Archive | September 2014

Sew-along-a-summer

One of the blogs I follow is Wren*Feathers by Jennie Bagrowski, a very talented maker and designer of doll clothes.  This year she announced her Summer Sew-Along during June,  featuring patterns for 13″-14″ dolls.  As I’d just acquired little Liu, one of Las Amigas by Paola Reina, I decided to take part.  Everyone who entered would get the first pattern free, and then if they uploaded a photograph of their interpretation of that pattern to the Sew-along Flickr page, Jennie would send them the next week’s pattern free.  It would be quite pressurised, as I only have time and energy for sewing at the weekends, and later in June I was busy doing other things, but I thought I could at least do some of it.  So I sent in my name and received the first pattern in time for week 1.  This was for pants (or trousers, to us Brits!)

Week 1: Trousers for Liu

Liu models her new trousers and top. Click to enlarge.

Liu models her Wren*Feathers trousers and Liberty Jane t-shirt.
Click to enlarge.

Liu is a Winter girl, so I chose a fabric in hot pink and cool blue and white on black, and made frills and little bows in a matching hot pink.  Liu is 13″ tall so is at the smaller end of the scale for this pattern, so I had to tweak the waist slightly to fit her.  I followed Jennie’s instructions on how to make a little bows, and stitched these on the outside leg seams.  I’m not sure that these aren’t a bit much on such a tiny garment, but I left them for the purposes of the photoshoot.

Then I needed to make Liu a little top to fit, and as this wasn’t included in the Sew-along at this stage, I had to look elsewhere.  I’d noticed that Pixie Faire had just started to provide patterns for 13″-14″ dolls, like Les Cheries or Hearts for Hearts, so I checked these and found a free Liberty Jane pattern for a t-shirt.  I had some plain white knit fabric in my stash, which was ideal, so went ahead with that – and entered a hell of skipped stitches.  My machine does not like fine knits.  I stitched slowly, and tried stabilising the fabric with fine interfacing and tissue paper, but it was only marginally better.  In the end I did the best I could and then went over the stitching with hand-sewing to add in the missing stitches.

Still, I ended up with quite a nice little t-shirt for Liu, decorated with a little bow made from the trouser fabrics.  Again, I’m not sure about leaving the bow on this in the long term, but it does draw the two garments together very effectively.

Week 2: a dress for Ava

The Hearts for Hearts 14″ dolls are not readily available in the UK, except at rather inflated prices on Ebay and the like.  But in the run-up to the Sew-along these attractive dolls had caught my eye and I felt it would be useful to have one as a model.  So at some expense (to my horror the shipping, import and handling charges cost as much as the doll herself) I imported Shola, the Afghani girl, from the USA.  To avoid confusion with my 18″ girl Shona, she was swiftly renamed Ava, and temporarily joined the Kit’s Couture regulars in a guest capacity.  With her glorious hazel-green eyes, warm complexion and dark hair, Ava proved to be an Autumn girl, and I had just the right material to make her a stunning dress using the week 2 pattern.

The colours match Ava's eyes perfectly. Click to enlarge

The colours match Ava’s eyes perfectly.
Click to enlarge

 

This wonderful material in warm greens and browns is a Liberty Tana lawn, the first of several I’ve been working with over the summer, courtesy of my friend Christine.  It’s a joy to sew, fine but stable – no skipped stitches here!  Jennie’s pattern was easy enough to put together, in fact I enhanced it by lining the bodice for neatness and added stability.  The little gathered sleeves were a bit fiddly, but nothing I couldn’t manage.  The only problem I had with the finished dress was that it seemed too roomy at the waist for slender Ava.  Fortunately I had some narrow old-gold ribbon in my stash, and this tied in a bow at the waist did double service: it gave shape to the dress and set it off perfectly at the same time.  No need of any other trim.  Less is so often more.  I love this little dress.

Week 3: a pinafore dress for Liu

And so to week 3, which featured a ‘jumper’ pattern, what we in the UK would call a pinafore dress.  This seemed perfect for little Liu who I thought would look incredibly cute in it.  And so she does, posing here against my sewing box…

Liu's cool and pretty in her pinafore. Click to enlarge.

Liu’s cool and pretty in her pinafore.
Click to enlarge.

I chose a hot pink stripe fabric, cutting the pieces so that the stripes would run vertically on the dress, but horizontally on the straps.  I crossed the straps at the back, and instead of a pocket, which I thought would be a bit busy on such a small garment, I added two flower buttons at the points where the straps met the front.  I fastened it with velcro at the back.  With the little white t-shirt underneath it looks the perfect play-dress for a little girl on a hot summer’s day.

And here my participation in the summer sew-along had to end.  I received the pattern for week 4 but was too busy at the weekend to complete it.  So I had to let everyone else carry on without me.  But you can see all the many and various interpretations of all five Wren*Feathers sew-along patterns at the Summer Sew-along Flickr page.  Bravo to all those who took part – it was great fun!

 

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It’s a Wrap!

Elisabeth attractively wrapped! Click to enlarge

Elisabeth attractively wrapped!
Click to enlarge

 

Here’s Elisabeth wearing a wrap dress in another lovely Tana lawn fabric, again kindly donated to Kit’s Couture by my friend Christine.  The all-over floral print is in soft summer shades of mauve, pink and amber, which flatters Elisabeth’s (and Kit‘s) Summer colouring.  The dress pattern is by Ardently Admire Doll Attire, and available to download from Pixie Faire.  Elisabeth wears it with some pretty floral espadrilles with pink ribbon ties, by Sophia’s, which complement the dress perfectly.

I was attracted by this pattern which seemed a little bit different.  For a start, there’s no velcro – it fastens with a side tie.  And I liked the fringing around the hemline which was quite an unusual feature and I thought just right for a light summer dress.

So I cut out the dress and began construction.  After joining the shoulder seams, I moved into uncharted territory as I cut bias strips to bind the edges of the armholes, neckline and fronts.  I’d used bias binding in the past, but never cut my own bias.  However, the instructions with the pattern were very clear and easy to follow, so I had no problem at all doing this, and the results were good.

At this point in the construction I was very pleased with the results. So I pressed on until I got to the point where the side seams were joined, and it was time to work on the fringe.  I read the instructions:-

To fray edges carefully pull a few threads to easily
see the grain line of the fabric. Make cuts with the
grain approximately 3/8” apart. Pull a few threads
after each cut to check the grain line. Pull threads
up to the straight stitch line. Be careful not to pull
the thread into the bottom of the garment.

OK, that seems clear enough so here we go…  carefully pull a few threads…  come on, threads, pull out, will you?  Hmm…  should it really be this difficult?  Ok, it says here that it will be quicker if you use some tweezers…

So I get eyebrow tweezers from upstairs, struggle on for about half an hour, mangling the fabric with tweezers, create three inches of messy and unconvincing fringe, look at what remains to be done – another 9 inches or so – and decide perhaps Tana lawn is just too finely woven to unravel easily into a fringe, and more to the point, for me at this particular moment, life’s too short.

Luckily I had enough material to cut more bias tape, which I duly did, and bound the would-be fringed edge.  Of course having messed up 3″ of the hemline, I’d had to cut off the whole 5/8″ fringe allowance, which meant that the dress is shorter than intended.  Fortunately, Elisabeth has very good legs, and doesn’t mind showing them off, especially in a dress that she can wear over a swimsuit on the beach.  She pointed out though that a beach dress would need a beach bag to go with it…

Certainly, Ms Elisabeth, one beach bag coming up! Click to enlarge

Certainly, Ms Elisabeth, one beach bag coming up!
Click to enlarge

 The beach bag is made using the Emma Tote pattern from Bonjour Teaspoon, once again available from Pixie Faire.  I used some mauve polka-dot fabric from my stash, and lined it with the same Tana lawn I used for the wrap dress.

The instructions for making up the bag are very clear and it came together well.  The most fiddly part is the little pocket on the front, which has to be gathered into a bound top and then topstitched onto the bag itself.  It’s not easy to get the pocket symmetrical and evenly stitched!  But it’s fine, and Elisabeth is delighted with the results.

So what’s the verdict on the finished dress itself?   To be absolutely fair, the dress is designed for American Girl, and Elisabeth is a Precious Day girl from Gotz, so I felt I had to see it on Kit too before passing judgement.  But since American Girl and Precious Day girls have the same body and limbs, I didn’t expect it to look any different, and I was right.  It fits Kit nicely, and is a real addition to the girls’ shared wardrobe.

And what about the fringing?  Would I have another go at that?  Well, perhaps, with a thicker cotton material, but I would definitely practice first on a spare piece first of all to perfect my technique.

But in spite of my problems with the fringing, I do like the dress very much.  The shoulders are cut wide enough to hide the arm joints, and the flared skirt of the dress is very well done.  American Girl and Precious Day girls can look a bit dumpy, to be honest, but this is a very flattering little dress which emphasises their waists and skims the hips nicely.

To finish, here’s Elisabeth all ready for the beach, and an advance glimpse of Kit’s new shirt in another lovely Tana lawn fabric, the subject of another blog in a week or two.

Beach dress and tote - and a sneak peek at Kit's new shirt.

Beach dress and tote – and a sneak peek at Kit’s new shirt.
Click to enlarge