Tag Archive | necklace

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.


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

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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

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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.


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

Pelisse back

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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

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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

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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!

Kit’s first summer dress

Kit summer dress 01I started out all wrong with Kit’s first summer dress: I bought the materials before I had the pattern.   I had ordered it from Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns, but very untypically there was a delay on delivery (they come by email).  While I was waiting I picked out a materials remnant from my local fabric shop.  The material was very pretty: a pale grey-green with rosebuds on it, just right for Kit’s colouring.  But it was very light and I was afraid it wouldn’t hang well so I invested in some light iron-on interfacing to give it some stiffness.  I also bought some pink bias binding for the waistband and the trim around the hem.

When the pattern arrived I discovered that the waistband and hem trim should be made using a contrasting fabric, cut on the straight grain, so my bias binding was not right for the job.  Nevertheless I decided to go ahead and work with what I had, telling myself that his first dress would be very much a learning experience.  (Little did I realise at that stage that every garment is a learning experience!).

My first lesson was that type of material is critical to success.  I had clearly chosen fabric that was too flimsy.  The feed dogs on my new sewing machine grabbed the material and ate it every time I began a seam.  I lined the fabric with the interfacing and that helped; plus I found that if I started a short distance down the seam and then backed up to the start it seemed to work better.  I’m embarrassed to think of this poor technique now, but at the time I was just grateful to find something that worked for me.  Now all I had to worry about was the way the material frayed all the time; and the fact that the bias binding wasn’t really stiff enough to act as a waistband – it was fine around the hem, however.  A learning experience indeed!

But I was quite pleased with the results, as a first attempt.  True, the waistband is not even, but it’s a pretty dress and the interfacing gives the skirt shape and body.  Considering it was the first time in 25 years I’d used a sewing machine, and I’d unwittingly done my best to make it as tricky as I could for myself, it really was surprisingly successful.

Kit looks pleased with her first summer dress, which she has accessorised with her pink butterfly Mary Janes by Gotz, and a crystal wheel pendant from Nellie Rose.  Her dragonfly hair ornament is a clip designed to hold an orchid flower stem onto its support!