Tag Archive | American Girl

Pretty Peplums

Pretty peplum tops and trousers in Spring colours

Pretty peplum tops and trousers in Spring colours

Rhiannon and Sophie are pleased to show you the first two outfits in the Kit’s Couture Spring collection, featuring two different styles of peplum top and some easy-to-wear Malibu pants for Rhiannon.  The outfits feature the colours of Spring, and so are modelled by two of my Spring girls.  They are made to fit the two most popular sizes of 18″ standing doll: the ‘sturdy’ American Girl, and the slim Kidz ‘n’ Cats.

Floral print with moss-green lace and soft pink buttons

Floral print with moss-green lace and soft pink buttons. Click to enlarge.

Sophie’s sleeveless and lined peplum top, which fastens at the back, is made with a pattern by Barbara Russell sized for Kidz ‘n’ Cats.  I was very impressed with the fit of this top, and with the very clear instructions for making up the garment.  The only change I made was to cut the peplum half an inch longer so that I could enclose the raw edge in a double-fold hem.

I chose a floral print in Spring colours, and embellished it with lace in an assertive moss-green which matches the stems of the flowers perfectly and stands out well from the busy print.  Between the two strips of lace I added three pale pink buttons which complete the decoration on the front.  The buttons are echoed at the back where two more pink buttons help to disguise the velcro fastening.

The top dresses up the Kit's Couture jeans perfectly. Click to enlarge.

The top dresses up the Kit’s Couture jeans beautifully.
Click to enlarge.

I toyed with the idea of making Sophie some more dressy trousers, but she’s an outdoorsy kind of girl and loves her jeans.  We both felt that the peplum top dressed them up just enough to be smart but comfortable.  She has finished off her outfit with Monique Baby Heart Cut shoes size 75/34 in light blue.

Peacock-blue print and Malibu pants. Click to enlarge.

Peacock-blue print and Malibu pants.
Click to enlarge.

Rhiannon wears a striking outfit where the peacock-blue of the Malibu pants is picked up by the wonderful Liberty peacock print of her peplum top.  The outfit is made using two separate patterns available from Pixie Faire: the Malibu Beach Cropped Pants from 123 Mulberry Street, and the Liberty Jane Peplum Top.  Both patterns are sized for American Girl and fit my modified (I reduced the size of her waist) Bonnie & Pearl girl well.  If making for a standard Bonnie & Pearl doll, check and adjust the waist measurements for both trousers and top as needed, as they tend to be thicker in the waist than American Girl.

Neatly tailored Malibu Pants with machine-embroidered cuffs. Click to enlarge.

Neatly tailored Malibu Pants with machine-embroidered cuffs.
Click to enlarge.

The Malibu pants pattern was excellent with very clear instructions, and I made it up with no problems at all.  I deliberately chose a plain-coloured poly-cotton for these trousers, as the material for the top was so busy and assertive that anything but a plain fabric would fight with it.  However, these trousers are not boring: they come with some nice design features like the big double-topstitched pockets and little double-topstitched mock-pocket flaps at the back.  The only decoration I added was a line of machine-embroidered cross-stitch around each cuff.

I made these trousers back in June 2014, nearly a year ago.  Why take so long to bring them to the blog?  Because my first attempt at a blouse was – frankly – not great.  I had the most gorgeous ‘Hera’ Tana lawn, and had made it up into a blouse gathered at the neck, waist and cuffs – an enlarged and modified version of Annika’s gathered blouse.  But I was never happy with it.  Rhiannon looked stiff and uncomfortable in the gathered style, and I couldn’t get any photos I felt happy with.  So finally I decided to re-cut the original blouse into a more fitted style.

Its second incarnation - much better than the first! Click to enlarge.

Its second incarnation – much better than the first!
Click to enlarge.

With the material salvaged from the gathered blouse, plus a small amount I had left over, I managed to find enough to cut out the body and waistband of the peplum top, and still place the ‘eyes’ of the peacock-feathers in a balanced way.  I used the remains of the Malibu pants fabric for the lining.

The top seemed as if it would be a bit long in the body for Rhiannon so I took a quarter-inch off the lower edge of the waistband.  For the peplum itself I had to join separate pieces in order to make a long enough strip of fabric.  To do this, I sewed my first-ever French seams!  They sit nicely on the hip at each side, aligned with the underarm seams, and almost look as if they were meant to be there.  The pattern calls for a zip to fasten it at the back, which would be my preference too, but at the time I had no suitable zip so decided to use the dreaded velcro once again.

This pattern called for very exact sewing around the neckline, and I was delighted to see that I had got the sweetheart neckline perfectly balanced and even.  I was very happy with the way the top turned out, and very pleased indeed to see how well it suited Rhiannon.  She has teamed her outfit with a sweet pearl-and-cameo necklace, which sets off the sweetheart neckline very nicely.  On her feet she wears some stripey summer sandals, just right for the warmer weather that we feel sure is just around the corner.

We'd like some warm weather please! Click to enlarge

“We’d like some warm Spring weather now, please!”
Click to enlarge

Warm Woollies for a Spring Stroll

A good excuse to show off their warm woollies Click to enlarge

A good excuse to show off their warm woollies
Click to enlarge

It’s a chilly March day here in Wiltshire and Kit and Maru are setting off to walk their dog, Herr Flick the German Schnauzer.  Winter and early Spring are knitting season at Kit’s Couture, and they both have new woolly jackets to show you.

Daybreak to Dusk coat

Maru could wear this anytime - from Dawn to Dusk!

Maru could wear this anytime – from Daybreak to Dusk

Maru is wearing this lovely coat for 18-20″ dolls from a pattern by Knitting Nanny Mo, available from My Doll Best Friend.  This is an unusual and stylish pattern for a cabled coat.  The ribbing drawing it in slightly below the yoke makes it fit nicely to Maru’s torso, and the bodice sits well on her sloping shoulders.  The cabling on the skirts of the coat decorate without overwhelming and the gently ruffled hem is a pretty touch.  A single statement button fastens the bodice together.  With her outfit, Maru wears last year’s Whidbey watch cap, and her favourite suede ankle-boots.

Just as pretty from the back Click to enlarge

Just as pretty from the back
Click to enlarge

This was quite an easy pattern to knit up.  I used shade 140 ‘Gold’ of my favourite Jarol Heritage DK yarn, a colour which looks so much better in real life than it does in my photographs.  I followed the pattern exactly apart from row 4 of the cable pattern on the right front, where I felt the cables were the wrong way round.  I wanted them to be a mirror image of the cabling on the left front, so I adjusted the instructions for row 4 to: K6, C6F, K6, C6B, K6.  This seems to me to work better – certainly I prefer it.

Apart from this small tweak the pattern is perfect, and I do love the design.  I’m busy now knitting it in Aran yarn on size 7 needles, making a larger version to fit my 24″ Paola Reina Las Reinas girl Lidia.

Spring Fever big collar cardi

Spring Fever - just right with jeans Click to enlarge

Spring Fever – just right with jeans
Click to enlarge

Kit’s new jacket is Spring Fever, a Jacknitss Design for 18-19″ dolls by Jacqueline Gibb.  I chose Jarol Heritage DK shade 146 ‘Ming’, a dusty blue, to flatter Kit’s summer colouring and also tone perfectly with her button-up shirt.  This gorgeous jacket has a twisted ribbed bands which extend up and join the huge collar which does duty as a shawl or cape to keep Kit’s shoulders snug and warm when the March winds blow.    The wide ribbing on the deep cuffs is echoed by the same ribbing on the two pockets, and the tie belt is worked as twisted rib to match the bands and collar.  Kit completes her outfit with a pair of fur-topped black boots with crazy pompom decorations.

Collar - or shawl in disguise? Click to enlarge

Collar – or shawl in disguise?
Click to enlarge

This was such a good pattern, so easy to follow and there was nothing that I needed to adjust or change.  It knit up perfectly to size and the fit was excellent.  In fact, it was so good that it encouraged me to try another Jacknitss pattern…

 Delightful Duffel Coat

Hooded encounter Click to enlarge

Who’s this little pixie talking to Jamila?
Click to enlarge

Our mystery model is wearing a gorgeously-textured hooded coat with the grey trousers from Kidz ‘n’ Cat’s Sophie’s ‘meet’ outfit, and matching mauve boots with fur tops.  She’s carrying all she needs for her outing on her back in her smart leather satchel.

Meanwhile Jamila is wearing last year’s Pemberton Capelet and hat that she has inherited from Shona – and they fit her beautifully.  Her white trousers are from Precious Day Elisabeth’s ‘meet’ outfit and she has Kidz ‘n’ Cats shoes on her feet.

 
Helen in a hoodie! Click to enlarge

It’s Helen in a hoodie!
Click to enlarge

And the mystery model turns out to be Kidz ‘n’ Cats Helen, with her hair tucked inside her new soft mauve duffel coat, knitted in Jarol Heritage DK shade 107 ‘Lilac’.  This is the coat from the Duffel Coat Set for Kidz ‘n’ Cats (18″ slim dolls), our second Jacknitss design.  Besides this attractive coat, the Duffel Coat Set also includes instructions for a yoked top, skinny leggings and even a duffel bag.  I have only made the coat so far.

Hood down for a portrait shot Click to enlarge

Hood down for a portrait shot with Jamila
Click to enlarge

This is a faultless pattern which knit up perfectly.  The instructions for the coat are very clear and detailed – just what I like.  A completely new technique for me was the 3-needle bind-off (cast-off) to join the shoulder seams together, far less bulky than a stitched seam and ideal for doll’s knits.  I really like this design with its double moss-stitch texture, cuff straps, frog fastenings and its little toggle buttons.

Helen to the fore! Click to enlarge

Helen to the fore!
Click to enlarge

A quick hair restyle into two plaits, and Helen’s happily in front of the camera again, showing off the toggle features and luscious texture on her new coat.

These three attractive and very different coat patterns have all been very successful, and have certainly  helped me while away some dark and cold winter evenings.  But very soon it will be time to get the sewing machine and the cotton fabric out because spring is just around the corner – can’t wait!

 

 

Yet more infinite variety

Patiently waiting to show you more styles... Click to enlarge

Patiently waiting to show you more styles…
Click to enlarge

It has been a difficult January at Kit’s Couture.  After an intensive photographic session recording the creations of the last few weeks and months, the motherboard on my laptop died and the entire computer, with all my new photos on the hard disk, had to go away to be fixed.

The good news is that it’s back now, with all photos safe and sound, and Kit’s Couture can publish again!

So thank you for your patience, and here’s a quick initial post to show some more of the Infinity Dress styles that Shona and I have discovered so far.

First a couple of halterneck styles, beginning with one where we simply crossed the straps over each other in front and then twisted them at the back and brought them around the body to form the bodice.

A simple halterneck first of all Click to enlarge

Simple but effective
Click to enlarge

Then a second halterneck style, closer to the neck.  Here the straps are twisted around each other at the front before they are passed around the neck and twisted together at the back, then as before brought back around the body to form the bodice.

Subtly different from the previous style... Click to enlarge

Subtly different from the previous style…
Click to enlarge

Now a kind of sweetheart neckline, adapted from the sleeveless v-neck style with the help of some strategically placed knots of ribbon.

Lifts the sleeveless V-neck style out of the ordinary Cllck to enlarge

Lifts the sleeveless V-neck style out of the ordinary
Cllck to enlarge

And finally, the best of all, a complex twisting of the straps at the front (a right fiddle, frankly), allows them to be spread around the upper arms in of-the-shoulder style, then with the usual twist at the back the straps come around the front to form the lower bodice.

An elegant evening style Click to enlarge

An elegant evening style
Click to enlarge

The complex twist at the bust is easier to see in the head-and-shoulders shot we started with, especially if you view it at full size.

Patiently waiting to show you more styles... Click to enlarge

Sweetly elegant…
Click to enlarge

The Infinity Dress worn in this style but with a full-length skirt would make a stunning evening dress for American Girl, Precious Day, Bonnie & Pearl or any of the 18″ dolls with the ‘sturdy’ waist size.  It will, of course, look particularly good on those with a solid shoulder-plate like the Madame Alexander Favorite Friends, or the Bonnie and Pearl girlies – no exposure of the ragdoll body there!

Shona and I have had great fun working out these few styles, and no doubt there are many more waiting to be discovered.

Infinite variety

Phew!  The midwinter party season is over for another year!  What some dolls do at this time of year is pester their over-stretched couturier for several different party dresses.  But clever Shona found the perfect solution – she asked me to make her just one dress that can be worn in many styles – an Infinity Dress.

The skirt of this clever design is simple enough: a skirt gathered into a waistband.  But it’s the ‘bodice’ that is so different.  Attached to the front of the waistband are two long, wide straps that can be tied in many different ways.  The dress was very straightforward to make up from the pattern by Forever 18 Inches and it is sized to fit American Girl, Gotz Precious Day and other sturdy 18″ dolls.    The dress is made from double-knit jersey which does not fray, so the edges of the straps are unfinished.  I hand-sewed the hem so that it was invisible.

We had great fun over Christmas working out some different party styles, and Shona wanted me to show you three of her favourite ways to wear this clever dress.  Click on the photos to see them full size.

Sleeveless V-neck

Style 1: Sleeveless V-neck

Here’s she has styled it as a sleeveless v-neck: the two straps are taken up over the shoulders and then crossed at the back, passed around her midriff and tied at the back.  Here’s how it looks from the back:-

Style 1 (back view), simple cross-over and sash-like tie.

Style 1 (back view), simple cross-over and sash-like tie.

Next Shona went for a demure, 1930s-inspired style which has perhaps just a touch of the vicarage tea-party about it.  Here the straps are spread wide and shawl-like over the shoulders, forming generous sleeves.  The straps then cross at the back again, are pulled around to the front, looped around each other and taken to the back again where they tie in place.  An elegant string of pearls completes the ensemble.

Style 2: 1930s chic

Style 2: 1930s chic

In the third style the two straps are twisted hard together to form a bulky, almost sculptural twist which goes firmly over one shoulder.  Then they are separated, spread out flat and passed around Shona’s midriff to form the body of the dress, and once again tied at the back.  The pearls are pulled close around her neck so that they do not interfere with the neckline.  Her little ballet pumps match the hot pink of the dress perfectly.

Style 3: Asymmetrical single-strap style

Style 3: Asymmetrical single-strap style

 

It's her favourite!

It’s her favourite!

This really is her favourite style of the three.  But there are many more ways to tie the ingenious Infinity Dress.  We’ll post more as we discover them.

 

 

 

A touch of Autumn shirtiness

Shirt with lace yoke Click to enlarge

Kit loves her button-up shirt with its lace yoke.
Click to enlarge

Liberty Jane Clothing recently advertised their Button-Up Shirt as being ideal for Autumn (Fall) wear, so Kit felt it was time to showcase Kit’s Couture’s interpretation of this very effective design.

We chose another lovely piece of Tana Lawn for this shirt, this time in the attractive 1930s “Meadow” design in a dusty blue that matches Kit’s eyes to perfection.  Once again we’re indebted to our friend Christine for providing us with the fabric remnant that is so flattering to Kit’s summer colouring.  The lace yoke is cut from a wide piece of cotton lace braid.  Six buttons and four poppers (snaps) complete the garment.

This is a perfect miniature shirt, with a yoke, a placket onto which the buttons are mounted, and a collar stand onto which the collar is set.  We chose to do the three-quarter sleeve option, which features turn-back cuffs fastened with buttoned tabs.  I had never made a shirt before, so this was all new territory for me.

 

Perfectly aligned pattern on the yoke back. Click to enlarge.

Perfectly aligned pattern on the yoke back.
Click to enlarge.

The first challenge was cutting out.  I smiled at the pattern instructions which showed layouts for cutting out which looked just like those you would get with a full-sized pattern.   This was a seriously authentic shirt!  I studied the pattern pieces carefully to be sure how the lace yoke would fit against the shirt fronts, then with great care I placed the pieces and cut them out.

I had not been able to find a fine lace wide enough to accommodate the yoke pattern pieces, so had gone with the cotton lace braid.   In cutting out I made sure that each front yoke’s lacy pattern was a reflection of the other, and that the back yoke was centred horizontally and vertically over the wide diamond pattern.   The lace was lovely, but it was rather thick  and bulky to work with against the much finer lawn fabric.  I used Fray-Check to stop its open weave from unravelling, and did the best I could to make the crisp points required on the front of the yoke.

The next tricky step was the placket.  I followed the excellent instructions carefully, and was very grateful for my blind hem foot which made it possible for me to edge-stitch the placket evenly and within a gnat’s breath of the fabric edge (without wobbling!).

The collar was fiddly both because it was so small, and because the collar stand had to be stitched to the lace yoke, whose loose open weave was not as stable as a plain woven fabric would be.  It just required that extra bit of care to construct, and again, I was so grateful to the excellent clear instructions provided by Liberty Jane Clothing as step by step I created an authentic shirt in miniature.

 

Three-quarter sleeves finished with tabbed cuffs for that authentic look. Click to enlarge.

Three-quarter sleeves finished with tabbed cuffs for that authentic look.
Click to enlarge.

The three-quarter sleeves are hemmed to look as if the sleeve is turned back and fastened with a buttoned tab, with the underside of the fabric showing.  This is purely decorative but very effective.  Here top-stitching is on show and it has to be absolutely even, so out came my blind hem foot again.  Top stitching holds no fears for me now.

Last part of the construction was hemming the curved tails of the shirt, and then all that remained was to sew poppers onto the button placket and place the buttons here and onto the tabs on the cuffs.

 

A perfect fit, and great with Liberty Jane jeans. Click to enlarge.

A perfect fit, and great with Liberty Jane jeans.
Click to enlarge.

This really is the favourite garment that I’ve made so far in American Girl size, a perfect miniature shirt in every way.  It’s a versatile pattern too, with a long-sleeved version, and of course it can be made up with a normal fabric yoke for a more everyday look.  But the lace yoke is the most original touch, and Kit loves wearing it with her Liberty Jane jeans and her silver ballet flats from Sophia’s, plus her oversized heart-shaped Gotz sunglasses.  Just perfect wear for golden afternoons of late autumn sunshine.

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

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!

 

Girls in Ganseys

Girls in Ganseys

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

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

Click to enlarge

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
Click to enlarge

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

Click to enlarge

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.

 

(Not) Just Jeans

Shona and Sophie in blue jeans

Shona and Sophie model their new jeans

I realise the blog has been pretty quiet over the last few weeks, but it’s not because Kit’s Couture has not been busy.  I find I prefer spending time at the sewing machine to sitting at my PC (in a cold bedroom) writing about the results.  Recently I’ve been working on jeans for the girls, and this post showcases the results of my labours.

American Girl jeans (left) and my design for Kidz (right)

American Girl jeans (left) and my own design for Kidz ‘n’ Cats (right)

I started with the well-established Liberty Jane pattern for American Girl bootcut jeans, which I like not just because it’s an excellent reliable pattern with good instruction, but also because of the authentic detailing on the garments.

Authentic detailing on the Liberty Jane jeans

Authentic detailing on the Liberty Jane jeans

These jeans look like jeans should, with plenty of top-stitching and proper functional pockets.  The instructions were very clear and well-illustrated, and it all went pretty smoothly, although I made the fly-front stitching a bit too long, I think.  They are of course sized to fit American Girl exactly, and Kit looked amazing in them, as did Elizabeth, my Gotz Precious Day girl.  Shona (Favorite Friends) is slightly slimmer about the hips, and the jeans are more roomy on her (but still fit).

Rosie's T-Shirt pattern

Rosie’s T-Shirt pattern

With her new jeans, Shona wears a simple but stylish T-shirt made from a pattern from Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns.  This would look great with the raglan sleeves and neck border picked out in a different colour from the main body, but I chose to use plain white jersey and pipe the raglan seams with yellow narrow bias binding.  Shona is my Winter girl and white really complements her pink-toned skin and ice-blue eyes.  The T-shirt fastens up the back with velcro, making the shirt easy to put on and take off, but as always with velcro, watch out for the hooky side snuggling up against any delicate garments (tights are particularly vulnerable).

After the success of the Liberty Jane jeans I turned my mind to making some for my Kidz ‘n’ Cats girls.  Patterns for the Kidz are hard to come by, in fact I have found only two sources so far: Miss Connie in the USA; and Vanina in France.  Both supply trouser patterns but they are not styled like jeans and each leg is cut in one complete piece rather than as a separate front and back, as per the Liberty Jane pattern.  What I did have, however, was the trousers from Sophie’s ‘meet’ outfit and with these as a guide I drew up my first-ever pattern for straight-leg jeans sized for Kidz ‘n’ Cats.

Front-pocket detailing on the Kidz' jeans

Front-pocket detailing on the Kidz’ jeans

Like the Liberty Jane jeans, these have functional pockets into which the wearer can slide a thumb for that casual pose, and there are real hip pockets on the back as well.  The detailing continues down the side seams and around the hems…

More top-stitching on the legs

More top-stitching on the legs

Sophie’s new blue shoes are style #798, the Modern T-Strap shoe, from Monique in size 75/34.

Tunique à pli creux et col Claudine, a design by Vanina

Tunique à pli creux et col Claudine, a design by Vanina

Sophie has teamed her jeans with a box-pleat tunic with a ‘Claudine’ collar, one of the lovely French designs by Vanina of Les Cheries de Vaniline.  Sophie has delicate Spring colouring, so I chose a lively print in clear warm Spring colours on a warm blue base which complements her blue eyes.  The white collar and pink button add just enough interest to the front view…

Matching buttons on the back view

Matching buttons on the back view

…and the back is fastened not with velcro but with little poppers (press-studs).  The pink buttons are purely decorative.

Shone and Sophie

All dolls should dress for their season!  Shona and Sophie demonstrate how good they look in Winter and Spring shades respectively.

I have been very encouraged by how well my jeans pattern for the Kidz has turned out.  I’m sure it can be refined a bit more, but as a first attempt I’m really pleased with it.  I have already established that if I recut it with a little more ease and slightly longer in the leg it would also fit Maru and Friends.  Watch this space!