This is Mr Henry Tilney. He understands muslins.
We, the co-propriotresses of Kindred Thread, cannot lay claim to expert knowledge of early-19th-century textile with the same degree of accuracy as Tilney there – however, we do have at least a working understanding of lawn, batiste, Liberty of London prints, double-faced satin ribbons, and millinery straw.
You see, with the announcement of Caroline Abbott and her 1812 date, we fixated upon a single thought: Jane Austen. Upon learning of Caroline’s location and historical setting, we briefly studied the War of 1812 and Upstate New York to discern an appropriate theme for our new shop section. (Yes, of course we must have a dedicated shop section for 1812 gowns – after the bandwidth-exceeding fun of our French Quarter last summer, how could we not?) And yet, for reasons which must soon come to light, we kept coming back to Austen.
**WARNING: GRATUITOUS WET DARCY ALERT**
At which point we… ahem.. sorry, what was I saying? Oh yes, Jane Austen. However, I don’t want you to believe us a completely shallow pair of ladies. Believe me when I say, this propensity was motivated not solely by Colin Firth.
**WARNING: GRATUITOUS WET DARCY ALERT (AGAIN)**
Yes. Well, I think I’ve made my point quite nicely.
Therefore, we did the only sensible thing (you see what I did there?) and dubbed our new shop section in honor of Caroline The Regency Literary Society. We hope you will be persuaded to join us Tuesday, September 4th at midnight, provided you are not too prideful (okay, I’ll stop with now). This is the same time (approximately) that Caroline goes live on the AG website, so why not open another browser window? We know you’ll be awake.
Joining us for this special event are two talented Friends of Kindred Thread, AG Seamstress and Threads of Troy. Each style of dress will be named after a different Austen heroine – there is no shortage of delightful feminine names in her books! This past month has been a flurry of excitement, featuring such highlights as Meg’s ongoing love affair with millinery braid, and my not having an apoplectic fit while cutting into $33-a-yard fabric. I doubt even Henry Tilney understands that.
So, to reiterate, the Regency Literary Society launches Tuesday, September 4th at midnight (Eastern), featuring Meg and Joni as well as AG Seamstress and Threads of Troy. Be there, or
Severus Snape Colonel Brandon will be much displeased.
You are invited to the house party of the season:
The Kindred Thread Regency Literary Society
- Fashion ensembles inspired by Caroline and our favorite Regency heroines
- Exclusive designs from the Friends of Kindred Thread
Coming Tuesday, September 4 at 12 o’clock Midnight EDT
I have never been a big fan of the premade natural straw hats available from CR’s Crafts and other doll supply stockists. Joni Lynn does a beautiful job of embellishing these with ribbon and bias binding, but the straw splinters easily and it’s just not that pleasant to work with! Collectors of French Fashion Dolls, on the other hand, construct exceptional doll millinery using raffia hat straw braid shaped over a ceramic hat form. With the right size and style of hat form, this technique makes splendid hats and bonnets for American Girls.
- Hat Form to fit a 10-11″ head circumference. The PNB Doll Company has a whole line of Hats for Daisy which fit American Girl, and there are other good choices in their regular catalog. The hat forms run about $20 and are re-usable. They’re also made-to-order, so allow plenty of time for your order to ship to you!
- Glue. PNB carries a special hat-making glue, which holds on contact, dries quickly and clear, and has permanent flexibility. That flexibility is nice if you’re planning to sew trim on your hat; otherwise, Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue is a perfectly reasonable substitute and readily available at your local craft store.
- Double Sided Tape to position the first row of hat braid on your mold. If you have never used Washaway Wonder Tape, it will be a religious experience. Best. Notion. Ever.
- Optional: A Glue Syringe with a crafting tip is a great help, but you can also dispense your glue using a sandwich baggie with a hole poked in the corner.
- Position a row of Wonder Tape around the bottom edge of the hat mold, beginning and ending at the start point which is marked on the mold. Smoosh the tape around the curves with your fingers and then remove the paper backing.
- Place the first row of hat braid on top of the Wonder Tape, leaving about a 1/2 inch tail which will be covered up by subsequent rows of braid:
- Using a glue syringe, place dots of glue along the top edge of the braid, every scant 1/4″ or so, all the way around:
- Position the next row of braid on top of the glue dots, overlapping the previous row by at least half the width of the braid. (I leave about a 1/8″ underlap visible from the preceding row.)
- Continue gluing the hat straw braid around the hat mold, each new row on top of the preceding one, making sure to maintain a consistent overlap, and easing in the fullness of the braid around curves:
- There is a pull thread woven into the edges of the hat straw braid. When you get near the crown of the hat, you can pull this thread–gently–to ease the braid into tighter and tighter curves:
- Continue gluing the braid down until there is just a 1/4″ gap in the very top of the hat. Cut the braid with sharp scissors, leaving a 1/2″ tail:
- Gently ease the hat off the mold and remove the remains of the Wonder Tape. Poke the cut end of the hat braid through to the inside of the hat and use a bit of glue to position the tail so that it closes the gap that you left at the crown. (The photo below is taken with the hat turned inside out!)
- Place the hat back on the mold and leave it to dry over night!
- Once the glue dries, you’re free to embellish to your heart’s desire. This is a great way to use all your bibs and bobs of leftover ribbon and lace.
If you decide to make your own American Girl sized hat in the French Fashion tradition, send us photos and we’ll share them on our blog.
Think I’m mad as a hatter? You’re probably right! We offer made-to-order French Quarter Bonnets
trimmed with your choice of grosgrain ribbon. Custom millinery requests are also welcome.
Wow, what an amazing year this has been! When Meg emailed me back in January of 2011 to tell me about the amazing idea that she’d had, I didn’t hesitate to jump in with both feet – but I don’t think either of us could have imagined the success we’d find in our new venture, not to mention the joy. We love stitching up tiny historically accurate frocks, and we are so honored that you allow us to dress your dolls! Thank you so much for being our customers and allowing us to pursue our dream, and we plan to continue our endeavor for many more years to come!
So, let’s take a look at some of the events of the past 366 days, shall we?
- We launched our shiny new website on March 1, 2011, on the tail end of the worst winter I’ve ever seen. Our very first sellout was a mint green 1930s dress – I went around grinning like a fool for an entire day!
- We also launched our Modiste line with Meg’s stunning Twelve Oaks Barbecue Dress for Scarlett O’Hara.
- Meg has created ensembles based on many popular heroines of literature, including Anne of Green Gables, Mary and Laura Ingalls, and the March girls from Little Women. I spent close to two weeks creating an over-the-top ensemble based on the film Marie Antoinette.
- We have joined forces with many other talented ladies including Pippaloo for doll food, a group we’ve nicknamed the Friends of Kindred Thread for special one-of-a-kind ensembles, and BunnyBear for patterns.
- We welcomed two new historicals, Cecile and Marie-Grace, and sort of broke the internet. We look forward to welcoming another new historical character later this year!
- We have changed our web host. Twice. Many thanks to the Monkey Man for keeping us in ones and zeroes!
- Constantly challenging ourselves to stretch our skills, Meg took up millinery, and I developed a design for 18th-century French underpinnings.
- Between the two of us, we have collectively added 5 new dolls to our households… 6 if you count Bitty Twins!
- I even treated myself to a new sewing machine last summer.
- I am not even going to try to add up the number of yards of fabric we have collectively purchased. But you wouldn’t believe me anyway.
- We have kept right on sewing through all sorts of upheavals. Most recently, I took a part-time job and Meg adopted a second dog!
- We continue to be fueled by Diet Coke (Meg); Hershey’s kisses (me); and deadlines (both of us).
We have some fetching new Limited Edition designs in commemoration of our first birthday (cupcakes included). Thank you so much for being our customers!
Hello, friends! Did you have a wonderful holiday season? We did! Santa brought me Molly’s table and chairs, which was the last major item I needed from her collection. Now she and Emily can do their homework together…
Since Meg and I were both so busy crafting Christmas gifts in the month of December, we opted not to do a release of new products for January. However, I am glad to say we entered 2012 newly inspired to create. We have lots of new goodies which will be available for purchase in the Limited Edition section of our site on Wednesday, February 1st. Here is a sneak peek to whet your appetite…
And I know I say this every single time, but I really feel like we’ve outdone ourselves. Be sure and stop by the site at midnight EST on the 1st, as our Limited Edition products can sell out fast!
Speaking of the site, have you noticed our lovely new website design? Meg has been constantly working to make our site more user-friendly (and less likely to crash) and I think this is our best version yet. Have you noticed that you can add products to your cart directly from the home page? Or that each individual product page has a Facebook ‘like’ button? (This is a good way to drop hints if your birthday is coming up, hee hee.) And if you have purchased one of our products you can even leave a comment and product rating on the item’s page.
And do you see that little red ‘P’ logo at the bottom of our home page? That’s right, Kindred Thread is on Pinterest now. As a social media junkie I am having WAY too much fun on this site, which allows you to ‘pin’ images from all across the web to a central location for drooling purposes. We currently have five pinboards on topics from ‘The 1940s’ to ‘Pretty Things’; you can choose to follow an individual board or follow all of Kindred Thread’s pins. Pinterest is supposed to be the hot new thing in social media (I am usually five years or so behind the times!) so do check it out.
So, remember to visit our site, and stay warm in the winter weather!
…That I am a pattern designer now? I’ve partnered with the epically talented Nann of BunnyBear Patterns to make my Route 66 dress design available to seamstresses.
…That two of our styles this month, the Home for the Holidays Apron and the Mint Chocolate Chip Dress come with delicious treats from Pippaloo?
…That the sewing machine ruffle attachment Meg used on her Merry Little Christmas dress cost more than twice as much as my first sewing machine?! (P.S. She is going to kill me for telling you that.)
- That Cyria of Dancing With Needles is just as crazy-talented with embroidery as she is with smocking? (Seriously, it makes me weep a little.)
- That Lucy Van Pelt’s dress is created from silk twill (the same material they use for neckties) and hemmed by hand for an invisible finish? It took an entire episode of Criminal Minds.
We still have lots of products in our Holiday Boutique, and remember, your order ships FREE to the U.S. and Canada. Happy shopping!
The auction for our Bonne Année Ballgown with French Quarter Bonnet is now open. You can place your bid below, or enter your email address to receive auction updates.
Auction ends Saturday, December 3 at 9 PM EST. For more information on Kindred Thread Auctions, please check out our Auction FAQ.
The auction for our Christmastime Is Here Lucy Van Pelt’s Party Dress is now open. You can place your bid below, or enter your email address to receive auction updates.
Auction ends Saturday, December 3 at 9 PM EST. For more information on Kindred Thread Auctions, please check out our Auction FAQ.
Here at Kindred Thread, we embrace the Miracle on 34th Street model of marketing:
“If we haven’t got exactly what the customer wants . . .
we’ll send him where he can get it.”
There have never been more talented seamstresses offering historical reproduction doll clothes for American Girl, and we are thrilled to use our site to feature the work of some of our favorites!
This December, we invite you to shop the Kindred Thread Holiday Boutique, featuring:
- 1930s, 40s, and 50s holiday frocks by Nora’s Room and Joni Lynn;
- Deliciously retro Christmas aprons;
- A French Quarter silk taffeta ballgown for Kindred Thread Modiste;
And exclusive designs from the Friends of Kindred Thread:
The Kindred Thread Holiday Boutique opens Thursday, December 1 at 12:01 AM EDT. Quantities are limited, so shop early for the best selection!
P.S. Join us on Facebook beginning Cyber Monday for exclusive previews of our Holiday Boutique styles.
Meg and I freely admit that one of the motivators behind our doll clothes business is a serious love of fabric. We’re going to be buying it anyway, we might as well be sewing something with it. And the best part of this plan is that selling doll clothes earns money which can be spent on more fabric. So it’s definitely a subject that is on our mind a lot, and while I was ironing my way through my latest purchase, I decided to share some of our philosophy with you.
Let me start out with Joni’s Cardinal Rule of Sewing: Never, ever work with fabric that you don’t love. Not fabric that is just okay, or that you feel ‘meh’ about, or that you bought only because it was super cheap. Let me tell you. I have violated my cardinal rule on more than one occasion, and I have always lived to regret it. I’ve always had more problems with construction, and I’ve been less motivated to work through those problems, and in the end I have wound up with a garment that I really hated and never, ever wore. And frankly, that is a waste of time and effort and a one-way ticket to frustration. This goes double for beginning sewists! The quickest way to turn yourself off a new hobby is to struggle with cheap fabric or to spend hours creating a doll outfit you end up hating.
The corollary to my Cardinal Rule is: beware the false economy of cheap fabric. All those bolts of $3.99 quilting fabric at JoAnn’s might seem like a bargain, but they rarely are. (Good quality fabric marked down on clearance, now, that’s another matter.) Cheap fabric is usually stiffer, and stiff fabrics won’t drape right and they wreck the scale of doll-sized items. Plus you see a lot of poly-cotton blends in the cheap seats, and I feel that $100 dolls deserve 100% cotton!
Think about it: unless you are making an incredibly elaborate Revolutionary War-era gown, the most you will need is 1/2 yard. And even at $11.00/yard (and I have honestly never paid that much for a cotton print) you are only looking at $5.50 worth of fabric. And when was the last time you bought an outfit from American Girl for that little?
So, let’s talk about solids first. Yes, you can buy cheap poly-cotton batiste for $1.87 a yard, but we suggest Kona. What is Kona? It’s only our favorite cotton solid ever, manufactured by Robert Kaufman and available in every color you can imagine. It has a lot more body than lesser quality fabrics – I use Kona for Molly’s Route 66 dress, since it holds a nice crisp pleat, and Meg uses Kona for piping on practically everything she makes. If you are lucky enough to live near a Hobby Lobby, you can buy Kona for $4.89 a yard – I tend to buy the white in 2- or 3-yard lengths and then just tear off a chunk as I need it. Moda Fabrics has also gotten into the high-quality-solids game with their Moda Bella fabrics although their color selection is a bit more limited.
However, sometimes you want fabric with a softer hand. Meg is a big fan of batiste and lawn for heirloom sewing (she once paid $25 a yard for Swiss Nelona batiste; I think she’s crazy, but the end result is beautiful). Meg’s also turned me on lately to Kaufman Pimatex which comes in both solids and basic prints, and has the absolutely softest, silkiest hand you’ve ever felt. We recently split a bolt of white Pimatex, since it’s always good to stock up on staples.
But the fun of fabric mainly lies in prints. Now, the conventional wisdom is that you must only buy small-scale prints for sewing doll clothes; I respectfully disagree. I find tiny little prints absolutely boring to work with and therefore a violation of the Cardinal Rule. I think that it’s more important to match the scale of the fabric to the pattern you are using. A prime example is the Little Red Riding Hood Dresses I made earlier in the year. I fell in love hard with the fabric, a fairly large-scale print by Japanese manufacturer Lecien:
Conventional wisdom says that these prints would be waaaay too large for doll clothes, and yet these ended up being some of my favorite doll dresses I’ve ever made. The reason is that I stuck with a fairly simple pattern for the fabric: basic bodice; full, gathered skirt; and short, puffed sleeve. I also added visual weight with the solid red ribbon at the waist, which keeps the doll from looking swallowed up by the large print. I don’t think it would have worked half so well if I’d used a dress style with a lot of pintucks or ruffles or intricate details.
Mixing prints can also be a lot of fun; I do this a lot, I think it’s a holdover from my days as a scrapbooker. I recently made these 1850s ensembles using a floral and a stripe.
The easiest way to match prints is to use prints from the same line. Quilters like to have a lot of prints available, so in one line of fabric you will typically find several florals ranging from small to large, a stripe or dot, and sometimes even a coordinating solid.
So, where do you find your fabrics? You local quilt shop is a great place to start. You can see prints in person, feel up the bolts to your heart’s content, and even buy fabric in odd increments like 7/16ths of a yard. (Online retailers generally limit you to half- or one-yard increments.) Make friends with the salesladies, inquire about classes, and sign up for a frequent-shopper program if one is offered.
But if you don’t have a good store available, or if you are prone to staying up late at night ogling fabric (ahem), buying online is a great option too. Of course, purchasing fabric online can be a dicey proposition, so inquire about any return policies before ordering. When buying online I stick with the manufacturers whose quality I know well – Moda, Windham, and Robert Kaufman are my top three.
We buy a lot from Fabric Dot Com, largely because of their “all orders over $35 ship free” policy. I have noticed that they have a really fast turnover – I’ve waited too long on coveted prints and missed them – but they also have a good sale section. Be sure and hit up the Google for a coupon code before placing your order.
Meg and I are also huge fans of Nauvoo Quilt Co on Etsy. Great customer service, and she does flat rate shipping (and Julie can fit a LOT of fabric into a flat rate envelope). She organizes her shop sections by time period, which is awesome, and she has the best selection of 1930s fabric for you Kit fans.
Whether purchased in person or online, what do you do with your fabric once you get it home? The first thing I do is finish the raw edges to avoid a snarl of ravelly threads later on.
I use my serger for this step, but if you don’t have a serger, the zig-zag stitch on your sewing machine can be used to overcast the edges.
Next up, the washing. Don’t be afraid to throw all your fabric in the sewing machine with your regular laundry, I do it all the time! I’ll prevent dye bleeding with a vinegar rinse or one of those Shout Color Catcher sheets. And I pre-wash everything, even silk. (Yes, you can machine-wash silk, contrary to popular belief. You’ll have to press the dickens out of it afterwards to restore that rustley luster, but I think it’s worth it to avoid the possibility of dye transfer onto your $100 dolls!) Then pop it all into the dryer. I like to remove my fabric from the dryer while it is still damp; there is nothing like struggling with huge, set-in wrinkles to turn a fabric I love into a fabric I hate.
And finally, the most important step, the pressing. (As a side note, a decent iron is worth having. I finally splurged on a Rowenta this year and now I can’t imagine how I lived without it.) Put some nice music on your iPod (we recommend this) and press your still-damp fabric with a hot, dry iron. Press, press, press. It’s kind of mindless and relaxing.
I like to press a crease into the folded edge of the material – this keeps the two layers from shifting around later when you are pinning and cutting. Don’t worry, you can always press out the crease with a spritz of water and a nice hot iron.
Take a moment to admire your handiwork.
Now isn’t that pretty? Try to store your fabric where you can access it quickly and easily – I use a massive open shelf from Target – so you won’t forget what you have in inventory. Otherwise, you might have to go out and buy more. And that would be tragic.