Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Sweater Girl

Like it or not, it's sweater weather! Sweaters are essential staples for anyone living in a temperate zone. For my dolls (and myself), black sweaters are a necessity in every fashionista wardrobe. Though, I have yet to learn how to knit, my dolls will not go cold  thanks to "cut and sew knitwear." This is a real fashion term to describe garments (sweaters, tops, dresses, jackets, etc) cut from knit fabric using patterns.

When draping a garment, you should use a fabric that mimics the properties of the finished product. So, for sweaters or knit garments, cotton knit is perfect for draping the pattern. (Worn out T-shirts are a perfect source.) The patterns for the cut & sew sweaters are fairly simple, so putting it together will take you no time at all. However, as with the Ken doll garments, the devil lies in the details. In this particular case, it means finding a proper way to finish the edges. With clothes for humans, the edges are turned and topstitched, or have the addition of a knitted trim and cuffs. Thus far I have not been able to locate knitted trim small enough for the 11.5-inch doll, so my finishings are limited: 1) leaving the edges raw and machine stitching to prevent unraveling, 2) turning the edges and gluing, hand-stitching, or topstitching them down, 3) stitching tulle, stretchable lace or a similar product to the edge of the garment, turning under and stitching down.

Next you will have to decide whether or not you want a back seam with closure. For things like T-shirts and sweaters, Mattel generally favors keeping the back seam complete open then using a long strip of Velcro as a closure. More expensive brands may use zippers. I made both types. For the sweater that slips over the head of the doll, she will need to have either articulated arms and hands or arms that are straight down on the sides. Ideally, I would have used a zipper in the back for my sweaters which would allow for the most narrow turtleneck collar. In any case, be particularly careful when putting sweaters on your dolls. Their tiny little fingers tend to poke through and get stuck in knit!

Today I'm using wool knit sold by the yard. However, you can also head to the vintage shops for cheap finds like socks, sweaters and caps. Though I'm focusing on the sweater, you can also elongate your pattern to create a sweater dress.
I'm draping 1/2 a garment. I begin by taping a rectangle of cotton knit to the front and to the back of the doll. Be sure to mark your grain line. Pin the front to the back, tracing the silhouette of the doll's form. Mark both sides of the pins. Lay flat and smooth out the lines. Then create your pattern, tracing the right to the left side and adding your seam allowance. For this pattern, I've used my standard set-in sleeve sloper. This gives the sweater square shoulders and thus a "dressier" look.

For more of a "traditional" sweater look, we use a sweater with a raglan sleeve.

Begin with your standard bodice. In this case, I wanted something looser than the first featured look. Feel free to cut in the type of neckline you want: jewel, V-neck, square, etc. After marking the edges and pinning the cotton knit in place, I use a single rectangle draped onto the front and back of the sweater as well as along the length of the arm.
 Again, use the pins to "draw" the sleeve and its placement. It should extend from the shoulder of the garment, cut into the front and back bodice on a slant, then trace from the bottom of the natural armhole to the wrist. Once the pins are in place, mark both sides.

Fold under the seams as they fall on the body of the sweater, front and back, then mark the sleeve's placement onto the body of the sweater.
Remove from the doll and trace onto graph paper. Check to make sure the length on the sides, front to back are of equal length. and that underarm hole points are on the same horizontal plane.
Stitch each sleeve. Stitch the side seams of the bodice. Attach the sleeves. Finish the edges with stretch lace.
To sew: stitch each sleeve under the arms. Stitch the body of the sweater at the side seams. Now pin the sleeve to the bodice, matching them up in the front as well as the underarm seams. Baste. Sew. If you are unhappy with a simple turn under and stitch or glue, you can add stretchable lace to the inside finishing edge.

The men's cut&sew sweater is draped the same way as that of Barbie's. Here, we've added a turtleneck sweater.

The men's version is created in exactly the same way for Ken. Though I've used a standard wool knit for the girls' sweaters, I want you to see how far you can take this project. So I cut up a knitted cap  (1) and laid out my pattern, respecting the verticals of the knit pattern (2). After cutting out the pattern, I hand stitched this sweater due to the very stretchy nature of the knit. After attaching the sleeves, make a collar. Measure the circumference of the neckline and cut a rectangle of the same width by 2-inches. Attach this on the inside of the neckline. You will fold it over to the front. I used a product called "Sew Easy," which is essentially a thin diagonally-cut tulle edging.

You know that unless your doll is wearing a very bulky over garment, (or a sweater cut from a super thin knit) she will not be able to wear another garment on top of her sweater. For those moments when you just want the look but without the bulk, I use a "collar."
 This is a tube which simply slips over the doll's head to give the illusion of her wearing a turtleneck sweater.
Same sweater, two looks: Crew neck to turtle neck with the simple addition of a tube.

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  1. OMG! I'm now going to go sweater making crazy for all of my male and female dolls. Thanks for this.

  2. I have a question about sewing sleeves on knits. Since its stretchy, the sleeve cap doesn't need ease stitching to fit into armhole or does it? Thank you.

    1. On the contrary. Unless you are setting sleeves into a sweater, sweater dress or a look with a soft shoulder, the sleeve cap should still be eased into the armhole of a knit garment. Otherwise you risk stretching the armhole out of shape! If we were talking about full scale knits you would need to baste a bit of tape around the sleeve cap. But if your knit isn't overly stretchy, you can carefully make a stitch around the sleeve cap to help hold it in place before easing the sleeve into the armhole. It really depends on whether you want a sharp, neat shoulder line or something softer. But still, be careful not to stretch this area out of shape!


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