This Barbie doll’s knitted dress was inspired by the cover drawing on Mandie and the Schoolhouse’s Secret, by Lois Gladys Leppard. (All the covers of the “Mandie Books” feature interestingly complicated Edwardian-style children’s clothes.) This dress features a big collar, knitted separately, full skirt, long sleeves, and snug waist. It slips on and off…but this doll’s arms and hands are a little more flexible than some Barbie dolls’, so choose your model carefully.
(Now, obviously, you could sew a more authentic replica of Mandie’s outfit in very fine woven cotton, with embroidery floss for the ribbon trimmings…but the idea with this whole series of dolls has consistently been to use up scraps of widely available craft-type yarns, rather than to achieve the perfect period look.)
To knit this outfit as shown, you’ll need:
- About 1 ounce of Red Heart Super Saver yarn in purple
- About 2 ounces of Simply Soft yarn in rose (Gena Greene used a similar wool yarn that may not be so widely available, but Simply Soft would work)
- US#8 knitting needles, or the size that give you a gauge of about 4 stitches to the inch
Although this is a small, cheap project that should be accessible to children who know how to knit, it uses some fairly sophisticated knitting skills. If you are a beginning knitter, ask the nice ladies (and gents) at your local yarn shop for help with this project.
- Begin with the skirt by casting on 48 stitches in purple. Leave a tail for sewing.
- Immediately break purple, leaving another tail for sewing. Attach rose and work 4 rows garter stitch.
- Still in rose, work 20 rows stock stitch, ending with a purl row.
- Next row, *K 2, k2tog* across the row. Purl back on 36 stitches.
- Next row, *K 1, k2tog* across the row. Purl back on 24 stitches.
- Next row, *K2tog* across the row.
- Next row, *P 1, p2tog* across the row.
- Change to purple and work 4 rows garter stitch on these 8 stitches.
- Change to rose and increase in every stitch across the row. (This is a slightly bloused “shirtwaist” dress, as worn by little girls, not the painfully tight waist as worn by fashion victims in the generation before Mandie’s.)
- Next row, *P 1, increase in next stitch* across the row.
- Work 2 rows stock stitch on these 24 stitches.
- Next row, divide and shape the front by K 12, turn. P 12, turn. K 5, slip 2, K 5, turn. P 5, slip 2, P 5, turn. K 4, slip 4, K 4, turn. P 4, slip 4, P 4, turn. Put these stitches on a holder, and leave a tail for grafting.
- Rejoin rose yarn to the remaining 12 stitches and work 6 rows stock stitch for the back.
- Graft 4 stitches on each side and bind off the 4 center stitches of front and back.
- Now for the sleeves: With rose, cast on 12 stitches.
- With purple, *K 1, k2tog* across the row, then K back across 8 stitches.
- With rose, work 2 rows stock stitch.
- With purple, work 2 rows garter stitch.
- With rose, *inc in 1st stitch, k across the row, inc in last stitch.* Turn. *Inc in 1st stitch, p across the row, inc in last stitch.*
- Work 10 rows stock stitch on these 12 stitches. Bind off. (You can either bind off directly into the armhole, or bind off and sew the sleeve into the armhole; if grafting a bound-off edge onto another knitted piece is a new skill you want to practice, this is a good place to practice, since the collar covers the shoulders.)
- Make the other sleeve.
- For the collar: With purple, cast on 12 stitches. You can mark them with stitch markers or loops of thread if that helps you think of them as four sections of, at this point, 3 stitches each. Work 2 rows garter stitch.
- Change to rose and *inc in 1st stitch of each section, k to last stitch, inc in last stitch of section* 4 times across the row. You now have 20 stitches.
- Turn and *inc in 1st stitch of section, p to last stitch, inc in last stitch of section* 4 times across row. You now have 28 stitches.
- Work the next 2 rows as the previous 2 rows, thus ending with 44 stitches.
- Break off rose. With purple, increase in each stitch across row to 88 stitches.
- Knit another row (garter stitch) as in row 23.
- Bind off these 96 stitches loosely, still working increases in first and last stitch of each section–thus actually binding off 104 stitches.
- Join the side of the diamond shape you have formed, attach the neck edge to the neck edge of the dress, and tack the collar down to the dress at front and back waist (and wherever else it may want to stick up).
- Carefully ease the dress over the doll’s head, then ease her arms into the sleeves and, finally, stretch and ease the waist down to the doll’s waistline.
Gena Greene sells these dolls for $5, including the book the doll is dressed to match, locally; online, this set would cost $20 + $5 for shipping.
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