Archive | September 2013

Summer’s end: crop cargoes and halter-neck

The first of Kit’s Couture’s two new girls, Elisabeth, models a pretty end-of-summer ensemble: cropped cargoes from a pattern by Heritage Doll Fashions, teamed with a halter-neck top from Rosie’s Doll Clothes.

Cargoes and halterneck

Crop cargoes and halterneck.
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I chose two different lots of fabric for this outfit.  I teamed a light summer blue with a pretty print in summer blues and greens, both of which suit Elisabeth very well.  She has teamed her outfit with some pink peep-toe shoes from Gotz, and wears an Alice band in the same summer print in her hair.

I began with the halter-neck top which was quite straightforward to put together.  As usual Rosie’s video tutorials were crystal-clear and in an hour or so I had made a loose-fitting top firmly gathered into the halter-neck which ties around the neck with a bow.  The body of the top fastens at the back with velcro.  Of course the halter-neck style does expose Elisabeth’s ragdoll shoulders.  She’s a Precious Day girl by Gotz, and they’ve given her a rather yellow-toned body fabric which isn’t terribly flattering, so for her photos I’ve styled her hair to disguise this.  American Girl have chosen a better colour for their dolls’ bodies so this top would look better on them – and fantastic on Madame Alexander Favorite Friends which have a vinyl shoulder-plate instead.  Nevertheless I’m very pleased with the style and hang of this little top.  The gathers make it fall in pleasing folds at the front.

Pocket details

Pocket details – complete with buttonholes!
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The cropped cargoes pattern was crying out for a two-colour approach: a plain colour for the main body of the trousers and the patterned print for the pockets and the waist tie.  The instructions from Heritage Doll Fashions were full and fairly easy to follow with good illustrations.  Challenges in this pattern were the top-stitching – there’s a huge amount of it in double-rows, all of which needs to be evenly spaced; and the buttonholes which I tackled for the first time ever.  Each of the cargo pockets are fastened with a button and buttonhole, and the tie belt emerges from the waistband through buttonholes also.  So I did a fair bit of experimentation with my buttonhole foot and settings before I plucked up the courage to actually work on the garment itself.  To my relief everything went smoothly and the finished garment has two fully-functional button-closed pockets, two good deep front pockets, and two smaller back patch pockets, great for storing all the treasures Elisabeth finds when she’s playing outside in the late summer sunshine.

The quality of this outfit encourages me to do what I’ve been planning on for some time, once my sewing skills were up to it: start to sell my outfits online.  So in a week or so, I hope to offer this ensemble for sale, probably on Ebay.  It’s a new venture, and I’ve no idea what sort of a market there is out there for American Girl clothes in the UK, but online shops like Petalina are selling a good number of 18″ dolls to UK customers, so I feel it’s worth dipping my toe in the water and putting some creations from Kit’s Couture out there.

Kit and the girls are excited and rather nervous about this new venture – and so am I.  Wish us luck!

Oh Mr Darcy! Kit goes Regency

Regency dress

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Pride and Prejudice is one of Kit’s favourite books.  So when we happened upon a beautiful pattern for a 1790s dress and open pelisse from Thimbles and Acorns, she insisted that I buy it and make her an elegant Regency outfit.

The pattern is designed to be as authentic as possible, so the bodices of both dress and pelisse are cut in several pieces with diagonal seams.  The dress is made up of a solid underdress with a sheer overdress to give the effect of Greek drapery.  I felt that this was a bit ambitious for my first attempt, so decided to omit the overdress and make what Georgette Heyer would have referred to as a ‘simple, round gown’ from a white spotted fabric which felt quite Regency, somehow.  I enjoyed piecing together the complicated little bodice and seeing it take shape, and once the dress was finished I was impressed how the pattern designer had achieved a real Regency shape with a tightly fitted bodice and the skirt smooth at the front but fuller at the back.

Bodice back

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This shot of the bodice back demonstrates the complicated construction: pattern pieces cut with the straight grain running in different directions.   I used poppers to fasten the dress – not entirely authentic of course, but surely better than Velcro for this vintage garment!  I hemmed the cuffs of the sleeves, and the skirt hem, by hand.  As it says in the pattern, ‘it’s all in the detail’.  A sash of blue ribbon breaks up the plain whiteness of the gown.


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For the pelisse, by contrast with the simplicity of the fabric I chose for the white gown, I was lucky

Pelisse back

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enough to find a pale blue fabric with a design of embroidery and broderie anglaise.  The challenge with this was to cut out the fabric so that the design matched perfectly from the centre back across the skirt and bodice and down the sleeves and collar pieces.  This was really my first attempt at matching such a complicated design and I’m delighted with the results which you can see on the shot of the pelisse back.

Pelisse lining

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The bodice and skirt of the pelisse are lined with royal blue satin which matches the ribbon which Kit now wears in her hair.   The satin was very difficult to work with.  It slipped constantly and frayed all the time.  It was difficult even to cut out the pattern pieces accurately, and sewing the tiny seams in the bodice lining was very tricky.  At the time I decided I would never work with satin again, but it does look so sumptuous that I suspect I won’t be able to resist trying again.

Pelisse front

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The pattern called for the pelisse to be fastened with buttons and buttonholes.  I wimped out of doing the buttonholes,however, and resorted to little poppers hidden behind the buttons.  I had never made machine buttonholes, and my fear was that I would ruin my beautiful creation completely if I tried.  So again, it’s not entirely authentic, but it looks great.

Kit is delighted with her romantic Regency outfit.  She has completed her ensemble with a delicate string of pearls with a Wedgwood-style cameo pendant – from  Doll Jewelry Boutique – which matches the blue of her pelisse perfectly.  She carries a gauzy reticule – actually the gift bag in which the pearl necklace was supplied.  She wears white patent shoes to match her gown…  and just like a true Regency lady, she…  shhhh, don’t tell anyone…  she’s not wearing any panties!  She says they spoil the hang of the gown.

This was such a rewarding pattern to work with.  It was very demanding and there were moments when I wanted to slash and burn the satin lining and start again with some well-behaved stripy poplin.  But I persevered and I believe the end result was worth the effort.

Kit, of course, is in heaven.  For it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young lady who dreams of meeting Mr Darcy, must be in want of a fine gown and pelisse.  And now she’s asking me for a Regency bonnet to go with them!