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Sew Your Own Dolls - spring-time dress

dolls louise kelly sewing

We're still big kids at heart, so it's no surprise that we love Louise Kelly's new book, Sew Your Own Dolls! Once you've made your basic doll shape, you can move onto sewing adorable outfits to dress them up. We've chosen this cute spring-time dress, modeled here by the lovely Kayla.

sew your own dolls kayla project


Kayla’s pretty floaty-sleeved dress is really versatile, and worth learning to make—this bodice and skirt combo is the basis for other blouses and designs throughout the book. You could make lots of different looks from this one dress pattern: use a ditzy Liberty print with crochet trim, just like Kayla’s, or contrasting fabrics, such as denim with stripes or polka dots, perhaps some corduroy or jersey knit. Trim with lace or mini pom-poms or even match the sleeves and the skirt and add a contrasting bodice!


You will need

Templates (Front Bodice, Back Bodice, Dress Sleeve)

Stranded embroidery floss (cotton) in assorted colors

Cotton fabric for the pants

Small length of fine elastic

Liberty print cotton for the dress

Crochet lace trim

Felt for the name tag

Two snap fasteners

Three flat-back pearls or ⅛-in. (4-mm) buttons or beads

Washable fabric marker

Glue pen

Basic sewing kit


Doll pants

 1. Cut two doll pants pieces from cotton fabric.

 sew your own dolls step 2

2. To make a name tag, write your doll’s name on some white or cream felt and embroider over the lines using a backstitch. Sketch an oval or rounded square shape around the name and cut it out; you can then place the name tag on a coordinating piece of felt and cut around using pinking shears or scalloped scissors. Use a glue pen to secure the two felt pieces together and then attach the name tag to the center of one of your doll pants pieces by stitching around the embroidered name in running stitch.

sew your own dolls step 3 

3. Using the doll pants template as a guide, sketch some sewing guides onto the wrong side of one of the pattern pieces using a washable fabric pen. First sew the gusset (this will only take a few stitches), then sew down either side of the doll pants.

 sew your own dolls step 4

4. To finish the leg holes, make small diagonal snips into the fabric where the stitching starts and ends and then turn a hem to the wrong side. Sew around each leg hole, use a running stitch or backstitch.

 sew your own dolls step 5

5. Turn down a ¼ -in. (5-mm) seam at the waistline and place some fine elastic in it. Stitch all around using a running stitch or backstitch. Be careful not to catch the elastic with your needle or to sew through it. Before you finish sewing around the waist, try the pants on your doll for fit, pull the elastic to gather the waist, and tie in a double knot. Remove the pants, trim the elastic, and finish sewing the hem closed.



 1. Using the cami-top templates, cut out one cami-top front and two cami-top backs from your Liberty print cotton. Using the Kayla template, cut two sleeves.

 sew your own dolls dress step 2

2. Snip into the curved seam allowances at the neckline on all the cami-top pieces. Turn in and secure with glue pen. Turn in the straight hems at the center back pieces and fix with glue pen also. There is no need to snip or turn in the seam allowances at the armholes.

 sew your own dolls dress step 3

3. Sew these hems using a backstitch. You could use matching or a contrasting thread.

 sew your own dolls dress step 4

4. Place the front piece and one back piece right sides together and sew along the shoulder—this should only take two or three stitches. Repeat for the other back piece.


5. Mark the top center of the sleeves by folding them in half widthwise and pinching to make a small crease or mark with a fabric marker.

 sew your own dolls dress step 6

6. Place the sleeve and cami-top right sides together. Use a backstitch to start sewing the sleeve into the armhole. The size and shape of the sleeve allows for three pleats one on either side of the shoulder seam and one in the center to line up with the shoulder seam. Use the center mark on the sleeve to help with pleat placement. Repeat for the other sleeve.

 sew your own dolls dress step 7

7. Finish the sleeves by turning under a small hem. There may only be a tiny space to do this at each end of the sleeve. If so, just fold under a sliver of fabric across the edge of the sleeve. Add the crochet lace trim to the underside of the sleeve as you backstitch this hem.


Tip: It may look as if the shape of the sleeve and the shape of the armhole won’t match up or fit together, but don’t worry—just line up the edges every inch (2–3 cm) or so and stitch. This is called “easing in.”


8. Place the cami-top back and front right sides together again and sew down the side seams; this will only be a few stitches.


9. Cut a strip of fabric about 4 x 15 in. (10 x 38 cm) for the skirt. Fold a hem at one end of the fabric and secure with glue pen, but don’t sew. Place the skirt and top right sides together and stitch together, adding pleats as you go.


10. Trim any excess fabric from the length, leaving ¼ in. (5 mm) for the hem. Turn this under and secure with glue pen. Finish all the hems using a backstitch. Sew a small hem along the bottom of the dress, adding the crochet lace trim as you go.


11. Add two snap fasteners to the back of the top and three flat back-pearls to the front of the dress with a little bit of fabric glue. Alternatively, you could use ⅛-in. (4-mm) buttons or some beads.


Tip: You may not use all 15 in. (38 cm) of fabric for the skirt of the dress, depending on how many pleats you add. On average, I fold a small pleat every two or three stitches and use around 12 in. (30 cm) of fabric.


You can find the instructions and templates to make the full doll in Sew Your Own Dolls by Louise Kelly.



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