Sewing doll clothes is different from sewing clothes for people — Part 1 — Cutting Tips #SewingTips #DollClothes

In this photograph, the Chelly Wood doll (a Spin Master Liv doll that has been repainted and had its wig dyed to look like the real doll clothing designer, Chelly Wood) holds up what appears to be a vintage 6668 Butterick fashion doll clothes pattern from the 1950's or early 1960's. The logo is in the upper left corner of the image.
Please visit for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Special thanks to Carolyn V. who inspired today’s topic: how sewing doll clothes is different from sewing clothes for human beings.

The comment she left a couple of weeks ago was: “Chelly, I just wanted to thank you for allowing us to get free doll clothes patterns & tutorials. Doll clothes are sewn completely different from ‘people’ clothes (or, at least the way I was taught to sew).”

Carolyn is very observant. She’s absolutely right.

The ladies in my family encouraged me to sew doll clothes the same way one would sew clothes for people, back when I was learning to sew. It actually took me a long time to master the art of sewing doll clothes because for a really long time, I tried to follow the people-clothes rules.

Today I want to talk about cutting out patterns for people’s clothes vs. cutting out patterns for doll clothes. Here we have an image of Butterick Pattern #3037, which offers some traditional business suits for women:

In this image, we see 9 sew-easy women's business wear outfits from Butterick pattern #3037. Each of them consists of a shirt with princess seams and a skirt, but each look is slightly different.
Please visit for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Let’s imagine we’re making one of the skirts or shirts shown in Butterick Pattern #3037.

When cutting patterns for people, it’s a good idea to lay out your fabric flat on a table and try to cut each pattern piece out with the patterns laying flat.

Cutting patterns for a human being’s clothes is done this way for a couple of reasons: 1.) if you’re cutting two piece of fabric (like when you cut on the fold), you want them to match and 2.) picking up the fabric to cut it will move the fabric around, making the cut less accurate.

Sometimes we even use fabric weights to make sure the fabric lays flat against the table while we cut. That’s especially helpful if you’re using slippery fabric like polyester.

I remember when I was in high school, I would try SO HARD to cut out doll clothes with the patterns laying flat, and it was simply impossible to do. Rounding those tiny sharp corners with even the sharpest sewing scissors was a feat of dexterity even a gymnast couldn’t accomplish!

This image shows a smattering of printed doll clothes patterns laying on a turquoise-colored fabric with a mottled print.
Visit for free doll clothes patterns.

Today I ignore that advice and lift up the fabric to cut around my doll clothes patterns, a lot like a person would do with construction paper. I hold my scissors upright and move the fabric around as I cut. I’ve found, with small doll clothes, this actually makes cutting more accurate.

It helps to use cotton fabric, of course, because it’s stiff. But with polyesters, I make sure I use lots of pins to hold the pattern in place.

The smaller the doll clothes, the harder it will be to cut them on the flat surface of a table. Take my Chelsea/Strawberry Shortcake patterns for example:

This is the JPG version of a free printable PDF sewing pattern for making dresses for dolls sizes 4 inches to 6 inches or 10 cm to 15.5 cm. Pictured on the pattern image are the following dolls, modeling dresses that were made using this pattern: the Heart Family baby doll, a Mattel Kelly doll, a 6 inch Strawberry Shortcake doll with yellow hair, and three Chelsea dolls of different makes and different eras. All of the dresses shown are made using a felt bodice with cotton skirt and some have sleeves. The pattern includes two different types of bodices, two different lengths of sleeves, and one skirt pattern.
Please visit for free printable sewing patterns for making clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Cutting that bodice out on a flat surface would be just silly. I mean, that pattern is barely an inch and a half wide!

A lot of times I’ll cut slightly around the pattern, then pick it up and begin cutting in greater detail. Granted, this uses more fabric, but when you only need a teeny-tiny bit of fabric, who cares?! LOL!

However, when it comes to nap and grainline, we do need to follow the rules most of the time.

For those of you new to sewing, “nap” and “grainline” are words we use to describe the way velvet will look dark from one direction and light another direction, or the way corduroy has ridges that need to all run a single direction, or the way plaids have lines that run all one direction or the other. If you don’t cut these types of fabric correctly, your garment can come out looking sort of wonky.

Of course you can be creative with fabrics that have a nap too. Just look at the way I cut my ginghams for GI Joe in this image:

This is an image of a GI Joe action figure wearing a camp shirt made of small and large red and white gingham prints and a pair of jeans. You can make these clothes to fit your GI Joe action figure by downloading the free printable PDF sewing patterns and watching the free tutorial videos for sewing the outfit shown, if you visit and look under 12 inch male dolls from the main gallery page. It will lead you to a gallery of clothing options for free printable sewing patterns that fit GI Joe and similar-sized action figures or dolls.
Visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls and action figures of many shapes and sizes.

The ginghams are all going in the same direction, but I’ve combined tiny ginghams with bigger ones to create a unique fashion statement.

This is a fun solution to the problem of not having enough of one fabric to complete the garment. Why not combine your fabric remnants for a unique look?

I did the same thing here:

In a room with purple walls and a white floor, a Petite Barbie stands poised elegantly in front of two windows. To her right is a white wicker love seat and a white wicker table loaded with a tiny porcelain tea set. To her left is a matching white wicker chair. She wears a handmade Halloween party dress made of cotton. The sleeves of the dress are rich orange with white cuffs. The body of the dress and the skirt are made of black fabric dotted with tiny candy corns. The skirts hem is edged with orange satin ribbon overlaid with tiny one eighth inch rickrack trim. The doll is African or African American with a deep chocolate complexion. Her bright orange plastic shoes tie the whole outfit together, bringing out the orange in the candy corn print and the orange of the sleeves.

I didn’t have enough of the candy corn fabric, so I just cut the sleeves out of solid orange cotton instead. It turned out really neat!

Of course this can be done with people’s clothes too, but I digress.

And I see that this blog post is running a little long, so I think I’ll come back to the topic of sewing doll clothes vs. sewing clothes for people next Monday.

I’ll specifically talk about how we make the doll clothes in Butterick Pattern #6668, as shown below, in next week’s pattern review. This particular pattern has a lot of great examples of how we make doll clothes in ways we would never consider for people’s clothes!

On close inspection, we see that this is not a vintage doll clothes pattern, but a reproduction pattern. In this close-up photo of Butterick Barbie and Ken clothes pattern number 6668, the following outfits are displayed on drawings of the dolls: View A = jacket with 3/4 length sleeves and two rounded pockets on one side, shirt, and pencil skirt; View B = evening gown (long, strapless) with cummerbund-style sash and tail (not a train but an attachment to the sash); View C = swingy sleeveless short dress with big pockets; View D = business suit for Ken with vest and tie; View E = Tuxedo for ken with cummerbund and bow tie; View F = short sleeved shirt with collar and one pocket plus Bermuda shorts for Ken.
Please visit for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Most of the commercial patterns I display and talk about here on are also available for sale on eBay. However, if you’ve never purchased a pattern on eBay before, it’s a good idea to read the article I wrote called, “Tips for Buying Used Doll Clothes Patterns on eBay.” It will save you time, money, and will likely prevent buyer’s remorse.

And by the way, if you use the links I’ve provided to make your eBay purchase, this website will receive a small commission, which helps fund the website, so I can continue to provide you with all the free patterns and tutorial videos offered here.

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Chelly Wood and the website are not affiliated with the pattern company or companies mentioned in this blog post, but Chelly finds inspiration in the doll clothes designed by these pattern companies. To purchase patterns from Simplicity, McCall’s, Butterick, Vogue, or other pattern companies shown and discussed in this blog post, please click on the links provided here. These links below the “Disclaimer” section do not help raise money for this free pattern website; they are only offered to give credit to the company that made these patterns.

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