Over the summer, I purchased Simplicity 5861, a vintage pattern for the earliest version of Skipper dolls. This pattern offers pattern pieces for a coat and three different shirt styles, plus a bolero. These garments’ sleeves were remarkably easy to make!
You might wonder why that is.
Well take a look at the skipper T-shirt that I designed, displayed on a more modern skipper below:
Take a look at the striped pattern on that sleeve. You’ll notice that the sleeve is a separate piece of fabric from the bodice front.
In other words, the pattern pieces will look something like this:
Now compare that to the shirts you see below:
Take a good look at the plaid version of the shirt. This is my own alteration of the shirt pattern from View 4 of the Simplicity 5861 pattern, but due to the lines in the plaid, you can easily tell that this shirt sleeve is not separate from the bodice front; rather, the bodice front incorporates the whole sleeve.
All of the shirts in this pattern are like this.
The bolero jacket and the winter coat have attached sleeves as well, so the jacket pattern looks sort of like this bathrobe that I designed to fit Tammy and Barbie:
In my humble opinion, patterns that are designed with the sleeve already attached to the garment are much easier to sew than sleeves that are a separate piece.
Now if you’re working with a sleeve that is a separate piece, I use a little trick in my designs to make the attachment of the sleeve a little easier to do in miniature.
When sewing a garment for a human person, the instructions sometimes have you sew the whole bodice together as a sleeveless garment piece, then sew the whole sleeve together in a tube shape. And then somehow you’re supposed to make the tube-shaped sleeve fit into the socket-hole of the bodice (see Figure 1 below for an image of the tube-shaped sleeve).
Ugh! I hate that!
If you look at Figure 2 above, you’ll see how I attach tiny doll sleeves. That concept is sort of hard to understand without a video, so in addition to reading all the steps below, I recommend that you also view this video which shows brief video clips of me sewing the sleeves at each of the stages.
But here are the steps, in a nutshell:
Step 1: I sew the bodice together at the shoulders. Then I press these seams flat and lay the whole bodice out with the RIGHT SIDE UP. Note: Step 1 below shows the WRONG side up, so you have to flip it over before moving on to Step 2.
Step 2: I lay the sleeve’s curve next to the bodice’s curve (keeping right sides together), at the area where the underarm will be.
Step 3: I sew from the underarm to just shy of the shoulder seam on one side of the sleeve.
Step 4: (This is the part where it’s handy to have a video!) I pull the other side of the sleeve’s curved edge toward the bodice’s other underarm area and sew from the underarm area to just shy of the shoulder seam yet again.
Step 5: I gather the top, most rounded part of the sleeve (note the green thread in the image — these are the gather threads).
Step 6: I attach the gathered top part of the sleeve to the bodice along the area where the shoulder seam is (shown with pink thread in the image).
You might think, “These steps will make the sleeve look puffy at the top!”
As you can see in the image above, there is a very slight puffiness to the sleeve, but that’s dependent upon the roundness of the sleeve form at the top.
A very swooping sleeve slope will make a very puffy sleeve (see image below), whereas a less swooping sleeve slope creates less of a “puff” at the top. For an example of a less swooping sleeve slope, scroll back up to “shirt patterns with long and short sleeves for 10 inch dolls” above.
But I’m going to go back to my original point.
The easiest type of sleeve to sew is one that’s already attached to the bodice.
Simplicity 5861 has several shirt styles like this, and if you’ve taken either of my online pattern design courses on the Creative Spark online learning platform, you can use my easy-to-follow formula to adapt the Simplicity 5861 Skipper shirt patterns so they will fit dolls of similar body types, no matter how big or small they are.
We call this pattern alteration. When you sign up for my pattern alteration course, you get more than 40 video tutorials that show you how to adapt a commercial pattern (like Simplicity 5861) to fit another doll. Learn more at this link.
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.
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Disclaimer/Credit/Affiliate Marketing Link:
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.