Find out how to sew American Girl doll clothes on a budget using old clothes and linens. You don’t have to spend a lot to give your doll a beautiful wardrobe!
Every girl I know loves American Girl dolls. They’re adorable and so are their tiny clothes, but nothing about them is cheap. Even if you want to make your own doll clothes, new fabric and sewing notions can be expensive. The good news is doll clothes are small, so you don’t need a lot to make something fabulous. With beginner sewing skills you can create your own unique clothes and accessories for just a few dollars (or even FREE) using what you may already have at home!
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Use old clothes and linens to sew American Girl clothes
Old kid’s clothes and are my favorite source of free fabric and notions to sew American Girl clothes. Kids grow out of their clothes so quickly. Instead of getting rid of the clothes, you can give them a new life. My kids love to see the clothes they’ve outgrown turned into clothes for their dolls, especially if it was something special to them. These doll dresses were made from a couple of my daughter’s favorite dresses that she had outgrown. She was tickled to see the fabric remade into these dresses she can play with all the time.
Linens can be another great source of free fabric. Are you changing out your pillowcases? Have your little ones outgrown their crib sheets? Would that old Christmas tablecloth make a good Christmas dress? Look around and have an open mind to the possibilities.
Notions and embellishments
The great thing about using clothes is that they often come with coordinating embellishments. They have things like buttons, lace, and sequins that you can add to your new garment to make it special or look more realistic. You’ll find it all in one place without spending any more money to get them! Take this chambray top, for instance, it used to be a skirt. I used the pretty eyelet embroidery and buttons it came with to give it a little something extra. The orange dress used to be a top I just reused the sweet trim in the bottom hem and ruffled sleeves.
Old clothes may also come with elastic, tiny snaps, and hooks already attached to them. You can use these as waistbands and closures for your doll clothes. In our last house, I used flat sheets to make curtains. A lot of times sheets will come in a pouch sealed with hook and loop tape (like Velcro). I salvaged all of the hook and loop tape from the pouches the sheets came in and used them for making doll clothes. I simply cut them in half lengthwise to make them the right width.
I like looking for specialty fabrics at thrift shops. For instance, you might want to make your doll a fancy dress, but fancy fabric can be costly at the fabric store. At a thrift shop, you can often find outdated formal dresses for just a few dollars. It’ll come with the fabric as well as the other coordinating embellishments you might need, like lace or sequins.
Recently, I picked up some wool skirts. New wool fabric costs more than I’m willing to pay for doll clothes, but an old wool skirt in an outdated style at a thrift shop was CHEAP. The wool will make the coats and winter dresses I plan to make look more realistic.
I love to be able to use fabric that has an existing hem. It’ll save you a step in creating the garment and, if you’re like me, a professionally sewn hem will probably look better than yours. I made this shirt out of an old tee and used its existing hems. It came together quickly because I saved myself some steps, and the hems look like a real shirt!
It’s also easier to make fussy fabrics look good when the hem work is done for you, like the tulle overlay on this dress. I never would have been able to achieve that hem on my own, and it looks so much more finished than whatever I would have come up with. I used the existing hem on both the tulle and the plaid fabric of the skirt.
Things to keep in mind
Look out for appropriately sized prints. A print that is too large will overwhelm the doll and look less polished than a smaller print.
The weight of the fabric is also super important. Doll clothes are small, so heavy-weight fabrics won’t work in many applications. For example, I find heavy denim hard to work with for doll jeans. It can be too much bulk for a doll, but light, stretchy material like stretch denim or the kind that is used for jeggings works great.
Finding patterns on a budget to sew American Girl clothes
So now you’re ready. You have access to all the supplies you need to sew American Girl clothes right at hand. All you need now is a pattern.
The cheapest way to get American Girl clothes patterns on a budget is to find them for FREE online. There are literally hundreds of them. I’ve used a lot, they’ve been simple, easy to follow, and mostly, turn out really well. They aren’t always perfect, but my daughter is always thrilled with them. They can be a good place to start if you’re just beginning. Most of the clothes I included in this post were made using free patterns. Check out my Pinterest board here to see the ones I’ve pinned. This isn’t all of what’s available, only what I’ve come across while browsing.
For more consistent results, you can buy patterns. There are many places where you can buy patterns for individual pieces or outfits. These are usually really beautiful and come in trendy styles perfectly sized for your doll. However, the more economical option may be to buy a pattern pack. These are the ones I have.
I like these because you can usually find them for under $20, I’ve even seen them for under $10 on sites like Etsy and eBay. Each envelope includes patterns for several different pieces. You could make a whole wardrobe for your doll with just one pattern pack. For a doll-sized capsule wardrobe, you can even use coordinating fabric so that all the pieces can be mixed and matched.
What do you think? Is sewing American Girl doll clothes with old clothes something you’d try?