Archive | April 2013

Vintage knitwear for a 1960s girl

Susan in Bellmans 1031My first doll clothes creations began at New Year 2013 with knitting for Susan, the doll my mum gave me when I was – well – so young I can’t actually remember when she gave her to me.  Here’s a neat little skirt, jumper and beret outfit in double knitting yarn.  The skirt is ribbed and figure-hugging, while the jumper is much easier-fitting.   To complete her snazzy (vintage adjective!) outfit Susan wears white socks and her Mary Janes.  The rich autumn shades of the yarn complement her warm skin tone and enhance the colour of her amber eyes.  Standing here on the windowsill in the natural light of an English January afternoon, she glows with colour and looks very pleased with her neat little suit.

To make this outfit I used two vintage patterns from the Vintage Knitting Lady: Bellman 1031, a 1969 design,  for the skirt and jumper; and the beret pattern comes from Sirdar 7750, an early 1960s design.

Both patterns are for double knitting, but of course the yarns specified have long gone out of production, so I had to find a good substitute.  I chose Jarol Heritage double knitting, a wool rich blend, in shades 132 (rust) and 140 (gold), two wonderful warm autumn colours.  I bought two 100g balls of each and, as you’ll see in future Susan posts, I had ample to make several outfits

The Bellman pattern was for a 16″ doll, so I followed it exactly and the results fit well.

Back of beret Sirdar 7750The Sirdar beret pattern is for a 14″ doll so I had to enlarge it a little to fit Susan’s head. The 14″ doll pattern was designed to fit a head circumference of 11 inches.  Susan’s head plus all that hair actually measures 14″, so I had to increase it by three inches which meant adding 21 extra stitches.  This had a knock-on effect in that the shape of the hat turned out less flat – more a beany hat and less a beret – but I wanted it to pull down well on her head and frame her face, so I was happy with the result.

To finish off the beret, I searched YouTube for guidance and then dug out my crochet hooks and made a little crochet button – another trip down memory lane as I had not crocheted since the 1970s.  I couldn’t even remember the crochet stitches and had to scrabble around again on the internet for guidance on how to form them.  It all came flooding back, however, and I soon had a pretty little softly-padded button to top off the beret, which seen from the back and above seems quite a work of art.

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Chic cross-over dress for the Kidz

Cross-over dress for KidzBy contrast with my previous post, which featured my first wobbly attempt at making doll’s clothes, here is Annika wearing the most recent creation from Kit’s Couture.  This simple but chic French design was made using a pattern from Vanina who runs the Les Chéries de Vaniline blog and makes her patterns (‘patrons’) available for purchase there.  Vanina favours Liberty prints and I was lucky enough to find a fat square at my local needlecrafts shop, Fabric Magic, which, while not Liberty, was similar in feel.  Annika’s outfit is completed by her green classic ankle strap shoes from Monique.

The pattern draws on the same techniques used to make Kit’s summer dress, being essentially a lined yoke attached to a softly gathered skirt.  I’ve made a few of these dresses with yokes now and I have been encouraged to see how much more accurate and exact my stitching has become since my first attempt three months ago.  Even my top-stitching – which I still find tricky – has improved.  The new skill here was attaching the ties which fasten the dress at the side.  The pattern instructions clearly say to be careful to attach these correctly, and I did take great care over the placement of the first one, stitching it accurately and securely.  Then I discovered I’d put in the wrong way round and had to unpick it.  And then I did exactly the same with the second tie too!

The main challenge with this pattern, however, was that it and the instructions are all in French and I was not familiar with the French vocabulary of dressmaking.  With a bit of help from Google Translate I worked out that, for example, ‘Cranter les arrondis’ means ‘clip curves’…  at least I think it does.  That’s what I did anyway, and it seems to have worked very well.

American Girl owners please note that Kidz ‘n’ Cats are slim dolls and patterns designed for them will be too small for the sturdier build of the American Girl.

Kit’s first summer dress

Kit summer dress 01I started out all wrong with Kit’s first summer dress: I bought the materials before I had the pattern.   I had ordered it from Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns, but very untypically there was a delay on delivery (they come by email).  While I was waiting I picked out a materials remnant from my local fabric shop.  The material was very pretty: a pale grey-green with rosebuds on it, just right for Kit’s colouring.  But it was very light and I was afraid it wouldn’t hang well so I invested in some light iron-on interfacing to give it some stiffness.  I also bought some pink bias binding for the waistband and the trim around the hem.

When the pattern arrived I discovered that the waistband and hem trim should be made using a contrasting fabric, cut on the straight grain, so my bias binding was not right for the job.  Nevertheless I decided to go ahead and work with what I had, telling myself that his first dress would be very much a learning experience.  (Little did I realise at that stage that every garment is a learning experience!).

My first lesson was that type of material is critical to success.  I had clearly chosen fabric that was too flimsy.  The feed dogs on my new sewing machine grabbed the material and ate it every time I began a seam.  I lined the fabric with the interfacing and that helped; plus I found that if I started a short distance down the seam and then backed up to the start it seemed to work better.  I’m embarrassed to think of this poor technique now, but at the time I was just grateful to find something that worked for me.  Now all I had to worry about was the way the material frayed all the time; and the fact that the bias binding wasn’t really stiff enough to act as a waistband – it was fine around the hem, however.  A learning experience indeed!

But I was quite pleased with the results, as a first attempt.  True, the waistband is not even, but it’s a pretty dress and the interfacing gives the skirt shape and body.  Considering it was the first time in 25 years I’d used a sewing machine, and I’d unwittingly done my best to make it as tricky as I could for myself, it really was surprisingly successful.

Kit looks pleased with her first summer dress, which she has accessorised with her pink butterfly Mary Janes by Gotz, and a crystal wheel pendant from Nellie Rose.  Her dragonfly hair ornament is a clip designed to hold an orchid flower stem onto its support!

Kit’s Couture goes live!

I’m finally launching this blog.  It’s been several months in the planning but now it’s ready to go.  We have a dozen or so outfits to showcase, the models are ready and longing to get out there on the catwalk…

We will be featuring:-

  • Susan modelling vintage knitwear and designs from the 1950s – 1970s
  • Kit modelling American Girl fashions from the USA and Australia, including a beautiful gown in the style of the 1790s.
  • Sophie and Annika modelling Kidz ‘n’ Cats designs from France and the USA.

So watch this space over the next few days and weeks as the latest collection from Kit’s Couture goes public!