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!

Our Generation Tea Set Review

Oh, Hello…

It’s so nice to see you!  Do you have time to join us for a cup of tea?
Please, please, sit!
Our Generation 18 inch doll Tea Set Review and doll video

Help yourself to a scone and some jam.
Our Generation 18

We have a selection of teas to choose from.  There is Orange (um.. orange?) or Yellow (lemon, maybe?). Tea Set Review for American Girl Dolls by Our GenerationDon’t forget to add cream and a cube of sugar. Our Generation Tea Set for American Girl DollsPerhaps a macaron? Don’t be silly, of course they’re not stuck together. Doll tea set review macarons macaroons from Our Generation for AG dollsIf you’d like something a little more substantial to nibble, help yourself to a finger sandwich, a chocolate cookie, or a fruit tart.

Our Generation Tea Set Review Doll Food 18" DollsHave you had enough eat?  Yes, we agree, the shade-of-green-not-found-in-nature filling in the finger sandwiches is.. interesting.  And the raisin scones are quite tasty.

Our Generation Tea Set Review Tea for Two

Thank you so much for having tea with us today!  We’re so glad you found a moment to stop by, we so enjoy your company.

If you’d like to have your own tea party, you can find the Our Generation “Tea for Two” set at Target stores or at Amazon.com (as of this writing, the Amazon price is at retail.. save yourself the hunt!).

We made a video review of the OG tea set if you’d like a few more details about what’s included and to hear my impressions of the materials used (hint:plastic) in this set.

Thanks again for stopping by.. we’ll see you soon!

m4s0n501

The Mod Shift Dress Pattern is on Etsy

Mod Shift Dress American Girl Doll Dress PatternThe Mod Shift Dress pattern is ready and available on Etsy! I’m really excited about this pattern and I hope you’ll love it too.  I designed it after finding lots of pretty sheer knits, stretchy lace, and open weave knit fabrics that were just begging to be sewn into dolly dresses.

Fabrics to make doll dresses for American Girl 18 Inch Dolls

Of course using see-through fabrics requires a lined dress, so this pattern includes instructions for sewing a full, attached lining.

Sew a lined shift dress for American Girl 18 inch dollBecause the lines are so simple, this is the perfect little dress to accessorize.  For our photo shoot, we switched up jewelry, hats, shoes, glasses.. it was great fun!

How to sew a shift dress for American Girl 18 inch doll-  sewing pattern on etsy

American Girl Doll Dress sewing pattern for knit fabrics

I love how changing only the color of the lining under the lace completely changes the personality of the dress.

Sewing pattern for easy knit shift dress for American Girl 18 inch doll

This is a simple and versatile pattern that comes together very quickly.  You don’t even have to set sleeves!  If you use an opaque knit fabric rather then a sheer or a lace, you can omit the lining altogether and go from cutting table to finished dress in under an hour.

We upcycled one of my daughter’s outgrown t-shirts to make this Kitty dress for our doll Avery.  I cut the pattern aligning the hem of the dress on the pre-finished hem of the tee, so this entire project took about 20 minutes.

Avery would like you to know that, although she is a fan of her new dress,   .. SPARKLY SHOES!

Sew a American Girl Doll Dress from a t shirt

I drafted the pattern using American Girl dolls, but the dress will fit most 18 inch dolls with a similar body type.  As always when sewing a new pattern, it’s best to do a “test run” with scrap fabrics the first time through.  I designed the hemline above the knee (because dolly knees are the cutest thing in the whole wide world. And boots, y’all.), but you can easily lengthen the dress if you prefer a little more coverage or are sewing a more formal style dress.

I’ll leave with one final pic from our photo shoot.  If you’re inspired to sew a Mod Shift Dress for your doll, you can find the pattern in our Etsy store!

Mod Shift Dress pattern from MSF

DIY Lighted Bakery Case for Dolls

American Girl Doll Lighted Bakery Case for 18 Inch Dolls

Still feeling inspired by American Girl’s 2015 bakery theme?  My small friends and I sure are. We made this lighted Bakery Case in just a few hours (not counting the bazillion hours spent trolling every.single.aisle in Hobby Lobby) and for about $30.  If you already have paint and other common craft supplies on hand, you can make your own lighted Bakery Case for even less!

Materials List

  • Pre-made wood cabinet from Hobby Lobby ($11.99 before 40% off coupon)  Please note that the doors in this cabinet are glass paned and probably not appropriate for play by younger children.
  • Wood plaque from Hobby Lobby (or elsewhere – I paid about $2 for the one I chose)
  • Primer [optional] and Paint – I used Krylon Paint+Primer and Imaginisce Milk Paint (but I would suggest using acrylic paint instead. If you use acrylic paint, you probably don’t need to prime before painting).
  • Glue – I used Aileen’s Tacky Glue
  • Glaze – I used Delta Sparkle Glaze
  • Krylon Webbing Spray [optional]
  • Paint Brush
  • Drill and Marquee Lights [optional – Lights $7.99 at Hobby Lobby]

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

Assemble

Glue the wood plaque (the “counter”) to the top of the cabinet.  This is an optional add-on.  You could use the cabinet as-is, but I think it adds a lot to the finished Bakery Case.  I also glued 4 small blocks to the bottom of the cabinet at each corner to give the case a little additional height.  Allow the glue to dry before proceeding.

Prepare and Prime

1) Cover both sides of the cabinet windows with paper and masking tape to avoid getting paint on the the glass.

2) Lightly sand the cabinet and then wipe away the dust with a damp cloth.

3) Spray white primer over the entire exterior and interior of the Bakery Case.  I used two coats.  Allow to dry before proceeding.

DIY Lighted Bakery Case for American Girl Dolls

Paint

1) Lightly sand the primed Bakery Case to remove the “bumps” and rough patches that spray primer often leaves behind.

2) Paint the case in any way you find pleasing.  I was hoping to achieve a marbled look, so I chose a pink and grey color scheme.  I used milk paint because I found it on clearance at Joann and I was intrigued!  If you use milk paint, mix it to a thicker consistency then suggested on the packaging.  If I were to do this project again, I would probably choose to use inexpensive acrylic paint instead.  I painted the interior of the case as well, but I didn’t bother adding much detail.

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

Marble

After I painted my case and allowed it to dry, I used Krylon’s Webbing Spray to get a marbled look.  I found the webbing spray at every craft store I visited (Joann, Michael’s, and Hobby Lobby) .  It is priced at about $7 and I used a coupon to make it more affordable.

This webbing spray is odd stuff!  It’s paint, but it shoots out of the can like “silly string” or like spider webbing.  Essentially, you shoot it into the air and allow it to fall lightly onto your project.  You don’t have a lot of control with the outcome, which is both exciting and alarming at the same time.

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

I have to tell you, at this point in the project, I wasn’t sure I liked where it was going.  It has a bit of a 1988 vibe, don’t you think? :D  I had a good laugh because once I’d seen the 80’s in this project, I couldn’t un-see the 80’s.  You guys, it’s totally rad.

I did not marble the inside of the Bakery Case, which I think was the salvation of this paint job.  When displayed with the doors open, the marble effect is only visible on the counter top, which I am very pleased with.  With the doors closed, it’s a little… much.

If I had this to do over, I might only marble the counter top and then glue it to the body of the cabinet, which I would leave solid white.   I have toyed with the idea of sanding and re-painting the lower part of the cabinet, but that sounds like a lot of work.

Glaze

Finally, I used Delta Sparkle Glaze to add a shiny finish.  I thought the glitter in the glaze added to the marble look as well.  In addition, I used grey acrylic paint to paint over the hardware on the doors.

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

Here’s how it looks with the doors closed.  What do you think? Do you suddenly feel like breaking out your stonewashed jeans and listening to Bobby Brown? <snicker>

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

Add Lighting

This step is obviously optional, and I think the case is adorable even without the lights.  However, I think the lighting really makes this a WOW piece! I found these lights at Hobby Lobby and they are exactly what I was looking for and perfect for this project.  That said, I cannot find them for sale online anywhere, even HobbyLobby.com. Here is a picture of the packaging:

Marquee Lights

I found this set near the paper mache items at Hobby Lobby.  They are intended to be used as marquee lights in a craft project.

The lights require 2 AAA batteries.  I love that this lightening doesn’t need to be plugged in, since this makes the Bakery Case very portable and without wire clutter.  Currently I’ve got the extra wiring and battery pack sitting behind the Bakery Case, but I will eventually duct tape it to the back.

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

I didn’t take photos of the drilling and lighting process, but it was simple and hopefully self-explanatory.  I drilled holes in the back of the case that were the same size as the bases of the clear marquee bulbs.  Then I pressed the marquee bulbs into the holes, and inserted the lights from behind the case, into the bulbs.

If you can’t find marquee lights, I think this could also be accomplished with a small holiday lights set, which seem to be available year round at most hobby stores. You’d simply drill the holes and press the lights through holes.  You might need some craft putty to hold the lights in place.  If you guys have other ideas how to achieve a similar effect, please add in the comments below!

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

To make the signs, I used a variety of pre-made chalkboard papers and products which are ubiquitous in craft stores at the moment.  I used a Bistro chalk marker to write on the signs.  You could also use a regular white or silver marker, but I was happy with my choice to use something erasable, since each sign took me about twelve tries to get “right”.  I’m still tempted to redo some of them! Repeat after me: Perfection is the enemy of good.

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

The mini chalkboard signs are made by the Paper Studio.  The cupcakes on the signs are actually metal brads (also by the Paper Studio) that I clipped to the back of the chalkboard signs.

DIY Lighted Bakery Case

The doll food in our Bakery Case is a mix of American Girl, Our Generation (from the new Tea for Two Set), and The Queen’s Treasures. Ada is wearing her Patisserie Apron, of course!

DIY American Girl Doll Bakery Case Tutorial 18 Inch Dolls

Please let me know if you have any questions about this project.  If you make your own Bakery Case, I hope you will link pictures in the comments below!

American Girl Grace’s Baking Set Review

American Girl Doll Grace Thomas Baking Set Review

I had to have it.  Because, you guys..  the mixer.

American Girl has apparently found open access to my bank account via my obsession with dolly-size replicas of all the stuff I love, in all the colors I love.

In honor of the 2015 Girl of the Year Paris theme:  Le Sigh.

Dear AG, if you want the rest of my money:  Pyrex.

Where was I?  Oh yes, the Girl of the Year 2015 Grace Thomas and her Baking Set.  Grace is sweet doll, but she’s not coming to live with me and the small friends, unless AG loses their everlovin’ minds again next fall and sells her for $68.

(Was that crazy, or what? That was CRAZY!  In case you missed it, AG sold Isabelle with her accessories and her cat Tutu for $68 for a few very short and frenzied hours in December.)

Even though I’m not getting Grace, I’m certainly not above pilfering her collection.  Grace’s storyline revolves around a trip to Paris and a love of baking, so American Girl has pulled out all the stops to load her down with seriously overpriced and yet irresistibly cute clothing and accessories.  Bistros, bon bons, and berets.. oh my!

I succumbed immediately (defined as: 12:01 a.m. CST on January 1) to the Baking Set.  Thanks to early leaks, I was fully prepared to succumb, with debit card in hand, as the clock struck midnight.

And then I waited patiently, as usual, for the mailman to deliver.

An lo, it came to pass, that the items were delivered, and the human people and the small vinyl people were satisfied.  Mostly.

American Girl Doll Girl of the Year GOTY 2015 Grace Thomas Baking Set Review

American Girl Grace's Baking Set

American Girl Grace's Baking Set

American Girl Grace's Baking Set

The set, as a whole, is undeniably adorable.  Because wee, working stand mixer!  But it’s very, very, very.. plastic.  And most of it isn’t the good, heavy weight, substantial feeling plastic.  It’s the cheap, thin, lots of visible mold markings, clinks-instead-of-clunks-when-you-tap-it plastic.  Again…  Le Sigh.

The mixer is good plastic and the spoon is made of wood, but did I mention the retail price of this set is $68?  It bears repeating at this point that in December, American Girl sold the Isabelle doll, her meet accessories, and her pet cat for the very same price: $68. Obviously that was a moment of corporate insanity, but still!  A decent plastic mixer + a wooden spoon + a lot of cheap plastic stuffs and some additional paper stuffs probably isn’t worth $68 unless you REALLY love the mixer.  Which I do, and which is why I succumbed.

I made a review video if you’d like to see the mixer in action and get a few more details about each of the individual pieces included in the Baking Set.


Overall, I’m not sorry I purchased this set.  I received some gift cards for Christmas and I used a $10 off code so I’m telling myself I really only spent $58 on a plastic-yet-adorable stand mixer, tiny wooden spoon, and accompanying cheap plastic and paper accessories.

If I had to guess, the mixer will be one of those classic, highly sought after American Girl pieces after it retires, and a complete Baking Set with easily misplaced, tiny pieces, like the measuring cups and stylus will be nearly impossible to find.  I wouldn’t want to be the poor soul trying to track the set down for a reasonable price on the secondary market in years to come.

Yet, given the recent history of Girl of the Year megasales, I wouldn’t be shocked to see this set marked down next fall or early 2016.  OR, it might just be popular enough to sell out by December and never go on sale.

What do you think?  Are you buying Girl of the Year merch at full price or waiting for sales? Is any of Grace’s collection a “Must Have” for you, or are you willing to take a chance on mark downs?