Tag Archive | Kidz ‘n’ Cats

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.

 

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(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

Click for full size image

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

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

Sophie’s suit

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

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

Apple Blossom Time

The Apple Blossom Dress

Click to enlarge

Here in England’s West Country the spring blossom has been absolutely stunning this year, so it seems the right moment to show you Sophie looking cool and charming in her Apple Blossom dress.  She’s  wearing her favourite pink ballerina shoes with their little velvet bows, and of course she’s carrying her beloved cat which goes everywhere with her.

The dress is based on a bodice pattern by Miss Connie, which consists just of the bodice and sleeves.  Once you have the bodice pattern it’s simple enough to cut a rectangle of material to make the skirt – just gather it into the bodice.  This really is an excellently cut garment which fits the slender Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls perfectly.  So be warned, there’s no way Kit or any of the other American Girls will fit into this dress.  Definitely for Kidz only!

One fat square provides plenty of material to make it up.  I got this particular fabric in Millie Moon in Frome (Somerset, UK), a shop which caters largely for quilters and which stocks a wonderful range of beautiful fabrics with designs that are just the right scale for doll’s clothes.

Sophie’s ballerina shoes are by Kidz ‘n’ Cats, part of the four-piece footwear set available from retailers or direct from the Kidz ‘n’ Cats online shop itself.  I was not terribly impressed by the shoe set, to be honest.  These pink pumps are the best of the four, and fit the Kidz well.  The coral-pink Mary Janes are pretty but the straps are cut too short and show the velcro fastenings when done up.  The wellies are beautifully made but proved impossible to put on the Kidz, in fact Susan has inherited them as they slide onto her smaller feet without much difficulty.  Finally there is a pair of green canvas trainers, which are poorly made, and came with laces that were too short to fasten in a bow.  The trainers are also far too big for the Kidz’ slender feet, but I found that they fit Kit well, once I had swapped the laces for the longer ones in the wellies.  Overall the quality is not great for the price, and I’d definitely recommend going to Monique Trading Corp instead as they have various styles in a size (75mm/34mm) that fits the Kidz.

I was truly delighted with this little dress.  Made from this lovely fabric it needs no trimmings at all.  It is just a simple, well-cut dress in an attractive material that suits Sophie’s blonde hair and blue eyes beautifully.  It is a good basic dress design and the bodice pattern has proved very adaptable – as a future post will demonstrate.

Chic cross-over dress for the Kidz

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

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

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

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

Kit’s Couture goes live!

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

We will be featuring:-

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

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