Well, we’re almost done. Today, I’ll provide you with a basic pattern for a “french-style” dress and show you how to make it. Next week, in the final lesson, I’ll give you different ideas on how to embellish the dress and suggest closures.
I have added a Tutorials menu heading to the top of my blog and created a rudimentary directory with links to all the Beginning Sewing Lessons. Soon, I’ll add mini descriptions of each lesson so that you can go to a specific subject. I’ll add to the directory as I add new tutorials on other subjects.
Sewing and photographing as I go has been a challenge. This week, I tried taking the pictures in my living room to keep from trotting back and forth from my sewing spot to my photo spot. I apologize for the weird shadows in today’s pictures. Either I have to get better lighting for my sewing spot or I will have to trot.
So here’s your pattern. Refer to the measurement info in Part 2 to customize the pattern for your doll.
The fabric I have chosen is a pale aqua BLUE silk faille that was given to me several years ago from a friend in my doll club. As you can see, it was folded and put away many years ago so it has faded at the edges and fold lines. Since my doll is small, it is easy to cut around the faded areas.
I pressed the fabric and cut out a small rectangle for my pattern pieces. Since I cut with a rotary cutter, it is easier to work with a piece of fabric that doesn’t hang over the sides of my board. That way, I can turn the board to get to the best cutting angle.
You should also cut out a lining for your dress using the same pattern pieces. I’ve used cotton gauze for my lining in this lesson since my dress fabric is heavy. You can use your underwear fabric or any fine cotton for your lining.
When costuming tiny dolls, much has been written (by others) about how precise you have to be when cutting and sewing such tiny costumes. Bah! I find it much easier to fit as I sew, as you’ll see later in this lesson. We’re dressing dolls, not performing surgery! Isn’t this supposed to be play?
To begin sewing, place your dress back and one dress front piece right sides together, matching the shoulder seams. Layer this between the matching lining pieces and sew with running stitches about 1/8″ to 3/16″ from the edge. Then sew the other shoulder seam.
Next, sew the side seams together and fit the dress on your doll inside out. If it fits, trim the lining back close to your stitching lines.
When I fit the dress on my doll, it was too big across her back, so I sewed a second set of stitches on the side seams. Then I trimmed away the first stitch line and trimmed the lining. Press the seams open. I used an iron this time, instead of finger pressing, since my fabric is a bit stiff.
Here’s where your lining comes in handy. Trim any “whiskers” at your fabric edges before you stitch, then overcast (or whipstitch) your seams, catching a bit of the lining in your stitches. This will keep your seams open and flat and will prevent raveling. Since you are stitching into the lining, your stitches won’t show on the outside.
Stitch up one side of each seam and down the other until you’ve overcast all the seams.
There are two fidgety bits when finishing your dress, the sleeve openings and the back neck. Don’t procrastinate, just go for it. On the sleeve openings, trim back the lining at the edges a tiny bit. Begin at the underarm seam and fold a tiny bit of your dress fabric to the inside and stitch. Don’t use pins here because the area is just too tiny and the pins will get caught up in your stitches. Just fold as you go around the opening.
Here’s what it looks like from the right side when it’s done, pretty smooth.
Since the hemline is curved, it needs to be eased to make it smooth. I stitched a larger running stitch along the hemline, starting 1/4″ from each end.
Check the length on your doll and turn up the hem. I pulled the gathering thread to fit, matching the ends and seam lines then pinned it.
Make sure you turn your dress over at this point and check that the hem is smooth and even before you sew it.
Now, stitch, leaving the hem open 1/4″ at each end. Trim the ends at a 45 degree angle to remove some of the bulk.
Trim the lining on the front edges, turn them to the inside, and pin. Don’t pin across the back neck area. Begin stitching across the folded end at the bottom, then stitch up one side.
It will be lumpy where the front of the dress curves. This time, try to ease in the fullness as you sew instead of using a gathering thread. Just push a bit of the excess fabric between each stitch in the curved area. When you press it, you can coax it smooth.
Fidgety part two is next. The back neck edge, between the shoulder seams, will cup inward. This makes it fit your doll better, but makes it tricky to sew. Just fold and stitch as you go. The turned under edge will get thinner at the center back and that’s okay.
Press your dress and fit it on your doll. I’m pleased with the way mine fits. This isn’t always the case. Since dolls vary so much in size and shape, everyone has a slip-up occasionally. It’s not about the mis-steps, it’s about how you deal with them.
If your dress doesn’t fit well, there are a few possible solutions. If it is too short, you can add trim at the bottom. If it is too big, you can wrap it in the front more and/or sew gathers across the back at the waist line and add trim. If it is too small, you can add trim to the front edges. Or you can see if it fits another doll in your collection…
Next time, in our final lesson, I’ll show you different ideas for trims, lace and fastenings for your dress and how to apply them. I am going to use the rest of the lace from the underwear, some antique gold and aqua trim, and hooks to close the front. You can use ribbons, lace, buttons, embroidery, flowers, etc. Add as little or as much as you like.
When you complete your first costume, you’ll no longer be a beginner!