Tag Archive | madame alexander

Vintage ’40s in Blue and Red

Although this dress is obviously influenced by years past, Bunny Bear Patterns describes her design, “Soda Pop,” as vintage 1940s.  I’m no expert, but I see this more like the 1950s or even the 1960s. The clothes from all these years make me happy, so I guess the point is moot. Here is the dress:

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The bodice fit is this pattern’s best feature. I love the darts in the front and back; few doll clothes patterns include darts. This pattern has no neck facing; it is impossible for me to make my work neat without a facing, or better yet, without a lining for the bodice. I lined the bodice and hand-stitched the hem of the cap sleeve and the lining for it.

For some reason, white collars have almost become a trademark of my doll dresses. I often spend time perusing fabric stores for white print on white so that I can easily mix the white collar or white blouse with a bolder print. This closeup view features this collar in all its glory. Hopefully, you can see the white design on the white background that is machine embroidered. I was a bit nervous about getting this collar even. A mistake is always more obvious with a white collar against a darker colored dress. This collar is just about perfect.

Here are some thoughts about sewing collars, lapels, pockets, ties, or any shape that is sewn together and turned right-side out. This is a bamboo point turner like the one I’ve used for several years. When I started sewing with more delicate fabrics, I added more point turners to my sewing tools. Amazon has a variety of them. In the past, I was so hung up about getting my collars or other items perfectly pointed that I’d accidentally stretch the fabric while trying to shape the corner. I’m learning to hold back. This particular collar was a challenge because the embroidered fabric added bulk to the seam. I trimmed the seam very close to the point before turning the collar. Then I was careful when I turned the collar. My “point” is “round” at the end, but it looks pointed from a distance.

point turner

This pattern suggests using 1/4-inch ribbon. I couldn’t grasp the idea of sewing two rows of stitch on delicate ribbon so I used 1/4-inch double-folded red bias tape. I’m getting pretty good at sewing on bias tape. In case you didn’t know, one side of double-folded bias tape is slightly wider than the other side.

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If you sew on the narrow side, you will be certain to catch both sides without falling off the under side edge. Further more, if you try different presser feet, you can find one that makes sewing very close to the edge easy. I didn’t go off track once with this sewing project. My stitching is not perfect, but it is close to it.

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I’d planned to attach two bows to this finished dress, as the pattern suggests. I’d purchased ribbon that matched the bias tape thinking the similar colors would fool the eye. But I realized that my ribbon was 3/8-inch wide, 1/8-inch too wide. It didn’t look right. I decided to fall back on my favorite rose that I learned to make with McCall’s 6875.

This dress is unequivocally one of my favorite projects EVER. I give the pattern designer much credit for this sweet dress. However, I think the pattern requires lots of experience because the photos aren’t as clear as they could be. I can usually get by relying on the instructions, but I’ve sewn many dresses and only need guidance on the details. I think the pattern would be better if the bodice were lined, like I lined mine. The neck should at least have a facing. Otherwise, there’s just a small clipped 1/4-inch seam on the other side of the neckline.

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You might be able to see how straight my stitching is in the photo above, especially with the red thread on the white lining. I’m not bragging about my talent; I’m showing you a skill I have learned, not based on talent; it’s based on trial and error and figuring out what to focus on in order to sew in a straight line. In this case, the edge of my presser foot lined up close to the edge of the bias tape. I still have trouble controlling the presser foot when I’m sewing over something too thick for the feed dog to work properly. In that case, I’m liable to go off the edge or get stuck.

A little word about using Velcro. I’ve tried pinning it on, and/or basting it, but pushing straight pins through the Velcro and the layers of the garment is difficult, even risky. I’d always stab myself. Now, I use one straight pin for general placement only, and then I hold the strip of Velcro in place with my fingers as I stitch it. I start sewing somewhere in the middle of the long side of the strip, instead of the end; this way the Velcro doesn’t shift out-of-place while I’m stitching over the bumpy beginning of the strip.

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soda pop clip art

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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You can find us on Pinterest.

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.

sleuth photo

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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You can find us on Pinterest.

beatnik beret

Marshmallowjane Gets a Haircut

This week Marshmallowjane went to The Cutting Room to get her hair cut and styled. Although she isn’t the most gorgeous model we have, she is the president of our organization. It is her sense of style and individuality that makes her a natural leader. Because she inspires others (she is often imitated), it was important for us to find her a qualified stylist.

The photo below shows Edith’s dedication to give Marshmallowjane a perfect cut; it was no surprise to hear Edith comment, “I must do a meticulous job. Her hair won’t grow back.”

marshmallowjane's first haircut by Edith at The Cutting Room

Here are “before” and “after” photos. What do you think?

Although Marshmallowjane enjoys adorning her long hair with crazy color, she wants a chic style to go with her new Derby (or bowler) hat.

before and after

I’d been planning on cutting Marshmallowjane’s hair for the last year or so. I have some “looks” that I want her to model that scream for a shoulder-length bob.

Warning: American Girl dolls are expensive. I think cutting a doll’s hair should take much thought and consideration. I’ve cut the hair of other dolls (Madame Alexander) with pretty good luck. These dolls are usually cheaper, and making a permanent change isn’t much of a risk. The newer Madame Alexander (18-inch) are sold with their hair in braids, pigtails, and other styles that kink or wrinkle the hair. I’ve purchased such dolls, thinking that I could somehow get rid of these permanent kinks myself. I’ve had a little luck, but I completely ruined one doll’s hair after watching a YouTube demonstration on how to carefully use an electric straightener.

I thought I was careful. I’d purchased the Madame Alexander doll because of her rare “Asian” features, even though straightening her hair was a gamble. Since I got bad results, I will have to find a wig to go with her pretty face. For now, she will have to take a back seat to my American Girl dolls.

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imagesYou can find us on Pinterest.

 

 

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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