Greetings and salutations, Internet-Land! Last year I posted on the blog how to make your own pattern for a Tonner Matt shirt (wow ~ that sounds like I’ve been doing this for ages ~ heeheehee). It seemed to be very well received, so I thought I’d do a similar one to kick off the new year. I have an up-coming doll show at the end of this month, and have been getting some of my coats ready to display. I like to sell the long coats with a simple sheath gown. I have already made the pattern for Ellowyne, but hadn’t done one for Evie yet. As I was preparing, I thought, “Why not just put the process on the blog?” So, I grabbed my handy little camera and went to work. Last time, making the pattern and then sewing it were in two different blog posts. This time it’s all in one, since sewing the first one will show the corrections I need to make in order for the gown to fit correctly. Since Matt has no bust line with which to contend, his torso is a lot easier! You can follow these steps for any doll, so strap in and get ready for the ride!
MAKING YOUR SHEATH DRESS PATTERN
First ~ the supplies. I gather together the doll I need to fit, paper, scissors, some non-stretch scrap fabric, pins, pencil, ruler, and a measuring tape.
Now to start. I first measure the bustline and wrap the non-stretch fabric around the doll. I cut the fabric, leaving about a quarter inch “pinch” at each edge to allow for the back seam overlap where the snaps will be sewn. Then I pinch and pin the excess for the waist at two sides in the front and two sides in the back. This will indicate where the darts need to go. Then I draw pencil marks on the full bustline & waistline and at each side of each “dart.”
Now I open up the fabric and extend the bustline and waistline markings. Then I mark the dart lines onto the waistline and bring them to a point about one half inch lower than the full bustline. I make the back darts (the ones to the outer edges of fabric) slightly smaller. These markings are now ready to be transferred to the paper. For Evangeline, I chose 8.5×14 size paper, because she is so tall. I folded the paper in half length-ways & marked the center. From that line, I drew in the waist, bust, and darts for the front of the dress. Remember to divide your total waist into four sections, as you will only be drawing half of the front and one of the side-backs. (The front will be folded down the center & both sides of that piece cut at the same time.) I used centimeters to measure and mark the darts, as the lines of measurement were more accurate than trying to divide inches into 16ths.
Next, I measure Evie’s hips and make sure to indicate that on the paper. Then I draw the length of the dress. You can make it any length you like. For this gown, I am going to choose a full length with a slight train in the back, so I add the flare I want and go slightly longer on the sides. IMPORTANT!!! Now ADD a quarter inch seam allowance on the outside of every line!!!! Then I fold it length-ways and cut.
Now I am ready to make the back piece. Keeping the front folded, I place the center about a quarter inch from the center of a new folded paper. This gives me seam allowance for the back, since it is two pieces that will need to overlap. I then trace around the edges (since my first piece already included a seam allowance). I raise the neckline for the back and slightly extend the outer edges of the arm holes for more coverage in the back. Now transfer the waistline and the darts from your fabric markings, making sure to keep the distances the same from the side edges of the fabric & the center back of your pattern (measuring from the actual sewing line rather than the seam allowance line). Remember, the outer sides of the fabric were where you closed the fabric at the doll’s back. Now for the hemline. From the sides, I draw a line down to the center for my train. One small hint ~ where ever you have seams meet (like at the sides or center back), it it good to leave at least a quarter inch of slightly level horizontal line. It may look weird, but I find it’s easier for me to have this little seam allowance level. Now cut out your back piece.
Now you are ready to make the facings for the neckline and arm holes. Just trace around the edges of your pieces and come down the center and sides at least one and a quarter inch (I used 3.5 centimeters). Then gently curve the line from the side up to the center for the front and down a bit from the sides to the center back as shown in the photo. For the front facing, you can cut on the fold just like we did for the front of the dress. The back piece will just be one side of the back. Now your pieces are ready to do a sewing test run!
SEWING YOUR PATTERN
**My patterns use 1/4 inch seam allowance, and remember to back-tack at beginning and ending of seams.**
To try out a pattern, I first always pick a non-stretch fabric. I want to know how the pattern actually fits before trusting to stretchy fabric. I pulled out some cute printed cotton/poly blend that does not have any “give.” This way, if it works ~ great! ~ if not, it’s no big deal to scrap it. I lay out the pattern pieces length-ways with the grain of the cloth, placing my folded front pieces on the fold of my fabric. I just like to do this, as it makes for less cutting and more accuracy with the evenness of my front sides. Once the pieces are cut, I indicate my dart markings onto the wrong side of the fabric. Now if you’re an experienced sewer, you can just indicate the dart points. If you’re a beginner, it may prove useful to draw the entire dart. To sew, you fold the fabric (right sides together) length-ways down the center of the dart and sew from top point to side point and then down to bottom point. Sew all four darts on the front and back pieces, then joint the front and back pieces (right sides together) at the shoulders. Do this step with both the dress pieces and the facing pieces. When I place the darted front up to my doll, I can see that I will need to adjust by adding more darts for a better fit (you can see it in the photo by my finger), but we’ll get to that later. For now, I’m just staying with the pattern as it is.
I also like to top-stitch my shoulder seam allowances down, as this makes it easier for turning right-side-out later. Next, I finish the lower edges of my facings and the center back edges of my back pieces. I have a serger machine, but you can also do this with a small stitch-length zig-zag. I do NOT hem the facings, because a hemline will often create enough extra bulk that it will show through the front when the garment is finished.
The next step is to sew the facing to the garment. Line up and pin the neckline and the arm hole edges and pin in place. You will now sew the center back edge-neck line-center back edge, and the two arm holes. DO NOT sew down the sides! Then clip the seam allowances of the neck line and arm holes close to the seam in about one quarter inch sections. This will allow your curved seams to lay nice an flat once you turn it right-side-out, which is next. I used a turning stick, but a small dowel will work. Wrap a small portion of the back hem around the stick and gently slide it up under the facing and through the shoulder as shown. Now the next part is important ~ CAREFULLY pull the fabric all the way through the shoulder opening. This can get a bit tricky if you try to pull it through all at once. Each time you pull some, gently adjust the remaining amount so it’s not all bunched up. That makes it much easier. If you try it all at once, you risk tearing both the seams and the fabric.
Now you will see why we didn’t sew down the sides of the facing. It’s time to put together the sides of the dress. With right sides together, lift up the facing and start by matching the arm hole seams. It’s more important to match the seams than the hems of the facings. Then pin the sides of the facings and gown, making sure to match the curves of the side. I stitch this on my sewing machine and then finish the edges with my serger, since this edge will be exposed. Again, you can do this or zig-zag. I just prefer not to have any raw edges showing in my garments. Once the sides are sewn, I pin together the center back and sew a seam that starts about one and three quarter inches from the hip line. When I start, I double back-tack, as this is where the doll will go into the dress, and it needs to be extra secure. Sew from there down to the hemline. It’s important not to sew too high up, or you will not be able to get the doll’s bum and hips through the opening of the waistline. The pen is pointing at my starting place. Now press the facing down at the neck & arms, making sure your underarm seam allowances are all nice & flat.
It’s time to try it on the doll. As you can see in the photos, her bust line is ok, but it leaves large gaps by the arm holes. I will add darts to close this up ~ pins are in place. The back is problematic as well, so again, I will add in darts to fix it.
Now that I added in the darts and hemmed the dress, it’s a good fit.
My next step is to correct my pattern pieces. I indicate the new darts onto the front. The back is a bit more tricky. I indicate the darts I added and folded the piece down. But this would be far too drastic of a shape change. Then I drew in the adjustments I wanted and added in the needed dart so my sewn sides will match up correctly. I also dropped the outside edge of the shoulders and added a bit more flare to the skirt. Lastly, I made a new back facing piece to match the new pattern. I also noticed that it would be a nice option to have an open V-back, so indicated that on the pattern piece and made a facing piece for that option. Once the pieces were made, I gave it another run with new fabric. I followed all the same steps. This time I was happy with the pattern, needing no further adjustments.
To finish, I used three snaps to close the back of the dresses. Now they are ready to be shown with the accompanying coats!
I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial, and that it has been helpful for you. My “refined” pattern is now available at my facebook page:
Wishing you a great and wonderful week! ~ missy