Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Dolls for the Children

I have loved dolls all my life. The picture of the cloth doll above is Betsy McCall. I made her by hand  (no sewing machine) when I was 11 years old. The pattern is now considered vintage. It was first printed in 1956. The pattern in the photo is a reprint of the original.

Since I retired in 2011, I have searched for things to do in which I can make the world a better place  . The first two years were spent taking care of Mama. After she died, I felt somewhat lost for something to do. I still missed teaching. I tried to volunteer to tutor in a few high schools but I never got "call backs". No one will ever convince me that there weren't a few students that needed tutoring in science or math. But that is neither here nor there. I am now a Durham County volunteer tutor through the North Regional Library. Love the children and tutoring. I also do science and science activities with middle school/high school homeschoolers through the same organization as a volunteer.

I found another way to spend my time that I absolutely love. I am buying and dressing dolls for charity. It is somewhat an expensive activity but there are so many rewards. I buy the dolls on sale. I also have purchased some at thrift stores and have restored them to original condition. There are several videos on YouTube to explain how to do the restorations. I am in the process of learning how to repair the dolls which have lost the mechanism to joint the legs and arms. There is a company that sell parts for repair.

 I do not buy the American Girl dolls because they are so expensive, even on sale or used, needing repair. But I must say that they are beautiful and well made. I can't afford to give them to charity. I have made sweaters for the American Girl doll for neighbors. Surely does bring smiles to the dolls' owners.

There are some dolls that resemble the American Girl doll that are nice. The hair is the problem. The hair of the American Girl doll is very good quality. The My Life dolls, from Walmart are nice looking dolls. The Springfield collection of dolls have beautiful faces but their hair is lower quality. The African-American doll in the Springfield collection should not be brushed. It comes out or becomes extremely frizzy. The Journey Dolls, from Toys r Us, are pretty dolls but they are out of my budget for charity. Another doll that I consider pretty are the Our Generation dolls at Target. Sometimes they go on sale and are somewhat more affordable, especially the regular dolls on sale. There are some Our Generation dolls that are as expensive as the Journey Dolls. Sometimes I find them for 3/4 the price at TJMaxx.

Another 18-inch doll that is reasonable in price for charity is the Dollie and Me dolls which can be found at Kohl's, Sears and Kmart. I don't think their face is quite as pretty as the American Girl, My Life or Our Generation but the price is about the same. There are the Madame Alexander 18-inch dolls which are also out of my price range for charity. They are beautiful dolls.

I have to keep my eyes open for specials, sales and dolls that need a little work. I found some Springfield dolls that had no box and knotted hair, thrown on a self in Michaels. I explained that I was giving them away for charity. I got a good deal on those dolls, no longer in a box, because the box got destroyed. It didn't take long to get them back in shape. They will be great delivered to an organization in a doll carrier or cloth bag.

I make an almost complete wardrobe and doll carrier for each doll. The wardrobe includes, underwear (some don't come with it), a couple pair of shoes, a night shirt, bedroom slippers, a short sleeve T-shirt, a long sleeve T-shirt, jeans, a denium jumper, a dress, short pants jumpsuit, a knitted sweater, socks, tights and sometimes a hoodie. I recently added shoes to the wardrobe, using old pocketbooks as a source of faux leather.

Making The Underwear

After the work of getting the dolls, the next job is to make the wardrobe. I start with the underwear.
There are so many ways to get underwear for them. I designed a way to make panties which don't require very much sewing. A recycled t-shirt can be use.

* The graph paper is 1/4" per block

1. Be sure that a ballpoint needle is used on the sewing machine. Using a regular sewing machine, zig zag or straight stitch 1/4" seam to the left front leg side* to right back leg side*. I can't get the close to the left back leg but you should be able to see the general location. Seam allowances are included in the pattern though they are not shown.

The hemming is done with zig zagging or a straight stitch. The top of the panties are the bottom hem of the t-shirt sleeve. No elastic is needed because the hem of the t-shirt  fits perfectly as the panties top.

The pattern is on the left. On the right is a sleeve from a recycled t-shirt.

The pattern has been cut out from the t-shirt sleeve. At the bottom on the photo is the hem of the sleeve. It
will become the top of the pants.

2. Now make a small hem in each of the leg openings. The great thing about sewing dolls clothes, it doesn't have to be perfect and practice helps. I practice making the skinny hem on a scrap of t-shirt fabric first, especially if it has been several weeks since working on knit fabric.

3. Next seam the front and back crotch together. The back crotch needs to be eased into the front. The reason for that is that the back crotch must be larger because all the 18" dolls have large rears. I think the reason for that is that it helps the be able doll to sit.  Once the crotch is sewn, you are finished. It took no more than 15 minutes. The pants can be made more elegant by sewing lace on the leg openings.


There are more patterns for panties that are prettier but they take more time. They probably will require elastic at the waist and leg openings. If there are scrap pieces of lace, it can be sewn in the leg openings. ( My pattern doesn't requre elastic) .  Each doll will get a pair.  Simplicity pattern #4347 has a pattern for pretty panties.

Another method for making undergarment is using socks on sale. These girls show you how they make underwear for their dolls using socks.

Making Jeans and T-Shirts

The jeans aren't difficult to make. They will be a little more time consuming if pockets are on them but they are so cute with pockets. I use recycled jeans to make them. I've tried several patterns and many of the have baggy legs. The legs can't be too tight because they will be difficult to put on. I like the way I make them. I started with a pattern and ended up cuttin out the side seam allowances so that the pants weren't baggy but were easy to put on.

1. The pockets have to be sewn on first. Notice that I don't have to hem the jeans because I cut the jean pattern on the hem of the recycled pants. Saved a step.

2. Next the fronts and back are sewn together without sewing the crotch. On these jeans, I had used all the pre-hemed legs, so this section had to be hemed. They were hemmed when a front was attached to a back.

3. To hem them, I zig zagged the edges and then sew the hem facing over and stitched. Simple!

4. Once the jean sides were sewn, the crotch is sewn. The picture above shows the casing for the waist elastic be measure and pinned. 

5. In the photo below the waist casing for the elastic is being sewn 1/8 in from the top and about 3/4 inch from the  top of the casing fold. Important! Leave an unstitched space in order to thread the elastic through the casing.

6. Next, the 1/4" elastic is threaded through the casing, the ends of casing are stitched together and the unstitched space is stitched. The elastic is pinned near the opening so that the end is not pulled through the casing. If that happens, one has to start over pulling the elastic.  Jeans finished!

The Denim Jumper

The jumper is not a design of mine. The pattern is from Simplicity #  2506.   The jumpers, like the jeans, are made from recycled jeans, which could be mine, from a thrift shop, or could be yours, if you give me your old jeans. The knees and butt may be worn out but the back legs are most always good. At a thrift store I found two denim dresses in the bins which were $1.00 each. They were in almost perfect condition and I got 4 jumpers out of one dress.

I add an iron-on appliqué to the front pocket. The are no button holes because I use a square of velcro to the strap and bib. The buttons serve no purpose, except for looks.

I make them as assembly line. The pocket is completed first, with the appliqué; then the bib is made.

Next the shirt is made with the hem. There is a touch of elastic in the back of the shirt. Then the straps are attached. 

The T-Shirts

The T-shirts are made from recycled T-shirts. The sleeves of reused T-shirts are usually in good condition and the back is usually in good condition. A few of the shirts can take advantage of the natural hem of the reused T-shirt for the hem of the doll sleeves and the hem of the bottom of the doll T-shirt. After that hem runs out, I have to hem the doll shirts. The back of the t-shirt is closed with approximately 1/4-inch velcro. Finding 1/4-in and 1/2-inch velcro is indeed difficult to find. I buy the 3/4-inch and cut it vertically in half. It is then sewn by machine to the t-shirt.

Notice that I am using the original hem on the t-shirt for the hem of the sleeve.
The front and back are sewn together. Notice that the hem of the front & back are
the original hem of the recycled t-shirt. 
The sleeves are then sewn to the front and back and seamed down the sides.
Finshed long sleeved and short sleeved t-shirts. A 1/4-inch long piece of velcro closes the t-shirt in the back.

Usually the sleeves of the reused or recycled white T-shirts are used to make the undies.
It is so much easier to sew on T-shirt fabric using a #11 or #12 ballpoint needle.

The Dresses

 I don't always use this same pattern for the dresses. There are some simpler patterns for dresses and if in a hurry, I use those. They have a very simple bodice and skirt. This pattern is so cute. If I have the time, I knit or sew a shrug that will go with the dress.

The dresses may appear to be complicated but they are not. I choose coordinated fabric patterns, usually in bold colors. The bodice is simply trimmed with coordinated bias tape. The back of the dress is closed with velcro.

In this particular pattern, the skirt is made of three gathered tiers. The bodice is very simple and bound with bias tape.

Strips of coordinating fabrics are used for this dress.

Gathering the tiers of the dress

The front and backs of the bodice are sewn together.  The neck and arm edges are bound with
a color contrasting bias tape or some appropriate color of bias tape. 

The shirt is sewn to the top. The back is closed with 1/4" wide velcro.

The Nightshirt

The nightshirt in the photo above is simply made of three pieces, a front cut on the fold and two back pieces. The neck and sleeves are a simple hem stitch, as well as the bottom of the nightshirt. The back is inclosed with a strip of 1/4-in wide velcro. (Again, I cut 3/4-in or 1/2-in velcro in half, the long way.) The nightshirt pattern I used is Kwik Sew 3771.

The Tights

Tights are very easily made using women's knee socks. Each sock will make one pair of tights. From the top of the knee to the heel is used. Follow the directions on this website. I was able to get several pairs of knee high socks on sale at Walmart. I made the tights for $.50 a pair. These are good instructions for making the tights.

Not only did I get a pair of tights from this sock, I got a pair of socks from the toe.

It is important to remember to turn the sock wrong side out first. I have made  that mistake
at least one time and try not to do it any more. It is very difficult to rip stitches out of the tights.
lt is also important to use a ball point needle on the sewing machine to sew the tights.

The Sweaters

I've done several different sweaters. I will share my favorite pattern. I have done this pattern with and without beads. I really like the sweater with beads. The beads I like to use best when knitting this sweater are the 5mm Wee Pony beads or the smaller 4mm round bead. The method I like to useis strings the beads before casting stitches on a needle. The beads are moved back down the yarn until one is needed. It is then pulled up to the needle and then knit as a regular stitch. The bead will then be in the stitch just knitted. The beads stand out better is they are done on a purl row on the right side.

This pattern originally came from Janice Helge. I took off the last ridge,  increased the number of rows to the body of the sweater, added button holes, and changed the ribbing on the sleeves and bottom of sweater. I, also, knitted beads to the ridges.

I used yarn I had left over from other projects. If you use worsted yarn weight, the sweater will be almost too large. I used smaller needles and it made a usable, bulky sweater. Sport yarn works best but baby yarn works great if knitting with 2 strands, though, not all baby yarn needs 2 strands. Needles should be around 5 and 7 and the gauge will be 4-5 stitches = 1 inch.

Knitting Abbreviations:

k = knit
p = purl
inc = increase
pm = place marker
k2tog = knit 2 stitches together
yo = yarn over

Using a needle threader, push a bead on the needle threader down to bottom of loop. Then, thread the yarn through the loop of the needle threader. Pull the bead off the threader onto the yarn.  Sometimes more than one bead can be done at a time, depending on the size of the bead and needle threaderl. Do this to 40 beads.

If you have no needle threader, this method with needle and thread works the same way. Here is another method I like also. Using the second method with the wee pony beads requires a very small crochet hook and sometimes it splits the yarn. That is why I use the first method with wee pony beads. Beading will be done on rows 7, 11, and 15

Using size 5 needles (beginning at neck), cast on 44 stitches.
Row 1-3: Work the 3 rows in ribbing, k1, p1; change to size 7 needles.
Row 4: knit across row, until last 4 stitches. In last 4 stitches, knit 2 together, yo, knit 2 (button hole)
Row 5: knit 4 (right front band as wearing it), purl across to last 4 stitches, k4  (left front band)
Row 6: knit 4, knit 2,*inc in next stitch, k2, repeat from* across to last 5 stitches. Inc in next stitch, knit last 4 stitches. (56 stitches)
Row 7: (wrong side) Knit 4, *pull up a bead to the needle on right hand, knit 4*, repeat from * to last 4 stitches, end with pull up bead and knit 4.
Row 8: Knit row
Row 9: Repeat row 5
Row 10: Knit 4, *inc in next stitch, k3, repeat from*, across row to last 8 stitches, inc in stitch, k7. (68 stitches)
Row 11: (wrong side)Knit 4, Knit 2, *pull up a bead to the needle on right hand, knit 5*, repeat from * to last 7 stitches, pull up a bead,  knit last 7 stitches.
Row 12: Knit row.
Row 13: Knit 2, yo, knit 2 together (buttonhole), purl across to last 4 stitches, k4 (left front band)
Row 14: Knit 5, inc in next stitch, *K 4, inc in next stitch, repeat from* across row to last 8 stitches,increase in next stitch,  end knit 7. (80 stitches)

The placement of beads on this next row are place in the same position as the first row of beads. Because of increased stitches in rows 10 and 14, the beads could be slipped after the 5, 6, or 7 knitted stitch. The total number of stitches in row 15 will still be 80 stitches.

Row 15: (wrong side) K4, bead, knit 6, bead, knit 6 or 7,  bead, knit 6 or 7, slip bead, knit 7, slip bead, knit 6, slip bead, knit 5 or 6, slip bead, knit 6, slip bead, knit 6, slip bead, knit 6, slip bead, knit 6, slip bead, knit 6, slip bead, knit 6, bead,  knit 4.

There will probably be extra beads on the yarn. Keep pushing them away as you knit. It is better to have more beads than not enough. It is difficult to add more beads on the yarn.

Row 16: Knit row
Row 17: Repeat row 5
Row 18: K 4, inc in next stitch, *k5, inc in next stitch, repeat from * to last 9 stitches. Knit 4, inc one stitch and end K4. (93 stitches)
Row 19: Repeat row 5
Row 20: Knit row
Row 21: Repeat row 5
Row 22: Place markers and increase as directed: K 14, inc stitch, pm, inc stitch, K16, inc stitch, pm, inc stitch, K25, inc stitch, pm, inc stitch, K16, inc stitch, pm, inc stitch, K 14. (101 stitches)
Row 23: K4, p12, slip marker, p20, slip marker, purl 29, slip marker, purl 20, slip marker, p12, knit 4
Row 24: Knit across increasing in the stitch before and after each marker. (109 stitches)
Row 25: Knit 4, purl 13, slip marker, purl 22, slip marker, purl 31, slip marker, purl 22, slip marker, purl 13, knit 4
Row 26: Repeat row 24. (117 stitches)

Row 27: (Wrong side) Knit 4, purl 14 front stitches, place next 24 stitches on a holder (sleeve), cast on 2 stitches, purl across back stitches, cast on 2 stitches, place next 24 stitches on a holder (sleeve) purl across 14 front stitches, knit 4. (There are 73 stitches for the body of the sweater on the needle.)

Work in stockinette stitch for 1 1/2 inches, continuing to knit 4 at beginning and end of each row. On last row k2 together under each underarm and in center of back. Change to size 5 needle. Work 3 rows, k1, p1 ribbing. Bind off in ribbing stitch.

Sleeves (Work with wrong side)
Slip one set of sleeve stitches from stitch holder onto a size 7 needle. Work in stockinette stitch , increases 1 stitch at each end of first row. Work in stockinette stitch for 12 rows.

On row #12 for sleeve, Decrease a stitch on stitch 1, stitch 13 and the last stitch. Change back to size 5 needle and work 3 to 4 rows of k1, p1 ribbing. Bind off in ribbing stitch. Follow same directions for completing the second sleeve. Sew Sleeve seams together. Weave all ends in entire sweater with plastic needle or crochet hook.

I have edited these directions many, many times but there could still be a error in the directions. If so, please let me know if you find one.

The Knitted Bedroom Slippers

These are a relatively easy beginner's project using the garter stitch (knit every row). A couple of pairs can be knitted in one night. They look great with the night shirt!

I use #3 or #4 circular needles with two strands of baby yarn or sport weight yarn or fingering weight yarn. I usually use scraps of yarn left over from other projects.  (Regular worsted weight will make the slippers too big for the 18" doll.) Straight needles work fine also.

Cast on 31 stitches.
Row 1-8: Knit
Row 9: Knit 12, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 12
Row 10: Knit 11, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 11
Row 11: Knit 10, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 10
Row 12: Knit 9, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 9
Row 10: Knit 8, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 8
Row 11: Knit 7, knit 2 together, knit 3, knit 2 together, knit 7
Row 12-23: Knit


Row 12: Knit row
Row 13-23: Knit 1, purl 1 for ribbing (on every row, knit on knit stitch and purl on purl stitch)

Or (my favorite) Seed Stitch

Row 12: knit
Row 13: *knit 1, purl 1, Knit 1*Repeat to end of row
Row 14: *Purl 1, knit 1, purl 1* repeat to end of row
Repeat rows 13 and 14  for 15-23 rows

Bind off. Sew the bottom together and the back of slipper together with tapestry or plastic needle . Weave in loose ends with needle or crochet hook.


These are quite simple to make. I first cut a faux brown leather pocketbook (some people say purse) apart and disposed of all the unwanted parts. I got 7 pairs of shoes from the pocketbook. I purchased a braided trim and glued it to the opening of the shoe with a glue gun. It took 1/2 day to cut out  4 pairs of shoes and sew them together.

To make the black shoes, I purchased 1/4 yard of black faux leather for $2.45 --- the sale price.
I bought a a black trim with "silver" discs and glued on the shoe opening with a glue gun. Fun and more fun!

Christmas is far away, unless working on a project like this one. So, I'm busy trying to dress 10-12 dolls for some little girls. I love this project and hope that a few people join me in this adventure. If you do, share with me some ideas and your adventures in this happy project.

No comments:

Post a Comment