Mermaid Tails – A Tutorial

March 3, 2013 at 10:18 pm 3 comments

So how many of you have little girls (or granddaughters) who own those Tolly Tot Princess Toddler dolls?  Over here, my little girl has FOUR of them.  All acquired in the past three months.  I hear there’s another one on the way.  Plus, we’ll be adding one of their baby dolls to our princess collection, too.  Lol.  ANYWAYS, One of my friends also picked up a toddler doll for her daughter for Christmas.  The “Ariel” doll, to be exact.

As I was making clothes for the dolls, it struck me as a little odd that Ariel didn’t have a mermaid tail.  So I put together a little tail for my friend and sent it off as part of her daughter’s Christmas present from me.  This weekend, I made another tail, took pics, and am posting it here as a free tutorial for you!  Just so you know, if you use a solid colored sock for the body of the tail, it’ll look a lot better.  I just happen to have a lot of very loud socks that I want to use up and this purple striped one was the least offensive of them all.  I imagine the other socks will make some very interesting mermaid tails, though.  Lol.


So here’s to making your mermaid dreams come true.  (As a side note, this same idea can be blown up to a child’s size [of course, you won’t be able to use a sock, so you’ll have to get creative with a jersey knit] so you can make a mermaid tail for a special little girl, too.  Not that I’ve done that.  *wink wink*)

What you need:

  • Part of a sock; I like to buy knee-high socks for cheap (they are currently on sale at Target!) and cut the part above the foot for children’s leggings…the foot portion gets used in my crafts.
  • About 1/4 yd of flashy non-fraying fabric; I used some sequined dance costume fabric.  Some other options include swimsuit fabrics, basic ‘rumba’ fabrics, plain simple knits, or tulle (the edges must be finished on tulle or you’ll end up with a mess).
  • About 1/4 yd of jersey knit; I used a very small portion of a sleeve off of a turtleneck I bought on clearance at Walmart for the purpose of reclaiming the fabric.  Check the plus-sized section for some great deals!…I got some 5x long-sleeved shirts with a great gold and floral pattern for $3.  They’re going to make awesome skirts.  Or maternity shirts.
  • About 8″ of grosgrain ribbon, preferably in a color that matches or compliments the outfit…all I had on hand was white.  Lol.
  • Very small portion of iron-on Velcro (1/4″, to be exact).

So here’s how to do it.  Oh!  By the way, I use the smallest seam allowance I can get – about 1/4″…the edge of my sewing foot with my needle placed as far to the right as possible.  If you are not comfortable with this allowance, then use 3/8″.  This project is so forgiving, it really doesn’t make much difference.

1. First off, we’ll make the body of the tail.  This is also a GREAT way to make summer dresses for the dolls.  I’ll post some ideas later on.

2. Cut the sock to a length of AT LEAST 4.5″.  This number is the same whether or not you have to make a waistband.  With this purple-striped sock, I followed the stripes and managed to cut to a length of almost 5″.  It’s ok if the sock isn’t exactly an even tube (for example: maybe it tapers slightly because of the toe) because this is going to get sewn up later anyways.

3. On one end of the sock, cut a diagonal about 1″ up from the lower edge of the sock towards the center of the sock on both sides.  If you have a sock that might have a design seam, be sure to fold the sock so that when you cut towards the center, it meets that seam.  Just to make it look nice.  This should give you a nice “triangular” point.

4. Now on to the jersey!  Fold it in half and then cut it (on the fold) to 3.5″ x 2″ for the waistband and 3.5″ x 3″ for the bikini top.  When you open up the pieces, they should measure 7″ long.  You can skip cutting a waistband if you’re using the cuff of a sock for your waistband.  But really, use the top half of that sock for leg warmers or arm warmers.  Why waste a perfectly good sock???  😉

5. Sew up the side of the smaller piece. Set the other, wider piece to the side for now; you’ll need that in Step 14.

6. Flatten out the seam and then fold the piece in half width-wise so that the two remaining raw edges are together and the seam is tucked inside.  This is your waistband!  Now, we just have to attach it.

7. Stick the flat edge of the sock into the waistband, raw edges touching, and stitch together.

8. Next is the tail! Take your sparkly fabric, fold it in half and cut it to 11″ x 5.5″. Rearrange the fold so that the raw edges are inside.  Then fold THAT in half, basically enclosing your raw edges.

9. Now this part looks strange.  You have to make sure that you’re cutting towards where the raw edges are…in my case, they are on the left side.  Cut two diagonals: one starting 2″ down on the raw edge (left side) to the outer edge of the folded side (right side), the other starting 2.5″ up on the raw edge to the folded side.  You might want to mark the 2.5″ side some how…maybe with a clip or tape.  Or pins.  Whatever floats your boat (heh heh heh!!!).  (If you haven’t figured it out yet, I am showing the pieces on my cutting mat so you have the inch references.)

10. You should have something resembling a bow-tie when you’re done cutting.  Sew the smallest edges together to make the piece continuous.

11. Gather the 2.5″ side.  The whole thing.  All the way around.

12. Then pin (or clamp…I’m not into pins) the gathered end of the tail to the triangular end of your sock (the body of the tail) and sew together.  Be sure the right sides are together.  Mind the points…they’re a bit tricky to finagle.  Once that’s sewn on, your tail is done!  Unless you want to exaggerate the angle on the tail more, in which case, you can start snipping away at the bottom edge until it looks the way you want.  There’s a lot of wiggle room.  😉

13. Now on to the top!  There are lots of ways to jazz this up a little bit – make it a halter top, ruche the center, etc.  But this is a toddler doll.  I don’t think toddlers should really be in those kinds of clothes.  Lol.

14. Cut your grosgrain ribbon in half…angle it slightly (so that if it DID fray, it would fray slowly) and heat seal one end of each.  Take the piece of jersey you cut for the top and place the ribbons 1″ apart at the center of the jersey.  Clamp or pin into place.

15. Fold your piece in half length-wise, tucking in the ends of the ribbon and sew together.

16. Turn your piece inside out (it’s a tube!) and then sew the ends together using a larger seam allowance…up to 1/2″ here.  This seam will be the back of the top.

17. Next, you should trim the ribbon down to 3.5″ from the edge of the top…this time, trim it straight across and then heat seal.

18. Almost done – now you add the Velcro!  Take that 1/4″ piece of Velcro and cut it in half.  Place the rough pieces of the Velcro about 1/4″ from the seam (the pieces will be 1/2″ from each other) and iron on (follow the directions…too little heat and it won’t stick…too much and you’ll ruin the adhesive).  Place the soft pieces on the inner side of the grosgrain straps (double and triple check it!) and iron on.  Let cool before you test them or you risk weakening the bond.

19.  If you want, trim the seam allowance on the inside of the top…I trimmed mine to 1/8″, but it’s not necessary.

20. Put your new outfit on the doll and admire!  And did you know – you have two outfits in one???  Not only is the tail, well…a mermaid tail, but it also doubles as a short, sleeveless summer dress (DD found the doll wearing the tail as I was working on the top, and SHE pulled it up to become a dress; Mulan, dressed in her new mermaid-tail-summer-dress then joined us on a very windy, frosty walk around the park [because we go outside everyday, whatever the weather, for a gulp of fresh air]).

Hope you enjoy the tute!  If you make the tail, I’d love to see pics!  And as always, please refer other crafters and link back to this post!


Entry filed under: Sewing, Toddler Dolls. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , .

Happy New Ye…umm…Happy Year! Beautiful Bouquets!

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Cul de Sac  |  March 4, 2013 at 3:12 pm

    How cool is this??!! Love your tutorial Kim! My girl is loving the outfit you made for her Ariel doll!! How nice to see you blog up and running again 😉 love you!

    • 2. Minerva's Hand  |  March 4, 2013 at 8:46 pm

      Haha! It IS wild that I’m actually posting…and on time!…just like I promised last week. Lol. And you’re in for another surprise…I am going to post AGAIN for tomorrow. And then again by the end of the week…because I had this great idea and can’t wait to share it…driving back from dinner out with Princess today, I had to put the iPad on for her to watch, but couldn’t figure out where to put it (she didn’t want to hold it like usual because she was cold and bundled up). I ended up using the necktie bag you gave me to hold up the iPad (the handles, to be exact), draped the bag over the passenger side seat and it held up the iPad. Of course the light bulb went off in my head…after months of trying to figure out a quick, easy way to hang the iPad up for her, I have the perfect answer. Making it tonight and posting a tute later this week. I think you’ll like it! And you could even use neck ties to make it. 😉

      • 3. Cul de Sac  |  March 5, 2013 at 6:39 am

        Wow, you are so ingenious!! Gkad to ear that my bag has been useful 😉 now i’ll come back tomorrow to see what you are talking about!

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About Me

I'm Kim - "Minerva's Hand." Once a manager, teacher and marketing exec for non-profits, I now spend my days managing a household, teaching my daughter and crafting. Being a mom inspires me in so many ways! This blog was created with the hope of inspiring others.

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