Tag Archive | Kidz ‘n’ Cats

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

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.

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!

 

 

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations in Green 2: Meili

 

Meili in a mixture of Dutch and French designs

Meili in a mixture of Dutch and French designs

 

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

The trousers

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

 

Lace and cuff details

Lace and cuff details

The Smock-top

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

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

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

To complete the outfit

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

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

 

 

Variations in Green 1: Maru

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

Maru in green

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

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

Greenvar02

The lace collar in detail

 

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

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

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

Side view

Whimsical flourishes at hip and knee

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Whidbey gansey

Whidbey ganseys

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

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

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

The button fastenings

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

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

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

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

 

(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!

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

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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.