Saturday, February 25, 2012

American Girl Dress Tutorial

If you happen to be the happy owner of an American Girl doll you will agree with me that they are huge money traps.  Oh, do they know how to appeal to young girls (and mothers living vicariously through their daughters!).   However, you can spend mere dollars on cute little dresses, and save your cash for clothing purchases that actual humans will wear. ;o) I'm going to attempt a tutorial of how you can make a dress without having to purchase a pattern.
What you need:
--1/4 yard of fabric (you can use a fat quarter, but you'll have to shave a few inches off the width of the dress skirt--I've done it both ways, and it doesn't make a whole lot of difference)
--coordinating thread
--any extra trimmings/ribbons you might want to add
--velcro/snaps/your choice of fastener--but you can skip this altogether
--sewing machine, fabric scissors, pins, needle for hand-gathering, ruler

Spread out your 1/4 yard of fabric and measure an 8 inch by 24 inch rectangle--this will be the skirt.
Cut that out.
With the remaining fabric cut--
Those cuts will give you all the pieces you need!
Next you will cut spots on the bodice pieces where the arms will go--find a small circular item in your home.  For me I found something pefect in the play-dough container. ;o)
Cut out a little quarter circle so that your pieces look like this--
(I like to lay out my pieces--bodice and the facing--with wrong sides facing each other to make sure I cut on the correct corner of the back bodice/lining pieces)
Pin the side seams and stitch a 1/4 inch seam:

Next make the straps:

Now we can assemble the bodice:

Now you are going to turn what you have done right side out.  I have no picture to demonstrate the next part--if you have a doll on hand it might help you to visualize how to attach the straps to the back.  For me, I worked with what I had stitched, right side out, but then pinned the back straps to the unsewn parts INSIDE out.  In the picture you can kind of see how the strap is coming out the bottom.  Once you have this set up correctly, sew it in place.  ***EDITED TO ADD--For the comment I received about not being able to visualize this step I tried to find something that might help, perhaps this blog would give a better demonstration?  If you have ever done any sewing of a sundress for a girl/woman it is the same way you would do that, just smaller. ;o) ***

The hardest part is now done! ;o)
On to the skirt!

If you're interested in using some sort of trimming (lace, etc) on the hem, now would be a good time to add it!
To make it look a little neater, after stitching my bodice and skirt together I used a zig zag stitch to make that gathered seam look a bit more finished.
At this point you can add whatever fastener you prefer--velcro would probably be the easiest.  However, by using a nice thick grosgraine ribbon as a sash, I skipped using a fastener all together--we just tie the dress on with the ribbon and it fits great!
And voila!  Here's Felicity in her pretty spring frock that ever so nicely brings out her green eyes. ;o)
If you've ever made any sort of girl shirt or dress before I *think* my instructions should be fairly easy to follow.  If you've never sewn before, some of the things I've said might make no sense . . . I've never attempted a tutorial before, and I must say I have a lot of respect for bloggers who do it regularly (and manage to make perfect sense!).  Whatever the case, happy sewing!


sarah j. said...

great tutorial Janna! looks so cute (wish i had tutorials when i was young for my dolls). :)

Anna said...

I enjoyed readind your neatly photographed/labelled tutorial, Janna! And your perfectly pretty stitching. Cami is *just* getting into the American Girls (Kirsten is her fav). Yay for not paying full price for the name brand version! :)

Natalie said...

Thanks for the tutorial. I'm "pinning" this in case I ever get in the mood to sew. My girls would love this and your instructions are great!

Anonymous said...

I loved this I am newer at sewing and can't seem to make anything unless theres a youtube video involded. but this I found easy to follow. I made my 3 year old one for her doll and it came out great. thanks so much.

Heather said...

Awesome tutorial! Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for this awesome tutorial. I had already told my daughter that there was no way I could make her doll a dress to match a skirt I made for her. She is going to be super surprised on Christmas morning.

Unknown said...

Going to work on it now. Perhaps a picture to follow!

Unknown said...

Great tutorial. Just finished the dress for a birthday gift. Thank you.

Kath said...

LOVE it! But have to ask - how do you attach the ribbon so that it lays all nice and flat like that?

Deirdre said...

Great tutorial - I bought fabric today and think I will try this dress! My only worry is the size of the arm openings! Fingers crossed!

Katie Berberich Handmade said...

This is the link to my dress. Thanks for the great tutorial, it was so useful.

Katie x

Anonymous said...

How do you close the back to make it look neat?

Janna said...

In reference to closing it, the simplest option would be to sew a strip of velcro, but you could do snaps, buttons, etc--whatever if more your style. My daughter just likes to tie them shut using a grosgrain ribbon as a sash. Hope that helps!

Unknown said...

Thanks for this great tutorial. Here is my version of the dress with a coordinating skirt. It was a birthday present for a friend. Hope the attachment shows up!


/Users/erinfiekers/Desktop/American Girl Dress.jpg

Anonymous said...

The bodice tutorial was excellent!!! Excellent!! My daughter and I added a sewn on sash and gathered skirt. This is the perfect start for doll clothes. Thank you!!

Mo said...

Thanks for this tutorial! I made it into a ball gown for my daughter's doll. It was easy and turned out great! Check it out here:

Trish said...

Thanks for tutorial. Whipped it up in less than an hour. Was super easy and fit our doll perfectly.

Anonymous said...

thank you so much. My 10 year old and I just whipped up a dress for her doll Katia. I sewed up the back from the bottom about 3 inches and then sewed two snaps in place. It looks great. Thanks again, Felicity and Scarlett (all the way from Australia)

Anonymous said...

Hi, loved the patten,made it for my Australian Girl Doll and it fitted perfectly, took your advice about the ribbon for fastening. Thanks Lyn from Melbourne, Australia

Anonymous said...

Very good pictures for us beginners who do not know what way to lay out material lol Thanks so much! Looks simple and I love the pieces laid out with the length and width wrote out by them!!!