Monday, May 19, 2014


Fashion, fashion everywhere, but all over the streets of Paris we only see people dressed in....JEANS!!!!

It's unescapable. Jeans are part of society's collective wardrobe and won't be disappearing anytime soon. Like the little black dress, jeans go everywhere. Perhaps it's popularity stems from the nature of this fabric. The origins of denim come from Nimes France in the 17th century. Its unique weave keeps us cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Though used by Levi Strauss in San Francisco for work clothes in the late 19th century, denim as a fashion staple did not invade the world until the 1960's "flower power" children wore them en masse. Ever since, the quintessential jean trousers, biker jacket and skirt variation have remained popular with everyone from two to eighty-two all over the globe, no matter their culture, socio-economic standing or race.

I wanted to make a set of "real" jeanswear for my dolls. With this project, however, I soon discovered why Mattel and others prefer to make basic trousers then simply topstitch a jeans "look." I, on the other hand, attempted to do it the hard way. It took, what seemed to be an eternity to complete these pieces. And though it was a bit tedious for the 16" doll, I did suffer a bit when making these clothes for my Barbies.

This is an exercise in straight pattern drafting. Making the pattern is not difficult. The pain lies in the garment assembly and the fabric. There are many small pattern pieces. You must label them well, fully remembering which side is up. The choice of denim is also crucial.

I made the first jeans jacket for my 16" doll using fabric from an old pair of my father's pants. No problem. But when I used the same fabric for my 11 1/2" Barbie, that's when my troubles began. The fabric was too thick and frayed too easily. The garment came apart at the seams. Quite frankly, the waistbands are also quite thick. I went ahead with this for reason of time constraints. But I would have had more success if I had used a chambray (a light blue cotton used in men's shirts). One last this writing, I am in Paris where I do not have access to a sewing machine. Given the smallness of the pattern pieces, this is probably the easiest way to put these garment together. However when it comes to top stitching, doing this by hand will fall short of the look you expect.

So for that reason, I included photos of the 16" doll whose jacket I made prior to this trip and is the way you will want your jeanswear to look.

Jeans Jacket

1. Trace off the basic front bodice. Design your yoke. It can be any shape or dimension you want. Mine is rather basic, falling 1/2-inch down from the CF (about 1/2 down the armhole on the other side) and straight across. From the top point of the dart apex, draw a vertical line to the horizontal yoke line. Now, extend the center front by 1/4-inch.

2. Cut the pieces apart along the sides of the dart. You now have a front yoke, a center front and a side front. Add seam allowance.

3. For the placard, make a mirror image to the right side.

4. It will now be double in width. Add seam allowance to all edges.

5. Trace off back sloper. Design your yoke. Create a vertical line perpendicular to the horizontal of the yoke.

6. Cut apart, along the dart legs. You now have a back yoke, center back and side back.

7. Trace one side of the yoke to the other side of the center back line to create a full back yoke.

8. Take the sleeve sloper and measure 1/4-inch from the bottom which you will use for the cuff.

9. Trace the cuff to double in length. The cuff will fold over itself.

10. Assemble the front bodice pieces. Topstitch. Then assemble the back pieces. Topstitch. Stitch together at the shoulder.

11. Stitch cuff to sleeve. Be sure to fold up cuff over itself. Glue, then topstitch. Stitch sleeve into armhole and down each side of jacket.

12. Flatten jacket then measure width of bottom edge for waistband. Add 1/4-inch plus seam allowance for width and 1-inch for length (that includes the necessary seam allowance).

13. Stitch in place, folding lower edge over itself.

14. Top stitch

15. Collar is a rectangle equal to the measurement of front and back neckline + 1/4" + seam allowance. Turn all but bottom edges down and glue in place. Attach to jacket, wrong side to wrong side, folding right side over the neckline to the right side of garment.

You can add pockets to front of jacket under the yoke, if desired.

Yes, she can really slide her hands in the pockets.

Jeans Skirt

1. Lower the waistline of the basic skirt pattern. I've cut it down 1/2-inch from the CF (lower red line) which falls just at the lower tip of the waist dart. The area falling 1/4-inch above will be used to form the waistband.

2. From about half-way on the waist to about 1/2-inch on the side, draw a curved line (blue).

3. At the top of the skirt's CF, draw the "fly front" with a line over by 3/8" and down by 3/4".

4. Return to step 2 where you drew the curved line (green). Trace this small curved piece, adding 1/4-inch to right and bottom of the curve. Add seam allowance to top and side.

5. Trace off back skirt sloper. Lower back waist the same amount as you did to the front (about 1/2-inch). (Blue line)

6. From that line, lower 1/2" (green line). The area between the blue and green lines will be the yoke. The area 1/4-inch above (red line) is the back waistband.

7. You can either cut the yoke in two pieces or as one piece. For my skirt, I've cut it as one.

8. For the waistband, fold out the dart and retrace into a single piece. I have joined the front with the back at the side seams before adding seam allowance + 3/8-inch (to cover the extension).

9. Turn under the pocket curve on the front skirt and glue. Then top stitch. Place front skirt over front yoke until everything lines up. Tack in place where I've placed the pins. Stitch the front skirt down the CF from near the bottom of the "fly" to the hem. Press. Top stitch the front seams. On the right side fly, stitch a J shape.

10. On the back, sew down the center back. Topstitch. Attach the back yoke. The widest part of the yoke is seen to the top of the skirt. Top stitch.

11. Stitch the skirt front to the skirt back at the sides.

12. Sew waistband together at back seam. Stitch waistband to skirt. Widest edge will be attached to top of skirt. I stitched a small length of tulle to the waistband edge and turned it under to finish the edge. Use hook & eye for front closure.

Add back pockets if desired.

Jeans (trousers)

I had fewer problems handling the fabric because I used a stretch denim for my pants. It was still a little thick for my taste, but better than the fabric used for the skirt and jacket.

Using pattern for pants with side seams (see video tutorial), follow same procedure as for the skirt. The only thing I changed was to cut the back yoke as two pieces instead of one. You might want to cut the back yoke so that it it 1/4-inch instead of 1/2-inch.

Note: since we are not including the inner pockets at the front of the front skirt and pants, there will be a hole inside the garment. You can tack it closed with a bit of glue or leave it be.

Don't forget to customize the jeans with tiny appiques, studs or rhinestones! I used rhinestone stickers for the buttons on my Barbie's jeans jacket and gold bead caps for those on the Tonner doll's gear. And...don't think you have to stick to using denim. Any canvas will do including scraps left over from upholstery fabric, for example!!!!

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  1. Totally sewn by hand: truly couture jeanswear. Excellent!

  2. I Love, Love, LOVE that dark blue top with the dark denim jeans!!!! Do you have instructions (or a link to the instructions) for making the dark blue top?
    I have just found your site through many, many search sites for Barbie sewing patterns and I am soo awesomely ASTOUNDED by your designs I have been looking at your wonderful work for the past two hours now. Whoa. LOL I LOVE your designs, your creative spin and your completely easy way of explaining things so that even *I* a barely hand sewer can attempt these wonderful creations....and I am going to. Thank you so much for posting these for free and giving us Barbie collectors and enthusiasts a Fantabulous way to create for and play with our dolls! ;-) You are sooo awesome!!!

  3. Hi Scheherazade and welcome to my blog. Thank you for your kind words. We doll fanatics are a huge community. Bigger than you may realize. So enjoy and come back as often as you'd like. The Tutorial list on the upper right side serve as a sort of "table of contents." So whatever you are looking for can be found fairly easily. That said, I never did a tutorial on that little top which I did quickly with a small rectangle of thin, jersey knit and snaps. Many people do like the look of draped knit, so I promise in the very near future, to do a post for creating this top and a few others. Big hugs.


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