Thursday, February 6, 2014

Dolly Donna K

With the start of New York Fashion Week, I thought I'd pay tribute to one of my favorite American designers....Donna Karan. I was a huge fan of hers back in the day when she was the co-designer of Anne Klein. Then in 1985, she launched her own label with her "Essentials" line, which featured largely knitwear. This woman who was proclaimed the "Queen of Seventh Avenue" by her customers, bragged how she could pack for an entire two week work trip with half a bag of her fashion basics. It was a heralded collection of knitwear that could be mixed and matched and always come up appropriate for any event, day or night. What set it apart from all other "basics" lines were the touches of drama in the form of cascading collars, draped sarongs, and bold, modern accessories.

My inspiration, in fact, began with the picture of the dress to the left which says it all. It is a black knit dress with a panel sewn into one side and draped over to the other side and caught in a loop. It is just as easy to wear as it is stylish.

Of course, we will need to first, create a sloper for stretch knit/jersey garments. The secret to succeeding with this and the other garments in this post lies in the quality of jersey you purchase. The better quality, the finer the jersey, the better the result. If you can find it, consider a rayon/viscose 2-way stretch jersey. It is very fine and silky yet has enough body to drape the way you really want it to. One more thing--if you use a sewing machine, you will need special needles for sewing knits. I did not have one; my machine refused to cooperate, so I had to hand sew these garments using the backstitch.

We will drape the basic "sloper" using an old man's Tshirt.

Begin by stretching a square over the front of the doll from side to side. Tape it to her back. Now, take another small rectangle and stretch it from the center of her back to the side. Mark the center front, the center back, where the sides meet, the armholes and the neckline.

Once you have completely marked your "toile", carefully remove it from the doll, take it apart. Smooth out your lines, then transfer the markings to a sheet of graph paper to create the final sloper.
When you make the front sloper, you will only be transferring 1/2 the pattern (CF to the side). Then fold the paper along the CF line and trace the other side. This is for symmetry. Your pattern should look pretty close to the one pictured below. Now add seam allowance and you're ready to make the dress. I wanted sleeves, so I used the sleeves from my basic slopers which are slightly tapered.
I've lengthened the sloper to the desired dress length. I cut a rectangle roughly 2-1/2 times the width of the dress front. It is attached to the area just under the waist. Basted in place on just one side. Assemble the dress as usual. (Sew the shoulder seams first. Add in the sleeves. Stitch along the under arms and dress sides. The panel is sandwiched to one side in between the two pattern pieces. Press the seams then turn the dress right side out.
Make a loop from a scrap and wrap around the panel. Place the loop on the dress and tack in place. Adjust the drapes as desired.
The next image I found was of this jacket with the cascading collar. This is an all-time favorite silhouette of mine and very simple to do. It is a modification of our basic straight jacket.
For my first interpretation, I decided I wanted kimono sleeves instead of the straight one. Click here for to see how that's done.

For the front pattern I measured the width (A-B) then drew a horizontal line at mid jacket length. I drew a diagonal line from the neckline tip to this tip and another diagonal line from that point to the hem.

My doll is also wearing knit skinny pants and a halter neck top. Again, I cut up an old t-shirt and used it to drape one leg of the pants, stretching it across her hips and legs. Pin the inseam and mark the center seams as well as the inseam.
Remove from the doll and create your pattern. Smooth out the lines. When you transfer to the graph paper, straighten out the lines of the legs. Then add your seam allowance. With 2-way jersey, you will not need snaps or Velcro. The doll should be able to slip in and out of the pants. I simply turned down the waist and hand stitched.
I also made Veronique a quick and easy halter top using a small rectangle of knit and a black twist tie. I wrapped the knit around the doll after pinning the midpoint to the knit. I then turn down the edge, stitching the knit to the twist tie. I also turn down the edges and stitch in place, trimming away the excess. The back is held in place with a single snap.
With those two outfits under my belt, I was then inspired to do my own "dolly Donna."

The tunic is a sarong made with a rectangle of fabric and held in place at her neck with a single snap.
Take a rectangle of jersey and wrap around the back. Bring the two ends to the front. Wrap one side around the doll and behind her neck. Cross the other side, wrapping the opposite tip around the doll's neck. I added a single snap to hold in place.
The belt is made with a flat rubber ring (you can find in the hardware store) which is cut vertically. I also made a horizontal slash. One edge fits through the slash.
Her jacket is also inspired by the image in the previous pattern. In this case, the base is the straight jacket (from the basic bodice minus the darts) and a set-in sleeve. For the front, the hemline is extended by horizontally 2-1/2 times the width of the jacket. I drew a horizontal line from the top shoulder/neckline tip to the hem.

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  1. I love how knits behave on dolls. In fact, I love them so much that I keep hoarding pieces and can't bring myself to use them. All of these are great, I may try too!

    1. I am very happy with the way these came out. So I will be doing more with this knit sloper in the very near future!

  2. How do i make a knit dress thats a bit looser or wider at bottom instead of fitted?

  3. P.s. For reference of what kind of dress style Im talking about, Google New Look #6823 pattern. There are a few different styles of dresses. They are looser towards bottom instead of fitted. I was wondering how to create this for a doll. Thanks.

  4. Hi again, ok i found some info online on how to make this style, so i will use it for making for a doll. :)

    1. Sorry, but by the time I saw your question the next morning, you had already found another solution. But for anyone else reading this, changing the silhouette (of this stretch knit sloper) from body fitted to slightly flared, is as simple as flaring out the lines of the sides from the hips to the hem. However, if you want to introduce more volume throughout the dress, make a copy of the original sloper, divide into four part by drawing lines from the neckline down. Cut upwards from the hem up along those lines up to but not including the top. Spread. Tape down, put a new sheet of tracing paper over it and draw your new pattern. This more complicated process, distributes the volume throughout the dress. I have not yet posted a tutorial showing this because most styles today favor a slim fit.


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