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Emma Designs Tutorial: Doll clothes from cast-off tops

Emma's dolls dressed in tops and pants made from old sweaters

After the success of the doll shrugs Emma designed, I followed her instructions to make some pants from the sleeves of a couple of other tops that were in my cast-off-clothing-for-sewing-experimentation stash. They turned out nicely, so I made another pair (stitched in orange thread for visibility) for Johnny’s doll and included pictures. I don’t know what I was thinking when I used some blue fleece as the backdrop – white or black would have worked much better, especially on the dark rainy day like the one we had! Luckily the tutorial is functional, even if the pictures could be better. I did all of the sewing, but a slightly older child (maybe 8 or 9; certainly 12) could do this with careful supervision and a little guidance.


  • Sewing machine (or patience with a needle and thread)
  • Cast-off knit top (long-sleeved is easiest)
  • Piece of elastic the length of the doll’s waist

Step 1: Cut off the ends of the top’s sleeves, just high enough that it reaches to the doll’s waist with an inch or so to spare (for adding in an elastic waist)

step one: figure out length

Step 2: Cut from the top of the folded-over waist band to where you want the inseam (inner leg of the pant) to start.

step 2: cut the inner sleeve up from waist to where the pant leg should start

Step 3: With the sleeves turned wrong side out, stitch from the center back seam to the center front. Using a zigzag stitch is best since it allows for some give. The sleeves I used were a little wide, so I  stitched the sides a bit to make the pants more narrow. Then I trimmed the side seams.

step 3: stitch from front of waist to back of waist. Also stitch sides in if a slimmer fit is needed

Step 4: Fold over the top edge and zigzag stitch down, leaving a small opening for elastic. I used 1/4” elastic, so I was able to keep the opening small enough that I didn’t even deem it necessary to stitch it shut at the end.

Step 4: Fold over waistband and stitch, leaving an opening to insert elastic

Step 5: Add the elastic (if you don’t have an elastic threader, a large safety pin works nicely), stitch elastic ends together, stitch elastic opening shut (I skipped that last step), and try on the doll.

Step 5: Add elastic, stitch ends of elastic together, and try on doll

Step 6: Take doll and play! This is another doll from my childhood (named James, I believe; the girl was named Mary). If you look closely his left shoulder needs stitching, but it’s a tougher fix than Emma’s doll, so I have some thinking to do before I start sewing. If you have any doll repair tips, please pass them along!

My kids love these simple pants – they are easy to put on and take off, and I stitched them together in less time than it took to write this tutorial!

MaryAnne at Mama Smiles
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MaryAnne is a craft loving educator, musician, photographer, and writer who lives in Silicon Valley with her husband Mike and their four children.

10 thoughts on “Emma Designs Tutorial: Doll clothes from cast-off tops”

  1. I like the design. It’s cute :) . This is such a great way to recycle clothing. Thanks for sharing the tutorial!

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