Tag Archive | Liberty Jane

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.

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Empire peacoat and beret for cool Spring days

Spring is definitely here, but it’s not always as warm as we might expect for the time of year.  Today Shona is prepared for any cool Spring breezes in her Empire-line peacoat with a matching beret.

 

Even in May a girl still needs a smart jacket

Even in May a girl still needs a smart jacket

(As with all photos on this site, you can click on any one to view a full-size image)

The peacoat pattern comes from Heritage Doll Fashions and is available from Liberty Jane’s Pixie Faire pattern shop.  It is sized for American Girl, so fits similar-sized dolls like Gotz Precious Day and Madame Alexander Favorite Friends like Shona.  I’ve made it up in a glowing wine-red which my camera insists on seeing as a dark orangey-red.  The material was provided by my friend Helen who kindly raided her stash for me when I visited her in Edinburgh last summer.  It is quite a substantial material, rather inclined to fray, which certainly added a complication I hadn’t expected.  I half-lined the jacket with a stripy poplin, and picked some striking buttons as they are such a strong design feature.  To complete the outfit I introduced some French chic with a beret made using Vanina’s tutorial.

The Peacoat

As always with Liberty Jane patterns, the Empire Peacoat pattern comes with a very clear instruction book. The front cover optimistically describes it as ‘Easy and fun to sew!’ but the website rates it ‘Intermediate’ which is much more realistic.  This is quite a fiddly little jacket to make up.

The first challenge was setting in the collar between the jacket yoke and yoke lining.  I had to stitch through three layers of substantial jacket material plus one lining layer, with all three jacket/collar layers fraying like mad.  After this experience I bought myself a bottle of Fray Check and treated the edges of the jacket pieces as well as zig-zag neatening them in the usual way.

The sleeves were set in next.  Again, bulky, fraying seams were the main problem, but I knew what to expect and all was well.   Then the jacket skirt had to be gathered at the front and stitched to the yoke and lining.  The last step was to top-stitch around the edges of the jacket yoke and under the collar.   So far so good.  It looked great!

But then came the bit I was really worrying about as it had the potential to sabotage all my work so far.  I had to attach four buttons and make four button-holes.  The buttons and button-holes had to line up perfectly, they had to be placed so that they were properly centred on the jacket overlap.  I started with the button-holes and puzzled for some time about how I could ensure they were both vertically and horizontally aligned.  I got out the button-hole foot and reminded myself how it worked (it usually takes me by surprise) and tried out a few experimental button-holes on spare fabric.  Then I looked at the jacket front and experimented with marking the tops and bottoms of the button-holes with pins.  That didn’t work so well.  Finally I tacked in vertical markers to show exactly where the button-holes had to go, with horizontal tacks marking their top and bottom edges.  Then I stitched the four button-holes and to my relief they were amazingly successful!  After that it was relatively easy to sew on the buttons in the right positions and the jacket was finally finished.  What a relief!

Nice stripey lining! I wish that seam was enclosed though...

Nice stripy lining!

The Beret

Now on to the beret.  This meant I had to grapple with some maths that I’d not had to worry about since I was at Grammar school (that dates me!).  Luckily Vanina spells it out for us (in French…) and here’s my English translation of what she says to do to make a beret to fit any sized doll.  You’ll need some paper and a pair of compasses (back to school again).  Do look at Vanina’s method as her illustrations are very helpful even if you can’t read French.

  1. Measure around the doll’s head in centimetres.  Divide this number by 6.28.  This will give you the radius of the circle you need to draw to fit your doll’s head.   Shona’s head measures 30.5 cm.  So my calculation was 30.5 ÷ 6.28 = 4.85 cm.  So I set my compasses to just under 5 cm and drew my first circle on the paper.
  2. Now reset the compasses to double the radius setting and draw a second circle using the same centre point.  I reset mine to 9.7 cm.
  3. Finally reduce the original compass radius setting by 5 mm and draw another circle inside the first one, using the same centre point.  This is your seam allowance (approx ¼”).
  4. Now you can cut out your pattern, taking care to cut out the centre following the third circle you drew, thus preserving your seam allowance.  You end up with a pattern looking like a ring doughnut.
  5. Using the pattern on your main material doubled, cut out a complete circle (but do not cut out the centre). This will be the top of the beret and its lining.
  6. Then using your contrast material doubled, cut out a complete circle and this time also cut out the centre.  This will be the underside of the beret and its lining, incorporating the hole which fits over the doll’s head.
  7. Take the two underside pieces, right sides together, and stitch around the inner hole.  Clip the curved seam, turn right-side out and iron.  (Look at Vanina’s instructions point 4)
  8. Take the two top pieces, wrong sides together.  Place the bottom piece exactly on top and stitch completely around the outer edge 5 mm from the edge.  Overcast or zig-zag the raw edges together.  (Look at Vanina’s instructions point 5)
  9. Turn the beret inside-out so that the seam is hidden inside, and decorate with a flourish of your own devising.  (Look at Vanina’s instructions point 6).
Matching beret with an almost Scottish cockade decoration

Matching beret with Scottish cockade decoration

To decorate Shona’s beret I used some broderie anglaise lace ruffled around a black button.  Quite by coincidence, this looks rather Scottish, which is nice given that the jacket material came from Edinburgh.

This was quite a challenging project, made more tricky by my choice of rather temperamental material.  The results are worth it, though, and Shona is very pleased with her very stylish emsemble, which she has teamed with her Liberty Jane jeans and some gorgeous Ewe boots from our favourite doll shop.

Ready for a walk in the woods

Are you coming for a walk?

Here she is all ready to go out.  She’s just off to the bluebell woods to appreciate one of the finest sights of an English spring.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(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!

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.

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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.

 

Gardening Girl

Here’s our second new model, Shona, wearing a very cleverly-designed dress with a ring yoke and side-panels feature.

Shona makes her catwalk debut. Click to enlarge

Shona makes her catwalk debut!
Click to enlarge

This is by Caroline Otto whose Doll Duds patterns are made available via Liberty Jane.  It relies for its appeal on a good contrast between the yoke material and the body of the dress.  Shona’s clothing season is Winter, so I picked a dark mauve for the yoke with an overall flower design on off-white for the main body of the dress.  These worked beautifully together and the yoke, side-panels and cuffs stand out well against the multiplicity of flowers on the contrast fabric.  As a finishing touch, a watering-can button with embroidered water droplets pours a refreshing drink onto the garden of flowers below.  Even Shona’s shoes – from Gotz – have flowers on them!

A refreshing drink for the flowers! Click to enlarge

A refreshing drink for the flowers!
Click to enlarge

The main challenge of this little dress was the need to be absolutely exacting about matching up the side-panel seams.  The impact of the dress would be very much reduced if the points of the side-panels didn’t line up properly, and it would be very easy to get this wrong.  So every seam has to be stitched accurately, so that all the pattern pieces stay in balance and the side seams are exactly the same length.  Quite a finicky business, but I’m glad to say that the points on the side-panels did line up very well for me.

While a Kit’s Couture creation is under construction, I try it for size on my model regularly to check everything is going to plan.  It was clear from very early on that Shona was going to look lovely in her new dress.  But as it neared completion, I wanted to add a little something extra to give it individuality – perhaps a distinctive button on the yoke?  I found a light mauve watering-can button in my button tin, and this seemed perfect: all those flowers would need watering, after all.  A few running stitches did duty as the water droplets streaming from the watering-can’s rose, and I knew the dress really was complete.  Shona looks stunningly pretty in it – the strong cool colours suit her dark colouring admirably, as does the ice-pink ribbon in her hair.

Kit’s pretty in pink

Kit in 1930s gathered dress

Click to enlarge

Kit is the 1930s American Girl, so I like to find patterns for 1930s style dresses for her.  This sweet gathered dress comes from Heritage Doll Fashions which specialises in historical costumes for American Girl and 18″ dolls of a similar size.  The dress features a square yoke, short puffed sleeves, and a full skirt gathered into a waistband of the same colour as the yoke and the sleeve cuffs.  Two little buttons in the shape of flowers decorate the yoke.  Kit wears it with her white lace look socks from Nellie Rose, and her favourite white butterfly Mary Janes by Gotz.  The flowers and butterfly on the ankle straps match perfectly the various colours in the dress fabric.  Her hair is held in place by a dragonfly clip.  She looks all ready for Sunday tea in the garden on a summer’s day.

I found this pattern on the Liberty Jane site, which has a huge selection of patterns for American Girl and other dolls.  As with Rosie’s patterns, you buy online and download the pattern and instructions as pdf files.  After working with several of Rosie’s patterns and through her sewing course, I had gained tremendously in confidence and I was pretty sure I could manage this.  The pattern comes with full, illustrated instructions and I could see it was quite complicated, but I thought I was equal to it.

I went to my local fabric shop and picked out the prettiest poly-cotton fabric with the tiny all-over flower design, then found a plain fabric in hot pink which matched it.  I never wear pink (my colour season is Autumn) so it was fun to work with this pinker-than-pink shade.  Back at home I laid out the pattern pieces, cut out the fabric, and began work on the yoke.  This was familiar work and easily done.  Next I had to make up the sleeves.  They were gathered into the cuffs and then gathered into the yoke at the armhole edge.  This was a lot of gathering, but I was still confident and all seemed well.  So far so good.

The dress is designed to look as if it falls from the bodice in one large section which is pulled into the waist with a belt, but this is not the case.  The ‘bodice waist’, the part between the yoke edge and the waistband, is cut as one piece, gathered and stitched into the yoke and the top edge of the waistband, then the skirt is gathered into the waistband’s lower edge.  That’s a huge amount of gathering!  The bodice waist is also lined with muslin to enclose the raw edges and neaten the interior of the dress.  It all seemed very complicated and I found myself yearning for one of Rosie’s video demos to help me…  Still, it was just a question of working through step by step, surely?  And so I gathered and stitched the bodice waist to the yoke.  It looked wonderful, neatly and evenly gathered.  It was time to try it on Kit to see how it looked.

Disaster!  The bottom edge of the yoke wasn’t level – it sloped up noticeably from one armhole to the other.  Looking at what I’d done, I could see at the armhole edges that I’d not been completely accurate about my seam allowances and one was 1/4 to 3/8 of an inch deeper than the other.  On a normal-sized garment this wouldn’t be noticeable, but on a doll’s dress it’s immediately obvious.  For the first time I realised how very important it is when making doll’s clothes to be as accurate as possible with seam allowances.  If it’s the least little bit out, it shows.

So I ended up cutting out and making up a completely new yoke and sleeves.  I was so anxious stitching in the bodice waist, but this time all went smoothly and the bottom edge of the yoke was quite level.  Then it was just a matter of doing a vast amount of gathering into the waistband, and fiddling with the muslin lining to make all tidy, hemming the skirt, and stitching the velcro fastening into the back opening.  It was such a relief to try it on Kit and find it fit beautifully.

There’s no doubt that this has been the fiddliest garment I’ve made so far.  But it’s a charming little dress, well worth the effort, and I learned a huge amount from it.  This style is just right for Kit and her 1930s friend Ruthie, of course, but I think it would be fine for the 1940s girls Molly and Emily too.  These little dresses with a fitted bodice, puffed sleeves and gathered skirt were popular for little girls right through to the early 1960s.