Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Choosing fabrics for dolly clothing.

I've mentioned this in a recent post already, but having has some dramatically different results - now I've finally finished my trews - I thought I'd make a post specifically about it.

One of the main problems in sewing for dolls is drape.  The fabrics will never drape as heavily on doll scale as they will on human scale, this is particularly noticeable on crisp medium weight cottons, such as those used by quilters and patchwork peeps.

Don't always blame the sewing pattern!  Consider your fabrics carefully, they make a huge difference.

Most people like to sew doll's clothes in quilters weight (QW for short) fabrics. These vary a lot from range to range in crispness and handle; and come in such an array of beautiful prints and colours that they are lovely to use for dolls.   I tend to advocate using lighter weight fabrics such as lawn, batiste, voile, crinkle, even muslin.  

However - I do tend to try and bear QW cottons in mind when I draft my sewing patterns, understanding that they're often the go-to fabrics for many dolly seamstresses.

Keeping this in mind, I set out to draft a really good trouser pattern for Ellowyne, as part of my next sewing pattern which is not just for pants, but for an ensemble.  In the process, I ended up making nine pairs of pants, until I got my final two properly finished pairs.

The first few toiles I made were in scraps of QWfabrics that I had lying around.  My reasoning for this, is that if a pair of trews looks good in QW, then they will look even better in a more appropriate fabric.  The fabrics I always suggest are very soft lightweight denims, an upcycled denim shirt, or some "jeggings" or anything really thin works well.  Some fine soft needlecords, or micro-cords, and I also have so soft rayon with cashmere that works beautifully.

Here's a first pair of pants, using the pattern which I know works really well from my toiles.  The fit is good as you can see, but this crisp fabric wrinkles everywhere.  The crotch isn't brilliant, and the legs below the knees look crumpled.

From the back the crotch is even worse, it's worse in real life than it looks in the picture.

Now, here are two pairs (my final ones) in red (viscose/cashmere mix) and darker green (a softer QW cotton than the fabric in the previous two pictures.)

You can see the dark green pair, although still a tad wrinkly, do sit better on the doll, because the fabric seems to be a touch softer than the last pair, and the oh-so-soft viscose/cashmere pair are smooth and beautiful.

And from the back, the green pair again are better than the first two pictures, but the red pair - well, you can see how different they look.

The red pair will be the ones I use.  I'll add some extra detail later, but wanted to show how well they came out, and what the different fabrics look like.

A soft lightweight wool blend, or some softer tweed should work also.   I choose cottons and viscose (rayon) because they press so beautifully,  I recommend pressing seams open (if you're not overlocking) on doll's clothes, to  reduce bulk in the seams, and pure wools can require a LOT of steam pressing to get them nice and flat.

A wool/acrylic blend may be easier to press, because acrylic knitting yarn is easily pressed really flat. Polyester can be a b'iatch to press a crease into as well, although some of the newer ones like spoonflower's 'modern jersey' do press a bit better; as do some polycottons, as long as there's about 50% cotton in the blend.

I guess people have all sorts in their fabric stash,  just keep an eye out for good fabrics on shopping trips is all I can say.  I buy most of my fabrics online, so it's hard to feel what they're like until they get here, and occasionally I find I can't use them. That said, some online stores will sell you small samples.

Don't be above upcycling either.  Charity shops (thrift stores in the USA, I think?) often have some hardly-used, or brand new garments that people don't want.   I like to buy the brand new  or nearly new items, launder them well and cut them up for dolly clothes.  

This wasn't meant to be quite the essay it turned out to be!   But I hope some people find it useful.


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