Sewing doll clothes is different from sewing clothes for people — Part 2 — Stitching Methods #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 ChellyWood.com logo is in the upper left corner of the image.
Please visit ChellyWood.com for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Last Monday we talked about cutting out patterns for people’s clothes vs. cutting out patterns for doll clothes.

Today I want to address how stitching methods vary from doll clothes to people’s clothes.

First, the smaller the doll clothes, the more you should consider stitching by hand. I mean yes, a sewing machine is fine for 18-inch American girl dolls, but tiny little arm holes for Chelsea dolls are going to get caught down in the bobbin hole on a sewing machine.

Seriously. Think about how tiny these little arm holes are, as an 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 ChellyWood.com for free printable sewing patterns for making clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

When attaching a sleeve to a dress that small, you’re going to have more control if you sew it by hand.

But that would be incredibly time-consuming for human-sized clothes. However, it should be noted that all sewing was done by hand before the invention of the sewing machine, so my great-great grandma, Rachel Tannehill, sewed every one of her garments by hand.

That’s why I’m amazed when people cringe at the suggestion that they should consider sewing their Barbie doll clothes by hand.

Let’s take a close look at Butterick Pattern #6668, as shown below, and let’s think about why it might be easier to sew these items of doll clothing by hand, rather than using the sewing machine…

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 ChellyWood.com for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Notice how tiny the pockets are, on Barbie’s little tan jacket, in View A? Now imagine running those pockets through a sewing machine. Ugh. I can already hear my machine going “clunk” as the fabric jams down in the bobbin hole!

Adding the ribbon to the jacket in View A is going to be different from adding ribbon to a human’s jacket as well.

Because we don’t wash doll clothes as frequently as we wash human beings’ clothes, we can just dab a little Fray Check on the end of the ribbon after stitching it to the garment for Barbie. But with a person’s clothes, we would likely secure the ends of the ribbon (or perhaps bias tape) inside the hem to avoid fray in the washer and dryer.

But in addition to these differences, the construction of doll clothes is often different than the construction of human beings’ clothes. Butterick Pattern #6668 is a rare find because it offers patterns and instructions for making both a bow tie and a necktie for Ken dolls.

But have a look at how they are constructed:

This is a partial scanned image of the written instructions for Butterick Barbie and Ken Clothes pattern number 6668, with partial instructions for making both a bow tie for Ken dolls and a neck tie for ken. Pattern is marked with a copyright 2000 (butterick Company, Inc.).
Please visit ChellyWood.com for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

They’re simply attaching ribbon to a piece of narrow elastic. That’s it.

Anyone who has tried to tie a man’s neck tie knows that the thing is far more complicated than that in real life. But how ingenious the makers of Butterick 6668 are!

In fact, I must confess, I was inspired by this concept when I designed my own neck tie for male fashion dolls because it was so darned easy to create one this way!

Finally, let me draw your attention to the dress in View C of this pattern. Here’s the image once again:

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 ChellyWood.com for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Believe it or not, this dress doesn’t open in the back as one might expect. Instead, the instructions recommend that it open at one of the shoulders. How strange is that?

When I made mine, though, I re-designed it to open in back. Pattern alteration is pretty easily done with doll clothes because they’re on such a small scale. It’s just a matter of re-drawing the pattern the way you want it to work.

Which brings me to my Creative Spark class… Yup. Once again, I’m going to tell you about the class I’ll be offering with Creative Spark in late December or early January.

I’ll be teaching people how to alter doll clothes patterns in the first class of this series. So if you have any interest in learning how to do any of the following, you should navigate over to CreativeSpark.CTpub.com to sign up for their newsletter:

  • How to lengthen or shorten a doll’s skirt
  • How to combine a skirt pattern and bodice pattern to make a doll’s dress
  • How to alter a pants pattern to make overalls
  • How to change the shape of a doll’s sleeve

I’ll be teaching many more concepts, but these four are pattern alteration concepts my followers have mentioned in comments and messages that they’ve sent me. So I’ll be sure to cover each of them in detail, in the class.

Most of the commercial patterns I display and talk about here on ChellyWood.com 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 ChellyWood.com website, so I can continue to provide you with all the free patterns and tutorial videos offered here.

Disclaimer/Credit/Affiliate Marketing Link:

*ChellyWood.com earns money by linking to JoAnn Fabrics, Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and other online affiliate programs. Links provided above may be affiliate links. For a full list of my affiliate programs, and to understand how cookies are used to help this website earn money, please see my “Privacy Policy” page.

Chelly Wood and the ChellyWood.com 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.

4 thoughts on “Sewing doll clothes is different from sewing clothes for people — Part 2 — Stitching Methods #SewingTips #DollClothes

  1. I signed up for the newsletter back when you said to sign-up. I have yet to receive a single newsletter from them. Do you recommend signing up again? You are keeping us posted here so I will know when the class starts regardless of receiving the newsletter. I never thought about opening the shoulders or even the sides but that is something to keep in mind when sewing doll clothes. Thanks so much for your sewing tips. Judy Jones

    1. Hi Judy. If you check your “spam” folder (in your email program), I bet the Creative Spark newsletter has been going in there. If you signed up in August, I’m sure they’ve been sending them. But sometimes newsletters go into a “spam” folder automatically, based on the way your email is setup.

    1. My fist course is tentatively scheduled to appear on the Creative Spark platform in December of this year or January of 2022. I hope to see you there!

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