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Assemble a Gift Kit For Sewing Doll Clothing

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Custom make a gift for the doll lover on your gift list. Assemble a few of the items below into a custom doll clothing kit and watch skills and confidence grow. The items here can be used by ages 6 to ancient.

1. Choosing a Doll To Dress

Handsewn poseable felt mouse shown beside a Playmobil figure for size.
Photo © 2011 Lesley Shepherd

If you are making a kit for a beginning sewer, add a doll which is easy to dress to the kit to help give them a project to start with. Look for dolls with flexible arms and legs, or joints in their feet and wrists which make dressing easier. Choose dolls at least 1:6 to 1:12 scale for a beginning sewer, unless the child has a collection of Playmobil people or Calico Critters she is longing to dress. If the kit is for a child, choose a doll or figure which fits with the child's basic play. "Entry Level" plastic ball joint dolls are a good starting point for older children who want to try ball joint dolls. The model horse rider dolls from Breyer have joints very much like ball joint dolls. For older doll enthusiasts, ball joint doll (BJD)bodies from Hujoo and Obitsu are relatively inexpensive without 'full package' clothing, wigs and 'faceups' (makeup)

If you prefer, include soft 'Waldorf' dolls, or doll clothes pegs as a basis for a young fashion designer. Several yard sale dolls might be a welcome inclusion for experimentation, as they are inexpensive and not an already treasured possession.

You can also include simple instructions and fabrics so a beginning sewer can make their own 'dressmakers dummy'. The following animals can all be dressed with simple clothes by young sewers:

2. Custom Doll Clothing Patterns

Basic flat paper pattern or sloper for the front torso of a female doll, used to make custom clothes
Photo copyright 2010 Lesley Shepherd

Add materials to the kit to allow the gift to be used make a range of clothing from simple patterns. If the gift is for a young sewer, make a set of basic patterns or 'slopers' for their favorite doll using the torso sloper pattern for shirts, dresses and coats or the pant sloper pattern for pants, shorts and leggings.

If the kit is for an older child or adult, include lightweight interfacing for making clothes patterns and slopers, a glue stick which is colored, and dries clear for basting or testing seams, and a fabric marking pen which fades away. Also include a link to the instructions for making custom clothing patterns.

3. Easy Sew Doll Clothing Fabrics

Materials used to make a winter fairy costume for a miniature doll.
Photo © 2012 Lesley Shepherd

For beginning sewers, try to find fabrics suited to making doll clothing. Cotton quilting fabric comes in small squares, but is often very difficult for beginners to work with to achieve success. When assembling a kit, try to include a range of fabrics. Some sources might surprise you!

  • Wool Felt - avoid cheap felt from craft stores and seek out a source of wool felt. Quilting shops and some yarn shops have it in stock. The cheap craft felt won't drape or stretch the way real wool felt does, frustrating beginning sewers.
  • Cotton Lawn - look for vintage cotton handkerchiefs, or try a shop which sells smocking supplies.
  • Old Silk Ties - With their small patterns and fine fabric, worn or vintage silk ties can be used for many fine sewing projects.
  • Knit Baby Clothes - these can be a great source of four way stretch fabric that doesn't run, making it easy to sew stretch doll clothing items like leggings.
  • Knit Cotton Underwear - the sales pile in most department stores can be a great source of fine knits in co-ordinated colors and small scale patterns. If you don't want the recipient to know where the fabric originated, cut it into squares before you add it to the kit!

For creative individuals, check out custom fabric printing services like Spoonflower (who also sell some printed doll clothes kits) or include some sheets of Printable Cotton Lawn or silk

Include a few 'luxury' fabrics as well if you can. Small amounts of faux suede, leather, or iron on heat set fabrics can be found in most quilt shops and make interesting materials for shoes, purses, or trims.

4. Trims

Bunka cord or thread unravelled to single, double and 3/4 'pulls' or thicknesses for miniatures
Photo Copyright 2011 Lesley Shepherd

Trims are always fun to experiment with. Include fine seed beads and a beading needle, braided trims, fine lace, thin silk ribbon (1/8 inch or larger), bunka or other items in your gift kit.

Try to match the colors and types of trims to the fabrics you have included, knit trims for knits, ribbons, lace or bias tapes for woven fabrics.

One or two yards (meters) of each trim make a good selection. Check out scrapbook stores for small amounts of fine silk ribbon or other small scale trims.

5. Elastics, Threads and Fasteners

Heart shaped and round buttons made in dolls house scale from polymer clay.
Photo copyright 2008 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

Help the costumer make removable clothing by adding doll velcro or another fine hook and loop tape to the kit. Small snaps can be useful as well, although elastic thread and buttons may be easier for children. Small buttons are usually too large for dolls smaller than play or fashion scale (1:6), include a basic package of polymer clay and a small hole punch for making tiny buttons for older sewers.

Include an assortment of needles, fine needles for fine fabrics, ball point needles for knit fabrics to help a beginner learn the easy basic stitches of handsewing that are so helpful when making doll clothing. For young children, supply them with wool felt fabric and a darning size plastic needle to get them started. Waldorf or Montessori school suppliers carry these for children's projects.

If you can find it, include some 'invisible' elastic thread. Often found in magic shops, or from online magic stores, this thread can be used to 'smock' or add elastic waists and wrists to even tiny doll clothing. Narrow patterned elastics found in some dollar store hairbands can be fun for miniature costume makers as well.

6. Needful Things

Samples of transparent and shimmer Pebeo Setacolor paints on Paj silk.
Photo copyright 2009 Lesley Shepherd, Licensed to About.com Inc.

For the truly addicted, include a few specialty items. These could be fabric paints, fabric inks, fabric crayons (great for younger children) specialty glues, or other items. My personal favorites include Seta color paints which can be heat set, and which come in marker or liquid form. Dritz Fray Check is always appreciated and very useful, and iron on fusibles and photo transfer fabric sheets allow miniaturization of slogans and decal style designs.

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