Diary of a Mad Dollmaker

Mimi's Weblog – Let's Talk About Dollmaking

Making a Faux Leather Vest for Your Elf

Click on the title (above) or “Read more” link of any “front page” post to see and leave comments.

Mimi's Elf - Robin

Robin - Front View

Mimi's Elf - Robin

Robin Back View

Robin - Hat from the Hood

Robin - Hat from the Hood

I just finished Elf number four (Robin). While I was making his faux leather vest I realized that his shirt was too bulky, and a lining in his vest would have made this little guy look like a stuffed chocolate truffle. I decided to see if I could use leather techniques on this fabric. It worked great. The same techniques can be used on leather, faux leather (microfiber suede, deer skin, doe skin, etc.) and even felt. It works well on any heavy fabric that doesn’t ravel at the edges.

I learned to work with leather when I was making lots of leather shoes for my dolls. While I was teaching in Montana a several years ago I found a leather shop and put stretch marks on my Visa card. I still have a lifetime supply even after sharing lots of it in goody bags for a couple of dollmaking festivals at which I taught.

Mimi's Elf - Vest Pattern

The 2-inch/5-cm square is to help you get it the right size to fit my elves. If the square isn’t the right size, reduce or enlarge the pattern until it is the right size.

Like all of my patterns, it is a template, and you must trace around it for the stitching line, and then add a 1/4-inch (6mm) seam allowance with a Dream Seamer. If you are using leather or suede, the grain lines are not important, and you should cut 1 and then reverse the pattern for the other. For fabrics with stretch, the arrow goes in the direction of least stretch, and you trace once on doubled fabric.

It is difficult to sew leather on an ordinary sewing machine. I use a leather needle (sharp) and a slightly longer stitch because the needle holes do not heal as they do in fabric. (For knits, use a ball-point needle, not a sharp.) Leather cannot be pressed with an iron to flatten seams. Instead, the seams are pounded with a hammer to flatten them. I used to use a block of wood and a little tack hammer. On a visit to a Harbor Freight Store several years ago I found a small anvil and a 4-ounce ball-peen hammer. The anvil was truly a find. I had never before or since seen such a small one. It measures less than 3 inches tall and the top is 5 inches long by slightly over 2 inches wide. I like the pointed end to get into small places.

Hammer and Anvil

4-ounce Hammer and Miniature Anvil

I was delighted to discover that I could treat faux leather just like real leather. Faux leather is a fabric, one of the new microfiber suede and leather fabrics. I have no source for it because I just found it last summer at Joanne’s on a back sale table and recently found a bolt of it at Stitch ‘n Sew, a local independent fabric shop. I have no idea who makes it because the shop owner removed the manufacturers label and replaced it with her own so that people won’t buy it elsewhere.

Anyway, I cut out the front and back of the vest adding a quarter inch seam allowance. I stitched the center back seam. Using the needle-point glue dispenser that DollmakersJourney.com stocks specially for my students, I ran a thin line of Grrrip glue along one side of the opened seam allowance (after snipping it in several places because it is a slightly curved seam). Then, I finger pressed the seam to the vest.

After finger pressing the seam flat I laid it on the anvil and pounded it several times with the hammer; turned it over and pounded the other side. This makes the seam very flat, no bulk… Then I top-stitched on the right side on both sides of the seam. I don’t think you can see it in the photos because the thread is the same color as the fabric, but I used a white thread in the bobbin so you can see it on the inside. It looks like expensive sportswear….

Center Back Seam Top Stitched, Glue on Shoulder Seam

Center Back Seam Top Stitched, Glue on Shoulder Seam

Next I stitched the stitching lines (1/4” or 6mm from the edge) around the armholes. I used a lighter thread on the bobbin so I could see it and use it as a guide line for slashing and snipping the seam allowance prior to gluing and pounding it. The stitching also forces the fabric to fold exactly on the stitching line. I top stitched the edges of both armholes, but only once.

Armhole Stitched to Guide Slashing and Folding

Armhole Stitched to Guide Slashing and Folding

Then I stitched, snipped, glued, and pounded the side seams.

Then, beginning at the point of the top center back of the vest, I top stitched all around the edges: back of neck, down the front on one side, around the bottom, up the front on the other side, and around the neck ending where I began at the center back.

Stitched All Around

Stitched All Around

Trimmed and Slashed

Trimmed and Slashed

Next I slashed the curved neck and the curves at the bottom fronts and back. Note that I also cut away almost all the seam allowances at the tip of all three points. This is to prevent bulk at the points. Then I glued the entire edges of the vest, one section at a time. But I waited until it was all glued before I pounded it. The seam allowances where I slashed away the fabric at the points fit perfectly together to form a sharp point.

To finish I stitched a double row of top-stitching around the entire “hem.”

Now I have a vest that looks well finished without any lining, and no bulk. It took far less time than to line the vest (less than an hour), and avoided the painful business of turning a lined vest.

Mimi's Elf - Robin

Robin - Front View



Monday, March 1, 2010 - Posted by | Instructions, Mimi's Elf |


  1. Hello Gloria, Welcome to the world of blogging.
    I still have many of your old newsletters…those were the days 🙂
    I have been blogging since 2005 and love it…I will link to your blog on mine.

    Comment by Mo'a | Tuesday, March 2, 2010 | Reply

  2. Mimi, I’m anxiously awaiting your Pretty Face DVD from that I just ordered from DollMakers Journey.

    I would also like to get the pattern for your very naked man, but I don’t think you sell it now.

    Comment by Annabelle Nelson Smith | Thursday, September 9, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Annabelle,

      The Pretty Face DVD is a smashing success — everybody seems to want a copy. I hope you enjoy it.

      The next DVD we will do will probably be “Stud Muffin” which comes with two sets of pattern sheets, one for a big muscular guy (Outdoor Stud Muffin) and one for a more cerebral type (Indoor Stud Muffin). Both patterns use the same instructions. Costumes for the Outdoor Stud Muffin will include work boots, jeans, shorts, tool belt, hard hat, prop tools, maybe some hiking/camping gear etc. Costumes for the Indoor Stud Muffin will include a business suit, lab coat, stethoscope, clip board, laptop computer, hard hat, and casual. I probably won’t make him sexed, but I may include the pattern pieces for those who are interested.

      I’ve starting working on simplifying the patterns for micro suede (faux suede or any knit fabric with about 10%-20% stretch) today (Sat 9/11/10) and expect to finish in time for Christmas gifting. We don’t know yet how long the DVD will be, how many costumes, or how to handle the pattern sheets. (We’re thinking about how to put them into the DVD case.) The biggest problem will be if it takes more than two discs for the doll and costume.

      Happy Dolling,

      Comment by Mimi | Saturday, September 11, 2010 | Reply

  3. Your new doll class is great.Pretty face.Do you have a pattern for the hat for the elf.

    Comment by Aline McFadden | Thursday, September 16, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Aline,

      There will be several hats for the elves included in the pattern. I won’t be making up the patterns until I make more elves for the next elf class when it will all come together. Jim wants me to teach the elf class on line in the Spring. We’ll see…

      Happy Dolling,

      Comment by Mimi | Thursday, September 23, 2010 | Reply

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