Tag Archive | Precious Day

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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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.

 

Summer’s end: crop cargoes and halter-neck

The first of Kit’s Couture’s two new girls, Elisabeth, models a pretty end-of-summer ensemble: cropped cargoes from a pattern by Heritage Doll Fashions, teamed with a halter-neck top from Rosie’s Doll Clothes.

Cargoes and halterneck

Crop cargoes and halterneck.
Click to enlarge

I chose two different lots of fabric for this outfit.  I teamed a light summer blue with a pretty print in summer blues and greens, both of which suit Elisabeth very well.  She has teamed her outfit with some pink peep-toe shoes from Gotz, and wears an Alice band in the same summer print in her hair.

I began with the halter-neck top which was quite straightforward to put together.  As usual Rosie’s video tutorials were crystal-clear and in an hour or so I had made a loose-fitting top firmly gathered into the halter-neck which ties around the neck with a bow.  The body of the top fastens at the back with velcro.  Of course the halter-neck style does expose Elisabeth’s ragdoll shoulders.  She’s a Precious Day girl by Gotz, and they’ve given her a rather yellow-toned body fabric which isn’t terribly flattering, so for her photos I’ve styled her hair to disguise this.  American Girl have chosen a better colour for their dolls’ bodies so this top would look better on them – and fantastic on Madame Alexander Favorite Friends which have a vinyl shoulder-plate instead.  Nevertheless I’m very pleased with the style and hang of this little top.  The gathers make it fall in pleasing folds at the front.

Pocket details

Pocket details – complete with buttonholes!
Click to enlarge

The cropped cargoes pattern was crying out for a two-colour approach: a plain colour for the main body of the trousers and the patterned print for the pockets and the waist tie.  The instructions from Heritage Doll Fashions were full and fairly easy to follow with good illustrations.  Challenges in this pattern were the top-stitching – there’s a huge amount of it in double-rows, all of which needs to be evenly spaced; and the buttonholes which I tackled for the first time ever.  Each of the cargo pockets are fastened with a button and buttonhole, and the tie belt emerges from the waistband through buttonholes also.  So I did a fair bit of experimentation with my buttonhole foot and settings before I plucked up the courage to actually work on the garment itself.  To my relief everything went smoothly and the finished garment has two fully-functional button-closed pockets, two good deep front pockets, and two smaller back patch pockets, great for storing all the treasures Elisabeth finds when she’s playing outside in the late summer sunshine.

The quality of this outfit encourages me to do what I’ve been planning on for some time, once my sewing skills were up to it: start to sell my outfits online.  So in a week or so, I hope to offer this ensemble for sale, probably on Ebay.  It’s a new venture, and I’ve no idea what sort of a market there is out there for American Girl clothes in the UK, but online shops like Petalina are selling a good number of 18″ dolls to UK customers, so I feel it’s worth dipping my toe in the water and putting some creations from Kit’s Couture out there.

Kit and the girls are excited and rather nervous about this new venture – and so am I.  Wish us luck!