SEWING FOR YOUR DOLLS

I intend to update this section in future, hopefully put up some project pages. For the meanwhile, it will be whatever I can think of that I've found out while making clothing for my dolls that I think might be useful to others.

RANDOM SEWING TIPS

~ Always wash your fabric before you cut. Even with prewashed fabric, excess dye may eventually come off your doll's clothing and onto their body; but you will minimize this if you wash first. Also, washing removes sizing from many fabrics - especially cottons - and softens them. You will get a better result, especially on this smaller scale, with prewashed fabrics.

~ It's not a scrap - it's SD-scale! Doll sewing requires MUCH less fabric than human sewing. It seems obvious, but if you've sewn for a human, it's a hard switch to make. SD13 boy pants require only about 1/4yd of fabric. Most remnants at your fabric store (including trim remnants), which seem too small for most purposes, are more than enough for a doll outfit. They are usually dirt-cheap!

~ Don't be afraid to try. Again, doll clothes take a very small amount of fabric; the world will not end if you make a mistake or your garment doesn't come out how you wanted! You haven't lost much. Your doll(s) will appreciate the effort. :3

~ Do your hems first on sleeves, pant legs, and anything else with an opening narrower than the arm of your sewing machine. On most skirts you can do the hems last, but I find it more convenient to do the hem while my skirt is still flat on gathered skirts.

~ If you want to topstitch on pants, you must leave the either the front or the back crotch seam until last. Leave the front crotch seam till last if you want to topstitch the back seam; but I recommend leaving the back seam open instead. This is so that you can do a short run of topstitching along the bottom of the fly (if your pants have one).

~ When attaching waistbands, do two steps instead of one. When I started making doll pants, I folded the waistband in half and sewed it to the pants in one go (if I didn't sew the other edge and then hand-sew the inner edge under, like on "real" pants). But, I found out that the waistband is much less bulky and finishes better if you follow these steps. (A) Serge or otherwise finish one raw edge of your cut waistband. (B) Sew the seams at either end. (C) Turn the waistband and stich the unfinished edge to the pants. (D) Press over the serged edge and topstitch the waistband from the right side to hold it in place. This neatly covers up your raw edges while keeping the waistband's profile low for a better fit.

~ To help keep sew-on snaps aligned, sew on the knobbed bit first. Then use a piece of chalk to mark the end. Press your two sections of fabric together, and you can easily place the center hole of the snap's other half over the chalk mark.

RECOMMENDED SEWING ROOM TOOLS

Note: You can purchase nearly all of these items online from the Jo-Ann website.

FRAY BLOCK by June Tailor

You may have seen Fray Check, which comes in a small bottle with a blue cap, or other similar products designed to stop fraying. Because of the narrow seam allowances used in BJD clothing, fraying (having the fabric's weave come apart) can be more serious than on full size clothing (which uses a 5/8 seam allowance instead of the BJD standard 1/4). You can use a serger or an overlock or zigzag stitch on a sewing machine to finish your edges. But you may find for some fabrics and in some places, this doesn't work very well; or you may sew by hand. The problem with Fray Check is that it hardens the fabric. Fray Block is much less likely to show on delicate fabrics and will not make your fabric "crunchy". (It does stiffen it some, but much less than Fray Check.) Even on serged seams that will take a lot of stress - like crotch seams on pants - I use Fray Block for added durability.

GRID FABRIC for patterning

This is a soft fabric, similar to sew-in interfacing, designed for making your own patterns. Quilters use it so it is available marked in 1" squares with light blue lines. This stuff is my favorite discovery. The lines are very useful in pattern transferring and making your own patterns. Look for it with the bolts of interfacing at your fabric store. The fabric is much more durable than tissue or other light papers, but easy to pin onto fabric. I usually mark the "rough draft" of my pattern with a pastel (chalk) pencil and then go over it in Sharpie for increased visibility (make sure to put some scrap cardboard or heavy paper underneath as the fabric is thin and the Sharpie may bleed through). You can keep pattern pieces together with a rubberized paper clip (metal can rip the fabric), or in an envelope or Ziploc.

MINI IRON

You may find yourself burning your fingers a lot in the course of trying to press very small items. A doll iron isn't a must (you can also use a travel iron to get in to some smaller spots), but it is very useful. They don't get quite as hot as a regular iron so they aren't for every application. Clover also makes a petite-sized clamp-on doll ironing board which is handy.

SAFETY PINS

Okay, so you may not think of them as a tool; but they are. Chances are you will be doing at least one elastic waistband. Even though you can purchase a doll-sized bodkin (if you don't know what it is, you don't need to), I find that it is too large for anything smaller than SD. You will find your elastic-inserting life much easier if you simply put a safety pin in each end of your cut elastic. One pin you will use to guide the elastic through the channel; pin the other through both the elastic and the fabric to keep it from slipping into the channel. Make sure to be very careful not to OPEN the safety pin while it is in the channel. I say this because I have DONE this multiple times! You can use tape to help keep it closed if you like, but I mostly recommend that you PUSH the pin through from the back end - DON'T PULL it through from the front of the pin.

STABILIZER

Stabilizer may be your new best friend. Narrow seam allowances mean that your sewing machine may try to eat your doll clothing. Stabilizer is very helpful to keep fabrics going through your machine smoothly so you get a nice, straight seam on the correct allowance. It's especially helpful with delicate or thin fabrics and stretch knits. I recommend the tear-away kind, not any of the adhesive or water-soluble types, because it has the most applications, and won't harm your fabric or your machine at all. You do not have to use stabilizer on the whole length of a seam if you don't want; it is most effective (for me, anyway) at the beginning and end of seams, where the corner of the fabric can easily get sucked into the hole on your throat plate and jam your machine. You can buy this stabilizer in flat packages or off the bolt, but it's more economical to buy a roll and works better for doll projects as it's easy to cut off strips.

THREAD SNIPS

These are helpful for any sewing, but it can be especially hard to hold an eensy piece of fabric and full-size scissors to get the loose threads off without accidentally hacking into your fabric. These particular thread snips are duller than most scissors and have a blunt point; they cut through thread just fine, but they're very unlikely to damage your fabric (or you). They have a nice spring action on them, too. The ones in the photo are fancier than mine, I got the basic blue ones from JoAnn (I believe they are made by Dritz). They don't need to be fancy.

NYLON SNAPS

I also use regular metal sew-in snaps, which come in a wide range of sizes. But these nylon snaps are easy to sew on and have a low profile, so they don't add much bulk, making them good for doll clothes. Note that you can purchase "doll snaps" with the Dritz doll sewing items, but I found these to be a pain to use; they are not much smaller than regular metal snaps (just small enough to be horrid to hold in place while you're sewing!). They're also often defective in such a way that most needles are too wide to fit through the holes. I'd steer clear of them.

ONE-PIECE ("Snag Free") VELCRO

Another product I feel the need to evangelize. Normal velcro comes in two parts - a hook piece, and a loop piece. One-piece velcro has both the hooks AND the loops on the same piece. The result is a very flexible velcro which basically won't snag at all on things you don't want it to (like doll wigs or your fabric), and is also less likely to get fuzz stuck in it. BTW, if no one has told you before, STAY AWAY from adhesive velcro. It's not for sewing projects! If you sew it on, it will gunk up your machine's needle, and if you don't, it won't stay in place. Comes in white and black.

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