Friday, September 16, 2011


Here it is: my first creation from a handkerchief, a dress for Barbie. Less than perfect, perhaps even inadequate for child’s play, it is nevertheless the prototype by which I learned lessons. My experiment with the hankie is based on the work of Marsha Greenberg as shared in her book, Hankie Couture. Ms. Greenberg has created hundreds of doll dresses and outfits from hankies, and her work captured my imagination.

These are some of my conclusions:

First of all, as near as I could find, Ms. Greenberg does not state the size of the doll for which she sews. She resembles Barbie, but she isn’t. In describing the evolution of her hankie couture, Ms. Greenberg mentions that she found a Chinese company willing to develop a doll to her specifications, and this doll is evidently available for purchase. I’m not interested in buying that doll – at least not now – so that makes the patterns in the book of questionable value. The test dress I quickly stitched together using a bodice pattern from the book did not fit my Barbie, a doll I rescued at a rummage sale. For this hankie dress, I used a standard Barbie pattern and followed Ms. Greenberg’s tips for cutting the skirt.

Secondly, Ms. Greenberg recommends lining the hankie dresses with white cotton fabric. She observes the white under the hankie makes the colors “pop,” and I’m sure it also strengthens the delicate hankie fabric. While I can appreciate these points, I found that lining the dress made it heavy and difficult to work with. Part of the problem might be Barbie’s small waist. Or it could be that the cotton I used was too heavy. Ms. Greenberg specifies cotton and recommends against fabrics that might ravel. For my next hankie project, I’m considering using a man’s white handkerchief (I believe we don’t refer to those as hankies) as the lining. But – I also wouldn’t be opposed to using softer, lighter fabric blends for the lining.

Finally, it occurred to me that Barbie is not an ideal subject for hankie outfits, and perhaps Ms. Greenberg came to the same conclusion. I do think it’s rather too bad that the patterns in the book are not of use for the general doll public. But to be fair, Ms. Greenberg is showing her creative skills and encouraging the rest of us to be imaginative in the use of hankies and other vintage textiles.

Where do I go from here? I’m thinking my next hankie creation will be for one of the Vogue family of diminutive dolls. But – I have committed to other projects, and now that the holiday season is officially open, I have work to do. Some frivolity will have to be put on hold for other frivolity.

Here’s a photo of a sleeve I made for my new laptop. As originally made, it was a little too small. Crafting, designing, and altering are not my strong suits. I prefer to sit down with a pattern that guarantees me a good outcome and the experimental process frustrates me. So, I was disappointed when initially the sleeve was unusable, but a friend suggested an insert between front and back would likely solve the problem. Since the fabric was rather expensive, I decided it was worth a try. Inching my way along, I salvaged the project with a one-inch insert. Now I can slip my laptop into the sleeve and pack it with my sewing machine when consolidation is desirable. KW


Chris said...

Ooo, I love the dress! It's beautiful. Even if you had to do some tinkering, you persevered! Well done! I like your idea of using a man's hankie (possible a worn one?) for the lining.

Leah said...

What a lovely hankie for Barbie's dress. And the fabric for the laptop cover is luscious. I want a skirt out of that fabric (and I hardly ever wear skirts anymore). You have such good taste Kathy.

Kathy said...

Mike carries handkerchiefs and wears them out. I probably wouldn't use a worn one. Instead, I reached into the back of his drawer and took a new one for my "stash."

Leah, the fabric for the laptop sleeve is actually rather heavy -- a "home decor" design. Mike commented that it reminded him of my mother. He recognized the vintage quality, I guess. I'm sorry I missed with the matching of the flap to the front but when I discovered that the original flap would be adequate, I decided not to spend the time remaking it.

Leah said...

Well, why not make a slip to go under Barbie's dress? A lining for such a delicate fabric (the hankie dress) would be a problem, right? A separate garment, such as a slip might be the answer.

Kathy said...

In this case, I do plan to make a slip for Barbie to wear under the gown. Barbie is really such a good sport about everything.

Leah said...

Barbie is always happy to have more clothes!

Hallie said...

I like how the hankie you chose makes it look like Barbie is wearing a cute apron. I love this new slide show feature that displays your photos!

Kathy said...

Oh! So everyone gets to see the new slide show? I thought perhaps it was just the blog owner. Yes, there are time-saving advantages.

Barbie's gown reminds me of the informal long dresses of the '60s and '70s -- "hostess gowns," they were sometimes called.