Geeking out about textiles

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If you read this blog, I’m going to assume you like to sew, and if that’s the case it’s reasonable to assume you like textiles too.  Maybe you even occasionally create them yourself by knitting/crocheting/weaving, but for the most part, we get the vast majority of our textiles from a store, after the fibers have been processed, spun and woven by machines.  Those machines have developed to such a high level that a computer can control each individual thread to weave something as complex as a photo!

For much of human history, people needed to spin and weave cloth by hand.  As a spinner/weaver I had a revelation a few years ago looking at an Egyptian mummy in a museum.  Those yards and yards and yards of wrapping that looked so precise and perfect, had been not just hand woven, but hand spun on a drop spindle!  So when a new mummy exhibit came to the DMNS, I wanted to see it, if only for the textiles.  It was GREAT and I’d like to share it with you!

Egyptian mummy bandages were made of linen, and from what I’ve seen in museums, usually “singles” yarn.  They appear to be woven to the exact width needed; making me wonder if maybe weaving mummy bandages was a specific occupation, since so many yards of them were required for each mummy.  You can often see different layers, and I also wonder if lower-quality bandages were underneath, camouflaged by very high quality ones on top?

A real awakening for me was seeing the Peruvian mummies.  I adore textiles from Central and South America, and seeing them in their “pure” (pre-Spanish-influence) forms was exciting.  Most of the Peruvian mummy wrappings were singles yarn, spun a bit thicker than Egyptian mummy wrappings, but a few were plied, for example the lower part of the final layer of this mummy’s wrapping: 32183426762_e224bf142c

It’s about the thickness of sport-weight yarn. We modern yarn users can simply choose from what suits our purpose at the yarn store, but a 2-ply yarn requires almost 3 times as much work to produce the same length of yarn, since you need to spin each ply separately and then ply them together.  Keep in mind all this was being done on drop spindles like those below: 32213589011_3c045cf2a6

And now comes my favorite part of the entire exhibit:

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Unfortunately, there’s nothing for scale, so you can’t see how finely woven this was, but the background compares to modern quilting cottons, with the bird motifs woven in brocade in something similar to a few strands of embroidery floss.  Another thing to keep in mind is that this was woven on nothing more complex than a backstrap loom!  All the bird motifs were placed in by hand.

When the conquistadores came, they completely ignored the amazing treasures being produced by highly skilled weavers, demanding gold instead.  Thankfully, the Peruvians preserved part of this textile heritage in their mummies.

This is a textile fragment from around the same era as the birds above from this book http://www.thamesandhudsonusa.com/books/the-andean-science-of-weaving-structures-and-techniques-for-warp-faced-weaves-hardcover that I’m reproducing:

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As I weave it, I’ve been thinking a lot about the weaver who made it.  Who taught her to weave?  Why did she pick that weave structure, which is far more time/labor-intensive than some others she could have chosen?  Where did she get the pattern?  Was she making it up or copying an existing textile?  Did she spin the yarn herself?  Who was she weaving for?   Did she have to rip out as many rows as I have because of mistakes?  And finally, did she ever think that over a thousand years in the future her textile would end up photographed in a book to be replicated by another weaver she’d never met?  Although it’s almost certain she was illiterate and had no way leave her words behind, her weaving now “speaks” to others across centuries and leaves a legacy few people can hope to achieve.

If you know how to do twill pickup or want to reproduce this in some other way that uses graphing (needlepoint, etc.) here’s the chart I made based on the drawing in the book:

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OK, and finally, a little bit about dolls! 😉

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Since Santa brought me a new loom, I’ve been doing way more weaving than sewing, but I did receive the AGAT Nisha that I’d had on pre-order and she is just a GORGEOUS doll!  Her book wasn’t available (at least I couldn’t find it) to learn her story, so I had to make some guesses based on her name.  The name “Nisha” got its first hit as being from Sanskrit meaning “Night” when I googled it, and further research turned up:

  • Name Nisha In Arabic : نشا
  • Name Nisha In Bangla : নিশা
  • Name Nisha In Urdu : نشہ
  • Name Nisha In Hindi : निशा

From this I made a guess that she’s probably of Indian descent, which meant I could dive into the amazing world of Indian embroidery and textiles.  I made her a salwar kameez from this pattern, which came out a few years ago, with a slightly modified neck and hemline:

Here is a short tutorial on making very narrow hems when you don’t have a hem-rolling foot.

Even though I do have one, it’s not easy to turn a 90 degree corner, so I used this method to hem her dupatta (scarf).

Want the pes files?  They are free with purchase of the pattern, just put in notes to seller that you want them.  If you already have the pattern, just hunt down your order number and email me that you want them!

il_570xn-1169351813_nxc1The design on this kameez is also new and can be adapted to fit onto the H4H size by shortening the sides of the neckline.

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You can see in the closeup the circles are sized to fit tiny sequins or silver beads you sew on by hand for a shisha-type look.

Another thing we know about her from the AGAT website is that she likes 1980s clothes, and I started a few outfits that are a) based on patterns/clothes authentic to the period but b) still attractive enough that I’d like them today.  This is the first one, which should be available next week:

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Ponchos again!

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No, not that I’ve ever posted ponchos, but I’m seeing them a lot again lately in stores and on people, and they could be a great doll project!

In some cultures, especially those with long wool-weaving traditions, ponchos are a traditional, necessary outer garment to deal with cold night temperatures and may even serve as blankets.  This week, we’re focusing on two types of ponchos common to South and Central America, the awayo (also spelled aguayo) and quechquemitl.  Both of these are traditionally handwoven on a backstrap loom, with the fiber and pattern changing based on location.  The awayo is a garment from the Andes, traditionally worn in Peru, Bolivia and northern Chile, but also produced on a more commercial scale and sold in other countries in the region as well.

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(background image with llamas from http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/)

The Nancy vote was overwhelmingly in favor of more for her!  One outfit I was excited to recreate for Nancy was called “Andes” and included an awayo-like garment made from commercial fabric with a bias-bound neckline and grommets to cinch in the waist – not very authentic!  The awayo you see her wearing below was handwoven by me, with the pattern done in a weaving structure called “pebble weave”.  It is traditional to that area, and the patterned part is hand-manipulated (as opposed to loom-controlled) by switching the necessary colors in every row to produce a design that appears in opposite colors on the underside.

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You can see some traditional weavers setting up a warp and some of their gorgeous colorways here.  If you have at least basic weaving knowledge, you can learn how to do this type of weave with only a 2-shaft loom here.   I think the pattern I used in Nancy’s awayo might actually be from her second ebook, also available in the patternfish link.

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In  Guatemala and parts of Mexico, the traditional poncho-type garment is called the quechquemitl and has a quite different structure that ends up looking a little more stylish, since its cut drapes the fabric in a different way.  For dolls, the difference is negligible, but it does drape a little better at human scale since it’s not being worn on the straight grain, like the awayo.

Get the tutorial for making both ponchos here

Nancy and Emiko on Safari

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So, back in October I got a reproduction Nancy Famosa, who didn’t actually make it onto the blog for a while.  In the meantime, I got obsessed with the 1970s, since that’s the era she was from, and also got Crissy’s cousin Velvet and did some sewing for her.  There are a ton of half-finished things for Nancy, and also an interesting post started about Velvet’s clothes.  I try to keep the blog relevant and interesting to the greatest number of people, although I also sometimes post things here just because I like them. For instance, Nancy is probably not super popular in the US, because she’s hard to find, but I adore her.  31647189795_376eb16cfa

Some blog readers want to see something awesome, download the pattern and make it for that exact doll.   Others say they are interested to see a variety of dolls here, even if they don’t have them and maybe let the photos inspire something they’d like to make for another doll.  What do you think?

 

This week’s pattern is a sort of hybrid outfit for Nancy based on her originals “Kenia” and “Safari”.

If you lengthen the sleeves and pair it with these pants, you can make a few more variations of her original outfits too!  I was going to break this up into two posts, but decided instead to do both parts (skirt and blouse) this week and might skip posting next week.  The skirt will also fit Girl for all Time, but the top is too small.  The whole outfit also fits the Wellie Wishers but looks best with the hems of both top and skirt shortened a bit!

Get the pattern here

In case your dolls have nothing to wear for the holidays yet, I was on the Wrenfeathers flickr page and found some nice holiday dress ideas that are not just red and green:

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 This cute gingerbread Sasha outfit is by Mary Davis.

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And this sparkling blue party dress is by Penny Tennerman

You can post pix of YOUR dolls celebrating in their Wrenfeathers dresses here

 

What dolls at what age?

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I had a request a while back to do a holiday buying-guide type post about what dolls I’d recommend for what ages and thought it was a great idea.  So I did it, and then forgot to post it, and was going to wait until this Thursday but then thought people are shopping now and might need suggestions!

Not only do I love dolls, I love kids, and my wonderful job lets me see on a daily basis how they interact with my toys and also hear about what toys they like at home.  Oh yes, we do a bit of speech therapy too.  🙂  I’m going to focus only on dolls here and give some suggestions of products I like, but please don’t think that’s the only toys I feel are appropriate!  Kids need a variety of toys, books, art materials, outdoor experiences, etc. and dolls are just one part of that – and there are WAY more great dolls and toys out there than I was able to list here.  These opinions are entirely my own and I received no compensation of any kind for listing any products here.  The feminine pronoun “she” was used throughout this, but lots of boys enjoy playing with dolls too if you give them a chance!

The first consideration is how the doll will be used and its play value.  The two main types of dolls in my view are interactive, where a child takes on a role in relation to the doll, (mom, doctor, teacher, friend, etc.) and what I call “scenario” dolls, where the child uses multiple dolls, for example a dollhouse family, to act out scenarios but doesn’t interact with the dolls.

Your purchase also makes a statement to the company –is your money supporting responsible manufacturing practices with nontoxic materials?  Many European dolls like Paola Reina are great in this respect.  Does the company acknowledge that children of different skin tones exist and might want to play with their products?   Aside from that, cost, durability and availability are important factors.

Dolls that can “do things” like talk, or that require continued purchases of stuff to keep being fun are usually novelty items, not dolls with high play value.  For example, Baby Alive is certainly durable and washable, but she can make a child feel her only use is feeding and diapering with her purchased food and diapers.

When lots of accessories are available (like AG or Barbie) you also want to be careful that “playing” with the doll does not just turn into “acquiring more stuff for the doll” and make accessory purchases carefully, choosing items that will get a lot of use.  Sometimes, for example with Waldorf toys, the less a toy can do, the more play value it has!  Sometimes not.  In a recent AG catalog, the text describing Julie’s mp3 speaker chair said, “Just imagine all the ways to play!”  Yep, I can.  You set the doll in the chair.  You turn on the music.  That’s it.  Eventually the electronic part may break, or mp3 players will be replaced by something new and the speaker function will be meaningless.  The last time I was in the AG store, they had the new modern kitchen set up and of ALL the toys in the entire store, that’s what was getting the most use from kids.  Toy kitchens in 18” doll scale can be a great option because they don’t take up as much room as an actual child-size toy kitchen, but can be used by kids or dolls.

The younger a child is, the fewer life experiences they’ve had and the more likely their play will involve acting that out, rather than imagining new scenarios.  Kitchens and doll beds are PERFECT accessories because those help them reenact things they do several times a day.  As they get older, they should be developing sequences in their play and starting to use their imaginations more.  A kitchen is still perfect!  As they learn about sequencing, they can act out the many steps in preparing, serving and cleaning up food on a daily basis, and then develop more imaginative play creating other scenarios that involve food such as going to a restaurant, having a holiday meal, birthday party, etc.  If the AG kitchen is beyond your budget, both Our Generation and Journey Girls have kitchens that are not too big and have a nice selection of accessories.  Ikea has doll beds for ~18” dolls and little dishes you can use with something as simple as kitchen appliances made from old cardboard boxes!  My niece’s favorite toy for quite a while around age 3-4 was her “box house” made from an appliance-size box.  We made little curtains for the windows and some cardboard furniture/props for the inside – best free toy ever!

Doll size is important to consider too.  I was at TRU the other day and they had a ton of enormous “My size” Barbies, probably in anticipation of parents needing large, impressive presents to shove under the Christmas tree.  In my opinion, that huge Barbie is likely end up at Goodwill before next Christmas, and here’s why:  1) She’s hard to manipulate – imagine trying to haul around a mannequin in your size all day!  2) She takes up a lot of space, which is likely to annoy parents when she’s left around the house 3) She doesn’t have extra clothes/accessories available.  4) Her adult body can make her unsuitable as either a same-age companion or take the role of a child for a little girl to role play with

So, what dolls might be good for what age?

AGE 0-2

During this age range, the doll’s purpose will go from drool rag/chew toy to huggable friend.  As the child is exposed to adults caring for her, the doll can fulfill this function too and serve as a basis for developing multi-step play as the child acts out the adult role with the doll as the baby.  It is even more important at this age than any other due to mouthing that the doll be completely nontoxic and have no choking hazards.   My top pick would be a plush or rag type doll with non-removable clothing, so there are no loose bits that could be chewed off and choked on.  Look for dolls of this type with specific labeling that indicates they’re appropriate for this age and pose no hazards.

AGE 3

This is one of my favorite ages!  At 3, many children seem to “wake up” to the world around them.  They want to imitate/participate in whatever adults are doing and start to learn routines and steps for doing more complex daily tasks.

Kids in this age range don’t really have enough understanding of the world to know that a ballpoint pen or mom’s lipstick can permanently ruin their doll or that burying in sand is fun only for them, not their doll!  They also don’t have too much dexterity or patience with frequent clothing changes yet, so the doll doesn’t need a very extensive or elaborate wardrobe.  PJs that open completely down the back with Velcro are a good idea, to act out bedtime scenarios and possibly some cloth diapers, also closing with Velcro.

Keywords for dolls at this age:  durable, huggable, washable, baby or toddler dolls to act out the world around them

Suggestions:  There are all sorts of baby dolls available.  Bitty baby or cabbage patch are a good choice if you’ll eventually want to sew for them, since lots of patterns are available, and they also come in all sorts of ethnicities so you can be sure to find one appropriate for your child.  Both Corolle and Paola Reina also make nice, nontoxic baby dolls (Some of Corolle’s “Mon Premier Bebe” dolls have beautiful faces too) and a Waldorf doll is always an excellent choice.  Waldorf dolls are generally handmade from natural, nontoxic materials like cotton and wool.  Their cost can range from next to nothing if you make it yourself to about $100 for the Kathe Kruse version to hundreds of dollars for an artisan-made one on etsy.

Age 4-6

Soaring imaginations need props and dexterity is improving!  One of my most popular toys for kids this age is a set of wooden dolls whose clothes stick on with magnets.  You can sometimes find these in specific themes to fit a child’s interests, such as a ballerina; Melissa and Doug is one manufacturer.  Less time fighting to get the clothes on means more time imagining and the clothes and props help to suggest story ideas.  A basic dollhouse like “Plan” and a family of simple wooden dolls is great as well and can grow with the child, adding furniture and accessories as needed.

Aside from dollhouses, now is the time for kids to really start interacting with dolls more; talking to them, making up scenarios and role playing.  A doll that’s durable, not too big to carry around (maybe 13”-16”) and has simple-to-put-on clothes for different occasions is ideal.  I like small, harder-bodied dolls like Corolle Cheries, Hearts for Hearts, Paola Reina Las Amigas, Wellie Wishers, etc. for durability but they are not as huggable as dolls with cloth bodies.

At this age, take the child’s preferences into account too – maybe she wants a doll that looks like her or maybe she wants something different!

Suggestions:  Basic dollhouse like “Plan” w/ simple wooden dolls, dolls with magnetic clothing, Corolle Cheries, Paola Reina Las Amigas, Hearts for Hearts,Wellie Wishers, possibly an inexpensive AG clone

Age 7 and up

If you’re reading this blog, I know you like dolls.  I also know it’s painful to admit a child you love might NOT like them too…but it’s true!  If she doesn’t want dolls, she doesn’t, and your money would be better spent on legos if that’s what will get more use.

If she does want dolls, a child this age might “know” what she wants, but take care that she isn’t just wanting them because the commercials say so.  Monster high is an example of this…their TV episodes keep introducing new characters with completely unrealistic body shapes and few clothes/accessories to let you do anything with them besides collect them.  I feel similarly about Barbie, that young children should be encouraged to play with dolls closer to their own ages with more realistic body shapes.  Some Barbie alternatives include her younger sisters like Skipper or a newer doll from across the pond called “Lottie.  You might remember from an early post in April’s journal that peer pressure can start to be a factor eventually too.  If all her friends are getting together to play with their favorite brand of doll and she doesn’t have one, she can feel left out.  When I was younger, I wasn’t permitted to play with Barbie, because my mom hated her so much and can remember going over to friends’ houses with my Ginny dolls instead.  Eventually, I did get  a Tracy (who was a friend of Barbie) for Christmas which proved Santa was real, because my mom would never in a million years have put one of those under the tree.  😉

As mentioned above, it’s useful to have two types of dolls:  small dolls that can be manipulated to act out scenarios, like dollhouse dolls, and dolls the child can interact with like baby and child-type dolls.  Clothing changes for different activities become VERY popular now, so if you don’t have time/skill to do a lot of sewing, choose a doll in a readily-available size so she can build up a wardrobe.

Scenario dolls:  Lottie, Skipper, Calico Critters, dollhouse dolls, Playmobil 

Interactive dolls:  AG, Journey Girls, Maplelea, MyTwinn 18”, Our Generation, Adora 18”, Paola Reina Soy Tu, etc., Girl for All Time, 

The ~13-14” dolls listed above like Corolle Cheries, Paola Reina Las Amigas, Hearts for Hearts,Wellie Wishers sort of straddle the line on how they can be used, depending on how many the child has.  If there are several, the dolls can be made to interact with each other, with just one, the child can interact with the doll.  They’re great for this age too!

I’ll leave you with a quote I really like from Sasha Morgenthaler:

“It is better a child have one doll to enjoy, keep and play with for many years, than many dolls used briefly and discarded.  A single doll is then treated as people should be treated, with loyalty, consideration and love.”

 

Goodbye April?

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As the year draws to a close, April’s suitcase is packed to leave!  Having her as the GOTY was fun, but didn’t quite work out quite how I’d planned.  Then again, those plans were made in a fit of inspiration and optimism over last year’s winter break.  There are so many unfinished projects/ideas on the back burner for her, it’s probable you’ll see April again next year.

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I have little patience with doll props that are not in scale, and suitcases are one of my biggest pet peeves.  The point of a suitcase is to put clothing and other items in it to be able to take them somewhere.  When companies make doll suitcases that don’t actually fit doll shoes/clothes it significantly reduces their play value.

With the holidays coming up, many dolls will be traveling or possibly receiving a few new outfits.  This quilted suitcase is the perfect accessory to keep a couple of outfits or a bunch of shoes shoes organized for travel, and would also make a clever wrapping for giving an outfit as a gift!

Download the suitcase pattern here

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In other news, the doll room has reached critical mass and it’s become necessary to get rid of some dolls and toys before adding any more.  😦  The first to go is a lot of Ginny dolls which is listed on ebay right now here.  Yep, starting bid is seriously $1, there’s no reserve and local pickup is free.

Appearing soon on ebay:

  • Adora Kayla shown on right here
  • MyTwinn 18″ – in blue dress here
  •  Madame Alexander 8″ Fancy Nancy (Posh Puppy)
  • Some 18″ Heidi Ott Faithful Friends dolls
  • Effanbee repro Patriciakins

I also have available for local pickup (shipping would be very expensive):

Bienvenida Nancy!

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Happy Thanksgiving!!

I am so thankful for all your support and encouragement!  The coupon code 20OFF20 is active in my shop from now through Monday to help you get a head start on your holiday sewing!

 

nancy intro

This is from an early Nancy Famosa catalog.  She’s a doll that was made in Spain starting in the late 1960s.  It says, “I’m Nancy.  I want to be the most elegant of all the dolls you have.  I present to you all the ensembles with which you can make me happy.  How happy I will be if you give me all of them!”

Wow.  Talk about presumptuous!  The parents should not just buy the child a doll but ALL her outfits too!

I don’t think anyone could argue that fashions of the 1950s and early-mid  1960s were anything but stylish.  Once you get to the late 1960s through the 1970s, it’s a whole different story.  Most of us don’t have to research any farther than our own family photo albums to find clothing from that time period that, in retrospect, we might label “hideous”, no matter how stylish it was at the time.

In the US at this time, Nancy’s counterparts would have been Crissy and her cousin Velvet, and when you compare the two, Nancy’s clothing really did look a lot more elegant.  I started doing a little research and realized the 1970s did have a certain style and it was THE era for handmade stuff and decorative clothing!  There was actually a toy series called “The Sunshine Family” and their accessories included a craft store with a spinning wheel and pottery wheel!  They had a truck they drove around to craft fairs with and all their sets came with little booklets for kids to make miniature crafts from household materials for the dolls to “sell”.  They get my vote for “BEST TOY EVER!” even though they were a little before my time and I never played with them.

OK, back on topic.  I recently got a reproduction Nancy Famosa called “Yo quise ser tenista”.

The 1970s were the first time pants were really considered appropriate women’s attire for any occasion, and Nancy had a profusion of them!

Elastic waist pants are great for doll garments intended for kids, but not so much for adult collectors.  Firstly because after many years the elastic eventually stretches out and your garment is ruined, and also because it can make for a bulkier waist, which limits what type of top you can pair with the pants.

Perfectly-fitted non-elastic pants can be just as difficult to draft for dolls as for people, and I’ve avoided it for my AGAT Clementine by telling myself it wasn’t appropriate for her era.  Someone requested wide-leg pants for her Sam a while back, but I wanted a nicely-fitted waist, so it’s taken a while!  Awesome news:  AGAT and Vintage-Repro-Nancy can share pants!

More awesome news: Two versions of well-fitting 1960s-70s pants are now available in one pattern here

The pattern includes two versions – one with slightly-flared legs and and one with super-wide legs that you might call “palazzo pants” or “elephant bells” depending on your age.

They make for a perfect repro of the 1970s “hippy” outfit for Nancy, who some of you might have guessed will be making some appearances on the blog.  The original pants appear to have had painted flowers, but I digitized them for machine embroidery.  The .pes file is free with purchase of the pants pattern – just put in “notes to seller” that you want it!

Here is a free pattern for her T and necklace

In case you’re wondering how big she is, here is a comparison photo:

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L-R 1970s Sasha, Fisher Price My Friend, Nancy Famosa Reedicion, Kimberly, New Nancy Famosa, Crissy, New Kidz n Cats

April’s Halloween Dress

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April should have appeared before Halloween, but everything got off a week because of Kenny’s “illness”.  Luckily this dress is good for any time of the year, with a sweater or jacket over it for cool weather.  April’s cardigan from January would probably be perfect, just not buttoning in front.  NOTE:  It was fitted on April, who’s a bit slimmer than some of my new AGs. It’s fine on Journey Girls and would be a bit loose on newer KnC bodies.  You can see in the pattern pix it fits the newer AGs, but the fit is quite slim – probably too slim for larger-bodied older AGs!

Download her Halloween dress here

 

Read her journal here

(yes, some months are missing but it explains the costume and ties in depression awareness month)