Friday, August 19, 2011

Beauty and the brocade

Taking a little girl to a fabric store is a lot like taking her to a candy shop.
Last month, I took Liz out to Jo-anns to buy fabric for Simplicity 3588 (PR review here), and let her pick out a fabric herself. I took her to the brocade section where she oohed and ahhed over practically all of it, but immediately liked the turquoise with lavender flowers best.
We shopped around for a bit, just to make sure, but she was very set on that brocade, and it was a very flattering color for her, so I went with it. I was very lucky to get the amount I needed for the dress for only $6.50! Heck, the invisible zipper cost almost half that much....

After nearly a month of working on it (and oodles of hand sewing!), I finally finished. Sewing with brocade for the first time was quite an adventure!

So here she is, my little beauty, wearing her new brocade outfit. :D

While at Jo-anns, we also got the matching piping, buttons, and some silky cording to make my own frog closure. Making that was an adventure!
I've only used piping once before, and so I was pretty happy with the outcome of the collar, cross bodice, and home-made frog-closure.

There is also piping around the sleeve bands, but I found it fairly easy to put in if I basted it in place first. Actually, I found this fabric so slippery to work with, I hand basted the majority of the seams together before machine sewing.

This fabric really was a nightmare, but also a good learning experience. It was very difficult to cut (I do plan on getting special scissors for this type of fabric sometime in the future), and also hard to sew, or even to handle! I think I should have gotten a manicure before starting on this, because I felt like I caused little snags in the fabric almost every time I handled it.
I was very nervous about how the hem would look, so I did a very careful catch stitch. I am pretty proud of the finished result! There is almost no sign of the stitching from the right side.
I added about 1" or so to the skirt length and to the bodice, so Liz could have some growing room, since she is in an upward growth spurt.

I hope that this dress will serve her as her very nicest dress, for holidays and birthday parties for the next year. I really do think the color is perfect for her hair and complexion, and it also really brings out her eyes.

I took some of the small dress scraps and made 2 matching Kanzashi blooms, which I attached to some simple hair clips. I also used the remaining buttons for the Kanzashi centers, which is a little bit Matchy-matchy I know, but also really cute I think.
The hair clips are so pretty, I think she will get quite a lot of use out of them with other outfits as well.

I think the pigtails with the hair clips, along with the Asian style dress, gives her a little anime look. Since she is so fond of Ponyo, The Last Airbender, and other kid's anime, I think it's a great look for her. Here she is showing off a little Wushu that her dad has been teaching her, she looks so serious! But she had a lot of fun modeling her new outfit, and I had a lot of fun making it and photographing her. :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Doll clothes, everything in miniature

Last holiday season, I really wanted to make Liz some clothes for her dolls. She had 2 11-1/2" dolls, both of the Disney Princess variety, and that was the only clothing either doll had.

I decided to make each doll a nightgown and a day dress. I also wanted to make some accessories,if I could. My friend Sheila had recently sent me a number of doll patterns, and I selected Simplicity 9334 (my PR review here), an OOP pattern with lots of cute outfits.

I used satin lining fabric, and also old satin pillowcases to make the 2 nightgowns and the matching nightrobe. I was very lucky to find this beautiful white and gold lace trim for the white nightgown, so it has a wedding gown sort of look to it. My blue lace didn't have ribbon in it for the gown straps, so I had to sew some matching ribbon onto the lace myself.
I admit, I had a lot of fun posing the dolls in the dollhouse for the pictures, probably more fun than someone my age ought to have with Barbie dolls. Haha. :)

I thought the flounced dress was the cutest dress in the package, so I decided to do that one next. Wow, that one is harder to make than it looks! I took extra pains to make sure the fabric pattern lined up. Hemming the circle skirt flounces and sleeves was almost nightmarish, but totally worth it when finished.
I decided to try the coat, skirt, top in view 5 as well. Although it turned out really super nice looking, in hindsight I should have realized that a 3.5 year old wouldn't be very excited by a drab grey wool suit....
The red satin top is again a pillowcase, with the rosebud straps being some leftover trim from a apron I made for my MiL.
I also made a matching bag for each outfit. Black with silver sparkle quilting cotton (remnants of my bellydance costume), with a very pretty silver button and some trim I found that I thought was an awesomely perfect match for the handles. And yes, the pale pastel bag turned out cute, too. :)
And the best thing is they are actually function as bags!
My daughter LOVES these working bags; the dolls can go shopping, and carry little coins or items in the bags.

Oh, and here is the outfit with the wool coat, and the felt button belt as well.
I swear, her barbies are now better dressed than I am....

But as I said, I realized that the a-line skirt and coat might not be too exciting to my daughter, but the red top was super cute, so I thought I'd try another outfit with the same top.

I decided to try the "poodle skirt", view 6. As I didn't have a poodle applique (And didn't intend to make the matching accessories), I just used the rest of the rosebud trim so it matched the top's straps.

Again I used a wool remnant, so it is kind of stiff, not drapey. But that is not a bad thing, it gives it the look of the proper 50's undergarments...

To me, it looks like something right out of the Donna Reed Show, very 50's/early 60's.

The following spring, PR had a Look Alike contest, and I thought I'd make Liz a dress, and a matching doll dress as well.
I selected Simplicity 9838 (PR review) for the doll dress. I thought Liz's dress really resembled a German dirndle apron over a dress, and this pattern allowed me to try and replicate that.

Liz's dress is McCall's 6062 (PR review). It turns out to be the dress she requests to wear most often of all the dreses I've made her. It is very colorful, and comfortable. An excellent pattern if you can find enough contrasting/matching fabrics! lol
And because it has elastic in the neckline and a tie back, it has lots of growing room!

I do hope to make more doll clothing in the future. It is far more work than it appears. Everything has to be very precise on such tiny clothing, and the hemming alone is cringeworthy, but the results are well worth the effort. And I have to admit, it's kind quite a lot of fun, too.
I have 3 other unused doll clothing patterns. This coming holiday season, expect 4 or 5 new Barbie outfits!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Unconventional Materials and "The Paper Bag Princess"

The newest PR 2 week contest-challenge is sewing with unconventional materials, which basically means anything except fabric. Here is a quick preview of the dress Liz painted and decorated! And here is the PR review, as well.

When this contest was first announced, I though "Haha, I saw that challenge on Project Runway! But I don't think I can do something like that." And I tried to dismiss it from my mind, and focus on the brocade dress for Liz.

I was only partially successful, as I got the brocade dress and lining cut, and started working on the stay stitching, it turned out my cheapo universal needles caused runs in the brocade! :( Booo....
So I decided to work on the lining, but in the meantime, my mind kept returning to strange things I might be able to make clothes out of. I didn't want to buy anything for this project, so I was wondering around the house, randomly looking in cupboards. I had the standard white plastic trash bags, but no black ones. I considered those briefly, but dismissed them. Outside we have a willow tree, and the very pliable branches had me thinking about something small entirely out of plants, such as a woven hat or crown, but that would be too hard. I don't weave....

Under the sink though, I had 3 very sturdy paper bags, the kind with handles. An idea popped into my mind. We could make something like the children's book "The Papaer Bag Princess", only have it decorated, as if nature got all over her paper bag dress during her adventures.
Liz just LOVES to color and paint. If she could decorate a dress herself, and I could simply construct it, that would be so much fun! A great project for us to work on together.

Liz is always collecting pretty leaves, small flowers, etc on her walks outside. Paint some pretty bugs and flowers, add a little Elmers glue combined with her "collection", and voila; art! Or so I hoped.

I went through my kids patterns over and over, but nothing was simple enough in my mind, nothing seemed like it would work well for a project like this. But about 1/2 of my kids patterns are PJ's, and it suddenly occurred to me I could use on of those might be perfect. Easy, simple, cute, I finally decided to use McCall's 6189.
Sleeveless, it is only 3 pattern pieces, 4 pieces cut (the bodice is mirrored).

On the 1st, I carefully cut open the paper bags. The pieces weren't wide enough to cut the front or back pieces on the fold, so I had to create CF and CB seams, to which I forgot to create a seam allowance....argh. I just had to make the side seams narrower to compensate.
This is where I discovered that sewing paper together is a lot like perforating it. :/
I ended using masking tape on the inside of each seam, to reinforce them and also to cover up the sharp edges that might cause a paper cut.

After I created the 4 main pieces, the next step was to draw something on them that Liz could paint in.

Liz was super excited by this time, at the idea of helping to create her own dress. She helped select the motifs to decorate her dress: a couple of butterflies, a ladybug, a dragonfly, and a few flowers. I cut each one of these out, so I could trace them on the dress multiple times. She then spent about an hour a day for 3 days painting them in, and I helped out as well. She really enjoyed painting with her Crayola paints, though the pink is acrylic.

She's a very talented little painter, and good at staying inside the lines, and following patterns.
After we finished painting the dress pieces, she mentioned she wanted to put glitter glue on the dress. What a brilliant little girl! So we added glitter glue to parts of the dress, as well.

After everything was thoroughly dry, I went ahead and finished the basic dress construction. The contest committee agreed to allow in basic notions such as trim and bias tape, so I was able to safely and attractively cover the sharp edges around the neck and armholes. Luckily, I had a whole package of dark red double fold bias tape in my stash, and I thought it was a perfect color for this dress!

At this point, I sewed up the side seams, and then I realized how hard it was going to be to turn the dress (basically a stiff paper tube) right side out. Holy cow, I wrinkled the heck out of it, and at times I wasn't sure I was going to be able to do it intact, but I managed not to tear it!

Then I tried it on Liz...and it was impossible to get over her head. Grrr....
Ah, but easy fix came to me after a little thinking. I cut a 2.5" slit along the CB seam, and added a pretty little red button and a ribbon button loop closure. And, now she could get it over her head, hurray!

Our last task was to add our natural decorations. As I mentioned earlier, Liz loves to collect little things while she is outside, so we took a fun long walk in the park, collecting only fallen leaves that we liked. I told her we'd pick the flowers out of our own yard the day we took pictures of the dress, so they wouldn't wilt.

We glued already fallen leaves and some fallen lily petals all around the hemline of the dress, and randomly around the front piece of the dress as well.

Liz also has a little collection of small craft gems her grandpa got for her, and she selected a deep blue one with black veining to sit on the golden maple leaf we had found, as a sort of broach, where the bow on the pattern normally sits.

Lastly we added a few little fresh flowers. Just one pansy and a couple of tiny yellow buttercups.

So, here it is, the "Paper Bag Princess" dress!

I must say for a dress made of paper bags, Crayola paint, and fallen plant matter, I am very happy, it is pretty darn cute.

The best part was sharing the work with Liz, she really enjoyed being a part of making this dress, and is really proud of her work.

Now that we are done, she gets to keep it hanging in her room as wall art, a reminder of how SHE helped make her own dress. :)

She really wanted to spend time showing it off, and also enjoyed an excuse to wear her "Dorathy Gale" sparkly red shoes. :)
Liz managed to move around in it pretty well! She certainly had fun making and wearing this dress.