I’ve been making doll clothes to send to a little girl I fostered when I lived in China years ago. She lived with me for over a year – until she was a little over two years old. This sweet one lives in the States now, and just turned eight. Eight!! I certainly can’t believe it.
I always try to send her something she’d like for her birthday and at Christmas time, but it’s really hard with her being so far away – and she’s an eight year old now, a totally foreign species! This year, I got word that she was after some new clothes for her American Girl Doll so I’ve been sewing. So far, I’ve managed a little dress and cardi combo, as well as a tutu.
As the final piece of the puzzle I’ve sewn a little cap sleeve peasant dress. I couldn’t find a tutorial or free pattern online for what I was picturing, so I’ve written up my very first tutorial with free downloadable PDF pattern.
The pattern will fit most 15″ and 18″ dolls. Doll measurements vary, so measure up your doll to check the dress will fit. The dress fits our 15″ Waldorf (Steiner) doll, and it is designed for 18″ American Girl Dolls. Finished garment dimensions are: shoulder to hem, 10″ for 18″ size (8″ for 15″ size); chest 18″; sleeve/cuff measurement, 6″; neckline, 10″. To give you some idea of fit, Harriet is a 15″ doll, wearing the 18″ size – it fits well, aside from the dress length. Harriet’s chest measurement is 11″. If you’re willing to fiddle with the pattern pieces a little, you can change the dimensions of the dress to fit your doll. If you want a slimmer fit you can take off a bit of the pattern along the fold line of each piece – just make sure you take the same amount off both the front and back.
In addition to the pattern pieces, you will need coordinating thread, elastic (I used 1/4″ elastic) and bias binding. I made my own bias binding from the same fabric as the sleeves so it all looked pretty. You could also use store bought binding.
The pattern includes a 1/2″ seam allowance. I generally press seams after each step as it gives a more professional finish. I prewash and press my fabrics.
So, here you go!
Print the pattern – download here – and cut out fabric pieces. When you’re printing, make sure your printer isn’t set to scale the document to fit the page. You want to print at actual size. There is a 1″ square on the pattern so you can check that the pattern has printed correctly. For this dress I cut the fabric with right sides facing out to make sure I liked the way the pattern pieces sat over the print.
I must admit that my overlocker and I are not the best of friends. I didn’t bother to change the thread over to white. I could be liberal with the truth and tell you it was because I wanted the finish to be clear in the photos but that would be a lie. I didn’t want to wrestle with the million threads and upset the tension, which is borderline anyway. I really must find the time to do an overlocker course…
Pin the front and back dress pieces and sleeves right sides together. Sew side seams and finish as you wish.
At this point, I made the bias binding for the hem and neckline. I have recently invested in a bias binding maker which makes life so much easier (thank you 40% off voucher combined with birthday money)! This bias binding is 1″ single fold bias binding.
I’m sure there’s a more professional way to attach bias binding, but this way works for me. Doing it this way means I can watch the stitching and make sure the top stitching looks neat from the right side. If you have a favourite way of sewing on the binding, go for it!
To attach the bias binding to the hemline, open the binding out and pin it, right side of the binding down against the wrong side of the dress fabric. I start pinning at one of the side seams.
Top stitch the binding in place. I use a spot on my sewing machine foot as a guide to keep the stitching even. You might need to wrangle the join so that it sits well. Top stitch as close to the edge as you can neatly.
Follow the same process to attach the binding at the neck, although, this time, leave a gap (about 1 1/2″) where you can insert the elastic. I use two pins inserted next to each other to remind me to stop sewing for the gap. I generally stop and start the binding in the centre of the dress back.
Insert 11″ of elastic into the gap left in the neckline. You can vary the length of the elastic to suit the style you’re aiming for. To make this process easier, I mark the same side of the elastic on both ends – it helps you tell whether you’ve accidentally twisted the elastic while guiding it through. Don’t forget the old trick of using a safety pin to help the elastic through the casing.
I’d love to see any dresses made using this pattern – link back to this tutorial, or post on the facebook page! Please let me know if you have any questions or if anything’s not clear – I will answer any questions and update the tutorial accordingly.