Saturday, March 29, 2014

Pattern No. 4240 - Katy Curls' Russian Smock Dress and Play Apron

Katy's Russian Smock Dress and Play Apron
Easter is just around the corner.  We hop from one holiday to the next, and this keeps me busy with so many little girls wishing new outfits.  Katy was more than ready to hang up her George Washington's Birthday Party costume and get ready for spring.  And, what bounces spring into our lives better than cute little bunnies?

Our Little Girl
Katy Curls' Russian Smock Dress and Play Pinafore, Pattern No. 4240, has been in the works since Katy came to live with me.  Even before I acquire a new doll, while she is being made by the artist, I am searching for and compiling all the fabrics required for her costume set.  When I saw this adorable play apron, I knew it would be a challenge finding anthropomorphic bunny fabric to fill the bill.  But, it was essential I find something complimentary to Frances Tipton Hunter's illustrations, or the apron just wouldn't be quite the same - have the same charm!  So I began searching the Internet for bunny fabric.  Unbelievable as it may seem, some manufacturer felt the same way I did about the bunnies and produced a fabric for a child's room, that I'm guessing would have been made into curtains.

Tipton Hunter's Illustration and Pattern Description
I could hardly believe my eyes!  The illustrations, while not of the same color scheme as Frances made them, were on a deep, dark, cobalt blue background and the bunnies were huge.  I also had to purchase five yards of this fabric, and when it arrived, it reeked of cigarette smoke!  I couldn't wash it since I risked fading, and I needed the colors as vibrant as I could get them.  So I set to the task of cutting out the images I needed, and donated the rest of the fabric to The Goodwill.

Seam Binded Pockets and Apron
My first attempt at making the wee iron-ons was a  long process.  I had to reduce them in size on my copy machine, then run printer fabric sheets through the copier.  Once this was done, I began the tedious process of cutting out all the little bunnies.  Time and tide took hold of me, and it was autumn.  So I tucked all this away and made her Thanksgiving apron with all the autumn leaf iron-ons I'd made.

Bunnies Galore
Jump ahead several months and many costumes later, I picked up the project once again.  I proceeded to cut out the rest of the bunnies and when I went to test a piece on the light yellow fabric I chose, I realized that the bunnies I'd painstakingly cut out did not have iron-on film on their backs!  I just about died.  I couldn't glue them on.  I couldn't sew them on.  And, I couldn't create iron-ons from them since they were so tiny and had so many edges.  So I began all over again.  And, why not?  What else have I got to do, right?  I either remade them, or give up on the project.

Bunnies All Over!
So I began a search for the best quality inkject fabric sheets I could find.  I came up with EQ Printables, Premium Cotton Lawn Inkjet Fabric Sheets, and ran these through the printer with the reduced in size artwork.  I then ironed these sheets to the Heat n Bond paper, THEN cut out the bunnies again.  All set to go. 

One of the challenges in laying out the design was that Frances attempted to make her apron look like real fabric with repeating patterns.  This wasn't going to work since the images were slightly different and not quite the right scale.  Also, the dancing tambourine bunny, who was my favorite, was positioned behind a bunny playing a yellow piano!  What I did to compensate for this was cut out a piece of the walking bunny's violet skirt and add it to dancing bunny's in the iron-on stage.

Original Fabric Scrap and Mini Prints
Now before I proceeded to iron the bunny images on, I had to make bias tape seam binding.  After one failed attempt with using a red sateen, only because I had it on hand, I scrapped that apron, cut another out, and purchased a red batiste I found at our local quilting and sewing center.  The bias seam binding I made is 3/16" wide when doubled over.  I've come to the conclusion that when ironing such tiny strips cut on the bias, the creases don't last long.  So this hand sewing, attaching of the binding, was a challenge in itself, especially around the arm hole curves and the straps.  Done, I ironed on the tiny appliques.  To give the overall look a more "fabric" look, I cut out pieces of bunnies and edged the apron with them.  I also added bunny heads with ears poking out to the undersides of the pockets as on Frances' illustration.  (click on photos to see close ups - its cute!)

The First Attempt Without Heat and Bond Backing
Next was making her Smock Dress.  I'd hoped to use a wool, a felted wool where I could simply use a blanket stitch on the edges.  Simply is the key word...or simple?  Nothing is simple!  After three failed attempts using two different kinds of wool, I realized the collar (there we go again with collar troubles!) would never lay down flat.  It was just too thick.  So I found a scrap of this nice linen and began again. 

Great Stuff!  Try It!
The dress is lined to give a smooth finish to the attached collar, which was made twice.  I'm just not experienced enough to remember that in order to make a collar lay flat, you have to cut it a certain way reducing the width over the shoulders.  I do this by making one pattern, then folding a "dart" at the center edge, pinning that, then re-cutting the pattern.  The neckline edge remains the same, but the "cropped" outter area is "fitted".  Lastly, I took some dark blue embroidery thread and used an uneven blanket stitch around the collar edges and the sleeve edges.  Frances may have illustrated this in black, but its hard to tell, and blue looked nice on the avocado green linen.

New Shoes and Socks
I guess I was never really happy with the shoes that were made for her.  While nicely executed, the straps were too short around her ankles and the leather was too thin.  So I remade her a pair out of fine black lambskin.  There's an ebay seller called Fashion Leathers that always has fine Italian leather in 1/2 square yards and full square yards.  These pieces are skins and not exact squares, but you get enough to make several pairs of small shoes or purses from them.  My leather stash is growing.  I felt these were very successful shoes, and I added little stacked heels to them.  I'm getting better and better at shoes and this is encouraging.  The fear of shoe making was likened to cutting out patterns on very expensive fabric.  Blow it and you've lost money in the materials!  Quality leather is not cheap.

Katy even got a new pair of blue and white striped socks!

I'm really pleased with the way Pattern No. 4240 came out.  I needed this boost after the trials I experienced with the Celtic Princess costume.  Encouraged, I'm now working on the first of two Easter postcard outfits for Daisy.  I also have a new wood and paper image doll house kit on the way from Jean Nordquist, and am chompin' at the bit to get started on it.  Jean has a new furniture set of 50 pieces reproduced from McLoughlin antiques - and in three sizes!  So I'll be making Katy her own little doll house (as well) to play with.  This one is a 1/4 scale folding house, and the tiniest furniture will be clipped out and assembled for this.  These kits give me a break and a chance to brush up on my miniature work skills.  I'm so glad her husband, Ken, loves to work with wood since I've rather hung up that side of my craft.  At least for the time being!

Miss E. Mouse

Katy Curls' Russian Smock Dress and Play Apron

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