If you’ve never sewn before, you might think that fabric, a needle and thread are all you need to get started. This will work, but your life will be made much easier with a few other things as well. Here are the things I use almost every time I sew:
- Needle & Thread
- Fabric. I see well-sewn doll clothes in fabrics that just don’t work, especially obvious when paired with stock clothing items, all the time. You never quite realize how hard it is to find really good doll fabric until you start looking for it! Even if I don’t have a sewing project in mind, if I see a fabric that is a perfect scale for my dolls I’ll usually get a 1/4 yard. Good stretch knit patterns are hard to find, as are nice thin fake leathers and other special-effect type fabrics.
- Dedicated Scissors. A nice, sharp pair of scissors only used for fabric will cut out patterns more easily, accurately, and help prevent fraying. I keep 3 pairs of scissors: my general craft scissors for cutting out paper patterns and rough things like fake fur, my general use sewing scissors, which I use on fabrics like cotton, and my sharpest scissors, which are used only for delicate fabrics like silks and satins, but 2 will do you fine.
- Fray block/Fray stay. It has different names, but it’s a little bottle of clear liquid that you run along the edge of your patterns to keep them from fraying. Fraying is a bigger concern with doll clothes than regular clothes because the smaller seam allowance used. Too much fraying and it frays right past your seam, so this is an essential.
- Fusible Interfacing. For doll clothes you need the thinnest kind. Interfacing is something you iron onto the back of fabrics to make them sturdier/stiffer in certain places, like collars. If I could, I’d use it more, but where you apply interfacing the fabric becomes stiffer/doesn’t stretch anymore. Still, carefully applied and combined with non-stretch tops like blouses, this will save you a lot of frustration.
- An iron. You can’t apply fusible interfacing without it! Also, ironing doll clothes does make them look nicer/neater.
- A seam-ripper. Because everyone makes mistakes.
- Snaps. The smallest snaps you can find. Snaps are good for one-point closures, for things like pants, skirts, and non-stretchy tops.
- Velcro. For dolls, get the thinnest you can find. The stuff I use is as thick as the stuff on factory-made doll clothes, around 2mm thick when closed. Velcro is good for long-line closures, like the backs of stretchy tops.
- Tiny accessories. These aren’t essential, but tiny accessories like belts and buckles can make an ordinary outfit spectacular. The problem is finding good, realistic, well scaled ones–unlike everything else on this list, you probably won’t be able to find them at your local craft/sewing stores.
It isn’t a very big list. Note that a sewing machine isn’t on there. You really don’t need one, especially if you’re starting off. All of the Japanese doll books I have talk about how superior hand-sewn clothes are. I don’t agree completely (I don’t see the advantage of hand sewing a long straight line) but for the more nimble parts of sewing, like teeny tiny sleeves and collars, it takes me about the same amount of time to hand sew as it does to get it right on a machine by setting each seam with pins and going back and seam ripping/doing over when things go wrong, etc. My advice for a sewing machine is to get one if you start sewing and decide you like it and want to continue with it, and don’t splurge on a fancy model because most of the features that drive up the cost you won’t be able to use for teeny tiny doll clothes.