TapeMeasureTuesday: How to measure a doll for sewing measurements


Today’s #TapeMeasureTuesday tutorial video shows you how to measure your doll for sewing purposes, but just in case you didn’t get enough out of the video, here’s a breakdown for you:

  • For the neck circumference, measure around the widest part of the doll’s neck. That’s usually at the base of the neck.
  • For the neck-to-shoulder-seam, measure from the base of the neck (at the side of the neck) to the place where a shirt’s arm hole would meet a sleeve, if the doll was wearing a shirt with a fitted sleeve.
  • For the collar-to-true-waist, measure from the base of the doll’s neck at the front of the neck, over the chest, to the waist at about where the doll’s belly button would lie (if she had one). If your doll has an hourglass figure, place a rubber band around her waist to find this true waist. The rubber band will naturally gravitate to the “belly button” area.
  • For the underarm-to-true-waist, consider what I just suggested about placing a rubber band around her belly at the belly button area. Measure along the side of her body from her underarm to the rubber band. It helps if your doll is very articulated, so you can lift up her arm to do this, but if not, turn her arm up so her hand points at the sky before taking the measurement.
  • For the sleeve inseam, measure your doll from the underarm to wrist. Again, it helps if the doll is articulated enough to stretch her arms out to the sides, but if not, cut a length of yarn or string and measure the arm from underarm to wrist with this string; then lay the string against a sturdy ruler to see how long the string is. (Incidentally, string can be used effectively to measure very small dolls this way.)
  • For the sleeve from shoulder-to-cuff, measure your doll’s arm on the outside from where a sleeve would meet the bodice at the shoulder, to the doll’s wrist on the outside of the body.
  • For the sleeve circumference, measure the doll’s bicep or the widest part of the arm. Sometimes it’s a good idea to compare this to the doll’s hand circumference because the doll will not be able to get his/her arm through the sleeve if the hand doesn’t fit through the sleeve’s cuff. So whatever is the larger circumference–the bicep or the hand–use that measurement for the sleeve circumference.
  • For the true waist, pretend your doll is wearing a rubber band around its belly button area. Where would the rubber band be? This is the true waist. Measure all the way around this belly button area.
  • For the hip circumference, find the widest point of the hip and buttocks on your doll. Measure all the way around the hips and buttocks at its widest point.
  • For the pants inseam, you’ll see that I stick one of my doll’s legs straight up in the air while measuring the leg from crotch to foot on the leg that’s still down on the table. When measuring a pants inseam, think about where you want the pant leg to end. If your doll — like mine — is designed to wear high heels, then you may want to measure to the bottom of the high heel, even though this seems too long for a real person. If you’re measuring for a shorter pant leg, measure from crotch to ankle for ankle-length pants or leggings, or from crotch to mid-thigh for capris.
  • For the pants outseam, measure from the true waist (the rubber band area), over the hip, and down the length of the leg on the outside of the leg, until you reach the bottom of the foot or wherever you want the pant leg to end. For shorter pants, stop at the ankle; for longer pants, go clear to the base of the foot. This measurement can be helpful for more than just pants; you can use it to help with skirt measurements as well.
  • For the pants leg circumference, measure the leg at its widest location. For my doll, that was the top of her thigh.
  • For the doll’s height, it can be tricky to avoid including the doll’s hair in her height measurement. I sort of feel around for the doll’s scalp with my fingers, and based on where the scalp appears to be, I estimate the doll’s height.

And thank you, Serena B. for adding this:

  • Measure shoulder to shoulder, across both the back and the front of the doll. In some dolls these two measurements can be different, especially if the doll has a bust that’s particularly high up on their torso or if they have a large bust.

As a doll clothing designer, I can also tell you that once you’ve measured a doll, you must add seam allowances to your measurements before designing or altering an article of clothing. This is a tricky thing to do, but not impossible. However it would take a while to explain that concept, so let’s save it for another day.

Dolls are typically much smaller than people, so I find it easiest to measure in centimeters and millimeters rather than inches.

Of course there are additional measurements you can take when creating various accessories, like measuring the crown of the doll’s head for hat designs, the circumference of the foot for shoes, and that sort of thing.

Can you think of any tips I’ve missed? Feel free to leave a comment about measuring your doll for sewing purposes!

5 thoughts on “TapeMeasureTuesday: How to measure a doll for sewing measurements

    1. That’s certainly a helpful measurement when you’re building the back portion of a bodice. I should probably add that one. Thank you, Serena B, for pointing out what is missing!

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