The highlight of our recent mommy-daughter-dolly tea party was spending a leisurely afternoon making doll clothes for our daughters' 18-inch American Girl and Our Generation dolls. The six girls at our party ranged in age from 5 to 10, so I wanted to plan a sewing project that all could enjoy. I have been about to burst to tell you about our pillowcase dresses made from tea towels. This was a wonderful beginner sewing project because the finished edges of the tea towel mean few seams to sew. And decorative embellishments on the tea towels like embroidery, hemstitching and cutwork lace make for lovely doll dresses.
Directions follow for making a tea towel pillowcase doll dress, broken down to help you carry out this project with a special little girl in your life. Use your best judgment to tailor this project to the age, dexterity and level of interest of your little friend. At 7, daughter Mary Ashley and her friend Emma were eager to do as much of this project as possible. But at 5, daughter Emma and her friend Lizzy wanted a little sewing and a lot of playing dolls in another room. The older sisters were so eager to sew that they did most of the work on their younger sisters' doll dresses. That worked out fine, and all four girls left the party excited over their dolls' pretty new dresses.
Mommy: Gather project supplies, including:
- Tea towels (larger towels will make a dress; smaller towels can make a blouse, or use two towels to make a dress)
- Blue fabric pen (optional)
- Rotary cutter and mat (optional)
- Iron and ironing board
- Straight pins
- Sewing machine with thread
- Ribbon (at least 44 inches for each dress)
- No-fray solution
Iron tea towels with a crisp fold, using spray starch if desired. If your tea towel has a decorative edge on the front, you can cheat the length a bit to make the front of the dress a little longer than the back. In the photo below, you will see the scalloped edge of the tea towel I used for this tutorial. When I pressed this one, I lined up the bottom edge of the back of the towel with the highest point of the scallop. This keeps the dress from looking too short in the front.
Daughter: Cut the tea towel in half along the fold using scissors or a rotary cutter and mat. If you are nervous to cut along the crease, Mommy can trace the fold with a blue fabric pen, and you can cut on the line.
Mommy: If the crease was cut a little jaggedly, you can correct that at this step. Use the iron to create folds for a 3/4-inch casing for each half of the tea towel, as shown in the photo above. To make the casing, fold the raw edge under about 1/4 inch toward the wrong side of the tea towel. Even up this folded edge as needed, then fold the edge of the tea towel again toward the wrong side to make the casing. Press this fold, turning under the corners at each end. Iron a casing into the second half of the tea towel, using the first half of the tea towel as a guide.
Daughter: Pin the casing for each half of the tea towel.
Mommy & Daughter: Work together to sew a straight seam along the bottom edge of each casing, beginning and ending with a few reinforcing stitches. Depending on the age and skill level of your daughter, you can determine the best way to sew. I can adjust the stitch speed of my sewing machine, so I moved it to the slowest setting before we began. At age 5, Emma felt most comfortable standing beside the machine pushing the foot pedal while I sat at the machine guiding the fabric through. Seven-year-old Mary Ashley preferred to sit in my lap as we guided the fabric through together.
Mommy: Position the front and back pieces of the dress, right sides together. Make sure the front and back bottom edges line up as desired, and secure the front to back with a straight pin. Because both American Girl and Our Generation dolls have broader shoulders than bodies, it is not necessary to cut an arm hole for the dress. Secure the front of the dress to the back with a pin, about 3 inches from the top. Leaving a few inches open at the top will create an arm hole when the casing is gathered.
Daughter: Pin the side seams of the dress, lining up the front and back edges.
Mommy & Daughter: Sew the side seams, sewing as close to the edges as possible.
Daughter: Cut ribbon ties for your doll's dress. Each piece should be at least 22 inches long.
Mommy: Pin the first ribbon tie with a safety pin, and show your daughter how to ease the pin through the casing.
Daughter: Thread the ribbons through the casings. This technique takes a little time to master, but with practice you will get faster and faster.
Mommy: Pull the ribbon evenly through the casing and use a straight pin to mark the center point of the casings for the front and back of the dress. Be careful to catch the ribbon with the straight pin so it will not shift when you gather the casing.
Daughter: Gather the casing on both sides of the center point. The front of the dress should be gathered to a width of about 4 inches (or a little less), and the back should be gathered to about 5 inches (or slightly less).
Mommy & Daughter: Stitch the casing closed on each end to keep the ribbon in place. Trim the ribbon ties at an angle and brush the tips with a no-fray solution.
Mommy: Iron the dress, and give it a final fluff.
Daughter: When Mommy says the ribbons are dry, you can let your favorite doll try on her new dress -- lovingly made by you!
This really is a quick and easy project. In fact, the "prototype" for our afternoon sewing session took me less than 20 minutes to make. Trying to give instructions might make this simple project seem more complicated than it needs to be. If you have any questions or comments about the tutorial, leave me a comment below. I will answer your questions in the comments section or modify my directions as needed.
I'm linking this post with Get Your Craft On at Today's Creative Blog.
Keep scrolling for a few more details of our mommy-daughter-dolly tea sewing time. And stop in tomorrow for a tea towel doll dress giveaway!