Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Gingerbread Biscuits

I don't bake these days, but when asked to make Gingerbread Biscuits for a Christmas party, this is what I made. It took hours. My Mum asked me what colour icing I used. Turns out that I made it too thin. Oh well, they taste alright and I had fun decorating them.

My sewing is non-existent with all of these Christmas festivities, but I am planning on sewing up big when the holidays arrive at the end of this week - I can't wait!!!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Dolls! A Step Closer to Solving the Mystery of my Glamour Doll's Identity

Doll re-dressed by me using pattern from the 1950's

I received my copy of British Dolls of the 1950's by Susan Brewer in the mail today and was elated to see on page 94 a picture of a doll nearly identical to my one.

My doll in her original under-wear

Due to copyright, I can't show you a picture here of the doll in the book, but the earrings are the same and her hair, blush and mouth are nearly identical. Unfortunately there is only a head and shoulders shot in the book. The mystery as to my doll's identity is not quite solved as the mark on the back of the doll in the book is UP and the mark on mine is as follows; Made in Hong Kong (British Empire) No. 8110. Beneath this are the letters W P W inside a diamond shape which is kind of on it's side. There are 2 arrows pointing out of the diamond shape, one on each side. My guess is that there was a manufacturer that made these dolls for various companies who just had to put their stamp on the back of the doll and perhaps specify things like hair and eye colour. Like mine, the UP dolls were also made in Hong Kong.

The author writes that these dolls were very popular in the 1950s. She thinks they were probably sold at small toyshops and markets. The dolls came with a plastic bra and silky pants ready to be dressed at home. I think all of this fits in with my doll, although I would like to find out a bit more about the W P W company. If anyone out there knows anything, I would really like to hear from you.

I bought a little toddler doll with Made in England stamped on her back at a doll fair a couple of weeks ago, so I thought it was about time to delve into the British doll making scene and buy a reference book on the topic. I think Susan Brewer's book is wonderful for reading about the history of individual manufacturers, but it does not have the number of pictures that some of my reference books on American vintage dolls have. It is still a worthwhile addition to my collection though.

My sewing has slowed down with Christmas around the corner, but I am just sewing up the hems on my bargain Coles supermarket wide leg trousers. I was going to take some of the width out (as well as the 5 inches I had to take off the hems), but thought what the heck, I will wear something a bit different and leave them wide.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Simplicity 2596 Green Satin Watercolour Top, All Done

I used Simplicity 2596 view C, but without the waist elastic. The gathers look off centre in this photo, but it is not like that in real life. I should have arranged it better on my dress form for the photo.


And here is a bit of wardrobe planning going on in the next photo. The top goes with a deep brown skirt that I already have:

Now I am up to doing my pants next, and as I said yesterday, yikes! I just bought a pair today for $8.00 at Coles supermarket, and they are a pretty good cut across the hips, but the length and width of the legs make them look like they were made for a professional stilt walker. I hope I can do a bit better with my attempt. Watch this space.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Wardrobe Planning & a New Use for My Fabric/Pattern Stash

Here is my cat Ragamuffin who has thought up a clever use for my fabric and pattern stash. She is sitting on top of some pants patterns that I pulled out to look at and some recent fabric purchases; you can just make out the word sale on one of the bags. I was ironing up the sleeve hems on my green watercolour fabric top, and when I turned around to go over to the sewing machine, there she was. It will not be a permanent sleeping spot for her, I can assure you (and her) of that.

At my sewing club recently, one of the members said that she is sewing in just the colour mauve for the next 12 months. What a clever idea! Even if she sewed mauve clothes for six months and then did a matching colour for the next 6 months, she could not fail to have things that went with each other. She brought in a brightly coloured tshirt dress in predominantly mauve print with several complementary colours. She had also made a dress in a solid mauve colour. What a great idea, and something to ponder for my wardrobe sewing.

I have finished the watercolour fabric top, and might have pictures for you tomorrow. How satisfying it is to finish something that works out well. Next up is my attempt at pants making. Yikes! I would prefer to be making the Liberty fabric up, but I need some summer pants in natural cool fibres.

Monday, November 21, 2011

How Did You Learn to Sew Clothes?

When I went back to my sewing club recently, one of the club members asked me this question. It got me thinking about the whole issue of how the busy modern woman learns to sew these days. Lots of my work colleagues would like to learn as they have somehow missed out on learning when they were kids. Careers seem to have taken precedence over learning to sew these days. I am glad when I see school aged kids in Spotlight buying fabric and notions for a garment that they have to make for their sewing class at school. When I was at school, women's liberation had truly taken hold, and it was not an important subject. Nevertheless, I grew up in the country, and lots of country women sewed, and passed this skill down to their daughters.

I started sewing on a sewing machine when I was about 8 or 10 years old. I cannot remember my Mum teaching me how to sew, rather it was read the guide sheet, and work it out from there. Ah, the guide sheet! What have they done to the instructions that come with the modern patterns? The illustrations are so generic, not every step is illustrated, and the instructions ask you to jump back and forwards depending on what view you are making up. Below is a snippet from an instruction sheet going back to 1989 (yes, I am a hoarder!). Look how they illustrate each view, and even show you that you should iron down the flap on the pocket. These days, this kind of instruction is only available on the learn to sew patterns targeted towards the beginner. But what if the beginner doesn't want to sew that particular design? Then they are faced with the confusion of the modern day cryptic instructions. I have been sewing for a long time, and I scratch my head in confusion sometimes when reading these instructions. One positive is that these cryptic instructions and the lack of sewing instruction at home have created a lot of business opportunities for people wishing to teach others how to sew.

Pattern instructions circa 1989
These days, I have tried to go a step further with my garment making, and have purchased some how to books over the last couple of years. I am trying to improve my sewing techniques and the fit of my garments, and I realise that while I know a lot, there is still a lot more to learn. I like the challenge of learning more, and for me, sewing some tops in satin recently has proved a challenge.

Talking of satin, my green watercolour fabric top is nearly done. I am just mulling over the sleeve length, and will most likely finish it next weekend. I need a new top for a work function in a couple of weeks time, so it should do the job.

Oooh, I feel much better after getting on my soap box!

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Project : Simplicity 2596 Top

Look! I am actually making something for myself, not the dolls! This is Simplicity 2596, aka the Top for Lisa's Wedding. This time I am making it in a kind of satin fabric that has a divine watercolour pattern on it. I am a sucker for these watercolour fabrics because that is my medium when I go to paint a picture.

The lighting was not too good in these photos, but it gives you an idea. All I need to do is sew up the side seams, insert the neckline facing and do the hems. I think I will just hem the sleeves rather than do the elastic finish.

Here is the version that I made for Lisa's wedding without the hems done, and then on me finished. I don't like myself in photos much, so you have copped the back view.

The weather is really starting to warm up here, so rather than make a jacket next, I think I will make a few more summer tops using mostly my tried and true patterns.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Watercolour Flowers Chiffon Fabric

I have been looking at this fabric every time I went to Spotlight over the last 3 or so months, and finally gave in and bought some. It is polyester chiffon and is made in Australia. Here are some close ups of some of the flowers:

I am thinking of making this peasant style top without the centre front seam as I can easily get it over my head without this closure. I have made this top before in views B and A, but I will go with B I think so I can get the maximum effect from the fabric.

And here is view B made up in a light weight cotton:

I checked my copy of More Fabric Savvy by Sandra Betzina on tips for sewing chiffon, and I don't think it is going to be easy. I will just have to test it out on a scrap and hope it sews up okay with the right needle. I think I will start work on a black jacket that I want to make in cotton sateen first, so I will hopefully have pics of that to show you soon. I am planning on doing a toile to get the fit right. I am actually cleaning up my sewing room at the moment, which had got into a terrible mess with all of my paper work for the course I did at the start of the year. It had become a dumping ground for everything, and I was using my small sewing machine in the lounge room to do all my sewing.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dolls! Ella Cloth Doll With Felt Dress is Finished

Here are some photos of Ella, now that I have finished making her. Because of her dark good looks, she does not photograph very well, so I have lightened the photos slightly. This means that some of the intensity of the colours has been lost, but you should get the general idea.

Here is a detail of her dress:

I decided not to do the hat and put some beads in her hair instead. I might get her some shoes for her at the next doll show I go to. Lynne Hyland's design is lovely, and well worth making up if she still sells the pattern; I have had this one for some time.

On Saturday, after a nearly 2 year absence, I went back to my sewing club. I had a ball. There is so much skill within the group, and lots to learn from each other. People were making every thing from patch work to evening wear. I am really looking forward to the next meeting.

My next sewing project is something for myself as I think the dolls have had their turn for a while. I am thinking a summer top or a black jacket for work.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Dolls! Making Ella's Felt Dress

Here is Ella posing amongst the pansy flowers in her new dress. It is not finished though; I still have to attach the skirt and do the scallop edging along the hem.

Here is a close up of the button hole stitch. I think that is a really good way to finish the edges, even though they do not fray. I do not do any hand stitching, so this was interesting and kind of therapeutic to do. It is very different working with 100 per cent wool felt. It has such a woolly feel to it! No wonder the Italian Lenci dolls from the 1920's and 1930's who had clothing made from felt lasted so well; it is such thick durable fabric. I would imagine insects and moths were a problem though.

Ella's head got an attack of the wobbles after I sewed it on to the body, so I will need to insert a wooden craft stick to support the neck and keep her head upright. I don't like doing this in toys, even though she is only going to be displayed.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Dolls! Hair for Ella & Cloth Doll Sewing Techniques

Here is Ella with her new hair. It came from a huge ball of acrylic wool, which was made in Romania.

For this pattern, some of the pieces are cut with the seam allowances included. The rest are traced onto the fabric, and then sewn on the traced line. After the piece is sewn, you cut out along the seam allowance. I guess this second method makes it easier when sewing fiddly shapes.

Trace, sew then cut method
Not sure how I will do the felt outfit, perhaps I will start with the dress that was provided with the pattern.

Here are a couple more shots of the entries in the doll show that I went to two weekends ago.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dolls! Face for my Ella Cloth Doll

This is the face that I painted for my Ella cloth doll (see a photo of Lynn Hyland's original design for Ella here). I have not managed to achieve a little girl look, so I might just leave out the peter pan collar on her felt dress and the bloomers. Perhaps when I sew the head on the body and do the hair, she might look like a little girl. Mmmm...

Here she is trying out the felt colours that I might use for her dress.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dolls! All the Fun of the Doll Show

I went to a doll show with my Mum on the weekend, and came away this this little beauty. The doll is a more modern style, 5 1/2 inches tall with mohair hair and painted porcelain shoes and socks. The outfit (dress, underwear, coat and hat) is a copy of a what looks like a French style from the 1800's. I got the doll at one stall and the outfit at another. Historically she is probably not the right doll for this clothing style, but I think she wears the outfit with flair.

A beautiful face

Just look at the hat!

I took this photo of some of the Doll Artisan Group's entries that had received awards in their various categories in the competition:

There was a lot of talent at this show, and I am glad that I went. I also managed to get a wig, shoes and socks for my vintage 1950's Sweet Sue doll that needs a bit of work to make her look her best.

I have been grabbing ten minutes here and half an hour there over the last 3 weeks, so there is some progress on my Ella doll; I just have to sew the arms and legs on and then stuff the head and paint the face.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dolls! Fabrics for Doll Clothes in the 1950's

I received my photocopy of vintage McCall's pattern 1720 in the mail this week from Isn't it gorgeous! It was published in 1952 and is for the American Character Sweet Sue dolls. I was reading the fabric requirements on the back of the pattern envelope and was surprised that they suggest wool jersey for the view A or B blouse. Wool jersey! I have never come across that kind of fabric in the fabric chain stores that I haunt. I would imagine that in the 1950's it was easily available, otherwise they would not have suggested it for these doll clothes. Modern mass produced dolls clothes are certainly not going to be using wool jersey!

A big thankyou this week to princess char who signed up as a follower to my blog. It is always such a compliment when someone wants to become a follower. She does not seem to have a blog, otherwise I would have given you the link.

My RTW clothing alterations are creeping along so I only spent about 10 minutes on my Ella doll last weekend; she is not going to get completed in a hurry at this rate.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dolls! 1950's Sweet Sue Hard Plastic Walker Doll

I won this 1950's 21 inch hard plastic Sweet Sue doll at auction recently. It was one of those auctions where you get a card with your number to hold up. No-one wanted her because she is a bit of a mess, but I didn't pay much for her. I just adored her face, and the fact that she is a walker, and turns her head from side to side as she walks. Her hair is a very inappropriate replacement, and although someone has lovingly made the dress she is wearing, I think I can do something for her by making an outfit using an original pattern from the time period.

The eyes are replacements also.

The detail in her hands is stunning.

This pattern is a copy of an original pattern of clothes for Sweet Sue dolls, and I will be ordering a copy of this one from Playtimeone on Ebay.

And I could not resist the ballerina design on this one that I purchased from dds_love4dolls on Ebay. It is a copy of the original pattern.

According to my copy of Children's Costume : the Complete Historical Sourcebook by John Peacock, girls at around the 10 -12 year age group were wearing waisted dresses with full puffy skirts and petticoats that came to just below the knee for most of the 1950's, so I think the designs in these patterns are spot on. And as always, I love looking at the art work made for these pattern covers. It is just lovely.

I need to give her a clean up with mild soapy water on a cotton bud to see if I can remove any of the dirt, and use just water in painted areas such as her cheeks. I may not go near those areas at all because they are not too bad. I am going to a doll fair soon so I will see if I can pick up a better wig for her, or find someone who can replace her wig for a reasonable price. I do not want to spend too much money on her because she is not in very good condition, but it seems a shame not to at least make a replacement outfit for her.

So I have added another project to my long list of exciting projects. The hem alterations that I have been doing on the RTW items that I bought on sale recently have dragged to a halt this weekend as I was out and about and then came down with a cold virus. There is always next weekend...

Monday, August 1, 2011


There has been a lot going on at Lizzie's lately, but not much sewing of dolls or otherwise. I have almost finished pruning my roses, which had managed to produce this wind blown lot of buds and flowers mid winter.

I have been taking up the sleeve hems on 2 ready ready to wear jackets that I bought during the winter sales. And I managed to finish my train the trainer certificate, and pass!

There is always time for a little shopping though, and Tessuti kindly obliged by having a sale. I bought some linens, chocolate coloured boiled wool and some wool and cashmere suiting.

Spotlight has the most divine cotton that has a kind of satin finish. It was not on sale, but the quality was beautiful, so I bought some to make shirts. I also picked up some cotton Liberty voile fabric in the most divine patterns. This photo probably does not do it justice. The Liberty fabric is on the left.

Back in the 1990's (I think) I made this shirt out of liberty fabric. It is huge on me now, but I am thinking of doing a bit of a makeover on it such as taking out the shoulder pads (yes shoulder pads) and putting some casing at the mid-back for some elastic.

The print is not a subtle design at all:

Do you think these flowers are poppies or some kind of thistle?

And of course sale time fever would not be complete without the half price pattern sale. Now I have a whole lot more patterns to fuss over with fitting issues. Do I really want to do that?? I have heard that the Wild Ginger software produces really well fitting clothes, but I can't get an idea of all the designs available just by looking on their website. I think they have a design feature in the package, but I don't know if I would be any good at that. You can buy a module for just coats and jackets, so perhaps I will try that first. Once I finish my Ella doll, I will tackle another jacket using one of my paper patterns and see how I go with that. I will probably do one of my liberty tops first though, so I have that ready for when the weather starts to warm up.

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