The 1930s girl
After enjoying rediscovering knitting for Susan, I got the bit between my teeth and felt I wanted to rediscover my dressmaking skills. But by contrast with knitting patterns, there were very few vintage dressmaking patterns available for dolls of Susan’s size. Clearly I needed to invest in a modern doll for which I could get modern patterns. As I searched the internet for doll clothes patterns, one name kept coming up time and time again: American Girl.
In the States the American Girl doll is wildly popular among girls aged 6-12, and there are are endless outfits and accessories available to her dedicated fans. Here in the the UK we have limited access to American Girl products, although one or two companies like Mydollboutique now stock a limited range. I did my research and, while I was attracted to a number of the Girl of the Year and Historic characters, I felt that the Kit doll, with her little-girl looks and neat bobbed hair, would coordinate well with my Susan. So my order went off in January and in due course, Kit arrived and was unpacked with great anticipation. It felt like being a little girl again.
An American girl living through the tough times of the depression in 1930s Chicago, Kit Kittredge has a full set of family, friends and neighbours and a complex and detailed backstory all of which are charted in a series of books and even a movie. The doll herself is beautifully produced, with silky-smooth Kanekolon hair and sturdy vinyl limbs set into a soft ragdoll-type body. Her outfit is classic 1930s, with a pretty pleated skirt topped by a sweet little twinset. The extra accessories pack includes her cloche hat (gorgeous) and a clutch-bag into which you can put her handkerchief and her liberty penny. The final touches are provided by neat white canvas sandals, and a pendant designed to look like a compass (her father’s – part of that backstory I mentioned – read the book that comes with the doll if you want to know all about it).
Kit really is a traditional doll in looks, with her broad round head, sleepy eyes and freckles. I am used to all-vinyl dolls so find the rag-doll body with its neck string rather strange, and certainly it is not particularly attractive when revealed by a low neckline. But all in all Kit is rather a charming sturdy doll, and she is certainly beautifully manufactured and turned out. Colours from the summer palette suit Kit best: soft pinks and lavenders, muted greens… think all the colours of sweet peas.
Dressmaking for Kit was quite a steep learning curve. I had been brought up to sew, knit and crochet, and used to make some of my own clothes when I was younger, but it had been 25 years since I’d touched a sewing machine, and my old 1930s Singer, inherited from my great-aunt, was a hand-cranked machine that was pretty basic. I needed a machine that went backwards as well as forwards, with a range of different stitches available. I felt I had to invest in a new machine, and after some research and reading of user reviews, I settled on the Singer Talent 3321.
For my first garment for Kit, I chose a summer dress from Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns. These come with full instructions plus access to step-by-step video guides where Rosie demonstrates every stage of the process. This was ideal for me, as I soon discovered there was quite a knack to making such small clothes. After my first experience with the summer dress, I bit on the bullet, bought Rosie’s entire sewing course, and worked through it systematically, making up the free patterns that come with it. Right from the start I gained in confidence and soon I felt ready to branch out into some of the more challenging patterns available from Liberty Jane and elsewhere.
Kit: vital statistics
- 18″ sturdy bodied doll
- Cloth body, vinyl head and limbs
- 5 strung joints
- Blue-green sleepy eyes
- Ash blonde Kanekalon wig
- Season: summer