experiments in garment sewing and the inevitable matching doll outfits

This was bound to happen eventually… The doll and my blouse are made from a recently acquired vintage dress.  Somebody lovely gave me an awesome bag of depression era dresses.

PS – There is a pattern for the elegant rag doll and soldier doll coming soon.

elegant rag doll in vintage green silk chiffon

*This post contains affiliate links – meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through the links.

ann wood studio

Do you sew garments? I’ve been wanting to try forever.  My only adult experience was an apron/dress several years ago. It took forever and I immediately spilled bleach on it. I always meant to try again though and I kept seeing a photo of a blouse on pinterest that I loved, loved as in had to have it. It was pattern B from The Stylish Dress Book. I changed the neckline and added that little bow. Really I think my Mother added that bow, asserting herself from the beyond. It’s just the sort of thing she would do.

stylish dress book pattern B

I learned a lot making it. Using fabric from the skirt of the sheer, vintage silk chiffon dress added a ton of difficulty. Slippery…  Never again. And because it was so sheer I had to do french seams. But now I’m totally sold on french seams, so tidy and not difficult. You can find a tutorial for sewing french seams here.

french seams

I loved the simple styles in this book and found the instructions straightforward and easy to follow. The sizing and fit were hard and I had to combine sizes to make it work for me.

I also made top D from another of the vintage dresses (you might recognize the print from one of  the tiny rag dolls new dresses). Again with changes. I skipped the buttons, raised the neckline and added gathering. I love it. The construction of it is super simple and I like the easy sleeve.

stylish dress pattern D (modified)

Here I am. Loving my just finished shirt and feeling deeply awkward about photographing myself in it. Feeling super happy about making a shirt myself won though. Pretty much.

the stylish dress book

I’m working on a dress version of pattern D now.  I’m all lit up with learning and plan to sew lots more garments. There are several more in the book I want to try.

You can get the book here (I get a small commission if you do). If you try it be prepared to make muslin versions first to work out sizing.

Green has been turning up a lot lately. In non-garment sewing I’m making an owl and songbird from an Edwardian bodice and green velvet dress. I’m taking them with me to work on in France. I’ve got ambitious hand sewing plans for that trip, these guys, toadstools, seedpods, amulets – all sorts of things.

green textiles

I’m officially in full on pre-departure frenzy right now and should probably stop sewing clothes. This week I tried watering globes for my plants.  I wasn’t all that optimistic about them but I’m a week in and they’re working out surprisingly well, I’m going to get a bunch more before I leave.

It’s important to saturate the soil and then make a hole with a stick, tamping down the dirt so it’s not loose. The first time I put them in the plants weren’t saturated enough and the water ran right out. I think the globes will get my dear plant friends through the few days they’ll be on their own. You can find the watering globes here (this is an affiliate link – I get a small commission if you use it to purchase). And if you’ve got other automatic plant watering ideas I’d love to hear.


  1. I love seeing your work space, and I love seeing you. Especially in your handmade, lovely new blouses! I used to sew clothing for myself, but sewing (and crocheting) for dolls has so much more instant gratification.

    But you inspire me to take a look at this book…



  2. I love seeing your face!! That beam of a smile seems to shout ‘I’m making stuff that makes me happy!’

    More please 🙂

  3. I inherited orchid plants from my friends who were going to discard them because they finished blooming. This was 3 years ago. You should see them now, they cannot stop blooming and shooting new plants. Too bad i cannot send you photos of them.On line I discovered a way to water them once a week is by adding ice cubes, however, this trick is good enough for all plants.especially in Southern California, we have been having a HOT season already. Easy to do, at least 2 X a week. If you have a friend that can do that for you, it works well.\
    Have a great trip to Paris.

    • The ice cube trick is fine for many plants but I’d advise against using it on African Violets (Saintpaulia) as it’s far too cold for them and they will die. Trust me, I know!

  4. Cleo Capo

    I love everything you do..Your creativity is so inspiring!

  5. If you can sew all these amazing things you make, garments should be a snap. Fitting is probably the hardest part of sewing for yourself but many patterns these days are fairly unfitted and you seem to have mastered what you’ve made so far. Please keep at it and show us the amazing results!

  6. Oh how I love your space, creativity and style! Your new found talent for making clothes is enviable. My foray into making clothes was far less successful.

  7. Jennie Henzel

    I can’t wait to make the elegant rag doll!

  8. Charlotte

    I recently saw a post from a couple that turned those watering globes upside down, filled with solar fairly lights and attached to a faux spigot/pipe in their yard. They looked like big water droplets falling out of the spigot and at night they had a lovely glow. It was so clever.

  9. You did a beautiful job on the blouse…love the green fabric one! Your work fulfills my fabric fix each time I open your site! Thanks for sharing!!

  10. Gwyn Draime

    Love your amazing talents and thank you for sharing with us!…Cant wait for your new doll pattern to come out this summer

  11. Love your blouses. One year when we were going to be gone for two weeks with no one to care for my inside plants, I put water in my bathtub, just a couple of inches and placed all my plants in the tub, watered them and they were all still alive when I got home.

  12. I love to sew garments! As a girl, if I wanted something new I had to make it myself. Also, I have enjoyed sewing the needle book!

  13. blue2balloon

    I’ve only fairly recently discovered you Ann and I love what you do. I’ve ordered the print mushroom pattern and was told a couple of days ago that it was just leaving your shores. So excited. Love this blog and your pictures. Enjoy your France trip. Margaret x

  14. Marilina

    I love your amazing shirt. I got a few sewing Japanese books. Japanese style is my favorite. I can’t wait to buy rag doll and soldier patterns (I hope do not take long to arrive in your shop) . I love them so much! You are so talented!!!

  15. I love all the creatures and dolls you make. But I especially love your house! The beautiful tall ceilings and large windows , and the beautiful objects that decorate your space. I have saved pictures of it on a pinterest board

  16. Your courage to show yourself, “as is” is inspiring. Do you ever sleep? How do you get so much done? I love all of the facets of your work. Garment sewing is awesome as long as we don’t intend to look like some of the anorexic teenager models. We are lovely in our uniqueness.

    I too have spilled bleach on clothes, or had it happen in the wash inadvertently. My solution is embellishing with embroidered beaded designs. I have a dragon fly tattoo so that image embellishes sleeves, hems, bodices. Happy accidents. Thank you a million thank yous for your art!

  17. All your work is very inspiring! Thank you for it.
    On another note will you ever create a Raven pattern?

  18. What could I add that hasn’t been said above? Not much, as they have voiced my thoughts exactly. I am glad to see the face of the lovely person behind all this creativity. Glad to meet you!
    I was also relieved to know that there are others in the world who still feel comfortable in blue jeans! <3

  19. All of this is just pretty wonderful. I think your mother’s touch is sheer perfection. Do you look like her? My hands look like my mother’s and I didn’t even know it until I videotaped them playing her pump organ after she died.

  20. Ann, Thanks for all you share! I love your studio in Brooklyn … wondering if you call your studio “home” as well? I noticed that your workshops are in Los Angeles, so I’m confused about your location … The France Getaway is something I dream about. Please tell, how tall is the elegant rag doll? Many thanks, Linda

  21. Yes Please! Patterns for the elegant doll and soldier would be wonderful!
    I purchased the “Stylish Dress Book” a couple years ago, but I was intimidated by the idea of making the tissue paper patterns. You have inspired me to try one of the patterns. Thank you!

  22. Patricia Bleecher

    Ditto to all of the above!! Thank you so much for sharing…much appreciated.

  23. Dear Ann,

    Love, love, love all you do. Have ordered patterns before, and now I ordered the Mushroom Kit. Have NEVER had such fast delivery …….and the Kit Box enclosed everything, and the instructions were easy to read and understand. Count me as a very satisfied customer!!!!

    Enjoy France, we’ll be waiting for your return. Margaret

  24. Thank you Ann for sharing your talents and ideas with us. Your work is inspiring.

    Your honesty and truths bring smiles.


  25. Kimberlee

    Dear Ann,
    Thank you for inspiring me and making me smile every time I go to your site. I loved to hand sew clothes for my troll dolls when I was in elementary school. My best friend and I then taught ourselves to use a sewing machine and we made matching identical dresses that we wore to school together on the same days. From then on I sewed most of my own clothes. Some including an outfit just like Raggedy Ann, apron and all, make me wonder now if my creativity might have gone a bit too far :).
    I never gave much thought about hand sewing. I loved doing cross stitching but, never hand sewed much else. I made lots of dolls and toys but, always by machine. I find now that I don’t really enjoy being tied down by a sewing machine, sitting for hours in one room. After looking at your work sewn by hand I think that it is something that I would enjoy doing so much more.
    I look forward to seeing all of your new creations and pictures of your wonderfully cozy studio. Your blouses and fabric used are perfect. Your smile while modeling them brightened my day. Thank you for sharing!

  26. I absolutely adore the Stylish Dress Book. You should check out the rest of the books in that series. Some super easy to-die-for designs.

  27. Theresa Ryan

    I can’t wait for the elegant rag doll and soldier pattern – I was hoping I would have a chance to make them!
    I have the Stylish Dress book and enjoyed making some of the patterns, BUT – everyone needs to keep in mind that the sizes in the book are not meant for those of us who are more generously proportioned! I wear a 16, and without grading the patterns up, there was no way they were going to fit, especially in the bust. But they’re beautiful and easy. I love the garments you made.

  28. I am new to you Ann, and came here via Instagram for you inspired a needle book (a hashtag that I follow). All I could think of was Julie Andrews sewing play clothes from the drapes in Sound of Music (one of my most favorite movies!). Beautifully done!

  29. Titi Walter

    You look lovely in your new blouses! And always a source of inspiration to all of us!
    lots of love,


  30. I’ve just discovered you and already feel like a connection. I kept wondering how to turn those tiny leg pieces, now I know! There’s an air of magic about what you do, the figurines, the flies, the fabric from the Depression era, the tall ceilings… I guess that’s what I resonate with. Also, comments are very personal and authentic. I’d love to invite you over to Italy, if you have the chance.

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