Well I didn’t think this would be the topic of my first blog post but here goes! This is meant to be sort of an overview and set of tips for sewing very tiny things. Ever since I read The Dolls’ House Wedding Book by Sue Johnson, I have loved the idea of making little lace camisoles and undies for my dolls. I must say now that this project is best attempted by intermediate to advanced sewers only, and this article assumes some prior knowledge of sewing and embroidery.
Here are some of the tools that you may find very helpful (although I suppose not entirely necessary) when sewing small items.
- A measuring tape: you will need to take your doll’s measurements as though she is a tiny person. Because she is, pretty much…
- A hot glue gun: SHOCK AND HORROR!!! But sometimes you just gotta glue what you just gotta glue.
- A tiny rotary cutter and ruler: These help SO much when cutting out little pattern pieces, especially the armholes and other tight curves.
- (Not pictured) Fray-Check: This stuff is the god of tiny sewing, especially when it comes to lace. Do not live with out it.
Letz get started! The first thing I did was to take my doll (Scarlett)’s measurements and draft a tiny pattern for her. That is another article in and of itself and it involved a lot of measuring and math, so I won’t go into it here. If there is enough interest in this article, I might make my pattern available for free on this website…
Madame Alexander dolls are more difficult to fit than, say, an American Girl doll because they are tiny and curvy. I couldn’t just use the same pattern piece for the front and back because the front pattern piece was too wide. So I drafted a front and a back pattern piece and planned to use silk ribbon to make straps.
Next I cut out the front and back pattern pieces on the fold of the lace with the tiny rotary cutter.
And sewed them together at the side seams using a 2mm zig zig stitch. Using a zig zag makes the seams more durable when sewing such delicate fabrics. I ironed the piece to mark the center front and center back just for my own reference.
When I tried the piece on Scarlett, I noticed that the top of the slip was too wide so I decided to add a dart. This kept the slip wide enough at the bottom for her stomach and hips, and created a lovely little V-neckline. Alternatively you could gather the neckline, but I think the dart is the simplest in this small scale.
I pinned the dart along the center front line I had just ironed a minute ago and measured how far from the center front it was and where it intersected the center front so I could mark it on my pattern and on the lace.
I sewed the dart with a plain straight stitch so it would be less bulky. I ironed it to the side and did not clip it open in order to minimize fraying. I tried it on Scarlett and it fit her like a glove!
Then I sealed the raw-edged armholes with fray check to prevent them from stretching or unraveling. I used a scissor to hang the piece out to dry. 🙂
The Reckoning – I mean…the Ribbons!
This part is easier than all the pattern drafting and fussy sewing. Maybe. Easy is in the mind of the beholder. What I did here was make a tiny silk ribbon bow and glue it right over the dart with hot glue. It’s details like these that really make the outfit. You do have to be careful not to squirt out too big a blob of glue, so if you want to do a few practice blobs on a sheet of paper or something, go for it.
When it comes to making the silk ribbon bows, there are different ways to go. Some people buy or make tiny bow makers that consist of two pins stuck into a piece of foam and they make their bows that way. Sue Johnson talks about that in her book. What I do is I literally tie a tiny bow. I start by making a more normal sized bow with the silk ribbon and then I keep pulling the strings and making the loops smaller and tightening the knot until I get something that looks like it was made by elves’ hands. It works for me. You need to find the tiny bow tying method that works for you. Or maybe you hate the idea of even trying to make these tiny bows and you want to buy the package of pre-tied tiny bows they sell at the craft store. Do that, then. 🙂
Using silk ribbon might seem unnecessarily extravagant for doll clothes, but it has practical advantages over polyester ribbon. It is softer and more pliable, and is easier to fold into little roses and bows. Plus it just looks prettier.
Next come the straps. This is where the real design element of this project comes in. We could just glue tiny pieces of ribbon over her shoulders from the front to the back of the slip, but then we’d never be able to get it on or off of her again, because it wouldn’t fit over her head or hips.
This is a design I’ve come up with over my years (yes I said years…It’s not my fault I have no life, okay? *weeps*) of making lacy dolly undergarments. It’s an easily adjustable, but still pretty strap. Cut two long (like 6-7in) pieces of silk ribbon. It’s better to have more now and to cut off some later than to have too little and not be able to tie a bow in the back. You can always reuse the extra ribbon for something else, like more bows. Hot glue each piece to the two ends of the front bodice as shown in the previous picture. Then thread one piece through a wide-eyed embroidery needle and weave it through the holes in the lace on the back of the slip until it reaches the center back. Pull the ribbon out to the right side of the lace and do the same thing with the other strap. Be careful not to twist your straps when you’re going over the shoulders.
Now you can tighten and loosen the ribbon to adjust the length of the straps! Trim off any excess ribbon you don’t need, but once again, be careful not to trim too much. You don’t want your ribbon unweaving itself when you’re taking the slip off.
So here is the finished project! I quickly made her some little bloomers and panties as well so that she wouldn’t be pantsless – I hate it when people let dolls sit around without any clothes.
I hoped everyone reading this liked this article. I am really not used to documenting my projects while I’m doing them so I’m sorry if the pictures are lacking. It’s really hard to photograph yourself hot gluing something haha! If this is not what you hoped to see in my blog, don’t give up just yet, not all the articles will be about doll clothes! The next one will be about something completely different, no doubt!
Love and Kisses,
Zaphod – I mean, Oxidants Happen Designs!