There are a lot of great reasons to sew for dolls … it takes far less fabric than human-sized clothing, which means lower costs and generally less time involved. Plus, there are tons of cute patterns available!
Most of all… sewing for dolls and sharing your finished creations with your favorite doll-lovers is fun!
But sewing for a smaller-sized body can be a bit tricky at times. Even if you’re accustomed to sewing for 18-inch dolls, it can be surprisingly challenging to sew for a slightly smaller doll, such as the new 14.5-inch WellieWishers™ by American Girl™. Never fear … here are a few tips and tricks to help make sure your sewing is more fun than frustration…
Five & Tricks to Help You Sew for Small Dolls
1. Shorten your stitch length. If you normally sew for humans, you’re probably accustomed to using an average stitch length of around 2.5 to 3.0. Try dropping that down a notch for doll sewing. We usually use a stitch length around 2.0 to 2.5, sometimes even shorter on curves or tight spaces. A shorter stitch length will give you more control in your stitching, in addition to giving your doll clothing a more realistic appearance because of the more appropriate scale. Speaking of scale…
2. Pay attention to scale. Remember it’s not only the pattern pieces that are much smaller when sewing for dolls … your buttons, trims and other embellishments should be smaller, too. The same goes for your fabric pattern … a too-large print can make an otherwise great outfit look off balance. In general, the smaller the print the better when choosing fabric for doll clothing. We even use shorter sewing pins (about 1 inch long) when pinning pattern pieces for cutting, as well as during construction.
3. Eliminate the bulk. The smaller the doll, the more important it is to eliminate bulk wherever you can. That includes choosing lighter weight fabrics than you might choose for human clothing. It also means taking the time to trim seam allowances whenever possible during the construction process. If you are accustomed to finishing seams with a serger, you might also want to try another method that does not add as much extra thread (and bulk), such as trimming seams with pinking shears or using a simple zigzag stitch to finish edges.
4. Precision matters. There is less room for error when sewing for dolls, especially when sewing fitted or couture items. Take your time when cutting out pattern pieces and fabric and make an extra effort to cut accurately according to the pattern cutting lines. Also be sure to pay attention to seam allowances when sewing. Most doll projects use a 1/4-inch seam allowance and it is important that your stitching is accurate if you want the finished clothing to actually fit your doll. Even seams just 1/8-inch off can make a big difference in fit. We have found it especially helpful to use a 1/4-inch presser foot when sewing for dolls.
5. Add a layer of control. Slip an unused coffee filter or piece of tissue paper under your smallest fabric pieces before stitching. This makes it easier to manipulate the tiny fabric pieces and also gives your sewing machine teeth a little extra something to grab on to. After sewing, gently tear away the filter from your stitching. You may also find that sewing instructions for doll clothing often include steps in a slightly different order than you are accustomed to using with larger clothing. For instance, you may finish a hem before sewing a leg seam. Doing so makes it much easier to sew what could otherwise be a very tiny (and therefore difficult) area to maneuver and stitch.
Have a small doll sewing tip?
Please share in the comments below!