We hope you enjoy our series of Sewing Basics posts in the next few months! We have lots of fun and easy tutorials lined up for basic patterns and sewing projects. You’ll learn a ton, and even if you’re a sewing pro we think the tutorials will help you feel successful and productive in your sewing hours. Today Marie shows us how to make some simple, no-pattern 18-inch doll clothes (fitting American Girl-sized dolls). Find more from Marie in her introduction, shop and on her two sites devoted to sewing 18-inch doll clothes.
No-Pattern Ruffled Skirt + Floral Fitted Top for 18-inch Dolls
Sewing clothes for an American Girl doll (or other 18-inch dolls) can be both fun and rewarding. Since my daughter loves dressing up and styling her dolls, I prefer sewing for dolls more than for people. The big advantage is I don’t need to do complicated stuff like attaching a zipper or button; also the “model” doesn’t complain that the fabric is itchy or the fitting is not right. It is more budget-friendly since clothing from the American Girl doll website can cost around $30 or more. Plus, this is a favorite bonding time for me and my daughter. She is always ecstatic every time I come up with new clothing for her doll. The happiness and excitement I see in her eyes are so wonderful for me.
For this tutorial, I decided to make a ruffled skirt and a floral bandeau top. This style is in trend so I am sure a lot of little girls would go crazy dressing up their doll with this outfit. It is very easy to sew as there is no pattern required. The measurements in this tutorial are made for American Girl dolls but they can easily be altered to fit other 18-inch dolls such as Madame Alexander, Our Generation, Springfield, etc.
To make the ruffled skirt, I chose to use a fabric that does not fray. With that, I need not worry about hemming the bottom which can be a lot of work. I prefer using a cotton stretchy shirt for this project.
- Knit Shirt (mine was from the dollar store, or you can use an old shirt from your closet)
- 10 ½ inch elastic
- Rotary cutter or scissors
1. Cut your pieces: The shirt I got from the dollar store is 15 inches wide and does not have seams on the sides. I cut three pieces, each one measuring 2 inches in height. The base for the ruffles should measure 4 inches in length and 14 inches wide. Below is a guide on how to cut the pieces for the skirt.
2. Prepare all the pieces you need to make the ruffled skirt: The base should measure 4 inches long x 14 inches wide. The long pieces for the ruffle should measure 2 inches long x 30 inches wide.
3. Make the ruffles: To make the ruffles, gather each long pieces until they are the same width as the base. There are different ways to gather the fabric but my favorite method is to use my gathering foot. If you do a lot of sewing, I recommend purchasing one as it will save you a lot of time. Amazon is a great place to find one for your sewing machine.
4. Prepare the base for the ruffles: I am a little OCD about making sure that each ruffle is sewed straight to the base. To make this happen, I drew a line on the base making sure that each ruffle is spaced evenly. The line is where I match the edge of my ruffle piece when sewing it. The photo below shows the measurements for how to distribute each ruffle uniformly.
5. Sew the ruffles to the base: Sew each ruffle starting from the bottom. Make sure to match the edge of the ruffle to the guide line when sewing it.
6. Make the elastic casing: After attaching all the ruffles, you will be left with about 1 ½ inch piece on the top. To make the casing for the elastic, fold this piece about ¼ inch and then fold over again about ½ inch to cover the ruffles on the top. Pin to secure and top stitch to finish the casing.
7. Insert the elastic on the casing: Secure the end of the elastic with safety pin and feed it through the casing.
8. Finish the skirt: Match the back seams of the skirt and sew to finish it.
9. Your skirt is done!
Floral Bandeau Top
I promise you this is the easiest top you’ll ever make for your child’s doll. There is no pattern needed, very minimal cutting and tons of variations can be done; all you need is a bit of of creativity and imagination.
- Fabric measuring 8 inches in length and 16 inches in width (preferably floral prints)
- Existing doll shirt or doll top (whatever you have on hand that you like the fit best)
1. With right sides together, fold the fabric in half crosswise and sew both ends of the sides.
2. Trim the seam and corners and turn inside out.
3. Mark the center of the fabric with a pin. Then fold both ends overlapping the center a few inches away.
4. Place the doll shirt on top of the fabric. With a fabric chalk or marker, trace the sides of the shirt on the fabric.
5. Sew along the outline you made.
6. Turn on the right side and your top is almost done. Cut Velcro the same length as the top. Sew both pieces at the back for closure. Hem the bottom to finish it. I prefer to finish this top with a zigzag stitch as it looks decorative.
7. Make the strap: Cut fabric measuring 1 ½ wide by 15 inches long. Finish both short ends of the fabric. Run a zigzag stitch at both short ends, fold over ¼ inch and sew. Mark the center of the fabric. Then fold each long side towards the center and press. Fold it again making sure that both unfinished ends are tucked inside. Press and secure with pins. Sew on both ends about 1/8 inch away from the edge.
8. I just hand sew the strap to attach it to the bodice. Since I still have leftover pieces from the skirt, I thought of making a flower. To make the flower, just cut fabric ¾ inch wide by 7 inches long piece. Gather the fabric and roll it to make the flower. Sew to secure.