Tag Archive | shoes

Variation in Green 4: Enter the Queen

Lidia loves bunnies!

Lidia loves bunnies! Click to enlarge

 

Today the beautiful Lidia steps out onto the Kit’s Couture catwalk, wearing my final Variation in Green.  This was a challenging creation for Kit’s Couture as Lidia is one of Las Reinas (the Queens) de Paola Reina and stands almost 24″ tall.  She’s comparatively slim in the body but her arms and legs are very sturdy.  I have no patterns for her, and there don’t appear to be any out there.  So I was on my own.

Or was I?  A while ago, Rosie (of Rosie’s Doll Clothes Patterns) had blogged about a method for enlarging or reducing existing patterns to fit other dolls.  Maybe I could do something with this?  I decided to use Rosie’s summer dress pattern for American Girl, and try to resize that to fit Lidia.  So I measured, compared and applied the formula, and enlarged the bodice by about an inch all around.

This proved less easy than I’d hoped.  Lidia has a slight bust, like all the Paola Reina dolls I’ve seen, whereas American Girls are flat-chested.  So I almost needed a dart in the front of the bodice.  Almost – but I thought I could just about get away without.  By contrast I seemed to have too much material at the back.  I got around this by gathering the skirt directly into the bodice – Rosie’s pattern puts a waistband between skirt and bodice – and then wrapping a decorative ribbon around the seam.  This ties at the back, and it is easy to gather up any extra bodice material into the ribbon and tie it securely down.  A bit Heath-Robinson, but it works.

Sitting pretty

Lidia’s sitting pretty in her new dress. Click to enlarge.

I cut the enlarged bodice out of the moss-green material which has been working so hard for Kit’s Couture recently, and chose a pretty olive-green and russet-red print for the skirt.  I finished off the hem of the dress with a very sweet decorative ribbon with a bunny motif, and used the same material to make an Alice band for her hair.

Boots 'n' bunnies

Boots ‘n’ bunnies. Click to enlarge.

Lidia has completed her outfit with her pale pink tights from her meet outfit, and some black boots by Paola Reina which give her the look of a Victorian miss.  A pearl necklace complements the ensemble – fit for a Queen!

I’m quite pleased with this outfit,and have learned a lot about enlarging patterns, and have gained a lot of confidence in reworking and adjusting Rosie’s standard pattern to fit this queenly doll.

 

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Variations in Green 3: Annika

Annika loves her French couture (Click to enlarge)

Annika loves her French couture
(Click to enlarge)

Adorable pouty Annika models her pretty outfit of green crop trousers with a gathered blouse in a flowery summer print.  This third Variation in Green owes a great deal to the design skills of Vanina of Les Chéries de Vaniline, as I used her patterns for both parts of Annika’s outfit.   I may have mentioned before how I love Vanina’s designs, which are very chic and stylish.  With good design and well-chosen fabrics, I find there’s no need to go overboard on the trimming.  Good design speaks for itself.

The Pantacourt à Coulisses – Crop Trousers with Casings

Once again I used the green figured cotton fabric for these simple crop trousers, which are made special by the ribbon decoration.  On the outside of each leg, two vertical casings enclose ribbons which are secured at the waistband.  The ribbons run down through the casings and at the lower edge they are pulled up to gather the leg slightly, then tied in a bow.

I’m quite used to following pattern instruction in French now, so making these was a breeze.  Apart from the casings, which need to be carefully stitched so that they are regular and even from top to bottom, these little trousers were simple to make up.

Ribbons and lace add restrained decoration to the outfit (Click to enlarge)

Ribbons and lace add restrained decoration to the outfit
(Click to enlarge)

The Blouse Froncée – Gathered Blouse

For this blouse I chose a pretty summer print of cream-coloured cotton  decorated with tiny tulips in yellow, amber, orange and blue.  The green on the print matched the trouser fabric perfectly – a good start.

The simple pattern has just two pieces, a back and front, cut exactly the same, and a sleeve.  The sleeves are raglan cut.  The neckline is gathered into a casing for elastic.   This makes a smock-type garment which would swamp the model, but the final touch is a casing for a long draw-string which gathers up the blouse at the waist.  The casing is applied onto the body of the blouse, and positioning it is quite tricky.  It would be easy to place this too high, too low, or on the slant!  Luckily Vanina provides good online instructions, and following her guidance I positioned the casing 3cm below the armhole.  I also managed to keep it level, so that the results are just as I would wish.  Some cream cotton lace is carefully placed at the sleeve edge to form a broad but unfussy cuff.

The outfit is completed by a pair of yellow Classic Ankle Strap with Bow shoes from Monique, in size 75/34.

Meili's little sister Liu wanted to meet Annika's bunny (Click to enlarge)

Meili’s little sister Liu meeting Annika’s bunny
(Click to enlarge)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations in Green 2: Meili

 

Meili in a mixture of Dutch and French designs

Meili in a mixture of Dutch and French designs

 

My second Variation in Green is my first attempt at an ensemble to fit Gotz Hannah.  Meili here is wearing trousers from Christel Dekker’s Goodnight Girl pattern, and her smock-top is made with a pattern for Kidz ‘n’ Cats from my favourite French designer, Vanina the author of Les Cheries de Vaniline blog.  Meili looks as if she is the same size as the sturdy-bodied 18″ dolls like American Girl or Gotz Precious Day, but her torso is almost as slim as the Kidz ‘n’ Cats and their patterns will fit her as long as the arms and legs are not too fitted.

The trousers

As throughout this Variations in Green series, I used a moss-green cotton fabric with a subtle overall leaf pattern for the trousers.  After my first attempt at these had turned out too tight, I enlarged the Goodnight Girl pyjama bottoms pattern by ¼” all round.  This time all went well and they fit Meili perfectly, with enough ease to allow her to sit down.  To add a a little decoration I sewed a small orange flower button on the outside of each ankle.  They are simple trousers but well-cut and look very good on the doll.  It was rather exciting trying to follow the German pattern (I had a choice of German or Dutch, neither of which I speak) but this is not a difficult garment and it was easy enough to put them together.

 

Lace and cuff details

Lace and cuff details

The Smock-top

The smock-top is made from Vanina’s pattern B for Kidz ‘n’ Cats and Maru, the blouse à col rond ou sans col.  This is ideal for Hannah dolls because it has generous-sized armholes and is sleeveless, so can accommodate their sturdy arms and large hands.

The gorgeous cotton fabric shows a variety of English spring flowers: snowdrops, winter aconites, primroses and forget-me-nots.  I am very grateful to my friend Christine who gave me this lovely remnant from her fabric stash.  There was just enough of it to cut out the top.  Imagine my horror, then, when I discovered that somewhere along the line I had managed to cut into the material and had a gash on the left front just below where it would be gathered into the yoke.  Luckily I have some special fusing powder in the cupboard for just such anxious moments, and with a hot iron, some greaseproof paper and a patch to back the cut I was able to mend it so that it was completely unnoticeable.

Apart from this small glitch, the top made up moderately easily.  This was a substantial cotton and a pleasure to work with.  I took care when cutting out to match the pattern so that the two snowdrops appeared right in the middle of the yoke, and again on the gathered skirt below.  I added a piece of white embroidered lace to emphasise the edge of the front yoke.  As I prefer, the lined yoke enclosed most of the raw edges and I used my new overlocking presser foot to zig-zag edge the side seams and lower armhole edges.  The top is so full-skirted that it needs very little fastening at the back.  I just put a popper up at the neck edge and it hung closed below that.  Another orange flower button hides the popper stitching and echoes the buttons at the trouser ankle.

To complete the outfit

Meili only needed some smart shoes to complete the outfit.  She chose some wonderful gold glittery Mary Janes which coordinate beautifully with her ensemble – such taste!

I love her in this outfit.  Her Asian toned-skin and big brown eyes are enhanced by the rich greens and warm yellows and golds of this second Variation in Green.

 

 

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.

 

(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.

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.

 

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.