Tag Archive | african american doll

Casual Winter Plaid

This outfit began with Butterick 5865, a simple dress with a capped sleeve, perfect for Julie. I love working with plaid when the rectangles are small enough for doll clothes. Once I cut the front and back bodice pieces to line up the horizontal lines on the sides, I thought the pattern would be a piece of cake.


Unfortunately, the skirt gave me some grief. Although the pieces were to be gathered, they were cut at an angle, like a wedge, or part of a circle. I pictured the skirt hanging nicely to create more of a vintage look. I must laugh at myself a bit because after cutting the side seams of the skirt pieces so that the horizontal lines of the plaid design would match, the joke was on me. I realized that matching plaid won’t work for this type of skirt—or I couldn’t figure out how to do it.

My sewing motto is, “Anything can be fixed”—almost. I figured I could recut the skirt using a plain red or white or a coordinating print. Those options weren’t working for me, so I decided to cut a plain gathered skirt without angled seams. Unfortunately, I only I had a scrap of fabric left, just about enough for testing my Serger stitch whenever I re-thread it. Fortunately, I was able to eke out a tiny skirt with an elastic waist.

Since I had already ironed a hem in the bodice lining (that would have covered up the gathers of the original skirt), transforming the bodice of the dress into a blouse was simple. The blouse is a tiny bit large, so I used the whole width of red Velcro.


The skirt was so simple with a Serger—or without one. I finished all sides of the fabric. Although it is easier to sew the back seam of the skirt last, the skirt turns out neater to form the seam before hemming the bottom and forming a casing for elastic at the top. The skirt waistline is less bulky if the ends of the elastic are sewn together with one end on top of the other end, once the elastic has been threaded through the casing with a safety-pin or a bodkin.

Julie wears an “owl” necklace and matching earrings created by my friend Ann at 2SistersSewCrafty.


The deep red plaid is a nice background for the rustic finishes of the owl necklace.



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Vintage Cherry Print Peplum

I’m back from break—with lots of beautiful new fabric for my 18-inch dolls.

I’m happy with this peplum top. The pattern is designed by Liberty Jane and available at Pixie Faire. This top was fun to make. It calls for a zipper but I didn’t have one that matched so I used Velcro. My plan is to eventually transition to buttons and zippers as much as I can to remove the bulk from the back of the garment. Although Velcro may seem convenient, it can be cumbersome; it is thick and difficult to penetrate with a needle or pins, especially if you want to baste the Velcro in place. Few patterns have a back seam that is wide enough for buttons and button holes. Adding a back zipper only requires 3/8 inches added to the seam (from 1/4 to 5/8).

This is my third time at making the “Phoebe” hat by Bonjour Teaspoon at Pixie Faire. This hat is a bit tight and is not forgiving if you bypass the 1/4-inch seam. If I make the hat a fourth time, I will increase the length of the side brim slightly.

I opted to reveal the red underneath side of this reversible hat in this photo so that my model isn’t swallowed up by red cherries that would match her top. Too matchy-matchy for the photo, but the outside of the hat does indeed match the peplum top.


Here’s another view of the hat below. I think I prefer this side—but not with the matching top. I removed the peplum top and left my model in a bra top to showcase the top of these red dotted Swiss peddle pushers and waistband. I love using elastic just in the back. The front waistband gives the pants shape.

This stunning bracelet comes from 2SistersSewCrafty. I just bought a couple of holiday pieces but couldn’t wait to show them.

I’m the “Carrie Bradshaw” of doll shoes. I can’t resist a good pair, and I have a sizable collection. However, what shoes would you choose for my model? Red? I have some cute red sandals, but when I place them on her feet, she becomes a red blob. Pink? The pink background of the hat and top isn’t enough to carry pink shoes. White? Not so much. If my model wears shoes, she’ll wear beige.


Here’s an inside view of this well-designed pattern that I will use again. Since I like to line all my tops, using a pattern with lining instructions is a big plus for me.


Since Marshmallowjane is fortunate to have several “models” for doll clothes,  we choose the model that is best for the garment. In this case the Madame Alexander doll doesn’t have visible neck and shoulder joints. This doll’s waist is slightly smaller than the waist of American Girl dolls. Her long dark hair shows off her hat, and the hat shows off her beautiful face.


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sewing machine


African Influence

Here is another look with heavy African influence. I love these prints.


This top is a strip of fabric folded in half, right sides together, and then stitched. Once the strip is turned right-side out, several rows of even stitching are sewn parallel to the long edges to create casing for elastic. I love this little top but I think I’ll add a couple more rows of elastic and perhaps a tiny ruffle to widen this top that can double as a bathing suit top. If you look closely at the photo (below) you can see the rows of stitching. I also added an inch of velcro on each end and a slim leather lace tie.


I’d call these “palazzo” pants, even though “palazzo” is far from an African term. Bell-bottoms flair from the knee; these are more skirt-like. They’d be super comfortable in hot weather. Although I prefer using 100 percent cotton as often as possible, I think I’ll use an acrylic mix next time. I have the perfect print in mind.


I have found the perfect way to make pants, skirts, and shorts with a waistband in front and elastic in back. The back pattern piece must be cut about an inch higher than the front piece to make room for the casing that will hold a 5-inch long piece of 1/4-inch elastic. If the pieces are cut correctly, the inside sides of the waistband will cover the ends of the elastic. The photo of the pants (above) shows the elastic back on top and the inside of the waistband on the bottom.

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African Chic

Although I used a very basic structure for this look, I put it together in a unique and beautiful way. (I can’t stop fawning over the fabric.) You can see the beginning of the look in my previous post called African Fashion. I learned much by working with muslin the first time, but this is my final result:


I’ve been perusing the web for “African Fashion.” Here is a compilation of some looks and fabric choices on Pinterest.  My own interpretation is a sophisticated fashionable African girl or African-American girl. Besides this stunning doll, the key to this look is the fabric.

We have a small store here in Tracy called Sew Many Quilts that houses a section of soft cotton that it labels “African.” The fabric begins at around $9.50 or so a yard. Since 1/2 yard goes pretty far with doll clothes, I can buy a variety of prints for a very reasonable price. If I try to define African print, I will no doubt find exceptions to my definition. But in general, African prints have geometric shapes in vivid colors like yellow or orange that are outlined in black or brown (or both).

This skirt is simple. Just a rectangular piece of fabric with a small strip in a complementary print at the bottom and an elasticized waist. The top is more complicated due to the bias cording.

The cording turned out very easy to make, which is a nice surprise for me because I’m in a “cording” phase, but using it on doll clothes can be challenging. After stitching the lining to the bodice by putting the neckline and armholes together, I couldn’t turn it right-side out due to the added bulk of the cording, no matter how much trimming I did. I ended up taking the bodice apart and stitching the neckline together last by adding a facing. Because I changed my plan during mid-stream, I ended up sewing most of this bodice by hand.

I’m putting together instructions for this look. I’d rate the skill level as EASY except for the use of use of cording which is INTERMEDIATE.

I’ve been looking at head wraps and trying different ways to tie them. I decided that this young look needed a wrap/bow. A more complicated, larger wrap will look better with a long skirt or pants that are coming shortly.

I will soon be offering three different looks under “African Chic” at Etsy.


Asian Dolls Are a Rare Find

Madame Alexander joined Walmart to make an exclusive small set of dolls. I don’t know when they were released. These small sets of limited dolls come and go very quickly. I clearly need no more dolls, but Asian dolls are next to impossible to find. And when I saw this doll, my heart melted. If I decide not to keep her, I can easily find her a home.

Normally, I wouldn’t buy a doll with styled hair like this because, chances are, the rubber bands will cause the hair to permanently bed. Here’s what she looked like in the box—or on the side of the box.


This doll is one of the “My Life” dolls. She is “My Life as a Hair Stylist.” After seeing this doll at Walmart, I went home and looked for her online. I couldn’t find another one like her, so I went back the next day and bought her.

She comes with some problems. The box says she is “totally posable.” I don’t know what that means but she will not stay standing, unless I lean her against the wall. This is true of most 18-inch Madame Alexander dolls, compared to the American Girl doll who will stand up by herself. A.G. is easier to photograph for this reason.

I did not notice until recently, that Madame Alexander’s head is joined just below the chin; whereas, American Girl’s head is permanently connected to her neck, and it is her neck that connects to her upper body. I love to take pictures of my dolls after I’ve styled them, and I find it challenging to get this girl to look straight forward at the camera. Her head wants to look up.


The biggest issue of all is her hair, which is “permanently” crinkled and tangled, with a big part in the back of her head. Also, her bangs are styled in a “fresh” way that calls for them to be crooked with a noticeable space on her forehead on just one side.


As you can see, the back is a frightening mess. I do not recommend buying this doll for your little girl, even if you could find one, unless you don’t mind taking a risk with her hair.

After doing some research, I’ve found some great advice and directions on how to straighten a doll’s hair. This involves the use of a hot iron, and the box clearly states not to use a hot iron. If you are reading this, please send me some positive energy.

There’s also the matter of the hair cut, which was originally styled to fit into two pigtails; the cut is an uneven nightmare. I will probably trim it myself. I recently cut and restyled another doll’s hair. I will post the results of my doll’s new look (unless venture turns into a dismal failure).

A note on my reference to “Asian” dolls. My reference is politically incorrect, of course. I’m using this convenient umbrella to cover Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, and other Asian beauties. I’d say this doll looks more “Eurasian.” But what do we expect from a doll company? Madame Alexander does a pretty good job at representing other races. I have two African American M.A. dolls and they’re’ so beautiful. One of them has big lips and an extreme afro, while the other one looks more bi-racial. American Girl makes beautiful dolls but they all have the trademark thin lips with two little teeth. They make an “Chinese” doll named Ivy. What do you think?

If you want an Asian-looking doll for you or your little girl, please watch for the new batches of Madame Alexander that pop up out of nowhere, especially EARLY in the holiday season. American Girl’s “Ivy” is one of their Historical Characters that is always available, at least for now.

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