Maud Humphrey

Maud Humphrey

Friday, April 26, 2013

American Girl Doll Pillowcase Dresses


Today I taught a little sewing class to three, 10 year old girls.   I was asked several weeks ago if I would be interested in doing something like this, and I didn't figure out until yesterday what I was going to have them sew!  (Yeah, I'm a procrastinator.)  Anyway, I ended up with this project:
Pillowcase dresses!  I found an easy pattern online, (there are several) but as usual, I changed it up a bit because I can never make a pattern exactly like it says.  My version has a ruffle at the hem.  I added the ruffle because I wanted to teach the little girls how to gather fabric.   Since doll clothes are smaller, this seemed like an easy way to do it.
All of the girls had a sewing machine, and knew how to use it.  Two of them had some previous experience sewing a pillowcase, but I don't think the other one had any experience at all.  I wish I had brought my camera along and taken pictures of their completed dresses, but I forgot!  So you'll just have to take my word for it that they turned out every bit as nicely as my two prototypes above.
The first dress I made (the pink one) ties at both shoulders and has white ric rac trim above the ruffle.  The armholes ended up just a wee bit snug for my liking, so I cut the blue dress with slightly larger armholes and it fits great.  It has one, continuous ribbon through the casings and ties on just one shoulder.  White, cluny lace trims the ruffle.
It's hard to tell in the photos, but I even made some matching capris for the pink dress, also trimmed with ric rac.  If I teach more sewing classes to these girls, then making these capris may be next on my list.  All in all, it was a good experience.  Between me and the other mom, we were able to iron the pieces in between sewing, over-see correct seam allowances, and just offer guidance in general.  But the girls did great.  The only area where they had a bit of trouble was adding the bias trim around the armholes.  The bias was narrow and finicky to work with, so maybe next time I would make it a little wider so that they could handle it easier.  I really had a good time passing on some sewing skills to the next generation.  It's such a wonderful skill to have!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Seeds and Patterns

I had two things I wanted to get accomplished today:  plant my flower seeds, and pick up some McCall patterns from JoAnn's while they're on sale for a buck a piece.  The above picture shows all the little vegetable seedlings I started last month.  I had been saving all those plastic containers that my organic, baby spinach leaves come in just for this purpose.  I don't usually like to buy things in plastic, but I knew that these containers would make great, little greenhouses!   I kept the lids on until the seedlings became too tall.  Each tub holds six, medium sized peat pots.  I don't have any grow lights, so I set them out on my patio table each morning, and then bring them in again at night.  So far, this has been working great, and the seedlings look healthy.   Once the nights start to get a little warmer, I will leave them out all night, too.  So far, I have pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, cabbage, and broccoli growing.
I went a little crazy with the flower seeds this year!  I don't usually plant flowers, just vegetables, but I decided to shake things up a little.  After spending nearly an hour in the garden department of my favorite, one-stop shopping store, I ended up with 18 seed packets in my cart.  But hey, they were half off, so how could I resist?  There are three different varieties of zinnias, two different sweet peas, three different sunflowers, nasturtiums, baby's breath, snap dragons, and lots others.  I'm excited to see how they do.  I'm being optimistic and envisioning a yard full of flowers, come this summer. 
I used these Jiffy seed trays that had 72 plastic compartments each.  In other words, if every little seedling sprouts, I will have 216 flowers to plant.  216!  Crazy, I know.  But lots of fun, too. 
I got five of my seven raised garden boxes weeded a couple of weeks ago, so I hope to get some vegies planted in them this weekend, if we get any dry weather.  Spinach, lettuce, radishes, peas, kale, swiss chard and broccoli can all be planted now.  I really want to have a nice garden this year, and hopefully help out our food budget with home grown produce.
And yes, I did make it to JoAnn's today.  Here are the patterns I came home with.  The coat pattern isn't very summery, I know, but I figured it would be nice to have on hand for the fall.  The other patterns each have different elements that I want to incorporate into Sophie's dresses for the summer.  I think I'm going to start with the pattern on the top right; it has a cross-over bodice which is a different look from the typical, little girl dresses I've sewn.  Tomorrow, I head over to my favorite fabric store with my best friend for their big sale.  I'm going to try to resist buying too much fabric, but I anticipate coming home with at least a couple of pretty prints!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Patty Play Pal Dress...again!

So, I brought the Patty Play Pal dress over to my friend, eager to see it on her doll.  And, horror of horrors, it didn't fit!  Actually, the entire dress fit fine except for the neckline, and that's where it was about 1 1/2" too small.  I could have cried.  Oh, well.  That teaches me not to have the doll in my possession (or at least important measurements) when I sew for it!  I was a little perplexed, though, since I had followed the pattern exactly.  It just goes to show, I guess, that you always need to measure and try things on often to check fit.  This goes for people as well as dolls!
I brought the outfit (and the doll!) back home, in order to alter the dress.  This entailed ripping out the entire back seams and snaps on both sides, adding a new, wider facing, and moving the skirts over to meet the new width.  Have I ever mentioned how much I hate sewing snaps?  They're not difficult, but they are time consuming.  And there were five sets, which I ended up sewing on twice.  That means 20 little snaps.  Ugghhh.
This dress so reminds me of the dresses I used to wear when I was a kid.  Puffy sleeves, short skirts, and big bows.  Such a classic, little girl look.
Isn't this doll lovely?  My little Sophia was entranced with her...she would dance with her and have lengthy conversations with her, as if Patty Play Pal were a real child.  Of course, this doll was originally marketed as a "companion" for children, so I suppose they got it right! 
She will be going back to her house soon.  And while this is not generally the type of doll I like to collect, I must say that I will be a bit sad to see her go.  I can certainly see the appeal of owning a doll like this--she can wear real children's clothing (2-3T) and is fun to display--kind of like a mannequin.  When I was a kid, I used to love looking at the mannequins in the big department stores, like Meier & Frank's and Nordstroms.  They looked like real people.  I always wanted to take one of the babies home with me.  Today's mannequins are horrible, I think.  A lot of them are headless, and if they do have heads, they are void of features.  Actually, now that I think of it, Old Navy has nice mannequins that look like real people.  Hmmm.  I think I'm starting to talk myself into owning a mannequin someday.  Or maybe I should just get my own Patty Play Pal?

Thursday, April 4, 2013

New Dress for a Gebruder Heubach 10532 Antique Doll

A dear, elderly friend once asked if I could create a dress for her antique doll, a Gebruder Heubach 10532.  I have had this doll in my possession for at least four months.  Shameful, right?  I felt so bad every time my patient friend asked about her!  Yesterday, I finally decided to tackle the project.
My friend gave me a lady's pink, cotton gauze skirt in which to cut up for the doll's dress.  Her only real request was that the dress be a "drop-waist".
It took me the better part of several hours to draft the bodice pattern.  I knew I wanted tucks, so that's what the took the longest in the drafting.  Once that was completed, the dress went together fairly quickly.  I especially love how the two-part sleeves turned out, and they only took me one try to get them right!
At first, I was going to add lace underneath each tuck, but then I decided on machine feather stitching instead.  I love how it turned out.
The bodice is completely lined and closes in back with snaps.  There are two skirts, each edged with vintage lace.
The bow wasn't part of my original design, but after I finished the dress, it just felt like it needed something more.  It is secured to the dress with a safety pin so that it can be easily removed, if necessary.
Please excuse her wonky-looking doll stand wasn't quite tall enough for this doll and it caused her leg to stick out a a funny angle.  She is really a pretty girl, and quite a rare mold number.  She stands about 24" tall on a composition body.  I am anxious to deliver her to my friend and see her reaction.  I sure she has probably given up on me!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Patty Play Pal Reproduction Dress

A doll club friend recently acquired a 1960 "carrot top" Patty Play Pal doll.  For those that are unfamiliar with her, this doll was created as a companion for children and could wear real children's clothing.  She stands 35" tall This is her above, on the cover of a book.  She is very rare because of her bright orange/red hair.  My friend's doll is nude, so she asked if I could reproduce her outfit.
After walking (and walking and walking) around my favorite fabric store for 1 1/2 hours, I finally settled on the above fabrics.  The original dress fabric has more yellow in it, but I felt like this print had the vintage vibe I was going for.  The green fabric for the pinafore was easy to match, but I had to go to three different stores before I finally found rick rack in the correct shade of orange.  I'm still not entirely happy with it...I feel it's a bit large for the scale of the dress,   But the color matches well, so I guess it'll do.
I used a pattern by "The Classy Kid Collection", especially made to reproduce this dress for Patty Play Pal.  They have a website which offers all kinds of doll clothing patterns:
The pattern went together fairly well, but it is not for the inexperienced seamstress.  There are instructions but no pictures...and some of the steps are a little vague.  But the end result turned out adorable, I think.
I love the big bow that ties in the back.  All little girls dresses should have a bow, don't you think?  The pinafore is not a separate piece, but part of the dress.  It closes with snaps.  For some reason, my sewing machine had fits with the green fabric.  It is 100% cotton, but my machine kept skipping stitches, and acting as if it were having a hard time getting through the fabric.  I have no idea why.  I spent a couple of hours switching out needles, using different thread, adjusting tension, and cleaning out the throat plate (sheesh, I think there was a good fistful of lint down there!), in the hopes that it would fix the problem.  But I finally realized that the machine wasn't having this issue with the floral fabric, or any other little scraps I experimented with, only with the green.  Has anybody else ever had this happen to them?  I remember this happened to me once before, with some fine-wale, baby corduroy.  This pinafore fabric didn't have any stretch to it, but I wonder if maybe the fibers were woven in such a way that made it more difficult for a needle to penetrate?  Frustrating, that's for sure.  I ended up lengthening my stitches just a bit, and gently pulling on the fabric to help along the feed dogs. 
Anyway, it's finished!  I think my friend is going to love it.