Hey guys! Today on Sew Dolly! I am excited to share with you a couple of new patterns that I have been working with lately.

The first pattern is the Frozen Hot Chocolate Holiday Dress from PixieFaire. 

I was looking for a pattern with a simple A-line skirt that also had an empire waist, so this one was perfect. I love the results! I made three dresses using this pattern, and I know that it will be a go to fancy dress pattern for me from now on. 🙂 First up, is this pretty peach number modelled by Maryellen. It is a shimmery cotton with a lace overlay throughout. I had this fabric leftover from the skirt in Tenney’s Spotlight Outfit. It was only $5 for a yard, and I still have lots left! 🙂 
This dress is perfect for a party, or a night out on the town. 
Here you can see that orange lace overlay more clearly. I love the way it turned out! 🙂 

Next up, is Rebecca in this very vintage gold shimmer lace dress.I made this doll dress from a ladies stretchy lace tank top that I found at the thrift store for $2. I just loved the shimmery gold in the lace. I used the original lining from the tank top to line the dress. 

You can’t see the gold flecks very well in these pictures, but trust me, it is tres shimmer. ❤ 

Sadly, these pictures just don’t do this dress justice. Still, I think it looks so sophisticated! 🙂  
The last dress I made using this pattern is a fancy gold leaf on a bronze fabric.

I love this fabric! And what I love more is that it cost me only $5 for a yard. 🙂 This is such a fancy fabric, but it is surprisingly easy to sew. Julie is ready to step out in style! 

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The second dress pattern that I would like to feature today on Sew Dolly! comes from Kirsten’s Pretty Clothes package. Lately, I have been fascinated by all of the original American Girl doll patterns. I have them all, and I’ve been poring through them, studying them carefully, and figuring out how they all work. I am definitely going to be making more of these patterns. 🙂 Here is the LINK if you would like to download them all for free. 

For now, I was focusing on recreating Kirsten’s School Dress in red. I LOVE this pattern. It isn’t too complicated, and the results are so darn cute!! I ended up making two dresses from this pattern. We don’t have a Kirsten to model these pretty dresses, so Emily and Samantha will have to do. 

Please note: This dress pattern is a tiny bit snug about the waist, and the neck on the original Pleasant Company doll (aka Samantha), but it fits perfectly on the newer AG doll (aka Emily). 
The red dress was sewn from a table runner I got at a thrift store for $1 and the striped dress was made from a pillowcase for 25cents. I really love taking old things, and making them new again. 🙂

This pattern has such adorable details, from the gathered bodice and the puff sleeve, to the grow stripes at the bottom of the skirt. Those were put in place so that each time Kirsten grew, her mama could let out the bottom of her dress a little. Of course, now it’s simply become the fashion statement of the times.  

I love how authentic this pattern is. You can literally create an identical replica of Kirsten’s red school dress. 

I used this striped pillowcase for Kirsten’s extra school dress because it was reminiscent of her striped Summer Dress.  

Next, I found this super adorable Aloha Vintage Swimsuit pattern. I had been avoiding swimsuits altogether because I am still wary of working with stretch knit fabrics, but this little swimsuit was a dream of woven cotton. 

My daughter only wanted the bloomers in this pattern, otherwise I would have included the swim skirt that you can make with this. I might make it for the next swimsuit that I make. 
I love that this pattern is designed for woven cotton! No stretchy spandex to fight with and overall the pattern is pretty simple. I had to reconfigure the straps on the top because the set up that the pattern requires would have been kind of impossible for the girls to figure out when trying to put the thing on their dolls.

 After giving all these new patterns a try, I decided to revert back to an old tried and true pattern. I thought that the OhSewKat! Sugar and Spice dress pattern could be used to recreate the Midnight Skate dress that I had been wanting to make. I picked up another ladies sized tank top from the thrift shop for $2 for this project. This one had black sequins.

Our Tenney is here to showcase her figure skating style! ❤  

I used hot glue to add a gem to the centre of the bodice. I think it adds even more sparkle to the already sparkly outfit. 🙂

This dress is truly sequins galore. Again, I used the lining from the original tank top to line this dress. 
Last, but certainly not least, I made another dress from the Betsy Ross Shop Dress pattern from PixieFaire. Many of you will remember this dress pattern from when I made a colonial dress for our Felicity out of another pillowcase. 

Well, our posh little Caroline Abbott demanded more than just some ratty old pillowcase. She also demanded something in fabulous, bright pink. I had a much easier time with this dress pattern the second time around. 

I didn’t get many pictures of this one. My daughter took off with it as soon as I got it on the doll. 🙂 She is in love with all of the pretty dolly clothes. 


Which brings me to my little story…

I would like to point out that I am no expert seamstress by any means. I am learning all the time. I only really got the hang of my old Singer sewing machine this past six months. I bought it six years ago for $60 from a lady who said that it was broken (she had squirted so much oil in there that it was dripping). She also gave me her sewing table and all of her sewing supplies for free. She said that she was giving up on sewing for good.  

After cleaning it all up, I proceeded to have all of these dreams of sewing up a whole wardrobe of pretty clothes for my baby girl. That never happened. There were a few attempts at some 1950’s children dresses that were laughable at best, and I made a few throw pillows, before I got fed up with the machine jamming all the time. It went into my spare room never to see the light of day again, or so I thought. 

Life went on, and my little girl grew up. She wouldn’t wear handmade clothes anymore anyway, but when she saw all of those pretty dolly clothes in the American Girl and the Maplelea catalogues, she was fascinated. She asked me about them, but then we looked at the price tags, and I nearly threw up.

Still, she dreamed about dressing her dolly’s in all of the pretty clothes, just like I had dreamed about dressing her when she was little, and she said, “Mama, I think I am obsessed with dolly clothes.” And I sighed, because those price tags were so astronomical that I couldn’t imagine forking over that kind of cash for something that I could literally make myself for pennies.

And so, I dusted off the old Singer sewing machine, and I tried again. Again, my machine was unwilling to cooperate. It was jamming all the time, even worse than before, and I began to think that maybe some of what that lady who had sold it to me had said was true. Maybe the machine was broken. I decided to take it in for a checkup to find out. Surely the experts would know what was wrong.

So I brought it to my local sewing machine repair, and told them of my problem, and I asked if they would tune it up for me. Lo and behold, when I got it back: “Nothing wrong with it,” they said. My hopes soared. Now I would be the expert seamstress that I had always dreamed I could be! I took it home, and tried again. Jammed up. Jammed up again. Constantly jammed up. I wanted to throw in the towel. I wanted to throw the machine out the window. Maybe sewing just wasn’t for me.

But something told me, coming from a long line of seamstresses from my great grandmother, to my grandmother the fashion designer, and all the way down the line to my own mom, that it was my destiny to do the thing called sewing. And if it wasn’t the machine, then I was doing something wrong. I thought that it had to be something completely, ridiculously simple. I just didn’t know what it was. 

Fast forward a couple more years. By this time, I was determined to find out what the heck was going on. I took the machine back to the sewing experts. A kind man there took me aside, and asked me what my problem seemed to be. I explained to him that every time I went to sew anything, the machine jammed up on me. The loops in the under stitching were loose, the overstitching too tight, and really it was all just a big mess.

Well, he opened up my machine, took out the bobbin, and holding tight to the bobbin thread, he let go, and dropped the whole thing, bobbin case and all, onto the floor. The bobbin went rolling off under a table somewhere, while the man stood, still holding onto the thread. My jaw dropped somewhere down under the table too. Was this guy crazy? 

“There’s your problem.,” he said to me. I just blinked at him. Then he showed me that, darn it all if my bobbin case wasn’t too loose. Apparently, there is a little screw on the side of the bobbin case, the tiniest little screw that you ever did see, so tiny in fact that if you were to blink you would miss it, and if this screw is too loose or too tight, your sewing will be doomed for life, or at least for six years anyway, which was how long I had been grappling with my machine. 

He tightened it for me. Then he showed me that upon dropping it this time, the bobbin in its case would stop midway down, and not go rolling off under the table, but instead would hang suspended in midair. 

“That’s what it should do,” he told me. Then he smiled, and he didn’t charge me anything for his time, but instead he simply waved me on my way.

I left that shop recharged. Now I would be the seamstress of my dreams. The visions of all of the darling dolly clothes that I would sew up were dancing in my head. I went home, and tried it out immediately. The machine started out working like a dream, and then, halfway through, it jammed up again. You can imagine my frustration by this time.

My hopes weren’t completely dashed though. I found that every couple of tries, it would jam up, but if I rethreaded the needle each time it jammed, my problem was solved, and it would sew again for a few more tries before jamming up again.

Therein, I had hope, because despite the jamming, my stitches were now coming out clean. I sewed like this for a year and a half, driven by the thrill of my girls, and their happy faces when they received the beautiful doll clothes that I was churning out. I even got to the point where I could rethread that needle in less than three seconds flat. LOL!

Still it was discouraging. It was more hassle than other seamstresses had to put up with, having to rethread after sewing every couple of seams, and I thought that maybe I should just buy a new machine after all. 

And then one day, by fate, or by luck, I don’t know, someone said to me, maybe you just have to reposition the needle after the last stitch.


Now I had heard about returning the arm of the needle to the upright position at the end of a row of stitching, and I had been doing that, but what I had never in a million years thought about was that I should be making sure that the needle was in the proper starting position before starting again. I mean, didn’t a needle just go up and down? So then what could possibly be the proper starting position

What it meant was that after sewing a seam, and after clipping the threads from a project, you should move the tails of your machine threads to the back of your machine. Then you must hold the threads, turn the wheel of your machine once or twice until you feel a bit of the thread tension give way, and that is what repositions the needle. 

Well, I’ll be if that didn’t work…EVERY SINGLE TIME.

I was finally free! I was released from my sewing machine purgatory!

After that, my sewing became like a breeze, and now, I am finally starting to feel like I might become that seamstress that I’ve always dreamed about. Sometimes, I still mess up on reading a pattern wrong here, or there, but that just takes practice and experience. No longer do I have a machine that constantly jams up, and that, my friends, is all that really matters. 😉 ❤

I hope that this helps someone out there who might have the same issues with sewing as I did. My main advice to you is to go see the experts. They know stuff. Take your machine to them. Show them what you are doing. They may just know a trick or two, or they might be able to tell immediately what it is that you are doing wrong.

Tell me, do you have any sewing frustrations that are keeping you from becoming the seamstress of your dreams? 

Leave a comment below!

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19 thoughts on “JUNE IS SEW DOLLY! AND A STORY

  1. your dresses are beautiful, I really like the second sparkling knit dress, it is super cute.
    Your sewing story made me smile, I am so glad you persevered, all your sewing looks perfect from here!
    a few years ago, I made doll swimsuits out of my daughter’s old suits, it was not perfect but it turned out OK for the dolls. Here is a link if you are interested in trying your hand again at knit :
    (no pattern needed)
    Have a wonderful summer

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I love your swimsuits! I will have to get up the nerve to sew with knits again. Maybe this time I won’t have such a problem with it. I am so glad that you liked my story. I am still having no troubles at all with my machine. 🙂


  2. I love your dresses! You did a great job. I too found many of the AG patterns were a little tight. I always cut the bodice backs out with a little extra fabric just in case. I have made dresses from the Molly, Felicity, Josefina and Kirsten patterns. I do know that some of my Pleasant Co. dresses do fit quite snug, so maybe the patterns were designed to fit snug?

    I feel your sewing frustrations. I used my mother-in-laws older machine for YEARS – like 20 years and it was already 20+ years old. Finally I told my husband it was time. It was time for a new machine. I love my new machine, but I don’t think there is a machine out there that does not have tension trouble, or bobbin trouble some of the time. Good for you for not giving up!


    1. Aww, thank you. 🙂 I was truly surprised that when I tried the red dress on the Pleasant Company Samantha it actually fits a lot better. Now I wonder what I did differently on the striped dress. I am looking forward to trying the rest of the AG original patterns now. 🙂 So glad that you got a new machine that you love! I keep telling myself that I should get something new, but I am kind of attached to this machine now and it hasn’t given me any trouble ever since! Amazing right? Imagine, one little tweak and all of my sewing problems solved just like that! haha! I feel like I am getting much better at sewing now that I’m not frustrated all the time. I even helped my mom with the trouble that her machine was giving her, and now hers is sewing way better too! 🙂


  3. Oh YES, I do get frustrated with myself and my machine! I am trying to teach myself to sew and also my granddaughter wants to learn. My material seem to like to get stuck in the space where the needle goes up and down.😢. What I really have a problem with is after I make a doll dress, it is either too small or too large for the doll. If it is too big, I just add a tie around the waist. If it is too small, I am really sad!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, I have had that problem too! I find that if I start a seam a little bit further in from the edge, and then backstitch back to the edge, the material doesn’t get gobbled up by the feed dogs as much. I don’t often have the problem when using simple cotton, but other fabrics that are more slippery, or very fine lightweight cottons are the worst for getting caught! As for pattern size issues, that is why I like the patterns at PixieFaire. They are very tried and true, and they have a lot of Easy Level patterns that are actually easy, and still very pretty. I hope that you and your granddaughter have better luck with your sewing! 🙂


  4. Love everything you have made, you have been busy!!! Everything is so cute, Little Miss must be thrilled.

    I can COMPLETELY relate to your sewing frustration! Bobbin issues are the worst. I had a similar problem with my machine, but because it was a top loading bobbin, just tightening the screw wasn’t an option. So I went to my “expert”, Maggie from “If Dolls Could Dream”. She confirmed my suspicion as well as a solution. My machine is a newer machine and used plastic bobbins, but they tend to warp as well as jump because they are too light. Simple switch to metal bobbins in the same size, and my machine now sews just like it did straight out of the box! Now if I could just find more time to sew, I’d be a happy camper, I have all kinds of fabric and ideas.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Oh yes, the Little Miss is just thrilled to bits. Wow! I have never heard of a top loading bobbin before! I better get with the times! I have a very old, very basic Singer machine. It can’t do much more than sew a straight line, and a zig zag. I’ve had a metal bobbin warp on me too! Aren’t experts the best? I don’t know why we tend to think that we should just be able to fix these things on our own. 🙂


  5. I am surprised that you found Kirsten’s school dress tight on your Pleasant Company doll. This one fit my Pleasant Company Kirsten well. https://sewbeading.wordpress.com/2014/03/18/1854s-school-day-on-the-prairie-kirstens-school-dress/

    I did find Kirsten’s apron dress to be tight on my Pleasant Company Kirsten and that the elastic in the sleeve needed to be different than what the pattern asked for. Here is my review: https://sewbeading.wordpress.com/2016/10/13/doll-clothing-week-pleasant-companys-kirstens-apron-dress/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was so surprised that it was tight too. It isn’t super tight, just snug. Hmmmm…I am going to have to try the red one on Samantha, and see if it is the same. It was tight about the wrists too where the snaps are. I didn’t put any snaps on the red one though, and it was okay. Other than that I am pretty sure that I made both of these dresses exactly the same, but you can never be too sure. I love your dresses!!! I will have to check out that link at “Hello Kirsti” that you posted with the tutorial. I am sure that it will be helpful.


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