Tag Archive | dress

Three for Spring

Three for Spring - dress, hat and cardy.  Click to enlarge.

Three for Spring – dress, hat and cardy.  Click to enlarge.

There are some lovely sewing and knitting patterns coming out of France for the Kidz ‘n’ Cats.  The knitting designs by (Monique) Soudane are particularly charming and stylish.  I have had three of her patterns for two years now, but have only completed one of them, Trois Printemps.  This pattern first brought the Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls to my attention.  Soudane is a fine photographer and her shots of her 2009 Helen wearing this charming little outfit just blew me away.  I had to have this doll – oh, and the pattern too, of course.

Getting the pattern was easy, but to my disappointment by the spring of 2013 Helen was no longer in production.  I ordered Sophie instead, sent off to France for the right yarn, and once it arrived got busily knitting.  The outfit has been complete for two years now, but it looked disappointing on Sophie and I have only just found the perfect model to show it to you – Helen, of course!  Last year I was lucky enough to find my own Helen – not the truly exquisite 2009/10 version, but the 2011 model is nevertheless a very fine doll indeed.  And she’s extremely photogenic!

I loved the original colours, lilac and white, so much that I ordered the exact same shades of yarn, and my own interpretation of the pattern does closely resemble the photos in the pattern which you can see on Soudane’s Etsy page.  The yarn needed is “Ambre” from Cheval Blanc, in shades 011-Blanc and 044-Lilas.

Casting my mind back two years, I don’t recall any problems with the pattern at all.  My only criticism would be that it turned out rather large for the slim Kidz ‘n’ Cats.  However Soudane does describe it as being suitable for both Kidz ‘n’ Cats, and for dolls of the size of American Girl, which are much more bulky.  Certainly this set does fit my American Girl, Kit, perfectly.  On Helen it’s a little roomy, particularly the hat.

All that being said, she wears it well, particularly when she removes the cardigan and shows off the lovely detailing of the dress’s bodice and skirt, worn as a pinafore over a white long-sleeved Gotz t-shirt.  With the outfit Helen wears her mauve Monique ‘Ribbon side Mary Janes‘ in size 75/34.

Helen loves the camera!

You can almost see her breathing…   Click to enlarge.

This outfit looks so good on Helen because the colours enhance her delicate, cool Winter colouring.  Kidz ‘n’ Cats Sophie, also a blue-eyed blonde, is by contrast a Spring, and this cool mauve never looked quite right on her.  Sophie needs clear, bright, warm colours.  It’s a good example of how the temperature, shade and tone of a colour can make or break an otherwise lovely outfit.  On Sophie, this ensemble looked all wrong, and I could never get a decent photograph of it.  On Helen, it’s simply stunning.

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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.

 

 

 

Sew-along-a-summer

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

Week 1: Trousers for Liu

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

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

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

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

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

Week 2: a dress for Ava

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

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

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

 

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

Week 3: a pinafore dress for Liu

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sweet Simplicity 2454

Susan models Simplicity 2454

Susan models Simplicity 2454
Click to enlarge

Finding patterns for Susan, my 16″ little black girl doll from the early 1960s, isn’t all that easy.  She’s too small for the 18″ patterns for American Girl and the like, and her body shape is different.  But Simplicity have reissued some of their patterns from the 50s and 60s, and so I was able to find and buy Simplicity 2454, which has a complete wardrobe for 16″ and 18″ dolls.  The pattern comprises a short-sleeved dress, a little waistcoat, a pinafore, undies, pyjamas, and a hooded coat.  After experimenting with the simple flared pinafore, and finding that the 16″ size fit Susan perfectly, I decided to make up the dress and waistcoat, as they seemed the most attractive garments in the pattern.

Susan’s colour season is Autumn, so I chose a sprigged print in fawn and russet on a honey-toned base for the dress, and a matching plain fawn for the little waistcoat.  I had some pretty broderie anglaise-type lace and some tiny fawn star-shaped buttons in my stash, so had everything I needed to get started.

Bodice and waistcoat detail. Click to enlarge.

Bodice and waistcoat detail. Look at the embroidery, not the top-stitching!
Click to enlarge.

I was shocked at how much more fiddly it was sewing for a 16″ doll compared with an 18″ one.  The dress wasn’t too bad, apart from top-stitching the neckline which was a bit of a nightmare.  The curve of the neck was so extreme, it was difficult to stay on track.  At this time I didn’t  have anything to help me with top-stitching, I was doing it by eye and using the edge of the presser foot.  This proved tricky on the curves and so the top-stitching around the neck is not at all as I would wish to see it.  I followed the pattern and used poppers to fasten the back of the bodice, and added little buttons to make it look as if it was a button-back.

Then I started work on the waistcoat.  I’d thought the dress neckline was fiddly, but compared with constructing the waistcoat it was a doddle.  The actual sewing was fine, it was turning the garment the right way out that was so tricky, as the shoulders are only 3/8″ wide.  I had to coax the fronts through this tiny channel with a safety pin, all the time worried that I would tear the seams or indeed the fabric itself.  But after a bit of a struggle I managed it and once ironed, the little garment looked quite good. I felt there was something missing, though, and realised it needed decoration around the neck edge to balance the (only slightly wobbly) top-stitching along the lower edge.  More top-stitching?  No, too plain.  Braid?  No, any braid I had would swamp this tiny garment.  What it needed was some embroidery.

My Singer Talent 3321 machine is quite simple, but it does have a few embroidery stitches.  I found one that looked like cross-stitch, practised it a bit, and then with a slight sense of anxiety – would I spoil the waistcoat at this late stage? – I lined up the fabric and started stitching.  The result was almost better than I’d hoped.  True, it’s not a perfect cross-stitch effect but the stitching looks quite regular and really does set off the edge of the garment as I’d hoped.  Two tiny buttons and popper fastenings completed the waistcoat.

I eased Susan’s arms into the waistcoat and pulled the dress’s puff sleeves through the armholes, fastened the poppers, and the effect was all I could wish for.  With her cream-coloured German shoes and an orange bow to match her eyes in her hair, Susan looks sweetly pretty and in quite the smartest outfit she’s possessed since the 1960s!

I made this outfit much earlier this year.  Then in the spring I acquired Jamila, my Paola Reina Soy Tu girl.  Jamila and Susan seemed to be drawn to each other immediately: both black, both a similar height (Jamila’s just a touch taller) and a similar shape.  I tried Susan’s outfit on Jamila and it fit her quite well, but the colour was all wrong for my new Winter girl.  She would need her own outfit.

Jamila models Simplicity 2454

Jamila models Simplicity 2454
Click to enlarge.

As a Winter, Jamila is flattered by cool jewel colours or pale ice shades.  I had in my stash a fat quarter that had made me a little nervous up to now.  It was so bright, I just couldn’t see how I could use it.  But I realised that this red, white, yellow and green floral print on black would be perfect for my new Winter girl.  The same white broderie anglaise lace would work beautifully with it, and I had a plain red fabric for the waistcoat.  And the top-stitching and embroidery could be black, which would make a real stand-out feature of it.

Neck and bodice details.  This time you can look at the top-stitching! Click to enlarge.

Neck and bodice details. This time you’re allowed to look at the top-stitching!
Click to enlarge.

The dress came together well, and this time the top-stitching around the neck and along the bodice edge and hem was less of an issue, as I’d acquired a blind hem foot which kept me well on track – even though that neck curve was still challenging.  As with Susan’s dress I managed to find some tiny red buttons to sit over the poppers fastening the back of the bodice.

Then I tackled that waistcoat again.  Yes, turning it inside out was just as fiddly second time around!  The top-stitching and embroidery went well, although the black on red was unforgiving and showed every wobble.  But it was ok, more than ok actually, so I eased it onto Jamila…  and found to my horror that it wouldn’t overlap at all.  Jamila is slightly bigger in the chest that Susan, and this waistcoat would only meet edge-to-edge.

Back to the drawing board.  I considered making another waistcoat, slightly bigger, but could I bear to do this?  I could not.  It struck me that the answer was to insert eyelets and lace up the waistcoat.  End of problem.  Except that I had no eyelets, no eyeleter, and no idea how to use one.

Let’s draw a veil over the mistakes I made in equipping myself with the right equipment and finding out how to use it.  Not much money was wasted, really…  but much frustration and irritation ensued, before I discovered the Prym Vario pliers and learned from YouTube how to use them.  Armed with black eyelets I punched my first hole, pressed in the eyelet – and wow! it was in the right place and looked great!  Five more were fitted, and a length of black cord laced through, and the waistcoat was complete.  I was really really pleased with the result, and I’d acquired  a new skill in the process.  Jamila then borrowed a pair of shoes from the Kidz – a bit long for her feet, but just the right red – and these with her own socks finished off the outfit to perfection.

These two matching outfits illustrate how far I’ve come in the last few months, acquiring new bits of equipment which really help keep me on track (the blind hem foot) and being able to add new design features.  My sewing skills had really improved.  But even though Jamila’s outfit is so much better constructed that Susan’s, I do like them both very much.  It was fun swapping the outfits over, putting Susan in the Winter colours and Jamila in the Autumn ones, and seeing just how unflattering they were to their different colourings.  And then redressing them in the right colours again, and seeing their complexions – vinyl though they are – come alive in the colours of their own season.

Getting the colours right! Click to enlarge

Getting the colours right – Winter for Jamila, Autumn for Susan.
Click to enlarge.

 

Variation in Green 4: Enter the Queen

Lidia loves bunnies!

Lidia loves bunnies! Click to enlarge

 

Today the beautiful Lidia steps out onto the Kit’s Couture catwalk, wearing my final Variation in Green.  This was a challenging creation for Kit’s Couture as Lidia is one of Las Reinas (the Queens) de Paola Reina and stands almost 24″ tall.  She’s comparatively slim in the body but her arms and legs are very sturdy.  I have no patterns for her, and there don’t appear to be any out there.  So I was on my own.

Or was I?  A while ago, Rosie (of Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns) had blogged about a method for enlarging or reducing existing patterns to fit other dolls.  Maybe I could do something with this?  I decided to use Rosie’s summer dress pattern for American Girl, and try to resize that to fit Lidia.  So I measured, compared and applied the formula, and enlarged the bodice by about an inch all around.

This proved less easy than I’d hoped.  Lidia has a slight bust, like all the Paola Reina dolls I’ve seen, whereas American Girls are flat-chested.  So I almost needed a dart in the front of the bodice.  Almost – but I thought I could just about get away without.  By contrast I seemed to have too much material at the back.  I got around this by gathering the skirt directly into the bodice – Rosie’s pattern puts a waistband between skirt and bodice – and then wrapping a decorative ribbon around the seam.  This ties at the back, and it is easy to gather up any extra bodice material into the ribbon and tie it securely down.  A bit Heath-Robinson, but it works.

Sitting pretty

Lidia’s sitting pretty in her new dress. Click to enlarge.

I cut the enlarged bodice out of the moss-green material which has been working so hard for Kit’s Couture recently, and chose a pretty olive-green and russet-red print for the skirt.  I finished off the hem of the dress with a very sweet decorative ribbon with a bunny motif, and used the same material to make an Alice band for her hair.

Boots 'n' bunnies

Boots ‘n’ bunnies. Click to enlarge.

Lidia has completed her outfit with her pale pink tights from her meet outfit, and some black boots by Paola Reina which give her the look of a Victorian miss.  A pearl necklace complements the ensemble – fit for a Queen!

I’m quite pleased with this outfit,and have learned a lot about enlarging patterns, and have gained a lot of confidence in reworking and adjusting Rosie’s standard pattern to fit this queenly doll.