Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Lycra Knit Dress for Lilin

Last weekend at the Chittenden County Doll Club I had a chance to talk with Lyrajean about how she sews dresses for her dolls.  She explained how she traces an outline of the doll on paper (or a paper towel), adds a half-inch seam allowance to account for the amount of fabric her serger will cut off, and then sews.  All told, a matter of 20 minutes.  I wanted to try her technique, but without access to a serger I knew 20 minutes was a mere fraction of the time it would take me.

Lyrajean's Unoa Sist. Her dress was made from either a sock or a sweater.

Yesterday I went through my fabrics looking for a likely candidate.  Lyrajean recommended fabric with 4-way stretch, so I quickly eliminated any knit with stretch in only two directions.  Turns out that accounts for most of my knits.  I did find a few 4-way knits and decided to use a tiny pink leopard print that I haven't used before.

The print was small enough to warrant using it on a smaller doll.  In addition, I figured that I would waste less fabric by making a small dress in case I didn't succeed.  Part of me wanted to try it with a MiniFee, but in the end I settled on Chibi Lilin because a) she hasn't had a new dress in a long time and b) it's hard to find things that fit her.

I carefully traced around the doll onto a piece of paper:  neck to shoulder, underarm to knee.  Then I removed the doll and connected the lines for the neckline, arm openings and hem.  I looked at the drawing.  Then I looked at Lilin.  I realized that with her large bust, a little extra width on the front of the garment might be in order.  So, calling my original drawing the pattern back, I traced it onto a second sheet and extended the outline out to the side a bit in the bust area for the pattern front.  I created a rudimentary sleeve (a rectangle with a rounded top to set into the arm opening), added a quarter-inch seam allowance to all pattern pieces and cut out my fabric.

Lyrajean was right about one thing.  The sewing itself was quick.  The neckline looked like it was going to be too tight, so I cut a larger opening.  I sewed the neckline by hand because guiding my sewing machine around the curve would have been too difficult.  Thank goodness the fabric showed no signs of fraying, so I didn't finish the seams in any way.  Piece of cake.  Now to try it on Lilin.

Obviously her faceplate would have to come off in order to get the dress over her head.  After that, progress ground to a halt.  The dress reminded me of the girdles my mother used to wear:  very stretchy and extremely tight.  Oh-oh.  Was this thing going to fit?  I practically had to dislocate her arms to get them through the dress and into the sleeves.  Once there, the rest of the dress came down over her bust and hips, where it fit like a glove.  A very snug glove.

I toyed with the idea of embellishing the dress with decorative buttons, but only briefly.  I didn't want anything hard attached to the dress in case the dress proved more difficult to get off than it was to get on.  No sense scratching the resin.  So I left it plain. 

Then I remembered a pink top I had worked on a few weeks ago.  It was an experiment that I put aside when I couldn't figure out how to finish it to make it fit.  The main body of the top was cut from a large circle, which I then folded in half.  I cut a neck opening in the center of the fold and sewed the circle almost shut, leaving two small openings for cuffs and a larger opening at the bottom for a banded hem.  Everything worked according to plan except that the neck opening ended up too wide.

So today I tried the pink top on Lilin, right over the dress.  The sleeves were voluminous, but not too long.  Looking at the gaping neckline, I suddenly saw how to finish it.  Threading a narrow ribbon through a needle with a large eye, I wove it in and out of the neckline, leaving the two ends trailing in front.  All I had to do was pull on the ribbon and tie it in a bow.

I am looking forward to trying this dress technique on a larger doll, but using a 4-way knit with less Lycra in it.  After all, it's a dress I'm making, not a girdle.  I want to make a dress that my girls are still able to sit in.  It's getting late, however, so that will be a project for another day.


  1. The experiment seems like a success to me. I mean the fit's a little (or a lot :) ) Peg Bundy but the fabric almost demands that kind of thing (or maybe it's just me, I see leopard print and I get feisty). All-in-all, super cute and I'm glad you found a way to finish your other experiment.

  2. That circle-folded-in-half method for a top is genius! The end result hangs nicely and is really cute.

  3. That whole outfit is just adorable on her--what a cutie!

  4. Thanks for your comments, everyone. I wish I could take credit for the folded circle top, but actually I got the idea by studying a top I received with a doll. The longer I looked at it, the more I saw the underlying shape. Duplicating it wasn't hard at all. I just have to remember to leave a smaller neck opening. It's supposed to slip down a bit over one shoulder, but not both of them!