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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Quick Easter dresses for the Aussie girls

After spending 2 weeks making one skating dress for the Gotz girls, I decided that Belle and Matilda's clothing requirements had been neglected far too long.  They do not fit any of the jeans or trousers belonging to the slimmer Gotz dolls, had been borrowing party dresses and other outfits since they were unwrapped at Christmas and only had one new pair of shoes each compared to the good choice of shoes belonging to the other dolls.  This has meant that they do get played with less than the other dolls (and my girls are still asking about skates for them).

At the weekend the quick trip to buy those tiny gold beads from Hobbycraft resulted in me also picking up two packs of fat quarters in lovely spring/summer colours.  The material is quite stiff (really made for quilting) so I soaked it in fabric softener, rinsed it, then tossed it in the tumble dryer with a dry towel to spead up the drying process.  This did result in softer material.

I cut a strip of material 30 cm high by 55 cm wide (the full width of the quarter) which left a strip 13 cm by 55 cm.  I hemmed the bottom and top of the wider strip, using miniature ric rac braid on the bottom and a neat zig zag stitch on the top.  I then cut 5 pieces of 5 mm elastic 29 cm long (after measuring their chests) and pinned these on the wrong side of the top of the strip with the bottom elastic being 8 cm from the top of the dress and the other 4 evenly spaced between that and the zig zagged top hem.  Stitching elastic on whilst stretching it out to gather the material evenly was the trickiest part of the job but I succeeded without pricking my fingers too often!  Thank goodness for the sewing machine - this job would have taken ages without it.  I then sewed the back seam all the way from the top to the bottom of the dress after edging each side of the back seam.  After neatening off the top and bottom of the back seam (pressing it flat) I fitted the dress onto Matilda (she got her dress first) and sewed the ribbons onto the back and front and tied them at the shoulders.
Belle and Matilda in their new Easter dresses
The leftover strip of material was folded over and stitched along one short and the long edge, then turned inside out to the right side and pressed with the iron, before closing off the other short end.  This simple hair band was tied at the back of the neck.  The material is stiff enough to hold without having to knot the hairband.
Belle and Matilda's new hairbands
Each dress and hairband took one evening to sew - quick spring dresses for Easter, though with the current weather (return to winter here, rain since yesterday and further north has heavy snow), I think both Matilda and Belle will be wishing I had made them some winter coats too!

Monday, 29 March 2010

New skating dress for Dancing on Ice final

It has taken 2 weeks to complete the latest skating dress for the Gotz dolls (I haven't been able to work on it every night).  When I wrote last, I was cutting out pattern pieces for a dress based on a full size Jalie skating dress pattern which I scaled down by eye.  I then part made a prototype version of the dress in white T-shirt jersey material.  This has a bit of stretch to it which is slightly different from the less stretchy material I used for the proper dress so I knew I'd have to adjust it a bit.

The dress consists of a cut down leotard, a simply shaped skirt which on the prototype was made of 6 panels stitched together and a strapless bodice which I designed based on a Joan Hinds pattern.  The bodice was double layered to make tidy edges (sewn inside out then turned out) and to test the join of bodice to skirt and leotard I sewed both layers to the bottom half, even though this was technically wrong if I had wanted to use that version for a real dress, as it made a very thick seam just below the bust line.  But the main purpose was to see that it fitted, not to finish this dress.
The prototype dress, showing the panel empire line skirt
The bodice seams on the prototype dress
Then came the exciting bit of cutting the proper materials - a gorgeous soft gold polyester and a shimmering see-through random weave of gold which has gold flecks in the thread.  Both of these were remnants at John Lewis and I had seen the possibilities for a doll's skating dress as soon as I picked them up (don't you just love those finds!)

I sewed the leotard section first, and it fitted my Anna doll beautifully, better than any of the previous leotards I've made (maybe I'm getting better at the leg fit).  I had decided that because the see-through material shows the seams, the fewer seams on it the better, so I recut paper pattern pieces - one for the front, one for the back based on the 6 pattern pieces I had previously cut.  So the skirt has side seams and no others.  The main straight seams were sewn with the machine, but all finishing the inside of the seams to make the edges lie flat and the hem had to be hand stitched.  The skirt was then attached (by hand) to the leotard, before I sewed on the bodice (all done by hand, I could no longer trust the machine to not catch the lacy material).
The leotard
The skirt sewed to the leotard
I had some gold ribbon from a Christmas box of chocolates - just enough length to make the shoulder straps and doubled over waistband.  I stitched the waistband on slightly too tightly so the dress has to be slid carefully over the doll's hips but it does come off and go on okay, so I didn't unpick.  Plastic press studs were used for the bodice opening and the shoulder straps at the back of the dress.
After sewing the ribbon waistband and front bodice decorations

Perhaps the nicest, fiddly yet relaxing part of making the dress was sewing on the decorations.  The tiny gold beads holding the sequins in place have holes too fine for the finest needle head, so had to be threaded by hand (I was constantly threading and unthreading the needle.  But it was enormously satisfying work - I sat in the kitchen at the breakfast bar on a high stool (very comfortable and supportive backrest) for a while on two sunny weekend afternoons and stitched while keeping the dog company.  The decorations probably took about 3 hours to stitch all told.
Close up of the front bodice decorations
At the last minute, just before Dancing on Ice the final started on TV this evening I made the hair scrunchy.  Weeks ago I had bought via ebay a new pair of American Girl skates with gold laces.  These complete the outfit.
The gold laced skates
My girls were thrilled with the result of all this effort, and I'm pleased too.  All the dolls were changed back into their skating outfits (except for Belle and Matilda who don't have skates yet), and the whole family sat down to watch the skating.  We were pleased with the winner too as she was our favourite.
Front view of the gold skating dress
Back view of the gold skating dress
Close up of the back decorations
All the dolls lined up for the Dancing on Ice final (l-r Anna, Samantha, Matilda, Susie, Jayne, Peter, Belle, Harriet and Elizabeth)  Note that Susie is wearing Harriet's dress, and Harriet is wearing Anna's blue skating dress.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Designing a new skating dress

This evening I've been fiddling about with pieces of strong tissue paper (actually the paper that came out of a Hotter Shoes box) to make pattern pieces for a new doll skating dress.  As you know if you've read my blog for a while, my girls have several Gotz play dolls and they all have ice skates and skating dresses (or outfit for Peter the boy).  Most of these outfits I've made myself, only Jayne came with a showy figure skating outfit (Samantha's original outfit is more for the smart leisure skater).  Up until now I've made dresses with a classic leotard and skirt around the waist design.  I based the leotard on the 'Sarah at the ballet' outfit.  But in the Christmas sales I picked up some lovely fabric remnants at John Lewis that inspired me to do an empire line dress like some of the gorgeous dresses Jayne Torvill has been wearing for Dancing on Ice.

I follow the blog of IceMom, a mother in the USA whose daughter is progressing very well with her ice skating.  IceMom sews Icegirl's skating outfits and reviews the patterns and how successfully they've made up.  Her blog is extremely helpful, and it has pointed me to figure skating dress patterns, such as the Jalie range, which she really likes to sew.

I've found a Jalie pattern for an empire line dress #2674, and was lucky that they had the instructions for sewing to download free from their website.  4 pages of this pdf printed out was enough to give me the shapes of the pattern pieces and equally importantly how it all fits together.  I've now cut out all the paper pieces, but it is too late to start cutting fabric tonight.  I'm not going to cut the new lovely fabric first, this is an experimental pattern after all, so I'm using some plain white stretch jersey of a (new) T-shirt as my test piece.  If it works out okay, and looks alright, I might even be able to use the test costume on a doll and pretty it up with some sequins, but at least I won't be cutting the beautiful fabric until I know that the pattern works.

Hopefully I might be able to do some more to it tomorrow night.  I'll keep you posted.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

A Mothering Sunday welcome to 6 new followers

In the UK it is Mothering Sunday today (as part of Lent).  My 6 year old took Samantha to Church this morning in her Kimono, at the end of the service the vicar handed out bunches of daffodils for all the children (and grown up children) to give to their mothers.  For a little while Samantha held the daffodils.  When we got home we found that some of the crocuses are in full bloom in a tub in the front garden, so this was a photo opportunity for Samantha.  My little girl wanted to send the photo to someone, so I'm posting it here to share with everyone who follows this blog, whether you are a mother or not.

Samantha and the crocuses

In the past couple of weeks 6 more people have decided to follow my blog, they are:

Roberta (a cat lover like me) blogs in Italian and English and makes some lovely creations (see her outdoor chair made of cardboard but looks like it is made of metal

Rosanne Saw sews dolls clothes for play dolls in Australia - it was her site that helped me in my hunt for a UK source of shoes to fit the Australian Girl dolls

Maria Jose  lives in Spain and blogs in Spanish.  She makes all sorts of lovely miniatures.

Franberry is a self confessed Sasha addict!!! She seems to have quite an extensive collection of beautiful Sasha Dolls, and a little girl to help her enjoy them

Montse blogs in Spanish and has a fascinating collection of all sorts of dolls

Marleen blogs in Dutch and English and makes miniature bears.  She is lucky enough to have a whole 'hobby room' for her miniatures

Welcome everyone, thank you for reading my blog.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Poodle's disastrous day

On Thurday our cocker spaniel got upstairs because one of us left the gate open.  We were out of the house at the time, so unfortunately he wreaked havoc with my precious aged bears and Poodle, who were sitting up in the bedroom.  Poor Panda has a couple of puncture marks in his body which I haven't yet repaired, Bruin's coat protected him and he is unscathed, but poor Poodle well and truly had a fight with our naughty destructive live dog.

My husband found his ears and body on our bedroom floor, but his tail and foot were in the dog's bed downstairs.  I came home at the end of the day to this very sorry sight.

My poor injured Poodle, before surgery

Poodle without his ears

Ears, foot and tail

Fortunately the dog didn't actually do major damage to Poodle's body and head, although there was a gash under where his ear had been, and a puncture mark in his front leg.  Poodle's paws had already been very loose (two held on with safety pins), and his body stitching wasn't great (I'd done a rough repair as a child with rather thick thread).  So his disaster was a real incentive to do what I had meant to do for a while but hadn't prioritised - a proper repair.

Today my younger daugher has had lots of fun playing with the Gotz, Aussie, Euro & Palitoy dolls, changing clothes and arranging them for various imaginary holiday journeys.  Her big sister went to Guide holiday on Friday evening for the weekend, so this was our chance to do things that 6 year old girls like without big sister around either being pleasant or horrible to her, which has happened a lot recently (no one can really predict the mood of a young teen, and little sisters can be very irritating to 13 year olds sometimes, so although they do often play nicely, the atmosphere can change almost without warning).  After my 6 year old had gone to bed (having taken all the dolls back upstairs again) my husband and I brought the (live) dog into the living room and I got my sewing thread and some beige felt and started to repair Poodle while we watched a DVD together.  It was one I had seen before but my husband did not know and was a real laugh (and very appropriate considering my repair work) ... "The Truth about Cats and Dogs"!

Here is Poodle at the end of the evening.  I think you will agree that he looks much better than he did even before he got mauled, as he has completely renewed paws (I actually sewed the old paws inside new felt, then stitched them back on) and his tail has perked up again.  If you think he looks a little wary but fully on his guard, this is because the live dog was only a few feet away (although asleep) when I took these photos!

Poodle repaired

His tail stands up again!

Ready to run just in case of another dog attack

Poodle sitting but on the alert

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Welcome Elizabeth, and a Rainbow visitor

A certain little girl had a birthday during February.  She had requested 'another doll' and she got 'another doll' only this time it wasn't a Gotz or an Aussie girl, but a Euro Girl doll.  I had found her on ebay about 3 months ago and she was sent from the USA.  Euro Girl dolls are no longer made, and I liked this one because guess what - she came in an ice skating outfit complete with skates!  I think there is a theme going amongst the play dolls in this family, except of course the Aussie girls whose feet are too big for the Gotz skates (I've still got to do something about that, as currently they sit in the deck chairs and act as the 'judges' for Dancing on Ice).

My little girl named her new doll 'Elizabeth'.  As you can see from the photo, Elizabeth has dark hair, and wears a delightful white skating outfit with butterfly sequin design on her chest and fluffy decorations on the shoulders and round the waist.  Her feet are smaller than the Gotz doll feet, she fits Sasha shoes, so her skates are the same as Susie's skates.  She is the same height as Susie too, and has a lovely cheerful face.

 Elizabeth, Matilda, Belle and Samantha

Here is Elizabeth with Matilda.
The flash has hidden the detail on her dress
(and the colourful bits are stickers, not part of the original dress),
I'll try to take another photo during daylight. 
My younger child attends Rainbows, whilst her sister is a Guide.  At Rainbows they have a mascot doll, who lives in a bag with her own travel book.  This doll is given to a different Rainbow each week and the Rainbows record her adventures in the book.  They draw pictures, write something if they can (Rainbows are aged 5 - 7) and stick photos of Olivia enjoying her week.  This week she came home to us (the last time we had her was in July last year).  She has been getting to know the doll inhabitants of our home.

Belle, Olivia the visiting Rainbow, and Anna

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Creative Blogger

Thank you My Reallity for giving me the Creativ Blogger award - what a nice surprise!

I believe I'm meant to select 6 blogs I like out of all those I follow - it is so difficult to make choices like this when everyone is so creative.  However, here goes (and I hope no one is offended for not being chosen):

Salt and Pepper
Tiny Treasures
Püppilottchen's Toy Blog
Une Petite Folie
Sasha, Sasha, Sasha
My Pretty Dolls