~Designing a Custom Pattern~ Part 1



There are many BJDs available that have been designed to conform to certain common doll sizes.  But what are collectors to do if they fall for a doll that will not  fit a standard size?

Rajendora of Sewing Box Designs is teaching me one of her favorite methods for creating custom patterns for any doll. She will be designing a special outfit for my WooDolls Espoir, a BJD by the French artist Ludivine who is represented by Jpop Dolls. The first part of this project will demonstrate how to make a shell around Epoir’s body which Raj will use as a pattern guide to create her costume.  In addition, I also measured Espoir and filled out this form.:

measurements espoir

This was emailed ahead of time. Rajendora then sent me two pdf tutorials showing how to  create a paper and tape shell around Espoir’s body that will help her create the patterns.  One pdf is for the hips and legs, and one is for the torso. The BJD could have been mailed to her, but this method will save the shipping costs along with avoiding any risk of damage to my limited edition doll.

To create this shell/pattern/guide, all you need is paper towels and masking tape.  1/2″ wide tape is recommended, but I made do with some 1″ tape and used small pieces that I sometimes tore in half to fit tight areas. I created two shells; one of the hips and legs and one of the torso.

The Hips and Legs:

The hip and leg shell can be used to create a custom pattern for trousers, pantalets, etc…

To start, place the doll flat on it’s back and cut two rectangles of paper towels.  line up the two pieces together and cut  a half u on  one side.  The length of the u should be greater than the distance from the waist of the doll to it’s crotch.



Now cut two more rectangles and do the same from the back side of the doll. As Espoir’s hip area is elongated and curvy, my tape shell will look quite a bit a bit different from Raj’s demo photos with a boy doll!


At the start, the taped pieces will look like a pair of shorts. The sides past the hips can be wrapped around the legs.

The ends of the half-u goes between the legs to form the crotch.


I had lots of paper left at the sides, so I trimmed it down a little bit before I started taping.

Here’s Raj’s demo photos using a boy doll. The photo on the left shows how excess paper can be wrapped around the doll before the layer of tape is built up.

Screen shot 2013-07-14 at 7.40.25 AM

Here is a shot of Espoir as I begin to add tape to her paper pattern. The tape should be kept as smooth as possible, but the paper may be folded and creased underneath the tape.



When I first started, the paper tended to slip around making it hard for me to work, so I added a little piece of tape to the top front and top back of the paper pattern to hold it in place.  I carefully cut the tape off when I was further along.

To get a better fit at the crotch, Rajendora recommends placing tape at a diagonal in that area.

Screen shot 2013-07-14 at 8.08.35 AM

If your paper doesn’t extend down the thigh, another piece of paper towel can be wrapped around the leg and taped to the top portion.


Once I had my doll covered down to a little above the knee joint. I followed Raj’s instructions to mark the center of the body on both sides, belly button, the waist, the widest part of the hips, the top of the legs and the ball joint at the hip. Pencil can smear, so a non-smearing pen or marker is needed for this.  Be careful not to mark your doll!


The back should have the top of the buttocks marked and the bottom of the back torso piece. . Here’s the boy doll.

Screen shot 2013-07-14 at 8.15.08 AM

Once everything is marked, the shell needs to be carefully cut off the body.  Cut through the front and back center seam.  Cut as much as necessary to remove the shell, even if it is cut completely apart. If you tear the shell at any point, carefully re-tape it back to the way it was shaped on the doll, or the resulting pattern will not fit well.

Here’s the shell removed from the boy doll:

Screen shot 2013-07-14 at 8.26.50 AM

Here’s Espoir’s shell:


The extra above the waist should remain, but the extra st the bottom of the legs may be removed.



The Torso:

To create Espoir’s torso shell, I started by following Rajendora’s instructions to create what appeared to be a paper shift for the doll to wear.


Here are some of Raj’s photos from her demonstration:


The tape should be applied as smoothly as possible in small pieces. Build a tape surface all around the doll’s body. Here are demo photos of Rajendora’s girl.



While Raj’s examples ended a little past the waist, I actually created a “dressmaker’s dummy” from shoulders to past the end of the hips for Espoir.


The markings on the torso part  is approached the same way as the as the hip and leg shell.  The completed shell should be marked at the nipples, waist, widest point of the hips, arm-holes, neck hole, top of shoulders and sides.



Finally I pressed the the patten guides flat to mail them to Rajendora on Monday.



Part 2: Making a Pattern is HERE.