Well, not secrets, but things I wish I had done like this right from the start. But I learned how to do it and it has made the life of a doll seamstress a bit easier. That’s why I decided to share these little tricks. I am sure there are different ways to do this, but this is how it works best for me.
I am going to show you an easy way to 1. ruffle a skirt, 2. set a zipper and .. 3. set sleeves.
Sounds boring, but I have seen a lot of very complicated, fiddly ways to do this, so this might help some of you after all.
I highly recommend getting three things for this: nylon coil zippers, a lighter and some transparent sewing thread for basting. This will require some hand sewing as well as a sewing machine (basic presser foot).
I use to buy close end zippers-lots in just white or mixed colors in lengths between 14-16 cm (something around 6- 7 inches). The length works best for MSD sized dresses. You can get them on ebay in all sizes and colors. Same for transparent sewing thread. I couldn’t do without. It’s great for basting. It doesn’t split, so there’s no danger of sewing into the thread. You can easily pull it out again and re-use it, It makes sewing in that scale just so much more accurate than just using pins.
Let’s get started.
Ruffling or gathering a skirt
Setting the zipper
Once the left side is attached, I close the zipper and pin the waist at the same position (5). That’s the part where the leftover long thread comes in handy, I usually sew just the waist seam to the zipper with a few stitches to get them positioned exactly even (6).
Now I pin and baste the right dress part, sew it to the zipper and turn the insides out. (7).
I close the gap by hand and sew about an inch down to continue with the sewing machine without getting the zipper ends in the way. That way the zipper end coil is hidden (8).
Guessing from the questions I’ve been asked I figured I needed to rephrase this part, so this is the second attempt to explain it since I published the post. I also added a new picture.
Working in this scale is different from human clothes, so the method of sewing the armhole first on the flattened garment and finishing the sides after is sometimes quite fiddly.
Doing it by hand and using this method might be an easier way to go about it, especially if you use stretchy fabric that doesn’t need a hem.
It’s just a very simple method for inset sleeves, and for doll clothes I don’t mind the hand sewing or adding a hem by hand. Sleeve and bodice are sewn separately first and the sleeve is attached to the armhole after.
Thanks for the helpful hints. Working both sides of the ruffle towards the middle sounds like an easy way to distribute the gathers evenly. I usually pin from the ends, but then I have a hard time getting the same amount of ruffle on each side.
So, what exactly are you melting on the zipper? The coil? Or the cut end of zipper fabric? Or both? My problem with zippers is how to keep the zipper pull from continuing up past the end of the coil when it gets to the top of the dress. It sounds as if melting the coil itself should help in that regard.
I'm eager to try your sleeve method. I always work flat and then sew up the sleeves and sides in one continuous seam. I don't mind hand-sewing, so your method of sewing in the round might work better for me. Do you sew up the sides of the garment and then the sleeves separately before you join them?
Thank's for asking, I hope I changed the sentence into a more precise one. I just melt the zipper fabric. Really just a quick touch to the heat. Same with satin ribbons. Just to prevent fraying. The zippers I use are not continuous, so they have a stopper at the end and don't slide up. That's why it didn't even occur to me that might be a problem. But with those a drop of nail polish or hot glue on the coil should do the trick.
As for the sleeves: Yes, I make sleeves and sides seperately. If the sleeves need to be shortened or there's something else I want to change I don't need to unpick all seams, just the one connecting it to the armhole. And if I already attached buttons or lacetrim I like to shorten sleeves by setting them up, not by redoing the end after cutting them. I only use your method with larger doll's clothes with fabric that needs a hem, and with human clothes. I'd love to know how that works for you.
I got tired of the bobbin thread breaking on me. Now I zigzag over a stronger thread and draw it up that way. Pull out the thread later if it's too bulky.
Also, put a pin in the very middle before drawing up and use that to match the skirt middle to the bodice middle.
Using high quality yarn is a bit more expensive but it helps to avoid annoyances like breaking bobbin threads.
If I ever manage to tear myself away from my crochet projects, I'll try the sleeves your way. My next project isn't even clothing. I'm making a cloth dragon.
A dragon! Sounds great. A while ago Martha made one, a pretty huge one even. I thought about making one when I saw it, but I guess you want one as beast for your incoming beauty, right?
This is a great tutorial, thank you so much for sharing it! I liked how you explained the sleeves and the zipper. I always have such a hard time dealing with zippers, honestly!
I find you get a much neater gathering if you sew 2 parallel basting lines about 1/4 inch apart. (Same width as if you used a double needle) Pull up the gathering threads the same as you would with one. But, this method gives you a nice little channel to stitch in with very neat ruffling.
I will try that next time. But I can see the advantage without trying it, so thanks for the helpful tip.
Thank you for showing me a new way to set a sleeve. I have struggled with these little doll sleeves. Your way makes so much sense.
If you don’t mind the hand sewing it’s really a lot easier, at least I find it less fiddly.