Tag Archive | Wren*Feathers

Arctic Chic with Saila Qilavvaq

Saila dresses Inuit style Click to enlarge

Saila dresses Inuit style
Click to enlarge

New model Saila Qilavvaq, my Maplelea Girl, steps out for the first time in a very unusual – to British eyes – parka for the colder months.  This very distinctive garment is an Amauti, an ethnic garment worn by Inuit women in Canada.  Saila is finding it more difficult to settle in here in the UK than the other Kit’s Couture girls, because of course life is very different here from her home in Iqaluit, Nunavut Territory.  So to help her feel at home, I made her an Amauti suitable for our mild winters.

Traditionally the Amauti is made from animal skins – typically caribou – and of course its hood would often be lined with fur for warmth.  This is very important because the hood of the Amauti, along with the loose pouch-like back of the garment, is where Inuit women traditionally carry their babies.  It needs to be warm, secure, water- and wind-proof.  In recent years, the Amauti tends to be made with modern fabrics like polar fleece with cotton cloth or waterproof outer layers.  Modern Amautis are growing in popularity generally and fetch high prices.

An Amauti for the UK winter Click to enlarge

An Amauti for the UK winter
Click to enlarge

Saila’s Amauti is made using the Wren*Feathers Arctic Parka pattern by Jennie Bagrowski.  The pattern has some of the strangest-shaped pattern pieces I have ever seen, particularly the front which has two large lobes of fabric which extend over the shoulders and join the back to form part of the pouch.  Instructions are essential with this pattern and it would be pretty much impossible to work out how the pattern fits together without them.

Tiny white flowers and swirls decorate the fabric. Click to enlarge.

Tiny white flowers and swirls decorate the fabric.
Click to enlarge.

For the outer layer of the Amauti I chose a substantial white cotton fabric printed with white flowers and tendrils which reminded me of snowflakes whirling in a light breeze.  The inner layer had to be a good warm fleece, and guided by the pattern instructions I chose microfleece in a royal blue.  Saila is a Winter (how suitable!) so white and this clear cool blue suit her admirably.  I decided against using fur fabric on the hood, as the winters in the south-west of England are so mild these days that it really isn’t necessary.  Rick-rack braid is often used to decorate Amautis so I chose a light one also in royal blue, and a matching silk cord to cinch in the garment at the waist.

The hood is HUGE - room for two babies in there? Click to enlarge.

The hood is HUGE – room for two babies in there?
Click to enlarge.


I started with the outer layer as it was the easiest to work with.  Following the pattern instructions closely I pinned and stitched the pieces together, all the while unsure exactly what I was doing and how this bizarre assortment of cloth was going to turn into a wearable garment.  First the hood is constructed, then the sleeve tops are stitched to the strange lobes of the front.  At this point I stitched the rick-rack braid onto the sleeve cuffs.  The the back tail piece is stitched to the back, and then we get to the bit that Jennie warns us is tricky: we stitch the front to the hood and back, going around the lobes and finishing at the side seams.  That I did find difficult, as I had a little too much fabric on the back.  If making this again I would ease-stitch around the low hood back to help it fit the hood front.

Then I turned my attention to the lining which was a fleece knit.  I have learned to be cautious about knits as my machine will skip stitches if it possibly can.  So I used a ball-point needle size 80 and set the stitch length to 3.5.  These seemed to be the right settings and I had no problem with skipped stitches at all as I put the lining together.  Because of its stretchiness it was much more obliging about fitting together, and as I had already done all this once I made good progress.

The long tail of the Amauti would allow Saila to sit back into a snow-bank - if we had any... Click to enlarge.

The long tail of the Amauti would allow Saila to sit back into a snow-bank – if we had any snow…
Click to enlarge.

Before putting the two layers together I had to stitch the rick-rack decoration around the hemline of the garment.  I set it so that the top edge of the braid was 1⅜” from the edge of the fabric.  It had to be pinned on carefully all the way around and stitching a straight line on that wavy braid was very difficult – it felt as if I was zig-zagging too!

Now it was time to slip the lining inside the outer layer and join them together around the hem and hood with strips of fleece, in the same way as bias binding.  My intention was to stitch the binding right-sides together and then fold the binding over to the wrong side and stitch in the ditch to catch it down invisibly.  Unfortunately the pattern does not advise how wide to cut the fleece binding and I cut the hood binding too narrow at 1″ and had to do some hand-sewing to catch it down in places.  So for the hem binding I used a strip 2″ wide, did all the stitching and then trimmed off the excess as needed.  Last of all I slip-stitched the lining to the sleeve cuffs and then this complex garment was complete!  All in all it took me three full afternoons to make.

Saila wears her Amauti over her Maplelea jeans and a Kit’s Couture T-shirt.  Her outer layer is completed by her kamiik (Inuit-style boots which were part of her ‘meet’ outfit) and her Pang hat, which was actually made for Maplelea by Inuit women in Pangnirtung.  As you can see, she is very happy in her new Amauti, and very pleased that her first modelling assignment for Kit’s Couture showcases this striking piece of Arctic chic.

Amauti? Check.  Kamiik? Check.  Pang hat?  Check.  Now where's the snow? Click to enlarge.

Amauti? Check. Kamiik? Check. Pang hat? Check. Now where’s the snow?
Click to enlarge.

After all this effort to make an authentic Amauti, I learned that only women with children would wear one.  A young girl like Saila, or a childless woman, would wear an Amautit – that second ‘t’ makes all the difference – which has no pouch.  For anyone who is interested, there is more about the Amauti and its history and meaning for the Inuit people in this report from 2001.

Fine feathers make fine Maru

The first outfit from the Wren*Feathers patterns. Click to enlarge

Maru’s first outfit from the Wren*Feathers patterns.
Click to enlarge

Back in October, Jennie Bagrowski (jenwrenne) of the excellent Wren*Feathers blog, produced a wonderful collection of patterns for Maru and Friends.  Patterns for Maru are rare as hen’s teeth so I invested in the lot immediately!

I decided to make a simple version of the Versatility Pants, along with a tailored shirt with puffed sleeves and a curved hem, which I thought would look lovely in Tana lawn.

In my wardrobe I had a skirt which I had to accept I would never again be slim enough to wear…  The material was a luscious creamy light-gold brocade which would suit Maru perfectly, so I unpicked the skirt and used part of it to make some elegant trousers.

Luxurious - and upcycled from a human-sized skirt! Click to enlarge

Luxurious brocade  – upcycled from a human-sized skirt!
Click to enlarge

I have a tendency to sew slightly wider seams than patterns allow, so I cut a tiny bit more ease into the trousers just to make sure they would fit.  However this really wasn’t necessary and if I were making them again I would follow the pattern size exactly.  There’s not a lot to add, really, as the trousers made up easily and as I’d chosen the simplest variant, without pockets, they took no time at all.

With its collar, revers, puff sleeves and curved hem, plus a fair amount of top-stitching, the shirt was much more complex.  I made this up in the same Liberty Tana lawn as I’d used for the Hearts 4 Hearts dress during the Summer Sew-Along.

Maru glows in this Liberty print in autumn colours Click to enlarge

Maru glows in this Liberty print in autumn colours
Click to enlarge

Jennie’s patterns are accurate and come with very clear instructions.  With over 18 months’ experience of sewing for dolls behind me, I was happy to find I had very few problems making up this sweet little shirt.  The curved hemline was probably the most challenging part, but with care it came together as it should.  I have to admit that I did intend originally to make proper buttonholes, but fearful of spoiling the lovely material, I ended up fastening the shirt with poppers.

The two slight problems I did encounter were caused entirely by me not being absolutely exact with my seam allowances.  Because of this, I had to ease the side seams of blouse and sleeves slightly to get them to fit together; and when Maru tried on the blouse we found that one of the cuffs was too tight to fit around her arm.  Next time I make this style I will cut the cuff ¼” longer to allow for my over-generous seaming!

Maru is delighted with her new outfit.  The shirt is soft and comfortable to wear, and the trousers look great tucked into the tops of her suede ankle-boots.

I very much enjoyed making these garments for Maru, and am really looking forward to trying some of the other patterns in the Wren*Feathers Maru Collection.





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!