Archive | June 2013

Polka-Dot Parade

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Next on the catwalk are Sophie and Annika looking cool and sweet in matching polka-dot themed ensembles.

Both of these outfits are made from Miss Connie’s bodice and pants patterns.  It was fun to adapt them to give a different look to each of the Kidz.   Two fat squares of material – one plain, one polka-dot – were ample to make trousers and top, leaving enough left over for a hat as well.  I made Sophie a bolero jacket with full-length sleeves to match her crop trousers, and Annika a sleeveless crop top to match her full-length trousers.  Annika’s ensemble is completed by a summer hat in the same materials.  These are the Kit’s Couture creations which form the core of their outfits.

In addition, Annika is wearing Monique classic ankle strap shoes in cream; and their other garments – Sophie’s pale yellow batiste blouse, her sandals, and Annika’s turquoise jacket – are all part of the summer outfit Annika was wearing when she arrived.   These are beautifully made garments from Kidz ‘n’ Cats, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the pale yellow blouse suits Sophie’s delicate colouring better than it does Annika, whose auburn hair and dark eyes are flattered far better by the rich warm yellow of her new outfit.

Annika’s ensemble

Polka Dot Parade 2

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I began with Miss Connie’s ‘basic elastic waist pants’ pattern which is for full-length trousers.  This is another well-cut garment and the trouser legs fit the slim-legged Kidz beautifully.  I was focusing on the construction of the garment so didn’t attempt to add any trimmings at all, just put the trousers together as per the pattern instructions – adding an extra half-inch at the waist edge as advised by Connie when she sent through the patterns.  This gives at higher rise and adds ease to the garment.  I was a little puzzled that the bottom of the legs was cut curved rather than straight across.  I’m not sure why this was done and I might well straighten it next time I make up a pair of these trousers.   The crop top was easy to adapt from the bodice pattern.  It was just a question of deciding how short a crop top I wanted, and then making it up in the usual way, finishing off the edge by folding in both bottom edges and top-stitching them together.

The hat was the real challenge.  This was made from Vanina’s ‘tuto chapeau’ pattern, and proved quite tricky to put together.  I’ll certainly be making a hat for Sophie from this pattern so will write about that in a later blog when I’ve honed my technique…

Sophie’s suit

When I came to make Sophie’s suit I had got the bit between my teeth and wanted to play around with the patterns a bit more.  Miss Connie provided a tutorial on ‘designing pants lengths’, so I followed her excellent instructions to create some cropped trousers.  I decorated the leg edges with purple rick-rack braid to make them a bit smarter.  I decided to rework the bodice pattern to create a bolero jacket by cutting the back all as one piece, and halving the front pattern piece and curving the inner edge from the neckline to the side seam.  Like the crop top, the jacket is lined, with the lining slip-stitched down to neaten around the armhole seams.  It turned out to be quite a fiddly little job.  I top-stitched around the jacket edges to provide some interest – I definitely need a bit more practice with top-stitching, it’s too easy to wobble! – and I trimmed the sleeve hems with rick-rack braid.  The final touch was to add a yellow butterfly button to the left front.

I really like these patterns from Miss Connie.  They fit the Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls beautifully and I can see how they can be readily adjusted to create different styles of trousers and tops.  Making these outfits really helped me gain confidence in adapting patterns, and I also began to see how to use trimmings to add interest and individuality.

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Kit’s pretty in pink

Kit in 1930s gathered dress

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Kit is the 1930s American Girl, so I like to find patterns for 1930s style dresses for her.  This sweet gathered dress comes from Heritage Doll Fashions which specialises in historical costumes for American Girl and 18″ dolls of a similar size.  The dress features a square yoke, short puffed sleeves, and a full skirt gathered into a waistband of the same colour as the yoke and the sleeve cuffs.  Two little buttons in the shape of flowers decorate the yoke.  Kit wears it with her white lace look socks from Nellie Rose, and her favourite white butterfly Mary Janes by Gotz.  The flowers and butterfly on the ankle straps match perfectly the various colours in the dress fabric.  Her hair is held in place by a dragonfly clip.  She looks all ready for Sunday tea in the garden on a summer’s day.

I found this pattern on the Liberty Jane site, which has a huge selection of patterns for American Girl and other dolls.  As with Rosie’s patterns, you buy online and download the pattern and instructions as pdf files.  After working with several of Rosie’s patterns and through her sewing course, I had gained tremendously in confidence and I was pretty sure I could manage this.  The pattern comes with full, illustrated instructions and I could see it was quite complicated, but I thought I was equal to it.

I went to my local fabric shop and picked out the prettiest poly-cotton fabric with the tiny all-over flower design, then found a plain fabric in hot pink which matched it.  I never wear pink (my colour season is Autumn) so it was fun to work with this pinker-than-pink shade.  Back at home I laid out the pattern pieces, cut out the fabric, and began work on the yoke.  This was familiar work and easily done.  Next I had to make up the sleeves.  They were gathered into the cuffs and then gathered into the yoke at the armhole edge.  This was a lot of gathering, but I was still confident and all seemed well.  So far so good.

The dress is designed to look as if it falls from the bodice in one large section which is pulled into the waist with a belt, but this is not the case.  The ‘bodice waist’, the part between the yoke edge and the waistband, is cut as one piece, gathered and stitched into the yoke and the top edge of the waistband, then the skirt is gathered into the waistband’s lower edge.  That’s a huge amount of gathering!  The bodice waist is also lined with muslin to enclose the raw edges and neaten the interior of the dress.  It all seemed very complicated and I found myself yearning for one of Rosie’s video demos to help me…  Still, it was just a question of working through step by step, surely?  And so I gathered and stitched the bodice waist to the yoke.  It looked wonderful, neatly and evenly gathered.  It was time to try it on Kit to see how it looked.

Disaster!  The bottom edge of the yoke wasn’t level – it sloped up noticeably from one armhole to the other.  Looking at what I’d done, I could see at the armhole edges that I’d not been completely accurate about my seam allowances and one was 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch deeper than the other.  On a normal-sized garment this wouldn’t be noticeable, but on a doll’s dress it’s immediately obvious.  For the first time I realised how very important it is when making doll’s clothes to be as accurate as possible with seam allowances.  If it’s the least little bit out, it shows.

So I ended up cutting out and making up a completely new yoke and sleeves.  I was so anxious stitching in the bodice waist, but this time all went smoothly and the bottom edge of the yoke was quite level.  Then it was just a matter of doing a vast amount of gathering into the waistband, and fiddling with the muslin lining to make all tidy, hemming the skirt, and stitching the velcro fastening into the back opening.  It was such a relief to try it on Kit and find it fit beautifully.

There’s no doubt that this has been the fiddliest garment I’ve made so far.  But it’s a charming little dress, well worth the effort, and I learned a huge amount from it.  This style is just right for Kit and her 1930s friend Ruthie, of course, but I think it would be fine for the 1940s girls Molly and Emily too.  These little dresses with a fitted bodice, puffed sleeves and gathered skirt were popular for little girls right through to the early 1960s.

Apple Blossom Time

The Apple Blossom Dress

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Here in England’s West Country the spring blossom has been absolutely stunning this year, so it seems the right moment to show you Sophie looking cool and charming in her Apple Blossom dress.  She’s  wearing her favourite pink ballerina shoes with their little velvet bows, and of course she’s carrying her beloved cat which goes everywhere with her.

The dress is based on a bodice pattern by Miss Connie, which consists just of the bodice and sleeves.  Once you have the bodice pattern it’s simple enough to cut a rectangle of material to make the skirt – just gather it into the bodice.  This really is an excellently cut garment which fits the slender Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls perfectly.  So be warned, there’s no way Kit or any of the other American Girls will fit into this dress.  Definitely for Kidz only!

One fat square provides plenty of material to make it up.  I got this particular fabric in Millie Moon in Frome (Somerset, UK), a shop which caters largely for quilters and which stocks a wonderful range of beautiful fabrics with designs that are just the right scale for doll’s clothes.

Sophie’s ballerina shoes are by Kidz ‘n’ Cats, part of the four-piece footwear set available from retailers or direct from the Kidz ‘n’ Cats online shop itself.  I was not terribly impressed by the shoe set, to be honest.  These pink pumps are the best of the four, and fit the Kidz well.  The coral-pink Mary Janes are pretty but the straps are cut too short and show the velcro fastenings when done up.  The wellies are beautifully made but proved impossible to put on the Kidz, in fact Susan has inherited them as they slide onto her smaller feet without much difficulty.  Finally there is a pair of green canvas trainers, which are poorly made, and came with laces that were too short to fasten in a bow.  The trainers are also far too big for the Kidz’ slender feet, but I found that they fit Kit well, once I had swapped the laces for the longer ones in the wellies.  Overall the quality is not great for the price, and I’d definitely recommend going to Monique Trading Corp instead as they have various styles in a size (75mm/34mm) that fits the Kidz.

I was truly delighted with this little dress.  Made from this lovely fabric it needs no trimmings at all.  It is just a simple, well-cut dress in an attractive material that suits Sophie’s blonde hair and blue eyes beautifully.  It is a good basic dress design and the bodice pattern has proved very adaptable – as a future post will demonstrate.