Tag Archive | Summer dress

Sew-along-a-summer

One of the blogs I follow is Wren*Feathers by Jennie Bagrowski, a very talented maker and designer of doll clothes.  This year she announced her Summer Sew-Along during June,  featuring patterns for 13″-14″ dolls.  As I’d just acquired little Liu, one of Las Amigas by Paola Reina, I decided to take part.  Everyone who entered would get the first pattern free, and then if they uploaded a photograph of their interpretation of that pattern to the Sew-along Flickr page, Jennie would send them the next week’s pattern free.  It would be quite pressurised, as I only have time and energy for sewing at the weekends, and later in June I was busy doing other things, but I thought I could at least do some of it.  So I sent in my name and received the first pattern in time for week 1.  This was for pants (or trousers, to us Brits!)

Week 1: Trousers for Liu

Liu models her new trousers and top. Click to enlarge.

Liu models her Wren*Feathers trousers and Liberty Jane t-shirt.
Click to enlarge.

Liu is a Winter girl, so I chose a fabric in hot pink and cool blue and white on black, and made frills and little bows in a matching hot pink.  Liu is 13″ tall so is at the smaller end of the scale for this pattern, so I had to tweak the waist slightly to fit her.  I followed Jennie’s instructions on how to make a little bows, and stitched these on the outside leg seams.  I’m not sure that these aren’t a bit much on such a tiny garment, but I left them for the purposes of the photoshoot.

Then I needed to make Liu a little top to fit, and as this wasn’t included in the Sew-along at this stage, I had to look elsewhere.  I’d noticed that Pixie Faire had just started to provide patterns for 13″-14″ dolls, like Les Cheries or Hearts for Hearts, so I checked these and found a free Liberty Jane pattern for a t-shirt.  I had some plain white knit fabric in my stash, which was ideal, so went ahead with that – and entered a hell of skipped stitches.  My machine does not like fine knits.  I stitched slowly, and tried stabilising the fabric with fine interfacing and tissue paper, but it was only marginally better.  In the end I did the best I could and then went over the stitching with hand-sewing to add in the missing stitches.

Still, I ended up with quite a nice little t-shirt for Liu, decorated with a little bow made from the trouser fabrics.  Again, I’m not sure about leaving the bow on this in the long term, but it does draw the two garments together very effectively.

Week 2: a dress for Ava

The Hearts for Hearts 14″ dolls are not readily available in the UK, except at rather inflated prices on Ebay and the like.  But in the run-up to the Sew-along these attractive dolls had caught my eye and I felt it would be useful to have one as a model.  So at some expense (to my horror the shipping, import and handling charges cost as much as the doll herself) I imported Shola, the Afghani girl, from the USA.  To avoid confusion with my 18″ girl Shona, she was swiftly renamed Ava, and temporarily joined the Kit’s Couture regulars in a guest capacity.  With her glorious hazel-green eyes, warm complexion and dark hair, Ava proved to be an Autumn girl, and I had just the right material to make her a stunning dress using the week 2 pattern.

The colours match Ava's eyes perfectly. Click to enlarge

The colours match Ava’s eyes perfectly.
Click to enlarge

 

This wonderful material in warm greens and browns is a Liberty Tana lawn, the first of several I’ve been working with over the summer, courtesy of my friend Christine.  It’s a joy to sew, fine but stable – no skipped stitches here!  Jennie’s pattern was easy enough to put together, in fact I enhanced it by lining the bodice for neatness and added stability.  The little gathered sleeves were a bit fiddly, but nothing I couldn’t manage.  The only problem I had with the finished dress was that it seemed too roomy at the waist for slender Ava.  Fortunately I had some narrow old-gold ribbon in my stash, and this tied in a bow at the waist did double service: it gave shape to the dress and set it off perfectly at the same time.  No need of any other trim.  Less is so often more.  I love this little dress.

Week 3: a pinafore dress for Liu

And so to week 3, which featured a ‘jumper’ pattern, what we in the UK would call a pinafore dress.  This seemed perfect for little Liu who I thought would look incredibly cute in it.  And so she does, posing here against my sewing box…

Liu's cool and pretty in her pinafore. Click to enlarge.

Liu’s cool and pretty in her pinafore.
Click to enlarge.

I chose a hot pink stripe fabric, cutting the pieces so that the stripes would run vertically on the dress, but horizontally on the straps.  I crossed the straps at the back, and instead of a pocket, which I thought would be a bit busy on such a small garment, I added two flower buttons at the points where the straps met the front.  I fastened it with velcro at the back.  With the little white t-shirt underneath it looks the perfect play-dress for a little girl on a hot summer’s day.

And here my participation in the summer sew-along had to end.  I received the pattern for week 4 but was too busy at the weekend to complete it.  So I had to let everyone else carry on without me.  But you can see all the many and various interpretations of all five Wren*Feathers sew-along patterns at the Summer Sew-along Flickr page.  Bravo to all those who took part – it was great fun!

 

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It’s a Wrap!

Elisabeth attractively wrapped! Click to enlarge

Elisabeth attractively wrapped!
Click to enlarge

 

Here’s Elisabeth wearing a wrap dress in another lovely Tana lawn fabric, again kindly donated to Kit’s Couture by my friend Christine.  The all-over floral print is in soft summer shades of mauve, pink and amber, which flatters Elisabeth’s (and Kit‘s) Summer colouring.  The dress pattern is by Ardently Admire Doll Attire, and available to download from Pixie Faire.  Elisabeth wears it with some pretty floral espadrilles with pink ribbon ties, by Sophia’s, which complement the dress perfectly.

I was attracted by this pattern which seemed a little bit different.  For a start, there’s no velcro – it fastens with a side tie.  And I liked the fringing around the hemline which was quite an unusual feature and I thought just right for a light summer dress.

So I cut out the dress and began construction.  After joining the shoulder seams, I moved into uncharted territory as I cut bias strips to bind the edges of the armholes, neckline and fronts.  I’d used bias binding in the past, but never cut my own bias.  However, the instructions with the pattern were very clear and easy to follow, so I had no problem at all doing this, and the results were good.

At this point in the construction I was very pleased with the results. So I pressed on until I got to the point where the side seams were joined, and it was time to work on the fringe.  I read the instructions:-

To fray edges carefully pull a few threads to easily
see the grain line of the fabric. Make cuts with the
grain approximately 3/8” apart. Pull a few threads
after each cut to check the grain line. Pull threads
up to the straight stitch line. Be careful not to pull
the thread into the bottom of the garment.

OK, that seems clear enough so here we go…  carefully pull a few threads…  come on, threads, pull out, will you?  Hmm…  should it really be this difficult?  Ok, it says here that it will be quicker if you use some tweezers…

So I get eyebrow tweezers from upstairs, struggle on for about half an hour, mangling the fabric with tweezers, create three inches of messy and unconvincing fringe, look at what remains to be done – another 9 inches or so – and decide perhaps Tana lawn is just too finely woven to unravel easily into a fringe, and more to the point, for me at this particular moment, life’s too short.

Luckily I had enough material to cut more bias tape, which I duly did, and bound the would-be fringed edge.  Of course having messed up 3″ of the hemline, I’d had to cut off the whole 5/8″ fringe allowance, which meant that the dress is shorter than intended.  Fortunately, Elisabeth has very good legs, and doesn’t mind showing them off, especially in a dress that she can wear over a swimsuit on the beach.  She pointed out though that a beach dress would need a beach bag to go with it…

Certainly, Ms Elisabeth, one beach bag coming up! Click to enlarge

Certainly, Ms Elisabeth, one beach bag coming up!
Click to enlarge

 The beach bag is made using the Emma Tote pattern from Bonjour Teaspoon, once again available from Pixie Faire.  I used some mauve polka-dot fabric from my stash, and lined it with the same Tana lawn I used for the wrap dress.

The instructions for making up the bag are very clear and it came together well.  The most fiddly part is the little pocket on the front, which has to be gathered into a bound top and then topstitched onto the bag itself.  It’s not easy to get the pocket symmetrical and evenly stitched!  But it’s fine, and Elisabeth is delighted with the results.

So what’s the verdict on the finished dress itself?   To be absolutely fair, the dress is designed for American Girl, and Elisabeth is a Precious Day girl from Gotz, so I felt I had to see it on Kit too before passing judgement.  But since American Girl and Precious Day girls have the same body and limbs, I didn’t expect it to look any different, and I was right.  It fits Kit nicely, and is a real addition to the girls’ shared wardrobe.

And what about the fringing?  Would I have another go at that?  Well, perhaps, with a thicker cotton material, but I would definitely practice first on a spare piece first of all to perfect my technique.

But in spite of my problems with the fringing, I do like the dress very much.  The shoulders are cut wide enough to hide the arm joints, and the flared skirt of the dress is very well done.  American Girl and Precious Day girls can look a bit dumpy, to be honest, but this is a very flattering little dress which emphasises their waists and skims the hips nicely.

To finish, here’s Elisabeth all ready for the beach, and an advance glimpse of Kit’s new shirt in another lovely Tana lawn fabric, the subject of another blog in a week or two.

Beach dress and tote - and a sneak peek at Kit's new shirt.

Beach dress and tote – and a sneak peek at Kit’s new shirt.
Click to enlarge

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.

 

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.

Apple Blossom Time

The Apple Blossom Dress

Click to enlarge

Here in England’s West Country the spring blossom has been absolutely stunning this year, so it seems the right moment to show you Sophie looking cool and charming in her Apple Blossom dress.  She’s  wearing her favourite pink ballerina shoes with their little velvet bows, and of course she’s carrying her beloved cat which goes everywhere with her.

The dress is based on a bodice pattern by Miss Connie, which consists just of the bodice and sleeves.  Once you have the bodice pattern it’s simple enough to cut a rectangle of material to make the skirt – just gather it into the bodice.  This really is an excellently cut garment which fits the slender Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls perfectly.  So be warned, there’s no way Kit or any of the other American Girls will fit into this dress.  Definitely for Kidz only!

One fat square provides plenty of material to make it up.  I got this particular fabric in Millie Moon in Frome (Somerset, UK), a shop which caters largely for quilters and which stocks a wonderful range of beautiful fabrics with designs that are just the right scale for doll’s clothes.

Sophie’s ballerina shoes are by Kidz ‘n’ Cats, part of the four-piece footwear set available from retailers or direct from the Kidz ‘n’ Cats online shop itself.  I was not terribly impressed by the shoe set, to be honest.  These pink pumps are the best of the four, and fit the Kidz well.  The coral-pink Mary Janes are pretty but the straps are cut too short and show the velcro fastenings when done up.  The wellies are beautifully made but proved impossible to put on the Kidz, in fact Susan has inherited them as they slide onto her smaller feet without much difficulty.  Finally there is a pair of green canvas trainers, which are poorly made, and came with laces that were too short to fasten in a bow.  The trainers are also far too big for the Kidz’ slender feet, but I found that they fit Kit well, once I had swapped the laces for the longer ones in the wellies.  Overall the quality is not great for the price, and I’d definitely recommend going to Monique Trading Corp instead as they have various styles in a size (75mm/34mm) that fits the Kidz.

I was truly delighted with this little dress.  Made from this lovely fabric it needs no trimmings at all.  It is just a simple, well-cut dress in an attractive material that suits Sophie’s blonde hair and blue eyes beautifully.  It is a good basic dress design and the bodice pattern has proved very adaptable – as a future post will demonstrate.

Chic cross-over dress for the Kidz

Cross-over dress for KidzBy contrast with my previous post, which featured my first wobbly attempt at making doll’s clothes, here is Annika wearing the most recent creation from Kit’s Couture.  This simple but chic French design was made using a pattern from Vanina who runs the Les Chéries de Vaniline blog and makes her patterns (‘patrons’) available for purchase there.  Vanina favours Liberty prints and I was lucky enough to find a fat square at my local needlecrafts shop, Fabric Magic, which, while not Liberty, was similar in feel.  Annika’s outfit is completed by her green classic ankle strap shoes from Monique.

The pattern draws on the same techniques used to make Kit’s summer dress, being essentially a lined yoke attached to a softly gathered skirt.  I’ve made a few of these dresses with yokes now and I have been encouraged to see how much more accurate and exact my stitching has become since my first attempt three months ago.  Even my top-stitching – which I still find tricky – has improved.  The new skill here was attaching the ties which fasten the dress at the side.  The pattern instructions clearly say to be careful to attach these correctly, and I did take great care over the placement of the first one, stitching it accurately and securely.  Then I discovered I’d put in the wrong way round and had to unpick it.  And then I did exactly the same with the second tie too!

The main challenge with this pattern, however, was that it and the instructions are all in French and I was not familiar with the French vocabulary of dressmaking.  With a bit of help from Google Translate I worked out that, for example, ‘Cranter les arrondis’ means ‘clip curves’…  at least I think it does.  That’s what I did anyway, and it seems to have worked very well.

American Girl owners please note that Kidz ‘n’ Cats are slim dolls and patterns designed for them will be too small for the sturdier build of the American Girl.