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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Shweshwe for Emmalee Rose

After visiting Dorisanne in August 2017 during our USA adventures and seeing some of her wonderful Sasha dolls, I thought about what I could make for one of them as a thank you for 3 hours of happy and memorable doll discussions. 

Dorisanne with Emmalee Rose, August 2017
Dorisanne's favourite Sasha studio doll in her collection is a dark hard plastic girl whom she has called Emmalee Rose and it occurred to me that my stash of South African shweshwe fabric would look really good on this particular doll.  I had bought several fat quarters when visiting Cape Town in March 2017 from a super little shop (which doesn't have a website) in Observatory, Cape Town which specialises in African print fabrics.  My new collection of fabrics included some colour combinations I wouldn't have considered before when making clothes for dolls, the traditional original colours (indigo blue, brown & red) for shweshwe prints have branched out into some wonderful, vibrant prints.  On a doll, it is important to be careful about scale of pattern and colours, so I had picked out prints which were small enough to not overwhelm a doll.

Emily and Annie (Heather Maciak dolls) inspecting my pile of shweshwe in the Cape Town fabric shop, the pieces I used for this Studio doll project are at the bottom of this pile.
I didn't have a pattern for a studio doll dress, as I don't own any Sasha Studio dolls, so I needed accurate measurements and a doll willing to model for me, even from a distance.  I wanted the dress to be a surprise, so couldn't ask Dorisanne to send me the measurements.  Suzanne Lewis in the USA was very helpful and measured her hard plastic studio doll for me instead, then Laura Horner in the UK agreed that her studio doll of a similar size could try on the prototype dress before I cut the shweshwe.

I decided to use the sundress with brettels pattern in the Sasha dolls clothing and patterns book.  This pattern had the advantage of no sleeves which meant that if I got the sizing slightly wrong, the dress would be more forgiving than if the sleeve setting didn't allow enough space across the shoulders or the arms and arm holes.  Also, the origin of the fabric implied sunshine summer days, so a sundress was appropriate.

I scaled the pattern up using the scale and copy function on our printer (16" doll size to 20" doll size) then cut out all the pieces using some other patterned cotton fabric in my collection (tiny brown leaves on an off white background).  I made a reversible sunhat and underpants as well in the same fabric.  I trimmed the brettels with pink ribbon and made the tassels from pink embroidery thread.  I made careful measurements of the finished dress then put the outfit in the post to Laura for Sela.

The prototype Sasha Studio doll sized sundress and hat ready to send for Sela to try on

Close up showing the brettels and tassels in pink

Susie, my 18" Palitoy doll, modelling the hat for Sela (her head is bigger than a 16" Sasha doll head)
Laura and I had fun with a skype conversation as she showed me the dress on Sela and we discussed adjustments.  It turned out that Sela was a later doll than Emmalee Rose which meant she was slimmer around the chest, so the bodice was a little wide, however Laura solved this problem by taking in the dress under the arms by adding a dart on each side, as Sela keeps the outfit as thanks for helping with the sizing.

Sela wearing the prototype hat and dress for testing the pattern sizing (Laura's photo)

Sela has lovely eyes.  She is vinyl rather than hard plastic and is a few years younger than Emmalee Rose (Laura's photo)

Sela with the hat brim up at the front and down at the back (Laura's photo)
After looking at doll size comparison photos in the Sasha books (including Dorisanne's book) which clearly showed the difference in chest and waist size for these dolls which were 10 years apart in age, I decided not to adjust the pattern for Emmalee Rose's dress, if it did need adjustment then darts could be added as Laura had done for Sela.

Then it was Christmas time and there was no time until after Christmas day to get started on the shweshwe dress as I was finishing off two other projects and just before Christmas I made a toddler sized version of the dress in some Christmas colours for Louisa

Louisa, my toddler, wearing her version of the dress for Christmas
I was soon sewing again before the holidays were over.  I had decided to make the identical dress for my 16" Sasha Cora (Melanie) as well as for Dorisanne's doll.  Because I only had one fat quarter of each piece of fabric, I had to be careful how I used the fabric. So with all the pattern pieces to hand for both sizes, I plotted out the fabric to use for each element of the outfit.  I had bought some plain fabric in two of the colours - fuchsia pink and a darker lime green to act as a base and foil for the designs.  I had chosen 2 different shweshwe designs (swirls and spots) in two colour combinations - lime green, pumpkin orange and fuchsia pink, which meant there were 4 different patterns of shweshwe in each outfit.

For the sunhat I used plain fabric for one side of the brim and the orange based swirl design shweshwe for the other side of the brim.  Each hat crown was made up of 4 pieces, different combinations on each side, so the hat is completely reversible.  The brim can be worn up or down.

I made the two outfits in tandem as this meant that changing thread colours and presser feet for different stitch types on the sewing machine was kept to the minimum.  I decided to make the tassels in all three colours as their background would be the plain green skirt at the bottom of patterned brettels and this worked well.

Front view of the dress showing the tassels on the brettels.  The underpants elastic was tied and left exposed so that it could be adjusted to fit Emmalee Rose's waist.

Back view of the dress with the other side of the hat (the colour of the green is not correct in this photo)

Melanie wearing the 16" doll sized outfit and her shoes from Dorisanne alongside the 20" doll sized outfit for Emmalee Rose.  Her hat brim is shown with the orange pattern turned up.

Melanie wearing the 16" doll sized outfit and her shoes from Dorisanne alongside the 20" doll sized outfit for Emmalee Rose.  Her hat brim is shown with the plain fuchsia pink turned up.

Close up of the tassels at the end of the brettels

After I'd photographed the completed outfits, the Studio Doll sized outfit for Dorisanne went in the post to the USA.  By this time I had alerted Dorisanne that a small package was on its way to her.  We both waited, Dorisanne was snowed in and the lake frozen so the mail was slow and I wondered if the package had gone astray (I regretted not sending it tracked).  She tried emailing me to let me know it had arrived but the email went astray!  When she resent it a week later I got the message.  Dorisanne was delighted with the outfit.  The bonus was that the sizing was fine (my hunch that adjusting the bodice would not be the right thing to do was correct). Dorisanne explained what she did next:
"The fabric colors look so lovely on Emmalee Rose. Two years ago when I was in rehab after my knee replacement, we were in a class where we learned to use our walkers. We each picked some beads to string on a long pipe cleaner which we attached to our walkers to identify them. I chose pink, orange and green and had put the marker on my doorknob but now they have been made into a choker-necklace for Emmalee Rose and it matches the dress perfectly."
Photos of Emmalee Rose wearing her shweshwe outfit will follow when Dorisanne is able to take some pictures.

I had a lot of fun making this outfit and now have more confidence about resizing other Sasha patterns in the book to Sasha Studio doll size.


Maria said...


I love the outfits!
Please can you tell me what type of Sasha is Sela? She is just amazing!!Thank youMaria

DollMum said...

Sela is a 20 inch high Sasha Studio doll made of vinyl, body type C. I think she is face shape III.

Gregor Daddies said...

Beautiful dress. I love the fabrics and the way you put them all together. Your Melanie looks lovely in her dress, and I look forward to seeing Dorisanne's girl in hers.

Dee said...

Great combination of colours. Looks lovely in both the Sasha size and the Studio Size. Cannot wait to see the Studio dress on Emmalee Rose.

Serenata said...

What a lovely and thoughtful gift for dear Dorisanne, I can imagine her sweet doll looks stunning in it as the colours will really compliment her. Super work with the help of helpful Sasha friends.

Sharon said...

The perfect summer outfit Anna, the colours will look lovely in the sunshine, so bright and vibrant. I can imagine that Dorisanne was delighted, I know she likes bright colours having been commissioned by her in the past to make outfits for her girls :)

Kendal said...

I'm amazed yet again at your wonderful sewing and crafting talents...not to mention your kindness and thoughtfulness.
(I too have discovered that there are quite a few measuremental differences within the varying types of studio dolls, which also incuded their feet sizes.)
Looking forward to seeing the resulting photos.
PS.I'm very envious of your three hours spent with Dorisanne.)

NeverUschi said...

They look gorgeous in their colourful clothes - but I also like the prototype dress. Emmalee Rose certainly is a very sweet girl! I admire your sewing skills; I always found it tricky to adapt patterns that weren't the right size.

Ginger said...

How very thoughtful to send such a beautiful, handmade outfit for Dorisanne’s Emmalee Rose. I am certain she was thrilled and surprised to receive such a lovely outfit! Thank you for sharing how you made the outfit and used Laura’s lovely doll as a model remotely! Just a wonderful gift and heart warming post. 😊 xxx