Variations in Green 3: Annika

Annika loves her French couture (Click to enlarge)

Annika loves her French couture
(Click to enlarge)

Adorable pouty Annika models her pretty outfit of green crop trousers with a gathered blouse in a flowery summer print.  This third Variation in Green owes a great deal to the design skills of Vanina of Les Chéries de Vaniline, as I used her patterns for both parts of Annika’s outfit.   I may have mentioned before how I love Vanina’s designs, which are very chic and stylish.  With good design and well-chosen fabrics, I find there’s no need to go overboard on the trimming.  Good design speaks for itself.

The Pantacourt à Coulisses – Crop Trousers with Casings

Once again I used the green figured cotton fabric for these simple crop trousers, which are made special by the ribbon decoration.  On the outside of each leg, two vertical casings enclose ribbons which are secured at the waistband.  The ribbons run down through the casings and at the lower edge they are pulled up to gather the leg slightly, then tied in a bow.

I’m quite used to following pattern instruction in French now, so making these was a breeze.  Apart from the casings, which need to be carefully stitched so that they are regular and even from top to bottom, these little trousers were simple to make up.

Ribbons and lace add restrained decoration to the outfit (Click to enlarge)

Ribbons and lace add restrained decoration to the outfit
(Click to enlarge)

The Blouse Froncée – Gathered Blouse

For this blouse I chose a pretty summer print of cream-coloured cotton  decorated with tiny tulips in yellow, amber, orange and blue.  The green on the print matched the trouser fabric perfectly – a good start.

The simple pattern has just two pieces, a back and front, cut exactly the same, and a sleeve.  The sleeves are raglan cut.  The neckline is gathered into a casing for elastic.   This makes a smock-type garment which would swamp the model, but the final touch is a casing for a long draw-string which gathers up the blouse at the waist.  The casing is applied onto the body of the blouse, and positioning it is quite tricky.  It would be easy to place this too high, too low, or on the slant!  Luckily Vanina provides good online instructions, and following her guidance I positioned the casing 3cm below the armhole.  I also managed to keep it level, so that the results are just as I would wish.  Some cream cotton lace is carefully placed at the sleeve edge to form a broad but unfussy cuff.

The outfit is completed by a pair of yellow Classic Ankle Strap with Bow shoes from Monique, in size 75/34.

Meili's little sister Liu wanted to meet Annika's bunny (Click to enlarge)

Meili’s little sister Liu meeting Annika’s bunny
(Click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Variations in Green 2: Meili

 

Meili in a mixture of Dutch and French designs

Meili in a mixture of Dutch and French designs

 

My second Variation in Green is my first attempt at an ensemble to fit Gotz Hannah.  Meili here is wearing trousers from Christel Dekker’s Goodnight Girl pattern, and her smock-top is made with a pattern for Kidz ‘n’ Cats from my favourite French designer, Vanina the author of Les Cheries de Vaniline blog.  Meili looks as if she is the same size as the sturdy-bodied 18″ dolls like American Girl or Gotz Precious Day, but her torso is almost as slim as the Kidz ‘n’ Cats and their patterns will fit her as long as the arms and legs are not too fitted.

The trousers

As throughout this Variations in Green series, I used a moss-green cotton fabric with a subtle overall leaf pattern for the trousers.  After my first attempt at these had turned out too tight, I enlarged the Goodnight Girl pyjama bottoms pattern by ¼” all round.  This time all went well and they fit Meili perfectly, with enough ease to allow her to sit down.  To add a a little decoration I sewed a small orange flower button on the outside of each ankle.  They are simple trousers but well-cut and look very good on the doll.  It was rather exciting trying to follow the German pattern (I had a choice of German or Dutch, neither of which I speak) but this is not a difficult garment and it was easy enough to put them together.

 

Lace and cuff details

Lace and cuff details

The Smock-top

The smock-top is made from Vanina’s pattern B for Kidz ‘n’ Cats and Maru, the blouse à col rond ou sans col.  This is ideal for Hannah dolls because it has generous-sized armholes and is sleeveless, so can accommodate their sturdy arms and large hands.

The gorgeous cotton fabric shows a variety of English spring flowers: snowdrops, winter aconites, primroses and forget-me-nots.  I am very grateful to my friend Christine who gave me this lovely remnant from her fabric stash.  There was just enough of it to cut out the top.  Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered that somewhere along the line I had managed to cut into the material and had a gash on the left front just below where it would be gathered into the yoke.  Luckily I have some special fusing powder in the cupboard for just such anxious moments, and with a hot iron, some greaseproof paper and a patch to back the cut I was able to mend it so that it was completely unnoticeable.

Apart from this small glitch, the top made up moderately easily.  This was a substantial cotton and a pleasure to work with.  I took care when cutting out to match the pattern so that the two snowdrops appeared right in the middle of the yoke, and again on the gathered skirt below.  I added a piece of white embroidered lace to emphasise the edge of the front yoke.  As I prefer, the lined yoke enclosed most of the raw edges and I used my new overlocking presser foot to zig-zag edge the side seams and lower armhole edges.  The top is so full-skirted that it needs very little fastening at the back.  I just put a popper up at the neck edge and it hung closed below that.  Another orange flower button hides the popper stitching and echoes the buttons at the trouser ankle.

To complete the outfit

Meili only needed some smart shoes to complete the outfit.  She chose some wonderful gold glittery Mary Janes which coordinate beautifully with her ensemble – such taste!

I love her in this outfit.  Her Asian toned-skin and big brown eyes are enhanced by the rich greens and warm yellows and golds of this second Variation in Green.

 

 

Variations in Green 1: Maru

Last summer I made myself a dress from some lovely moss green cotton fabric which had a subtle all-over leaf motif which is only visible up close.  There was a fair bit of this material left over and it seemed perfect for me to make some trousers for my Autumn girls, Meili, Annika and Maru.  Later on I used it once again to make a dress for a queenly new model who has recently joined the Kit’s Couture team.  So over the next days and weeks you will find a number of posts entitled Variations in Green.  Let’s begin with Maru who is wearing the first outfit I’ve made for her.

Maru in green

Relaxed and comfortable in crop trousers and a ‘tunique chasuble’

Maru is wearing some accidental trousers (I’ll explain in a moment) and a tunic made from a pattern by one of my favourite designers, Vanina from Les Chéries de Vaniline.  She has a range of very interesting designs for Kidz ‘n’ Cats and Maru and Friends.  The ‘robe chasuble’ is one of these, and the pattern offers several variations,  with or without collar, with or without a box pleat.  Maru wears it in its simplest ‘chasuble’ form, although I did manage to dress it up a little with a mandarin collar made of lace.

Greenvar02

The lace collar in detail

 

Here it looks as if the tunic is sitting too high above Maru’s shoulders, but it is actually resting on them.  Her shoulders really do slope at that sharp angle.  If you look at Vanina’s photographs, you can see even her shoulder seams float slightly above the tops of her models’ arms.

Another issue is that the pattern was designed for Kidz ‘n’ Cats, and although Vanina says in her ‘P’tite Ecole de Couture’ that she has modified it so it fits Maru and Friends, I have the older version of the pattern without those modifications.  Maru is ‘older’ than the Kidz, and where the Kidz have a flat chest, Maru has the definite beginnings of a bust, which seems to pull the armholes out of shape a little.  I had great difficulty getting a reasonable fit, and had to recut the armholes slightly.  I suspect Vanina has built in some more ease across the chest which would I think solve the problem of armhole gape.  Next time I will add ¼” to the width across each shoulder – or invest in another, Maru-friendly, version of the pattern!

Now to explain the ‘accidental’ trousers.  These were not originally intended for Maru.  I was working on an outfit for Meili, using a Dutch pattern for nightwear called ‘Goodnight Girl‘ the one and only sewing pattern for Gotz Hannah that I could find on the internet.  Granted I was struggling with the instructions (I had a choice of German or Dutch, neither of which I speak) but I had carefully printed it exactly to scale, and cut ¼” seam allowance extra, as you must with continental patterns.  To my disappointment the trousers turned out too tight for Meili.  I was at a loss to explain this poor fit, but it occurred to me that they might just fit Maru – and they did.  They are quite a snug fit around her tum, and of course her extra height is all in her legs so they are mid-calf rather than ankle length, but they look great on her.

Side view

Whimsical flourishes at hip and knee

To unify the ensemble I devised some little flourishes with some cream ribbon and lime-green flower buttons.  There is another lime-green button at the back, just below the neckline and the collar.  I had no more of the flower buttons so, although I dislike velcro, which seems designed to catch in hair and rip delicate fabrics to shreds, on this occasion I used it to fasten the back of the tunic.  I carefully put the hooky side of the velcro so that it faced outwards away from any delicate undergarments Maru might be wearing.

Maru’s shoes are from Monique, the Girl Dress Shoe (733), size 65/27 which is quite a good fit for Maru’s tiny feet.  Her hair is held in place by two orange hair claws from the Gotz hair stylist set.

So how do I feel about my first efforts at dressmaking for Maru?  Well, it wasn’t as easy as I expected, but I learned a lot from the problems of fit, and I’m sure next time I’ll be better prepared to deal with fitting clothes to Maru’s rather difficult torso.  I do think she looks charming in the outfit, and the moss green and amber shades suit her admirably.

 

Empire peacoat and beret for cool Spring days

Spring is definitely here, but it’s not always as warm as we might expect for the time of year.  Today Shona is prepared for any cool Spring breezes in her Empire-line peacoat with a matching beret.

 

Even in May a girl still needs a smart jacket

Even in May a girl still needs a smart jacket

(As with all photos on this site, you can click on any one to view a full-size image)

The peacoat pattern comes from Heritage Doll Fashions and is available from Liberty Jane’s Pixie Faire pattern shop.  It is sized for American Girl, so fits similar-sized dolls like Gotz Precious Day and Madame Alexander Favorite Friends like Shona.  I’ve made it up in a glowing wine-red which my camera insists on seeing as a dark orangey-red.  The material was provided by my friend Helen who kindly raided her stash for me when I visited her in Edinburgh last summer.  It is quite a substantial material, rather inclined to fray, which certainly added a complication I hadn’t expected.  I half-lined the jacket with a stripy poplin, and picked some striking buttons as they are such a strong design feature.  To complete the outfit I introduced some French chic with a beret made using Vanina’s tutorial.

The Peacoat

As always with Liberty Jane patterns, the Empire Peacoat pattern comes with a very clear instruction book. The front cover optimistically describes it as ‘Easy and fun to sew!’ but the website rates it ‘Intermediate’ which is much more realistic.  This is quite a fiddly little jacket to make up.

The first challenge was setting in the collar between the jacket yoke and yoke lining.  I had to stitch through three layers of substantial jacket material plus one lining layer, with all three jacket/collar layers fraying like mad.  After this experience I bought myself a bottle of Fray Check and treated the edges of the jacket pieces as well as zig-zag neatening them in the usual way.

The sleeves were set in next.  Again, bulky, fraying seams were the main problem, but I knew what to expect and all was well.   Then the jacket skirt had to be gathered at the front and stitched to the yoke and lining.  The last step was to top-stitch around the edges of the jacket yoke and under the collar.   So far so good.  It looked great!

But then came the bit I was really worrying about as it had the potential to sabotage all my work so far.  I had to attach four buttons and make four button-holes.  The buttons and button-holes had to line up perfectly, they had to be placed so that they were properly centred on the jacket overlap.  I started with the button-holes and puzzled for some time about how I could ensure they were both vertically and horizontally aligned.  I got out the button-hole foot and reminded myself how it worked (it usually takes me by surprise) and tried out a few experimental button-holes on spare fabric.  Then I looked at the jacket front and experimented with marking the tops and bottoms of the button-holes with pins.  That didn’t work so well.  Finally I tacked in vertical markers to show exactly where the button-holes had to go, with horizontal tacks marking their top and bottom edges.  Then I stitched the four button-holes and to my relief they were amazingly successful!  After that it was relatively easy to sew on the buttons in the right positions and the jacket was finally finished.  What a relief!

Nice stripey lining! I wish that seam was enclosed though...

Nice stripy lining!

The Beret

Now on to the beret.  This meant I had to grapple with some maths that I’d not had to worry about since I was at Grammar school (that dates me!).  Luckily Vanina spells it out for us (in French…) and here’s my English translation of what she says to do to make a beret to fit any sized doll.  You’ll need some paper and a pair of compasses (back to school again).  Do look at Vanina’s method as her illustrations are very helpful even if you can’t read French.

  1. Measure around the doll’s head in centimetres.  Divide this number by 6.28.  This will give you the radius of the circle you need to draw to fit your doll’s head.   Shona’s head measures 30.5 cm.  So my calculation was 30.5 ÷ 6.28 = 4.85 cm.  So I set my compasses to just under 5 cm and drew my first circle on the paper.
  2. Now reset the compasses to double the radius setting and draw a second circle using the same centre point.  I reset mine to 9.7 cm.
  3. Finally reduce the original compass radius setting by 5 mm and draw another circle inside the first one, using the same centre point.  This is your seam allowance (approx ¼”).
  4. Now you can cut out your pattern, taking care to cut out the centre following the third circle you drew, thus preserving your seam allowance.  You end up with a pattern looking like a ring doughnut.
  5. Using the pattern on your main material doubled, cut out a complete circle (but do not cut out the centre). This will be the top of the beret and its lining.
  6. Then using your contrast material doubled, cut out a complete circle and this time also cut out the centre.  This will be the underside of the beret and its lining, incorporating the hole which fits over the doll’s head.
  7. Take the two underside pieces, right sides together, and stitch around the inner hole.  Clip the curved seam, turn right-side out and iron.  (Look at Vanina’s instructions point 4)
  8. Take the two top pieces, wrong sides together.  Place the bottom piece exactly on top and stitch completely around the outer edge 5 mm from the edge.  Overcast or zig-zag the raw edges together.  (Look at Vanina’s instructions point 5)
  9. Turn the beret inside-out so that the seam is hidden inside, and decorate with a flourish of your own devising.  (Look at Vanina’s instructions point 6).
Matching beret with an almost Scottish cockade decoration

Matching beret with Scottish cockade decoration

To decorate Shona’s beret I used some broderie anglaise lace ruffled around a black button.  Quite by coincidence, this looks rather Scottish, which is nice given that the jacket material came from Edinburgh.

This was quite a challenging project, made more tricky by my choice of rather temperamental material.  The results are worth it, though, and Shona is very pleased with her very stylish emsemble, which she has teamed with her Liberty Jane jeans and some gorgeous Ewe boots from our favourite doll shop.

Ready for a walk in the woods

Are you coming for a walk?

Here she is all ready to go out.  She’s just off to the bluebell woods to appreciate one of the finest sights of an English spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to cheat at leggings

It’s not easy for me to find attractive stretch knit fabric here in West Wiltshire.  My local fabric shop has a wonderful stock of different cottons and poly-cottons, but the knits are very limited indeed.  But as some have noticed, recently my girlies have been sporting some very fetching leggings – check out Annika, Kit and Elisabeth in this photo…  I didn’t buy the leggings, exactly – well I did, but they needed some work to make them fit the girls.  The truth is that I’ve discovered a really easy way to make leggings for 18″ dolls.

Girls in Ganseys

Left to right: Annika, Sophie, Kit, Elisabeth and Maru.

 

Some of you have asked me how I made them.  So for Ronklei from Ravelry, and others, here’s my tutorial on how to cheat at leggings.

Note: As usual, I’ve kept the photos to a reasonably small size on this page, but as always, you can click on them to see them full size and study the details (should you want to).

To fit an 18″ doll you will need:

  • One pair of leggings for a baby 0-1 months old – the smallest size (my local supermarket has a great selection).  If these aren’t available you could just about manage with the larger 0-3 months size but the legs are a little longer and the body may need shortening more.
  • Sewing machine (and overlocker/serger if you have one)
  • Elastic for waistband
  • Thread (obviously)
  • One 18″ doll desperate for leggings – slim or sturdy-bodied, it makes no difference.  OK, maybe a 19″ doll like Gotz Hannah would be fine too.  Any taller and you’ll need to go for the next size up baby leggings, or go for a cropped style.  For 20″ Maru, for example, the 0-3 months size will give a better leg length.

1.  Try the leggings on your doll to check the size.  Here’s Kidz ‘n’ Cats Annika looking swamped in leggings pulled up a bit too well.  As you can see the leg length is fine, it’s the width and the body length that is overwhelming.  So we need to slim the legs and cut down the body (it’s all right, Annika, I don’t mean you!).

 

Not designed for a slim Kidz. Click to enlarge

Not designed for a slim Kidz.

 

2.  Turn the leggings inside out and cut off the elasticated waistband.  Do it carefully so that it’s cut evenly all around.  You’ll make a new waistband later.

 

Definitely surplus to requirements...

Definitely surplus to requirements…

 

 

3.    Making sure the leggings are inside out, pin through both layers of material close to the outside of the doll’s legs, marking your sewing line.  The fabric needs to fit snugly to the body without being over-stretched.

Make sure they're inside out before you start pinning!

Make sure they’re inside out before you start pinning!

 

4.  Turn the doll over and check the back view.  Like they said on The Great British Sewing Bee, we don’t want any saggy bottoms!

No saggy bottoms here!

No saggy bottoms here

 

5.   Slip the doll out of the leggings and check you have pinned them evenly, especially on the body section.  It would be easy to get the crotch seam over to one side.  I checked with a tape measure – for the Kidz, the body width is 5″ (13 cm), so I needed 2½” each side of the crotch seam.

The body and leg width will be slightly more for American Girl and  the other sturdy-bodied dolls, of course, but the thing about this method is that you whatever the size of your doll, the leggings are guaranteed to fit.

You can also adjust lie of the pins at this stage so they line up to form a really helpful guide for your seam lines.

Check the legs are both the same width

Check the legs are both the same width

 

6.  Now it’s time to sew the seams.  I only have a sewing machine so the seams and the neatening are done in two stages.  If you have an overlocker/serger, you can do steps 6-8 all in one go.

So for the sewing machine users, use a straight stretch stitch and stitch along your marked seam lines, removing your pins as you go.  Take care at the ankle as you want the cuff edges to meet perfectly, and the material will want to stretch out of alignment here.

Stitching the seams in depths of a gloomy February afternoon...

Stitching the seams on a very gloomy afternoon in February…

 

7.    Try the leggings on the doll, just to check they’re OK before you start trimming away the excess fabric.  Pray you’ve got it right because unpicking a stretch stitch is a nightmare.  This is why step 5 is so important – you don’t want to mess up.

Ooooh, fetching!

Ooooh, fetching!

 

8.  Trim away the excess fabric leaving a seam allowance of a ¼ ” (7 mm), then neaten the edges with a zigzag stitch.  I found my new overlocking foot made this really easy.

Trim away that excess fabric.

Trim away that excess fabric.

 

9.  Now you can form the casing for the elastic waistband.  Still keeping the leggings inside out, fold over ¼” (7 mm) and then fold over another ½” (1.5 cm) and pin close to the lower edge.  This makes a casing wide enough to slip some ¼” (7 mm) elastic into.

Carefully turn the leggings the right way out and try them on your doll.  The points of pins will be inside so mind you don’t scratch her (or yourself).

We're getting there...

We’re getting there…

 

10.   Keeping the leggings right side out, and starting about  1″ (2.5 cm)  to the right of the centre back seam, stitch around the waistband close to the lower edge of your new casing, leaving a gap of about 1 –  2″ (5 cm) at the centre back.

It's easiest to stitch this with the leggings turned the right way out

It’s easiest to stitch this with the leggings turned the right way out

Cut a piece of ¼” (7 mm) elastic equal to the waist measurement of your doll plus 1″ (2.5 cm) extra for overlap.  Pin a safety pin through one end of the elastic and use this to thread it through the casing.  A pin at the other end will stop it disappearing into the casing.

Once threaded through, check the elastic is not twisted in the casing, then overlap the ends by 1″ (1.5 cm) and zigzag stitch them together.  Slip them back into the casing and using a stretch stitch, stitch down the last two inches of the casing, taking care not to stitch through the elastic.

11.  You have a pair of leggings!  Try them on your doll – she’ll be sooooo impressed…

All done!  Pat on the back time...

All done! Time for a pat on the back.

 

And here’s Elisabeth and Kit showing off the leggings I made for them.

Archipelago gansey

Lovely leggings, girls!

 

I hope this has been helpful.  Happy sewing, everyone!

 

Variations in pink

Pemberton Capelet and Sinclair Jacket

Pemberton Capelet and Sinclair Jacket
Click to enlarge

Shona and new girl Meili model two more Debonair Designs, as interpreted by Kit’s Couture.  Originally I intended the Sinclair Jacket for Shona, as the pink Jarol yarn was best suited to her cool Winter colouring.  But for reasons I shall explain below, Meili ended up with the jacket, and Shona got to peacock about in a striking cabled cape instead.

Both patterns are available on Ravelry (and Craftsy too?), and both are in Deb Denair’s book Seasonal hand knitted designs for 18″ dolls.  The patterns are designed for worsted wools available in the USA, but Deb helpfully tells us that this is equivalent to UK double knitting.  She also gives UK needle sizes as well as the US ones.  I used shade 109 ‘Pink’ from Jarol Heritage, a wool-rich DK yarn which comes in a good range of rich colours, and for the textured yarn I used Sirdar Freya ‘soft & brushed Winter cotton’, in shade 853 ‘Dusk’.  I’d used the Jarol Heritage double knitting with great success with Deb’s gansey patterns, so I was pretty confident with that.  The Sirdar Freya was an unknown quantity, but it seemed to knit to about the right tension so I bought a ball and hoped!

Sinclair Jacket

Sinclair jacket

Click to enlarge

This unusual jacket, we’re told, was inspired by the popular Sherpa jackets… I have to admit I’d not heard of Sherpa jackets so I was none the wiser.  But to me this looks like a knitted version of the kind of sheepskin jacket which is made up of pieces of sheepskin stitched together.  The textured yarn seems to me to be imitating the fleecy side of the sheepskin, and the single rows of texture are the joins.

The pattern calls for UK needles sizes 10 and 9.  I checked the tension with the size 10s and it seemed fine, so I made a start.  I found this a fairly challenging pattern, in spite of the fact that it’s just in plain stocking stitch.  The textured yarn additions meant that I was having to change yarn fairly regularly, and the collar revere sections were a little tricky.  Plus I soon began to have doubts about the sizing.  I was constantly trying the pieces against Shona and wondering if they were big enough.  Shona is a little slimmer than American Girl and Gotz Precious Day, so I told myself it must be fine, and carried on until all the parts were complete and I was at the making up stage.

As I sewed up the jacket my worries about sizing grew.  As soon as I could try it on Shona (without sleeves), it was clear that it was too small for her.  The neckline in particular was very tight.  For a brief moment I wondered about unpicking everything and starting again, but then I realised that what wouldn’t fit the sturdy sized 18″ doll would certainly fit the slim type.

So I turned to one of my newer models, Meili, my Gotz Hannah.  She is a tall 19″ girl whose arms and legs are similar in size to the sturdy 18″ dolls like American Girl and Favorite Friends.  But her body is slim, closer to the Kidz ‘n’ Cats in size.  I tried the jacket on her, and it fit perfectly.  The sleeves were barely long enough – she has long arms – but not disastrously so.  The colour wasn’t ideal for her, as it was a Winter pink, but the textured yarn had a brownish tint making it similar to Rosewood, the Autumn pink.  So I decided in the circumstances that I needed a model for the garment and we could get away with it.

Sinclair beret

Goodbye newsboy cap, hello beret
Click to enlarge

Then I turned my attention to the hat.  The Sinclair hat is styled to look like a newsboy’s cap with a peak, and looks great with the jacket.  I knit up the pattern as given, tried it on Meili’s head, and found that it was a bit tight.  I thought about this carefully, did a bit of optimistic stretching of the band, and tried it again.  OK, it would just about fit, but without the relaxed slouchy look of Deb’s examples in her book.  At that point I decided to abandon the newsboy cap attempt and turn the hat into a beret.

I had another button to match, so I sewed that on top and it finished off the beret very nicely.  Meili wears it pulled to one side in the authentically French manner!

I still had plenty of the pink wool left, but probably not enough to make another full jacket for Shona.  So I searched the book for something perhaps less demanding of yarn, and found myself contemplating the Pemberton Capelet.

Pemberton Capelet, Tam and Fingerless Mitts

Pemberton Capelet

After my experience with the Sinclair jacket, I was doubly careful about tension and dutifully worked a full square in stocking stitch.  The pattern called for 6 stitches and 8 rows with size 9 needles over the lattice cable stitch, but how could I cable  a tension square?  I had six stitches and 8 rows to an inch over stocking stitch.  It had to be fine, didn’t it?  Of course it did.  Ahem.

It had been a long time since I’d done any cabling, but Deb’s pattern was as usual crystal-clear and with my trusty row counter to help me I had no problems at all.  I’d made life easier for myself by not using the textured yarn for the button bands, just for the ribbing at the hem and the collar.  I was glad of this as having to cope with changing wool at each end of every row, as well as doing the cabling, would have been a step too far!

It all went quite smoothly and gradually a the cape took shape.  When it was finished I tried it on Shona – and it did fit.  Just.  I have to say I’d have liked it to be a tiny bit more roomy – there’s hint of gape where the front edges join – and a little longer wouldn’t have hurt either.  But it still looks great.  Three contrasting mauve buttons and three crocheted loops later, and it had style.

Now – did I have enough yarn left to make the hat?  It was worth a try.

Impressive cabling

Impressive cabling…
Click to enlarge

The Tam comes in several variants: I chose the one with the ridge, which I thought gave it more structure.  I followed the pattern carefully, using the smaller size needles (10) for the band and changing to the large needles (9) with the main colour.

After I’d done the main body of the hat up to the ridge, I stopped, puzzled.  This was a tall hat!  In fact, it was far too tall.  And trying it around Shona’s head, it was also too tight.  Bother.

So I went back to the pattern, did a few calculations, and enlarged it by 8 stitches to make it fit around Shona’s head.  This meant that I had to adjust the 5th row – the increase row – to ensure that I still ended up with 90 stitches.  I did two increases over every three stitches, and all was well.  I also reduced the height of the hat by 6 rows, and once the crown was finished I found that this time it fit very well indeed.  It just needed a pink flower button topped with another mauve button to finish it off.

And I still had some yarn left!  Time for the fingerless mitts.  These took no time at all, and very little yarn.  In fact I extended the ribbing section by a couple of rows to make them a little longer.  No problems with sizing here, they fit perfectly and are the perfect accessories for this slightly Victorian retro ensemble.

Thoughts on tension

So why did I have such problems with tension?  Thinking about it, I think with the Sinclair jacket I should have gone up at least one needle size – possibly even two – and taken more care to get the tension exactly right.  These little garments don’t have a lot of margin for error and one or two stitches either way do mean the difference between a good fit or too tight a fit.

The tension of the Pemberton Capelet was I think affected by my cabling technique.  I did notice as I was knitting it the stitches seemed a bit tight on the needles.  Usually I knit very evenly, not too tight, not too loose, but I think the complexity of the cabling meant that without realising it I pulled the yarn too tight.  And of course I never checked the tension over the cabling…

But the real puzzle is the hat.  I can understand the band being too tight, just like the newsboy cap, and I put that down to the Freya yarn not being a good match for the textured yarn originally used in the pattern.  But how was it that the hat was so much too tall when on every other occasion the Jarol yarn knit up to size or even slightly too small?  It’s a mystery.

Pemberton

Variation in pink 2: Pemberton
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Sinclair

Variation in pink 1: Sinclair
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Girls in Ganseys

Girls in Ganseys

Left to right: Annika, Sophie, Kit, Elisabeth and Maru.
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Well, the sun is shining, the daffodils are out in the garden, the rowan tree is starting to come into leaf, and it’s almost warm outside – this must mean that it’s Spring and time to wake up the blog again.  So here’s a group picture of five of the girls modelling the gansey sweaters I’ve knitted for them over the winter.  Please welcome new girl Maru who steps onto the catwalk for the first time today.

The Gansey, or Guernsey, sweater is a very distinctive style of knitwear from the British Isles.   Traditionally produced for fishermen who needed a hard-wearing garment that would resist sea-spray, the Guernsey is knitted from tightly-spun wool that can repel rain and spray.  The name comes from the Channel Island of Guernsey, but this type of sweater was knitted in all the fishing communities around the British coastline, and the textured motifs knitted into the cloth  – cables, chevrons, diamonds, zigzags etc – are often associated with particular settlements.

The patterns for the Kit’s Couture ganseys come from a talented designer who was born and brought up in the UK, but now lives in the USA.  Deb Denair of Debonair Designs has created a couple of Gansey patterns, Whidbey for Kidz ‘n’ Cats, and Archipelago for sturdy 18″ dolls like Gotz and American Girl.  Over the last 2-3 months I’ve worked with both patterns in a variety of colours.

So some general points first.  Deb’s patterns are very clear and easy to follow.  The patterns are designed for worsted wools available in the USA, but Deb helpfully tells us that this is equivalent to UK double knitting.  She also gives UK needle sizes as well as the US ones.  I used two different double knitting wools and both knit up to tension very well.  My preferred double knitting is Jarol Heritage, a wool-rich yarn which comes in a good range of rich colours, but I also used Hayfield Bonus DK which is 100% acrylic but still knit up well.

Archipelago Gansey

Archipelago gansey

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Kit and Elisabeth are wearing the Archipelago design from Deb’s book of Seasonal Hand Knitted Designs for 18″ dolls (winter selection) which I was given for Christmas.  All these patterns are sized for sturdy 18″ dolls, American Girl or similar.

I wanted to start knitting straight away and only had the cream Hayfield Bonus DK yarn in the cupboard.  Cream is fine for those with a Summer clothing season like Elisabeth and Kit, so I begin knitting with the cream yarn, using sizes 10 and 9 needles as specified in the pattern.  The body of the pattern seemed fine for size but when I got to the sleeves they clearly weren’t going to be long enough and I added in a second diamond band before shaping the sleeve top.  When made up, the sweater fit Elisabeth nicely and I was impressed by how well it suited her – gone was the gawky child and instead she looks natural, relaxed and – wearing her John Lennon-style shades – pretty damn cool.

For Kit I chose the Jarol Heritage DK in shade 102 (Wine) which matched the claret-coloured flowers on her leggings.  In my photographs this looks rather orange, but in reality it is a true wine-red, a sweet pea shade firmly in the Summer palette.  I knit the pattern incorporating all the adjustments I’d worked out for Elisabeth, but adding a couple of extra rows in the diamond section to finish off the tops of each diamond properly.  And then of course I had to adjust all the buttonholes by two rows all the way up the back button band (arrgghh).  The adjustments worked well and Kit looks really happy in her gansey and watch cap.

I should mention that Kit, Elisabeth and Annika are all wearing leggings cunningly made over from some baby leggings I found in my local supermarket – more of this in a later post.

Whidbey gansey

Whidbey ganseys

Whidbey gansey
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I went on to knit three versions of the Whidbey pattern for slim-bodied 18″ dolls.  I began with Maru as I was desperate to create something for her, and I chose the Jarol Heritage DK shade 140 (Gold) which is right for her Autumn clothing season. I used one size larger needles than in the pattern (size 10) and worked the body of the sweater exactly as in the pattern.  When I came to the sleeves, however, I had to lengthen the section above the elbow in order to get the length her longer arms needed.  When it was made up, I felt the body of the sweater was too short for her, and if knitting it again I would add in another full diamond motif.  You live and learn.  The watch cap pattern needed no adjustment to fit Maru’s head which is of a size with the Kidz ‘n’ Cats.

Next I used Jarol Heritage DK shade 132 (Rust) to make Annika’s gansey; and after that, Jarol Heritage DK shade 110 (Saxe) for Sophie.  The Rust looks great on Annika (also an Autumn), but I feel the Saxe blue is less successful on Sophie, whose clothing season is Spring.  In the shop the yarn looked like a clear Spring blue, but now I’m not so sure…

After my experience with Maru I lengthened the body of the sweater, working an extra 4 rows in the diamond section, and adjusting the back buttonhole positions throughout (argghh again).  There was no need to adjust the sleeve length though.  The watch cap fits Annika well, but for some reason – probably her longer face shape – Sophie looks a bit swamped in hers.

The button fastenings

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A traditional gansey is knitted in one piece like a tube up to the armholes, but these doll ganseys fasten at the back with buttons, to allow for easy dressing and undressing.

Kit and Annika show how these buttons can be made a feature of the design.  Annika’s are orange and tone nicely with the rust wool, while still standing out enough to be striking.  Kit’s white buttons contrast sharply with the wine red of her gansey, and are stitched on with crosses of wine-red wool.

Overall I’ve been very pleased with the Debonair Designs patterns.  Yes, I had to adjust them slightly, but every yarn knits up differently and the patterns are so clearly laid out that it was relatively easy to make the minor changes I needed.  I really enjoyed doing textured knitting again and it was good practice for the more challenging cabling in my next project…  which will follow in the next post.

So Spring has sprung, there’s enough light for photography again, and Kit’s Couture is back in action.  It’s been a pleasure writing this and I hope to keep the posts coming pretty regularly over the next weeks and months.