Doll Dressmaking Series: Resizing the pattern

I have made basic dress (the starter pattern) pieces for Phoebe dolls, American Girl Dolls and a 16 inch Waldorf dolls. However, you may want to sew for a different doll. In addition, not all dolls of the same brand are the same size. American Girl doll sizes have varied quite a bit over the last 20 years. And handmade dolls like Phoebe and Waldorf dolls can vary simply because they are handmade.

There are three ways to alter the size of a pattern. In order to know how much you need to change, I suggest starting with making a crude version of the dress from the pattern you think is closest to your doll size.

For those of you new to sewing, click here for the basic steps for making the basic fitting dress.

 Key areas for adjusting fit in a doll dress

Key areas for adjusting fit in a doll dress

Once you have made that dress, try it on your doll.  and answer the following questions:

  1. Is it too big or too small?
  2. Is it too big or too small all over or in just one or two places? Look at the neck hole, armholes, chest and waist.
  3. How is the length? Remember to take into account a 1 inch hem.

There are three ways to alter a pattern to fit. Which way you go with depends on what type of size change you are attempting.

Too Big or Too Small Overall

If the pattern is overall too big or too small (meaning neck, chest AND armholes), you can easily adjust the pattern with an enlargement or reduction on the copier.  It just requires a bit of math. If a doll's chest is 10 inches and you need 11, then copy it at 110%. Or you can use the pattern pieces to do the math. If a 6.5 inch pattern piece needs to be 7.5, divide 7.5 by 6.5 and you get the percentage of enlargement, 115%. 

 Using a copier to change pattern size

Using a copier to change pattern size

Three things to remember about using the copier to enlarge or reduce. 

1. It only really works if all of the measurements need to be uniformly (or almost uniformly) reduced or enlarged.

2 It should not be used for making a dress pattern longer or shorter, just for circumference changes. A doll may be taller but thinner, so the dress's width should not be increased, just length, which is easy to do without the copier.

3. You are also enlarging/reducing the seam allowance. If you are only changing the pattern within 20%, this won't matter so much, but more than that can have an impact. Most doll clothes are sewn with a 3/8 inch seam allowance.

Just Need to Increase the Width

Okay so the armholes are loose enough, but the dress is snug. This can be done by adding a segment onto your pattern piece either with tracing paper or by taping your pattern piece on a piece of graph paper. See sketch below.

If the dress front is one inch too narrow, add a half of an inch to the fold edge. You can create a new pattern either by cutting out the graph paper with the taped on piece.

 Altering a pattern piece for width only

Altering a pattern piece for width only

Just the Neck is Too Tight

Some dolls have narrow necks, some dolls have wide necks. If it is just the neck that is not fitting, the fix is quite simple. You can draw a wider neck on the pattern piece as depicted below. A bit of guess work is involved. But it doesn't take that long to make a sizing dress to try. Or you can cut your sizing dress until it fits and work backwards.

Neckline change.jpg

Next, facings and linings.