How to cut out a Barbie doll clothes sewing pattern Part 3 (What do the arrows mean?) #Fabric #DollClothesPatterns #Sewing

Here we see blue fabric with multi-colored (yellow, turquoise, lime green, and navy) polka dots. A doll's jacket pattern has been laid on top of the blue mulit-polka-dot fabric. The obvious instructions on this jacket pattern is a giant two-headed arrow, running north-and-south along the front of the jacket.
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Do you see that double-headed arrow, which runs north-and-south on my Barbie coat pattern from the Simplicity 7601 doll clothes sewing patterns? When people first start sewing, a lot of times they have no idea what that arrow means.

Its officially called a grainline arrow, but my mom and grandma always called it the “nap arrow.” It lets you know how to align your doll clothes patterns with the fabric’s weave.

Sometimes a fabric’s “weave” is hard to see, so let me enlarge that blue polka dot fabric so you can see it better. Here you go:

Now the blue polka dot fabric has been magnified, to where only three polka dots are clearly visible. With this magnification, it's easier to see the fabric's weave. The image has graphic arrows overlaid on top, to demonstrate the directions of the weave. A lime green arrow shows how some of the woven threads run left to right (or east-west) while other woven threads run top to bottom (or north-south). The logo appears in one corner.
Please visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

When you get up really close to fabric, you’ll notice that there are threads running through the fabric. Some threads run up and down; other threads run side to side. We call this the fabric’s weave.

Now, when you’re sewing for people, aligning the grainline arrows with the directions of the weave is going to make a big difference. If you don’t, your garment will very likely fit the person uncomfortably.

Here we see a handmade garment on a mannequin in a room made of white bricks. The handmade garment wrinkles oddly at the underarm, where the seam joins the bodice back to the bodice front. A purple arrow points to this odd wrinkle.
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If you sew for yourself, you may have created a garment in which the final product sort of wrinkles weirdly along the underarm area, or maybe the neckline sticks out a bit. This can happen if you don’t follow the grainline arrows.

But as I’ve said many times in my blog posts, “Sewing for dolls is NOT the same as sewing for people.”

First of all, doll clothes are playthings. Children play dolls outdoors, in the dirt, on family camping trips, and even in the swimming pool.

Furthermore, doll clothes aren’t uncomfortable for dolls to wear! Handmade Barbie doll clothes only have to look pretty to the child who owns them; they don’t have to look pretty to Barbie!

And then there’s this to consider…

I often cut my doll clothes out of scraps, and when you have a limited amount of space, you sometimes want to cram as many patterns onto that scrap of fabric as possible.

ON a swatch of wool fabric, we see patterns for a jacket front, a jacket back, a hat top, and a hat crown. All of these are Barbie doll sewing patterns from Simplicity 7601 hat and coat set. Because the swatch of fabric is quite small, we see that the coat front has been aligned with the nap arrow facing East and west, while the coat back has its arrow facing north and south. The hat top arrow faces east-west while the hat crown's nap arrow faces north and south. The fabric is a burgundy color with black chevron-shaped print.
Please visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

But if you tried to make the jacket using the layout shown in this image, you would have a problem. It would look strange, at the very least, when the garment was complete.

Why? Because that chevron-print wool fabric has a very obvious nap. When dealing with a fabric that has an obvious nap, yes, you really should follow the grainline guide.

Here’s a better example of a fabric that has a truly obvious nap:

A Barbie doll purse pattern has been laid out on a piece of grey and white striped fabric. A woman's finger points at the nap arrow (the arrow with the double head), which runs north-to-south, following the exact lines of the stripes.
Please visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

Imagine that I’m making the Simplicity 7601 hat, purse, and jacket out of this striped fabric, but some cuts of fabric have the stripes going north-to-south, other cuts of fabric have the stripes going east-to-west, and still other cuts of fabric have the lines going diagonally. What would the outfit look like when it is all sewn together?

You’d have stripes going one way that meet up at the seams with stripes going the totally opposite directions. The outfit would look like a zigzag maze instead of a pinstriped jacket, hat, and matching purse.

This graphic has three images. At the top, the text says "not aligned to the nap" and an arrow points from these words to the photo of a jacket pattern, laid on top of striped fabric, but its nap arrow does not line up with the stripes. In the center, we see the word "seam" with a purple arrow pointing at a point at which a garment's stripes running north and south are joined to stripes running east-and-west, along a seam. The impression this collision of stripes gives is one of shadowed fabric folds. The third photo is identical to the one of the purse pattern being laid on top of striped fabric with the nap arrow perfectly aligned tot he striped fabric. The text here (with another purple graphic arrow pointing to the purse pattern) says, "Aligned to the nap... YAY!"
Please visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.


If your seams bring together the stripes going in two different directions, it can look wonky, like the seam example shows up above.

OR… it can look ARTISTIC. But if you’re trying to be artistic with the nap, you need to think ahead about how your seams will look, so it doesn’t just look plain old weird.

I was deliberate about the variations I chose for this western shirt, that I designed to fit my Dwayne Johnson action figure, for example (note the cuffs):

In this photo, a WWE Action Figure that looks like Dwayne Johnson models a handmade "cowboy" style western shirt with pockets, a collar, a front placket, cuffs, and typical western yokes (along with a pair of jeans). In the photo the logo reminds us to go to for the free printable PDF sewing patterns and free DIY tutorial videos to make this western gear for your WWE action figures and similar sized dolls and action figures.
Please visit for free printable PDF sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making clothes to fit dolls and action figures of many shapes and all different sizes.

But what if your patterns don’t have any grainline arrows? In that case, you may have to imagine the completed garment, and draw a grainline on the patterns for yourself. But use pencil and make changes as needed.

A lot of my free patterns, here on do not use grainline arrows because, as I said before, I use my patterns with scrap fabric a lot of the time. I almost always give my doll clothes to children (for free), and I rarely sell my handmade doll clothes.

So what does it matter if the grainline of the fabric is just a little bit off? Doll clothes are toys, so I make them to be played with.

And truthfully, I don’t use a lot of fabrics that have an obvious nap.

On the left, the text says, "fabric with less obvious nap" and below this, we see a wool fabric that has a chevron style print to it. There are two swatches that have been sewn together. At the seam, it looks strange because the chevrons face north-south on one swatch and east-west on the other swatch, so where the seam comes together, it is oddly discomforting to look at. The right half of the image shows the blue fabric that's featured earlier in the blog post, with multi-colored blue, white, yellow, and turquoise polka dots. This fabric has been cut into two swatches and sewn together, and we can tell where the seam is only because one of the polka dots is a half-moon along the seam line. Above this swatch, it says, "Fabric with a less obvious nap."
Please visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

So if you’re just learning to sew doll clothes for the first time, and you don’t want to worry too much about following grainline arrows, experiment a little bit. It’s just doll clothes, after all!

Or only buy solid-colored fabrics or simple prints without an obvious nap, like florals and polka dots. Save the plaids and pinstripes for some time down the road when you’re feeling a little more confident about your sewing skills.

And for your convenience, here’s a list of some of my sewing tutorial videos that a beginner may find helpful:

For more of my free tutorials, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel, ChellyWood1.

As always, feel free to pin, like, or tweet about my free patterns and tutorials. Here’s an image you’re welcome to share on social media:

You've arrived at, a website that offers free printable sewing patterns and tutorial videos for making doll clothes. We're in the middle of a series of blog posts for beginners called "Sewing tips for beginners," and today's topic is "sewing with a nap" and how to avoid purchasing fabrics that will be difficult to sew with.
Visit for free printable sewing patterns for making doll clothes to fit dolls of many shapes and all different sizes.

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