Sewing for Dolls: How to Pick the Perfect Fabric Every Time

doll sewing how to choose fabric

Nothing beats sitting back and looking at a finely crafted garment of your own creation adorning your favorite doll. Every stitch is perfect, every seam in place, and, of course, the fabric choice is impeccable.

But how do you make sure you nail picking the perfect fabric every time? That's what I'm here to show you today!

Stick around to find out about:

  • The easiest fabrics to work with for doll clothes
  • Draping and structure considerations
  • Scaling down prints and embellishments 
  • Creative ways to find fabric you've never thought of
Ready? Let's get to it...

Choosing a Fabric Material

Fabric material choice is important, especially when sewing for dolls. The small scale of doll clothes makes some fabrics more difficult than others to work with.

My preference is to look for fat quarters at a fabric store. They have a ton of prints and colors so you have lots of options, and sometimes they're on sale for amazing deals. 

Fat quarters are usually polycotton blends, which are great for making doll clothes. They're sturdy, but not to heavy and bulky. Plus, they don't slip much, making it easier to work with small garments. 

Also, broadcloth fabrics work great for doll clothes as they don’t slip or stretch on you, which can be a real issue for beginners.

Often, however, the pattern you’re working with will dictate your fabric choice and you may want to opt for something else.

So, if you go for a different choice, always pay attention to the stretch of the fabric. Shiny polyester, rayon, and silk, for instance, are a little more difficult to sew because of their elasticity.

Pay Attention to Drape and Structure

Sometimes your pattern will call for a certain drape so it falls correctly and looks natural on your doll. Fabrics like rayon or silk work best to give your flowy dresses a perfect drape.

The Cold Shoulder dress pattern below is a fantastic example of when you’d want to pay attention to fabric choice for draping purposes.

cold shoulder dress sewing pattern 18 inch doll

Or, on the other hand, if you need structure for a pattern like a coat or jacket you can use twill, denim weight or suiting.

Choosing Print Fabrics

If you’re going to use a print fabric when sewing a doll garment, choose a small scale for a realistic finished product. A good rule is to keep the motif the size of your thumbnail or smaller. 

A larger print may look amazing on the rack, but once you make your teeny tiny doll clothes, the print will often look too big, odd and out of place. There are exceptions for statement pieces, but again, this is a good general rule to follow.

Check out these examples from one of our customers and her great use of small-scale prints on the Uptown Downtown 2-in-1 sewing pattern:

uptown downtown sewing pattern 18 inch doll

Another consideration with prints is if you choose a pattern like plaid or stripes you're going to need some extra fabric to ensure you can achieve a good pattern match.

Choosing Embellishments

Just like with your print fabric, you want to scale down embellishments like laces, trim, buttons, etc. so your doll clothes come out looking just right.

You can find 6mm trim and lace at most fabric stores, or cut down bigger pieces to the perfect size and scale for your doll garments. You can also search Etsy for a huge selection of laces, trims, and other accessories perfect for doll clothes.

Sometimes a bow or button is the perfect finishing touch to take your creation from good to out-of-this-world amazing!

For instance, one of our customers added a button to one of our most popular embroidery shoe patterns and, honestly, we wish we had thought to include it in the original!

Get Creative with Fabric Sources

With the small size of doll clothes, it’s a great idea and fun to find alternative sources of fabric to sew with (and it’s sometimes a lot less expensive too!).

For example, I’m in a doll group where one of the members, Julia, used these place mats from the dollar store... make these adorable outfits!

Julia also has a Facebook page called Our Girls and Guys that has a great story and posts adorable outfits every day! I highly recommend checking it out :)

Also, you can always upcycle what you have around the house to make doll clothes.

Both the Free Sweater Vest and Sweater Dress patterns are created with old sweaters you surely have tucked into the back of a closet somewhere.
sweater vest dress sewing pattern 18 inch doll

Upcycled Sweater Vest and Sweater Dress Patterns

Get creative and let us know in the comments what you’ve found to make doll clothes out of!

Wrapping Up

So, there you have it: everything you need to know to pick the perfect fabric for your doll sewing projects every time.

And if you have any tips of your own we did include here, I’d love to hear about them in the comments section below :)

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  • Deborah Puls on

    Thanks for all the tips on making doll clothes. I thought I knew enough, but I was WRONG!! I’ll be starting to make doll clothes for fun and extra income. At 66yrs old and disable, I like to do/or make things. God Blessed me with multiple art skills, so I like trying different things. My only downfall is almost all sellers offer PDF patterns, and I have no way to print those files. (sad). The most beautiful patterns are PDF. Anyway, thank you so much for sharing your wisdom of sewing doll clothes!! I’m going to make sure to check-in often to see what you have posted.

  • Natalie on

    I use children’s clothing from the thrift store for my doll clothes. Trims and buttons are already the correct size. I also made a template for myself by tracing a front bodice piece from a blouse pattern onto a piece of quilter’s template plastic, and cutting it out. I carry it in my purse whenever I go shopping. Not only does it help with scale, but I can see whether the design on a child-size tee shirt will fit on a doll shirt.

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