• Karole from Kimberling

I Just Wanted to Make a Gown Like Anna's in The King & I -- and on March 25th I had gotten as far as figuring out how to make the hoop petticoat. It has taken me 3 1/2 months to get the dress done. Why? Challenges, Challenges, and Obsessing. The Fabric

I knew the fabric had to be satin, and thought it was a beige pink, so when I found this gorgeous beige crinkle crepe satin, I bought it. Yes it was crinkle, and Anna's gown was smooth satin, but what were the chances I would find an exact match anyway.

First I needed to figure out how to get the petticoat shape needed for the gown -- my last post (late March) is all about that. Mission accomplished -- I had the hoop petticoat.

I had found the pattern, Pemberley Threads' Victoria. An 1830s Evening Gown, but hadn't used it yet. What if I made a mistake? Satin doesn't lend itself well to mistakes.

For several weeks (yes, weeks), I procrastinated because I couldn't figure out how the sleeves fit into the bodice -- was the upper sleeve part of the neckline or not. I have limited ability to interpret drawings and physical construction, no matter how good the illustrations and instructions, and obsessed over this until my rational, impatient self said, "For crying out loud, contact the designer!" and with Elizabeth's help finally figured out what to do.

Now it was time to make the dress, so, I cut out the dress of crepe satin, and the lining out of a shimmery taupe beige synthetic.

But, what if I make a mistake; I could still ruin the satin, I reasoned. Solution: Make a test dress


Now most people, people with even a modicum of sense, would have chosen cotton, a very forgiving fabric, for this Beta-test. But when looking for a fabric in my stash, I looked for a fabric that was beige, so it would look close to the color of Anna's dress. I found a gorgeous almost iridescent beige fabric that would look great as an evening gown, and cut out the dress and bodice lining with it. Did I have a concern that this fabric was a medium to heavy weight stretch iridescent fabric, that is was a lot heavier than satin, a lot stronger than satin, and had much more give? Not until I tried to gather it for the skirt , and ended up pleating it so it would fit inside the bodice. I had already determined that I could not line the skirt because extra fabric at the waist would be a problem, so I had to think of a way to make the hem attractive. (The pattern does not call for a skirt lining, but Anna's dress has a plain skirt and stitches from a sewn hem would change the look of the skirt, so I would have to line the satin.)

There were several more decisions that had to me made because of my choice of the weight of my test fabric. What lace would I use -- it couldn't be too dainty, because, well, the fabric wasn't dainty. If I used a heavier lace, should it be sewn below the sleeve band or above. Should the heavier lace stand up at the neckline? Now, I'll remind you, as I did myself, that Anna's dress doesn't have any lace on it, so I was introducing issues I wouldn't have with her dress.

Test Result

As you can see, I had to put a horizontal pleat at the hem of the dress to cover the trim and add some balance to the black trim at the neckline. You can't see the trim on the sleeve band, because I sewed it at the top of the band and it faces up toward the sleeve.

Of course, this dress needed gloves, a choker, and a hair ornament, so I HAD to make those. The gloves are a sparkly sheer black stretch fabric, the choker is made of a satin beaded trim that fastens with ultra thin Velcro. The hair ornament is made of a narrow bow of the sparkly stretch fabric with an alligator clip sewn underneath. On top of the bow is a black feather with a sparkly small flower on top. At the center of the flower is a plastic heart-shaped "rhinestone".

The shoes are purchased, but were in my stash, as was everything else, so I didn't have to go out and buy anything. I do draw the line at some things, and purchasing materials for a prototype test is one of them.

When I posted the prototype dress on one of my Facebook doll sites, one of the members said,"This is the test? I can't wait to see the target dress."

I responded, "That is a problem -- what if the dress isn't as nice as the test!"

(Because I knew that the fabric I used for the test was a lot stronger than the satin and the stretch provided much more "give".)

At this point you have an inkling as to why it takes me so long to finish anything -- I constantly give way to distractions!

Note: the pattern was easy to follow, once I got past worrying about the odd shape of the full sleeves. In my prototype, I was also testing a modification I had made to the pattern; instead of a sewn-in band at the bodice waist, I lengthened the bodice pieces so I could eliminate the band. As I mentioned earlier, I had also planned to fully line the skirt so the hem seam would be at the very bottom of the skirt and would not show.

To bring you back to the initial thread of my discussion -- I am still explaining my fabric challenges for Anna's dress.

So, while making the prototype, I got a call from a friend of mine who runs a thrift store. I LOVE thrift stores, but with COVID19 looming towards Southern Missouri, had not been shopping. My friend told me they had gotten framed "pictures" of actual LP records -- all from musicals, and The King & I was among them. She assured me that almost no-one was in the store, so I put on a mask, drove to the store, and bought the album.

And what is the first thing I noticed? Anna's dress is not a pinkish beige. It is a lavender-pink!

Now what? I had already cut out the crinkle beige satin! I knew, I was never going to match the color of the dress exactly, but that lavender-pink is not beige. So, I went to Etsy, and bought a yard of the closest color satin I could find -- it was really a pink-lavender, not a lavender-pink, but it was closer than beige, And, horror of horrors, I had to pay full price PLUS shipping! At this point I had so much time invested, I convinced myself to grimace and bear it.

But that cut out dress of beige crinkle-satin was taunting me, and I wasn't going to waste the money I had spent on it too,

So, as soon as I finished the proto-type dress, I went to one of my GO-TO patterns, Farmcookies' Bodice Basics, found lace in my stash to use as an overlay, re-cut those pattern pieces, and made this dress.

I had the brown velvet ribbon and brown ribbon flowers I used for the sash, as well as two of the three flowers, and light beige hat in my stash. The third flower on the hat was made from the lace scraps.

The crinkle satin was heavier than regular satin, so the dress needed a petticoat underneath, so I made one from muslin and stiff, wide lace -- also from my stash.

By the time I finished the lace dress, the satin had arrived. It was more lavender than pink, but would do. NOW, you think, I will make Anna's dress. Well, it was a week and a half before the 4th of July, and I had fabric earmarked for a colonial dress & bonnet , so I made them, and added a petticoat. I had less than half a yard left of the red, white and blue, so used Farmcookies' Bodice Basics to cut out two more modern day dresses (also using two other fabrics in my stash). I made one of those dresses, as well as a white felt hat, and put the other in my "To Be Sewn" bins.

NOW it was time to sew Anna's dress!

I had a lightweight, pale lavender, poly fabric for the lining. Since satin cannot take much stress, I decided to use the lining fabric as an underlining sewn to the satin bodice pieces, as well as for the bodice and skirt lining.

The underlined bodice went together pretty easily. The front bodice pieces for the Victoria Dress are cut on the bias, because some stretching is needed to sew them together. I was careful to pin (I didn't want to pin, but had to) the pieces in the 1/4" seam allowance, to keep pin holes from ruining the satin. I also had to check all pins for barbs because satin snags easily.

When I went to sew the bodice lining to the bodice, the dress bodice front was over 1/4 inch shy from the lining at each of the armscyes, so I re-cut the bodice and underling and made another dress bodice. The second time I attempted to sew the bodice lining to the dress bodice, one side of the lining was off-kilter, so I re-cut the bodice lining, (I am always very careful about cutting, but both the lining and satin were very slippery, and even though the lining was cut separately from the satin, I still ran into these problems.)

  • Since it was expected that making this dress with satin, was going provide challenges, I had prepared my impatient self to "walk away" when encountering them, and to address each of them on the following morning when I would be in a more expansive mood. So, most of the elapsed time spent while making this dress was "walk away" time.

It doesn't really seem possible that such a simple frock should cause so much angst, does it?

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  • Karole from Kimberling

Updated: Mar 26

What Type of Petticoat Is Needed for This Dress?

Usually, I make a doll dress, look at it on the doll, and decide whether it needs a petticoat. But for this dress, the petticoat is a critical component. What Dress? The one Anna wore in "The King and I."

Three months ago, I decided that making Anna's dress would be my next project, and have been dithering and procrastinating ever since.

My analytical self said, "Just begin -- "DO SOMETHING! -- Write down the tasks that need to be accomplished, prioritize them, and start on the first one."

I don't listen to myself very well, so it took a while, but I finally made a list.

The first task on the list was to list all components needed for this costume -- which are: the ball gown, the petticoat, the gloves, the fancy hair net, and the shoes (Since one cannot see the shoes, they can be purchased.) Task 1 complete.

The second task was to gather materials needed to make each component.

  • For the gown, I needed a pattern -- one I could modify to achieve the "look" of Anna's -- and, I needed fabric. I found a pattern that I thought would need only minor adjustments, and settled on a satin that, although not exactly the same texture and color as Anna's, was probably as close as I was going to get. [I will blog about the gown when it is finished.]

  • The accessories - gloves and hair net. I had fabrics for both, and a pattern for the gloves.

  • The Petticoat

I had a light cotton blend and a wide, heavily embroidered cotton trim that I could use for the petticoat.

I also had fabric-covered plastic boning, and cotton cording that I thought might work to shape the petticoat. I had never used either.

The third task was to determine the order in which the costume components should be made.

  • The accessories aren't needed until the gown is finished. They can be made last.

  • The skirt of the gown cannot be cut out until its length is established. The length of the gown depends on the width, shape and fullness of the petticoat underneath, so the petticoat must be made first.

Designing the Petticoat Looking at Anna's dress, two things are obvious:

1. The waist of the petticoat cannot be bulky; if it is, it will ruin the lines of the fitted bodice.

2. The shape and structure of the petticoat is critical to the shape and movement of the gown's skirt .

Petticoat Prototype

What you see on the right are two petticoats made with the same fabrics.

  • The top section of the petticoats are made with a lightweight lawn type of fabric. A wide bias strip made of the same lightweight fabric was used to make the waistbands. Quarter inch satin ribbons are threaded through the waistbands and tie at the back.

  • The bottom sections of the two petticoats are made of the same heavily embroidered cotton trim. The differences between the two are:

- The petticoat on the right has fabric covered boning sewn around the inside of the skirt approximately two inches from the bottom.

- The petticoat on the left has two rows of

bias tape sewn around the inside; one row about 2 inches from the bottom; the other row about 5 inches from the bottom. Cotton cording was pulled through each row of bias tape.

As you can see, the cording does almost as good a job at holding the shape of the petticoat as does the boning. The channel to hold the cording needed to fit closely around the cording. A little room was needed so that the cording could be pulled through the bias channel, but the snugger the fit, the firmer the cording, and its ability to hold the shape of the petticoat.

The petticoat on the right, with only one row of boning, falls more gracefully than the one on the left, and will look better under Anna's gown. The petticoat on the left with two rows of cording bells out at the hip, and would go well under a Tudor style gown.

Technical Notes

  • The top edge of the upper section of the petticoats is gathered at the waistband. To reduce bulk, the upper edge of these sections are not as wide as the bottom edge. (The bottom of the top sections have to be as wide as the bottom sections; in this case 36 inches.)

- The length of the top sections were measured to be the length from waist to right below the doll's hip plus 1/2 inch (for waist and bottom section seams.)

  • The bottom sections of the petticoats (made of heavily embroidered cotton trim) are 36 inches wide.

- The length of the bottom section of the petticoats was determined by measuring from the doll's waist to the top of foot; subtracting the length of the top section (without seam allowances); and adding 1/4 inch for the seam at the hip. (The embroidered fabric has a finished edge, so no allowance for a hem was needed.)

  • I used a bias tape maker to make the bias tape for the cording channels. Bias tape makers come in several widths -- I have a set with 4 different widths. These come in very handy when you need to use bias tape and want to match the fabric you are using for a garment. You simply cut bias strips out of the fabric you want (the bias tape maker packaging will indicate the width of the bias strip you need (or you can experiment); pull the strip through the tape maker; and press it with an iron as you pull it through. - Bias strips are strips of fabric cut diagonally across the fabric -- at a 45 degree angle from the selvage.

  • Wide bias strips of the lightweight fabric were cut to make the petticoat waistbands. These strips needed to be wider than the bias tape makers I had, so I cut the strips, and pressed one long edge under 1/4 inch before sewing the raw edge to the gathered top section of the petticoat.

  • To make the waistband of the petticoat adjustable, I chose 1/4" satin ribbon to pull through the waistband. Elastic would have added too much bulk.

Petticoat -- Done! (and it only took 3 months)

Gown, Gloves, and Hairnet To Go!

  • Karole from Kimberling


Lesson Learned: Making things Simple, Isn't Simple

I was certain after finishing my first "Simple Lines" dress and jacket pattern, that things would go a lot faster the next time -- especially if I chose something like a basic hat - a hat with only a few pattern pieces; one that would sew up quickly, and could be made with fabric remnants and scraps.

Two weeks and five prototypes later, a two piece hat pattern emerged -- a pattern with a soft teardrop shaped crown and a hat band of graduated width. Pictured below is the first hat I made with the pattern; the point of the teardrop crown is in back, the highest width of the band is also in back -- giving the hat a downward slope towards the face. The crown and band are made of thin white felt. The crown lining is a vibrant turquoise satin. Since the hat is made of felt, no interfacing was necessary.

I was very pleased with the result. Because the felt was not bulky, it was easy to work with.

But, felt doesn't come in many colors, and a basic hat should be able to coordinate with many fabrics and color schemes, so I made the next hat with a soft wool flannel.

My choice of fabric was easy. I was in the process of making a turn of the century outfit -- one I thought a teacher might wear in the early 1900s. (The outfit was inspired by a "Back to School Wardrobe Challenge" --outfit to be completed by August 24th -- issued to members of Facebook group " No Drama Doll Sewing and Creation.") I figured that in the early 1900s teachers couldn't afford extensive wardrobes, so a few sturdy, coordinated pieces of clothing would be appropriate. Having found a gorgeous soft flannel wool remnant at a yard sale a week before the challenge, I cut out a Victorian skirt from the wool, but didn't have much left for anything else. "A match made in heaven," I thought, and cut out a hat from scraps of the wool flannel.

To make the hat more of a "working girl's" hat, it needed to be less dainty than the first hat, so, I put the more rounded end of the teardrop in front, and the higher end of the hat band in front.

The wool did need more structure for the hat, so I added iron-on Pellon interfacing (made for shirt collars and cuffs) for the hat crown and band. I also chose the same wool for the crown lining.

Hit & Miss

I was feeling pretty confident after making these two hats, and thought the first hat might make a beautiful headpiece for a wedding dress if it were made of satin.

The turquoise satin was the only satin in my inventory, so the turquoise satin it would be. It was of medium weight, but not firm enough for the band to hold its shape over time, so I put interfacing in both the hat crown and band. .

Results? Two partially completed satin hats that ended up in the wastebasket!

My take-away from working with the satin is that it the satin is not stiff enough for the band to stand up without interfacing, but it becomes inflexible after the interfacing is added, causing the satin to crease and bunch when the crown is sewn to the band.

When faced with two failures in a row, there were only two choices -- try another fabric, or give up. (You're right -- there was really only one choice!)

Cotton velveteen was my fabric choice for the next hat, because I had cut out a black velveteen weskit for the 1920s teacher's outfit, and had some left over. On each of the first two hats, the fabric used for the crown and band were the same, so I decided to look through my fabric scraps for a fabric that would work well with the black velveteen, and found -- a bright orange-red and pink flowered velveteen remnant with a black background. Interfacing was added to the crown and band, and one of the ribbon flowers (instructions for bow are provided in the pattern) was sewn on the back band.

The hat pattern needed to be tested with at least one other fabric, cotton being the most common fabric available. I knew exactly the cotton print to test, because I am in the middle of designing a fancy dress pattern for intermediate sewers, and wanted a hat to go with it. The pattern is only partly done, but on my cutting table was the cotton fabric and some lace trim with which I was going to test it.

This version of the hat is made with the point of the teardrop facing forward and the lower part of the graduated band in front. The 100% cotton print is used for the crown and band, with an overlay of lavender lace sewn to the band before assembling the hat.

(This hat will now motivate me to get the rest of the outfit designed and sewn.)

Final Hat Pattern -- With Embellishments

The original pattern was a for a simple 2 piece hat with 4 possible variations: two positions for the teardrop crown (point in front or back), paired with the high section of the band in front, or the low section of the band in front.

When using rich fabric or colorful prints, it may not be necessary to embellish the hat further. But, if embellishments are added, they should be simple enough for the beginner seamstress to make. Here are the first two hats; one with a simple hand-sewn lace veil added, the other with a Yo-Yo and felt flower. Directions for making these, as well as a simple ribbon flower and two ribbon bows are included with the final pattern.

I can't really say that designing and testing this pattern -- which is a lot simpler than my jacket and dress pattern -- went any faster.

What I can say is that I am getting more comfortable and patient with testing, experimenting with alternatives, and adjusting the pattern along the way.

Now, If I could just get a magician to get my notes and sketches transferred to legible pdf files!!!!!

P.S. As you have probably guessed, I didn't finish my Back to School Wardrobe entry on time. I didn't get it done by the deadline, but today is still August 31st!