When I first started thinking about creating doll patterns, one of my motivations was using some of my son’s baby and toddler clothes (which I’d been sentimentally hoarding) to make clothes for my doll models. I wanted to encourage other makers to upcycle clothing, whether outgrown or thrifted. Doll clothes can be made from such small amounts of fabric that even a baby’s garment can make a top or a skirt.
Tilly’s signature stripy top came about partly because it’s a wardrobe staple for those of us who love the coastal life, and partly because I had lots of little stripy tops waiting to be made into new clothes!
Knitted stretch or jersey fabric is very forgiving when stitched by hand. It’s easy to turn and sew the hem on a curved neckline, and even matching up the stripes of the side seams is easy. Of course you don’t have to use stripes ~ any small scale print or plain stretch fabric can be made into tops or leggings.
You can often save yourself sewing a hem by using the finished edge of the old garment. Just fold over the hem allowance on your paper pattern before pinning it to the edge. These tights were squeezed out of a tiny tee shirt and I had to incorporate the little label which was part of the original hem.
Because denim can be a bit heavy and thick for doll clothes, I use linen to make dolly jeans and dungarees. New linen fabric is expensive to buy, but a pair of linen pants from a charity shop will yield plenty of lovely fabric. I’ve sometimes wondered whether the people working in the shop notice that I buy the largest sizes even though I’m small! The soft, fine corduroy known as babycord is nice for skirts, pants and dungarees.
To prepare garments and store the fabric, take them apart, cutting along each side of the seam and discarding the stitched part Leave any flat hems in case they can be incorporated into a new project.
Remove and keep any working zips, buttons or pull cords that might come in useful then wash the fabric pieces and roll or fold them for storage.
Fleece is another very easy fabric to work with as the cut edges don’t fray. You could use it for cosy tops and scarves or even pyjamas ~ use the patterns for Tilly’s top and trousers.
The only new fabric I use for my dolls’ clothes is the felt for their shoes and boots, but you can experiment with felting fine woollen garments or even upcycling some thin suede or leather.
I can’t deny the appeal of shopping for new fabric but it’s fun to plan a doll’s wardrobe using the fabrics you already own, and if you use your child’s outgrown clothes you’ll extend their use and create more happy memories.