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Felt dolls

Somehow I came across a tutorial for some cute felt paper dolls online and decided they were too cute not to make for my youngest niece. I looked up a few versions of these dolls to get an idea of how to make them. I wanted to make a little house for them, too, but I didn’t quite get that far. Maybe next year!

Project:
felt paper dolls

Materials and cost:
felt ($5.50 for a pack of mixed colors at JoAnne)
fabric scraps (free–from my stash)
embroidery floss (already had plenty)
total cost: $5.50 with tons of felt left over for other projects

Time:
several hours (one evening and an afternoon)

Process:
I sketched out a body-shaped pattern on plain white paper and when I was happy with it, cut it out and traced it onto some cardstock (from junk mail). I wanted to make them a big enough size for a toddler to play with, but small enough to be portable. They ended up about 6 1/2 inches high.

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I decided to make three dolls. I traced the pattern onto the lightest one, then stacked up three pieces of felt and cut them all out together. I added white felt underwear for modesty.

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Next I added simple faces with embroidery thread and created hairstyles using felt. Each hairstyle is made of two pieces–one on the front of the head and one in back. I tried to make them cute but simple. This step was fun because it gave the dolls some personality.

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Next I pinned each doll to a piece of white felt for a backing. After sewing the hair and backing in place, I cut out the white felt to follow the shape of the doll. I think this was much easier than cutting the white backing first and then trying to sew it on properly.

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That was it for the dolls. I think they looked pretty cute, though I had some difficulty sewing the hair–the pieces were so small!

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Next were the dresses. Each one needed a felt backing, both for stability and to make it stick to the doll. For these, I traced my cardstock pattern onto white paper and drew a basic dress shape over it. I cut out the dress and traced it several times onto white felt. I improvised some variations in neckline and sleeve length, and also made some skirts and tops out of the same pattern. I placed each piece of felt onto a scrap of fabric and cut around it. I wish I had cut out the dress shapes first, sewed the fabric and felt together, and then cut out the felt like I did with the dolls themselves–it would have been much easier. Live and learn.

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For this step, I found it easier to use Wonder Clips than pins. I also tried to choose fabrics that didn’t fray too much and sewed as close to the edge as possible.

I ended up making seven dresses, two skirts, two shirts, and a little ballerina outfit. I originally intended to make shoes and other accessories, but the clothes just about drove me insane. Again, I am not good at fiddly things.

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For some reason, I did not manage to get a single good photo of the finished product. 😦

I put all the parts in a little organza bag and the recipient seemed pleased with them. I would definitely make these again, but next time I’ll try not to wait until the last minute.

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Barbie clothes

I loved Barbie as a kid, and I currently have a niece who also loves her. Although I am generally really bad at making small, fiddly things (exhibit A), I found some tutorials online that made it look fairly easy. Despite the warning voice in my head, I decided to go ahead and give it a try, starting with a very basic skirt. I went through my stash of fabric scraps and chose ones with small prints that might appeal to a little girl, then followed these instructions for my skirt. It came out a bit boxier than I wanted, so I tried shaping it a bit. Unfortunately, the result was a bit too small for Barbie.

Don't take it personally, Barbie. You look great.

Don’t take it personally, Barbie. We’ve all been there.

Defeated, I gave up for the day and decided Barbie couture was not for me. The next day, however, I returned to my sewing machine with renewed purpose and made two skirts that actually fit. They were seriously basic–just tubes of fabric with elastic–but good enough for me.

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Although the instructions suggest serging the raw edges, I really didn’t feel like breaking out the serger for Barbie clothes. Instead I hemmed all the edges and used tiny French seams where appropriate.

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Feeling more confident, I attempted this shirt. I did decided to use the serger on this, which made things much easier. This was fairly complicated and didn’t come out quite as well as the inspiration image, but it is passable.

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At this point, I thought I should probably give up and be happy with three decent pieces in a row. But I really, really wanted to try this cute dress. Oh, and I wanted to make it in satin. You know, so Barbie would have something to wear to prom. I really did not have high hopes for this project, but I forged ahead, fearing that I was flying too close to the sun.

The result?

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I am so pleased with how this turned out. It looks a bit better in person–the flash makes it look like it is bunching at the hem and for some reason the bodice looks a little lumpy. It actually fits really well. I generally followed the directions closely, though I lengthened the skirt by an inch to make it seem a bit more formal and skipped the topstitching where the skirt meets the bodice. I also sewed up most of the skirt in the back, leaving enough of an opening for Barbie to get into the dress.

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The little matching bag is just a folded rectangle of fabric with a tiny ribbon loop for carrying. And with this, I am retiring from Barbie couture for the time being so as to preserve my sanity and give my seam ripper a rest.

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Girl’s sundress in seersucker

For my niece’s upcoming seventh birthday, I made a dress using Simplicity 3859. I immediately envisioned this in seersucker, but as always it took me forever to choose a color and a pattern. My niece is very girly and loves pink, but I’m not and I don’t, so I went with lime green. I think she’ll love the color. I chose white ribbon accents and lined the bodice in soft, white cotton.

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The pattern was very easy to follow and the dress went together really quickly except for the zipper. It was my first lapped zipper, and I should have hand-picked it; however I decided to use the machine and the result wasn’t great. For some reason I chose a green zipper rather than a white one, which doesn’t help matters. I thought about taking it out and hand-sewing a white zipper in its place, but I was afraid of damaging the fabric. Instead I covered the zipper tape with white seam binding, which helps a bit. It also needs a good ironing, which is why it looks a bit wavy in the photo below.

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I thought about making the bow detachable, but it wasn’t quite as obnoxious as I feared and the dress doesn’t look quite finished without it, so I tacked it in place. After washing and drying, however, the bow is a bit loose, so I will need to tack it in place more securely.

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I really like sewing things for babies and children–everything goes much more quickly. I just wish I was better at it.