Category: Sewing

Doll Tote Bag: a sorta tutorial kind of thing. Maybe.

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I wanted to blog a big more regularly than I have so far but I’ve been working very hard and then flopping in the evenings, rather than thinking ‘woohoo sewing time!’ – nothing dramatic but maybe just a hangover from sewing til insane o’clock all through June.

What was I sewing? Beautiful frocks? Kind of. Maybe. I was also sewing this, my first proper bag. It’s a pattern from the girl & doll book designed to make taking your doll anywhere easy. Except Wee Bear won’t let another child even look at Lily Sugar so… Mostly it’s doll containment right now.

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In theory, should one have a child who takes a doll somewhere, this is a superb idea. I’m planning to retrofit a seatbelt for her, otherwise it’s all a bit unbalanced & she looks like she’s about to go for a burton out the back of the bag… In fact, a kind of sling/backpack might be better. But not if you’re wearing a party dress.

It’s basically a series of rectangles: here are the hand-drawn instructions. I found them really easy to follow and clear.

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I traced all the pieces out & drew the unprinted pieces (the base and sides) onto my trusty Swedish tracing paper *insert smug face at having ordered two rolls ages ago* – makes it all much easier.

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I ordered this spiffy & easy to cut ‘n’ sew laminated cotton in a cute Urban Zoologie print and teamed it up with some bright fuschia polka dots. As you can see I toyed with the spring-colour way chevrons but went for the punchier option. Hey, I am regularly whacked when Wee Bear overloads & melts down so punchy seems appropriate.

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Putting it altogether was pretty straightforward: I particularly liked the pockets.

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As they were incredibly easy – rectangles of fabric, held in place by a single length of cotton webbing: job done!

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Assembling the sides was likewise easy – I do like a simple straight line. It looks like a box, especially if you interline with padded calico.

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And even adding the base wasn’t too bad: until I added the plastic grid to keep it stiffened.

20130717-182158.jpg (the heinous photography caused by working after midnight…)

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The rather cool-but-ineffective strap to close up: not really much use but I like it. The raw edges are all enclosed with bias tape (ready made this time).

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It was finished in a night – a late one – and considering that it was supposed to be in plain quilting cotton, I think it turned out really well. A word of advice; Plush Addict is a dangerous site. They have a permanent discount in orders over £100 and their service is second to none. You’ve been warned.

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A Proper Party Dress. Part 4 – and dolly came too.

On the morning of her 5th birthday, Wee Bear woke to sun & clouds, as usual for June in Scotland. The party dress looked amazing – for the ten minutes it stayed on!

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Alas, some little girls arrived & announced they weren’t wearing party dresses – after her big entrance. Peer pressure starts early, so the party dress came off & another, normal frock went on. I tried not to want to throttle anyone too much… even though my eyes were still bleary from the late nights of sewing. I’m happy it fits her so well.

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Apart from a frantic time tracking down a bouncy castle (ordering the first one for July wasn’t a great move!) it all went as well as I had expected. Too many girls in a state of high emotion and after the same fancy dress and balloon caused a bit of friction. Who knew that being five was so stressful?

The big presents came on her actual birthday, including her doll: Lily Sugar, as she was immediately renamed.

I had spent a while the night before making a little party frock for her doll – I used a plain lined bodice pattern from the All Dolled Up book, then gathered scraps of tulle and net all together – using them as one layer was much faster and made the skirt a lot neater at the waist. Finally, I attached the soft Velcro strips – a normal width strip cut in half. It is only made from the soft loops but seems to stick together nicely and doesn’t scratch.

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I’ve never seen her so happy to get a present: she hugged her close, decided she had a new little sister but – best of all – immediately wanted to wear their matching clothes. I can see many happy hours of play in our future (and sewing in mine!).

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A Proper Party Dress. Part 3: assembling!

We are only one day away from Wee Bear’s big party: we are all in a haze of sleep-deprivation and excitement but at least I won’t be up sewing her dress at 1am (as usual: no, this time I am sewing dresses to match her Tulipe doll!).

Once we had adjusted the pattern of the Chloe Dress it was a dream to assemble the bodice. The simple round necked, sleeveless, lined bodice (I used a super soft acetate type fabric) is self finishing, so the only exposed seam was at the waist:

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I was sewing too fast to take many photographs and the instructions are super clearly illustrated. I have to comment again on how much I enjoy working from their patterns! However, cutting out the yards of net and tulle would have been easier if I had used a roller cutter and mat, as I do for my quilt projects.

20130630-121311.jpg I somehow vastly over ordered, so have enough left for at least one more dress in the same colour – if I changed the under net & lining colour, it could be an adorable blush pink, or maybe a winter ice blue?

However, as it is so fine, the tulle squishes when sewing: my Janome 6500 goes through just about anything (although it hates buttonholes) and it wasn’t long before I had assembled the layers. I chose to gather them separately and it added a bit of bulk (and time) – the matching doll dress was gathered all together and is much neater around the waist.

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It’s a lot of fabric. I think I would find a different way to gather it – I struggled slightly to keep the gathers from stretching out again. When it has been gathered incredibly small, it is simply sewn onto the bodice. I would imagine it is possible to leave the lining a little unattached at the bottom 1cm of the bodice and it could be folded up & sewn to enclose the skirt seam: it is of course quite bulky.

I got around it this time by adding a skirt lining with a rolled hem. I made a skirt>dress>lining sandwich

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So that when the lining was folded down, it covered the exposed skirt edges:

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I attempted to neaten it up & stitched below the seam but It was immediately unpicked. Don’t try at home!

By this time, it was past midnight – so apologies for the shocking pictures! I fluffed the sash assembly but it worked out in the end: a few hand stitches to hold it in place and I was done! I really wish I had bought proper nylon chiffon & tulle from the USA but I am working on my favourite online fabric supplier Plush Addict to import it on rolls for awesome pettiskirts!

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20130630-122814.jpg the sash ties in a large bow: a silk bodice & tie would look beautiful for a bridesmaid or flowergirl.

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The finished dress front. Photos of it being worn to follow!

A Proper Party Dress. Part 2: modifying the pattern & cutting

Once the fabric arrived and we had plenty of fun rolling the net and tulle onto long cardboard tubes, I had a serious look at the Chloe pattern.

The two main pieces, bodice front and back, are very simple and taper slightly in at the waist. My child doesn’t. She has a tummy that is perfectly normal, from looking around her ballet class, and her sensory issues mean that she can’t stand to wear things sitting at certain points on her body.

Getting out our trusty ‘Swedish tracing paper’ from Gloriarty we copied the pieces out & pinned – carefully – onto her body.

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Obviously it doesn’t have the same handle as fabric but there are a few obvious issues: length, tummy, armholes.

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Even taking off the seam allowances, it was going to be uncomfortable (and go unworn, no matter how pretty).

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You can see how much I have taken off the armholes front and back here – even with our dodgy floor as background! (I promise to get nice white matboard soon).

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And in comparison to the ‘standard’ pattern (which is beautifully drawn & clearly marked) – her shoulders are narrow and delicate while she broadens out in the middle. As for an adult pattern, I added length to the centre front but blended it back in to match the side seam length.

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Finally, I used the transparency of the pinable, sewable tracing paper to centre the design on a flower. This is an incredibly wasteful way to use fabric & the opposite of my usual “squeeze ’em in” technique, but for special occasions & large print, it’s worth doing. I did the same across the back and sash, so that when buttoned up the back flower would look unbroken too. This was mostly by eye & I pretended I was putting a zip in to get it right.

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Finally, I cut the same pieces from a smooth & soft lining (once we had confirmed it was smooth enough), and the huge pieces of net and tulle: each layer is made from two panels roughly 16 inches by 2 & 1/2 yards, joined at the sides and gathered into a tiny waist…

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Next part: assembling the dress or ‘how I learned to love tulle’.

A proper party dress. Part 1: the ‘Chloe’ dress by Violette Fields Threads

Quite unable to believe how beautiful my daughter is (really) I decided that we needed a party dress to match. The ‘Chloe’ by Violette Fields was a natural. Their photography is jaw-droppingly beautiful: haunting, evocative, adorable, classic, I can’t find enough words to describe how much I admire their work. Sometimes I just look at the site for some eye-happy-time. (This image courtesy of the incredibly kind team at Violette Fields Threads).

Chloe PDF pattern

The Chloe is simple in concept: yards of tulle, net and nylon chiffon (more on that in a minute) are gathered lovingly onto a straight forward lined bodice with buttons, topped off with a sash to tie in a large bow at the back. The execution takes a bit more patience and care if it is to look as stunning as the images on their site. I mean come on: look at this one – you just want to sew, right?

Fiona bustled dress & top

First choosing the fabric. Wee Bear is remarkably literal at the moment. Things are, largely, black and white. So when she saw the large rose print on the tea-length dress model on the pattern front, that was what we had to have. The *incredibly* helpful ladies at Violette Fields replied to my desperate email trying to source the original: it was a Heather Bailey print, from her Garden District collection of a few years ago. Of course, it is no longer available. However, I found ‘Hello Roses’ which is similar enough for a happy nearly-five year old and her mother.

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The cream looked best and so then we tried tracking down the tulle and net. I wanted something fresh and pretty, so a pale green rather than pink (which can often make the Wee Bear look washed out) was on my search list. Most net greens are, frankly, hideous. I was delighted to find Harrington Fabric and Lace down in Nottingham (where British lace was produced in great quantities last century and a rare surviving remnant of our home cloth production). Their website needs a redesign but again, helpful and speedy service – although the pale green tulle was out of stock. We compromised on green net and ivory tulle, exactly like the original on the cover.