Tag Archive | Shona

Yet more infinite variety

Patiently waiting to show you more styles... Click to enlarge

Patiently waiting to show you more styles…
Click to enlarge

It has been a difficult January at Kit’s Couture.  After an intensive photographic session recording the creations of the last few weeks and months, the motherboard on my laptop died and the entire computer, with all my new photos on the hard disk, had to go away to be fixed.

The good news is that it’s back now, with all photos safe and sound, and Kit’s Couture can publish again!

So thank you for your patience, and here’s a quick initial post to show some more of the Infinity Dress styles that Shona and I have discovered so far.

First a couple of halterneck styles, beginning with one where we simply crossed the straps over each other in front and then twisted them at the back and brought them around the body to form the bodice.

A simple halterneck first of all Click to enlarge

Simple but effective
Click to enlarge

Then a second halterneck style, closer to the neck.  Here the straps are twisted around each other at the front before they are passed around the neck and twisted together at the back, then as before brought back around the body to form the bodice.

Subtly different from the previous style... Click to enlarge

Subtly different from the previous style…
Click to enlarge

Now a kind of sweetheart neckline, adapted from the sleeveless v-neck style with the help of some strategically placed knots of ribbon.

Lifts the sleeveless V-neck style out of the ordinary Cllck to enlarge

Lifts the sleeveless V-neck style out of the ordinary
Cllck to enlarge

And finally, the best of all, a complex twisting of the straps at the front (a right fiddle, frankly), allows them to be spread around the upper arms in of-the-shoulder style, then with the usual twist at the back the straps come around the front to form the lower bodice.

An elegant evening style Click to enlarge

An elegant evening style
Click to enlarge

The complex twist at the bust is easier to see in the head-and-shoulders shot we started with, especially if you view it at full size.

Patiently waiting to show you more styles... Click to enlarge

Sweetly elegant…
Click to enlarge

The Infinity Dress worn in this style but with a full-length skirt would make a stunning evening dress for American Girl, Precious Day, Bonnie & Pearl or any of the 18″ dolls with the ‘sturdy’ waist size.  It will, of course, look particularly good on those with a solid shoulder-plate like the Madame Alexander Favorite Friends, or the Bonnie and Pearl girlies – no exposure of the ragdoll body there!

Shona and I have had great fun working out these few styles, and no doubt there are many more waiting to be discovered.

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Infinite variety

Phew!  The midwinter party season is over for another year!  What some dolls do at this time of year is pester their over-stretched couturier for several different party dresses.  But clever Shona found the perfect solution – she asked me to make her just one dress that can be worn in many styles – an Infinity Dress.

The skirt of this clever design is simple enough: a skirt gathered into a waistband.  But it’s the ‘bodice’ that is so different.  Attached to the front of the waistband are two long, wide straps that can be tied in many different ways.  The dress was very straightforward to make up from the pattern by Forever 18 Inches and it is sized to fit American Girl, Gotz Precious Day and other sturdy 18″ dolls.    The dress is made from double-knit jersey which does not fray, so the edges of the straps are unfinished.  I hand-sewed the hem so that it was invisible.

We had great fun over Christmas working out some different party styles, and Shona wanted me to show you three of her favourite ways to wear this clever dress.  Click on the photos to see them full size.

Sleeveless V-neck

Style 1: Sleeveless V-neck

Here’s she has styled it as a sleeveless v-neck: the two straps are taken up over the shoulders and then crossed at the back, passed around her midriff and tied at the back.  Here’s how it looks from the back:-

Style 1 (back view), simple cross-over and sash-like tie.

Style 1 (back view), simple cross-over and sash-like tie.

Next Shona went for a demure, 1930s-inspired style which has perhaps just a touch of the vicarage tea-party about it.  Here the straps are spread wide and shawl-like over the shoulders, forming generous sleeves.  The straps then cross at the back again, are pulled around to the front, looped around each other and taken to the back again where they tie in place.  An elegant string of pearls completes the ensemble.

Style 2: 1930s chic

Style 2: 1930s chic

In the third style the two straps are twisted hard together to form a bulky, almost sculptural twist which goes firmly over one shoulder.  Then they are separated, spread out flat and passed around Shona’s midriff to form the body of the dress, and once again tied at the back.  The pearls are pulled close around her neck so that they do not interfere with the neckline.  Her little ballet pumps match the hot pink of the dress perfectly.

Style 3: Asymmetrical single-strap style

Style 3: Asymmetrical single-strap style

 

It's her favourite!

It’s her favourite!

This really is her favourite style of the three.  But there are many more ways to tie the ingenious Infinity Dress.  We’ll post more as we discover them.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Variations in pink

Pemberton Capelet and Sinclair Jacket

Pemberton Capelet and Sinclair Jacket
Click to enlarge

Shona and new girl Meili model two more Debonair Designs, as interpreted by Kit’s Couture.  Originally I intended the Sinclair Jacket for Shona, as the pink Jarol yarn was best suited to her cool Winter colouring.  But for reasons I shall explain below, Meili ended up with the jacket, and Shona got to peacock about in a striking cabled cape instead.

Both patterns are available on Ravelry (and Craftsy too?), and both are in Deb Denair’s book Seasonal hand knitted designs for 18″ dolls.  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 shade 109 ‘Pink’ from Jarol Heritage, a wool-rich DK yarn which comes in a good range of rich colours, and for the textured yarn I used Sirdar Freya ‘soft & brushed Winter cotton’, in shade 853 ‘Dusk’.  I’d used the Jarol Heritage double knitting with great success with Deb’s gansey patterns, so I was pretty confident with that.  The Sirdar Freya was an unknown quantity, but it seemed to knit to about the right tension so I bought a ball and hoped!

Sinclair Jacket

Sinclair jacket

Click to enlarge

This unusual jacket, we’re told, was inspired by the popular Sherpa jackets… I have to admit I’d not heard of Sherpa jackets so I was none the wiser.  But to me this looks like a knitted version of the kind of sheepskin jacket which is made up of pieces of sheepskin stitched together.  The textured yarn seems to me to be imitating the fleecy side of the sheepskin, and the single rows of texture are the joins.

The pattern calls for UK needles sizes 10 and 9.  I checked the tension with the size 10s and it seemed fine, so I made a start.  I found this a fairly challenging pattern, in spite of the fact that it’s just in plain stocking stitch.  The textured yarn additions meant that I was having to change yarn fairly regularly, and the collar revere sections were a little tricky.  Plus I soon began to have doubts about the sizing.  I was constantly trying the pieces against Shona and wondering if they were big enough.  Shona is a little slimmer than American Girl and Gotz Precious Day, so I told myself it must be fine, and carried on until all the parts were complete and I was at the making up stage.

As I sewed up the jacket my worries about sizing grew.  As soon as I could try it on Shona (without sleeves), it was clear that it was too small for her.  The neckline in particular was very tight.  For a brief moment I wondered about unpicking everything and starting again, but then I realised that what wouldn’t fit the sturdy sized 18″ doll would certainly fit the slim type.

So I turned to one of my newer models, Meili, my Gotz Hannah.  She is a tall 19″ girl whose arms and legs are similar in size to the sturdy 18″ dolls like American Girl and Favorite Friends.  But her body is slim, closer to the Kidz ‘n’ Cats in size.  I tried the jacket on her, and it fit perfectly.  The sleeves were barely long enough – she has long arms – but not disastrously so.  The colour wasn’t ideal for her, as it was a Winter pink, but the textured yarn had a brownish tint making it similar to Rosewood, the Autumn pink.  So I decided in the circumstances that I needed a model for the garment and we could get away with it.

Sinclair beret

Goodbye newsboy cap, hello beret
Click to enlarge

Then I turned my attention to the hat.  The Sinclair hat is styled to look like a newsboy’s cap with a peak, and looks great with the jacket.  I knit up the pattern as given, tried it on Meili’s head, and found that it was a bit tight.  I thought about this carefully, did a bit of optimistic stretching of the band, and tried it again.  OK, it would just about fit, but without the relaxed slouchy look of Deb’s examples in her book.  At that point I decided to abandon the newsboy cap attempt and turn the hat into a beret.

I had another button to match, so I sewed that on top and it finished off the beret very nicely.  Meili wears it pulled to one side in the authentically French manner!

I still had plenty of the pink wool left, but probably not enough to make another full jacket for Shona.  So I searched the book for something perhaps less demanding of yarn, and found myself contemplating the Pemberton Capelet.

Pemberton Capelet, Tam and Fingerless Mitts

Pemberton Capelet

After my experience with the Sinclair jacket, I was doubly careful about tension and dutifully worked a full square in stocking stitch.  The pattern called for 6 stitches and 8 rows with size 9 needles over the lattice cable stitch, but how could I cable  a tension square?  I had six stitches and 8 rows to an inch over stocking stitch.  It had to be fine, didn’t it?  Of course it did.  Ahem.

It had been a long time since I’d done any cabling, but Deb’s pattern was as usual crystal-clear and with my trusty row counter to help me I had no problems at all.  I’d made life easier for myself by not using the textured yarn for the button bands, just for the ribbing at the hem and the collar.  I was glad of this as having to cope with changing wool at each end of every row, as well as doing the cabling, would have been a step too far!

It all went quite smoothly and gradually a the cape took shape.  When it was finished I tried it on Shona – and it did fit.  Just.  I have to say I’d have liked it to be a tiny bit more roomy – there’s hint of gape where the front edges join – and a little longer wouldn’t have hurt either.  But it still looks great.  Three contrasting mauve buttons and three crocheted loops later, and it had style.

Now – did I have enough yarn left to make the hat?  It was worth a try.

Impressive cabling

Impressive cabling…
Click to enlarge

The Tam comes in several variants: I chose the one with the ridge, which I thought gave it more structure.  I followed the pattern carefully, using the smaller size needles (10) for the band and changing to the large needles (9) with the main colour.

After I’d done the main body of the hat up to the ridge, I stopped, puzzled.  This was a tall hat!  In fact, it was far too tall.  And trying it around Shona’s head, it was also too tight.  Bother.

So I went back to the pattern, did a few calculations, and enlarged it by 8 stitches to make it fit around Shona’s head.  This meant that I had to adjust the 5th row – the increase row – to ensure that I still ended up with 90 stitches.  I did two increases over every three stitches, and all was well.  I also reduced the height of the hat by 6 rows, and once the crown was finished I found that this time it fit very well indeed.  It just needed a pink flower button topped with another mauve button to finish it off.

And I still had some yarn left!  Time for the fingerless mitts.  These took no time at all, and very little yarn.  In fact I extended the ribbing section by a couple of rows to make them a little longer.  No problems with sizing here, they fit perfectly and are the perfect accessories for this slightly Victorian retro ensemble.

Thoughts on tension

So why did I have such problems with tension?  Thinking about it, I think with the Sinclair jacket I should have gone up at least one needle size – possibly even two – and taken more care to get the tension exactly right.  These little garments don’t have a lot of margin for error and one or two stitches either way do mean the difference between a good fit or too tight a fit.

The tension of the Pemberton Capelet was I think affected by my cabling technique.  I did notice as I was knitting it the stitches seemed a bit tight on the needles.  Usually I knit very evenly, not too tight, not too loose, but I think the complexity of the cabling meant that without realising it I pulled the yarn too tight.  And of course I never checked the tension over the cabling…

But the real puzzle is the hat.  I can understand the band being too tight, just like the newsboy cap, and I put that down to the Freya yarn not being a good match for the textured yarn originally used in the pattern.  But how was it that the hat was so much too tall when on every other occasion the Jarol yarn knit up to size or even slightly too small?  It’s a mystery.

Pemberton

Variation in pink 2: Pemberton
Click to enlarge

Sinclair

Variation in pink 1: Sinclair
Click to enlarge

(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!

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.