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My Beautiful Asian Doll Wears a Peplum

Since Madame Alexander dolls have no visible stitching at the neck and armhole, I choose “Lily” to wear this Peplum top by Liberty Jane at Pixie Faire. Her waist is slightly smaller than American Girl’s waist. Last time I worked with this Peplum pattern, I combined the print top with plain pedal pushers. Today I use a generic skirt pattern that matches the top.

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This peplum top is easy to make, and, as usual, the Liberty Jane pattern is easy to follow. I had no matching zipper for the back closure, so I used Velcro which made the closure a little tight in back. Always check the fit as you move along.

This skirt is a generic pattern that’s a rectangle measuring 13 inches x 5.5 inches, or cut on the fold, it’s 6.5 inches x 5.5 inches. If you’re fortunate to have a serger, finish the top and bottom edges. Create a casing for the elastic at the top. After threading the elastic through the casing with a bodkin or safety-pin, secure both ends of the elastic with a straight pin and stitch the side seam together. I basted the seam with the regular sewing machine and then finished it with the serger. You can make this skirt in an hour or less if you do everything by machine. I like to hem by hand, once the lower edge is finished.

I don’t always use a serger so if you don’t have one, you can still keep the inside of your doll clothes nice and neat. However, I’ve never been successful at using a zig-zag feature to finish my seams. The thread bunches up, making the zig-zag stitch bumpy. Or if I stitch close to the edge, I end up slipping off the edge, making a big mess. The stitch I end up using looks like small straight stitches in groups of three (called a Straight Stretch Stitch), undoubtedly designed for something else entirely.

If anyone has suggestions about using the zig-zag feature to finish seams, I’d love some feedback. Please share your successes.

I love making hats, especially berets. The standard beret pattern includes a circle, a large hoop that corresponds to the circle, and a band that goes around the smaller side of the hoop. I wanted to keep this look dressy, so I chose an icy color to correspond with the blue dress and this beautiful necklace, created by 2SistersSewCrafty at Etsy. This beret fabric was an unlabeled remnant. I don’t know what it is, but I doubt I’ll ever use it again.

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I spent far too much time on a project that developed  into a horror story. I used the smallest sewing needle that I could find but still had difficulty sewing without the fabric bunching up and tearing. I sewed much of the hat by hand to avoid hitting the sequins. I lined the hat with Dotted Swiss (or Swiss Dot, depending on the manufacturer). Instead of making the hat band from the sequin fabric, I used the lining fabric—-and I prayed while stitching the band to the hat with my sewing machine that my needle wouldn’t lock or break.

I love the inside of my doll clothes to look pristine whenever possible. Here’s a peek at the inside of the top, skirt and beret.

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beret cat

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.

Dress off hanger

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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Vintage Holiday Jumper

If you’re like me, you might be unimpressed when you peruse the doll clothes pattern catalogs at the store. Have you noticed how badly some of the dolls wearing the completed sample garments are styled? Often, the sample garments don’t look like the seams were pressed during construction, or the dresses are too large. My own doll clothes turn out better than the clothes on the pattern envelopes that get little care when made.

Recently Simplicity Patterns partnered with some great doll clothes designers who have already shared their designs on the internet. If you get the opportunity, check out both Simplicity 1244 and 1245, each done by separate designers, both vintage inspired. Kit wears this jumper below that originates with Simplicity 1245.

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I love this jumper but I cannot say as much for the 1245 blouse. I had two issues with the blouse pattern, and both were collar/facing problems. The thin strip, referred to as a “facing,” did not allow the collar to be free at the back neck opening. Because the “facing” was so narrow, I could not get the back opening to look neat and professional. Furthermore, this same facing needed to be tacked to the inside of the bodice, and the necessary tiny stitches showed through at the front neckline. That was attempt no. 1.

With attempt no 2, I lined the blouse, instead of using the “facing,” but I still had problems with the back of the collar that does not hang free from the back opening. I wasn’t in love with the sleeves either, but that is personal taste. After removing the collar and making the blouse “collar-less,” I found that I’d set in one of the sleeves inside out. I had been using a beautiful white striped on white fabric that showed every small hole created by a mistake, and, unfortunately, I didn’t discover my sleeve error until I’d clipped the underneath of the sleeve seams. Rather than creating a new sleeve to go with a collar-less blouse and the other sleeve that I didn’t particularly like, I foraged through my patterns to find a blouse pattern that would hopefully work better with this jumper, and here it is from Heritage Doll Fashions at Pixie Faire.

By now I was tired of my white on white fabric and switched to this white pique. I had no problems with this blouse that I love except that I added one inch to the length. Incidentally, this is my favorite sleeve style, bar none. A short, moderately full puffy sleeve with a band around the bottom.

This beautiful jumper pattern is both practical and clever, but I got confused at a significant step, when it came to attaching the waistband lining to the inside of the jumper. After reading the directions and staring at the photo until I looked cross-eyed, I misinterpreted the directions, creating more work for myself. But once I understood the right way to construct this jumper, I was very impressed with how it is put together.

I love this jumper and I love the Heritage Doll Fashions blouse. And why shouldn’t I, when I spent a ridiculous amount of time on this outfit (while I watched Project Runway: Threads, where the children on the show seem to sew faster than I do). I won’t even admit to you how long it took me to make this outfit all together, but I love this look, which I’ll definitely repeat. And I will no doubt use the blouse pattern several more times in the future.

I like to show the back and the inside of my doll clothes whenever possible.

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The jumper and blouse together create two layers of velcro closures in the back. I used the whole width of the velcro on the right-hand side (instead of using half that width) to provide adjustment for the closure. I wanted to provide extra room underneath the jumper for a different blouse that might have much bulk. In other words, I can tighten or loosen the closure, depending on what blouse or top that Kit wears.

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