Doll Couture from Fabric Remnants and Old Jewelry

I started my lifelong stint as a seamstress at the age of nine making doll clothes from fabric scraps—using my grandmother’s treadle Singer machine. I graduated to making real clothes by age 11, but I’ve always held a fondness for designing and creating doll clothes. I continue to make them today—usually as gifts for family members.

Pattern pieces on fabricThe best thing about doll clothes is how little fabric they use—especially those for 12” Barbie® and the like. Remnants and scraps for other sewing projects are perfect for this, keeping the cost of materials near zero. Patterns can be bought on sale at stores, or very inexpensively on EBay. I got dozens of patterns for both 12” and 18” dolls that way. And, of course, with a bit of care patterns can be reused multiple times.

My cousin’s four-year-old, Alessandra, loves her 12” Elsa and Anna dolls from Frozen, so I decided to make them matching cloaks. My daughter makes fleece hats for sale at festivals, so I had my choice of scraps from her stash. I selected turquoise for Elsa and dark pink for Anna. Fleece is great for doll clothes because it cuts with a clean edge that doesn’t unravel.

trimsI bought the pattern on Ebay, to give me a base to work with, but knew I wanted to make something unique—not just copy the design from the film. Since little girls like sparkly things, and Elsa and Anna are princesses, I decided to add some jewels.

I have a lot of costume jewelry from back when my daughter used to play dress-up. There were two bracelets that would be perfect: one in silver and turquoise, the other in gold and green. With a few scissor snips, the bracelets were unstrung leaving me beads and embellishments ready to use.

cut fabric with trimmings

closeup of jeweled cloaksI didn’t have enough beads to edge the entire cloak, but more than enough for the capelet and the clasp at the neck. I used thread, doubled and knotted, that matched the fleece, and a needle large enough to thread easily, but narrow enough to pass through the bead holes. I anchored each bead with a stitch to hold them in place. Here’s a good tutorial on how to sew beads on fabric from Instructable.

At first, I thought I’d add some embroidery (hence the thread in the photos), but after I added the beads, I realized simplicity was better.

pink and brown gownThe cloaks were well received, so I decided to make a gown for Alessandra’s dolls as well. This time, I used scraps of pink satin from a costume I had made for my daughter 15 years ago. The nylon for the flounce and shawl came from a fancy gift bag. It was only about 4 x 6”—but more than enough for my needs. The beads came from yet another old bracelet that had lost its clasp. The result was a bit of doll couture that made a little girl very happy.