How to Make an Easy-On Dress For Your Monster High Doll

11 May

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Last night, I was re-reading this post at The Mulitcrafteral Lab about snaps vs velcro on doll’s clothes, and it must have triggered something in my head because this morning I woke up with the intention of making a MH dress. The last MH dress I made did not go brilliantly:

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I never featured it here because 1. I didn’t like the end result very much, and 2. like the dress I did for Catty Noir, by the time I had finished, I had absolutely no idea what I’d done – I couldn’t have replicated it, or explained how I did it, which is what I really wanted to be able to do.

You see, I’ve been looking for an easy way to make clothing for MH and I wanted to figure it out for myself rather than google for a tutorial, partly because of the challenge this represents and partly because I never seem to be in the mood to find a tutorial and then follow it … that’s too much like following a pattern, and patterns and I do not get on. However, once I’ve figured things out, I do not mind writing tutorials, which is what I am getting round to.

I had intended to make a dress with snaps, but what I ended up with actually needed no fasteners at all – no snaps, no velcro, just a tie at the back of the neck. Its easy to get on and off. It fits pretty nicely, I think, and its versatile – I can think of plenty of ways of varying the look of it. And its quite quick and simple to make. And, you might need to follow some measurements that I’ll provide, but you can do it without a pattern. Can you tell that I’m rather pleased with myself? πŸ™‚ Its just that I’ve been trying to figure this out for a long time now. Monster High have an arched back and a gi-normous bottom, which makes them hard to sew for, especially if you’re used to sewing for Barbie-shaped dolls. Anyway, here’s the first of these dresses I made, for Howleen …

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From the side (sorry about the stitching, by the way – this was my test run and I wasn’t being particularly careful because I was impatient to see how it would turn out):

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And from the back:

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Next, I made a dress using the same method for Clawdeen. This gave me a chance to take photographs of the stages, and also to check that it would work on the slightly different adult Monster High body (of course it did, but you never know). Its worth mentioning that this method should also work with Ever After High – possibly with Bratzillas too (although I’ve never done a body comparison, I’ve read that the Zillas can wear MH clothes). Anyway, if you want to try making this,

You will need:

* A doll to model the outfit as you go along. Warning! Needles and pins could scratch the surface of your doll, so if you are very particular about the condition of your collection, or if the doll you are sewing for is very expensive or rare, its probably best to find a “body double” to do the modelling.
* Fabric of your choice – teeshirt material or anything else with some give in it will work best, but for Clawdeen’s dress I used a cheesecloth shirt, which had no give in it at all – and it still turned out OK. If you do what I did and use an old shirt, you can use the bottom hem as the hem of your dress, and that’s one less sewing job for you to do. If you do use a human garment, though, please try to use something in good condition, as wear shows up more on a smaller scale (you might notice that Clawdeen’s dress is looking a bit fuzzy, so I won’t be using that material again).
* About 10 – 15 cm of coordinating trim – I was lucky, both the shirts I used to make these dresses had coordinating cord to tie them at the neck, so I just snipped that off and used it. Whatever you use, it should probably be no thinner than about 1 cm and no thicker than 2cm.
* Needles, pins, thread matching your material, sewing scissors
* A tape measure, if you want to follow the measurements I’m going to give you
* Beads, mini buttons or other decorations (if required).

1. I worked out where I needed to cut by placing Clawdeen on the fabric and gathering the material round her at the shoulders and at the knees:

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But, just for you, I measured the piece I cut so if you can’t be bothered doing this, just cut a piece 13cm high, 12 cm long at the bottom (where the existing hem is, if you’re working from an old shirt or similar – if not, remember to add an extra cm or two to make your hem with) and 10cm long at the top. Also, I should probably mention that I use very small seams of about 3mm, by the way – if you use a bigger seam you will need to allow for this when measuring out the fabric.

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2. If you’ve not got a hem at the bottom already, best get that done before we do anything else …

3. Next, we need to cut some slits for the arms. I worked out where the armholes should be by wrapping the fabric round the doll and making a slit where the middle of the arm is. I measured this too, so if you prefer you can just fold your fabric in half, then measure 1.8cm away from the middle fold, then make a slit 2.5cm deep at this point which goes through both thicknesses of the cloth.

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(Hope my rubbish diagram actually makes it clearer, rather than confusing you more!) Anyway, now put your doll’s arms through the slits with the open ends of the fabric at the back, to check the fabric tension across the chest. Is it OK? I hope so!

4. Now its time to start making the skirt of the dress. Turn your fabric wrong side out (so that the side of the fabric you want the world to see when the dress is finished is on the inside) and start sewing the two sides of the material together at the bottom to make a big tube that will (of course) be the skirt of the dress. You will need to sew up eight 8cm (which should bring you to just above the small of the back – you might want to pop it on your doll to check) then leave the rest open.

5. You should be starting to see the dress take shape now – you’ve got a kind of skirt, armholes and an open back, right? OK. Look at the back of the dress. Working on the wrong side of the fabric again, you need to fold over each side of the back opening, so each side of the back panel narrows towards the shoulders of the dress. There should be 0.7cm at the top of the shoulder at the back. This will leave you with a triangle of unwanted material between the bottom of the back opening and the top – don’t cut it off yet, you need to check that it fits OK after you sew it up. Pin it in place.

Right, I’m aware that the above sounded like nonsense – hopefully the pictures will give you a better idea of what I am talking about:

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6. Sew it up and if you’re happy with it, cut off the triangles of excess material. You should now have something that looks like this at the back:

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7. Time to hem up the armholes. At the armhole slits, fold a little bit of fabric from each side over on to the wrong side to create a hem. Sew it up. You will need a tiny hem and tiny stitches here:

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8. Now, still working on the wrong side, fold the fabric at the slit and sew at the top of the shoulders to create the armhole. I find it helps if you actually do this while the outfit is on the doll. Your top shoulder seams will only be small (about half a centimetre each side) but to give a good fit they should still slope downwards away from the neck.

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You can snip the excess fabric off if you’re happy when you’ve finished sewing (I suggest turning it right way out again and trying it on the doll first) – but be careful not to snip your stitches …

9. Now you need your trim – your ribbon, cord or whatever. Put the dress with the top of the shoulders pointing towards you, right side out, on the table. Turn your trim so the wrong side is towards you (if there is a wrong side, it might be double sided I suppose) and the bottom of the trim is levelled up with the unhemmed neckline of your dress (the length of the ends of your trim should be pretty even on each side):

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Sew it together. Make sure that your stitches are tight – and your thread has to be a good colour match for this part, otherwise your stiches will probably be visible which will spoil the effect (like they are on my Howleen dress).

10. Nearly done! You should now have something that looks like this when you try it on your doll:

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11. This is the tricky part coming up now. Firstly, turn your outfit wrong side out again. Then, put it back on your doll. Overlap your open back seams and pin them together – we are now going to do some darts, and we don’t want to risk taking so much fabric into them that the back seam gapes wide open.

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For the sake of comprehensiveness, I’ll explain what I mean by a dart (you probably know, but just in case – feel free to skip this paragraph if you are already familiar with the idea). A dart is a way of shaping the material to any curves your doll has. You often see darts on sewing patterns, they tend to look like a kind of diamond shape when the pattern is flat. When you work from a pattern, you’ll usually be instructed to transfer the diamond on to the cloth in the correct place (either by pinning the pattern over it or using tailor’s chalk), fold the fabric in half down the vertical centre of the diamond and sew through the double thickness of cloth along the “triangle” shape that you see. Then, you cut out the middle of the “triangle”, so that when you open the removed fabric flat, you have a diamond shape again.

However, I think that darts are where patterns often go wrong – its much better to shape your dress to the doll yourself by eye, as nothing looks messier than a badly done dart. Start by standing the doll with her back to you and feel where the loose fabric is at the back from the top of the hips to the top of the shoulders. Pinch it between your thumb and forefinger – not too tight or the fabric will ruckle – think about what you want to remove to make the fit better, and position the place where the fabric meets at the back. You want the seam of the dart at the back of the dress because for starters, it will look tidier, and this is where your Monster dips inwards anyway (unlike a barbie, who dips at the waist between hip and boob). Apply some pins through the double thickness of the cloth to make a “triangle” shape, the widest point of the triangle being at the back of the waist just before the bottom starts to curve outwards. You now have the outline of your dart. Take the dress off (or leave it on, if you prefer) and sew along where your pins are – usually, I will tack it (using largish, loose stitches that are easily unpicked if you need to change it) and then turn right side out to check how it looks before going back and sewing it up properly/ trimming the excess fabric away. When finishing your dart, remember to use small stitches and keep to a very straight line, as otherwise your stitches will end up visible when your dress is finished, which won’t look good.

I measured the dart I did, and at the deepest point was 1cm in from the back seam and 1.5cm up from the bottom of the back opening. From stitchline to the place where the fabric folded over, the “triangle” was 0.8cm. The dart extended 4cm up to taper off nearly at the top shoulder seam, and 2cm down to finish at the widest part of the bum. But I really recommend trying it yourself.

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12. Lastly, add whatever embellishments suit you! I added some beads in a Clawdeen-coordinating colour at the neck – a belt made from ribbon might be a nice touch too (and for those of you who don’t like that deep open back, you could even put a snap on it).

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So, here’s her finished dress – I hope you like it πŸ™‚ I made this sound quite complicated, I think, but once you get going it shouldn’t take long. I didn’t get a straight run through either of mine, but I reckon it should take somewhere under an hour.

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9 Responses to “How to Make an Easy-On Dress For Your Monster High Doll”

  1. Blackkitty May 12, 2014 at 2:40 pm #

    It happens to me so often – I read a tutorial and it gives me an idea for something unrelated. I’m glad my post inspired you to make this dress πŸ™‚ Your drawings are easy to understand and I like that you gave numbers, not just vague instructions (“take a bit from the side…”). Makes it easy to check against your measurements in case something doesn’t turn out right. I’ll definitely try a version of this from black velvet πŸ™‚ Thanks for the detailed tutorial.

    • barbielea May 13, 2014 at 8:55 am #

      Thanks πŸ™‚ I must say, I am guilty of the “just take a bit from the side” approach to tutorials, mostly because this is how I sew … But these dolls are infamously tricky to make stuff for, so I didn’t think that approach would work well. I’m glad it all made sense, I wasn’t sure there for a while. I think that black velvet would look fantastic, I was thinking about something similar myself!

  2. Xan May 14, 2014 at 5:37 am #

    Ooh, this is wonderful! Usually when I make clothes for my monster high dolls they are one use only, and I have to cut them off if I want to change the clothes. The only thing I sew for them and keep are bottoms, though with this tutorial I can hopefully make them removable tops and dresses. I could always just shorten it and/or add sleeves for something else.

    • barbielea May 14, 2014 at 7:15 am #

      It’s really nice that you are planning on using this tutorial, Xan! Yes, I thought about sleeves and altering the length too, also altering the hem to make the skirt tighter at the bottom would be simple, or adding a drawstring at the neck. Let me know how you get on with it – I hope you are pleased with the results πŸ™‚

  3. Andrea May 15, 2014 at 6:30 pm #

    Great tutorial and a great dress, Lea. Thank you for posting this, I will so give this a try. Darts are really tricky, but the whole appearance of a garment depends on perfectly placed darts. I get along pretty well with patterns usually, but I also tweak them if I need to.

    • barbielea May 17, 2014 at 10:04 pm #

      Thanks so much Andrea, I’m very pleased to hear you’re going to try it, I hope it works out OK. I’m definitely going to follow your lead and beat my phobia of patterns – one day! When I started making doll clothes, I’d never really sewn anything before, so maybe I’d have a better idea of what I’m doing now …

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. in which Briar gets a new dress | Cogaroo Crafts - August 25, 2014

    […] always looking for new doll dress patterns, and I happened to find a tutorial for an ‘Easy-On Dress For Your Monster High Doll‘. Briar is an Ever After High doll, but I thought they might have similar proportions I can […]

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