SSA Week 4 – Soutache Dress


Soutache/decorative braid was an incredibly popular method of decoration for everyone of the era, and you’re bound to find at least a few examples of it in the trousseau of any French Fashion Doll. Magazines and books overflowed with complicated designs that women spent hours and hours painstakingly hand sewing to… pretty much anything you could sew it onto. This was the Victorian era after all! If a little decoration on a dress is good, a lot of decoration is better – on the skirt, and the bodice, and the sleeves, and the belt, and how about we add some extra pocket flaps and a peplum for more braiding space?

While we’re at it, those pillows and pincushions and my husband’s smoking hat need some too! What else can it go on…hmmm…purses? Yes! Watch holders! Spectacle and “Segar” cases ! Kids, quick, bring me all your shoes and slippers, they need some braid too!

Makes you want to go back in time and buy stock in some braid manufacturer LOL.

So this week we have a very basic short-sleeved 1860s dress for your AG that you can soutache to your heart’s content. No, that’s not an AG in the picture and no, the pattern below won’t fit a slim Götz, but you know how sometimes you get a new doll and you can’t stop sewing for them for even ONE day to finish the Summer Sew-Along? That’s me, and I made a smaller version for her, but don’t have it ready to post yet.

For the soutache pattern, I was randomly doodling the sort of “standard” loop you often see that looks kind of like an elongated cursive capital “L” on the bodice with a marker and thought…hmmm…I kind of like that! So it got digitized for machine embroidery in pes format!

If you don’t have an embroidery machine, I also put it into pdfs here for you to use with actual soutache/fabric markers/hand embroidery. If you don’t have an embroidery machine, please DO NOT download the ones ending in .pes and then email me that you can’t open them. They are embroidery machine files.

Gotz Happy Kidz Laura

No instructions, but it’s super simple. Just make a lined bodice and gather the sleeves into it. It closes flush in back. The skirt is a rectangle about 33″ by desired length+hem. For some reason the sleeve band says to cut a lining…don’t.

Authenticity notes:

It would have been more likely that the skirt was fitted to the waist with little box pleats all the way around. I spent way too long trying to make the math work out and have the pleats fit around the embroidery, but kept ending up with a skirt that wasn’t full enough. My compromise, as you can maybe see in the photo was to baste little box pleats in between the embroidered panels and then just gather the whole thing all the way around.

It’s also highly likely that the dress would have been embroidered all around the skirt, so the embroidery designs are broken up for you in case you’d like to try that.

If you’re making up your own soutache design, keep in mind that when you look at examples of the “real thing,” the braid designs are not perfect, especially at tiny doll scale. The patterns in magazines do not always show perfect symmetry, and when being sewn, each little curve and loop in a design like this would have been wrapped around a pin and stitched down by hand. I tried to reflect that “organic,” handmade sort of feeling in my design, even though with a computer it’s actually easier and faster to make each loop perfect and symmetrical.

Don’t forget to check back to week 1 and make sure your boots match the dress! I bet they would like some braid on them too LOL 🙂

SSA Week 3: Summer Nightgown or Chemise

AG Gabriela in this week’s project
AG Evette in this week’s project

Too hot to sleep? You probably need a summer nightgown…

Most French Fashion Doll (FFD) trousseaux include a lot of lingerie. This ranged from chemises and pantaloons to nightgowns, blouses, fake sleeves, chemisettes, etc. Although it’s very common to find long-sleeved, floor-length nightgowns, as well as robes, bed-jackets, combing jackets, shawls intended for night time, etc. in FFD collections, I have yet to run across anything specifically labeled as a nightgown that a doll would have slept in during the summer. (If you have, please comment and let me know!) I’m going to make an assumption, then, that it’s possible a chemise would have been used for sleeping in hot weather, instead of a heavy flannel gown.

There are some links in the pdf to see examples of period chemises – this is sort of a hybrid of the two with a yoke similar to one and sleeves like another. 🙂

Ugh. This was a nightmare to put together. No, don’t worry, the sewing is easy-peasy. But the pattern pieces wouldn’t paste at the correct size, so I exported them as separate pdfs, but then the program to combine them messed up the text when I tried to turn them into one pdf, and then wordpress wouldn’t allow you to conveniently download them all together as a zip file 🙄 Make sure you get all three! Also, make sure to check scaling and the inch box on the pattern pieces to make sure they’re correct!

What is a sew-along if you can’t see what everyone else is sewing?

Some of you have been asking about sharing your pix and seeing what others have done – I have a few options! If you’re on instagram, you can tag them jenwrenne and then see all of the tagged ones here:

You can also post a comment with the link to your pix if you put them elsewhere!

I think there will be one more week of the SSA with a dress, and then possibly another bonus crochet project at the end. I actually do a TON of crocheting for dolls, but it’s challenging for me to write them down and get them posted. One thing that I absolutely love about crocheting is how it’s possible to easily alter things as you go along, which is not possible in knitting. Whatever I’m making, I’m constantly trying it on the doll and just increasing/decreasing as needed. But it seems like even when I try to be precise about writing down exactly what I did in each row, I will sometimes try to re-follow the instructions to make it again only to find out the stitch count doesn’t match or something and I have to make adjustments on the new project. So we’ll see…

SSA Week 2: Friendship quilt


What? It’s not an outfit to go with the boots? No, not yet. French fashion dolls were not just about the clothes, they had SO many other accessories too! While they probably slept under the finest silks and lace money could buy, our American dolls from that era slept under quilts! Specifically, patchwork quilts made of scraps, and it seemed necessary to make sure to include one in this collection.

Teaching girls to sew doll quilts using old fabric scraps seems to have been very popular back then, and there are many examples of doll quilts that survive today. Even if you didn’t have a piece of fabric large enough to sew a doll a new dress, I imagine even the humblest rag or corncob doll could have had a quilt!

Ours will be a little fancier than something a rag doll might have had. This type of quilt, where all your friends would make a square or just embroider their name on fabric for you to piece in was called an album or friendship quilt. Because so many modern quilters love to reproduce quilts from the era, there are LOTS of choices when it comes to fabric, and any dark/light/medium combination will work. The color combination I chose (deep pink/brown/tan) is a popular one in quilts from that period, and if you have a quilt store nearby that stocks reproduction fabrics, you might even get lucky enough to buy a pre-coordinated bundle in these colors like I did.

I had grandiose plans of having people embroider their names on a bunch of squares and sending them to me, and then sending them back a bunch of squares other people had done with different names like a real friendship quilt. Then visions of the post office losing things, or someone’s squares arriving late after the rest had already been mailed out, and all kinds of other complications arose before that post even got finished.

This will be far easier! Of course, it’s most authentic to embroider names by hand, but if you have an embroidery machine, or your sewing machine can embroider text, you can do this very quickly. If you don’t, it’s even faster to write names with a fabric marker.

Here is one of the MANY examples of this type of block used for an album quilt here: from

SSA week 1


French Fashion Dolls in their day were similar to 18” dolls of our day. No, they weren’t actually that big, though.

[pictured here: AG Evette and Patience Rohmer head painted by Jackie Chimpky on a resin reproduction body by Dollspart.]

They were made in a standard size so manufacturers of other things from seamstresses to miniature tea set makers could make things that would be in that scale. Artisans created all the things from “real life” that a well-to-do doll would need, including furniture, outfits for every possible occasion, and exquisite little accessories. These ranged from still-commonplace things in our era, like hair brushes and writing utensils to things only a wealthy doll of that era would possess, like opera glasses. The dolls also “needed” pets, like dogs, sheep, and horses.

Certain stores in Paris became destinations for little girls to obtain their dolls and outfit them with a complete trousseau. There are even accounts of dolls being sent to a seamstress to have an exquisitely stitched and perfectly fitted wardrobe. More on them next week!

Since I’m well aware that few readers of this blog have actual French Fashion Dolls, we’re going to use 18” dolls for our sew-along instead, and have more of an American focus to our clothes and projects while staying in that era. This week we have these adorable and easy to make boots!

Yes, the pattern piece page shows up and prints a bit blurry, thanks to the new software. I’m not yet sure what to do about that, but what’s important is the scaling and shape of the pieces is correct. Make sure you are clicking “print actual size” in your settings dialog when printing!

Apparently the universe has another plan for the summer sew along…


[You may want to skip this part and scroll to the summary in bold below]

After a long battle with slow, unreliable internet service, we were told that we “just” needed a new modem. So we bought the recommended one from our horrible internet provider, and, surprise! The computer wouldn’t connect to it. It’s only four years old, but “something” was “wrong” with the network card, so we had to get a new computer. Which did connect…to slow, unreliable internet service. When I say “slow” I mean a download of about 20 MB took over an hour after we disconnected every other device from the wifi. When I say “unreliable” I mean that it would randomly stop working over and over dozens of times per day.

So then, we got a new modem AGAIN, and dealt with more of the most awful customer service you can imagine, which basically consisted of them trying to convince us over and over that everything was actually OK. Finally, they sent a tech out, which they should have just done at the beginning of this whole mess. After he fixed some wires outside, we magically had actual internet service again. But the old computer still wouldn’t connect to it, so the fun process of installing software and transferring files to the new one started.

After installing the latest version of my drawing program it turns out…EVERYTHING ever done on the old version of the program won’t necessarily open at the correct size or with correct proportions.

Why am I telling you this? Because it means everything relevant to the 1930s sew along that I did was no longer available at a size I was sure was consistently correct. After a lot of thoughts of just giving up on the blog at the prospect of trying to redo everything, I remembered this isn’t a job, it’s a hobby. Since there’s no reason to do the blog if it’s not fun for me too, I decided to just start over with a fresh project on the new computer.

The second choice in the vote was for the era of French Fashion dolls, (roughly 1850s-1870s-ish) so I threw myself wholeheartedly into that project, bought a ton of fabric, and worked on getting ideas from old magazines of the time and planning them in 18” size. And then more life things happened…

In summary, the SSA is changing to the second-choice vote, and will be starting soon.

While you wait, you might want to work on this “tidy.”

I used this pattern from an 1862 issue of Godey’s, which is available here: [ ].

The original graphed pattern was intended for netting, which is not a very well-known craft these days. Cross stitch is an easy option for using graphed patterns like this, and I turned it into a simple drawstring bag that’s going to hold shoes and other little accessories.

Skilled with filet crochet or other types of needlework? What about trying to adapt this to a larger bag or doll bedspread or…?

Vote for the summer sew-along!


Hi everyone! It seems a little late to be starting this, so I’m going to close the vote Monday morning!

Here are the options for this year’s sew-along:


would be the “Mode Enfantine” French Fashion doll era, also suitable for dolls like AG Cecile/Addy with outfits like these:

You can also do a search for “French Fashion doll trousseau” and see many, many more examples of these types of costumes/accessories


There are a few plans being considered for the 10s-20s, including a boy/girl twin set, paper dolls like Lettie Lane/Betty Bonnet/Dolly Dingle/etc. brought to life, and adaptations of actual doll patterns of those times resized for modern dolls.


would probably be Shirley Temple or Patsy doll patterns sized for modern dolls

All of these options would most likely be a coordinated wardrobe for various activities of the era sized for some modern doll.

You can vote here

Note: You need to be signed in to ensure you only vote once, but it will not record your email so your response is anonymous. Again, I’m going to close the poll Monday morning so get your vote in now!

That dress came with a free hanger!


After you’re done with your latest dress made from a fat quarter, do you just recycle the cardboard that came inside? Keep it! I especially like it for the soles of shoes, but here is yet another use!

Hangers for doll sizes besides AG and Barbie can be hard to buy commercially, so this is an option that will work for Sasha and Wellie sizes.

Get the pattern here

Use this pattern to cut out a hanger, fold your cardboard in half, and use any nontoxic glue that works for paper (glue stick, tacky glue, etc.) to stick the two sides together. Weight it down with something if needed to flatten it out while the glue dries.

Summer Sew-along week 4


Did you get your nightgown or dress done from last week?  Remember to post a link to your pic!  Need some inspiration to get started? Check the pix in the comments to see what everyone else has made so far! If we reach our goal of 300 pix by June 24, there will be an extra free pattern for the cape and bonnet!  I did find some that I had moderated that mysteriously went back into un-moderation and reposted them so they’re counted now too.  FYI – your comments go to my email first for moderation before showing up here, so if your link doesn’t show up immediately, please just be patient! 😊

Here is a fun link:   It’s a pic of this exact dress on a vintage doll.  Whether it was actually made back then or more recently, I don’t know, but it’s certainly fun to browse antique shops or look online at vintage dolls and be confronted with a dress you absolutely know came from a certain pattern!

I have a love-hate relationship with this dress.  In terms of its look, the party dress is my favorite because it’s totally unique.  The hate part comes in with the absolutely AWFUL time I had resizing and fitting it, and then there is the challenge of sewing it for the first time. It’s a little difficult to wrap your brain around the ruffle and shoulder pieces the first time you make it.  My step-by-step pix should be a help though, and after the first time, it’s much easier, so plan on making a couple of them!  Use a fancy fabric for a flower girl or shorten the skirt and use a cotton print for a summer play dress.  A lightweight batiste or eyelet would also make a perfect summer nightgown!  

Summer Sew-Along Week 3


OK, as I write this we are at a grand total of…34 pix posted and as a reminder, we need 300 to get to the cape/bonnet pattern goal. (Scroll down to week one for more info) I’ll give it a week after week 4 is posted to get the pix up (so June 24 is the deadline)

OK! So if you missed week 1, you can get it here. If you missed last week’s pattern, you can get it here. That pattern was also resized for Sasha AND includes the sleeve from week 1 and a tutorial on how to “fake” a pinafore.

I made this for Sasha with the week 2 pattern and week 1 sleeve, but am fairly confident this week’s sleeve would work too. I don’t usually “name” my outfits, but I thought at first I’d call this “Mommy’s little helper” and how cute it would be to take pix of it on Toni in a 1950s play kitchen. That I don’t have. It’s equally cute in a forest setting, though. Doesn’t she look like Gretel ready to find a candy house?

For further inspiration – this was made for my Toni, not from this pattern, but from several different actual 1950s Toni patterns that I hybridized/modified. The embroidery was inspired by a vintage Vogart iron-on transfer you can see here:

Now on to this week’s pattern!

It was originally intended to be a nightgown/housecoat and floor length. Of course, if you have some amazing little crocheted slippers you want to peep out, you’ll need to shorten it a little 🙂 You could also shorten it a lot and turn it into a dress.

Wellie Wisher Willa gets ready to start her day
Trendon Sasha in a shorter version of the robe to wear as a dress

This week’s pattern is available here in both sizes

This is the last week of “easy” patterns – next week will be a challenge, but a fun one! 🙂