Fashion Designers in the Making

My DGD both love sewing American Girl doll clothes.  Doesn’t every American Girl doll need a fine-looking wardrobe?  Besides, with a fabric stash at hand, Mira and Cate don’t need to save their hard-earned dollars only to have them evaporate with a single purchase of doll clothing.

Sewing Together

Sewing Together

Writing this reminds me of my incentive to sew when I was a teen, my parents paid for fabric to make clothes however if I wanted ready-to-wear, I bought it with my hard-earned money.

Back to the story.

Cate’s Creation

Recently, both Mira (age 10) and Caitlin (age 7) had dreams of a “beautiful” American Girl doll dress.  My conversation with Cate went something like this:

Cate:  Grandma, I want to make a REALLY beautiful dress for Kit and McKenna.

Me:  What type of REALLY beautiful dress?

Cate:  One that’s REALLY beautiful and made from your fabric, not from Mira’s and my box of fabric.

Me:  Well, let’s see what we can find.

We made a trip to my sewing room and dug through the bin of “silk and pretties” (Cate knew exactly where that bin was located) and she quickly selected an Asian print, followed by a quick rummage through my lace drawer to make her trim selections.  Most important of all, I asked her to draw a picture of what she wanted.  I wanted Cate to be successful but secretly feared that she wished for something very complex).  Here is “Cate’s Creation”:

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Cate’s Creation

I found the simplest possible 18″ doll dress pattern and soon we were cutting and sewing.  With an amazing command of the sewing machine, Cate zig-zagged all of the edges, sewed the seams, ran the gathering stitches and gathered the skirt.  Here is the REALLY beautiful result:

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So Pretty in Pink

Proud Cate with McKenna

Proud Cate with McKenna

Mira’s Couture

Mira has loved creating fashion for both Kit and McKenna, though she is not the owner of either doll.  This however was the most elaborate to date.  Prior to designing this dress she made an adorable white top hat with black trim for Kit (maybe I can get a photo and add later) and then envisioned the black and white dress to be worn with the top hat.   More experienced with a drawing pencil, Mira provided sufficient detail to challenge both of us.  What a gorgeous design but where would I find this pattern?

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In a box of scrap fabric, we found some white poly crepe and black velvet, and she selected a small embroidery design.  Mira cut out the dress and sewed most of the it except the sleeves and cuff – much of it was independent sewing.  She selected the appropriate sized snaps (no velcro here) and we shared sewing them onto the dress back and cuffs.

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Kit’s Black and White gown

Mira and Kit - so lovely

Mira and Kit – so lovely

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Forty Years Ago Today

Forty years ago today and six weeks after Kevin returned from a 14 month tour in Viet Nam, he and I were married.  In the ensuing years we have been blessed with wonderful times (and of course some tough times); three incredible children, their wonderful spouses and two adorable grandchildren for which this blog is named.  Along with family and friends, we have created a lifetime of great memories and Kevin is still not only the love of my life, but also my best friend.

Our family - Megan and Chris's wedding

Congratulations to Megan and Chris, who are celebrating their first wedding anniversary today!

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Oh my, how times changed us.  I guess you would call us “vintage”.

At Shaun's Wedding - Sept 2010

About my dress:  Because this is fundamentally a sewing blog, a little information about my wedding gown only seemed appropriate.  (And for those of you who remember the awful plaid suit I made for Kevin in the 70’s, I didn’t make his tux.)

The following is an old folded copy of the dress I copied from a 1970 bridal magazine   then I like “knockoff’s”.  The fabric was a sheer poly of some type purchased from a fine Milwaukee fabric store that bit the dust about 20 years ago.  The cape and veil were made from yards of silk illusion, which is now a rare find and the lace was beaded French alencon.  I cut all of the lace and spent hours beading it, but had lots of time since Kevin was in Viet Nam.

A little hiccup:

For the  year that Kevin was in Viet Nam, I lived with my parents.  They had a toy terrier who was usually well-behaved but like all animals he had his moments.  One day I was working on the nearly completed cape (fine silk – just right for a dog bed) and left it on the couch, never expecting that the dog would climb on the couch and nuzzle in my dress.  But he did, and tore the fabric in several places.   Grrrrh.  I was able to move some of the appliques and cover the tears so all was well in the end but at that time it seemed such a big deal.

Why not Mosquito Netting?

Several weeks ago after she posted a comment on my blog, Dhilma and I shared a few sewing related email messages.  She is a physician working in Sri Lanka as a lecturer and like many of us, has a passion for sewing.   She was very interested in making a crinoline for her niece.  So before I posted a child’s crinoline pattern, several weeks ago, I sent the pattern to her.

A few days ago I received a very kind email from Dhilma – I could feel the excitement in her message.  With her permission, here is an excerpt:

“I really enjoyed making it [crinoline] and then admiring the end result! In our country (Sri Lanka) tuille is very expensive and so I used cheap mosquitoe netting which I bought at SLR110 (less than $1.00) per yard (60 inch width)I used the whole yard that I bought and some poplin (cotton material) for the short lining and the band at the waist. I am sure my niece is going to strut around in this petticoat alone so I plan to embelish it with some shiny sequins.”

Now isn’t that an absolutely brilliant idea?  Why not use mosquito netting instead of tulle?  For some of us it might be as difficult to obtain mosquito netting as it is for Dhilma to get tulle.  Oh, and never mind that for those of us in the North, mosquito netting is the last thing on our mind right now – maybe thick wool or a fleece throw for those of us in the deep freeze?

The real point is that sometimes we need to improvise and if we allow our creativity to rule, it will work out just fine. Thank you Dhilma for reaching out and for sharing your beautiful creation.  It is absolutely adorable and I am sure your niece will love it.

How to Sew a Bridesmaid Dress: Long Distance

In addition to a wedding dress in the making, there are 3 bridesmaid and 2 flower girl dresses.  The good news is that I have the fabric and a dress to copy for each of the bridesmaids and a fairly easy pattern for the flower girls.  The bad news is that none of the future garment owners live anywhere near me.  Here’s the plan:

Each bridesmaid is wearing a street length dress in the style of her choice — icy baby blue Thai silk taffeta which is absolutely lovely.  Several months ago the fabric was received from Thailand.  Since this is a long distance experiment of sorts, we asked the bridesmaids for a favorite dress, thinking that it would be easiest to come close to the fit by taking the pattern from ready to wear.  The other reason for this approach was that if the bridesmaids like the dress style, possibly they’ll have a desire to wear the dress sometime in the future (isn’t that what we always hear – it will be a bridesmaid dress they can wear again).  Final adjustments will need to be done locally which doesn’t seem like such a stretch as that’s how a bridal shop works.  Great that it’s winter because I’ve hung on to these “favorite”summer dresses for several months now.

Black JCrew Dress

Bridesmaid #1 is named as such because I’m working on her dress first.  The style she chose is a black J. Crew halter style dress with diagonal darts emerging from the front center seam.

Dress top - hard to see the fashionable darts

Following the instructions from a Threads Magazine from several years ago, it was fairly easy to create a pattern placing tissue paper over the flattened dress, placing stick pins into the seam lines, connecting the dots and adding seam allowances.  Tissue paper was fine for this job as it is a one time use pattern. Because of the darts at the center line, it was difficult to trace the top.  For now there’s simply extra fabric which will be cut away after the darts are sewn.

Traced pattern

Then came the first lesson learned, or at a least a huge waste of time.  I constructed a muslin out of linen from my stash without thinking about the fact that linen stretches.  Maybe this was a blend because it really stretched.  When the muslin was sewn together, the top of the dress was at least 1-1/2 inches wider than the size 2 dress.  I guess that means my attempt at a size 2 was about a size 6.  Despite the sizing issue, the pattern did work and the bias cut on the skirt looked great. Fueled by frustration with a hint of bravery (which sometimes gets me into trouble) I decided to jump right in and cut into the silk.