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.


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.


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.



You can find us on Pinterest.

beret cat

Reviewing My Sewing Machines

I just added a new toy to my sewing machine arsenal, a Singer 9960 Quantum Stylist.

I’m trying NOT to spend money, but here was my quandary: My normally dependable and lovely machine is a Kenmore 19606. Although I’ve always wanted a Bernina or a Viking, I’ve been too practical to go for the top-of-the-line anything. I’ve used Kenmore machines since I bought my first one at age 18.

The 19606 is my best Kenmore to date, but after awhile it developed a small but significant problem. The bobbin winder quit working. Before I realized that I could buy a portable bobbin winder or previously threaded bobbins, I took my machine to Sears to have it repaired. Sears sends all sewing machines to a special place, and getting it back requires patience and time.

By the way, I knew exactly what was wrong with the machine and what part I needed, but taking the machine apart was far too risky. I included a diagram with the machine, showing Sears exactly what was wrong, but Sears gives no discount for my research. When I got the machine back,  the bobbin threader winder worked but the machine’s perfect stitch had been altered when it was cleaned.

Unfortunately, I put my machine away for awhile. When I used it months later, I realized that although the bobbin winder worked, it would only fill the bobbin 1/3 of the way before sticking.

At this point I bought a bobbin winder. I also bought several filled bobbins with either black or white thread. Don’t do this. After years of sewing I recently realized that having the same weight thread on the top and the bottom is essential for a perfect sewing stitch.

When I decided to become a serious doll clothes designer, I bought a Serger. I like to finish the seams properly in anything that I make, and using a regular zig-zag stitch adds bulk to the seams. First, I bought a Brother Serger 1034D that is a lovely machine but difficult to thread. The instruction booklet and the accompanying DVDs were limited. I eventually threaded it by finding some instructions on YouTube. But even with instructions, threading the machine was a pain in the behind. Since I’d always gotten by with conservative machines, I finally splurged and purchased a Baby Locke Imagine. This Serger threads itself, and it’s easy to use.

I take that back:
A Serger can be intimidating (as I describe in my previous posts Don’t Be Afraid of Your Serger and More on Using a Serger). There is no Baby Locke store close by. However, I am due some free classes from the distant store. I figure that when I sojourn to this distant store, I’ll take my Kenmore sewing machine and have a Baby Locke repairman work on it. I need someone who has the genius touch of a grand piano repairman.

Last year I bought my granddaughter a toy sewing machine. She wants to learn how to sew, and her interest couldn’t make me happier. (My long term goal is to make doll clothes patterns and matching little girl dresses. And I am having fun.) The toy machine called Sew Fun by Alex was a piece of garbage so I bought a basic $100 Kenmore machine with a decent stitch. The speed of the machine can be adjusted for a little girl who needs to go slowly. My six-year-old granddaughter sits in a booster chair and puts the foot pedal on a box. The only place I find this little machine right now is at eBay.

I had been doing my own sewing on my trusty Kenmore 19606 and using my portable bobbin winder. Unfortunately, I somehow bent the sensitive structure that holds the needle. I’m afraid that if the Sears man adjusts my machine again, he’ll make it worse instead of better.

Have I mentioned how important it is to have a dependable sewing machine?
If you’re reading this blog, you probably understand. I don’t want to stop what I’m doing to take my sewing machine to an unknown entity, so I’ve been using the little Kenmore machine that I bought my granddaughter. She isn’t ready to sew without supervision so the machine is stored at my house.

Unfortunately, even his machine is causing me grief. Kenmore uses a removable housing unit for its bobbin on some of its machines. I detest this style of bobbin holder because the thread gets jammed, and everything gets stuck, creating a hole in the fabric.

This morning while I was working on a beautiful piece of fleece, I was having difficulty stitching a narrow hem without the foot slipping and making my straight line crooked. I checked the needle and stitch requirements for fleece, and everything I was using seemed ideal except for the behavior of the little machine. Although this machine does have a nice stitch, it has some problems: In addition to the bobbin chamber jamming, the floor of the machine–that surrounds the free arm–slips off in the middle of sewing. When I sew with just the free arm, the bobbin compartment flops opened. I’ve come to the conclusion that my granddaughter needs something better–eventually. I don’t want the machine to contribute to the frustration of a typical “newbie.”

What’s the first thing a non-sewing person says about sewing? “I don’t  have the patience.” When my granddaughter comes to visit, she practices machine stitching by following some lines that are drawn on paper. We’ve been planning on making some doll clothes, but last week I told her that we will begin with a simple skirt for her. (An imperfect seam will have less impact on a larger garment). She says, “When I’m eight or nine, in a couple of years, I can make my own skirt then…” and I say, “No. You can do this in a month or so.” She has the cutest little frame; she would look cute in a gunny sack. A skirt with an elastic waist will do.

After the little Kenmore ate a hole in my fleece, I said, That’s it! I looked for a local phone repair service again, not to fix this machine but my wonderful Kenmore model 19606 that walks and talks and crawls on its belly like a reptile. Alas, nothing new. The local Vacuum and Sewing Machine Repair place doesn’t inspire my confidence. I’m not going back to Sears. My next stop is Baby Locke on the other side of the Altamont Pass, but it’s pouring rain, and I’m one big sissy.

Light Bulb Moment: I look at Amazon and find this beautiful Singer 9960 Quantum Style. I don’t need another expensive machine. In fact, I don’t need another machine at all! I need one that works, period. There’s no such thing unless I wait a couple of weeks, and I can’t wait. The good news is that out of  134 customer reviews at Amazon, 108 give this new machine five stars. I read detailed reviews by experienced seamstresses and many of them have several machines. The price on this was $330, and with my Visa reward points the machine is $300, plus tax and $4 for overnight delivery.

Stay turned for the review of my new machine.


More on Using a Serger

If this blog peaks your curiosity, please don’t give up on me. My blog entries will become more regular beginning NOW.

I believe that my last blog entry was deceitful. I have still been afraid of my serger. Like it or not, there is a learning curve that I think I’ve just about overcome.

I now see that my serger is distinctly different from my regular sewing machine.The sewing area of the serger–including the presser foot, the feed dog, and the markings used to line up the fabric–is distinctly different from that of my Kenmore computerized sewing machine:

  1. Fabric can not be placed directly underneath the presser foot. It must be placed in front of the presser foot, barely underneath the front of it, where the feed dog grabs the fabric and pulls it along.
  2. There are no margin markings to the side of the presser foot; margin markings are toward the front.
  3. Moving the threads away from the presser foot may require the use of tweezers.
Getting the fabric ready to sew feels awkward at best. Experience with a regular sewing machine almost makes serging more confusing. Nevertheless, here is my latest stitch. This is a three-thead narrow overlock stitch done with two lower loopers and one needle thread.
I think that having support with the serger makes using it much more enjoyable. Since I cannot buy a serger in my town or take a class in my town, I joined a couple of online support groups for those with sergers. I have been studying (the serger book) and practicing some of the suggestions in the book. At some point a light went on, and I think I understand the inside workings of the serger.
In spite of my small successes, I decided to invest in a serger that is manufactured by a company who specializes in sewing machines. I am now the proud owner of a Babylock Imagine BLA1AT.
Although I have vast sewing experience, I have shied away from working with knits. Because I want to be able to make my American Girl tights, pajamas, t-shirts and other stretch garments, I am determined to finally master a machine that will assist me.
More about Babylock in my next blog.
DO_Swirly Flower

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Serger

Perhaps my relationship with my serger will offer some insight to someone else: I bought mine a few months ago, and until last week, it served as a stylish metal sculpture, decorating my sewing room table. Because I wanted to move forward with my doll clothes design business, I didn’t want to take the time to learn my serger; so there it sat.

I have spent so much time trying to make the inside of my garments pretty with my regular sewing machine. I simply don’t want my name attached to something sloppy.

After bumping “learn serger” from my TO DO list several times, I made a commitment to be mature about this wonderful machine that I’d yearned for. When I read the threading directions, I fell asleep. Fortunately, my Brother 1034D came with two instructional videos. I was serious about learning, so I turned off the TV and my iPod. I closed my window shades and put my telephones in another room. No distractions.

But what happened? While watching the video on learning to thread, I kept nodding off.
B-O-R-I-N-G. Geez, this was painful.

Fortunately, I’m a resourceful person, especially when it comes to getting sidetracked and goofing off. I thought I’d do better with sewing lessons. If I could find a real person, a warm body, demonstrating how to thread the machine and watching me thread the machine, I’d have better luck. Unfortunately, I found no sewing classes in town or even nearby. We have a Michael’s. No Joann’s. I found a local woman who teaches children how to sew. I sent her an email, asking her if she taught serging. Or did she have any recommendations for me?

No response. The good news is that once I get the serger figured out, there is probably a demand for a local sewing (and serging) instructor, if my doll clothes pattern business doesn’t fly.

Finally, some light at the end of the tunnel: I went to YouTube, looking for better instructions, and I found a woman who posts as “ArtistKae,” with updated instructions for the Brother 1034D. While listening to her describe her relationship with her serger, I realized that my “sergerphobia” was common indeed. She had also been frustrated with the Brother instruction booklet. After watching her video, I realized that I was only confused about one small part of the procedure, and she cleared up the fuzziness for me.

If you are having trouble threading your serger, I suggest searching the internet, especially YouTube, to find up-to-date instructions on your exact serger model. Then consider these thoughts:

1. The serger uses two needles and two loopers. The thread from the loopers is not part of the actual seam. These two spools stitch the outside of the seam. Understanding how the machine actually works helps to make sense out of threading it.
2. Most of the actual threading is easy. Only one of the loopers is confusing, and it’s only one of the steps of that particular looper that creates confusion. In other words, out of 30 or so threading steps, only one step is confusing.
3. The looper compartment is difficult to see for someone with old lady vision. Once I realized that my vision was contributing to the “fuzziness” of my brain, I looked at the compartment through a magnified class to get a clear view of what ArtistKae was describing. Once I got a clear view, I didn’t need the magnifying glass.
4. Threading a serger is awkward. I have two left hands while threading my machine (apologies to my two sisters who are “lefties”). Pulling the thread through the needles and loopers feels especially strange during the last step. All threads must flow in the same direction, underneath the feed dog to the left. Long tweezers are helpful here.
5. Last of all, you can put pedal to the metal and off you go, even if there’s no fabric between the presser foot and the feed dog. The serger doesn’t tangle like a regular sewing machine with a bobbin.

Here’s my first attampt at stitching. Kinda pretty, isn’t it?

But I still need to make adjustments. This stitch is a bit wide. I ordered a book that will help me adjust the tension nobs, and the width and lengths of the stitches. I’m determined to MASTER this machine. My goal is to be able to actually sew several doll garments in one afternoon so that I can spend my time designing clothes. (To be continued….)

DO_Swirly Leaf