Monday, 30 June 2014

Free tutorial: How to style a dolls skirt. (2 methods)

Righty. I keep getting asked how I get my dolls dresses and skirts into such a nice shape, and make them less, well, poufy. Well, part of it is the cut of the pattern, I don’t do tube skirts, for example, but most of it is in the styling. It’s no big secret really, so I’ll show you here.

Before I start though, here are a few important provisos.

1)  Most importantly- NEVER DO THIS WITH A BODY-BLUSHED DOLL. It involves leaving a damp garment on the doll overnight and will RUIN your body blushing and sealant.

2) NEVER DO THIS IF YOU HAVE ANY TRACES OF NON-WATERPROOF PEN ON YOUR SEAM LINES OR THE EDGES OF YOUR FABRICS. Vanishing ink is fine, in fact dampening a garment will remove it all, but if you’ve used any kind of pen in the hidden seams for markings etc - don’t get your garment wet.

3) MAKE SURE THE DOLL, THE SURROUNDING AREA, THE STAND, YOUR HANDS ET AL - ARE CLEAN. You could do this on the draining board in the kitchen if you like, because method 2 is a bit drippy, but make sure the area is clean. Dirt sticks to wet fabric like nobody’s business.

4) Make sure the fabric you're wetting is COMPLETELY colourfast. Experiment before leaving it on your doll for any length of time.

5) This works best on natural fibres, such as cotton, silk, viscose/rayon (which is actually not man made)  Things like acrylic might work, but polyester can be notoriously hard to get a good crease into. I don't know if this works on poly-cotton, because I avoid it like the plague, but I might give it a go just so I can report on how well it works.

(Likewise this works best on the more sheer fabrics like lawn, voile, muslin, batiste, etc. It does work on the quilting and patchwork weight cottons, but those fabrics are heavier weight and are always, always crisper) 

ETA: As per the comments below, this might not work with silk.  I don't use silk myself but am told it's very prone to watermarks, even a light spray.  Test on a scrap piece first!   (I have used Spoonflower 50% cotton, 50% silk with this method and it has been fine, but do be careful with pure silk dolly clothes)

Got it? Good. Now we’ll begin. :)

I drape a towel over my desk for this, so forgive me for the less-than-elegant background to my photos.

Method 1 - Quick and Easy.

Firstly, here’s Lizette in the dress I made recently, all ironed out so you can see how poufy the skirts are. (There is an underskirt too, which you can't see)

Wet the skirts under a tap, and avoid getting the bodice wet. ... Don’t have the water gushing out, just running enough to soak your skirt and underskirt all the way through. We don’t need to wet the bodice, and it should all be beautifully pressed from when you made it - so dampening might remove some of the crispness. Doll clothes are far easier to iron as you’re sewing, than when they’re all finished.

Here’s the soaked skirt, with the dry bodice.

 Give the skirt a squeeze with a towel to remove excess water:

Then wring it out, to get as many crinkles in as you can. This is a great way to get that really shabby chic look. Don't wrench it and break the stitches, just wring it firmly in a spiral.

 Next, wring the skirt in a spiral in the opposite direction.
And here's your damp, crinkly skirt:

 Slip the dress or skirt back on the doll, and gently pull the skirts into place. You can't see the shorter underskirt, but it's there. I've just left it to fall however the visible outer skirt falls.

 Keep tweaking and shaping the skirt. You can press in gathers with your fingers, or gently tug at the hems to get it in the shape you want.   As a side not, I use pure cotton lace for this one reason - it's easier to style than nylon laces. They are stubborn and hardly retain a crease.

 And here's Lizette, looking far more shabby chic and far less poufy.

 Method 2 - more controlled but slightly drippy.

Here’s Pru in her freshly ironed dress. (I had already styled these frocks, so had to iron them out for this tutorial) The skirt is lovely, but is still a bit too wafty and doesn’t hang in a realistic scale to the doll.

Keep the dress on the doll - and the work area clean. And just pin up the outer skirt.

Take a spray bottle with clean water, and just spray the mist over the underskirt soaking it well.Work your way all around the underskirt.

My underskirt is soft cotton voile, so it just fell into place once wet, without my having to tweak it.  But all you need to do is pull it gently, and maybe tweak the gathers in a bit. Generally shape it with your hands until it sits in the way you want it.

 Once that's done, let down the overskirt, and spray that with water too. Avoid the bodice as best you can. 

This skirt is made from Liberty Tana lawn, which is quite springy, even when wet.  But you can 'sculpt' the dress with your hands into the right shape.

I usually run my hands from the waistband all the way down the skirt, then tweak the shape until I'm happy with it.

And finally, here's Pru in her slightly soggy dress.  Once you're happy with the shape, leave it to dry naturally, overnight if possible. 

And you're done. The hardest part is waiting for it to dry.  :)



  1. Fabulous .. that's the one thing I wasn't happy with was the slightly pouffy look but never thought of dampening the skirts down....I shall try this at some point maybe not on the the first dresses as they do have some pen marks on the lining fabric but have been stash building again (I do so love a good stash) and there might be some Liberty fabric coming....... lol no hope absolutely no hope for me........

    1. Yus, I'm careful to make sure all ink is gone (vanishing ink is fine, water makes it go away) I ruined one of my Ken's teeshirts recently by not being careful with ink and water!

      Ooooh we do love stash :D Mine is too big but I keep giving in to temptation.

  2. You are a sewing / styling GENIUS!!

  3. You`re giving away all your secrets! I would however caution against wetting silk - even with a light spray - as in my experience silk acquires watermarks like nothing on earth (even with steaming) and can end up looking like a bit of crumpled rag as I found out when I gently wet a piece in the hope of getting out some stubborn creases. Why do people post silk folded into teeny tiny squares when the creases won`t press out?????

    1. Well, now I'm selling the patterns, I don't want people to think the poufiness is due to my patterns, so I thought I'd share.

      I've added that info to the tutorial. :)

  4. I can't imagine ever making such gorgeous dresses on such a tiny scale - You are a genius!

    1. That's really kind, thank you! :)

    2. Thank you. You're tutorial was very helpful. Lovley dress

    3. LucyB - You're welcome! I do like to encourage people. Thanks for the kind words. :)


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