Camo Doll’s Dress – A Sewing Adventure

Not only did The Mechanic and I have no idea what to get our niece when she turned 9 a few weeks ago, her parents weren’t really sure either. “She’s changing all the time!” they told us, but did say that she had been madly biking around her neighborhood, started rock climbing at a nearby indoor climbing wall, reads obsessively, doesn’t like anything princess anymore but still likes her American Girl Doll, and that her favorite color is Real Tree Camo.


I did hunt around for children’s camo bike accessories – I really want to encourage this in her. Ironically, we haven’t been able to interest her in biking for years. I didn’t find anything I loved, and time flew by, so then it was too late. We decided a Barnes & Noble gift card was a bit lame, so started with ordering a full-size Nalgene water bottle for her; her parents said she wanted one. Then, at 11pm, five busy nights before we were due to see her, I had a brainstorm – I would make her an American Girl Doll dress out of Real Tree camo! The Mechanic and I ran to JoAnn Fabrics the next night so I could buy the fabric, and I bought a doll dress pattern that ended up not working. Then I spent all my spare time trying to make up a doll dress pattern.

Teeny tiny pattern pieces!

Teeny tiny pattern pieces!

The McCalls pattern I had used to make a carrying bag for her doll earlier this year, McCalls 6854, also had some clothing pieces, so I used the top pattern, then just added a length for the skirt. Suffice it to say, my idea didn’t translate into reality as it seemed in my head that it would. My excuse is that I was trying to hurry and didn’t think things all the way through….

Using my Samantha doll as a model, I discovered that not only was the bodice too long, it didn’t seem to close properly in the back. So I took it apart and shortened the bodice significantly.

Doll Dress 8

I was very pleased with the centered design in the front, but had to cut out most of it to shorten it.

Doll Dress 1

The too-long bodice apparently was too snug over the doll’s hips and it didn’t close in the back. Even dolls have these problems!

Much better the second time around! I added rick rack on the hem, but opted against the tiny wooden buttons I thought might be cute down the front. Originally, I had stitched the Velcro on the facing so that the stitching wouldn’t show but it didn’t line up right, so as I was getting ready to wrap the dress on our way out the door to give it to her, I redid the Velcro. Not as pretty, but worked better.

The shortened bodice meant less tree branch, sadly

The shortened bodice meant less tree branch, sadly

Don't judge the insides too harshly - check out the fancy facing, though. I had to tack it down because it refused to cooperate

Don’t judge the insides too harshly – check out the fancy facing, though. I had to tack it down because it refused to cooperate

Velcro pulling in the back

Velcro pulling in the back

I love rick rack and think it works well here

I love rick rack and think it works well here

Although our niece carefully folded the dress up and put it away, the look on her face made me think she was really excited. Ever the polite child, she thanked us, but I don’t know what she really thought. I hope that one day I’ll happen to notice the doll wearing the dress – that will be the best thank you. And will indicate whether or not I should try sewing doll clothes again.

Although camo isn't Samantha's thing, the dress looks good on her!

Although camo isn’t Samantha’s thing, the dress looks good on her!

Buried by Books

I’ve neglected my blog this past weekend. I was in need of some reading therapy, so I’ve been buried in the Little House on the Prairie books. I blame it on my niece.

The Mechanic and I had our 8-year-old niece over to spend the night last Saturday. It was the first time we’d ever been fully in charge of her, and had her at our house, and overnight, and I was a bit nervous. I just wanted her to have a good time, so she’d want to hang out with us again. I think we were successful.

It was fun – we took her on the Silver Line out to Tyson’s Corner Center. A suburban girl, she doesn’t get to ride trains much, and seemed fascinated by all of it, thank goodness. Our goal was the American Girl Doll store, where she wanted her doll’s ears pierced. I took my American Girl Doll too! I have the original Samantha (she’s been re-released, and is now a bit less historical than before); she was given to me by friends years ago. She’s the 1904 New York Victorian girl, for those of you who don’t know, and I have a few of her historical outfits and accessories, as well as some homemade dresses. I don’t play with her, obviously, and since I don’t have space to display her in our current apartment, she’s been in a box for a while. So she was happy to get out and see the world. Naturally I bought her a new dress at the store.

After sushi at Wasabi, the restaurant in Tyson’s with a conveyor belt of endless sushi, the Disney store, Bath & Body Works, and some ice skating at the outdoor rink at the mall, we staggered home. When we eventually got her tucked into bed, she pulled out her copy of Little House in the Big Woods, which she’s been reading. Yay, one of my favorite series of books ever! Her version is full-color, so I pulled out my decades old set with black and white illustrations, and we compared the lovely Garth Williams images for a while, before I left her to read in bed.

Then I started rereading them. And haven’t stopped.

Okay, I cut out some fabric Sunday after our niece left, and took apart my wedding dress, so I now have a few projects ready to start, huzzah! But basically all I did Sunday and then Monday night was read. Reading is my way of dealing with stress – when I’m overloaded by life, I need to bury myself in a book. And I felt a bit overloaded by the time she left; both The Mechanic and I were. Not used to being around kids much, close to 24 hours of non-stop attention on a kid overwhelmed true-introvert The Mechanic and borderline-introvert me. So I need to reread some old favorite fiction. I skimmed through The Long Winter last night, which seemed appropriate as Winter Storm/Blizzard Juno was rolling in on the Northeast. I just couldn’t manage to rouse myself from my reading stupor to write a blog post. Do you ever get like that – so overwhelmed that you need to do nothing? Or rather, bury yourself in something to take your mind off things?

This was once a Liberty of London for Target duvet cover. Now it will be a spring blouse.

This was once a Liberty of London for Target duvet cover. Now it will be a spring blouse with an orange sherbert reflective sash.

My poor wedding dress!

My poor wedding dress!

A friend is going to repurpose this. She's an amazing seamstress with two daughters - I can't wait to see what she does with it!

A friend is going to repurpose this. She’s an amazing seamstress with two daughters – I can’t wait to see what she does with it!

Now, however, I feel like I’m a bit more relaxed and I’m thinking ahead to everything I want to do this weekend – I just need to finish one last book… Happy Golden Years