Saturday, September 19, 2015

Sew What: How to Line a Skirt & Dress

While the girls are busy rambling about in New York Fashion Week, I thought I'd pause and take us all back to basics. As you know, as a rule I don't usually concern myself with the finishing of the garments. Some of you line them while others do it "Mattel style" (turn the edge and stitch or glue). What matters is that you're happy with the final results to the best of your ability. After all, we live in the age of H&M, GAP, Forever 21 and other mass market fashion meccas where "the look" is more prized than a hand finished, silk lined, couture dress. Admittedly, I do a lot of "fast fashion" myself, taking shortcuts (gluing hems down or tacking on Velcro), all in my haste to produce this weekly post. But suddenly I realized that I'm a pretty good seamstress when I put in the time and effort. And though I don't do the same type of fashion as the Haute Couturiers of the doll world---people like Tommydoll or Magia 2000, I, like you, admire the quality of what they produce and would like, from time to time, to incorporate a bit of this hushed elegance. Sadly, there are too few online tutorials focused on on sewing for the 12 inch fashion doll. So from time to time, I will feature a how-to guide on something you should find useful (but still, not too complicated).

In the world of Haute Couture, the real luxury of a garment exists within the interior of the garment. In fact, the true mark of couture garment is the interior which should be so well made, it could almost be worn inside out. Traditionally, more many couture clients buy simple dresses moreso than fancy gowns--something I learn years ago while researching the inner world of Paris couture. For this reason, I chose the sheath dress and a slim skirt as my starting point. The fabric you chose for the lining should compliment the garment. On this page, I chose China silk lining for the white wool dress and a sheer cotton muslin for the linen dress. What is important is that you chose a thin fabric that won't add an ounce of bulk but one that has enough structure to keep from falling apart as you work. One more matter the color of your finished garment, try to choose a light neutral toned fabric for the lining. Though I would have preferred a black lining for the plaid garments on this page, I was forced to consider the problem of staining!

Classic Straight Skirt
This is a perfect garment to line. Like this, you don't have to worry about a waistband (which adds bulk) and you don't have to think about what to do about the hem. The finish is perfect.

1. Begin by cutting out a straight skirt pattern. Transfer to the fabric. Cut out. Sew darts and sew side seams. Leave the back center seam open.
2. Repeat for the lining material.
3. Pin the right side of the skirt together with the right side of the lining (seams facing out).
4. Stitch across the top and the bottom. But NOT the side edges.
5. Tip: Press these two seams flat. When you do the final pressing, those seams will press crisp and flat!
6. Turn the garment inside out in through those side seams so that the front of the right side of the front of the fabric is facing itself and the front of the lining is facing itself.
7. What forms is, in fact, a sort of loop.
8. Stitch the edge of this loop, leaving . If you are doing this correctly, you will be stitching the back length of the lining.
9. This automatically leads to the back length of the skirt.
10. When you have finished stitching, turn the skirt out to the right side through the opening at the back waist..
11. Press the top and bottom edge.
 12. The back seam will be open at the back.
13. Turn the edges inwards so they face each other and stitch close.
14. Attach a hook & eye at the top and perhaps another half way down. (Instructions for sewing hook & eye--further down.)

(Note: You can also use this same technique for lining a strapless foundation (used underneath the draped couture gowns and cocktail dresses!)

Basic Sleeveless Sheath Dress
Many of my fashions rely on some version of the basic sleeveless sheath. Since my dolls get a lot of wear out of this garment, this is the perfect garment to line. I made the same dress three times in an effort to find the technique I felt would yield the best results. Here are two ways:

1. First and foremost, be sure you press the fabric and the lining before beginning! Pressing is one of the most important steps to ensure professional, clean results!
2. Transfer the dart from the pattern to the fabric. For many fabrics, you can use the usual dressmakers' carbon and a wheel, but there are times when you might not want the carbon to show and if you work in wool, the marking doesn't always come through well. Here's a tip: Put straight pins in each of the four corners of the dart.

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3. Using a dressmakers pencil mark where the pins meet the fabric.
4. Repeat on the other side.

For your darts...

1. Fold the fabric down the middle of the dart and lay the piece on the table and pin as shown. Hand baste (using a running stitch). Then machine stitch. If you hand baste first, the result will be more precise! But if you will be hand sewing this garment, you will not need to baste. For hand sewing, be sure to use a back stitch (just as strong as a machine stitch).
2. Clip the middle of the dart, being careful not to get too close to the stitching line.
3. Iron each piece, pressing the seams of each piece towards the side. Repeat o for the lining.

1. Baste the back pieces together down the center back seam. If you plan to add a zipper... Measure the zipper against the garment and mark.
2. Machine stitch the area between where the end of the zipper is down to the hem of the dress. Leave the basting stitch in and press the seam open.
3. Pin the zipper to the back seam and baste.
4. Hand stitch the zipper to the back using tiny stitches on either side of the center seam. Be sure to feel the spine of the zipper and leave a bit of space so that the zipper pull can slide without getting caught in the lining.

Please note: For best results, buy a zipper suited for 12" doll clothes. Here, I've used a regular 4" zipper normally used for (human) pants. The zipper pull is too big! On the other hand, this zipper works better for the 16" doll. You can order doll scaled zippers from either Zipper That DollDoll Artists Workshop or I Sew For Doll

1. Now is time to add the lining. Sew the dress together at the side seams. Do the same for the lining. Then place the right side of the lining against the right side of the dress. Seams are outside. Pin, baste then sew around the neckline leaving about 1/8 inch (3mm) away from where the shoulder seam would be.
2. Stitch the dress/lining around each of the armholes, again stopping 1/8 (3mm) away from the where the shoulders normally join.
3. Here's a close up of the stitching.
 4. You will NOT be stitching the garment at the hem. Instead, you should now turn the garment right side out. Press the neckline and around the armholes.
5. Fold back the lining and grab the shoulder of the dress. Pin together
6. Stitch together.
7. Press the seam open.
8. Now, pull the lining over the seams.Tuck the seam allowance over the shoulder seam and stitch.
9. It will look like this when you're finished. Press well.
10. Turn the dress over and tuck the seam allowance of the lining under. Pin then hand stitch to the zipper. Press.
11. Now let's finish the hem. Turn the hem of the lining under and turn the hem of the dress under. Pin together and hand stitch together.
 This is the dress turned inside out!!!!

Finishing your garment with Hook & Eyes
I prefer hook and eyes over snaps because the garment lays flatter. Because they take a lot of stress each time you dress and remove the garment from the doll, the stitches need secure. AND..though you can use metal eyes, thread loops have a lot more class. For the 12" doll, you will need size 0 hook & eyes.

1. Hold the head of the hook near the edge as you work. Make a stitch. and push the needle through.
2. Take the end of the thread and wrap it around the needle once, then finish pulling the needle through.
3. Do this three times on each loop.
4. Don't cut the thread. Instead, wrap another 2-3 stitches around the head of the hook. This keeps the hook from moving.

Determine where the eye should go on the opposite edge. You can use the metal eye or create a thread loop (below). Note: if the edges will overlap, you use the straight eye. If the two edges meet flush against each other, use the curvier loop.

The Thread Loop
1. Begin by making a loop of three stitches.
2. Next, slide the needle under this loop. Wind the end of the thread around the needle and gently pull. A small knot forms on top of the loop. Once again, slide the needle under the loop and again, wrap the end of the thread around the needle and pull so that the next knot sits next to the first one. Repeat until you have enough stitches along the length of the original stitches. This will form a tiny crochet "chain."
4. When sewing on hook & eyes, I like to put the first and last in place, then position the others accordingly.

Another Method of Lining a Sheath
This method begins the same way as the white dress. The difference is that you will not sew the dress down the sides just yet. Instead  you will sew the dress together at the shoulder seams first.
 1. Don't forget to plan for your zipper (if that's the plan).
2. The center back is basted close, pressed flat and the zipper is pinned down the back.
3. Baste the zipper into the back center seam.
4. Hand stitch the zipper in place.
5. When you get near the top where the head of the zipper pull is located, remove the basting stitch, lower the zipper then continue to hand sew in place.

 6. Sew the dress together at the side seams. Repeat for the lining. Place the lining right side to the right side of the dress. Stitch around the hemlines and around the armholes on either side. (I've put a broken red line to emphasize where to stitch.)
7. Now fold the dress in half and pull one side through one of the side seams. The right side of the dress will be facing itself and the right side of the lining will also be facing itself. It will for a loop (lining on one side, dress on the other.)
8. Stitch along the side seam which is now in a loop. Be sure to leave the length of lining open where it will be stitched around the zipper. When you have finished stitching, pull the dress out of that back seam so that it is right side up. The lining will be inside.
9. Press the edges well. Now fold the edge of the neckline of the dress down. Then fold the edge of the lining under. (You may have to make tiny slashes around the armhole for ease. You can baste each in place which will make it easier to manipulate. With the folded sides together, sew the seam shut.
10. Press well.
11. Pin then sew the lining around the edge of the zipper.
12. You can add a hook and eye at the top to hold the dress together.
13. Again, the inside of the dress is practically as lovely as the outside!

I'm will be developing a new page on this blog will include an index of all my blog posts with sewing techniques. It will also incorporate "Fashion terms," illustrations of various stitches as well as any other information on sewing for dolls I can find on the web for you. Down the road in the near future: Lining Coats & Jackets. Stay tuned!!!

But shortly, we'll be bringing you the latest style trends to emerge from the world's top fashion capitals.

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  1. Another awesome tutorial. This blog is obviously a labor of love for you because a lot of thought and work went into the information packed post. Thanks for your generosity!

    1. Thank you, KMQ. And yes, this is totally a labor of love. I am a diehard fashion person through and through right down to the point of being curious and fascinated with the miniature fashions created for these mighty fine fashion dolls. My blog is my way of dragging all of you down my road to exploration and discovery!

  2. Hi April, thank you so much for posting this, it's so useful! I usually don't line dresses and skirts all the way, only half or around the neckline and arm holes. But full lining looks so neat!
    I also look very much forward to the coat lining post, as I intend to make a jacket and coat for the dolls so they can stay warm in the coming Winter ;-D.
    Love what you made too, very chic!!! xxx

    1. Linda, when I started making doll clothes, I searched the internet for information on sewing these itty bitty clothes for 12" dolls. As I'm sure you are aware, there are lots of sights offering or selling patterns, but pitifully few places where you can find information on sewing or construction. I usually don't fully line many of my clothes for a number of reasons, but as I discovered the real Haute Couturiers of doll clothes, I thought that maybe, from time to time, I should put in the effort and time to make something really special! The coat and jacket lining is special because they contain both a facing and a lining which is not a mirror copy of the outer coat. A very important tutorial I hope to have ready after all the fashion shows are over. Big hugs.

  3. Jestem Ci bardzo wdzięczna za ten poradnik! Masz rację, często są w sieci wzory, ale nie bardzo wiem, jak się za nie zabrać! Nie mogę uwierzyć, jak wspaniale można uszyć tak małe ubranka!
    Dziękuję i pozdrawiam serdecznie!

    1. Olla wrote:
      I am very grateful for this tutorial ! You're right , they are often in online designs , but I don't always know how to achieve it ! I can not believe how great you can sew clothes so small !
      Thank you. My cordial greetings !

      Hi Olla. Many times I might not want to line a garment. But there are times when I am making something really special and might want it for keepsake purposes. And that's what this post will be good for. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. Great post, April! So informative. I have made several lined outfits for me and my daughters, but have always been a little leary about lining a doll garment. Your tutorial makes me want to give it a try!

    1. Phyllis, for me it's often just the though that adding a lining is so much more work. But through this exercise I discovered it's not as much work as I imagined. Better yet, I was so happy with the final result, I feel it was worth the extra effort!

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I'm still such a novice and I want to sew better quality clothes. I'm getting some great tips from you and really love your site. Now to find the courage (yes, for some reason I'm scared to do some of these techniques) to try these things out.

    1. Jaye, it's readers like yourself that prompted me to do more things on sewing techniques. I wouldn't mind recommending other sites or blogs, but there is so little on sewing or garment construction for these little clothes. So stay tuned. I'm working on creating an index of terms, techniques and found articles to help you with the sewing aspect of this. One thing--fear not. With a 12" doll, even if you mess up, there's not that much material at stake and even better---dolly will NEVER complain. She will stand there and pose in whatever you make as if it were from Chanel herself!!!

  6. Hi April, this tutorial is a pearl! So many useful tips! First of all I?m going to look for hooks and eyes in the rigth size, I'm getting bored of snaps as they are not flat enough for my tastes.
    I love the Prince of Wales dress, is simply wonderful!

    1. Thank you, Billa. I was hoping to offer enough tips in this (most unglamorous) post so there would be a little bit of something for everyone.. Basically what I've done was to employ techniques I learned for making full scale clothes and apply them to the doll. If any of this can be of any help...all the better!

  7. Hello from Spain: fabulous tutorial. Your creations are great and very glaurous. Fabulous looks. Nice pics. Keep in touch

  8. Merci pour ces cours de couture. J'aime vraiment ce que vous faites. Cela me donne des leçons pour m'améliorer. Je suis contente d'avoir découvert votre site.

    1. Merci pour les très gentils mots. J'ai fait ces cours car il y a si peu à l'Internet sur la couture pour les poupées modèles. De temps en temps je ferai d'autres. Je suis très contente si cela peut aider.

  9. Thanks for this inspiring tutorial! I look forward to trying some of your suggestions. I used to sew by hand so I recognize some of the dart notations, etc. Other things, I am learning new from you. Would be nice to have some couture fashions for my dolls and action figures ;-)

    1. D7ana, I am so happy you found this post useful. I'm sure your dolls are secretly cheering you on!!! ;-)

  10. You make it seem managemable! (I almost typed "seam manageable," so I guess that, too.)

    Also, I am besotted with that lace-on-houndstooth skirt fabric. It's gorgeous and looks so haute couture.

    1. Thank you for your kind words. I found that beautiful fabric during a trip to NY last year. And yes, if you take your time, lining the dress or skirt is very manageable! I'll be doing other sewing tutorials in the near future as well!

  11. Hi April
    Congrats 4 the fabulous tutorial,both dresses are beautiful i love the houndstooth fabric ;-)
    Sometimes the dolls shoulders is a nightmare by hand sewing lols
    Have a nice week

  12. Thank you M-C. I found the hounds tooth fabric in New York on my last visit! And yes, I know all about the problems of shoulders in doll dresses which is why I made the same dress three times using different methods, all in an effort to find the best solution!

  13. Hi April, thank you so much for sharing your skills and experience with us. I have very recently acquired some Integrity Toys dolls and while they look fabulous in some of the Barbie (especially My Scene) clothes I already have, I yearn for the quality of Integrity Toys clothes but can't afford to keep buying dolls just for their clothes (it seems Integrity mostly don't sell fashions separately :-()So I really want to try to make some higher quality 'couture' clothes for my special dolls! I think the full lining techniques you describe above give such a lovely finish, and I have been wanting to give them a try. I also love your fashion report on the different fashion weeks - as I love fashion and dolls your blog is the perfect doll indulgence destination for me! Thanks so much and please keep blogging!

  14. Thank you, Jocelyn, for your very kind words. I'm always happy to connect with other collectors who have the same interests as myself. You can buy Integrity Toys clothes separately on eBay, but they tend be quite expensive! (In all fairness, they are exquisitely made!) Though I try to provide my readers with an eternal source of fashion ideas for their dolls, I've decided to stop, from time to time, to do more sewing tutorials for those of you who want to make more finished clothing. So, welcome to my blog and stay tuned for more!!!!

  15. I have referred buckets of people to your blog in the last few weeks (since I found it). You explain things better than I ever could! I appreciate you taking the time to walk your readers through two methods of lining: I do the second (after a fashion) and am looking forward to trying the first.
    It gives me warm fuzzies to find others are daft enough to want to line doll clothes.

    1. Hi Liz. First of all, welcome to my blog and THANK you for sending others. We have a really good time here because, as you know, all is possible in the world of dolls....especially when it comes to fashion. Through our dolls, we can all experience Versace or Chanel couture, wear Tiffany charm bracelets or iWatches, toss leather or fur coats over the shoulders, etc etc etc. I did this post because of the demand for more sewing tutorials prove myself (a person who once made beautifully sewn garments for myself, my mom & my friends) that I could produce a quality garment for my dolls. Not all garments should be lined, but for those classic couture garments that should, this post is for them.

  16. Thank you for your inspirational blogspot. Your work is quite amazing. I am just 'having a go' at making a simple shift dress for my GD's latest Barbie. I have made some 'okay' dresses for her Our Generation Dolls, but these tiny clothes are a bit of a challenge. Thank you again.

    1. First of all, welcome to my blog and thank you for all the kind comments. Yes, these tiny clothes are a challenge, even for a seasoned seamstress like myself. But practice makes perfect. The wonderful thing is...your doll will be happy with whatever you make for her. She will never complain! Good luck on your projects and please come back and visit us as often as you like.

  17. Do you have a video tutorial on this amazing blog?

    1. There are a few video tutorials on this blog, but I haven't done one is a long time. Each of my blog posts take an enormous amount of time. Videos, especially when you are doing them all by yourself, take even more time.


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