Make-Along Outfit Variation: Layered Princess

Make-Along Doll princess dress

Here’s an outfit for your Make-Along doll that will take her from pajamas to princess in 3 steps.

The first layer works as a nightgown and then becomes the blouse under the pinafore. It has puffed sleeves and elastic at the neck and cuffs. To make the nightgown use the sleeves pattern piece from “First Day of School” blouse. Hem under 1/8″ at the edge and then stretch and sew 1/8″ elastic 1/4″ from edge. For the body of the nightgown modify the Top Front pattern piece from “Sportswear Basics” by adding 1″ more at the center (which because you’re on the fold adds 2″ width to the piece) and add 2″ longer at the hem. Finish the neckline the same as you did for the sleeves. To assemble the nightgown use the same steps as any of the tops in the pattern set – sew body front and back together and the shoulder and then pin the sleeves in place and sew, then sew front and back together under the arms and down the sides. Final step, hem.

Make-Along Doll princess dress

Next for a more casual look, before princessing duties need to begin perhaps, just throw a skirt over that nightgown and she’s good to go. Use the “School Days” skirt with elastic waist but skip the pockets.

Now for the last piece, when it’s time to get fancy, top off with a pinafore layer with bows sewn to the bodice and an open-in-the-front skirt, a Robe à l’Anglaise type of thing that really takes it up a notch. For the pinafore bodice use the “Pajama Party” bodice front and back pattern piece modifying the front piece by cutting the front neckline into a slightly deeper swoop. For the skirt cut 26″x6″ piece of fabric, hem the bottom and side edges and gather the top edge. Assemble as you would the pajama party top but instead of having the skirt edges line up with the bodice stop short about 3/4″ on each side. The instructions for how to line the bodice for “Pajama Party” or “Summer Picnic” dress will work here. Sew snaps closures at front of bodice and decorative bows on the front for that super regal vibe.

Make-Along Doll princess dress

And I think that’s it! You could sew a tulle or lace petticoat to further puff up the ensemble if you’d like. Oh, her lace stockings are cut using the leg pattern piece and her shoes are from “Lotsa Layers”.

Regency era doll clothes for my Jane Austen inspired art dolls

Elizabeth Bennet (costume inspiration here)

I love making art dolls based on literary heroines. I’ve made Laura Ingalls Wilder, Jo March, Anne of Green Gables, the three friends – Betsy, Tacy & Tib, and Jane Austen heroines Elizabeth Bennet & Emma. I really enjoy the challenge of capturing not only their look and spirit but also tackling the historical costumes. I think in a parallel universe I am a costume designer. And in that reality I know all the historically accurate details of every era. In this reality, not so much! I’m driven by my love of the pretty dresses I see in movies and my desire to get things right *enough*. Without going down too many rabbit holes I try to get the dress silhouette and the fabric as close as I can using  costuming sites,  movies or whatever books I can find in my public library for reference.

I was so pleased with this dress fabric/spencer color combination but still want to tackle this sleeve

For my Jane Austen dolls I was pretty much channeling my love of the 1995 Pride and Prejudice and trying to recreate those costumes as closely as I could. This is when I discovered this super fun site, Frock Flicks and their post on P&P. I realized none of the choices at the fabric store were going to work for the muslin dresses I was trying to reproduce. Quilting cottons are too stiff and reproduction fabrics, which at first seem like a perfect solution and may work for actual people costumes, are not doll sized scale. Then I read that Dinah Collins had her fabrics custom stamped (see video link below) and I tried briefly to carve some stamps and try my hand at printing my own. But I was quickly derailed by how small the stamps would have to be and the loose weave of the light weight fabrics I was using. So I hit the thrift stores and that’s where I had the most luck.

dress fabric from L to R: thrited blouse, 80s vintage calico, scarf, skirt, scarf

I needed very thin, gauzy cottons so I looked through blouses and skirts and found some great prints that could read as 19th century sprigged muslin dresses. Thrifted blouses and skirts are also great for laces, cottons, and pieces with nice inserts and details that make a small doll skirt look deceivingly intricate. It can also be easier to find soft, lightweight, tightly woven cottons in garments at a thrift store than at a chain fabric store.

thrifted blouses

It’s always exciting to follow a lark and end up obsessing over the details of a new creative endeavor. I always start on a whim and then I come up with a game plan for them after. I was making an Elizabeth just for me and my craft room shelves and then decided to sell a limited series in my shop because I wanted to make more than one dress.

As far as tiny details in doll clothes go, I’m a moderate. These art dolls have slimmer arms and smaller bodies than the dolls I sell patterns for so the sewing is definitely more fussy and more small scale, but it’s still nowhere near as tiny as clothes made for dollhouse or Blythe dolls, of which I’m in complete awe. I don’t really have a customer base that would support super elaborate, very expensive dolls so I always hit a sort of invisible line of how much time can I spend on something before I get back to reality and that keeps the costumes I make within a certain level of ambition. Regency style works within these limits because it is relatively simple design and materials. I figured out a basic dress design, the jacket (spencer), boots because Elizabeth is always romping outside and the bonnet.

Elizabeth’s boots & bonnet

I would love to tackle something like Edwardian or civil war era gowns but that would mean sewing with fabrics like silk and getting really into tiny frills and way more complicated dress construction, fascinating but slightly terrifying trying to imagine how to get that all right. Am I talking myself into it or out of it?  And how to find the right fabrics for that! Daunting considering the month I spent scouring thrift stores looking for the perfect persimmon-colored floral print to make my favorite Elizabeth Bennet dress.

Jennifer Ehle in my favorite P&P dress

I am getting close with this dress below. It’s a reproduction print quilting cotton so it’s stiffer than I’d like. (Oh! and I went through a whole thing experimenting with ways to sort of break down and soften up quilting cottons… borax, tennis balls in the dryer. That never really panned out.) So I’m still on the hunt for the perfect mini print on sheer fabric in that just right, pink color. That’s why I picked up that red blouse in my latest thrift haul in that picture above. Closer, but still not quite it.

Here are some fun trips down the rabbithole:

Dinah Collins discussing costuming for 1995 Pride and Prejudice. (begins at 3:38)

Half Dress, Full Dress, Undress, what?? 

Interview with cast & costume Designer Rosalind Ebbutt of the 2009 version of Emma. I loved the costumes in this movie but was confused by why they were so colorful compared to other regency era period pics. They get into it. Also I stan Rosalind Ebbutt bc she did one of my all time favorites, The Buccaneers!

“Undressing your heroine”, so interesting! I’m actually on the right track with my Emma doll. I wanted to make something that was stand-alone cute so made this petticoat/chemise hybrid but it actually sort of looks like the petticoat on this site so, yay!

Emma’s petticoat

Holiday Pattern Sale

This year’s Holiday Pattern Sale is up and will be going for two weeks. The theme this year is t-e-n! Kit, Chloe & Louise, Elsa, Make-Along Doll and Animals are all reduced to $10 and the Make-Along Clothes pattern set normally $20 is half off for just $10. Give some handmade cuteness to your loved ones this year (young & old). Huggable gifts are the best!

Wee Wonderfuls doll sewing patterns holiday sale

New Elsa doll pattern

new elsa doll sewing pattern

Elsa has a new look this year! I’ve had this pattern in my shop for over 10 years now and she’s definitely a favorite of mine. I remember when I first started designing dolls how I was obsessed with trying to get a nice round shape for a head from a 2D doll and the lightbulb I had when I decided to just make her 3D with a gusset, ha! I wanted a doll that had a few shortcuts like the body fabric doubling as a dress and the hair being just sewn down around a cap so that it wasn’t as much work as a full head of yarn hair. The next iteration of Elsa had the full on yarn hair wig in braids and I loved how that looked too. But this new pattern has my favorite hair solution yet. The hair is done in wigs sewn on sewing machine with come together easily and quickly and then the braid crown is sewn down in place to keep the hair secure while also leaving it loose and flowy, best of both worlds.  She also has some new quicker construction features for her body. She comes with new clothing items, a vest, skirt and boots. I hope you like her! She’s in the shop here.

new elsa doll sewing pattern

Also, **bonus** the new Elsa doll fits into the Make-Along clothes rather cutely, sort of like a little sister in her big sister’s clothes

Button Eyes

Want a shortcut to finishing your doll’s face? If you’re not making your toy for a small child (buttons = choking hazard!) you can save time by using buttons for the eyes. It’s tricky to get the look right but I find if you use a two-hole button you can sew through with contrasting thread to make a cute glint in the eye. Sewing onto a wider or offset circle of white felt can also help it read more as eye and less spooky raggedy ann doll that wants to haunt you.

deer_doll_with_button_eye

Sign up for news!

wee wonderfuls doll making bundles

I’m excited to be mixing it up in the shop in the coming weeks. I have a new Elsa pattern to release, new kits with the Elsa pattern in the works, ideas for bundles of already-made dolls + fabric for you to make doll clothes with and a sample sale of dolls that have been keeping me company this past year. Since I’ll be squeezing this all in between holiday merriment with the family I’m going to be just winging it and decided to dust off the mailing list for notifications. If you’d like updates when new items hit the shop please sign up here.

Clara from the Nutcracker

handmade doll Clara from the Nutcracker

Oh Clara. I love these ballerina dolls so much. They are so pleasing to hold. I always think of how Clara craddles the nutcracker in the ballet. That’s exactly how I want to hold these dolls, like a baby. They have a wonderful weight with the curls and heavy soft lace of the dress, somehow heavy and light at the same time.

handmade doll Clara from the Nutcracker