Tuesday, March 9, 2021

A Dress for the Medical Doll

I recently corresponded with a mom of a little girl who owns one of my Medical Dolls. After our conversation, I reflected on the fact that the Doll's only garment is a hospital gown. Which kind of was the point: it was intended for a pretend-play scenario in a medical or healthcare setting. Further, when I was designing it for its original purpose  - a magazine tutorial - the editorial team and I were very selective with its final set of accessories to fulfill the space constraints of the publication. 

Revisiting the Dolls this past fortnight, however, made me wonder what they might wear when they'd recovered from their injuries or illnesses, or when the surgical procedures were over and they were done with physical and occupational therapy and ready to go home and get on with the rest of their lives. The Owie Dolls had a dress/shirt to which their hospital gowns reversed when they were all better; why should the Medical Dolls be subjected to perpetual treatment and neverending convalescence? It was, I felt, an important thing to think about, not only in the context of a make-believe rag doll but also in the light of what's been going on in the world in the last couple of years. And - let's be honest - winter has been especially onerous this year, with the restrictions and enforced isolation and general uncertainty of what spring and summer might bring. I know we've been told to live in the moment and focus on the present but if those are to have any virtue, it is in the context of a future that is worth looking forward to.

Hope, in other words. 

And so I thought I'd draft a dress for the Medical Doll - a Go-Home outfit, as it were. I worked on it in between other projects, so it had to be quick, without lining or zippers or buttons or anything fussy like that. From paper draft to final stitch, it came together within a day or two, and then it was packed and mailed off to this little girl and her doll. I took photos of the finished dress, though, and saved the paper patterns to share here on the blog. However, because I needed to get it in the post ASAP, I didn't photograph the individual steps, so this is going to be more of a deconstruction than a tutorial. Regardless, I hope you'll enjoy using it to sew dresses for your own Medical Dolls. 

As all my girl dolls have been sold, here is Patrick very kindly modeling the dress for you guys. It is a very simply-constructed garment: raglan sleeves on a straight bodice with a gathered skirt and a bound neckline.

This is meant to be sewn with knit fabric, for easy dressing and undressing. Even with the stretchiness of the fabric, the dress has to accommodate the doll's sizable head, so there's a slit opening at the back that's fastened with ties, 

all of which add up to a dress that's suitable for even beginners to make. 

First, download and print out the templates.

Click HERE to download the templates.

Note: There are no seam allowances (SA) on these templates. You'll have to add your own where needed. I recommend 1/4". 

Here are specific instructions for cutting and layout:

Use knit fabric. Do not use wovens, such as quilting cotton. This dress design is intended for fabric that is stretchy. 

2  Lay out all four templates (the bodices, the sleeve and placket) so that the fabric stretches sideways in the completed garment (i.e. horizontally across the body or arm).

3  Fold the fabric to double thickness with the stretch direction perpendicular to the fold and

(i)  place the edges of the Front and Back Bodice templates with the bent arrow along the fold of the fabric. Cut out one Front Bodice and one Back Bodice. Do not add SA along the folded edge. Do not add SA along the neckline. Add SA around all the other sides.

(ii) place the edges of the Sleeve template with the bent arrow along the fold of the fabric. Cut out two Sleeves. Do not add SA along the folded edge or the short neckline section. Add SA around all the other sides.

4  Cut out one Placket. Do not add SA around any of the edges - the final piece of fabric is exactly the same size as the template. Do not cut along the midline slit now.

5  Measure and cut out a rectangle of dimensions 21" x 5-1/2" for the skirt of the dress. The direction of greatest stretch of the fabric should be parallel to the long side of the rectangle.

6  Measure and cut out a strip of dimensions 20" x 1-1/4" for the binding of the neckline (and included ties). greatest stretch of the fabric should be parallel to the long side of the strip. You can use the same fabric as the rest of the dress, or ribbing.

Here follow the sewing instructions. A caveat: because we're using knit fabric, which doesn't fray, you do not need to finish any seams or edges. However, I've included instructions to finish edges and seams anyway because that just gives the whole garment a neater finish (especially if you have a serger).

1  First make the slit placket. 

Fold the Back Bodice along its center back line and press the midline so that it is visible. Fold the Placket along its midline and press so that it is visible. If desired, finish both long sides and curved bottom of the Placket (this step is optional because knit fabric doesn't fray, but it does give a neat finish. Do not finish the curved top of the Placket at this point - you'll bind it along with the neckline of the dress later). 

With RS together, align the midlines of the Back Bodice and Placket so that the curved top of the Placket is also aligned with the fabric edge of the Bodice's neckline. Stitch along the dashed line. Carefully cut along the dotted midline, then turn the Placket RS out through the slit so that the WS of the Placket and Back Bodice are now together. Press the slit opening. On the RS of the Placket, topstitch close to the edge of the fabric through both the Placket and Back Bodice. This will hold the Placket in place. 

2  Next, attach the sleeves.

Finish the hems of the sleeves. Fold the finished SA of the hem to the WS of the sleeve and sew the hem "in the flat".

With RS together, sew one sleeve to each shoulder of the Front Bodice along their raglan seam lines. With RS together, sew each shoulder of the Back Bodice to the 
other side of each corresponding sleeve along their raglan seam lines.

3  Then bind the neckline of the garment, and

It is easier to bind the neckline of the bodice before the side seams are completed so that the Front and Back bodice pieces and be spread apart. Locate the mid point of the 20" strip of binding and temporarily attach it to the mid point of the front neckline with pins or small clips. Pin the binding in place along the neckline on either side of this attachment point, working from the front of the garment toward the back. Beginning at one corner of the back Placket opening, attach the binding around the neckline, ending at the other corner of the back Placket opening. Continue to sew closed the free sections of the binding strip - these will be the ties. For additional instructions, here is a post containing methods of attaching bias tape and here is another detailing how to bind with knit fabric.

4  Sew the side seams.

With RS together, align and sew the side seams of the garment, continuing through the sleeve seam. The bodice is finished.

5  Finally, make and attach the skirt.

With RS together, sew the short ends of the 21" x 5-1/2" rectangle together to make a wide and short cylinder. Finish one edge of the circular opening, then fold and sew 1/4" of this finished edge to the WS of the fabric. This is the hem of the skirt.

At the other end of the cylinder, use the longest stitch length to sew two rows of basting stitch around the entire opening - the first row is about 1/4" from the edge of the fabric, and the second about 1/4" farther away from the first (i.e. the second row will be about 1/2" from the edge of the fabric). Leave trailing threads at both ends of both rows of stitches. 

On EITHER - but not both - the RS or WS of the fabric, carefully pull the trailing threads of both rows simultaneously to gather the fabric. Pulling both rows at the same time allows you to create even, parallel gathers. Make sure to gather from both ends of the rows, creating gathers toward the centers of the rows. Gather (and evenly distribute) the fabric until the circumference of the cylinder matches that of the bottom of the bodice. 

With RS together, sew the bottom of the bodice to the gathered edge of the skirt, stitching between the two rows of basting stitches (the two rows of basting stitches will keep the gathers in place so you can stitch over them without shifting).

Finish this seam.

The dress is finished.