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Sunday, 28 June 2020

Windmills and Tulips

Before Easter 2020 in the early weeks of pandemic lockdown in the UK, I bought a few fat quarters of floral fabric with the aim of making some Easter themed dresses for the dolls, however I was too busy with work (at home since mid March), studying, feeding the family and essential gardening. However at last, in late June, I've allowed myself some sewing time, a break from long hours at the computer screen.

My Sasha family have been hidden behind the two pieces of Indonesian print fabric I bought in Yangon last November when I was there for a work project: my working at home office is my sewing room and having a dolls house and dolls as a backdrop for video conference work meetings didn't seem sensible, especially as some people are not keen on dolls. The fabric often gets positive comments at the start of meetings.

Two years ago we had a memorable few days in The Netherlands and I had been keeping an eye open for some Dutch inspired small print fabric, so the 'Tulip fields pattern by Lewis & Irene jumped out at me when I was searching for fabric to include in a baby quilt.

Because the repeats in Tulip fields mean that some of the design would not show up well on a gathered, smocked dress for a 16 inch doll, I decided that the style of dress to use was the late Ted Menten's pinafore dress pattern, which I have sewn several times before (most recently for the Raffle prize I made for the Sasha Celebration Weekend 2019). I adjusted the pattern very slightly to ensure that the windmills beside the side seams wouldn't have their sails clipped by the seams, which means the dress is a fraction wider than originally designed. As usual, I stitched the dress with a lining, so it was sewn inside out then turned about. This meant that the back needed to have a seam up the centre rather than be all one panel. I managed to pattern match the over shoulder straps as well, carefully positioning the mice and the tulips when cutting the fabric.

Shoulder straps pattern matching
(could be re-positioned a bit by moving the snap fasteners)
Some weeks ago in Sewing Bee (UK TV programme) the contestants were asked to machine smock a child's dress. In a Sasha Doll group on social media there was a flurry of discussion comparing machine smocking unfavourably with the exquisite detail of hand smocked dresses made for Sasha dolls, and suggesting that one of the Sewing Bee challenges could be sewing clothes for 16 inch dolls - a tougher challenge than sewing for young children!

My cousin gave me two Sewing Bee inspired birthday gifts recently - four pattern weights and a small handheld travel iron for pressing tiny clothes. I made good use of both when cutting out and making the Windmills and Tulips dress for Florence.
Using the pattern weights just before
cutting the lining fabric from the stitched together patterned fabric
On Sewing Bee a recurring reminder from the judges is to make sure that pattern matches are carefully handled on seams to make sure the resulting garment looks right, it is amazing how a misaligned design in the pattern across seams really jumps out and spoils the look of an otherwise well made item. On a small scale this problem is even more acute, so I did my best with the side and back seams, the back seam is almost perfect until the very top and the sides came out okay.

Windmills on either side of the side seam

The other side seam with matching windmills

The centre back seam almost perfectly pattern matched
The finished dress worked well over a light blue t-shirt I had bought at the Chat 'n Snap in October 2019 (Dollydoodles), the shoes were made by Rosemarie Shortell. I used a wide hair ribbon for a headband. Florence is standing with the Tulips and clogs I brought back from Delft (not Amsterdam which we had visited the day before) in 2018 and the Windmill and canal scene built using Nano blocks by my younger daughter. The three pots of tulips are displayed on a decoupage box decorated and given to me in 2017 by Alison, one of my earliest school friends (whose grandmother knitted me a doll and several outfits for my 6th birthday, sadly a doll I don't have any more).
Florence in her Tulips and Windmills dress
with tulips and clogs from Delft, and the Nano blocks windmill
It was good to do a bit of doll sewing again.