints will be cut into. Look for solid colors as well. You can add interest by using contrasting solid colors. Add a pocket or detail in another color. Doll clothing doesn't have to be plain.
SOFT FABRIC - Fabrics should be soft and not stiff. Quilting cotton works well for many patterns. Stay away from medium or heavy-weight fabrics as they are usually too thick. Using a thick fabric will make the outfit tighter.
FABRIC TYPE - The composition of the fabric you use doesn't matter but try and choose fabrics that are not too thin as they are more difficult to sew due to the small seam allowances and size of the garment.
KNIT VS WOVEN - Take note of whether the pattern designer has used a knit or woven fabric. Knit fabric patterns are generally tighter so you can't substitute a woven fabric. You will need stretch needles to sew knit fabric while woven fabric can be sewn with a universal needle.
SCALE - Use small-scale laces and ribbons for trims. Sometimes you can cut laces down smaller. Otherwise, look for ¼ inch (6mm) widths.
UPCYCLING - Save money and don't limit your fabric choices to your fabric stash. Consider upcycling old clothing and t-shirts for some really creative ensembles.
MUSLIN - Because different brands of 18-inch (46cm) dolls and toys can vary slightly in measurements, make the first try of a new pattern in muslin or a cheap fabric to check the fit before using expensive fabric.
More Making Doll Clothing Tips
CHECK SIZING - The sizing between dolls can vary so always check with the pattern designer that it will fit your doll. I have several American Girl Dolls and have noticed that the newer ones have a considerably smaller chest.
FASTENINGS - Velcro can get caught in the doll's hair so buy either doll velcro or the type used on baby clothing. These types of sewing Velcro are softer and less scratchy. If they are too wide, you can cut them down to a better size for your doll.
DON'T START SMALL - When choosing which doll to sew clothing for, start with 18-inch doll clothing rather than Barbie doll clothes. Barbie clothes are much smaller and harder to sew than those for American Girl Dolls or baby dolls.
USE PDF PATTERNS - There is a whole world of PDF patterns for dolls on the internet. If you haven't tried one before then you should definitely start with doll clothing. These patterns are printed on your home printer and the instructions are viewed in Adobe Reader on your computer screen. The small size of doll clothing pattern pieces makes this an ideal introduction to PDF patterns.
Making Doll Clothing Step by Step
1. Making Doll Clothing - Cutting
PREWASH - Always pre-wash any fabric used for doll clothing. You don't want to go to the effort of sewing only to find that something doesn't fit after the first wash. This will also check that your fabric color doesn't run. Always beware when using white with another color. Red and white together can be deadly for the color running.
BE ACCURATE - Because your pattern is very small and the seam allowance is only ¼ inch (6mm) it is important that you cut accurately to ensure the garment fits well when you are finished.
KEEP TRACK - Keep the pattern pieces pinned to the cut-out fabric until you are ready to sew to help identify the pieces more easily.
USE FREEZER PAPER - Really small pattern pieces can be cut accurately using freezer paper. This kitchen paper has wax on one side that can be ironed to the fabric. It is amazing for appliqueing and cutting small pieces. Read my article on what is freezer paper and how can it be used for sewing.
2. Making Doll Clothing - Stitching
STARTING - When you start sewing, hold the threads tightly to prevent them from getting caught up underneath.
TROUBLESHOOTING - If your fabric is getting caught in your machine as you sew due to the small seam allowances, you could try sewing over a piece of thin paper to stabilize it. Gently rip the paper away when you are finished.
STITCH SIZE - Use smaller stitches than normal if you want it to look to scale. Try a length of 2.0 on a scrap of your fabric and see how it looks.
SEAM ALLOWANCES - Most doll clothing has much smaller seam allowances than you are probably used to sewing. Common seam allowances for dolls are ¼ inch (6mm) or ⅜ inch (1cm).
BACKSTITCH - Always backstitch at the start and end of a seam to add strength and to stop the stitches from coming undone.
3. Finishing Seams for Doll Clothing
Many of my pattern instructions include seam finishing options but really your dolly doesn’t care about the inside of the dress. You will notice many bought doll clothes are unfinished inside.
In thicker fabrics, finishing your seams with a serger can add bulk due to the extra threads. Try a narrow zig-zag stitch or pinking shears. If you want to use your serger, try using a 3 thread overlock.
Using a fray stop (also called Fray Check) solution is another great way to stop seams from unraveling.
Further reading: Seam finishes without a serger
4. Pressing After Making Doll Clothing
Like our own clothing, doll's clothing looks better if you press as you sew. It is not essential but it can help to buy a mini iron like Clover makes to press fiddly small seams.
Further reading: How to press for sewing
5. Making Doll Clothes with Embellishments
After you finish sewing your doll clothing, start decorating for a truly unique look. Embellishment ideas include adding lace, applique, embroidery, sequins or ric-rac. Just make sure that the trim is suitable for the age of the child that will be playing with the doll. For example, I wouldn't put beads or sequins on an outfit that a young child would be playing with. Don't forget to make some accessories too.
Making Doll Clothing for 18 inch Doll Alternatives
Plastic 18-inch dolls can be expensive and hard to find in some countries so why not sew your own! Rag doll crafts are fun and rewarding.
Milly Rag Doll
The Milly rag doll pattern will fit all my 18-inch doll clothing patterns. Technically she is a little taller as her feet point downwards but her body has similar dimensions to most of the popular brands so you can sew her a whole wardrobe. She comes with the dress pictured so you can start off her clothing collection in style.
Rabbit Rag Doll Pattern
I also have a rabbit rag doll to fit my 18-inch doll clothing. Her name is Rachel and she comes with the tutu dress pattern pictured. Like Milly, she has similar dimensions in the torso to most of the popular brands of 18-inch dolls.
Making Doll Clothing FAQS
Are Doll Clothes Hard to Sew?
Doll clothes are so easy to sew. Firstly they are only small, so they don't take long and you can skip the time-consuming finishing of seams. Most doll patterns have simplified techniques to make them not only easy to sew but easy for kids to put the clothing on and off by themselves.
Can you Sew Doll Clothes by Hand?
Yes, doll clothes can be sewn by hand. Just use a small backstitch or running stitch for the seams. Hems are best sewn with a running stitch so they will look good on both sides. If you do want to sew a hem with a backstitch, you will need to sew on the right side of the garment as it doesn't look as good on the back.
How to Make Doll Clothing Without Sewing
For a no-sew option for making doll clothing, you could use fabric glue for the hems and seams. Or better still use a combination of hand sewing and glue. Hand sew the side seams and then glue the hems. This will give you longer-lasting doll clothing.
Fusible hemming tape is normally ¾-1 inch in width but can be cut down much narrower to use on your doll hems. Hemming tape is placed between the garment and the hem and then ironed to activate the glue.
Making Doll Clothing - In Conclusion
So it is time to get making doll clothing! I hope these tips and tricks on how to sew doll clothes for beginners have got you started on your way. Thanks for reading and I hope you'll check out the doll patterns in my sewing pattern shop!
Knitting and Crocheting Dolls
As well as sewing dolls, it is fun to knit or crochet them. Take a look at these great doll ideas.