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Grace Wears Easy Bandeau Blouse

Grace wears a bandeau blouse and a matching beret. I don’t know whether French people actually wear berets, but Grace is a Francophil who wears a beret when she gets the chance.

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The top is easy to make, using the bandeau blouse pattern by Liberty Jane. It is basically a lined strip of fabric with the ties inserted. Then the bottom of the blouse is attached and all unfinished edges are hemmed or finished. The back closure uses Velcro.

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I use my own pattern for the beret and pants. I like to use elastic in the back of the pants only. The waistband in the front, covers the edges of the inserted elastic on the sides to make a nice finished garment.

Here’s another look without the beret. I could photograph Grace all day. She is the most beautiful American Girl doll so far.

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One more view of the top; this one is from the wrong side.

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I finished the sides and bottom using a serger. Then I hemmed the bottom by hand.

This pattern has an option to add a ruffle to the bottom to create a little summer dress.

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french

Polka Dot Circle Skirt

I have had fun styling Grace, the prettiest doll that American Girl has created so far. She is my third doll with freckles. She’s one of the few AG dolls with substantial lips. I wish I could say I’ve had as much fun sewing this skirt for Grace as I’ve had dressing her. Since I’m committed to including my sewing failures and challenges in each blog, hang onto your seats, my friendly sewists. This outfit that appears to be a success has been one long frustration.

Since saddle shoes don’t go with many outfits, I jump at this opportunity to use these navy and white ones. In addition, I’ve become a polka dot “freak,” and I can’t wait to use this fabric, dark/navy blue and a weird color of green that is almost turquoise. In spite of the goofs I end up making with this outfit, I pursue the finish line.

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This skirt is cute, but not as cute as the original pattern. (Usually, I like my version better when I use someone else’s pattern, but not in this case.) I’m going to post a version of this skirt pattern.

circle skirt polka dot

I had originally planned to make the version of this skirt with the tulle slip underneath. You can almost see this version in the little box on the lower section of the box, but here is a better photo. By the way, I recently found small rolls of tulle at Wal-Mart and Joann’s that are 6 inches wide by 40 yards or more. Tulle for dolls is much easier to handle this way on a small roll. The pattern for the slip that goes underneath is made of fabric cut like a circle skirt, but shorter than the outer skirt; then a gathered length of tulle is attached to the bottom of the slip. This slip ends up peeking out a couple inches longer than the skirt.

Unfortunately, I have trouble attaching white tulle to white cotton. This step is cumbersome; I keep losing the gathered tulle off the edge of the cotton slip; I have difficulty seeing the white on white (tulle on cotton), and I don’t like the way the pieces looked sewn together. I scrap the slip for now. Here’s another type of peeking slip that I have done in the past. I will work more with slips in the future.

I go on to the skirt, and I have problems with this as well. The waistband is a bit too tight. I either need to cut the waistband larger or make smaller seams at the ends of the waist band. I remove all the stitching (“in the ditch”) and recut the waistband and attach it, this time with more care to fit it on the doll before my final steps. Here’s a photo from a slightly different angle.

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As I iron the skirt and clean up the pieces of thread from the old stitching, I accidentally pull out a thread from the fabric weave and leave a tiny white mark on the skirt. At this point I’m ready to throw the project away. I certainly can’t sell the skirt like this, but I love the fabric too much to toss it.

I have planned to use my favorite Heritage blouse pattern to go with this skirt, but since I messed up the skirt, I use a blouse that I have previously featured. If I decide to remake this skirt, I’ll remake the same blouse at that time. While I iron the blouse, I notice a light spot near the bottom hem, so I wipe it with a wet rag and dry it with the iron. Somehow, while fixing the spot, I pick up two dark pink spots from my ironing board cover or my iron or the rag. I am always so careful, but now I have pink spots on the blouse. AND THE ARE IRONED IN!

Do you ever spend hours sewing and end up with NOTHING? LOL. Mistakes can happen to the best of us. And one of the purposes of this blog is to show that all of us—or most of us—make mistakes when we sew.

I happen to have a set of bows on hand. Fortunately, the green one matches the skirt polka dots. Then I make a scarf to tie around Grace’s 1955-styled ponytail. The scarf fabric is a soft polyester rayon blend. I iron and hand-stitch a rolled hem on every side. I comb Grace’s hair before dressing her in her skirt and blouse, so she isn’t a wrinkled mess for her photos. Voila! Grace is ready for her high school sock hop.

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paris-avatar

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Saige Dresses for Success

I loved making this dress. I want to rave about Matilda’s Closet who designs and distributes this pattern in PDF form. Although this pattern is on the complicated side (I didn’t know how to put it together without reading the directions), the pattern directions were easy to follow and so were the photos.

A closeup of Saige's dress with a large collar and pleats down the front

Since this is a close shot, I’ll interject a note about these buttons. I have a beautiful collection of buttons, and I have more pink accessories than I could ever dream of using. But I was surprised that I had no tiny pink buttons, except for buttons with four holes. I prefer two holes so I used these. You might notice that my sewing stitches on the buttons are all horizontal. No matter how you stitch your buttons, I suggest that all buttons be stitched in the same direction. This way, the precise direction of the thread adds to the design. In addition, the stitches look better if you overlap the button threads as little as possible.

I love these little hoop earrings (or demi-hoops) that are made by 2 Sisters Sew Crafty. These earrings are classy like plain hoops can be, but the ends of them are straight so that they fit into the doll’s pierced ear and head. I think I got the pearl bracelet from Carpatina awhile back. I don’t see it now but the site has some pretty jewelry.

Here’s a full shot of the dress that only looks good with long hair that is pulled back or off the neck due to the size of the collar.

Full view of this dress for success

The two pleats above the waistband and the two below the waistband are simple to create. The pattern pieces are marked with notches on the pattern edges. The marked fabric pieces are folded so that the notches meet, creating a fold for each pleat. This same method is used at the skirt part of the dress. When the top and skirt are sewn properly to the waistband, the pleats line up. If you look at both these top photos of the dress, you can see the pleats. If you go to the Matilda’s Closet pattern, you will see other photos of this dress. The pleats are much easier to view on the dresses made of solid fabric.

A view of the dress off the hanger reveals more of the construction. These attractive tabs are inserted into the side seams.

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The side zipper (four inches long) can be spotted below. I also hand-stitched a strip of one-inch bias tape to cover the seams of the wrong side of the waist band. When I can, I keep the inside of my doll clothes tidy. In general, both finished and covered seams hold up better than unfinished seams if a garment should need laundering.

Off the hanger with view of zipper and liner band

I haven’t used other patterns by Matilda’s Closet, and I don’t know her personally. I usually favor “vintage-styled” doll dresses, but I adore this dress pattern.

I originally planned to try out patterns by a few doll clothes designers before creating my own. But I’m having so much fun sewing that I’ve gotten sidetracked. I’ve come across various patterns in PDF form, all of them good in one way or another. I’m impressed by the pattern pieces, even the ones that are hand-drawn. I enjoy looking at dolls styled by designers, bloggers and AG lovers on Instagram. I love American Girl (and Madame Alexander), and I’m having a great time styling these beautiful 18-inch dolls.

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angel moon

Delicate Light-weight Cotton Vintage

Here’s another vintage “inspired” dress from the 1930s. I love these delicate flowers on the fabric. This light-weight cotton reminds me of the dress that Faye Dunaway wore as Bonnie Parker at the beginning of Bonnie and Clyde. In the introduction, Bonnie looks out the upstairs window (while she’s nude) and sees Clyde trying to steal the family automobile. She runs down the stairs while she buttons the front of her dress and ties it in the back.

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This is Bonnie’s dress from the movie:

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Bonnie’s dress,  created by Theodora von Ruckle, doesn’t look the same exactly, but certain significant similarities cannot be denied. Although Bonnie’s dress buttons down the front, and it has long sleeves, its fabric is light and airy. Both dresses fit nicely with a seam under the breastbone and both have princess seams in the skirt. Both tie in the back. If you should happen to catch this version of Bonnie and Clyde, you might notice how her dress moves with her. Although it was Bonnie’s long darker skirts that became a part of Faye Dunaway’s fashion image when the movie was released, Faye/Bonnie wears a fresh cotton dress again on the way to her unexpected demise.

I love the cut of this dress, but it has not my favorite vintage-inspired dress so far. Here’s a photo of the original pattern below. You can buy it in PDF form from Dollhouse Designs at Etsy. This pattern has three options for the neck. There’s a collar available that is sewn to each side of the square neckline; it doesn’t go all the way around the neck. I found the weight of the collar resting on an unlined bodice top to be too heavy. Using lace around the neck is another option, but none of my lace was appropriate. I ended up with a plain neckline with square corners.

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I prefer a small, almost cap sleeve when I’m going for puffy sleeves. Just my taste. Look at the photo above and then compare the photo of my dress at the top. My sleeves are slightly smaller. I often use the same gathered sleeves from one of my Heritage patterns, FYI. Just my preference.

The included neck facing is too small for the neckline. I re-read the directions. I had stay-stitched both the neckline and the facing before working with the pieces, but the neckline was too large. I recut the front facing by matching it to the top front bodice.

There are five skirt pieces. I was very careful at matching the labeled sides, but I still had a piece on each side that was 3/8 inch too long that I adjusted when I hemmed the dress.

The back tie is made from a measurement, not from a pattern piece. Mine measured perhaps 1/8 to 1/4 inch wider than it should have. Due to my error, my side ties could not be used without getting them caught in the upper or lower seem when I assembled the dress. After sewing the ties, trimming them, turning them back right-side out and then ironing them, I realized that I had to start over and create new ties. (The new ties worked perfectly.)

I tend to pick products apart somewhat when I review them. My main reason for doing this is that I want people who sew, especially beginners, to know that certain mistakes are not their fault. Even when they are your fault, it’s important to keep going. Almost anything can be fixed.

I find that most of the doll clothes designers who are selling patterns on the internet to be helpful and fair. I originally planned to make my own patterns but I thought I’d try other existing pdf patterns to see what other designers were doing. Now I find trying a new pattern much more fun that creating a pattern of my own. I’m a little stuck in a world of cute doll clothes and no income. I have some cute ideas for my own patterns. I need to get with it.

I experienced some frustration with this pattern, but now that I’m finished, I’m looking at the dress and liking it a lot. Dollhouse Designs sells a very thorough pattern with explanations that will help the beginner. Also, her patterns pieces are not drawn by hand; she uses a computer program to make her designs professional. I made a similar dress that is a bit easier.

Grace is American Girl’s current Girl of the Year. She is my third AG doll with freckles. This is Grace’s first time to model a new dress for Marshmallowjane. This style would probably suit Kit better (because Kit came from the Depression), but this light print made a blonde Kit washed out. And Grace looks beautiful wearing anything. By the way, after taking this set of photos, I removed Grace’s “permanent” braid, and I trimmed her bangs to get them even.

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Grace’s earrings and bracelet are from my favorite AG jeweler 2SistersSewCrafty. Her beret in the top photo is by moi.

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beatnik beret

Separates with Two Polka Dot “Looks”

I decided to make separates for a change when I came across this cute top pattern called Summer Breeze by Doll Tag Clothing.  The instructions give several ways to finish the front panels. Since I prefer to have the inside of my garments tidy, I opted to line the front. In addition, I lined the back, but I still used the provided neck facings. I was able to tack the neck facings down to the inside lining without leaving visible tacks near the outside neckline.

I wish that this pattern included armhole facings, instead of instructions to hem a curved armhole. Hemmed armholes are not a good look for me. I picture myself re-doing the narrow hem several times before I’m happy with it. My handmade polka dot bias tape solved this problem, but the armholes turned out a bit tight. Next time I sew with this pattern, I will make little armhole facings, or I will trim the armholes 1/4 inch before adding the bias tape.

Summer Breeze Top with Shorts and Emma Bag in Pinstripe

I adore these coordinated shorts that I made with my own generic pattern. I generally put a waistband in front and a casing with elastic in the back. The pink cuffs on the shorts were simple. I sewed a rectangular piece of solid pink fabric to the wrong side of each shorts leg and folded the hem over onto the right side and top-stitched the solid piece.

This pinstriped “Emma Bag” with an adorable gathered pocket was easy to make using a pattern by Bonjour Teaspoon. I look forward to making this bag out of various prints (like the one below out of pink polka dots). I appreciate coordinated clothing but not too matchy-matchy. The pink bag would have been too much for the outfit above. But with the gray dotted Swiss pants below, the pink bag is perfect.

Summer Breeze Top with Pants and Emma Bag in Pink Polkadots

I use a lot of dotted swiss. Some of it is better quality than the rest; some of it loses its shape. This gray dotted Swiss unravels a lot, but it combined well with the pink and gray polka dots and the pink and white polka dot bag.

I’m not sure why, but I rarely make separates. Give me a vintage dress to sew anytime. But I was intrigued by this Summer Breeze top pattern. Its clean shape is versatile with the shorts and long pants. I should probably add a little skirt. I love these smart pink clogs, and my models tend to wear this fabulous bracelet by 2SistersSewCrafty.

Clockwise Beginning on Top with Pinstripe Bag, Pink Polkadot Bag, Shorts with Pink Cuff, Summer Breeze Top, and Gray Dotted Swiss Pants

Each separate shares the above photo. The Summer Breeze Top has a back closure with a white slim strip of Velcro. You may see a glimpse of the polka dot bias tape around the armhole. The bag was easy to make, using the pink polka dot cotton. But the striped seersucker is another matter. The fabric unravels like crazy and must be handled with care.

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tulips in pot

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