2019 Finish-A-Long Q4 finish

As usual, I am linking up through Sandra of Sew Of Course.

Well, after last quarter’s dismal failure I am pleased to say that I’ve completed this quarter’s project. In October I nominated this 1770s sacque gown as adpated for an 18″ doll from Thimbles and Acorns:

Doll sacque pattern
Doll sacque pattern

Here’s my finished version, as modelled by Caroline from American Girl:

1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Caroline (American Girl) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Caroline (American Girl) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Caroline (American Girl) side view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Caroline (American Girl) side view

I actually made two versions of this pattern, and I’ll probably make a few more before I’m happy with it.

The first version was done in cheap cotton homespun, just to see how the pattern came together without any adjustments or alterations. It wasn’t as difficult as I had expected, except for the sleeves (part of which was my own fault because I read “cuffs” as “ruffles”). Once I got my head around the back pleats they were easy to do; the side pleats were a little harder.

1770 sacque trial version modelled by Addy (American Girl)
1770 sacque trial version modelled by Addy (American Girl)
1770 sacque trial version modelled by Felicity (American Girl)
1770 sacque trial version modelled by Felicity (American Girl)

There were several issues with the test garment (ignore the petticoat length, that was me being ridiculously stupid).

1. One thing I wasn’t actually prepared for was that this pattern isn’t fitted as loosely as the commercial doll patterns (Butterick / McCalls / Simplicity). Even with the modifications this dress is too tight for my very early Pleasant Company dolls (Addy is the largest I have). It may not even fit early Mattel dolls, but anything after 2011-ish should be OK.

2. Even on a later AG doll (Felicity is from 2013 and is my thinnest AG doll) the front edges didn’t drape properly — this may be a function of the variation that is inevitable in soft-body dolls, but it’s still annoying.

3. The pattern included pockets and pocket slits — they may be authentic but with dolls they are also useless.

For my second version I made several changes.

I wasn’t all that happy with how the test gown draped at the front so I made a couple of minor changes to the armscye (I added 1/8″ to the back just behind the side seam and 1/8″ to the front at the shoulder) and the front edge (added 1/4″ to the front edge; reduced the angle of the seam at the yoke) and it fits better now.

I altered the back pleats so that there was one central box pleat and then three knife pleats on each side. It looks OK but I think I’ll fiddle around with it some more — maybe two box pleats either side.

1770 sacque dress 1 waist detail
1770 sacque dress 1 waist detail

I also replaced the box pleats at the waist with gathers. This wasn’t very successful, as you can see, because the gathers went right up to the bodice side seam. If I do gathers again (and I probably will). I’ll sew a straight seam out about half an inch and then gather to the edge – the gathers are only needed to allow the skirt to curve over the extended hip.

I made the stomacher a little narrower — the original version was too wide and looked out of proportion with the dress. I embroidered the front with a decorative stitch on my Janome 9400 — unfortunately I didn’t align the starting points as precisely as I had hoped, so that is something to work on in future. It’s pinned in these photos because I want to fasten it with 5 pearl buttons and thread loops on each side, and I only have 6 buttons. I could use hooks and eyes, but in my experience they never fit as well as you think they will, especially at this scale.

I wasn’t happy with the sleeve length on Caroline, so I tried the dress on two other dolls that have longer arms: Pearl from Our Generation and Galina (unnamed ballet doll) from My Sweet Friend.

1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Pearl (Our Generation) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Pearl (Our Generation) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Pearl (Our Generation) side view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Pearl (Our Generation) side view

I really liked the sleeve length on Pearl but the button on the back (to control the hair extensions) made the dress drape really badly so when I make a sacque for her I’ll put an opening in the back of the bodice lining so that the button is between the lining and the outer back.

1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Galina (My Sweet Friend) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Galina (My Sweet Friend) front view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Galina (My Sweet Friend) side view
1770 Sacque dress 1 modelled by Galina (My Sweet Friend) side view

Unfortunately Galina’s torso is a fair bit slimmer than any American Girl doll, so the extra centimetre in her arm length was counteracted by the looseness of the bodice – you can see it bulging outward under the arms.

Overall, though, I am fairly happy with this project.

Things I will change for future versions:
— the sleeves themselves are a little too long for AG dolls — by the time the ruffle is added the sleeves reach to the wrists, which is a little long. Next time I make this I’ll take out about 1 cm from the sleeve. I’m also going to reduce the sleeve cap a little (just a little) so that it’s eased in rather than gathered in.
— I really need to consider handstitching the sleeves to the bodice. Between the tight curves and the gathers it’s extremely difficult to sew an accurate seam on the machine, and that doesn’t help with the fitting issues.
— It may be worthwhile to make two stomachers (one narrow, one wide) to allow the dress to fit more than one doll.
— I also want to make a hoop skirt to go under this gown. It’s always a mistake to make a dress without making the relevant underwear and I should have remembered that.

Lessons learned:
1. Doll dresses need fitting and tweaking just as much as human dresses do.
2. Doll seam allowances are not at all forgiving. Be better!
3. Period dresses need period underpinnings.
4. I need to practice decorative stitches more so that I can align them more precisely.

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