Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ribbon Dance

Admit it. You, like the rest of us, hoard ribbon. Golden Christmas ribbon with the wire edges, satin ribbon wound around a box of chocolates, or perhaps it's the designer tape wrapped around that special gift of perfume! Okay, so sometimes you do recycle it when offering someone else a gift. But if you're anything like me, somewhere, you have an entire drawer of it. Even if you don't, there is always the ribbon aisle in the local crafts store calling out to you. After all, there are lots of uses for thin, medium or extra wide....ribbon. And it's all so very pretty!!

Last November, I entered a photo of a doll to Doll Observers' monthly challenge. Inasmuch as the theme was based on the color gold, I decided to use Christmas wrapping ribbon to make my red carpet dress for my Barbie. Super simple, this dress consists of two lengths of 2.5 inch ribbon joined at the side seams and a third length of crushed wired ribbon attached to the neckline. Because the ribbon was sheer and my doll more prudish than singer Rihanna, I made a simple skirt out of an opaque gold ribbon. It too, consisted of two lengths of tape (front and back) pinched in over the curves of her butt and opening at the side. Before submitting my photo, I played with the hemline. Like a Victor&Rolf couture dress, you can add as much "movement" as you want, or simply create silhouettes otherwise impossible.

I made a second dress for another doll, this time noting down exactly how simple it is to concoct such a spectacular "couture creation."

Spectacular and spectacularly simple! This dress is handstitched using gold metallic thread.
 I begin by cutting two lengths of ribbon, the length of the doll. Figure in a little extra to turn down the edges for hems. I sew one of the side seams together until about the waist line. I then wrap this around the doll, taping it to her. Overlap the other side seam, pinning in place to the waist.
Pinch in darts under the bust. Then, working from side to side, overlap the side edges so that you end up with a nice sleek fit. Once it fits according to suit your tastes, hand stitch everything. Though you're stitching this on the outside, the gold thread blends in with the ribbon. Anna, the doll modeling this dress, has a pretty full bust line and the ribbon did not wrap completely around her. It's not a problem because the collar will camouflage this and can be used to compensate the gap. I had about 2 feet of ribbon left which I softly pleated then crushed. Pin to the neckline of the dress and tack in place. Be sure to play with the collar. The wire allows you to do almost anything you desire.
One of the most iconic dresses created by Gabrielle Chanel was her ribbon dress. Created in 1924, it consisted of embroidered ribbon which hung freely from a relaxed "garconne" silhouette. It has since been reinterpreted by Karl Lagerfeld in 1984 then again in the 1990's. Each time, Lagerfeld used clipped lengths of ribbon attached to an underdress. Lagerfeld's interpretation inspired my own modern version of this iconic dress, slightly fitted with black satin petals left to unravel. Moreover, it is quite easy to make.
 You begin by creating a basic sheath dress. For the sake of uniquely working with ribbon, I created my sheath dress using 2-inch wide black satin ribbon. That is wide enough for any 12-inch doll's basic pattern. But it will force you to make a dress with a center seam. So you might just want to use regular fabric for your foundation. Finish the edges, but leave the center back seam open.

For the petals, I used 5/8-inch (15.87mm) black satin ribbon cut into 1-1/4 inch strips.

 Pin the dress on the doll and pin the first layer of petals starting at the bottom. Place each petal next to each other from end to end. Remove the dress from the doll (but keep her close by). I've machine stitched this row down. Pin down the next row, staggering it so that the middle of the petal falls in between two petals beneath. Do this until you reach the waist, stopping to check from time to time, how it is looking on the doll. You can stop at any point, but I decided I wanted my petals to rise above her bust line. Once you go higher than the waist, it is wise to hand sew the rows so that you don't distort the fit of the dress.
Once you have added the last row, you will need to finish the top edge of the petals. Here, I've added a horizontal ribbon to cover the top row stitches. Then I've added a tiny bow to one side. To be quite honest, you might consider making a strapless dress which is less complicated. Of course the dress is completely open down the back. Carefully fold back the petals and either hand stitch from the hips down OR you can plan to sew hook and eyes at strategic points (neckline, waist and hips).
The wonderful thing is, the petals completely hide the back closure! Again, make this dress your own. You can do this using the shift pattern which will give you a more 60's look or simply add the petals to the hem. You can make a top using the bodice sloper and add petals so that it can be worn with a skirt. Or you can add petals to a pair of trousers!

One more thing.... you'll notice my petals are unraveling. They are suppose to. But if the fray bothers you, use a fray control product on your petals.

Now we get to real challenges. Proceed at your own risk!!! This project involves using tiny 1/8-in (3mm) ribbon which is basket woven.
1. Cut a length of ribbon long enough to wrap around the doll. It should also be long enough to also fit over her hips! This dress will wrap around her with only one seam. Decide where that should be. In my case, I've decided the opening should be on the side, under Olympia's arm.
2. Decide the length you want the dress to be and cut strips. Glue these strips to the top horizontal ribbon. This keeps them from moving while you work.
3. Cut enough horizontal strips needed to cover the torso. Weave each horizontal strip in and out of the vertical strip. Pin each row to the end vertical strip.
4. Place on the doll to check the fit. The last horizontal strip is likely to be unstable. I glued a strip over it on the back of the garment. It doesn't completely stop it but the strip doesn't move as much.
5. Take a length of 5/8-inch (15 mm) ribbon cut to the length of the back of the dress. Glue base, then stitch it to the side edge up to the top of the loose ribbons. This provides a base to put hook & eyes, snaps or Velcro.
6. Take another piece of 5/8 (15mm) ribbon, cut to the width of the top of the dress. Fold in half and glue baste in place to the top of the basket weave. Fold it over and stitch down. I put a small bow for back interest.

The end result was a bit too straight for my taste, so I carefully bent the ribbons under the bust a little to each side and hand stitched in place. This adds a bit of shape, and if you do this carefully, it is not noticeable.
Though less flamboyant than the others, this dress, made from Hermes gift tape, was the most challenging. Inspired by the Herve Leger bandage dresses, I wanted to make a real dress that looks as though the doll has simply been wrapped in ribbon. It involves cutting a series of strips that fit over the body and sewing them in place. Easier said than done, especially since these strips are not stretch!
As if this wasn't difficult enough, I decided to add a little front interest by crisscrossing the strips over the bust. Should you be crazy enough to try this out, be sure to tape the top strips to the doll's body and to pin the cross point at the back. Again, you much decide where the closing will be. And once again, I've decided it should be on the side.

Cut the length needed to wrap around the body plus a little extra at the opening.
I wanted a bit of a fit between the doll's busts, so I pinched the tape in the front and tacked it in place. Later I added a tiny rose at that point.

From there, it is a question of adding a row of tape which I pin to the row above. As you work, you will need to stop and adjust the tapes for fit. I worked with the dress on the doll. From time to time, stop and check the fit. Adjust the pins until you have arrived at the desired length.

I measured out two vertical strips of tape which are pinned then stitched to either edge. This hides the horizontal rows and provides a finished surface for hook & eyes or snaps.

You can really stop there, but I felt the end result was a bit too simple, so I made a tiny rose which I added to the middle of the bust. Then I took more tape and folded it into loose loops and pinned on the side of the dress near the closure.

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  1. Thank you. Just trying to keep things fresh!!!

  2. WosApril.....I can't believe it....they are wonderful!
    The flapper dress is AMAZING...

  3. You are so talented. I am going to have to live on this blog so my dolls can be in style. Thank you!

  4. Welcome to my blog, Janainah. I'm sure your dolls will be delighted you found us! My dolls are sooooo spoiled!!!!

  5. Love them! I still can't believe after all this time I didn't know about your blog, but I have to say the timing is perfect for me now. You have visited my blog before, and I have to say, if you visit again as I'm going through my "fashion design" phase, please don't cringe. I'm sort of making it up as I go along. Of course now having your wonderful blog at my disposal will definitely help.

  6. Hi Vanessa, Welcome. So happy you like my blog. Nothing to worry about. My blog is about helping others whether it means showing how to achieve the look with simplified pattern making or simply providing ideas to help get you started because I know that getting started is especially the most difficult part. This is a passion we all share, so I'd never cringe at anyone's results. Glad to have you here. Come back as often as you'd like.


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