Agosia Arts is about celebrating the natural world, fine craft and conscientious recycling. My main goals with this blog are to : 1) provide a peek behind the scenes at how my work is produced; 2) document my problem solving process; and 3) encourage others to try new things. If you have questions, email me at Thank you for visiting!

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May 30, 2016

Sewing Doll Sleeves For Maximal Movement

Adding sleeves to doll clothing requires some thought. If your dolls are not designed to move, sleeves can be sewn to the bodice as normal. If your doll has arms that are jointed at the shoulder, you probably want some level of movement to the sleeve. The problem with small garments is that they don't behave quite the same way as normal sized ones. Functional sleeves require more fabric than you would expect around the armscye and this extra fabric creates unattractive bulk on small bodices.The following technique is useful for dolls that are designed for different poses, but are still mainly display items. Dolls that are destined to become playthings require traditional clothing.

I never sew sleeves to the rest of the garment because this almost always leads to a decrease in the range of movement for the arm. Usually a sewn-in sleeve restricts the arm to being raised only halfway, both front and back.  To address this issue, I separate the sleeve from the bodice completely. I've altered my patterns to include a bit of extra fabric along the shoulder and armsyce of the bodice - this creates a tiny extension into the arm. The sleeve pattern has a larger than normal cap head to create a bit more fabric around the shoulder joint. Neither of these changes is detectable visually (visit my Pinterest gallery for a look at some of the garments), but provides necessary coverage to hide the seam area. The two garment sections are sewn and lined in my usual manner (see previous post).

To complete the garment, I sew a running stitch along the  finished sleeve with upholstery thread, slide the sleeve onto the arm and draw up the stitches until the fit looks good. The sleeve is gathered around the shoulder joint, and ideally, the edges are tucked into the groove of the joint between the arm and body. The thread is tied off and buried in the arm. The arm is now covered, but able to move a full 360 degrees. The extra fabric along the armscye of the bodice covers the puckers from the gathering and it appears to be attached to the garment.

Some artists use this type of sleeve, but choose to add it to the arm before it is attached to the body. The joint connection of choice (often a button) is then visible on the outside of the sleeve. This look is quite appropriate for cloth figures leaning toward a folk style or where the artist wants to emphasize the joint.

As you can see, full range of movement is available in the shoulder. Usually, the sleeve moves along with the arm, and if the tension of the gathers is correct, there is no additional friction because of the extra layers of fabric between body parts.

An added benefit of this technique is that you don't need to fuss with sewing the small curves of the armscye. You can design your jackets and shirts to have separate sleeves with gentle curves. Less hassle and faster to sew.

Give the technique a try and let me know how it works.

Next post, beadwork!  Stay tuned...

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