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This lesson is an example of the process (or steps) to create a pattern using this particular
method - for each individual pattern and each specific doll shape or size
(or if you are using metric measurements) the percentages of enlargement will differ!

**This pattern is now out of print. However, this lesson will work with any basic sheath dress pattern.


NOTE: When using this method to create a doll pattern for dolls over 16" there are a few more challenges than occurred when making a pattern for a small busted MSD doll. The proportions get thrown off a bit more because the tiny pictures have to be enlarged a larger percentage to get the pattern big enough to fit a larger doll - and more adjustments are needed in the lengths. Additionally, I have chosen Elfdoll Ruru as my model for this lesson and her body presents a variety of fitting obstacles -- small shoulders/upper body that expands quickly to a large bust in front, small back in comparison to the front bust measurement, and large thighs. The steps will follow a different order and a full bust alteration is required.

Step 1:
Make a copy of the instruction sheet pictures enlarging by 150%. This makes the individual pieces a bit easier to measure and work with - the 150% is purely an arbitrary percentage that is chosen at this point. Cut out only the front and back dress pattern pieces - the other pieces can be enlarged later after the correct percentage has been determined. The black outer lines will become the seam line - seam allowances will be added after the pieces have been enlarged, initial alterations completed, and a mock-up garment is ready for fitting.

The pattern instruction
sheet pictures.

Pictures enlarged by 150%
and markings for bustline,
waistline & hipline added
for reference points.
(see Lesson 5)

Pictures enlarged an additional
262% (beyond the 150% shown
left). The 262% is determined
as shown in Step 2 below).

NOTE: Pictures above are not accurate in size proportions - but show an example of the process.

Step 2:
RuRu is a large/full busted doll - this is apparent from analyzing her body and is supported by reviewing her front and back bust measurements. Therefore, I start by measuring the front and back bustline of the 150% enlarged pieces (the bustline is marked with the red dashed line - this is a temporary bustline that was marked following the shape of the pattern - see page 26). Both the front and back bustline measures 1-5/8" - which indicates there will definitely be some major bust alterations needed on this pattern.

By comparing Narae's and Ruru's measurements I find the following: The difference between Narae's front and back bust measurements is 3/8" or 11% and was accommodated by fitting out some excess in the back of the pattern when doing the mock-up. The difference between Ruru's front and back bust measurements is 2" or 35%! This is another illustration as to why taking measurements is very crucial. Even if you just suspect that a doll might need a full bust alteration, once the difference between the front and back bust measurements is analyzed, it becomes quickly apparent that a modification is needed - and a somewhat different approach to figuring out the enlargement percentage is required as well.

I begin by looking at just the back pattern piece and cheat a little bit here because I do have a basic bodice pattern that is already fit to the Elfdoll Rainy dolls (each Elfdoll body regardless of bust size has the same back bust measurement.) The back of bodice pattern measures 4-1/4" total across the back bustline (which is the back bust measurement of 3-3/4" + 1/2" of ease) - so I will use this measurement to determine the enlargement percentage and see if some other pertinent areas will support this percentage. If the 150% enlarged back piece is enlarged by 262% (4-1/2 ÷ 1-5/8" = 2.615) it measures 4-1/4". I check to see if using the 262% percentage will make the shoulder measurement work as well (since this doll is small thru the shoulders and front chest area compared to her bust, I want the shoulder area to fit and the full bust alteration will create the proper of fit the bust in the front). Ruru's shoulder-to-shoulder measurement is 3-3/8" - the 150% back pattern piece, when enlarged by 262% has a shoulder-to-shoulder measurement of 3.60, or slightly over 3-1/2". This should work fine so I enlarge both front and back pattern pieces by 262%.

NOTE: Do not try to just add the two percentages (e.g., 150 + 262) together to get a total percentage to enlarge the pattern pictures as it simply won't work.

I proceed to check the front measurements, beginning with the shoulder-to-bust-point and immediately see that the front pattern piece will need to be lengthened above the bustline to bring the bust point (apex) into place. I go on to measure and make all of the length alterations to both the front and back pieces before doing the full bust alteration.

Fig. 1
The picture left shows where the bust point would be without a length alteration above the bustline (the bust point/apex would be just above the waistline - blue dashed line). I use a front bodice piece that I know fits a small-busted Elfdoll Rainey doll for comparison and to check if my calculations are correct (bodice piece does have seam allowances).

Step 3:
Measure the neck-to-waist (back) - for this example I have placed a mark slightly above the neckline (see green mark/line noting neck-to-waist back measurement - Fig. 2). The neckline of this pattern design will fall slightly below the "nape" of the neck (when taken on a human, this measurement is many times referred to as the "nape-to-waist"). On a doll, you have to guess as to where the neckline actually will be, but it will be close enough to make length adjustments. If the pattern measures too short or long on the basic length measurements, both the front and back will be altered to correct the length. The pattern is slashed completely across, a piece of paper is inserted and taped to the pattern to add the extra length. Align the back grain line marking and center front when making this addition.

The neck-to-waist measurement of the pattern is 3" - Ruru measures 4-1/4 thus requiring a total of 1-1/4" to be added above the waistline. Because the shoulder-to-bust-point pattern measurement is short (Fig. 1), I decide to split the neck-to-waist length additions into two parts: 13/16" will be added above the bustline (cutting line AA - Fig. 3) and 7/16" will be added above the waistline (cutting line BB - Fig. 3). This will bring the bust point in line - shown in Step 7.

Step 4:
Measure the pattern from waist to hipline (brown vertical line on front pattern piece - Fig. 2) and compare it to the doll measurement. Ruru measures 2-3/8" and the pattern measures 1-1/16" - so 1-5/16" needs to be added above the hipline (cutting line CC).

Fig. 2

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 4 shows the following length alterations:

Blue - the addition of 13/16" above the bustline.

Purple - the addition of 7/16" above the waistline.

Hot Pink - the addition of 1-5/16" between the waistline and hipline.

Orange - the addition of 1-1/2" to the length based on a shoulder-to-hem measurement which was taken after the above 3 length additions were completed.

NOTE: After adding the length to the waist-to-hipline the seamlines need to be redrawn - and it adds a bit to the width of the hip area (see black dashed line from line CC to the hemline). In a later step when the hipline is measured, the dashed lines will be considered the seamlines, not the original black lines.

Step 5:
This is an optional step. I measure around the armhole of the pattern then measure around the doll (loosely) to see if it seems far off. Every once in a while it is and the pattern needs to be lengthened between the shoulder and the bottom of the armhole. The pattern measures 3-5/8" and Ruru measures 3-3/4" - this is close and any difference required could be altered in the mock-up stage.

Step 6:
The size of the vertical darts are determined at this point - however, they will not be placed onto the pattern until later.

There are 2 ways to determine the dart size for both the front and back vertical darts.

1) Is to simply guess and draw a dart in. The exact size and location of the darts will be determined when fitting the mock-up.

2) Pull out the front and back pattern pieces and trace the darts. These are shrunk to the proper size to fit on the pattern being created for Ruru. Ruru's bust measures 9-1/2" - which is 25% of the size 16 pattern bust measurement. Shrink the traced darts to 25% and copy so you have darts that can be cut out and placed onto the dress front and back pieces. Black dart to the left is the traced, 25% reduced dart. Green darts are the traced ones that will be placed on the dress pieces.

Step 7:
The bust point (apex) is determined using the shoulder-to-bust-point and the bust-point-to-bust-point measurement (divided in half). Ruru measures 2-11/16" shoulder-to-bust-point and 1-13/16" (bust-point-to-bust point) - 1-13/16" is rounded up to 1-7/8" so it can be divided in half to 15/16". The pattern is measured in the same places as the measurements were taken on the doll and marks are placed to show where the apex is. (These are shown on picture left with a pink dashed line). Once the apex is marked on the pattern, the angle of the side dart is determined by drawing a line starting 3/8" from the apex to the side seam extension. Draw a vertical line parallel to the center front from the apex down - the vertical dart will be centered over this line with the top of the dart placed 3/8" down from the apex).
Step 8:
To establish the initial size of the side dart, measure the side seam of the front and back pieces - the difference between these two seam measurements determines the size of the dart. On this example the back measures 10-3/16" and the front measures 10-5/8" - therefore the side dart will be 7/16" wide (at the side seam). Divide this in half and measure above and below the side dart center line and place a mark at the side seam. Draw lines from the tip of the dart to the side seam to create the dart.

Step 9:
To determine the amount of the front full bust alteration, first measure the pattern front across the bustline - it measures (doubled) 4-1/2". Ruru's front bust measures 5-3/4" - add 1/4" for ease for a total of 6". The front of the pattern needs to be altered a total of 1-1/2"; 3/4" will be added to the width of the front pattern piece. The shoulder-to-waist is measured on the pattern and it equals 4-1/2" -- Ruru measures 5-1/4" so 3/4" will have to be added to the front length above the waist.

Step 10:
Cut the top of the dress off at the waist (A). You will work with the top only when doing the full bust alteration. Draw a line from the apex to the tip of the side dart and another line from the apex to the waist (keeping the vertical line parallel to grain/center front). Draw a third line from apex to armhole (to approximately where the front notch is located on a commercial pattern). These will be the cutting lines to make the necessary additions for the full bust (B). Cut along these lines - first from waist through apex and up to armhole then from side seam through center of dart - leaving pattern piece held together at apex and armhole by approximately 1/16". NOTE: Place the top pattern piece onto a piece of paper so that as the pattern is cut apart and spread the pieces can be taped to the paper underneath.


Keeping center front straight with grain, spread side front apart from center front desired amount - in this case it is 3/4" (C). Ruru's measurements indicate length should also be added to the front piece. The center front piece is cut along line BB and spread 3/4" - keeping the bottom piece aligned along center front. A line is drawn along the bottom perpendicular to the center front to indicate the new waistline (D).




Angle the lower piece of the side front to meet the center front piece as shown left (E). The dart spreads apart to create a new, larger dart - a new tip of the dart is marked 3/8" from the apex and new dart leg lines are drawn to the side seam (see pink lines).

At this point the waistline is measured on both front and back pieces to see if an adjustment is needed. (Remember, the darts are not included in this measurement - the entire waistline is measured and the total of the 4 vertical darts is subtracted from the waistline number). The waistline of the front and back pieces -- minus the darts -- is 7-1/4". Ruru's waist is 7-1/4", so an ease amount of 1" (because the waist on this dress is not tight fitting) needs to be added at the waistline. 1/4" will be added at the front and back side seams at the waistline. (See dashed line from line BB down to waistline). Back waist addition is shown in picture on
page 46 - #4.

Note how the shape of the armhole has also changed. Not only does the width and length addition create a proper fitting bustline, the armhole also fits better.

Step 11:
Re-attach front top to skirt. Side dart is colored in to more clearly define it - #1.

Step 12:
Measure across the hipline. The pattern measures a total of 9-3/4" - I use Ruru's measurement of 11" (around the thighs) because her thighs flare out and if the hip measurement is used the pattern is likely to end up too small. If it is a little big,the excess can always be fitted out in the mock-up stage. An ease amount of 3/8" is added - so the pattern needs to measure 11-3/8" across the hipline. A bit more will be added to the back because the doll measurements indicate that the back hip measures slightly bigger than the front. Here's how the additions are calculated:

Front pattern measures a total of 4-3/4" - I want the final measurement to equal 5-3/8". A total of 10/16" needs to be added, so 5/16" is added to each side from the waist to the hem - #2.

Back pattern hipline measures a total of 5" - I want the final measurement should be 6". 3/8" is added to the side from waist (see 1/4" addition to the waist) to hem - #4 -- And 1/8" from waist to hem of center back - #3. The amount to be added to the back hipline is split to balance it out - otherwise the addition to the side seam is wide and can start to distort the side seam. Again, if it doesn't appear to look right in the mock-up stage, it can be pinned out and the pattern altered.

**The two side seams are measured (folding out the side dart on front piece). The full bust alteration has caused the front to be 1/8" longer. The armhole curve is lowered 1/8" to correct the difference - #5.

Step 13:

Placement lines for the back vertical darts are now added. Ruru measures 1-1/2" shoulder-blade-to-shoulder-blade - 1/2 of this is 3/4". A line is placed on back dress piece 3/4" from center back and parallel to the grain line (see pink line under green dart). The copied, reduced dart is placed with the center lining up with the pink line and waist marks (on dart) placed on waistline of dress (dots mark the waist on the original dart traced from the human pattern pieces).

Top of front vertical dart is placed at mark made in Step 7. The dart is split at the waist mark . The waist mark of the lower part of the dart is placed on the waistline -- lines are drawn to connect the top piece with the bottom to form one continuous dart (see green dashed line on front pattern piece).

Step 14:

Now that the alterations are completed and darts placed, seam allowances can be added (shown in hot pink). 1/4" is added around major seams, 3/8" down center back (since there will be a snap closure) and a 3/8" hem. The pattern is ready to use to make a mock-up. I use a medium weight fabric** as it is close to what I would use when making a dress from this pattern.

**When constructing a mock-up, I usually choose a fabric that will be similar to what I intend to use for my completed garment - rather than a muslin or muslin-type fabric. I find that I get better results. Also note that if you use a thin fabric for the mock up and then cut the garment out of a thick fabric, the garments will fit differently. Thick fabrics cut "bigger" than thin fabrics - the fit will need to be checked whenever changing fabric types.


Step 1:

Cut out and mark the darts (tracing paper works well). Stitch the darts - press vertical darts toward center, side darts down. Stitch shoulder seams - press open.

Step 2:
Mark 1/4" seam allowance (using marking pen or pencil) around armholes and neckline. Clip curves, turn under and stitch or fuse in place.

Step 3:
Stitch side seams - clip waist curve and press open. Turn up 3/8" hem and pin in place. Mark 3/8" seam down center backs with marking pen or pencil.

Step 4:
Try on the doll and pin down entire center back at seam marks and begin to assess the fit.

The overall fit is good but needs a little tweaking. The center back is a little big from neck to hem - so the pins are moved in 1/8" and this will become the new center back seam line. The length of the dress is OK.

The vertical front darts do not line up with the bust point (indicated with purple circle) so they will have to be moved a bit more toward the center. Also, there is a slight pooch at the tip of the side dart - so some tweaking needs to be done to the dart. It can be done more accurately once the vertical darts are properly placed.

Due to the center back alteration the vertical back darts need to be moved away from the center back 1/8" so they will line up with the shoulder blades.

I decide that the front neckline will be more flattering if it is lowered - the alteration is marked on the mock-up.  

Step 5:
The alterations are completed on the pattern and I decide to make a second mock-up to refine the fit of the bust darts.

The second mock-up:

The front vertical darts have been moved and are now in line with the bust point. After a bit of trial & error the side bust dart is moved closer** to the bust point and it now looks flattering. The back vertical darts have been moved and are now in line with the shoulder blades.

**The movement of the tip of the side darts and placing them closer to the bust point is one example of how fitting a doll can be different than fitting a human. In most cases for a human with full breasts the darts would be moved farther away from the bust point - but on dolls there is a different shape to the breasts that can require some trial and error to get a proper fit.

At this point I feel the hips could be taken in a bit so I pin out and mark the excess. The side seams are re-sewn and pressed.  

Here is the final result and a final pattern is ready to be made incorporating all of the alterations.

The alterations are made on the pattern:

1) Front vertical darts are moved to line up with bust point.
2) Bust side darts are moved and redrawn.
3) Overall length of dress is shortened.
4) Excess is removed from center back.
5) Back vertical darts are repositioned.
6) 1/8" taken off from hip to hem.

A dress can now be constructed out of this final pattern (following construction details in Lesson 6).


Dress is constructed the same as in Lesson 6 - with the addition of the "belt" on the front of the dress before the side seams are stitched together.

RuRu in her
new dress!

END NOTE: Both the MSD and SD dress patterns can be used as a basic fitting/design pattern. The top can be cut from the bottom at the waistline and each part can become a pattern for a bodice and skirt. Some tweaking might be required to get the exact fit desired for individual sections (bodice/skirt), but the darts will be placed correctly and on the bodice the bust darts are the correct size.

May 12, 2014
Copyright 2000 - Dale Rae Designs