Monday, August 19, 2013

Garments from scratch

I've drafted two successful patterns in the last few days, so I thought I'd share the process with you.

I usually start with a sketch, just to pin the idea down, whether the idea is out of my own head or inspired by something I saw. Then I dig around for a pattern I already have that is close (basically a cheater's sloper). I make a trial garment from that modified pattern, and do a test fit. Usually there is one thing I need to change before the final garment, but I've gotten pretty good at this process. (Pat, pat, pat - my arm is sore!)

Here's the sketch and notes for a wrap blouse.

I had a request (I don't do commissions but I do sometimes take requests) for some clothes for a Volks SD 16, a doll I don't own, but that is vaguely similar to my Impldoll. The Volks is taller, bustier, and hippier, but the waist is similar. The shoulders are also wider on the Volks then on the Impldoll.

At a past doll meet, the Volks' owner had tried on some of the clothing I had for sale (made for the Impldoll) so I had some idea of where I needed to go for a blouse to fit the Volks.

So I decided on a wrap blouse - no collar, no buttoned cuffs, as I'm also trying to find a way to speed up my garment production so I can offer a better price. Most of the cost of my garments is in labor, not materials.

Anyway, I sketched out the changes I wanted to make on the existing button-front, collared, button-cuff blouse, and chopped up a cheerful red and white and pink striped thrift store blouse for my test run.

I had a feeling, when I tried the garment on my Impldoll, that the overall size would be good for the Volks, but that I was probably going to need to add a bit at the front in length to make up for the large bust. And, indeed, that was true.

So, one minor alteration later, and I have a blouse pattern to fit Volks SD16 and - if I decide to have it tie shut, a blouse that will fit a variety of wide shouldered busty SD dolls.

Here's the finished product, with a bonus baby pink belt.


The other garment I worked on was a bias plaid skirt inspired by one Bette Davis wore in the film "June Bride".

Here is a clear image (thank you, Internet) of the waist line of the skirt, and another that gives a good overall idea.

The skirt (I watched the movie with the invaluable aid of Tivo's pause function) has a center front and center back bias seam and probably a side seam that is moved toward the front and includes pockets.
The front of the skirt has soft pleats on either side of the center front seam.

You can see a little bit of the effect of the bias seam + pleats in the first picture, where the pattern changes along the line of the pleat. I just instantly fell in love with that pleat!

My first attempt was with (sadly) plaid that was not 4 way symmetrical, so pattern matching the plaid on the side seams didn't work out so well, but it was obvious that I had at least nailed the center front seam/pleat effect.

So off to the store to look for a symmetrical woven plaid. I needed to find a sufficiently small scale for the doll, so I had to turn down a number of plaids. The fabric I chose, cotton,  had a nice drape before washing, but washing, while necessary - it bled green for a while - swelled up the fibers and changed the hand and hang of the fabric. Boo hoo! I would also like to find a plaid with a stronger tonal contrast.

Anyway, I eliminated the pockets and moved the sideseam to the center of the side. I elected to use my mad math skills (which involved looking up the formulae for circles on Google, ha ha). I knew what I wanted for a finished length and knew that the distance around the doll's waist was about 6 1/2 inches. 

With those two measurements, I drafted a large 1/8 of a circle for the back pattern piece and marked the section of a smaller circle representing the waistline. Then I  drafted a larger 1/8" of a circle (2" longer in radius) for the front pattern piece,  moving the waistline section down two inches to allow material for the center front pleat.

I allowed 1 cm ease in the waistband, cut out the waistband and the four skirt pieces (this is about a 1/2 circle skirt), and stitched it up. 

Ta da!


  1. I do more or the less the same as you do when I'm sewing for a doll that I don't own!! It can be a long and frustrating process but the end results are good! I like the skirt and I find that working from photos can be really rewarding when the end results come out so well!!
    Hugs Sharon in Spain x

  2. Thanks, Sharon!
    I'm glad I can sew for dolls I don't own, or my doll collection would grow by leaps and bounds.