Take 5: Tips & Tricks for Small Doll Sewing

Kristin Rutten

Take 5: Resources, Links and Other Fun FindsThere 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

5 Small Doll Sewing Tips & Tricks

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…


5 Small Doll Sewing Tips & Tricks

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.



5 Small Doll Sewing Tips & Tricks

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.



5 Small Doll Sewing Tips & Tricks

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 Small Doll Sewing Tips & Tricks

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!

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About Kristin Rutten

Kristin Rutten is the creator, owner and operator of Matilda Jo Originals. Born and raised in Montana, she first learned to sew on her grandmother's antique Singer sewing machine by cutting out and stitching a simple nine-square pillow. Other projects soon followed and she has been crafting and sewing ever since. In addition to sewing and pattern design, she also enjoys crocheting, scrapbooking and designing WordPress websites. She makes her home in Central Montana with her husband and four children, ages 8 to 21.

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17 Comments

  1. Sue
    SueReply
    July 20, 2016 at 9:19 am

    I use a bamboo stick to guide my pieces through the machine when sewing small pieces

    • Kristin Rutten
      Kristin RuttenReply
      July 20, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Good idea Sue … thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  2. Claudia Raab
    Claudia RaabReply
    July 20, 2016 at 9:38 am

    I find quarter (1/4) inch wide fusible tapes like Steam-A-Seam or Wonder Tape are extremely helpful when making pockets and when top-stitching pockets and hems. Using the tape eliminates the need for pins and gives you a smooth edge along which to top-stitch.

    Use the tape to hold down the folded sides of your pocket. Then use it again to fuse the pocket to the back of pants before top-stitching.

    On hems, place the tape on the side of the hem fold facing in toward the skirt. Fuse. Turn the garment over and top-stitch.

    • Kristin Rutten
      Kristin RuttenReply
      July 20, 2016 at 10:11 am

      Great tips Claudia… and thanks for the “how to’s”!! 🙂

  3. Amruta
    AmrutaReply
    July 20, 2016 at 9:51 am

    Am new to sewing doll clothes. We recently bought Truly me doll for our daughter. Never tried to sew Barbie or Ever after high doll clothes . They are so tiny. Thank you for these tips will help a lot.

    • Kristin Rutten
      Kristin RuttenReply
      July 20, 2016 at 10:12 am

      Welcome to the world of doll sewing Amruta!! You’re very welcome… and good luck! 🙂

  4. Edith
    EdithReply
    July 22, 2016 at 5:03 pm

    I find 1/4 inch seams difficult to see since the fabric does not extend beyond the presser foot. So if I am sewing a straight stitch I move my needle to the right. Not only is it easier to see but the fabric is in contact with both of the feed dogs which makes the sewing smoother.

    • Kristin Rutten
      Kristin RuttenReply
      July 23, 2016 at 11:48 am

      I never thought about that Edith… thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  5. Joanne Monaghan
    Joanne MonaghanReply
    July 27, 2016 at 1:44 pm

    I like to use water soluble stabilizer to sew seams on sheeer and stretchy fabric I cute strips about 2 inches wide .

    • Kristin Rutten
      Kristin RuttenReply
      July 28, 2016 at 5:25 pm

      Great tip Joanne! I used stabilizer on the Beach Towels pattern but haven’t really tried it anywhere else… will have to keep that in mind! Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  6. Shirley Fomby
    Shirley FombyReply
    August 2, 2016 at 8:32 am

    I use an open toe foot so I can see what I’m doing.

    • Kristin Rutten
      Kristin RuttenReply
      August 3, 2016 at 6:47 am

      I’m not familiar with those Shirley… thanks for the tip! I’ll have to check that out… 🙂

  7. Colleen Maala
    Colleen MaalaReply
    August 2, 2016 at 9:57 am

    This article was so very helpful! I’ve been sewing for the 18″ doll for years, selling my creations on Etsy. Making clothes for that size doll my serger works great and I have no problem with bulk. But in the last couple of weeks I’ve been sewing for my new Wellie Wisher doll, Emerson : ) The arm holes have been giving me so much trouble using the serger on a t-shirt because of the bulky seams. Sometimes they’re bigger than the short sleeve! Today, I’m going to remake it attempting to use pinking or zigzag which I’m not so experienced with. Any tips on that? Do I trim the 1/4″ seam slightly, then zigzag? Which method do you prefer? Thank you so much! I love your patterns and informational website! You’re a Godsend to those who love dolls and creating beautiful things for them : )

    • Kristin Rutten
      Kristin RuttenReply
      August 3, 2016 at 6:49 am

      Thanks Colleen… I’m glad it’s helpful! To answer your question, I nearly always trim seams to about 1/8 inch and then zigzag from the seam to the cut edge. Works pretty well most of the time … and I like the neat, finished edge. 🙂

  8. Colleen Maala
    Colleen MaalaReply
    August 3, 2016 at 8:32 am

    That’s exactly what I did and it worked perfect! Made a Wellie Wisher t-shirt after 2 other attempts with a serger and it came out so cute. Great tip!

    • Kristin Rutten
      Kristin RuttenReply
      August 5, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      That’s awesome… thanks for sharing!! 🙂

  9. Dale B. Hale
    June 10, 2017 at 9:06 am

    Thanks for the tips – Great Info! I’m new to sewing for my 18″ dolls and fairly new to sewing too so my tip may not mean much to any of you but I find it helpful to use a chop stick to push out my corners from the inside. My hubby put one of my wooden chop stick into the pencil sharpener for a slightly sharper end and the other one, we left it blunt. Depending on the item I’m sewing, works GREAT for me!!

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