Blast from the Past: The Easiest Way to Learn to Make Clothes

My first sewing project was a jumper I made for myself (I was 12). It was quite the learning experience, but I did not immediately follow it up with more clothing for me. Instead, I began making doll clothes for my sisters and myself.

I did this because we couldn’t afford to buy doll clothes in the store. But I soon discovered that it was a lot of fun to make my own color choices using remnants I got from relatives or marked down at the fabric store.

What I didn’t realize at the time was that using patterns to make doll clothes helps you become good at clothing construction without the costly mistakes involved in making people-sized clothes.

For example, if you cut a sleeve out wrong for a doll, or mess up big-time while sewing the sleeve, you can just cut a new one out of another scrap of fabric and try again. But if you do that while making yourself a shirt or a dress, you’ll probably have to go back and buy more fabric (if you can find more of it) to cut out another sleeve. This costs time and money.

Sewing doll clothes also helps you learn how the pieces go together in clothing construction much sooner than if you’re sewing people clothes. This learning happens faster because the project comes together more quickly, being smaller.

After you’ve sewn a lot of doll clothes and really understand how bodices work (and sleeves, pants, etc.), sewing people-sized clothes is actually quite easy. I thought it was easier than making doll clothes, actually, because after working with such tiny pieces, sewing large pieces seemed so simple.

(Originally posted 2/2/09.)

8 thoughts on “Blast from the Past: The Easiest Way to Learn to Make Clothes

  1. Your blog is rich with so many great ideas! I’m one of those moms who is intimidated by sewing, due to past (and costly) mistakes. I can operate a high tech I.V. pump at work, but my sewing machine seems daunting to me…

    Thank you also for the post to Several months ago I googled “free sewing tutorial videos”, and this one did not come up. I love it, and I’ll use it to learn to sew!

  2. Dear Barbara,

    Thank you for this posts, as well as the others on sewing. I think it’s a wonderful idea for children to learn to sew on doll clothes. I had not thought of it and would have thought it harder to sew on something smaller. What an excellent idea!

    I received a new sewing machine for my birthday/Christmas present and want to teach my girls to sew clothes. We make simple things like pillows, curtains, aprons, etc. and can take a dress and make a skirt out of it, but I would like for them to learn how to assemble clothing from start to finish. I did make some things in Home Ec in high school, but don’t remember as much as I should!

    The girls and I watched some sewing videos at MonkeySee and learned so much! I am looking forward to watching more.


  3. I cannot sew for myself! I taught myself to sew making Cabbage Patch clothes for my doll in High School. I agree, best way to learn. When my kids were small I made tons of stuff for them, including cloth diapers.

    One day in church I realized everything my son was wearing was made by me! It gave me great satisfaction.

    Back to me…I must have really odd proportions because nothing I sew for myself ever fits, I’ve even tried to alter the patterns using “tried and true” methods from books…still, not good.

    Sigh, I guess I’ll stick to curtains and crafty things for now.

    Thanks for the wonderful blog,
    Kari B

  4. I called a store that offered sewing lessons to see what they charge. $15. an hour. :-O
    I think I’ll wait for m/i/l to come and visit me.

  5. Thanks, Mamosa. Since you can handle an IV pump, I’ll bet a few tutorial lessons will have you right up to speed with sewing 🙂

    Janet, it is hard at first to make doll clothes. But in time you get good at it, and after that, going to people-sized clothes is a piece of cake!

    Kari, even just making window treatments and stuff like that can save you a bundle. I haven’t made clothes for myself in years….don’t even know what kind of patterns would work for me now. But it sure was fun sewing for my kids when they were younger.

    Barbaralee, I hope your mil won’t charge you, lol 😉

  6. Great tip! I had a similar philosophy when I was teaching crochet: I only taught “fashion” classes using patterns for babies. The same process but with quicker gratification. Plus, babies don’t usually care if the sleeves are slightly off 😉

  7. JeriAnn, that makes a lot of sense to learn to crochet by making baby clothes. I know how to crochet but have never made anything more complicated than a scarf. I should take some crochet classes. Thanks for stopping by!

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