Tag Archive | Vanina

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)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

Variations in Green 1: Maru

Last summer I made myself a dress from some lovely moss green cotton fabric which had a subtle all-over leaf motif which is only visible up close.  There was a fair bit of this material left over and it seemed perfect for me to make some trousers for my Autumn girls, Meili, Annika and Maru.  Later on I used it once again to make a dress for a queenly new model who has recently joined the Kit’s Couture team.  So over the next days and weeks you will find a number of posts entitled Variations in Green.  Let’s begin with Maru who is wearing the first outfit I’ve made for her.

Maru in green

Relaxed and comfortable in crop trousers and a ‘tunique chasuble’

Maru is wearing some accidental trousers (I’ll explain in a moment) and a tunic made from a pattern by one of my favourite designers, Vanina from Les Chéries de Vaniline.  She has a range of very interesting designs for Kidz ‘n’ Cats and Maru and Friends.  The ‘robe chasuble’ is one of these, and the pattern offers several variations,  with or without collar, with or without a box pleat.  Maru wears it in its simplest ‘chasuble’ form, although I did manage to dress it up a little with a mandarin collar made of lace.

Greenvar02

The lace collar in detail

 

Here it looks as if the tunic is sitting too high above Maru’s shoulders, but it is actually resting on them.  Her shoulders really do slope at that sharp angle.  If you look at Vanina’s photographs, you can see even her shoulder seams float slightly above the tops of her models’ arms.

Another issue is that the pattern was designed for Kidz ‘n’ Cats, and although Vanina says in her ‘P’tite Ecole de Couture’ that she has modified it so it fits Maru and Friends, I have the older version of the pattern without those modifications.  Maru is ‘older’ than the Kidz, and where the Kidz have a flat chest, Maru has the definite beginnings of a bust, which seems to pull the armholes out of shape a little.  I had great difficulty getting a reasonable fit, and had to recut the armholes slightly.  I suspect Vanina has built in some more ease across the chest which would I think solve the problem of armhole gape.  Next time I will add ¼” to the width across each shoulder – or invest in another, Maru-friendly, version of the pattern!

Now to explain the ‘accidental’ trousers.  These were not originally intended for Maru.  I was working on an outfit for Meili, using a Dutch pattern for nightwear called ‘Goodnight Girl‘ the one and only sewing pattern for Gotz Hannah that I could find on the internet.  Granted I was struggling with the instructions (I had a choice of German or Dutch, neither of which I speak) but I had carefully printed it exactly to scale, and cut ¼” seam allowance extra, as you must with continental patterns.  To my disappointment the trousers turned out too tight for Meili.  I was at a loss to explain this poor fit, but it occurred to me that they might just fit Maru – and they did.  They are quite a snug fit around her tum, and of course her extra height is all in her legs so they are mid-calf rather than ankle length, but they look great on her.

Side view

Whimsical flourishes at hip and knee

To unify the ensemble I devised some little flourishes with some cream ribbon and lime-green flower buttons.  There is another lime-green button at the back, just below the neckline and the collar.  I had no more of the flower buttons so, although I dislike velcro, which seems designed to catch in hair and rip delicate fabrics to shreds, on this occasion I used it to fasten the back of the tunic.  I carefully put the hooky side of the velcro so that it faced outwards away from any delicate undergarments Maru might be wearing.

Maru’s shoes are from Monique, the Girl Dress Shoe (733), size 65/27 which is quite a good fit for Maru’s tiny feet.  Her hair is held in place by two orange hair claws from the Gotz hair stylist set.

So how do I feel about my first efforts at dressmaking for Maru?  Well, it wasn’t as easy as I expected, but I learned a lot from the problems of fit, and I’m sure next time I’ll be better prepared to deal with fitting clothes to Maru’s rather difficult torso.  I do think she looks charming in the outfit, and the moss green and amber shades suit her admirably.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(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!

Polka-Dot Parade

Click for full size version

Click for full size image

Next on the catwalk are Sophie and Annika looking cool and sweet in matching polka-dot themed ensembles.

Both of these outfits are made from Miss Connie’s bodice and pants patterns.  It was fun to adapt them to give a different look to each of the Kidz.   Two fat squares of material – one plain, one polka-dot – were ample to make trousers and top, leaving enough left over for a hat as well.  I made Sophie a bolero jacket with full-length sleeves to match her crop trousers, and Annika a sleeveless crop top to match her full-length trousers.  Annika’s ensemble is completed by a summer hat in the same materials.  These are the Kit’s Couture creations which form the core of their outfits.

In addition, Annika is wearing Monique classic ankle strap shoes in cream; and their other garments – Sophie’s pale yellow batiste blouse, her sandals, and Annika’s turquoise jacket – are all part of the summer outfit Annika was wearing when she arrived.   These are beautifully made garments from Kidz ‘n’ Cats, and there’s no doubt in my mind that the pale yellow blouse suits Sophie’s delicate colouring better than it does Annika, whose auburn hair and dark eyes are flattered far better by the rich warm yellow of her new outfit.

Annika’s ensemble

Polka Dot Parade 2

Click for full size image

I began with Miss Connie’s ‘basic elastic waist pants’ pattern which is for full-length trousers.  This is another well-cut garment and the trouser legs fit the slim-legged Kidz beautifully.  I was focusing on the construction of the garment so didn’t attempt to add any trimmings at all, just put the trousers together as per the pattern instructions – adding an extra half-inch at the waist edge as advised by Connie when she sent through the patterns.  This gives at higher rise and adds ease to the garment.  I was a little puzzled that the bottom of the legs was cut curved rather than straight across.  I’m not sure why this was done and I might well straighten it next time I make up a pair of these trousers.   The crop top was easy to adapt from the bodice pattern.  It was just a question of deciding how short a crop top I wanted, and then making it up in the usual way, finishing off the edge by folding in both bottom edges and top-stitching them together.

The hat was the real challenge.  This was made from Vanina’s ‘tuto chapeau’ pattern, and proved quite tricky to put together.  I’ll certainly be making a hat for Sophie from this pattern so will write about that in a later blog when I’ve honed my technique…

Sophie’s suit

When I came to make Sophie’s suit I had got the bit between my teeth and wanted to play around with the patterns a bit more.  Miss Connie provided a tutorial on ‘designing pants lengths’, so I followed her excellent instructions to create some cropped trousers.  I decorated the leg edges with purple rick-rack braid to make them a bit smarter.  I decided to rework the bodice pattern to create a bolero jacket by cutting the back all as one piece, and halving the front pattern piece and curving the inner edge from the neckline to the side seam.  Like the crop top, the jacket is lined, with the lining slip-stitched down to neaten around the armhole seams.  It turned out to be quite a fiddly little job.  I top-stitched around the jacket edges to provide some interest – I definitely need a bit more practice with top-stitching, it’s too easy to wobble! – and I trimmed the sleeve hems with rick-rack braid.  The final touch was to add a yellow butterfly button to the left front.

I really like these patterns from Miss Connie.  They fit the Kidz ‘n’ Cats dolls beautifully and I can see how they can be readily adjusted to create different styles of trousers and tops.  Making these outfits really helped me gain confidence in adapting patterns, and I also began to see how to use trimmings to add interest and individuality.

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.