In defense of making doll clothes…

As a baby of the eighties, my most defining childhood moments took place in the 1990’s – so just add me to the long list of millennials who get a misty, nostalgic look when reminiscing about American Girl dolls. Yes, American Girl dolls are still around and have continued to exponentially grow in popularity… but there’s something special about those early years when there were only three historical dolls and purchases only followed hours and hours of pouring over the snail mail catalog.

For anyone who has ever had an American Girl doll, there’s something sort of defining about declaring who “your” doll was – your first doll, or your doll of choice, that is. For me, that was Molly, the character representing the World War II era. I received the book Meet Molly as a gift in 1990, and the rest is history. I quickly plowed through all the books in the series and the Molly doll was at the top of my Christmas list for Santa that year.


Over the years, I received a few additional outfits and accessories for Molly from the beloved, dog-eared American Girl catalog that arrived in the mail every few months. Then I received a gift for my First Holy Communion from a family friend — a First Communion dress for Molly that even included a clip-on veil. Whaaaaaaat??? My eight-year-old mind was blown. There were doll clothes out there that weren’t in the catalog. There were people out there who could make anything I wanted for Molly. This was all news to me.


Of course, I promptly declared that my mom needed to make some doll clothes. And my mom — who knows just enough sewing to get by with Halloween costumes and curtains and things, but really doesn’t enjoy the sewing journey — told me we could get some at a craft fair, or ask someone else’s mother to do it. (Side note: I have a really incredible mom who has always fully supported my interests. She just loathes sewing.) So of course, I grew up thinking that sewing doll clothes was really, really, really hard, and having a mother that could sew 18″ doll clothes on demand was the ultimate luxury.

Fast forward 20-ish years and I’m learning to sew all sorts of odds and ends, but have never really conquered garments. I’ve tried a few times and mostly failed. And these attempts usually consisted of me purchasing special fabric (like knits) and a boatload of patterns, only to wreck it all once I got home (sewing is not always glamorous, people).

So one day, I decided I should learn some garment-making basics on a smaller scale, in an attempt to salvage some of the supplies I had used for earlier garment endeavors. During a pattern sale, I picked up McCall’s M5019 – a variety of pajama pieces for 18″ dolls – which sat in my collection for a pretty long time until my parents moved to Florida and I rediscovered my dolls while going through some boxes. Finally, I had a doll in my possession to serve as a model for my garment attempts, so I decided to give the pattern a go.


And in the spirit of #SewMyStash2015, I used fabric I already had on hand to make a pair of Valentine’s Day pajamas for an 18″ doll, which I then included in a Valentine’s Day package of goodies for my cousin’s young daughter. Look at this Valentine’s Day goodness that cannot be found in the American Girl doll catalog! Magic, I tell you!


Full disclosure – the sweatshirt top is actually a free pattern from the Peek-a-boo Pattern Shop instead of the one in the McCall’s pattern. I tried the McCall’s one too, but thought it was a little too poofy, so the free internet pattern made the final cut. The PJ pants are McCall’s!


So, in conclusion…

Reasons why sewing doll clothes is the bomb

  • Helps in understanding the basics of garment-making.
  • Dolls have consistent measurements without a lot of curves and stuff – good for learning the basics without worrying about the ‘”fit.”
  • Doll clothes require very little fabric – a good way to use scraps or even just swatches from old clothes.
  • Lots of free, printable patterns on the internet that will easily print onto a standard 8.5×11″ piece of paper.
  • But most importantly… fulfill a childhood dream and/or make all the little children in your life squeal with glee.

Reasons to pass on sewing doll clothes

  • Everything is tiny! Tiny seams, tiny elastic casings, tiny strips of Velcro. Ughhhh.
  • If you don’t have children, you might look/feel like a weirdo (not that anybody is really watching what you sew in the privacy of your own home, unless you’re cuckoo-crazy and take your doll-clothes-making endeavors to a very public blog post, like me). And constantly dressing/undressing a doll will definitely make you feel like a super-weirdo.

So if you can’t tell, I’m obviously a little paranoid about revealing that I’m a 30-something lady without children who makes doll clothes. But hopefully, after my long-winded tale (and fancy bulleted pro/con lists), you understand why I had to conquer this little childhood dream.

And PS… this was also on my list of 100 No Pressure Projects. Another one bites the dust!

Now, I know I can’t be alone in this… whether you loved all the books or you had a doll, which American Girl was “your” defining girl? Any other Molly-lovers out there? Spill it. 🙂




4 thoughts on “In defense of making doll clothes…

  1. Pingback: One Hundred ‘No Pressure’ Projects | Sew Lindsay, Sew!

  2. I think it’s awesome you did some sewing for Molly! I would like to learn more about sewing, maybe this summer. Check out the website Thimbles and Acorns for some swoon-worthy historical doll patterns (no affiliation!).
    I started knitting Addy some knee warmers, but I haven’t gotten very far!

  3. Love that you are making doll clothes!!! I need to find some time for my sewing machine. I had Samantha. Gracie now has Caroline and the recently reissued Samantha. We are going to the AG store over spring break! Both girls saved up enough money for new dolls! Bothe doll of the year is Grace, and she has brown hair, blue eyes and freckles 🙂

  4. Pingback: #SewMyStash 2015 – Year End Recap | Sew Lindsay, Sew!

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