The American Girl doll was a present from her generous Aunt. Of course, this is a gift that requires many accessories, you just can't have only one outfit for it. This doll is Ivy, who is supposedly of Asian descent in the American Girl series of books. It is really a marketing ploy with a generic doll in a Chinese-styled outfit. So, being the frugal dad, I could spend an outrageous sum on American Girl doll outfits for a puppy-eyed little girl or use that money on tools. I went and bought a serger. Win-win situation, I would make her all the outfits she wanted and I would have a new machine to play with.
Note: Caitlin is not posing this time with her Robohoodie and her American Girl doll with Robohoodie. It would just be too darn cute. Besides, we already cringe at the sight of any little girl wearing the same outfit as with her matching American Girl doll and its matching American Girl doll outfit. Parents out there know what I mean. Yes, her American Girl doll has matching glasses...somewhere...
See the original real-size Robohoodie Instructable here.
And a sidenote for the non-sewers - Learn to sew - it's not a girly thing, this machine goes just as well with the Knex 155mm tracked howitzer I keep on the front lawn.
Step 1: Serge on!
In this project I have found that a serger is not for doing anything that is not on a foldable seam or edge. Because of its "overlocking stitch underarms" by the needle you cannot really pass the material under the needles, for example: to start sewing in the middle of a piece. Maybe you also have to cut the initial "chain" or braid it creates unlike a sewing machine which only has two non-interlocked threads at the begining. I am trying to avoid the rethreading of the machine.
I got my serger at Wally World for around $200 USD. There are much more expensive models with more features but this had the basic necessities:
- 4 thread - dual needle, can use 3 threads for a smaller lockstitch. Note that sergers use a thinner polyester thread than regular sewing. The strength in the complex lockstitch compensates for not using a thicker thread. It uses thread up a lot faster so you buy bigger spools of this stuff.
- It has a built in mechanism that trims the material on the seam to the proper allowance as you sew. The knife part/cutting action is removeable so that you can use the machine for other stitches.
- It has a differential feed. This means it can gather or bunch up the fabric as it sews. You get that look on fabric when you tighten your belt around the waist. It is useful for seams on cuffs or dress waistlines.
Step 2: A new thread...
Just keep the tweezer handy to loop the thread under where needed and maybe a flashlight to see under the feed mechanism. There are no bobbins like in a regular sewing machine. The underthreads are "hooked" into these "arms" and pulled through. The machine is pre-threaded from the factory so you can "cheat" by tying the new thread to the old and pulling it through.
I'll have to get around to a full instructable on threading a serger but I do not know if all brands of sergers are threaded the same way.
Adjusting the stitch is like balancing a chemical equation...2 atoms here, +3, -3, 0. The machine comes set at the factory. You examine the stitch threads on a test piece for correct tension and look at a chart to adjust the corresponding tension dial to tighten or loosen that thread. The instruction manual has the different settings to refer to in order to use the varied stitches. Write down your initial settings to go back to when you change the stitch.
CAUTION: As always, read the manual and follow all safety instructions. Sewing needles and the cutters are sharp.
Step 3: You're such a cut-up...
Apparently dolls is a big business, so there are a few manufacturers that go by the 18-inch scale standard. These patterns have to be slightly adapted based on the size variation depending on the brand of the doll.
I had some scraps left over from the original Robohoodie. A serger is great for piecing together little pieces to make bigger ones. The sleeve parts are from smaller odd scraps serged together.
Trace out the pattern on to your material. I do not have fancy tailors chalk, washable markers, rotary cutters or a cutting mat. I just put the pattern up to my material and cut it out.
On some patterns you just double up the material or fold it over to cut out a symmetrical shape.
Cut out the parts for the 2 sleeves.
Cut out the piece for the front.
Cut out the piece for the back.
The only difference in the front and back is a higher neckline for the back.
Keep the front and back whole, we will cut it later when we test fit it on the doll. Doll clothes usually have a back seam so it can fit on a doll with rigid arms.
Step 4: Piece it together...
Driving this thing is just the same as a sewing machine. No one has a license. Easy on the gas and signal when you are ready to make a turn. There is no reverse on a serger.
Start with the two top shoulder seams.
In a serger, pull the chain a bit (that prelooped braid of thread generated by the serger) and start feeding the material to catch under the presser foot. Gently guide the material and line your seam up. The cutter will automatically trim away as you go. The scraps will fall away to the base outside of the machine. As the material clears the machine, generate more of the chain to leave as the starter chain for your next pass.
Next, serge the shoulders of the sleeves to the main body. Attaching sleeves needs practice because you are trying to fit a sinusoidal shape to another. Stretch the cloth a bit as you feed it in to get a smooth fit. Remember to figure out which seam goes out and which side you are sewing on.
Step 5: Got it covered...
You are now ready to sew the L-shaped underarm seams to complete a T-shirt.
Put the shirt up to the doll to see how it looks so far. Notice that you can't get the big head through the opening. Pick out where you want the back opening. I decided to make it off center. Slit it down the back. Now you can test fit it on the doll.
You can trim the sleeves for a neat look and fold up the cuffs. I somehow cut the sleeves extra long.
This safety stitch I am using makes a nice decorative edge stitch. Finish off the 2 back opening edges.
Cut a piece of fabric big enough to cover the head of the doll to make the hoodie. Fold it in half to serge a quarter-circle like seam. Serge the front edge to give it a finished look.
This was a new part and I did not have a pattern for it. I did not try to duplicate the original Robohoodie hood since I did not know how this whole thing would turn out and if it would be worth the effort. Test the fit.
I realized that they usually don't make hoodies in doll clothes with a back opening. You can't put it on a doll and fit the head through. So I had to improvise and attach the hood similar to a collar with a partial gap at the back opening. The hole is big enough to fit over the head and then onto the rest of the doll.
Attach the hood starting where a collar would start. Serge around starting on one side till you run out of fabric to attach it to. Serge starting on the other side where the collar would start on the shirt. Serge around the other way and keep going to finish off the edge. You should now have a complete opening to poke the head through.
Step 6: Embellish...
Serge around the main body of the Robot for finished edges where the arms will poke in.
Place the robot body in position along the bottom edge and serge the entire bottom of the Robohoodie. This will attach the bottom seam of the robot pocket.
I had to break out the regular sewing machine for a few stitches to attach the Robot arm/hand and the Robot head. I couldn't figure out how to yet do a straight stitch in the middle of the material. I also did a bar tack at the kangaroo pocket bottom opening.
Because the other details are so small, I took a red and black permanent marker to draw the slot, eyes, mouth, eyebrow, and earmuffs/antennae.
White felt dots were glued on for the buttons.
On the back I used some adhesive backed velcro as the closure for the back opening.
So, have fun in making a micro-Robohoodie for any doll. Make doll clothes from any scraps of material you have laying around. And don't be afraid to use a serger. Good luck.