Saturday, 26 April 2014

Mood for Mods: Snap it!

Mood for Mods (as in "modifications") deals with ways of fixing or restyling factory doll outfits. Skirt too short or too tight? Shoes with floppy heels? No problem! Are you in the mood for mods? Let's see what can be done!

The folder with today's photos has been gathering dust for a long time. It's among the first things I wanted to write about, but somehow it got overlooked. I kept thinking that Tanya would be very mad at me for sitting on my butt without being productive. Yesterday I dared to wear mascara again after her death; today I finished this. It's a post about fixing one of the most common problems with factory doll clothes - the hook-and-loop tape (velcro) closure. It's a useful and fairly easy modification. Below you'll see two ways to replace the tape with snaps.

Meet the red shorts:

This is as far as they would close after I left them unsupervised with a 10-year old. As in, not at all. This often happens, even when no children are involved. Sometimes there are so many stitches on top of the tape that the hooks never have a chance to grab onto the fluff.

Another reason to get rid of the tape is the snagging. You know how velcro shoe straps have a tendency to find lace stockings, but not cheap socks? Yeah, the same works for dolls - the more delicate the fabric, the bigger the chance of snagging. The tape hates you.

And then there's plain old sloppy sewing. Meet the pink dress:

Leaving aside the stitching holding the tape that looks like train tracks, the halves were misaligned and there was that horrible fold, the overlocking hem sticking out and the skirt was also tight; I had to open the seam anyway. I did buy that doll for the outfit only, so there was no question that it had to be saved. I fixed it and documented the snap swap.

First of all, I undid the back seam. This is not necessary unless the whole seam has problems, which was my case. It's actually better to leave at least a bit intact in order to keep the garment together. For the red shorts, I ripped just the stitches that held the tape:

They are inside out.
You can see needle holes where the top half of the tape was

Usually you'll find that the edges are left raw. Hem them, going a little beyond the point where factory stitching begins (the one that you ripped). The bottom part of the closure requires an overlocking stitch (I used a blanket stitch), or you can melt it if the fabric allows, and the top one has to be a nice straight stitch. This is how I did the top:

Time to sew the snaps! Or snap, because the shorts needed only one. I used this kind from Dritz, size 4/0 (the smallest):

They are about 4mm, made of brass and come in silver and black. I have another type of clear plastic snaps, they are flatter but bigger (6-7mm) and more difficult to sew and photograph. They lack the centre hole. It's useful for placing the snap exactly where you need it.

I always sew the top half first because I want to position it nicely in relation to the visible garment edge. The bottom half can fall anywhere. On the red shorts, I sewed the hole half first because it's the biggest in diameter. It needs some distance from the edge to be fully covered by it, which is something I may forget if I start with the peg half. However, the bottom of the "hole" may show as an unsightly bulge from the outside. Here it is finished. There is no bulge because the fabric is very stiff.

I don't know the correct way to sew snaps. I always place 2-3 stitches into each of the edge holes and move along until the whole perimeter is completed. This shows as four neat points on the visible part of the garment (see above), but inside it's a bit messier.

On the pink dress, I sewed the peg halves first. As I said, they need to be a little further from the edge than hole halves, because they are smaller. An easy way to make sure the whole snap is completely covered with the fabric edge is to close the halves and pin them together. I forgot to take a photo of this. Here is the top part of the snap closure with two peg halves. I used black thread for both hem and snaps.

I'll take another picture where one of the snaps
has both halves, to explain the edge distance, promise

It's practically invisible on the patterned fabric.

Now we're ready to align the bottom halves. My favourite way to do this is by putting the garment on the doll and painting the peg with something that will leave a mark on the fabric. If the hole half is the one on top, I paint the hole outline. I used a simple gel pen. You can use tailor's chalk if you worry about stains.

The top peg is painted, the bottom one isn't

Then I pull the dress in the correct position with my hands and quickly press the overlapping parts together while the ink is still wet.

 This leaves little circles that guide the pin holding the other half.

Once the placing is marked, I sew the remaining halves in the same manner. This dress had many fitting issues, but I think the new closure is the one thing that turned out pretty decent:

There is another way to mark the spot for the second half of the snap that leaves no stain whatsoever. You need a piece of weak sticky paper, like masking tape or sticky notes, to stick under the bottom edge of the garment, as demonstrated on the red shorts:

Arrange the garment and push a pin vertically from the outside through the hole in the centre of the snap, into the second layer of fabric until you can hear it pierce the paper. It helps if you find the snap hole beforehand, like in the picture above. I pulled the layers apart to show what's happening, but there should be no space between them when the pin is pushed.

This procedure makes a very noticeable hole in the sticky paper.

Leave the paper there until the snap is pinned down, then rip it out.

Ta-da! All done, and no stains.

A single snap was all it took to hold these stiff shorts together.

The closure is strong enough to stay closed even when the doll is seated. There is no way to do that in velcro'd trousers!

The beautiful doll is my flea market Nikki. I think she's perfect to show this outfit while the original doll is undergoing some, um, operations. I photoshopped the pink lipstick out because I didn't have a chance to do a repaint.

We've reached the end of the tutorial. What do you think of snaps versus hook-and-loop tape? What kind of closures do you prefer on doll clothes and how do you align them? Where do you buy your supplies? I'd like to hear your opinion in the comments below!

I'm leaving you with a completely unrelated picture of Nikki. I just undid her year-old Dutch braid and I love the effect.

Have fun crafting!

The Black Kitty


  1. Hi. Thanks for sharing these tips on modifying doll clothes closures.

    I prefer snaps, but I can live with velcro if that is what the garment has. I used to sew doll clothes when I was a child. Have not made the time to do any new fashions in years although I have the Perestoika Volumes 3 and ? and I have fabrics set aside for making stuff. Shrug. Need to download stuff, I tell myself.

    I saw your blog link on Barb's My Little Doll Corner. Glad I stopped by to visit.

    Thanks for sharing the news about Tanya of Dolls-n-Daggers. I remember her tutorials. Her work is inspiring.

    1. Oops! I forgot to update with the link to the new forum. One of the members copied it to her website, you can read it (and probably register) here:
      It's a bit of the mess now as we haven't moved all the files yet but most of it will work.

      You should find time to sew for dolls. I'm guilty of hoarding supplies and waiting for better days myself, but I try to focus on the excitement when I finish something, which is a great feeling.

      Thanks for stopping by! Barb's a sweetheart :)

    2. Awww, thanks!

      I need to find time for doll sewing myself, so I guess that makes three of us. Reorganizing and cleaning up my sewing area is not helping at the moment.

      BlackKitty, I've been meaning to tell you, when I looked for directions on sewing doll stockings about a year ago, yours was one of the ones that I found. So people are looking at your tutorials!

    3. Indeed? I'm surprised because that was a story of things I tried rather than clear directions. I went further afterwards and tweaked the pattern until I made tights, but I can't retrace it for the life of me :D I want to revisit that, and make some hosiery for barbie as well.
      I wish you the best of luck with your sewing desk. Ah, at least I'm not alone in this!

    4. It came up pretty high on my search engine when I looked for sewing doll stockings, or something like that.

      Hopefully we can inspire each other?

    5. I sure hope so! I'm looking forward to your j-doll outfits :)

  2. Nikki looks great. I prefer snaps. I buy them from the dollar store. I only use them on doll clothes I've made myself. You have great tips for sewing them on. I was doing it the extra hard way.

    1. Now I'm curious, what's the extra hard way to sew snaps? Glad to hear my advice is helpful!

    2. Holding the snap in place with my finger then stabbing my finger until it bled when sewing the snap. Your pin method helps with that. Also I would just guess were the other part of the snap should go. It didn't always line up but by then my finger was so sore I didn't want to do it over.

    3. Ouch! I did the same with the plastic snaps that don't have a hole in the middle. Guessing the placing for big dolls is faster but with Monster High there's no room for mistakes so I had to come up with something.

  3. You know, I never really thought about it before! I have some very thin velcro that is pretty good for Barbie clothes, but really too thick for tiny Monster Highs. I do get annoyed by the snagging, but I find that velcro gives a better fit on a tight outfit than snaps do. I am very impressed with the difference in closure thickness in the top you changed, though. I'll try it next time I sew for Monsters, see if its any better.

    1. You're right, a continuous strip of velcro is what stretchy garments need, although if the fabric is too delicate, I could work out a way to use snaps. I hope my tip will be useful for your future MH clothes. I loved that Catty outfit, you should sew more often :)

  4. Ah, finally I get to comment here! I told myself no more fun for me (which means no more reading or commenting) till I'd at least start posting the tut I promised you AGES ago! XD So here I am again. ^^ And I love this post! You have great tips, as always. I do like thin velcro and small snaps, but I can't find thin velcro here, and the smallest snaps I can get are around 6mm, I think? So I let the outfits keep the velcro they came with, and when sewing I use the snaps I have. For placing I put the outfit on the doll, then close it and see where the snaps should go. I use pins to mark it, then remove, sew the first halves, then put on doll again, then again come the pins, but sometimes they fall and I repeat everything (and they don't look as neat on the outside as yours do).. ^_^' But I love the tape and gel pen methods, they will save me a lot of time! If I could find smaller snaps here I'd swap the factory closures too, the smaller ones give such a nice touch to the outfit. <3 Ah, and Nikki looks GREAT with those waves!

    1. I'm laughing now because I'm doing almost the same thing. I had your posts and comments open and I read them with great pleasure as soon as they were up, but I couldn't reply here before I'd have commented on your new stuff :) Sometimes I'm not in a talking mood, that's why it took me several days. I'm glad you found something useful in my post. I saw these small snaps in my city only recently and only in one fancier store. They are from some nameless brand. The ones in the pictures came from ebay, they are Dritz 4/0, if that helps. A friend brought them from USA with other online purchases. I bet you can't find doll sized velcro, either? I might give it more credit if I had some to experiment with. The type I can find in the store looks like it should hold furniture together, not doll clothes :D So yeah, snaps all the way for me!

    2. I do that a lot! I too am not always inspired to talk or write, so I need to give myself a "push". ^_^' The info helps a lot, I'll try ebay next time. And you won the bet, the only velcro I find here is a super bulky one, perfect for furniture as you said! (I love this comparison! LOL)

    3. I've recently read about people using velcro from baby diapers, apparently it's just the right scale! The only catch is that it comes in white or pastel colours. I don't have friends with babies, so I don't know which brands use velcro (I thought they all had sticky strips, like pads). Maybe you have better luck sourcing it? Take pictures if you do!

    4. Baby diapers! I too thought they all came with the sticky strips! It's totally worth some googling and experimenting, if I can find something I'll share the results with you. ^__^ On a side note, so sorry for not answering all this time. I got a job like 3-4 weeks ago (yay! Helps a lot with bills), so I'm still trying to organize my time and all. ^^' But I miss our dolly talks, I hope to find more time soon. Big hugs! <3

    5. It's ok, congrats on your new job! Think how many dolls you can buy with the money! Woo-hoo!

    6. Thank you! :D So far I got only one doll with the new salary, but I also got a couple things I needed for a few projects. Now I need to make the time to be back to the doll world (and girl, do I miss it!).

    7. I can't wait to see that!

  5. After attempting to replace the velcro with snaps in different kinds of Barbie clothes, I have to agree they both have their pros and cons. Even small snaps can look bulky and weird, particularly with stretch materials. Thin velcro otoh seems impossible to find (plus it snags). I think there was a site that used to sell it but then closed?

    I'm sorry to hear about Tanya of Dolls-n-Daggers. I didn't know her, but her OOAK dolls were beautiful and those tutorials have helped me out more than once.

    1. Stretch dresses are definitely better off with a long strip of velcro. I don't touch it unless there is good reason (shorts - not working, dress - crooked, other two dresses - delicate fabric). If I make clothes from scratch, snaps are my default choice because the pros outweigh the cons in my case. The most important plus is indeed availability, although and still have velcro, if shipping costs are reasonable for you.

      Tanya's work continues to inspire and help me. I will post updates about her legacy when I receive news. Thank you...

  6. Hi again. I've been catching up on your previous posts I missed. Like some of the other comments, I'll use whatever suits the garment. I do use Velcro, but the very thin kind. That is a Velcro sold for paper products. But it is perfect for doll clothes because it doesn't have all of the problems associated with the usual product. However, I don't like Velcro with luxury fabrics: silk, satin or even mohairs or fabrics with a nap like velvet or fleece. Snaps can be bulky and need to be the size 00 for a Barbie sized body or smaller. The best alternative to Velcro, (in my opinion), would be hook & eyes (size 0) because they hold the garment close to the body. If you're handy at sewing, this is also ideal because instead of the sewing in the metal eye, you can do a crochet eye in the same color as the garment.

    1. Velcro for paper products? I've never heard of such a thing. I'll have to look for it.
      I chose snaps for my project because the smallest snaps I could find are smaller than the smallest hooks I could find (I swear this sentence makes sense! :D). Custom hooks (and eyes) aren't difficult to make but they tend to ruin my nails if they are too small. I'll have to practice with that :)


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