Make Your Own Southern Belle Cloth Doll and Her Wardrobe

Make Your Own Southern Belle Cloth Doll and Her Wardrobe

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by Claire Bryant

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With this easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide, even beginning needlecrafters will be able to make a charming doll with a wardrobe of nine different mid-nineteenth-century costumes.
Designer Claire Bryant provides all the patterns, information, and helpful hints you'll need to create an engaging group of young ladies from the Old South. There's pretty Bonnie Jean,

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With this easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide, even beginning needlecrafters will be able to make a charming doll with a wardrobe of nine different mid-nineteenth-century costumes.
Designer Claire Bryant provides all the patterns, information, and helpful hints you'll need to create an engaging group of young ladies from the Old South. There's pretty Bonnie Jean, about to become a bride in a full-skirted wedding dress trimmed in ruffles and lace. Myrna Ann, Bonnie's sister, is the bridesmaid in a lovely dress with tiers of ruffles and a scarf neckline. Sensible Louise Matilda, who wants to be a secretary, prefers wearing a simple dress without crinolines, and Jean Eleanor appears in a riding outfit, complete with hat, cape, and double-layered skirt. Additional costumes include a satin ball gown, a lovely afternoon dress for paying calls, an elegant lace-edged dress for a garden party, and a fur-trimmed black dress for church.
In addition to changing the doll's outfits, you can also alter the features and personalities of these figures by painting and embroidering different facial expressions and changing hair styles on one basic body ― and you can do that simply by arching eyebrows, lengthening lashes, and fashioning various hairdos with wigs, synthetic fiber, or yarn. The choice is yours and the possibilities are endless!
A list of materials, patterns, and directions are included for each outfit.

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Product Details

Dover Publications
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
8.54(w) x 11.06(h) x 0.26(d)

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Make Your Own Southern Belle Cloth Doll and Her Wardrobe

By Claire Bryant

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1999 Claire Bryant
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14421-4


Making the Doll


1/2 yd. flesh-colored fabric. I used flannel because it has the "feel" of skin. Because I could not find the color I wanted, I used two colors of light-weight flannel, placing white over bright pink. I cut the two layers of fabric as one.

Thread to match fabric

Acrylic paint for facial features — gray, lavender, black, and pink

Small, fine paintbrush

Embroidery floss for facial features

Yarn, packaged mohair or synthetic hair, or doll wig

Polyester stuffing, 1 bag

Pattern Pieces

A (head) — see instructions below

B (body) — cut 2

C (arm) — cut 4

D (leg) — cut 4

E (sole) — cut 2

To Make


It is easier to paint and embroider the face before cutting it out. Cut a 6" square of fabric and trace the head and features onto it. Using acrylic paints and a fine brush, paint the face following the photograph below and the diagram on Plate 1. Outline the eyes and top of lids with gray; fill in lids with lavender and the corners of the eyes with white. Fill the center with black, making the top not quite round where it "tucks under" the lid. Add a small pinkish-red dot in the corner of the eye closest to the nose. Nostrils can be either painted or stitched; if desired, make two dots for nose with pinkish red. Fill in the mouth with pinkish red.

After the paint is completely dry, embroider the face following the photograph below and the diagram on Plate 1. Outline the eye with one strand of black or dark brown floss. Using two strands of desired eye color, cover the left half of the black center of each eye with satin stitch; add one small white stitch on top of this for a highlight. Add straight-stitch eyelashes, using 1 strand of black or dark brown. Stitch the eyebrows using 2 strands and 2 or 3 long straight stitches. You might want to practice on a spare piece of fabric to get the shape you want. Happy faces tend to have more arched brows.

Stitch the mouth with long dark flesh or light brown straight stitches. Add straight-stitch nostrils.

Assembling the Doll

Cut out face, back of head, bodies, arms, and legs. Note: All pattern pieces include ¼" seam allowance.

Right sides together, sew darts in face, body, and arms (if desired). Stitch face and back of head together, leaving base open. Clip curves and turn right side out. Stuff head firmly. Stitch front and back of body together leaving open at base. Clip curves and turn right side out. Stuff firmly. Stitch legs and arms together in pairs, leaving top open for stuffing. Stitch bottom of foot in place, matching single notch to toe and double notch to heel. Clip curves and turn pieces right side out. Stuff the hands lightly, and, if desired, backstitch three lines along hand to indicate fingers. Finish stuffing arms; stuff legs.

Place head over neck and blindstitch in place. Blindstitch arms to body. Blindstitch legs in place, closing the bottom of the body as you attach the legs.

Firm stuffing makes all the difference to the appearance of your doll, so you may want to add additional stuffing with a chopstick or knitting needle as you join the parts.


Making the Clothes

Usually, ¾ of a yard is enough fabric to make any of the dresses, however, if the dress has a lot of ruffles you will need 1 yard. I usually buy 2 to 3 yards of trim or ruffling. Use cottons or blends for the "day" dresses and taffeta or satin for ball gowns and bridal gowns. Follow the photographs for the number of ruffles, trim ideas, and so forth.

I used ¼" seams throughout (included in pattern pieces). I found that it was easier to line the tops of the dresses, making enclosed edges at the neck, back, and lower edges, rather than turning and hemming such small areas. If you are making the clothes entirely by hand, you may not want to line the tops. I added the trim before sewing the seams and included the trim right in the seam. If you are using a fabric that ravels easily, be sure to finish the edges of the seams, either by overcasting, or with a machine zigzag stitch.

It is easier to dress the doll if the bodices and skirts are made separately. I made casings for the skirts, and used heavy crochet thread for cords. Buttons on the ends of the cords will keep them from getting lost in the casing. If you prefer not to use casings, you can attach the skirt directly to the bodice.

All of the dolls wear pantaloons. Most wear crinolines rather than the traditional hoop skirt, as they are easier to make and easier to pack when the doll is stored. Crinolines can be made of any fabric with either ruffled lace, net, or pre-ruffled trim added in rows to help the skirts stand out. I used an antique linen sheet that was torn beyond repair. It provided lots of fabric for dolly undergarments.

The "bust improver," or corset top, was added so that a dolly (Mary Jane was asking) could have cleavage to show off her garment. Most of the girls preferred to go au naturel.

I discovered that my local discount department store and crafts chain store had lots of choices for finishing the doll. Not only did they have wired pearls, fancy trim, ruffles, and feathers, but they also had bags of hair in many colors. Doll shoes are available in a variety of sizes. I made some shoes of fabric or felt and have included a pattern. The easiest ones are knitted or crocheted. See directions on page 5.

It is easier to try on the clothes and dress the doll before you add the wig. Some patterns may have to be adjusted since the amount of stuffing can vary the doll's shape considerably.

Hoop skirt

Use the inner portion of wooden embroidery hoops. You will need 7", 9", and 12"-diameter hoops. Wrap each one with twill tape; fasten with glue or tack with thread. Place the hoops on a flat surface and mark across as shown in Fig. 1. Cut one piece of twill tape for the waistband. Cut six more pieces each 11½" long. Tack these to the waistband and to the hoops following Fig. 2. Sew a hook and eye to waistband, adjusting to fit.


Cut skirt 14" x 34". Fold under and stitch ¼" along bottom of skirt piece.

If you are using net for the ruffles, cut 4 ruffles 6" x 52". Fold in half lengthwise and press. Gather ¼" from raw edge. Apply the ruffles starting about 2" from the bottom hem. Overlap the ruffles about ½" as you progress upwards towards the waist. Topstitch to the skirt. Adjust the length from the top at this time. Fold the top edge over ¼" twice and stitch to make casing. Run heavy crochet thread or cord through the casing and tie a button on each end so it will not slip through.


Cut 4 of pattern P1. Sew the side seams. Before sewing the inside seams, hem the bottom of the legs, adding ruffles and trim. Stitch the inside seam, stitching up one leg, around the crotch, and down the other leg. Fold the top over ¼" twice and stitch for casing. Run a drawstring through the casing, tying a button on each end.

Bust improver

Cut 2. Baste narrow lace or trim along top edge of one piece, matching raw edges. Stitch pieces together along all edges, leaving an opening for turning at the bottom. Clip curves and turn right side out. Stuff upper portion lightly with polyester stuffing; topstitch along broken lines to hold stuffing in place. Slipstitch opening. Sew hooks and eyes to back edges, adjusting to fit.


Follow the picture to see the placement of ruffles. The individual instructions will tell you how many ruffles and how wide to make them. Hem skirt by hand or machine or add ruffle as in directions. Stitch back seam. Try skirt on the doll and adjust the length from the top, allowing ½" for casing. Fold over top of skirt top ¼" twice; stitch to form a casing. Run a drawstring through the casing and tie a button on each end.


Cut 2. Place right sides together and stitch around the neck, back, and lower edges. Trim, clip curves, and turn right side out. Press. Add snaps or hooks and eyes at center back.

Bodice with cap sleeves

The sleeves are part of the bodice pattern. Cut 4, cut 2 of the pieces along the center line for backs. Stitch backs to front at shoulders; repeat with lining. Stitch bodice to lining along neck, back, and lower edges, and along armhole edges to notch marked on pattern. Clip curves and at notches and turn right side out. Sew darts in front through both layers. Sew side seams up to notch. Trim sleeves with ruffles and lace trim. Let the trim hang over the sleeve edge. Sew snaps or hooks and eyes at center back.


Cut 2.

Sleeve (1): Narrow hem sleeve at wrist edge. Cut elastic (stretched) the length of the doll's wrist plus ½". Hold one end of the elastic firmly and stretch it across the bottom of the sleeve ¼" above hem. Stitch elastic in place, gathering sleeve as you stitch. The ends will be caught in the seam. Gather the sleeve top and pin it to the bodice, easing the gathers to fit. Stitch in place. Sew sleeve seam from wrist up to armhole and down side of bodice.

Sleeve (2): Narrow hem sleeve at wrist edge; sew trim across edge. Insert sleeve as in (1).


Cut cape and lining. Stitch around entire piece, leaving an opening large enough for turning. Clip curves, turn right side out and press. Close opening by hand. Add tie, button and loop, or hook and eye at neck. Trim with braid, or embroider with featherstitch.


Use patterns S1 and S2. For fabric, cut 4 tops and 2 soles. For felt, cut 2 tops and 2 soles. Seam the back edges together, matching A to B. For fabric shoes, stitch top pieces together along top edge. Turn right side out and attach to sole. I found this easier to do if I basted the seam first. The felt will not ravel, so does not have to be lined. See below for knitted or crocheted shoes.


I used a wide variety of materials for the dolls' hair. Nylon or acrylic hair, both straight and curly, is widely available in crafts shops. Follow the manufacturer's directions for purchased hair. Use matching thread to stitch the hair to the head.

For yarn wigs, wrap the yarn around a book or piece of cardboard to get the desired length; cut at one side. Place the strands across the doll's head and stitch a center part. Pull the hair down and to the sides.

Braids, whether yarn or other fiber, were made separately and stitched on top of the hair that was already in place. The pearls in Bonnie Jean's braid came on a wire. They were cut into 1" lengths and tucked into the braid.

Jewelry and other accessories

Old pins, buttons, and trim make lovely additions to the doll clothes. Tiny baskets, lockets, fans, and other accessories add to the charm of your dolls. Keep all accessories small so that they do not overpower the doll. Beads make great earrings for the dolls. If the dolls are for adults or older children, and you want to make the earrings removable, use pins to attach them to the head. Do not use pins on dolls meant for young children. Earrings can also be sewn to the head.

Charms and larger beads can be used for doll necklaces. Sew to ribbon or thread onto string and tie around the doll's neck.

Knitting and Crochet Directions

Shoes are made of a rectangular piece, either crocheted or knitted. Chain or cast on the length of the foot, work back and forth until piece will fit down one side of the foot, across the bottom, and an equal distance up the other side. Cast off or finish crocheting, and seam each end and partially across the top of the shoe. These shoes will fit snuggly to the foot.

Reticules (purses) are made with crochet cotton and a size 4 or 5 steel crochet hook. Start with a chain of 4, join to form a ring, then work single crochet around and around, increasing in every other stitch by working two sc's in a space instead of one. When the bottom is the size you want, work up the side, around and around without increasing, in either single or double crochet. Make one row of dc to run a drawstring through. Chain the desired length for the drawstring.


Bonnie Jean Bride


White taffeta for gown
White fabric for crinoline and pantaloons
Net for pantaloon ruffles
½ yd. tulle for veil
3 yds. 1"-wide pre-gathered ribbon trim
2 yds. 1¼"-wide lace trim 1½ yds. lace trim with pearls
2 yds. satin rosebud trim
Scrap of cardboard for book
Wired pearls for necklace and hair trim
8 small pearls for earrings
String for drawstrings
Buttons for drawstrings
Yarn for hair

Pattern Pieces

BJ1 (bodice) — cut 4. Cut 2 pieces along center line for backs.

Cut underskirt 14" x 34"

See below for underskirt.

To Make

Make pantaloons and crinoline following general instructions.


Sew bodice with cap sleeves to lining following general instructions. For sleeves, cut 8"-long pieces of gathered ribbon and sew to arm edge of bodice. Sew side seams. Sew two rows of gathered ribbon around neck by hand; adding lace trim under top row. Sew rosebud trim over ribbon. Add snaps.


Hem underskirt and sew back seam following general instructions. Sew two rows of gathered ribbon around lower edge, adding lace under top row. Sew rosebud trim over top edges of ribbon. Complete skirt as in general instructions.


Cut overskirt 14" x 34"; shape front edges following Fig. 1. Press under ¼" on front and lower edges of overskirt; sew lace and pearl trim over edge. Make casing following general instructions.


Cut an 18" x 36" oval of tulle for veil. Cut 12" of ribbon trim. Sew ends together to form a circle; run a gathering thread around inner edge. Place veil over head. Place circle of ribbon on top; pull up gathers to fit. Secure ends and pin veil to ribbon. Remove from doll and tack ribbon in place. Secure veil to head with bobby pins.


Make yarn hair, adding a coronet of braids. Place wired pearls in hair.

For prayer book, cut a 2" by 3" rectangle of lightweight cardboard; cover with white paper. Cut two 6" lengths of rosebud trim. Fold book in half, placing trim inside with ends hanging out.

Make pearl earrings by stringing a pearl on thread, then inserting both ends of thread through eye of needle; add 3 more pearls. Cut a 4" length of wired pearls for necklace.


Myrna Ann Bridesmaid


Pink gingham check for skirt and scarf lining
White eyelet for bodice, scarf, pantaloons, and crinoline
Solid white for bodice lining and bust improver
Gathered eyelet trim for crinoline
Narrow lace or trim for bust improver
½" yd. ½"-wide eyelet beading for sleeve trim
5 yds. embroidered trim for skirt ruffles
½ yd. 1"-wide lace edging
½ yd. "-wide pink satin ribbon for sleeve trim
½ yd. 1"-wide white satin ribbon
¾ yd. ¼"-wide grosgrain ribbon
1 ft. 1/16" wide pink satin ribbon
Artificial flowers for hair
Small bouquet of artificial flowers
Scrap of cardboard
Floral tape
Fabric glue
3 pink beads
8 pearls for earrings
String for drawstrings
Buttons for drawstrings
Synthetic curls for doll's hair

Pattern Pieces

MA1 (bodice) — cut 2

MA2 (sleeve) — cut 2

MA3 (scarf) — cut 1 each from eyelet and gingham

Cut skirt 12" x 34"

Cut six skirt ruffles 5" by 40"

To Make

Following general instructions, make pantaloons and crinoline of eyelet, using gathered eyelet trim for crinoline ruffles. Make bust improver.


Make bodice following general instructions. For each sleeve, cut a 1¾"-wide strip of gingham; turn under ¼" on each long edge; press. Pin strip across sleeve with lower edge about 3 ½" above lower edge of sleeve. Stitch along pressed edges. Stitch eyelet beading over gingham strip. Finish bodice, following instructions for Sleeve (1). Starting at center of sleeve, thread 1/8"-wide satin ribbon through beading; tie ends in a bow.


Fold skirt ruffles in half lengthwise and press. Stitch embroidered trim along folded edge of each ruffle. Follow basic skirt directions, adding ruffles as for crinoline.


Stitch scarf to lining, leaving an opening for turning. Turn, press, and slipstitch opening. Cut two 12" lengths of grosgrain ribbon. Turn under one end of each length and sew to points of scarf. Place scarf around doll's neck, cross ends over in front and wrap them to the back, tying ribbon in a bow. Let the ends of the ribbon hang down. Fold over the front edges of the scarf so that the lining shows.


Cut a 3" circle of cardboard; cut a hole in center (one end of a bolt of ribbon works well for this). With lace edging on bottom, baste white ribbon and edging together. Pleat or gather ribbon and lace and glue to edge of cardboard. Place bouquet of flowers through hole in cardboard; wrap stems with floral tape beneath cardboard base. Wrap stems around doll's hand. You can safety pin the doll's hands together so that she can hold the bouquet in both hands.


Excerpted from Make Your Own Southern Belle Cloth Doll and Her Wardrobe by Claire Bryant. Copyright © 1999 Claire Bryant. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Make Your Own Southern Belle Cloth Doll and Her Wardrobe 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I want a book that has ideas on how to dress dolls up- not how to make dolls or sell dolls.