Review of the NEW Our Generation Sewing Set -“It Seams Perfect”

You guys! Guess what I found?!?!?

Our Generation 18 inch doll Sewing Set It Seams PerfectAfter a long, frustrating, and fruitless search for the previous (now retired?) Our Generation Sewing and Dressmaking Set, I was thrilled to find the NEW Our Generation “It Seams Perfect” sewing set shortly after it’s summer 2015 release.

New OG Sewing Set for American Girl 18 Inch Dolls

It’s absolutely ADORABLE and at $29.99, it’s packed with display potential and play value.  It comes with a ton of sweet, doll-sized sewing accessories, including an actual pattern and fabric to make your doll a dress!

OG Our Generation Battat Sewing Play set for 18" dolls

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There’s so much to say about this set and and it’s little bits and bobs, that I did a video review.  It’s a little long (sorry!) but I had a lot to show you! 😉

The box was larger then I expected, so if you’re looking for this set at your local Target, be sure to check behind the bigger boxes if you don’t see it right away. I found my set hiding behind the ubiquitous OG Salon Set that has been continuously in stock for many months.

Sadly, summer is just about to come to an end,  and my kids are all back to school in two short weeks.  I also just celebrated my forty-first trip around the sun and, thanks to a gift card from my family, I am expecting my birthday American Girl order to arrive shortly.  Look for more reviews and some fun fall dolly projects in the coming weeks!

Blythe Blythe and more Blythe

Hello friends!  It’s been a few weeks since my last post.  As I round the corner towards the one year anniversary of this blog, I’ve found myself putting more and more pressure on myself to continue to produce the highest quality dolly blog content.  If I’m not confident that what I’m writing will inspire you in some way, then I worry it’s not worth the effort of publishing.   This perfectionist’s curse has led to an ugly case of writer’s block.

It’s particularly frustrating because I DO have some good stuff in my head, some wonderful patterns I’d like to publish (3 are nearly finished!), some fun DIY crafty projects that I’m dying to get my hands into, and I have been struggling to do any of it! Actually, that’s only partly true. I’ve been doing a lot of dolly stuff (more about that in a minute), but I haven’t been writing about it.  I’m just afraid you won’t like it, or you won’t be interested, and that has me all pasted up.  Pfft.

So in an attempt to get myself out of this perfectionist rut that is leading me to publish.. nothing at all, I’m going to write the following without worrying too much that I’ll disappoint you, or that you’ll be so bored your eyes fall out of your head, or that you’ll throw tomatoes at your computer screen. If you do throw tomatoes, just don’t tell me, okay? 😀

Allow me to introduce you to Blythe.

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Maybe you’ve already met?  She was introduced in 1972 by the toy company Kenner, but not too many people were interested.  She was a fashion doll ahead of her time in a Barbie world, what with her odd proportions and “creepy” eyes that changed colors with the pull of a cord emerging from the back of her over-sized head. After a year of poor sales, she was shelved by Kenner.

Then in 1997, a photographer named Gina Garan was given a Blythe doll by her friend.  She began taking pictures of Blythe in various locations and published the book, “This is Blythe” in 2000.  By the next summer the Japanese toy company Takara began producing Blythe again, and the first run of dolls sold out in one hour!  She became an overnight sensation, at least to a niche market of mostly adult collectors.

Many collectors buy and enjoy the Blythe dolls “as is” from Takara, but another sector of hobbyists enjoy transforming the  dolls by highly customizing her with new makeup (commonly called a “faceup”), carving her lips and nose into unique shapes, and adding beads and charms to the pull strings that emerge from the back of her head and are pulled to change her eye color.  Her hair can also be styled by cutting, re-scalping, or re-rooting, and her eyes can be altered with new (often hand-painted) eye chips.

Blythe is an expensive girl.  The Takara dolls start at about $150 and go up from there.  An option for the more frugal or the beginning customizer is to to buy an unofficial “fake” Blythe.  These dolls are often franken-Blythes, made of up parts from official Blythes or reproduction parts.  I wasn’t sure how well my first customization would go or how interested I’d be in my finished product, so I decided to buy a fake Blythe on eBay.  The picture at the beginning of this post is what my doll looked like in her auction photo.

There are quite a few tools involved in the customizing process.  Fortunately I had a few already on hand, but I had to go on a deep dive to research the other tools, paints, and sealants I would need.  I found out that the only sealant recommended by the majority of the Blythe customizers, Mr Super Clear, is not only expensive, but highly toxic! So in addition to purchasing new customization  toys tools, I ordered the proper respiratory protection too.  Here’s my first girl, before her makeover, staring pensively at my new respirator.

Customizing Blythe Doll

As is my style, after reading everything I could about customizing and watching several YouTube videos, I dove right in.  I loved the entire process, made a TON of mistakes, and had a blast.  I found it completely absorbing and relaxing work.

And here she is, post transformation!

 

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I decided to give her a haircut.  It was just too long and cumbersome at it’s original length.

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I was so pleased with the outcome and so enjoyed the process, that I immediately ordered another “fake” Blythe to work on.  Here is her “before” picture:

Img_1323And here is her “after”:

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The two meet!

Image3I sewed both of their overalls and the pink and blue dress from a Japanese pattern book that I’ve have for ages.  Don’t you love finding hidden treasures in your stash? I did a combination of hand stitching and machine sewing, but mostly made by hand.  Their clothing is the perfect size for portable handmade projects while waiting at soccer practice or in the dentist’s office.

I just love these dolls.  Would it shock you to know that I have two more waiting in the wings to be customized?  You don’t look shocked at all.  😉 I’ll update with before and after photos when I’ve finished.

Well, there you have it.  Hopefully this is the post that breaks the dolly writer’s block.  I hope you’ve enjoyed meeting my (fake) Blythe dolls. Do you collect Blythe?  Have you ever tried your hand at customizing?  Let me know in the comments!

Spring Sewing Swap

Thimbles Acorns Mary Laura Dress PatternHave you ever participated in a sewing swap?  Swaps are a great way to practice your skills, try new patterns, and make new friends!  I love the feeling of sending a handmade gift and it’s always a thrill to get a surprise package in return.

I’m a member of the American Girl Playthings community and several times a year, AGPT hosts a themed sewing swap.  My swap partner requested a spring outfit appropriate for the 1800’s.  Shuffling through my pattern collection, I came upon Thimbles and Acorns “Mary and Laura” pattern.  Here’s the description of the pattern from Thimbles and Acorns:

Born in 1867, Laura Ingalls Wilder had the privilege of witnessing a whole period of American history; the frontier, the woods, the Indian country of the great plains, the frontier towns, the building of railroads in wild, unsettled country, homesteading and farmers coming in to take possession. Later in her life, she began recording these memories in her classic “Little House on the Prairie” books, preserving a first hand account of those significant years in American History. The “Mary and Laura” dresses are a reproduction of the dresses the girls wore in a picture taken around 1880, the year recorded so vividly in her book “The Long Winter”.

 

Now your 18″ doll can dress as Mary or Laura in this replica of the Ingalls’ dress’ by Thimbles and Acorns This PDF pattern includes instructions for an overdress, an underskirt, and a hand stitched hankie to tuck in the side pocket.

I’ve owned this pattern for awhile, but it was my first time sewing it.  I found the instructions to be very clear and straightforward, it was a pleasure to sew, and I’m very happy with the finished garment!

1880s sewing pattern for American Girl DollIn the spirit of challenging myself, I chose working buttons for the back closure.  Buttonholes have never been my friend, but after spitting and swearing at my machine and numerous Google searches, I finally managed to get my buttonhole foot to function properly and I am pleased to have conquered the task.

1880s sewing pattern for American Girl DollSome of my favorite details of this dress are the sleeves, the single working pocket, and the hand sewn handkerchief.  I was able to put this pattern together in two afternoons.

Historical hand made dress for American Girl Doll

I wasn’t quite clear about how to finish the ribbon neck-tie thingy (why yes, that is the historically accurate term. Why do you ask?).  I settled on using a button from my stash that had a shank to pass the ribbon ends through.  Avery says, “Good enough!”.

18 inch doll sewing handmade historical dress 1800s

Bottom line, I really enjoyed making the Mary and Laura dress for my swap partner and I look forward to sewing a second dress to keep. I should probably do it soon, before I forget how to use the buttonhole foot again!

Wanna see what I got in the swap?  I requested a modern outfit for my very trendy and fashion forward vinyl brood. 😉

American Girl Doll Kanani

Kanani took one look this delightful bright pink halter top adorned with lace and matching gathered skirt and claimed it as hers and hers alone!

KananiThe color is absolutely lovely against her medium tone and she happens to have the perfect coordinating hair clip already in her possession.  She’s ready for the first spring luau.. anyone care to hula?

Kanani

As always, I enjoyed the AGPT spring sewing swap immensely.  I hope my partners did as well!

Have you ever participated in a sewing swap?  Does it make you nervous to send out your work? Do you get more excited to give or to receive? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comment section. :)

New Spring Outfits and Accessories from Our Generation

Kanani in new OG Doll Clothes Gardening SetOur Generation has some fun new releases that are (finally) appearing in Target stores this month.  I’d seen the new outfits popping up on Instagram and on the American Girl forums a few weeks before they were available locally, and the hunt was on.

After trawling four (!) area Target stores weekly for a solid month, I finally hit the jackpot when I arrived at a store first thing in the morning just after the Our Generation aisle had been restocked.

<insert glorious photo of fully stocked OG section which I regrettably forgot to take!>

Although I’ve long been a fan of the Our Generation accessories, I have never purchased any of the OG doll clothing.  I’ve been tempted a number of times by cute styles, but upon closer inspection of the fabrics, I haven’t been able to pull the trigger and buy, despite very inexpensive price points.  Some of the materials seem so incredibly cheap that they don’t appear to be “real” fabric at all, but rather some odd, thin, stiff polyester plastic concoction.  And don’t even get me started on the shoes that come bundled with the outfits.

That said, I have to hand it to Our Generation and hopefully declare that they are finally, if only marginally, improving their quality. I was impressed enough by two of the outfits I found to actually make a purchase, along with two of the newest accessory sets.  Some of the newly released clothing appeared to be made of actual cotton or at least a poly-blend that included enough cotton that the fabric felt like.. fabric.

Unfortunately, there are still problems.  The inside seams are left unfinished with a tendency to fray and some of the fabrics are still downright flimsy and the included shoes are still not great.   But OG does seem to have at least nailed the aesthetics with this spring release while, arguably, American Girl brand is falling behind.

My American Girl Doll #55 Models new Our Generation Romper Jumping for Joy

I made a video review of the gardening set and romper outfit I bought and also a quick overview of the s’mores camping/cookout accessory pack and the newest lunch set.

There were a couple of other outfits I was tempted to purchase but ultimately decided against since the styles were simple and easy to recreate on my own with better fabrics and finishings.

Have you purchased any of the new Our Generation outfits or accessories?  Do you feel they are increasing in quality? I’d love to hear your opinions!

That 70’s Girl – A review of Julie’s Skateboarding Set and Tunic Outfit

Julie Albright American Girl Special Edition Skateboarding Set Summer Festival Tshirt

Oh Julie, how you’ve captured my heart!  I have to admit, when I began collecting American Girl three and half years ago, Julie Albright was not on my radar at all.  Although I was born in the 70’s, I have no conscious memory of the time nor nostalgia for the era.  In fact, I’ve spent most of my life rolling my eyes at the sight of olive green appliances, hippy kitsch, the iconic yellow happy face, and over-sized floral anything.

But alas, American Girl got me again!  With the fall 2014 redesign of Julie’s Meet Outfit, I was smitten.  Her Beforever collection, stereotypical as it may be, has entirely won me over and I’ve found myself with an ever-lengthening wish list for that 70’s girl.

The 2015 spring release brought Julie’s Limited Edition Skatboarding Set, priced at $48.00.  I ordered this set immediately, only to have it go on sale for 20% off within the month (grumble, grumble).

Julie Albright American Girl Special Edition Skateboarding Set

American Girl’s description:

When Julie is ready to roll in San Francisco, she wears this outfit:

  • A comfy music-festival tee with red raglan sleeves
  • Her favorite sport shorts with rainbow stripes on the sides
  • Knee-high athletic socks with colorful stripes at the tops
  • Two-tone blue shoes that are great for playtime
  • Slim ’70s-style skateboard with wheels that work and an elastic strap on top to help Julie stand

Julie Albright American Girl Special Edition Skateboarding Set

For some reason, American Girl’s stock photos make the skateboard look miniscule, but the actual size of the skateboard is reasonably scaled.   I adore this skateboard! It is all plastic (except for a few metal screws on the plastic trucks) but it’s good quality with a lot of detail.  The working wheels are made with a realistic semi-transparent rubbery yellow vinyl.

merican Girl Skateboarding Set Review

Julie Albright American Girl Special Edition Skateboarding Set

The elastic strap on the skateboard is pretty useless.  I couldn’t get her to stand on the board with the straps over her shoes.   I was able to finally get her balanced without the straps, but it was precarious and she inevitably tipped over after a few minutes.  I can imagine this will be frustrating to younger doll owners.

But how cute are those knee socks? Cute, I tell you.  I adore dolly knees, so these socks may be my perfect accessory.

The skater sneakers are nice quality with layered blue and white vinyl over cobalt blue nylon “mesh” fabric.  The inside of the shoe is lined with a soft fuzzy white fabric.  I have heard other collectors describe these shoes as “thin”, but I don’t find them to be unusually thin and I think the weight is in line with this particular style of shoe.

Julie Albright American Girl Special Edition Skateboarding Set Summer Festival Tshirt

Julie’s raglan style tee features a fun rainbow colored graphic decal that seems to be nice quality.  Time will tell if the decal will be prone to cracking or peeling, but my initial opinion is that it is well done.  The tee is made with a good mid-weight cotton and closes in the back with velcro.

Julie Albright American Girl Special Edition Skateboarding Set Shorts

The shorts are also super cute, made from a cobalt blue nylon fabric. The rainbow grosgrain ribbon detail extends from waistband to notched leg and is securely sewn on.  Adorable! The waistband is thick elastic and the shorts fit well.

As with most American Girl brand doll clothing, all of the inner seams are finished superbly with no loose or fraying seams.

I adore this set.  It’s probably overpriced at $48, so I hope you were luckier then me and got it on sale in March.  American Girl has been nothing if not ENTIRELY UNPREDICTABLE for the last 18 months, so it’s difficult to say whether it will go on sale again.  Since it is limited edition, it is slated to be gone by January 1, 2016 (or while supplies last).  However, we saw last year’s limited edition sets broken apart and sold piecemeal in 2015 (at an increased price), so who knows. Based on back orders, Julie’s Skateboarding Set seems to be popular, so there is a chance it might sell out around the holidays. If you must have it, I wouldn’t risk waiting for a 2016 clearance sale.

I also ordered Julie’s Tunic Outfit, which was released with the initial Beforever overhaul in 2014.  Taryn (MYAG #44) is modeling for this review.  The retail price of this outfit is $34.00.

Julie Albright American Girl Tunic Outfit Review

American Girl’s description:

Julie dresses in this colorful outfit for a day of exploring Golden Gate Park. It includes:

  • A denim chambray tunic with an embroidered yoke, long puff sleeves, and a belt with twirly tassels
  • Bright-berry pants with cuffs and patch pockets
  • Sunny yellow clogs with faux-wood soles

This may be one of my favorite American Girl outfits ever.  I love the bright colors and the details.  The embroidery on the tunic is exquisitely done as is the overcast edge stitching along the collar. The belt piece is separate and would be a sweet way to accessorize a simple sheath dress.

Julie Albright American Girl Tunic Outfit Review - Embroidered Tunic

Her hot pink pants are equally fun and detailed.  They are made with a good quality cotton twill and have a tiny pleat running up the length of each pant leg.  They are sewn cuffed and have a working placket front pockets as well.

Julie Albright American Girl Tunic Outfit Review - Pants

The bright (did I mention bright?) yellow clog-style platform shoes are super awesome.  The “platforms” are a thick rubbery brown vinyl.  The top of the shoe is shiny yellow vinyl with a middle seam with a yellow elastic strap around the heel.  These shoes are easy to put on the doll and they stay on very well.  Taryn stands solidly and securely in her clogs, even with a bit of a heel.

I feel this outfit is fairly priced at $34.00.   Each piece is versatile and works in a 70’s theme or with a more modern doll.  It looks great on Julie as well as Taryn.  I added Saige’s (American Girl of the Year 2014) Parade hat for the Sunshine Garden Bench review for a sweet and colorful spring look.

I’m very pleased with both of my recent Julie acquisitions and I hope that American Girl continues to produce appealing 70’s throwback pieces that both reflect the past and also resonate with today’s design aesthetic.

Are you collecting for Julie?  I’d love to hear your opinion on her latest pieces!

Julie Albright American Girl Skateboarding Tunic Outfit Review

American Girl 2015 Spring Release – Review of the Sunshine Gardening Bench

American Girl Sunshine Gardening Bench Review
American Girl did it again with their Spring 2015 new releases.  By “did it again”, I mean “reached into my dolly fund and sucked it dry”.  I continue to be surprised by the things the clever designers at AG come up with and by my inability to resist the temptation to collect it all.

I have a huge backyard garden.  Every February, I get super jazzed for the upcoming growing season.  In April, I buy seeds, I prep the beds, I lovingly nurture seedlings in my kitchen window.  Mother’s Day is planting day, and after an exhausting eight hours or so, I stand back and admire my hard work.

Many Small Friends Garden circa 2008

The MSF Garden – Pre-neglect Phase – circa 2008

Initially, I am very enthused about my garden, plucking every weed the moment the dastardly beasts poke their heads above soil, hand watering the seedlings, whispering sweet words of encouragement to every bud.

My dedication and devotion to my garden lasts, on average… two weeks.  By June, I’m thoroughly bored with it.  By July, it’s a weed infested jungle.  In August, you need a machete to hack your way through to the enormous overgrown zucchinis.

Every year I swear it will be different, that my enthusiasm will not wane and that garden burnout will not set it, but every year it’s the same.  Except this year, of course, which will be different. 😉

You can imagine my delight when the Sunshine Gardening Bench was revealed.  Finally, plants I can fail to water without guilt! Bees that don’t sting and earth worms that aren’t slimy! And I’m a sucker for anything doll sized that mirrors my own interests (narcissist much?).

Had American Girl offered free shipping year round, I would have purchased this set on release day, but at the retail price of $68, I hesitated.  I’m glad I did, because less then a month later, the bench went on sale for 20% off PLUS free shipping.  Sold!

I made a review video if you’d like to see each piece in depth. It’s a little long at nearly 11 minutes because blah, blah, blah.

Overall, I’m really pleased with the Sunshine Gardening Bench, particularly at the sale price with free shipping.  It’s a unique set that is well made and has a ton of play value for 8 year olds and 40 year olds alike. I like the interactivity of the potted plants and the beehive case. It photographs beautifully and it doesn’t require excessive storage space.  I didn’t purchase the corresponding Sunshine Garden Outfit, although I’d consider it if it shows up on clearance someday.

American Girl doll Sunshine Gardening Bench Review - Spring Release 2015

American Girl Sunshine Gardening Bench

American Girl Sunshine Gardening Bench

American Girl Sunshine Gardening Bench

American Girl Sunshine Gardening Bench

What do you think about the Sunshine Gardening Bench?  Did the spring release zap your doll savings or leave you cold?  Along with the Gardening Bench, I purchased a few new things for Julie which will be in the next review post. In the meantime, I’m going to spend my weekend planning the 2015 garden I will  summarily abandon tenderly nurture in the upcoming months.

Happy Spring!

Sew the Lacy Kimono Tee – Sewing with Knits Tutorial

Free Sewing Pattern for American Girl Doll Lacy Kimono Tee

This post is lesson four in our class: Sewing Doll Clothes with Knits. 
Link to previous lessons: [One :: Two :: Three ]

Are you ready for the final lesson in our sewing doll clothes with knits class?  Today it’s time to put all we’ve learned into practice and make something adorable for our dolls.  We’re going to sew the Lacy Kimono Tee, which is a boat neck, dropped shoulder kimono-style top designed for American Girl dolls or other similar 18 inch doll.  It’s a quick and easy beginner level project, with tons of potential for variation.

A few general notes about this project:

  • It’s designed to be sewn with stretchy, knit fabric. Practice with fabric from an old t-shirt!
  • Since most knit fabrics do not unravel or fray, I don’t both finishing the seams.
  • I also leave the openings of the sleeves unfinished.
  • To make this top easy to sew for beginners, I have drafted a 1/2″ seam allowance into the pattern.

Cut the Pieces

Cut three rectangles from knit fabric with the following dimensions:

  • 1 rectangle measuring 8″ x 13″
  • 2 rectangles measuring 5.5″ x 4.5″
  • 14.5″ Lace [Optional – you can omit if you don’t want lace on the bottom of your tee]

Easy to sew Lacy tee for American Girl DollsFold the 8″ x 13″ rectangle in half, bringing the shorter 8 inch sides together.  Fold in half again, bringing the folded (6.5 inch) sides together.

Free sewing pattern for American Girl Doll or other 18 inch doll - Lacy TeeTo make the neck opening, measure 1.5″ along the top starting from the folded corner and 1/2″ down the side from the folded corner.  Cut out the neck opening with a gentle curve.  Don’t worry if this isn’t exact, it won’t matter!  You can vary the look of the neck opening by changing the shape (depth and width) of this cut.

Free sewing pattern and tutorial to make a t-shirt top for American Girl DollOpen your folded fabric and cut a slit through the middle of one side, from the center of the neckline to the bottom.  This is the back opening for your Lacy Kimono Tee.

Make and easy to sew top for 18 inch dolls like American Girl Free Pattern

Sewing the Lacy Kimono Tee

1) We are going to begin by finishing the raw edge of the neckline.  To do this, fold the fabric along the neck opening to the wrong side, making an approximately 1/4″ wide hem, and sew around.  Don’t get crazy and stress out about making it *precisely* 1/4″ all the way around.  It doesn’t need to be exact!

finishtheneckline

I “wing” this step and fold the fabric back as I sew.  As mentioned in lesson three of our sewing with knits class, I sew from the back side of the shirt, wrong side up.  Since I used a very light weight fabric for my Lacy Kimono Tee, I used the tissue paper trick (also in lesson three) to stabilize the neckline as I sewed.

sewlacyteefor18inchdollsfreesewingpattern2If you find that your neckline looks a little wavy or misshapen after sewing, spritz it with a water and press it back into proper shape.

presstheneckline2) Next, we’ll attach the sleeves.  Pin the smaller rectangles to the body of the tee, right sides of the fabric together, centering the smaller rectangles along the sides of the top.  Be sure that it is the longer 5.5″ side of the rectangle that is pinned to the side of the top, otherwise your sleeves will be too long and too skinny!

sewlacyteefor18inchdollsfreesewingpattern3) Sew the sleeve rectangles to the body of your tee (along the red dashed lines) with a 1/2″ seam allowance.

4) Now that you’ve attached the sleeves, fold your tee in half, aligning the bottoms of the sleeves and sides of the shirt.  Sew along the bottoms of the sleeves, pivoting at the arm pit, and down the side seams.  You can take up to a 1/2″ seam allowance.

sewsideseams

5) With sharp scissors, trim the seam allowance to approximately 1/4″ along the side seams and under the bottom of the sleeves.  Next, carefully clip the corner junction where the sleeves are attached.  Take care NOT to cut into your stitching!

freesewingpatternforamericangirldoll6) To hem the bottom of your tee, fold back the fabric approximately 3/8″ to the wrong side and stitch in place.  Again, you don’t need to get crazy about this measurement.  If you want a more narrow hem, 1/4″ is just fine.   Just do your best to make the fold as even as possible.  You can also skip the hemming altogether and leave the bottom edge unfinished, if you’d like!

Fold under the hem - sewing the lacy kimono top for american girl dolls7)  Sew lace to the bottom of your tee.  No special instructions required, just align the lace with your hem and sew it on. For different looks, sew on pre-made ruffle trim, solid colored or printed ribbon, or multiple layers of lace.  Be creative and adventurous!

addlacetoyourkimonotopfor18inchdollsYou can also omit the lace or trim and leave the hem unadorned, if you prefer.

8) Finally, sew a closure onto the back of your Kimono Tee.   You can use sew on snaps or velcro.

When I’m using velcro, I sew a wide strip of the soft section of the velcro with half of the velcro underneath the fabric, leaving the other half exposed.

How to sew velcro on the back of a doll shirt american girl sewing pattern

Then on the other side of the top, I press the fabric 1/4″ back to the wrong side, and sew the scratchy “hook” side of the velcro to this section of pressed back fabric.

sewonvelcrodollclothes2

This method creates a neat back closure that doesn’t have a lot of the extra bulk that often results from multiple layers of fabric and velcro.

 

neat back closure using velcro sewing for 18 inch dolls

Congratulations, you done!  I hope you like this simple pattern for knit fabrics  You can make lots of different looks by varying the fabric you choose and embellishments.  Here are a few different Kimono Tees I made..

Free sewing pattern kimono style top for 18 inch american girl doll

I used sweatshirt fleece and sewed the seams “inside out” on the sleeves and neckline. I left the bottom hem unfinished.

Kimono T-shirt pattern - Free Sewing Pattern from Many Small Friends for 18 inch dolls

I upcycled an old t-shirt for this top. I omitted the lace and hemmed the bottom.

Please let me know if you have any questions about this pattern or about sewing with knit fabrics!  I hope you’ve found this “sewing doll clothes with knits” series useful and fun. :)

Sewing Doll Clothes with Knit Fabrics – Lesson Three

How to sew doll clothes with knit fabrics

This post is lesson three in our class: Sewing Doll Clothes with Knits.  Link to previous lessons: [One :: Two]

Lesson Three – Tips and Techniques for Sewing with Knit Fabrics

Now that you have a basic understanding of the varieties and properties of knit fabrics and you have collected the necessary tools for the job, it’s time to power up your sewing machine and get started!  I hope you have gathered a collection of knit fabrics to experiment with.  Again, don’t worry if the fabric seems challenging, we’re not worried about a finished product today, just trying and learning.

Sewing with Knits Tip #1 – Don’t Stretch as you Sew

As we’ve learned, knits are stretchy beasts.  It’s tempting to try to control the fabric as it feeds through your machine by pressing or pulling the fabric.  Unfortunately with knits, if you stretch the fabric while you sew, the stitches will lock the fabric in it’s stretched out state, which will result in a “wonky” looking, misshapen hem or seam.

In the following picture, I let the feed dogs move the fabric along on the first hem, and I avoided pushing or pulling.  In the second hem, I pulled and stretched the fabric as I sewed.  You can see that the first hem is straighter and the fabric lies flat.  The second hem is wonky.

How to sew knit fabrics for doll clothes tips and tricksBe sure to let the fabric feed through the machine with as little pushing or pulling from your fingers as possible.  You’ll still need to guide the fabric to keep the stitching straight, but allow the feed dogs to do their job moving your project under the needle.

Sewing with Knits Tip # 2 – Know When to Zig Zag

Common advice for sewing knits is to use a zig zag stitch rather then a straight stitch. There are a few good reasons for this advice.

First, sometimes fabric that will not correctly feed through the machine without major stretching will feed more smoothly with a zig zag stitch. If you’re finding that you need to push and force fabric through your machine with a straight stitch, try switching to a zig zag and see if that helps. I have found a zig zag stitch to be particularly useful when sewing ribbed knit fabric.

The zig zag stitch is considered a basic “stretch stitch” (or elastic stitch).  A seam that is exposed to a lot of stretching needs a stitch that will stretch with the fabric.  If you’ve ever pulled a small t-shirt over the large head of a toddler, you’ve probably heard stitches “pop”.  The popping sound is breaking thread as the knit fabric stretches and the “not-stretchy” thread in the seams breaks.

To combat this, seams that need to stretch should be sewn with a zig zag stitch instead of a straight stitch.  Essentially, this allows the thread to lengthen when the fabric stretches rather then to break.

Use a zig zag stitch for stretch stitch when sewing with knitsUsing a zig zag stitch or other stretch stitch is vitally important when sewing knit clothing for people, because people move and clothing must accommodate movement without popping seams.  It is less important when sewing doll clothes because dolls excel at standing still and popping seams are less of a concern.  The flowy hem on the bottom of a knit doll dress isn’t going to need to stretch nor is the neckline of a doll tee that opens in the back.

That said, there are parts of doll clothing that definitely need to stretch. For example, the leg openings on leggings have to stretch over immobile dolly feet, so the hems must be able to stretch with the fabric.   A zig zag or other stretch stitch must be used for the legging hems, or your stitching will break the first time you pull on the leggings.  Also, if you are sewing knit doll clothes for a younger child, it might be wise to default to a zig zag simply because the garment may be subject to lots of stretching and pulling as the child dresses the doll.

I almost always use a straight stitch when sewing knit doll clothes for myself or other adult collectors, simply because I prefer the way it looks.  But do take note of the zig zag stitch and use it where appropriate. There are many other stretch or elastic stitches, but even the most basic sewing machine usually has a zig zag setting. If your machine is more advanced, you may have several stitch settings appropriate for sewing knits.  Check your manual for more information.

Sewing with Knits Tip #3 – Tissue Paper to the Rescue!

You guys. I love this tip! If you’re struggling with knit fabric, keep a few sheets of tissue paper in your sewing kit and your problems will almost surely be solved. Tissue paper is my favorite secret weapon.

Simply lay a piece of tissue paper under your project and sew the seam or hem as usual.  When you’ve finished sewing, gently tear the paper away from your stitching. The paper stabilizes the knit and the fabric acts more like woven fabric as you sew.  It’s amazing!  I’ve used a paper towel or even computer paper in a pinch, but I prefer tissue paper because it tears away cleanly and without pulling the stitches.

Sew on Tissue Paper to make sewing knit doll clothing easier

This is a particularly handy trick when sewing the narrow shoulder seams on doll clothes!

Sewing with Knits Tip #4 – Saved by the Scrap

One of the trickiest parts of sewing knits is the first few centimeters of the hem or seam.  Sometimes the beginning of the fabric will bunch up or get shoved down into the stitch plate.  As I mentioned in Lesson Two, using the correct needle and straight stitch plate can alleviate these problems, but here’s another trick to add to your arsenal.

Keep scraps of fabric on hand to use as a “starter” for your hem or seam.  Fold the scrap fabric in half to give it a little width and place it under your needle.  Align the fabric you want to sew with the edge of the scrap, using the presser foot to hold everything in place.

Sewing doll clothes for American Girl with Knit FabricsAs you begin to sew, the first few stitches will be on the scrap fabric and then you will proceed directly onto the hem or seam on your project.

Sewing American Girl Doll Clothes 18 inch dolls with knit fabricsWhen you’ve finished sewing, carefully cut the stitch between your starter scrap and your project.

Bonus Sewing with Knits Tips

  • When making a narrow hem on knit doll clothes, I rarely use pins or stress out too much about keeping the hem measurement ultra-precise.  For example, a common practice to finish the neckline on doll t-shirts is to fold the fabric under 1/4″ and sew in place.  I don’t press the hem first, I just fold as I go, sewing slowly and from the wrong side.  A little spritz of water beforehand will help the fabric stay in place as you finger press the hem in front of your stitching. Finger press the hem for American Girl doll tee shirts
  • As mentioned above, I almost always sew hems wrong side up.  It’s so frustrating to finish a neat looking hem from the right side only to turn it over and discover that you’ve missed catching segments of the hem in your stitching.  Sewing from the the wrong side eliminates this issue!
  • I lengthen my stitch when I’m sewing with knit fabrics.  I usually set my stitch length between 3 and 3.5 mm.  This helps prevent bunching and stretching.
  • Since most knit fabrics won’t unravel or fray, I rarely finish inside seams.  I’ve also been known to leave raw edges on sleeves, necklines, and/or hems for casual style or layered doll t-shirts, tanks, dresses, and leggings.  If you are sewing for young children, you may wish to take more care with finishing, but since my dolls just stand around looking fabulous, they can get away with fashionable raw edges. 😉

Experts, did I miss any of your favorite sewing-with-knits tips?  Let me know in the comments section!

Homework:   Are you ready to tackle an actual project and get some pay-off for your bravery?  Our next lesson is a sew-along with knit fabric.  We’ll be making a cute little top that will look great in a variety of fabrics and that can be finished with only FOUR seams!   You can totally do this.

In the meantime, practice sewing hems and seams with fabric scraps.  Try out my tissue paper trick with the most misbehavin’ knit you can find. I know I sound like a broken record, but we’re not seeking perfection yet.  Make a bunch of wavy, wonky seams by pulling and stretching as you sew and then see what happens when you let the feed dogs take control.  Try hemming without pins.  The more you practice, the more confident you’ll feel when it’s time to sew “for real”.  Practice is never a waste of time!

Are you ready to move on? Proceed to Lesson Four

Sewing Doll Clothes with Knit Fabrics – Lesson Two

How to sew doll clothes with knit fabrics

This post is lesson two in our class: Sewing Doll Clothes with Knits.  Link to previous lessons: [One]

Lesson Two – The Right Tools for the Job

A key to success in any endeavor is having the right tools for the job.  In this lesson on sewing doll clothes with knit fabrics, we’ll cover the necessary and nice-to-have tools that will make your project a breeze.

Choose your Needle Wisely

Knit fabric is manufactured a little differently then woven fabric.  The individual fibers that make up fabric are called yarn.  Knit fabric consists of continuous loops of interconnected yarn while woven fabric has yarn threads woven vertically and horizontally into a basket weave pattern.  The difference in the weave of the yarn is what creates the unique properties of knits and wovens.  If you’d like to learn more, check out Threads Magazine’s explanation.

When you sew, the way in which the needle pierces the fabric is important.  If you use a universal all-purpose needle to sew on knit fabrics, you may snag or break the loops of yarn.  The wrong needle can also result in skipped stitches (needle moves through the fabric, but no stitches form or stitches appear large and irregular), bunching of the fabric, or knots of thread on the underside of your project.

There are two types of needles specially designed for sewing with knits.  A stretch needle is ideal for sewing light weight, tightly looped, and very stretchy knits like Lycra or jersey.  A ballpoint needle works best for medium or heavy weight, more loosely looped interlocks and sweater knits.

Choose the right needle sewing doll clothes knit fabrics

I usually start with a ballpoint needle and if I notice skipped stitches or bunching, I will switch to a stretch needle.  It is also important to change your needles as they become worn.  Tiny (impossible to see) burrs on your needle or a bent tip will ruin your stitching.  A good rule of thumb is to switch to a new needle every 4 to 8 hours of sewing.

The size of the needle is also relevant.  The most commonly used size is 80/12, which is a good size for medium weight cotton, rayon, and cotton/poly blends.  If you are using a very light weight jersey or thin Lycra, you may find the smaller 70/10 size more suitable.  If you are sewing a heavier weight stretch corduroy or denim, the larger 90/14 needle may be in order.

Another fantastic needle for sewing knits is a double needle.  I will tell you more about the double needle in an upcoming lesson.

Fancy Foot Work

One of the most frustrating problems when sewing two pieces of knit fabric together is coming to the end of a seam and finding that the top piece of fabric that you carefully matched and pinned to the bottom piece of fabric is now magically longer then the bottom piece. GRR!

There are a variety of fabrics including knits that sometimes misbehave as the feed dogs (the jagged “teeth” that emerge from beneath your stitch plate) move your project along as you sew.  Some machines allow you to adjust your feed dog settings for a more even feed, but my favorite “no futz”  instant fix for this problem is to sew with my walking foot.  A walking foot is a special presser foot that feeds the top layer of fabric through your machine at the same rate as the bottom layer.  It is not only useful for sewing knits, but also on multilayer projects like quilts and heavy fabrics.

I love my walking foot so much that I rarely use any other presser foot!  I know this thing looks like a rover out of a Star Wars movie, but don’t be intimidated.  You just hook it to your machine in place of your general purpose presser foot (it’s not tricky, but read the instructions) and then sew as usual.

Use a walking foot to sew doll clothes for American Girl 18 Inch Dolls

My BFF

 

Many sewing machines come with a walking foot included, but if yours did not, I highly recommend the investment!  You can buy a branded walking foot from your local dealer or you can check Amazon to see if a comparable less expensive generic walking foot is available for your machine.  Be sure to check that the walking foot is compatible with the specific model of sewing machine you have.

Step up to the Plate

Have you ever attempted to sew a hem or seam and had the needle push the fabric down through the needle plate causing a hopelessly stuck, knotted mess? This seems to be a particular problem when sewing doll clothes because of the tricky combination of narrow seam allowances, tiny pieces, and delicate, stretchy, or light weight fabrics.

A nifty trick to combat this problem is to sew on a straight stitch plate (also called a throat plate).  A very important (if obvious) note up front:  As the name suggests, you can only use the straight stitch plate with a straight stitch.  If you attach a straight stitch plate to your machine, forget that you have done so, and then switch to a zig zag stitch, or move your needle position to the left or right of center, disaster will ensue.  Okay, maybe not disaster, but you’ll almost certainly break your needle and you could damage your machine.

Straight Stitch Plate to tips to sew knits for doll clothes American Girl SewingAs you can see from the pictures above, the standard stitch plate on the left has a wide opening for the needle to move through.  In contrast, the straight stitch plate on the right has just a single, centered, small pin-hole opening.  It is much less likely that your fabric will be pushed down through this tiny hole as you begin to sew.

In an upcoming lesson, I will tell you that there are times when using a zig zag stitch is a better choice then a straight stitch, but for now, keep in mind the straight stitch plate, particularly for small, narrow hems.  There is also a straight stitch presser foot which you can use in conjunction with the the straight stitch plate, but I have found my general purpose foot (or better yet, my walking foot) works well enough.

A Cut Above

Another tool I could not live without is my rotary cutter and mat, especially when I’m working with knit fabric! Because of knit’s predilection for stretching, accurately cutting out small doll-sized pattern pieces with scissors can be a bit of a nightmare.

Rotary cutter for cutting and sewing doll clothes for American Girl 18 inch dollsDoll clothes pattern pieces are usually small enough that I don’t even bother pinning the pattern to the fabric, I just hold the pattern still with one hand (or anchor it with pattern weights) and cut with the other. This makes cutting patterns not only more accurate, but faster too!

My favorite rotary cutter is made by Olfa, and I primarily use the 28mm size for doll sewing. The small blade easily maneuvers around tight curves common on dolly patterns.  For general purpose sewing or for cutting larger pieces, I use the Olfa 45mm.  You’ll also need a cutting mat to use underneath the rotary cutter.  I have a huge one that covers my sewing table since I enjoy sewing human sized patterns in addition to doll clothes.  If you’re only cutting very small projects, you can get away with a small mat. I would recommend buying as large a mat as you feel you can afford because it’s frustrating to move the project around as you cut to fit the mat!

Be sure to keep a supply of fresh, sharp blades on hand.  Once the blades become dull, they no longer make smooth cuts and you are risking injury to your fingers as you struggle to press harder to cut the fabric. Speaking of injury, I would not recommend rotary cutters for children under 12, and kids over 12 should be taught proper, safe use and be closely supervised when cutting.  The blades are very sharp! If you are sewing with a child, the smaller 28mm cutter is less likely to cause accidents.

 

Homework:  Did your machine come with a walking foot or straight stitch plate?  If so, dig them out, blow off the dust, and give them a whirl with practice fabric.  If not, never fear.  In our next lesson, we’ll cover sewing techniques that make sewing knits easier, regardless of what type of equipment you have available.

Be sure to purchase a package of ball point needles if you don’t have them on hand, as they are necessities for sewing with knits!  If you don’t have a rotary cutter, consider purchasing a 28mm size cutter and mat.

Last but not least, gather various knit fabrics for our next lesson.  You can buy knits from a fabric store,  raid the give-away pile of old clothing to cut up, or visit a thrift shop and purchase someone else’s old clothing to cut up.   Try to find a variety of weights and textures, even if you are afraid the fabric will be too difficult to work with.   Remember that these fabrics are for practice only, and no need to be perfect or worry about a finished product just yet!

Move on to Lesson Three

Sewing Doll Clothes with Knit Fabrics – Lesson One

How to sew doll clothes with knit fabrics

Do you suffer from SWKP?  That’s “sewing-with-knits-phobia”, in case you are unfamiliar with this common malady.  Sadly, many new sewists find themselves paralyzed by SWKP and pass over many fantastic patterns because they require knit fabrics.

Knit fabrics are awesome when sewing for dolls because they are readily available (especially if you enjoy recycling human clothes), they make fitting a breeze (one pattern often fits several doll brands, even if the dolls vary slightly in size), and doll clothing made from knits looks modern and trendy (many human fashions are made with knit fabrics).

Don’t fear the knit!  While it’s true that sewing with knits is a little different then sewing with woven fabrics, it doesn’t have to be more difficult.  In fact, sewing with knits can be easier and faster because you rarely have to wrestle with unruly, unraveling fabric and, since the fabric is stretchy and forgiving, you don’t have to worry about being quite so perfect with your sewing or your seam allowances to get great looking finished garments.  Making clothing with knits usually involves fewer pattern pieces and less intricate fussy sewing, so you can go from choosing your materials to finished product in a snap.

It’s my sincere hope that all aspiring doll fashionistas would embrace the knit, so welcome to the Many Small Friends : Sewing Doll Clothes with Knits class!  In the next few posts, I am going to introduce you to sewing with knits, give you all of my best tips and tricks to make working with stretchy fabrics easier, and walk you through a simple knit pattern to get you started.

If you are already an expert at sewing with knits, or have recently discovered a technique that has made sewing knits easier, I would love to add your knowledge to our class!  If you have a tip or technique to share, either send me your ideas via email or post in the comments section below.

Shall we begin?

Sewing with Knits – Lesson 1: Choose the Right Knit Fabric for Your Project

Let’s start by defining “knits”.   Most simply put, a knit fabric stretches when you pull it.  In contrast, a woven fabric has very little or no stretch.  The most common example of a knit fabric is t-shirt material.  An example of a woven, on the other hand, would be the type of material used for a man’s dress shirt.  Knits stretch, wovens don’t.

Even though “t-shirt” is often the first thing that comes to mind when you think of knits, there are lots of different types of knit fabrics.  They vary in stretchiness, thickness and weight, fabric content (cotton versus polyester, for example), and tightness of weave.

You’ve probably heard lots of names for knits including interlock, jersey, polar fleece, double knits, spandex, stretch velour, sweatshirt fleece, rib knits, just to name a few. It’s not super important that you know the difference between each to begin with, although it’s helpful to understand the best uses for each type of fabric as you delve deeper into sewing.

The best way to learn is to experiment with different types of fabrics and study human clothes and commercially produced doll clothes to see what choices professional designers have made. For example, you won’t find a t-shirt made out of polyester polar fleece nor would you see mittens made from cotton t-shirt fabric. You can learn a lot about proper fabric choices just by studying your own (and your doll’s) closet!

If you are choosing a knit to sew a specific pattern, most pattern designers will include suggestions for the best type of fabric for the project.

Sewing Doll Clothes with Polar Fleece

Polar fleece is an excellent knit fabric for beginners! I like micro fleece for doll sized clothing. Practice with micro fleece using the MSF hat and mittens tutorial.

Sewing Doll Clothes with Sweater Knit

Sweater knits vary in thickness. Don’t go too thick or heavy for doll clothes.  I like to upcycle human sweaters to doll sweaters. Try making the MSF Autumn Shrug with a sweater knit.

Sewing Doll Clothes with Sweatshirt Fleece Knit

Sweatshirt fleece is another terrific knit for beginners. It’s usually nice and stable.  It makes great sweatshirts. duh. ;)

Sewing Doll Clothes with Open Weave Knit

Don’t be afraid of sewing with open weave fabrics! You can stitch right over the “open” parts.. your sewing machine won’t know the difference. Check out the MSF Mod Shift Dress pattern.

Sewing Doll Clothes with Spandex Swim Knit

Thicker spandex knits are often a breeze to sew. Beginners may want to avoid thinner spandex and anything shiny or metallic, as sometimes slippery knits “misbehave”. Spandex knits are great for dolly tights, leggings, swimwear, and leotards.

Sewing Doll Clothes with Strecth Velour Knit

Velours are ideal knits for cardigans, flowing winter capes, and sweater tops.

Sewing Doll Clothes with Jersey Knit

The thicker the jersey, the easier to sew. Some very thin jerseys can be a pain and the edges tend to roll. Jerseys are often printed and make fun t-shirts, dresses, and tights.

You can get some hands on experience with different knit fabrics by taking a field trip to the fabric store.  Don’t be intimidated or worried that you’ll look stupid.  It’s perfectly acceptable to walk the aisles, touch the fabrics, and study the labels on the ends of the bolts.  Many fabric stores also sell small bits of leftover fabrics (often labeled with type of fabric and content) for discounted prices.

Example information end of fabric bolt

There’s lots of useful information on the end of fabric bolts. This is a woven flannel, not a knit fabric, but it’s the only full bolt I had on hand.

Buying discounted fabric samples or collecting fabric from outgrown or damaged people-sized clothing is a great way to build a stash of fabrics to experiment with.  Not every sewing session has to end with a finished product!  It’s relaxing and confidence building to simply sit at your machine with different types of fabric and sew swatches together using various stitches and machine settings.  You’ll be less concerned about making mistakes and more likely to try new things if you’re not worried about an end product.

Homework: Spend some time studying commercial clothing and fabrics and identify which are woven and which are knit.  Pay attention to thickness and weight of different fabrics, stretchiness, and what types of knits are used for tops versus leggings or sweaters versus t-shirts.  Imagine how you would fashion the different fabrics that you observe into doll clothes.

I hope you’ve found this overview of knit fabrics useful.  If you have any questions, please ask in the comments below.  And when you’re ready, proceed to Lesson 2!