Hand-sewn doll clothes

Hand-sewn doll clothes

Ready to make a cute new outfit for your doll?  It’s so easy with this beautiful pattern book by Erin Hentzel!  We found this book to be so much better than simply using a packaged pattern.  The photos are adorable, and very helpful for the young seamstress.  Even if you have not sewn before, the book gives step by step instructions for making the clothes from start to finish.  If you are an advanced seamstress, this book is still wonderful!  Each pattern shows the level of difficulty, assigning a certain number of stars to show the level.  The patterns are for 18″ dolls (American Girl-sized dolls).

erin hentzel sew your own doll clothes
American Girl Doll Clothes hand sewn

We decided to try 3 of the patterns in this book, and sew them all by hand.  Of course it would be faster to sew the clothes with a machine, but they can all be sewn by hand as well.

We chose a coordinating solid and print to make this ensemble: a purse, a top, and shorts.  The best fabric to use for these patterns is light-weight cotton quilting fabric.

To get started, watch our YouTube video for tips on cutting out the pattern (especially helpful for beginners).


Some tips for sewing your ensemble by hand…

We made a few modifications to the instructions to make the hand sewing easier.  For the purse, we trimmed off the edges of the fabric to about an 1/8″ from the seam.  This made it so that when we sewed the front and the back of the purse together, we did not have to sew through so many layers.  (We made our first purse without trimming the fabric, and we found it could be a bit difficult to sew through so many layers of fabric, especially for little hands.)

We chose to use snaps to fasten the back of the shirt together. (Click here to watch our video on sewing snaps.)The pattern book suggests Velcro; however, hand sewing through Velcro can be a bit cumbersome.  We simply folded over each side of the back of the shirt by a quarter of an inch, and made a seam.  Then we sewed on a snap set at the top, and another snap set about 2 inches from the top.  Just for fun, we embellished the back of the top with little bows too.

The modification we made for the shorts was to use 1/8″ elastic, rather than the wider elastic suggested in the book.  This allowed us to not be as concerned about keeping our stitches super close to the edge of the casing.  We used a 13″ length of 1/8″ elastic and then tied a knot about 1″ from the end to secure it, rather than sewing through the elastic.

Another helpful tip for sewing these items by hand is to use a ruler and a pencil to mark off a 1/4″ from the edge of your fabric when needed.  This will help the stitches to be straighter, especially for beginners.

Of course for the clothes to stay together well, the stitches should be small.  1/8″ or smaller in length.  We used a running stitch for all of the items we sewed; however, to make them even sturdier, a back stitch could be used.  We chose to thread our needle and sew with double thickness of thread.

We found “finger pressing” – using your finger to fold and press the fabric, rather than an iron – worked well for these patterns.  (However, ironing the whole piece of fabric before cutting out the patterns is important!)  Using finger pressing, rather than an iron makes it easier for children to work on these projects on their own without having the use a hot iron.  It is helpful in some cases (such as the hem of the shorts) to pin after finger pressing.  

We have only tried three patterns from Sew in Style: Make Your Own Doll Clothes, but we can’t wait to try more!  If you would like to find out more, or purchase the book, please click on the image.  Happy sewing!

Enjoy your new doll outfit!

Our 10-year-old had fun taking these pictures with her doll playing outside, sporting her cute new outfit…

American Girl Doll Clothes hand sewn

If you love dolls as much as we do, you might enjoy some of our other doll ideas:  knit a doll hat and doll party ideas.

american girl doll knit hat
American Girl doll party ideas

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