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Doll clothes are quick to sew and a great place for beginners to start sewing! They don’t require much fabric, a big plus if you make a mistake, and they make a cute and satisfying finished product.
While there is a learning curve to making doll clothes, here are some tips for how to sew doll clothes for beginners. I’ll walk you through step-by-step the doll clothes sewing process from fabric and supplies selection to choosing and using a pattern to putting the final touches to achieve that perfect new outfit.
General Tips When Learning How to Sew Doll Clothes
The most important thing to remember when learning how to sew doll clothes as a beginner is to be patient with yourself!
You will make mistakes. We’ve all sewn things together that shouldn’t be, cut the wrong way on a fabric, or made a general mess of a pattern. Every mistake you make, though, is a great learning experience.
Also, it’s not a race to the finish. If you’re sewing quickly, you’re more likely to make mistakes. (The same thing applies when sewing when exhausted!)
And lastly, Barbie doll clothes are not as easy to sew because of their small size, so I’d recommend starting with doll clothes for a larger doll first. If you have an 18″ doll that needs a new wardrobe, that’s perfect!
Guide to Making Doll Clothes
Let’s go through each part of sewing doll clothes in depth.
1. Selecting a Doll Clothes Pattern
If you’re first learning how to make doll clothes, I highly recommend using patterns first before you try your hand at pattern making.
I’ve written two posts on the blog to help you find hundreds of free doll clothes patterns. Check them out below! Many of these free doll clothes patterns are easy for beginners to get started with.
- Big list of free doll clothes patterns to sew for dolls of all sizes
- 20+ free Barbie doll patterns to sew for 11-11.5″ dolls
You also have the option to purchase specific doll clothes patterns. You can purchase from Etsy, Amazon, your favorite craft store, or even other blogs, for example. Make sure you read reviews if you’ve never purchased from a seller before.
I also like to get doll clothes patterns from books, which come with both patterns and picture tutorials. I recommend these doll clothes pattern books for beginners.
2. Gathering Sewing Supplies for Doll Clothes
I’ve written an entire post about essential sewing supplies for beginners with pictures and descriptions. However, here’s a run-down of sewing supplies you may need, depending on the type of doll clothes you want to make.
- Sewing machine or needle and thread
- Cutting tools: sewing scissors, paper scissors, pinking shears, and rotary cutter with cutting mat and acrylic ruler
- Pattern-related tools: tracing paper or freezer paper (read: what is freezer paper used for in sewing?), writing utensils, tape, pattern weights
- Marking tools: water-soluble fabric marker, tailor’s chalk, tracing wheel, etc
- Pressing tools: iron, ironing board, sleeve board, pressing ham, tailor’s ham (mini-irons are also AWESOME!)
- Measuring tools: tape measure, seam gauge
- Sewing machine needles of various types and sizes (here’s more about how to choose a sewing machine needle)
- Presser feet: zigzag foot, rolled foot, zipper foot, walking foot, edge-stitching foot or 1/4″ foot, etc
- Pins, glue, temporary basting spray, safety pins, point turner, seam ripper, antifray sealant, tube turner
- Elastic and fold-over elastic, bodkin, hook and loop fastener
- Wash-away fabric tape, fusible web, interfacing
3. Choosing Fabric for Making Doll Clothes
Sometimes fabrics inspire the outfit, and other times patterns dictate the fabric choice. Make sure you’re choosing a fabric that’s going to flatter your doll, not overwhelm her.
Fabrics are either woven or knitted, so pick the type of fabric that your pattern requires.
Woven fabrics have minimal stretch and work great for sundresses, shorts, or any clothes with snaps or hook and loop fastener.
Knit fabrics are perfect for stretchy shirts, dresses, or leggings. If you do use a knit fabric, make sure it has good stretch recovery. Also, sew with a ballpoint or stretch needle and a stretch stitch.
I’ve written an entirely separate post about how to choose doll clothes fabric if you want extreme detail. In summary, though, choose:
- Soft fabric with good drape
- Lightweight fabric with minimal bulk
- Solid colors or small prints that won’t get lost
4. Adjusting Patterns to Fit Your Doll
Just like every person has a different size, so does every doll. It’s important to check the dimensions of the finished doll garment and compare them to the size of your doll.
Important measurements to get for your doll before starting:
- Neck circumference (only need for clothes tightly fit around the neck)
- Chest (around armpit to armpit)
- Arm length (shoulder top to wrist)
- Waist circumference
- Hip circumference at widest point
- Leg length or inseam
Save a written copy of these measurements for future reference!
When starting a new pattern, compare the pertinent measurements one by one to the finished garment measurements and make adjustments. If your doll is between sizes, use the larger size if you don’t know how to alter patterns yet.
5. Tracing Doll Clothes Patterns
If you think you’ll want a copy of the original pattern or if you plan to alter the pattern, trace the hard copy of the pattern first. To do this, pick your favorite type of tracing medium (tracing paper, Swedish tracing paper, parchment paper, freezer paper, etc), and place it over the pattern.
Use a pencil to trace the pattern pieces. Make sure to copy all pattern information and markings over to your paper.
Here are some examples of things you’ll find on a pattern that you want to copy over:
- Pattern name and specific pattern piece
- Grainline or stretch direction
- Directions such as cut 1 on the fold, or cut 2
- Fold, if applicable
- Gathering lines
- Stitch lines
- Buttonholes and button placement
Then, cut the traced pattern pieces out using scissors. Make sure to use craft scissors, NOT sewing scissors as this can dull them.
6. Cutting The Fabric
Always prewash fabrics so any shrinkage will happen before you start sewing. Small doll clothes getting smaller is not something you want! And I’ve seen too many toddler pukes in the middle of the night to not prepare for the possibility of needing to launder doll clothes.
You can use a small rotary cutter and cutting mat for cutting doll clothes fabric, or you can pin and cut with scissors the tried-and-true way. Sometimes I like to use freezer paper, which you can iron onto your fabric before cutting.
One of my big sewing mottos is measure twice, cut once. Meaning, once you cut fabric, you can’t put it back together. So, make sure you’ve aligned your pattern correctly before cutting.
Before removing the pattern pieces from your cut fabric, make sure you’ve transferred all pattern markings to your fabric. I like to use a water-soluble fabric marker to do this.
7. Sewing Doll Clothes (the Stitching and Finishing Process)
Make sure to read the seam allowance before starting to stitch. This will usually vary between 1/4″ to 5/8,” most often 1/4.”
Use small stitches for the best results. Small stitches are more aesthetically pleasing on small outfits, and you are also able to maneuver turns and corners more easily. Sew slowly until you get the hang of your sewing machine.
Make sure to backstitch at the beginning and end of sewing each seam.
1. Pressing Each Seam
Between every step, press your seams. Proper pressing shows the difference between an amateur and a professional seamstress. After your project is completed, give it one final press.
2. Clipping Curves and Trimming Corners
To create the smoothest seams possible, clip curves before you turn them. The easiest way to do this is to use pinking shears around the curve. You could also make small notches in convex curves and slits in concave curves.
To reduce bulk with sewing corners, trim along the corners diagonally.
3. Neatening Raw Edges
If you’re just making doll clothes for your child rather than selling them professionally, there is no reason to finish the edges if you don’t want to! Just trim them with sewing scissors. Also, knits don’t fray, so it’s not necessary to finish seam allowances on knit doll clothes.
If you do choose to finish raw edges, cut the seam allowance with pinking shears or use a zigzag or overcasting stitch. If using a serger, just know that sergers add more thread bulk to seams and may affect the fit of the garment.
4. Selecting Accessories, Embellishments, and Trims
When sewing doll clothes, it’s always fun to add personality with trim and other embellishments! Tiny clothes use tiny trims, so make sure you are picking small trim sizes. Examples of trim and other accessories are:
If you need to, you even can cut larger lace or ribbon down to smaller sizes!
Other Sewing Skills to Learn for Making Doll Clothes
Here are some common sewing skills you may use when sewing doll clothes. Watch a few YouTube videos or grab your favorite sewing book, and you’ll be set!
- Sewing hook and loop fastener
- Gathering fabric
- Sewing buttons and buttonholes
- Adding snaps to garments
- Sewing a narrow rolled hem
- Sewing fold-over-elastic (read more about the different types of elastic in sewing)
- Sewing a waistband casing
How to Sew Doll Clothes for Beginners – Conclusion
These tips and tricks on making doll clothes should get you started on your sewing journey. If you have any other suggestions about how to sew doll clothes, please let me know! And, if you’ve decided to take the no-sew route instead, you might enjoy this no-sew 18″ baby doll skirt pattern!