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Make Your Own Bodice or Torso Sloper to Custom-Fit Clothing for Any Doll
Dolls come in all sizes and shapes, but you can easily make clothing patterns for any doll using a custom fitted 'sloper' or seamless pattern. The most useful basic sloper is one which is custom fitted to the bodice or torso of a doll.
It can be used to make all kinds of clothing patterns like shirts, blouses, dresses, and vests, coats for male and female dolls of all shapes and sizes. The sloper measures the actual torso of the doll and lets you lay out a flat pattern and modify it for design details, fit, length and other changes.
Slopers are inexpensive to make and save time and effort when you are making clothing for dolls, especially if you want to make a range of removable dolls clothes for a child's toy. They are especially useful for working with fashion or playscale and miniature dolls where patterns for the style of clothing you (or your child) want may not be readily available.
In addition to these instructions for making a torso sloper, which works to fit shirts, dresses, coats, swimsuits, etc., to dolls, you can also make a basic pants sloper for dolls to make jeans, trousers, and underwear.
Materials Needed to Make a Custom Sloper Pattern for Any Doll
- Non-woven interfacing: Choose a weight which can be easily folded, lightweight or ultra lightweight. You only need small scraps of this for any doll size. If you will want to make a range of custom patterns, you may want to have some heavier non-woven interfacing on hand to use for reusable patterns rather than making them on paper.
- Clear packaging tape
- Sharp scissors
- Soft (HB or B) drawing pencil or erasable pen
- Fine sewing pins for larger soft-bodied dolls
- Paper or mid-weight interfacing, for patterns
These instructions show the sloper being fitted to a 'Brenda Breyer' doll, which is an eight-inch tall ball jointed doll. The same techniques apply to all dolls, regardless of what they are made from or their size.Continue to 2 of 13 below.
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Start Fitting the Back Torso Pattern on Your Chosen Doll
To start fitting a basic sloper pattern to a doll, begin with the doll's back, which is an easier shape, to begin with.
Lay a square of lightweight, non-woven interfacing over the back of the doll and tape it to the front of the doll at the shoulders, on the front side of the shoulder seams (or top of the shoulder if you can't see the seams) and below the waist. If your doll has a cloth body, you may need to pin the interfacing rather than tape it in place.
Use your soft pencil to mark the baseline of the doll's neck and the shoulder seams on the interfacing, as well as the waistline. With some dolls, you can also easily mark the side seams and armhole line as shown above.
For most dolls only mark the waist, shoulder line, and neckline, and trim them away from the interfacing before proceeding to the next step in making the back sloper for your particular doll.Continue to 3 of 13 below.
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Fit the Pattern Side Seam and Arm Line
After you have trimmed your interfacing along the lines you drew for the waist, shoulder and neck seams on your doll, check the match of the interfacing to these sections of the doll and tape or pin them in place again on the doll.
With the interfacing secured to the doll at the waist and shoulder areas, carefully fit the interfacing around the side of the doll's back and mark where the arm joins the body as well as the side seams. If your doll is cast or molded, it may be easy to mark side seams that match the ones on the doll's body, if you can't see any seams, mark the side seam so it lines up with the center bottom of the doll's underarm join.
Repeat for the other side seam.
Trim the excess interfacing away and check the lines of the back sloper pattern.Continue to 4 of 13 below.
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Check the Fit
With your interfacing trimmed along the lines you marked in your previous step, fit the basic sloper made from interfacing against the back of your doll and tape it into place, matching the should and side seam. If your pattern is too large (see the neckline in this photo which is a little high) mark it again and trim it then test it for fit.
If your pattern is too small to meet at all the proper side seams, tape the pattern to fit at the neck and waist, then add tape to the sides or arm line wherever your pattern is too small, and mark the extended lines onto the see-through tape.
Carefully remove the pattern with any bits of attached tape and modified markings, and trim the pattern, or cut a new one with extended seam lines to correct the fit.
Do a final test fit of your back sloper pattern when you have all your pattern lines corrected.
Note: If your doll has a pronounced back waistline or muscular shoulders and needs darts to fit the back sloper correctly, see how the darts are made on the front sloper in the steps that follow and use those instructions to adjust the fit of your back sloper.Continue to 5 of 13 below.
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The front sloper pattern for a doll torso or bodice pattern is made similar to the back, with the addition of fitted darts. The method of making the darts can be applied to both male and female torsos for the back or front. In this case, the sloper is being fitted on an 8 inch 'Brenda Breyer' doll which has a very developed bosom and a small waist, requiring underarm and waist darts for a correct fit.
It is important to make your basic sloper pattern with darts, even if you won't use them to fit clothes on your finished doll. Knowing where the darts go will allow you to adjust the clothing to fit the doll properly.
To begin fitting the front sloper for the doll: Take a square or rectangle of lightweight non-woven interfacing and fit it over the front of the doll so that you have enough interfacing to mark the shoulders and waist, as well as to wrap around to the sides of the doll. Use tape or pins to hold the interfacing in place on the shoulders and below the waist at the front of the doll as shown in the photo on this page.
Mark the base of the neck and the top of the shoulder or the shoulder seams as well as the narrowest point of the doll's waist. (see photo) Trim the marked shoulder and necklines, and refit the interfacing to the body, checking the match of the trimmed lines, remark them and retrim if the fit is not correct. When you have the fit of the shoulder and necklines, mark the waistline, adjusting it from your first marking if necessary.
Leave the markings for the waistline untrimmed until after you have fitted the waist darts towards the end of the pattern making if your doll has a pronounced bust, and after you have the shoulder and neck lines corrected for dolls without large busts as that leaves you extra fabric to make adjustments to the shoulder and necklines if you require them.Continue to 6 of 13 below.
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Fit the Side Bust or Torso Darts
To get a correct fit for doll clothes you need to make darts on the pattern to allow for any curved surfaces, especially on the bust or waist of fashion dolls which often have exaggerated features. The goal of the sloper is to give you a basic pattern that shows the smallest point where seams can be made on fabric to fit a doll with nonstretchable fabrics.
To mark the side darts for the doll's bustline: Fit the modified sloper you made in the previous step back onto the doll with the shoulders taped or pinned to the doll's body and the waistline taped or pinned to the front of the doll. Mark the side seam near the waist, and fold a small triangular fold (facing down) to adjust the material so that it fits the top of the doll's breast, in a straight line out from the side seam.
Don't worry about any gaping fit at the waist right now, you only want to adjust the fabric to get a neat fit along the side seam under the doll's arm. Tape your folded dart in place and mark the side seam and the armhole seam, just like you did for the back.
Carefully trim the armhole seam away. Then trim away the side seam, leaving the extra material which is loose at the waistline, and leaving the tape holding the triangular dart in place. Repeat for the doll's other side.Continue to 7 of 13 below.
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Check the Fit of the Side and Armhole Seams
With the neck and shoulder as well as the base of the waistline seam secured in place with tape or pins on the doll's body, check the fit of the trimmed sides of the basic sloper pattern with the dart held in place with tape.
Adjust the fit by marking new side or underarm lines on tape or by trimming the interfacing slightly, just as you did for the side seams on the back of the doll. Repeat for the seams on the other side of the front sloper pattern.Continue to 8 of 13 below.
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Fit Waist Darts
Tape or pin your basic sloper pattern back onto the front torso of your doll, leaving the side darts taped closed. Tape or pin the center of the pattern at the waistline, and tape or pin the sides of the pattern to the sides of the doll. If your doll has a pronounced waistline, you will need to create waist darts to adjust the fit of the bust.
To make waist darts on a doll torso: Take the extra material along the doll's waistline and fold a dart which has the point of its triangle at right angles to the point of the side bust dart. Make sure you don't pull the fabric away from the point where the center of the pattern is taped or pinned to the doll's waist. You will need to fold a waist dart on each side of the doll's torso.
Before you tape the folded dart in place, you can run the side of your soft pencil over the folded line of the waist dart to mark both the fold and where the fold touches the rest of the fabric. When you have marked the dart, tape it into place and mark the rest of the waistline.
Remove the basic sloper from the doll without opening the bust or waist darts. Trim the waistline and check the fit of the basic pattern against the doll. Correct any edges which don't fall in the correct place for a seam.Continue to 9 of 13 below.
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Open and Mark the Front Torso Darts
With your shaped pattern removed from your doll, carefully mark the darts and their position. There are two methods you can use to do this.
Method One - Marking the Edges: To use this method, carefully remove the tape while keeping the dart folded, and run the edge of a pencil over the fabric marking the folded line of the dart, as well as where the folded line meets the fabric underneath. This is the method used to produce the V marking for the waist in the photo above. This works for most dolls larger than dolls house scale (1:12) or dolls with larger darts.
Method Two - Cutting the Darts Open: For smaller scale dolls, or dolls with smaller darts to fit the torso sloper, cut through all layers of fabric and tape at the fold line of the dart, cutting carefully to the exact point of the dart. Open the dart and trim off any excess fabric. This will give you notches into the sloper pattern where the darts should be. (see photo next page).Continue to 10 of 13 below.
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Trim the Darts Open
Lay the basic torso or bodice sloper pattern for your doll flat and trim along the marked dart lines to create your fitted sloper pattern.
Depending on the shape of your doll, your front bodice or torso sloper should look similar to the one in this photo.Continue to 11 of 13 below.
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Check the Symmetry
If you are making a sloper for a doll with a commercial body, chances are it has been designed for symmetry. Fold your sloper pattern in half down the center of the back or front, and check the symmetry of your pattern to make sure you made the necklines, should lines, armholes, and darts in the same place on either side of your pattern.
If your pattern is for a commercial doll, but it does not match closely on the edges when folded, you may need to start again or adjust some of your seam lines.
If your doll is custom made, or in a particular pose which puts the body out of alignment, your pattern may not be symmetrical. If the pattern is not symmetrical, mark on the sides of the sloper which side of the pattern is on the left of the doll, and which is on the right.Continue to 12 of 13 below.
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Make Reusable Slopers for Designing Custom Patterns
Now that you have a custom fit sloper for making dolls clothing made from lightweight interfacing, you should transfer the markings to a more durable material - kraft paper, card or heavier weight non-woven interfacing. Fold your chosen material in half and lay for folded sloper over a piece of suitable card, paper or interfacing and carefully trace around the edges and into the lines of the darts.
If your sloper is not symmetrical, trace around the complete outline. Draw a line across the bottom of the V of the dart where it meets the outside of the sloper. When you have finished a careful tracing of your sloper, cut it out so that it exactly matches the original.
Do not cut outside the lines you just drew, or you will make your copy larger than the original! Label your finished sloper with the doll's name or designation (cook a) and scale if you know it. You will use this copy of the sloper to make custom patterns for doll clothing to fit this particular doll.
Slopers are drawn out and trimmed without side seams. They are the basic outlines of the positioning of seams and darts for a tight fit of woven or felted material against a body. To use the sloper you will copy the lines onto another piece of paper or interfacing to make a pattern, drawing lines for any extra fabric to the seamlines or pattern to make a looser fitting garment, or to add in details like opening fronts, backs or drapes of fabric.Continue to 13 of 13 below.
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Check Your Sloper Against a Commercial Piece of Doll Clothing
While the main use of a custom-fitted sloper is to act as a base for designing patterns for clothing, you can also use your doll sloper to check to see if commercial clothing or patterns will fit your doll.
In the photo above you can see how the front sloper made for the Brenda Breyer doll fits against an actual top sold as clothing for the doll. The neckline and shoulder seams match, but the armhole and side seams have been given extra fabric to make them easier to get onto the doll and allow for easy posing of the doll's arms.
To check fit for patterns or clothing from other makers, lay the sloper out against the pattern or clothing item with the neckline and shoulder seams lined up. Notice how much extra fabric there is along the sides and below the waist to see if the clothing item will fit your particular doll.
Your sloper will show you if modifications are possible to make the item fit your doll, or if you are better off to design and sew (or glue) something new. The same fitting tips apply to doll clothing for any size of a doll, including miniature dolls for model scenes or dollhouses.