American Girls Doll Sundress

This is my post for Freckled Laundry’s Air Your Laundry and  Elizabeth & Co.’s Be Inspired Linky Party.  Take a look at all the great ideas.


Marie Grace is getting ready to sew. She has Mildred Turner’s book, Mimi’s Machine Magic for reference, patterns to study, fabric and lace swatches to audition and her dress form ready for fitting. She’ll soon need a cup of tea.

Marie Grace is getting ready to sew. She has Mildred Turner’s book, Mimi’s Machine Magic for reference, patterns to study, fabric and lace swatches to audition and her dress form ready for fitting. She’ll soon need a cup of tea.


The Custom Keepsakes Sweet Dreams sundress that I finished this weekend made my 7 year-old granddaughter very happy.  The skirt is made of Liberty of London tana lawn and, like her Nana, Laurel looooooves Liberty. She can’t wait for her matching dress to be finished.

I selected a Liberty print that was small enough to be proportional to the doll. As Laurel browsed pictures of some of the other dresses/nightgowns in the collection, she declared that she would like one of each, please.  As quickly as these are to sew, I might just stitch all six.

American Girls doll Marie Grace wore the dress to 6 year-old Robert’s football game and received a lot of attention from the sisters of several players.



This garment was a real pleasure to make.  Of course, because the bodice and pockets are made in the hoop with heavy water soluble stabilizer, it was quick and easy.  Kathy recommends Vilene WSS but I didn’t have any on hand and used Sulky’s Super Solvy with very good results.


The shoulder and side seams must be sewn, but the marked stitching lines make the scallops match up perfectly.

Note that shoulder scallops match up perfectly due to stitched seam line which is part of the design.

Note that shoulder scallops match up perfectly due to stitched seam line which is part of the design.


The side seam matches up just as accurately.




The back is open to the hem.  Teeny buttons were sewn down the back of the bodice, through the soft Velcro which closes the back.


I’m glad that I made the doll dress first, because I learned a few things that will make stitching Laurel’s dress a little easier.

  • Use Swiss batiste as suggested in the directions, or perhaps another fine, tightly woven fabric for the bodice and pockets.   I used a nice quality domestic 100% cotton batiste and regretted it when I trimmed the scallops.  The looser weave of the domestic fabric left lots of eyelashes, no matter how carefully it was trimmed. I might stitch the pockets on pima broadcloth to try this out but that might be too dense for better scallop results. We’ll see.
  • Follow the directions very carefully.  Kathy Harrison (designer of Custom Keepsakes) has fine tuned these projects and the little details matter.  For instance, she instructs you to remove the stabilizer only after the garment is constructed.  I was on the verge of cutting it away when I double checked the instructions.  Waiting so long to take it out is counter intuitive, but with such soft, fine fabric, this little trick makes construction much easier.
  • Use 50 wt. DMC 100% cotton thread. The embroidery was digitized for this thread.  Because  I had no 50 wt.  thread on hand that matched the taupe-y tan in the print, but I did have DMC 30 wt. and used that.  Big mistake.  If you look closely, you will see the heavy, clunky portions of the design that use this color.

I learned a technique on this sundress that I think would be useful on other projects.  The pockets are embroidered in the hoop and then trimmed along with the stabilizer to the precisely stitched cutting line.  Then each is turned, ever so carefully, with the heavy stabilizer left in place and the points made crisp with a point turner.

Finally, after finger pressing the edges and trimming the scallops with the stabilizer in place,  the pockets are sewn to the dress.  The stabilizer dissolves after the dress is soaked.  This would work well on in-the-hoop collars and other items.

Marie Grace, 1853 New Orleans miss


Making things for dolls is such fun.  Years ago, for the doll schools that I  did with Mildred Turner,  I reduced Mimi’s Machine Magic  on the copier and made little sewing books for the dolls.  I was happy to have one left over for Laurel’s dolls.

Marie Grace Mimi Book

Oh, You Beautiful Doll!

Now, to make Laurel’s dress…..It may be January but here in central Florida it is nearly 80 degrees so she will be wearing sundresses very soon.

Have you made any fun doll clothes?  I’m really excited about them now.



12 responses to “American Girls Doll Sundress

  1. Exquisite as usual! I love how you just jump in and get a project done fearlessly! You have inspired me (again) to bite the bullet and try one of the little garments from the Christening 2 set that I have. Her designs really are amazing. Your version is stunning and I look forward to seeing Laurel’s dress.

  2. Just darling! My granddaughter isn’t quite old enough for an AG doll, but I hope she will buck tradition and be a “doll person”. Both her mother and I didn’t care for dolls at all. Have you tried coloring the threads peeking out of the scallops with a fabric pen? I’ve done this with great success.

  3. I might try that, Cynthia, though I doubt I would find a coral fabric pen. Still, even a less than perfect match would be preferable to those ivory scallop whiskers. Thanks for the tip.

  4. Gosh, Elizabeth, tackling this little project took no courage at all. It is foolproof. Now get those buttonholes sewn into Andy’s vintage romper and then stitch something from that fabulous Christening 2 collection. It is fabulous!

  5. I got a collection of fine line sharpies markers from Sam’s a while back. There were 32 colors. I touch up things with them and they have a coral-ish color that may match…. When I do touch up something I let it dry for say 10 minutes, then I use a dry iron to “heat set” the marker just in case… I have never had a problem before. Love this dress!

  6. Ooooh, good tips, Terri. I once touched up some embroidery and then it bled when it was laundered. Heat setting sounds like a good idea.

  7. My granddaughter received an AG doll for Christmas so now I must purchase this collection. Thanks for the tips.

  8. Sharon @ Elizabeth & Co.

    Wow, you are seriously talented!

  9. Many girls want these dolls at a fairly young age. Girls as young as 4 or 5 years old are asking their parents to buy them an American doll. Yet the recommended age from the manufacturer is 8 years old and up. When you consider the cost of the dolls and their accessories, it also makes it difficult to rationalize buying these dolls for children under the age of 8.

  10. I disagree, Penny. Children under eight vary so greatly in interests, maturity, and responsibility. The parent, I think, has a better idea of a child’s readiness for any toy and can evaluate her readiness better than a specific age directive. My granddaughter got her first AG doll at 6 and was more than ready. Girls grow up so quickly now that I wonder for just how many years beyond 8 will she be interested/infatuated with dolls. Waiting until a girl is 8 reduces the number of years she is likely to play with such a doll. It’s always an option to put the doll away for a year if the child lacks interest or maturity.

  11. I love this American Girls sundress but can’t find the pattern. Where can I get it? Thanks Kathy

  12. Kathy, the sundress pattern is a machine embroidery design from Custom Keepsakes. There is a link to that site in the blog post. The Sweet Dreams collection includes 5 different dresses/nightgowns for every size from AG dolls to babies to ladies’s size 22. It is just a spectacular set.

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