Tag Archive | Elisabeth

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

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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.

 

Summer’s end: crop cargoes and halter-neck

The first of Kit’s Couture’s two new girls, Elisabeth, models a pretty end-of-summer ensemble: cropped cargoes from a pattern by Heritage Doll Fashions, teamed with a halter-neck top from Rosie’s Doll Clothes.

Cargoes and halterneck

Crop cargoes and halterneck.
Click to enlarge

I chose two different lots of fabric for this outfit.  I teamed a light summer blue with a pretty print in summer blues and greens, both of which suit Elisabeth very well.  She has teamed her outfit with some pink peep-toe shoes from Gotz, and wears an Alice band in the same summer print in her hair.

I began with the halter-neck top which was quite straightforward to put together.  As usual Rosie’s video tutorials were crystal-clear and in an hour or so I had made a loose-fitting top firmly gathered into the halter-neck which ties around the neck with a bow.  The body of the top fastens at the back with velcro.  Of course the halter-neck style does expose Elisabeth’s ragdoll shoulders.  She’s a Precious Day girl by Gotz, and they’ve given her a rather yellow-toned body fabric which isn’t terribly flattering, so for her photos I’ve styled her hair to disguise this.  American Girl have chosen a better colour for their dolls’ bodies so this top would look better on them – and fantastic on Madame Alexander Favorite Friends which have a vinyl shoulder-plate instead.  Nevertheless I’m very pleased with the style and hang of this little top.  The gathers make it fall in pleasing folds at the front.

Pocket details

Pocket details – complete with buttonholes!
Click to enlarge

The cropped cargoes pattern was crying out for a two-colour approach: a plain colour for the main body of the trousers and the patterned print for the pockets and the waist tie.  The instructions from Heritage Doll Fashions were full and fairly easy to follow with good illustrations.  Challenges in this pattern were the top-stitching – there’s a huge amount of it in double-rows, all of which needs to be evenly spaced; and the buttonholes which I tackled for the first time ever.  Each of the cargo pockets are fastened with a button and buttonhole, and the tie belt emerges from the waistband through buttonholes also.  So I did a fair bit of experimentation with my buttonhole foot and settings before I plucked up the courage to actually work on the garment itself.  To my relief everything went smoothly and the finished garment has two fully-functional button-closed pockets, two good deep front pockets, and two smaller back patch pockets, great for storing all the treasures Elisabeth finds when she’s playing outside in the late summer sunshine.

The quality of this outfit encourages me to do what I’ve been planning on for some time, once my sewing skills were up to it: start to sell my outfits online.  So in a week or so, I hope to offer this ensemble for sale, probably on Ebay.  It’s a new venture, and I’ve no idea what sort of a market there is out there for American Girl clothes in the UK, but online shops like Petalina are selling a good number of 18″ dolls to UK customers, so I feel it’s worth dipping my toe in the water and putting some creations from Kit’s Couture out there.

Kit and the girls are excited and rather nervous about this new venture – and so am I.  Wish us luck!