Tag Archive | Kit

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!

 

 

Advertisements

A touch of Autumn shirtiness

Shirt with lace yoke Click to enlarge

Kit loves her button-up shirt with its lace yoke.
Click to enlarge

Liberty Jane Clothing recently advertised their Button-Up Shirt as being ideal for Autumn (Fall) wear, so Kit felt it was time to showcase Kit’s Couture’s interpretation of this very effective design.

We chose another lovely piece of Tana Lawn for this shirt, this time in the attractive 1930s “Meadow” design in a dusty blue that matches Kit’s eyes to perfection.  Once again we’re indebted to our friend Christine for providing us with the fabric remnant that is so flattering to Kit’s summer colouring.  The lace yoke is cut from a wide piece of cotton lace braid.  Six buttons and four poppers (snaps) complete the garment.

This is a perfect miniature shirt, with a yoke, a placket onto which the buttons are mounted, and a collar stand onto which the collar is set.  We chose to do the three-quarter sleeve option, which features turn-back cuffs fastened with buttoned tabs.  I had never made a shirt before, so this was all new territory for me.

 

Perfectly aligned pattern on the yoke back. Click to enlarge.

Perfectly aligned pattern on the yoke back.
Click to enlarge.

The first challenge was cutting out.  I smiled at the pattern instructions which showed layouts for cutting out which looked just like those you would get with a full-sized pattern.   This was a seriously authentic shirt!  I studied the pattern pieces carefully to be sure how the lace yoke would fit against the shirt fronts, then with great care I placed the pieces and cut them out.

I had not been able to find a fine lace wide enough to accommodate the yoke pattern pieces, so had gone with the cotton lace braid.   In cutting out I made sure that each front yoke’s lacy pattern was a reflection of the other, and that the back yoke was centred horizontally and vertically over the wide diamond pattern.   The lace was lovely, but it was rather thick  and bulky to work with against the much finer lawn fabric.  I used Fray-Check to stop its open weave from unravelling, and did the best I could to make the crisp points required on the front of the yoke.

The next tricky step was the placket.  I followed the excellent instructions carefully, and was very grateful for my blind hem foot which made it possible for me to edge-stitch the placket evenly and within a gnat’s breath of the fabric edge (without wobbling!).

The collar was fiddly both because it was so small, and because the collar stand had to be stitched to the lace yoke, whose loose open weave was not as stable as a plain woven fabric would be.  It just required that extra bit of care to construct, and again, I was so grateful to the excellent clear instructions provided by Liberty Jane Clothing as step by step I created an authentic shirt in miniature.

 

Three-quarter sleeves finished with tabbed cuffs for that authentic look. Click to enlarge.

Three-quarter sleeves finished with tabbed cuffs for that authentic look.
Click to enlarge.

The three-quarter sleeves are hemmed to look as if the sleeve is turned back and fastened with a buttoned tab, with the underside of the fabric showing.  This is purely decorative but very effective.  Here top-stitching is on show and it has to be absolutely even, so out came my blind hem foot again.  Top stitching holds no fears for me now.

Last part of the construction was hemming the curved tails of the shirt, and then all that remained was to sew poppers onto the button placket and place the buttons here and onto the tabs on the cuffs.

 

A perfect fit, and great with Liberty Jane jeans. Click to enlarge.

A perfect fit, and great with Liberty Jane jeans.
Click to enlarge.

This really is the favourite garment that I’ve made so far in American Girl size, a perfect miniature shirt in every way.  It’s a versatile pattern too, with a long-sleeved version, and of course it can be made up with a normal fabric yoke for a more everyday look.  But the lace yoke is the most original touch, and Kit loves wearing it with her Liberty Jane jeans and her silver ballet flats from Sophia’s, plus her oversized heart-shaped Gotz sunglasses.  Just perfect wear for golden afternoons of late autumn sunshine.

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

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.

 

Shiny happy party dress

My biggest challenge yet...

My biggest challenge yet…

Ever since I found a wonderful pink-and-silver lycra material remnant in my local fabric shop, I had wanted to make it up into the Liberty Jane Shiny Happy Dress.  But I was thwarted, first by my inexperience with working with lycra fabric, and then by my sewing machine which skipped stitches madly every time I practised stitching this temperamental material.  In the end I went back to my local sewing machine shop where I’d bought my Singer, and talked it over with the very knowledgeable lady there.  She looked at my example of dodgy stitching, thought for a few moments, and then fetched the sewing machine engineer out from the inner room.  He advised investing in a needle for use with leather, as he felt the shiny surface of the fabric was interfering with the action of the needle (don’t ask me how, that’s just what he said).  So I came home with my new pack of needles, dithered a bit, and decided to wait until I felt stronger.

A few months passed and then recently I decided to  install the new needle and have a go.  At first the practice results weren’t all that great – still some stitches skipping – but I found that if I went slowly I was able to get a reasonable line of stitches.  Using a stretch stitch also helped.  And so I gathered up my courage and began putting the little dress together.

It wasn’t all that easy.  The material slipped a bit, and of course it had a tendency to stretch.  The dress isn’t lined, so the neckline and armhole edges were folded back and stitched down, which I found tricky and my stitching wasn’t always quite as regular and straight as I’d have liked.  Not that it was bad, I just have high standards.   I hand-gathered the frill before attaching it to the main body of the dress, and this all went smoothly and looked fine.  So far so good.

Better than velcro?

Better than velcro?

I then had to tackle the issue of how to fasten up the back of the dress.  The pattern said to do this with velcro, but I prefer to avoid velcro as much as possible as it can catch in dolls’ hair and vulnerable garments like tights.  I wondered about installing a zipper, but in the end I plumped for stitching up the back opening partway and then fastening the remaining opening with a button and shirring elastic loop.  The dress was easy to put on, the fastening kept it securely closed and the opening didn’t really matter as it was at the back.  However, if I make up this dress pattern again I’ll either use a zipper or add another button and loop.

DSCF0005

Kit prefers a 1920s look…

Kit models her Shiny Happy Party Dress for us, teaming it with a long string of pearls and a cloche hat for a 1920s look.  She completes the outfit with some white tights and her white patent Mary Janes.

Shona has been eyeing up this dress as well, thinking it would look good with her black leather jacket and long boots (from her ‘meet’ outfit).   It’s quite a versatile and attractive little dress, which is sized to fit American Girl, Precious Day, Madame Alexander Favorite Friends and other sturdy-bodied 18″ dolls.  It’s too big for Kidz ‘n’ Cats or other slim-bodied 18″ dolls like Carpatina or Gotz Hannah.

 

Oh Mr Darcy! Kit goes Regency

Regency dress

Click to view large image

Pride and Prejudice is one of Kit’s favourite books.  So when we happened upon a beautiful pattern for a 1790s dress and open pelisse from Thimbles and Acorns, she insisted that I buy it and make her an elegant Regency outfit.

The pattern is designed to be as authentic as possible, so the bodices of both dress and pelisse are cut in several pieces with diagonal seams.  The dress is made up of a solid underdress with a sheer overdress to give the effect of Greek drapery.  I felt that this was a bit ambitious for my first attempt, so decided to omit the overdress and make what Georgette Heyer would have referred to as a ‘simple, round gown’ from a white spotted fabric which felt quite Regency, somehow.  I enjoyed piecing together the complicated little bodice and seeing it take shape, and once the dress was finished I was impressed how the pattern designer had achieved a real Regency shape with a tightly fitted bodice and the skirt smooth at the front but fuller at the back.

Bodice back

Click to view larger image

This shot of the bodice back demonstrates the complicated construction: pattern pieces cut with the straight grain running in different directions.   I used poppers to fasten the dress – not entirely authentic of course, but surely better than Velcro for this vintage garment!  I hemmed the cuffs of the sleeves, and the skirt hem, by hand.  As it says in the pattern, ‘it’s all in the detail’.  A sash of blue ribbon breaks up the plain whiteness of the gown.

Pelisse

Click to view larger image

For the pelisse, by contrast with the simplicity of the fabric I chose for the white gown, I was lucky

Pelisse back

Click to view large image

enough to find a pale blue fabric with a design of embroidery and broderie anglaise.  The challenge with this was to cut out the fabric so that the design matched perfectly from the centre back across the skirt and bodice and down the sleeves and collar pieces.  This was really my first attempt at matching such a complicated design and I’m delighted with the results which you can see on the shot of the pelisse back.

Pelisse lining

Click to view larger image

The bodice and skirt of the pelisse are lined with royal blue satin which matches the ribbon which Kit now wears in her hair.   The satin was very difficult to work with.  It slipped constantly and frayed all the time.  It was difficult even to cut out the pattern pieces accurately, and sewing the tiny seams in the bodice lining was very tricky.  At the time I decided I would never work with satin again, but it does look so sumptuous that I suspect I won’t be able to resist trying again.

Pelisse front

Click to view large image

The pattern called for the pelisse to be fastened with buttons and buttonholes.  I wimped out of doing the buttonholes,however, and resorted to little poppers hidden behind the buttons.  I had never made machine buttonholes, and my fear was that I would ruin my beautiful creation completely if I tried.  So again, it’s not entirely authentic, but it looks great.

Kit is delighted with her romantic Regency outfit.  She has completed her ensemble with a delicate string of pearls with a Wedgwood-style cameo pendant – from  Doll Jewelry Boutique – which matches the blue of her pelisse perfectly.  She carries a gauzy reticule – actually the gift bag in which the pearl necklace was supplied.  She wears white patent shoes to match her gown…  and just like a true Regency lady, she…  shhhh, don’t tell anyone…  she’s not wearing any panties!  She says they spoil the hang of the gown.

This was such a rewarding pattern to work with.  It was very demanding and there were moments when I wanted to slash and burn the satin lining and start again with some well-behaved stripy poplin.  But I persevered and I believe the end result was worth the effort.

Kit, of course, is in heaven.  For it is a truth universally acknowledged, that a young lady who dreams of meeting Mr Darcy, must be in want of a fine gown and pelisse.  And now she’s asking me for a Regency bonnet to go with them!