Tag Archive | leggings

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!

 

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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.