Tag Archive | Annika

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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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.

 

Polka-Dot Parade

Click for full size version

Click for full size image

Next on the catwalk are Sophie and Annika looking cool and sweet in matching polka-dot themed ensembles.

Both of these outfits are made from Miss Connie’s bodice and pants patterns.  It was fun to adapt them to give a different look to each of the Kidz.   Two fat squares of material – one plain, one polka-dot – were ample to make trousers and top, leaving enough left over for a hat as well.  I made Sophie a bolero jacket with full-length sleeves to match her crop trousers, and Annika a sleeveless crop top to match her full-length trousers.  Annika’s ensemble is completed by a summer hat in the same materials.  These are the Kit’s Couture creations which form the core of their outfits.

In addition, Annika is wearing Monique classic ankle strap shoes in cream; and their other garments – Sophie’s pale yellow batiste blouse, her sandals, and Annika’s turquoise jacket – are all part of the summer outfit Annika was wearing when she arrived.   These are beautifully made garments from Kidz ‘n’ Cats, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the pale yellow blouse suits Sophie’s delicate colouring better than it does Annika, whose auburn hair and dark eyes are flattered far better by the rich warm yellow of her new outfit.

Annika’s ensemble

Polka Dot Parade 2

Click for full size image

I began with Miss Connie’s ‘basic elastic waist pants’ pattern which is for full-length trousers.  This is another well-cut garment and the trouser legs fit the slim-legged Kidz beautifully.  I was focusing on the construction of the garment so didn’t attempt to add any trimmings at all, just put the trousers together as per the pattern instructions – adding an extra half-inch at the waist edge as advised by Connie when she sent through the patterns.  This gives at higher rise and adds ease to the garment.  I was a little puzzled that the bottom of the legs was cut curved rather than straight across.  I’m not sure why this was done and I might well straighten it next time I make up a pair of these trousers.   The crop top was easy to adapt from the bodice pattern.  It was just a question of deciding how short a crop top I wanted, and then making it up in the usual way, finishing off the edge by folding in both bottom edges and top-stitching them together.

The hat was the real challenge.  This was made from Vanina’s ‘tuto chapeau’ pattern, and proved quite tricky to put together.  I’ll certainly be making a hat for Sophie from this pattern so will write about that in a later blog when I’ve honed my technique…

Sophie’s suit

When I came to make Sophie’s suit I had got the bit between my teeth and wanted to play around with the patterns a bit more.  Miss Connie provided a tutorial on ‘designing pants lengths’, so I followed her excellent instructions to create some cropped trousers.  I decorated the leg edges with purple rick-rack braid to make them a bit smarter.  I decided to rework the bodice pattern to create a bolero jacket by cutting the back all as one piece, and halving the front pattern piece and curving the inner edge from the neckline to the side seam.  Like the crop top, the jacket is lined, with the lining slip-stitched down to neaten around the armhole seams.  It turned out to be quite a fiddly little job.  I top-stitched around the jacket edges to provide some interest – I definitely need a bit more practice with top-stitching, it’s too easy to wobble! – and I trimmed the sleeve hems with rick-rack braid.  The final touch was to add a yellow butterfly button to the left front.

I really like these patterns from Miss Connie.  They fit the Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls beautifully and I can see how they can be readily adjusted to create different styles of trousers and tops.  Making these outfits really helped me gain confidence in adapting patterns, and I also began to see how to use trimmings to add interest and individuality.

Chic cross-over dress for the Kidz

Cross-over dress for KidzBy contrast with my previous post, which featured my first wobbly attempt at making doll’s clothes, here is Annika wearing the most recent creation from Kit’s Couture.  This simple but chic French design was made using a pattern from Vanina who runs the Les Chéries de Vaniline blog and makes her patterns (‘patrons’) available for purchase there.  Vanina favours Liberty prints and I was lucky enough to find a fat square at my local needlecrafts shop, Fabric Magic, which, while not Liberty, was similar in feel.  Annika’s outfit is completed by her green classic ankle strap shoes from Monique.

The pattern draws on the same techniques used to make Kit’s summer dress, being essentially a lined yoke attached to a softly gathered skirt.  I’ve made a few of these dresses with yokes now and I have been encouraged to see how much more accurate and exact my stitching has become since my first attempt three months ago.  Even my top-stitching – which I still find tricky – has improved.  The new skill here was attaching the ties which fasten the dress at the side.  The pattern instructions clearly say to be careful to attach these correctly, and I did take great care over the placement of the first one, stitching it accurately and securely.  Then I discovered I’d put in the wrong way round and had to unpick it.  And then I did exactly the same with the second tie too!

The main challenge with this pattern, however, was that it and the instructions are all in French and I was not familiar with the French vocabulary of dressmaking.  With a bit of help from Google Translate I worked out that, for example, ‘Cranter les arrondis’ means ‘clip curves’…  at least I think it does.  That’s what I did anyway, and it seems to have worked very well.

American Girl owners please note that Kidz ‘n’ Cats are slim dolls and patterns designed for them will be too small for the sturdier build of the American Girl.

Kit’s Couture goes live!

I’m finally launching this blog.  It’s been several months in the planning but now it’s ready to go.  We have a dozen or so outfits to showcase, the models are ready and longing to get out there on the catwalk…

We will be featuring:-

  • Susan modelling vintage knitwear and designs from the 1950s – 1970s
  • Kit modelling American Girl fashions from the USA and Australia, including a beautiful gown in the style of the 1790s.
  • Sophie and Annika modelling Kidz ‘n’ Cats designs from France and the USA.

So watch this space over the next few days and weeks as the latest collection from Kit’s Couture goes public!