A-Z of miniatures crafts: N for needlework


Needlework progressing around the sleeve Needlework in miniature by Louise Goldsborough.

Daunted by making miniature costumes for your porcelain dolls? Learn how to master stitches with this quick guide to needlework by Louise Goldsborough.

Continuing with our 'A-Z miniatures' series, we're looking at another technique – needlework. Stitching can be challenging enough, never mind in miniature form! Fear not, Louise Goldsborough talks you through the main stitches you'll need to know. It's over to Louise...

I understand how daunting it can be when faced with making such tiny costumes. But like everything else, once you know what to do and how to do it, it becomes much easier. Miniature dolls’ costumes can be entirely hand sewn or a mixture of hand and machine stitching can be used. 

My machine is an old 1912 Singer Treadle which is perfect for tiny seams but if you don’t have or don’t want to use a sewing machine, your dolls can be stitched entirely by hand. 

Quick guide to needlework: stitches for miniature doll dressmaking

By Louise Goldsborough

Back stitching 

When sewing two pieces of material together, such as a seam, the best and strongest stitch to use is the back stitch. The size of stitches can be large or small depending on the size of the seam.

1. Using a single thread, form a knot in the end of your thread and insert your needle into the under-side of your work at the start of the seam and pull through to the top side. 

2. Take the needle back down into your fabric a small distance in front and pull through to the under-side.

3. Working forwards, bring the needle up to the top side, a little in front of the first stitch.

4. Working backwards, take the needle into the end of the previous stitch and down through to the under-side of your work. 

5. Working forwards again, bring the needle up to the top side, a little in front of the stitch you have just made.

Back stitching on the front

6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you reach the end of the seam. On the top side of your work, the stitches will look like a continuous row of neat stitching. On the under-side, the stitches will look like they are all over-lapping.

Backstitching on the back

7. To secure the end, simply take three or four tiny stitches on top of each other and cut the loose thread.

Gathering stitches

Gathering stitches are often needed on anything where a larger amount of fabric needs to be fitted to a small space such as fitting a skirt around the waist of a doll. These require a double thread to make them strong enough to pull on. Try to make your gathering stitches the same size at the front and back.

1. Put the knot at the back of your work as you did for the previous section and bring the needle up to the top side. All the stitches will travel forwards.

2. Start by taking the needle down into the fabric and through to the back a short distance in front to form the first stitch.

3. Still travelling forwards, bring the needle back through to the top of your work a short distance in front of the last stitch.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until you reach the end of the line.

Gathering stitch

5. Pull the stitches up as tight as you need them and fasten off the thread securely. Spread out the gathers where you need them to be.

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Invisible stitching

Invisible stitching is often used in miniature doll making to secure a sleeve to a bodice without the stitches being seen. You can use a single or double thread for this, depending on preference or the thickness of your fabrics.

1. Starting at the centre of the underarm seam, run a tiny gathering stitch around the sleeve head, just inside the seam line. Pull the gathers up a little, spread them out and dress the sleeve onto your doll. Pull the gathers up again, tucking the raw edges under, until the gathers are how you want them to be. Spread them out again if necessary and secure the thread but don’t cut it off yet.

Starting invisible stitch

2. Take a little stitch into the side seam of the bodice and then back into the sleeve seam.

Securing the underarm

3. Take one more tiny stitch into the bodice side seam over the top of the one you just made (this secures the thread). Working round the sleeve head, take a tiny stitch into the tucked-under gathers and then down into the bodice, following the shape of the arm hole, smoothing any puckers as you go.

Progressing round the sleeve head

4. Keep the stitches really tiny and quite close together being very careful to only catch in the tucked under gathers. Secure the thread and cut off when you have reached where you started.

Finished sleeve


Don’t miss more from our A-Z series, like M for modelling clay where you’ll learn about different clay types to use in your miniatures projects!