Let’s take a moment to talk about felt.
After I have my enormous amount of fun repainting a doll, the unavoidable fact hits me that this doll needs a beautiful look that goes with her new, beautiful face…
Yep. She needs clothes.
Now if sewing is your passion, you probably don’t even need to read this blog. However if you are “aspiring” to become a slightly better seamstress, then join the club. I have written this for you with all the sympathy my heart can give… plus a few tricks that helped me get through my first few weeks of outfit-making boot camp!
(By the way, Masters of the Needle n’ Thread: Who knows! Maybe you’ll find this little article helpful too)
Okay, so I have a flawless doll with her face glowing and her hair perfectly arranged; but honestly, that makes up only half of her. The other half must be clothed.
Step #1: Don’t panic. You got this. Reserve some time, make yourself a cup of tea, and reel in all of your attention for this project, otherwise you’ll tire yourself out racing to just get it done (believe me, I wish it worked like that, but it doesn’t).
Step #2: Sketch out your outfit and plan for possible pattern pieces. KEEP IT SIMPLE! Oh my goodness, how can I stress this enough! I know you’ll have a Marie Antoinette ball gown twirling around in your head, but if this is one of your first sewing campaigns, just keep it simple. Always remember that if you take your time and do it right, your outfit will 110% turn out gorgeous.
Step #3: Take your doll’s measurements and draw out your pattern pieces.
TIP – Use tissue or wrapping paper. This way you can fit the pattern pieces onto your doll to
see whether or not you’ve got the sizing correct. If it proves too big, cut down the edges. If
too small, glue original pattern onto another sheet of wrapping paper and trace a larger size
around it. It’s engineer work, but it sure beats wasting your fabric on a dress that’s a size
TIP – I can’t take full credit for this advice as I learned it from someone else, but if coming
up with a pattern from scratch is too complex for you, copy it. Take the doll’s original factory
outfit, seam-rip it apart, piece by piece, iron out all the pieces, trace them onto your
wrapping paper. Bada-bing! Bada boom! Pattern complete.
Step #4: Fabric choosing. By all means, you can go to as many fabric stores as you want to find the perfect shade of cotton or just the right feel of silk that will match your original design. But if you’re a beginner who’s short of cash (like me), this turns into a “making lemonade out of lemons” sort of deal. Sometimes your original design needs to adapt, which is SO fine! 110% it will turn out gorgeous, remember? Usually I’ll even look at the fabric I have on hand before sitting down to sketch. Creativity will always be there to pat you on the back.
BIG TIP – Here’s where I get to the felt 😉
Shirts are my nemesis. TOO MUCH DETAILED SEWING!!! I will kiss the feet of anyone who shows me the perfect tip to sewing shirts, but for now, it remains an unsolved mystery. Since I mostly sew for tiny dolls this also becomes my biggest problem.
Then what’s this? It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s FELT!!! *cue superhero music*
Felt; soft, pastel colored felt, has gotten me out of so many fixes, you have no idea. From sweaters to trims, to the actual shirt itself, felt is really a superhero. I don’t use the sheets of thick, compressed felt because the colors are usually harsh and bright, and the fabric, dense and hard to shape. I use the kind that felting artists use! They come in soft strips that you can thicken or thin as you like.
With this felt, I can do anything. If you’d like a shirt and skirt, sew a tank top dress and add felt to the top for the “look” of a shirt. No microscopic sleeve and neck hems. No twenty step jigsaw pattern puzzle.
Sweater? Wrap around the doll, sew together, and add a couple of cute buttons!
Dress neckline? Skirt trim? Use fabric tape and literally tape the strip of felt to your dress to hide any rough sewing and give it a sophisticated, fragile look. I also tape it down the back of the dress to cover any clasps or hook n’ eyes.
Want to layer a color over a color? Get a felting kit (or a piece of Styrofoam with a set of felting needles), place strips of felt over the Styrofoam, and puncture the pieces together until two become one!
There has only been one instance where I used the regular sheets of felt, and that was for a pair of leg warmers: Cut out and wrap a rectangle of sheet felt around the foot, sew the two sides of the rectangle together using the shape of the leg and foot as a guideline, hot glue on some details, and boom! Cute ballerina warm-up accessory!
I could go on and on, but I hope you get the picture 🙂 (Literally, check out the pictures down below)
Before I sum this up, let me address “hemming”.
Even if you use felt, hemming is still necessary if you want your outfit to last. The smaller the outfit, the smaller your machine needle needs to be. For AG dolls, a regular medium size will work, but for dolls like Bratz, Barbie, or Monster/Ever After High, the tinier the needle, the better. I use the smallest size I can find. It makes a huge difference.
Also, iron out your hems first. I know it’s a chore… good thing you’ve set aside some time for this, right 😉
I LOVE this stuff! Even Elmer’s School Glue will work, but my favorite is a good, old fashioned, fabric glue stick, available at any craft or fabric store. This will take care of fraying and keep your hem pinned down for sewing. It also won’t leave a stain like most fray checks do, and it will hold for a loooong time. In fact, forget the fray check entirely. Just use glue and wait for it to dry.
Step #5: Have fun and take breaks. If these tips inspire you, take that inspiration with you to the drafting table and get to work. But when the machine starts to break down, or the fabric starts to rip, or you find yourself crazily glowering down at a stubborn hem after your fifth cup of tea, go rest. It’s not worth the trouble. After a couple of hours or even a couple of days, return to your project and keep going. Adapt, create, and don’t keel over. Simplicity is the new elegance, and with the right amount of attention, your doll will end up stunning.
See you next time on Plastic to Perfect!
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