How to Knit Mandie’s Dress




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.

  1. Begin with the skirt by casting on 48 stitches in purple. Leave a tail for sewing.
  2. Immediately break purple, leaving another tail for sewing. Attach rose and work 4 rows garter stitch.
  3. Still in rose, work 20 rows stock stitch, ending with a purl row.
  4. Next row, *K 2, k2tog* across the row. Purl back on 36 stitches.
  5. Next row, *K 1, k2tog* across the row. Purl back on 24 stitches.
  6. Next row, *K2tog* across the row.
  7. Next row, *P 1, p2tog* across the row.
  8. Change to purple and work 4 rows garter stitch on these 8 stitches.
  9. 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.)
  10. Next row, *P 1, increase in next stitch* across the row.
  11. Work 2 rows stock stitch on these 24 stitches.
  12. 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.
  13. Rejoin rose yarn to the remaining 12 stitches and work 6 rows stock stitch for the back.
  14. Graft 4 stitches on each side and bind off the 4 center stitches of front and back.
  15. Now for the sleeves: With rose, cast on 12 stitches.
  16. With purple, *K 1, k2tog* across the row, then K back across 8 stitches.
  17. With rose, work 2 rows stock stitch.
  18. With purple, work 2 rows garter stitch.
  19. 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.*
  20. 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.)
  21. Make the other sleeve.
  22. 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.
  23. 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.
  24. 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.
  25. Work the next 2 rows as the previous 2 rows, thus ending with 44 stitches.
  26. Break off rose. With purple, increase in each stitch across row to 88 stitches.
  27. Knit another row (garter stitch) as in row 23.
  28. Bind off these 96 stitches loosely, still working increases in first and last stitch of each section–thus actually binding off 104 stitches.
  29. 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).
  30. 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.

(Blogjob friends, this article was suggested when I signed up for a new advertising program. If you’re seeing ads that look relevant to this article, rather than relevant to something else you read about last week, then Prosper Ads is working. I signed up for free and saw an ad for Red Heart yarn there, and, how felicitous, happened to have a doll dressed in the stuff right on hand. If you want Prosper Ads too, feel free to use this link: .)

Knitting the Foursquare Patch Afghan

The foursquare patch afghan was a stash reduction project. Although I ended up buying an extra cone of cotton, both the cotton base and the colorful mixed-fibre scraps were left over from other projects.

Because I’d used most of the cotton base yarn to knit a slipcover for a 1970s vinyl-upholstered armchair, I chose to use the rest to knit a lap blanket big enough to wrap around knees or shoulders, not both. Once you’ve knitted a square or two, you can put together as many squares as you need…in theory you could patch together enough of these squares to cover a football field. The lap-sized blanket used less than three cones, almost exactly one kilogram, of Peaches-n-Cream cotton yarn (I used ecru) and an equivalent yardage of scraps.

For this project I just wound yarn off a ball of scraps I’d rolled up after sewing up knitted pieces and trimming the ends. The colors are random, yet there’s some harmony among the colors in each individual square. Not all of the scraps knitted up to 4 or 5 stitches per inch, as Peaches-n-Cream does. Most did, and since I wanted this to be an indoor blanket with a loose, cozy feel rather than a tight, solid feel, I used #11 needles to knit one strand of scrap and one strand of Peaches-n-Cream in every stitch, for an average gauge of 2.75 stitches per inch. (If you use up scraps of different weights in a project like this, your gauge will vary slightly from row to row when measured over rows of thicker and thinner yarn.)

At this gauge it doesn’t take a lot of stitches to make a good-sized patch. For these big bold squares I cast on 144 stitches, using markers to divide them into 4 groups of 36. If you happen to have double-pointed #11 needles, feel free to use them. I used straight #11’s and worked back and forth, thusly:

Pick a stitch pattern (or mix them up). In order to make the squares lie flat without blocking, use a row-intensive stitch like these six:

1. Garter Stitch—knit every stitch, every row.

2. There’s some disagreement about the names for moss and seed stitch. Here is the simplest one: Row 1–*knit 1, purl 1* across. Row 2—on an even number of stitches, the first stitch on the needle is one you purled on the previous row, which now presents itself from its knit side; purl it. Knit the next stitch, and continue to K the P st and P the K st across. Repeat these 2 rows.

3. A four-row elaboration: Row 1–*knit 1, purl 1.* Row 2—the first stitch on the needle was purled on the previous row and now presents itself from its knit side—knit it, as if working 1×1 ribbing. Purl the next st,and continue to K the K st and P the P st across. Row 3–*purl 1, knit 1,* as for row 2 of pattern Option 2 above. Row 4—as for row 2 of this pattern; now the first stitch on the needle was knitted on the previous row, and now presents itself from its purl side; purl it, knit the next stitch, and finish the row as if working 1×1 ribbing.

4. Row 1–*knit 2, purl 2* across. Row 2 (on 36 stitches)–*knit 2, purl 2,* as if working 2×2 ribbing, K the K’s and P the P’s as they present themselves. Row 3–*purl 2, knit 2.* Row 4—although the stitch count has now changed, what you’re doing is basically *purl 2, knit 2* as if working 2×2 ribbing again.

5. Row 1–*knit 2, purl 2.* Row 2–*purl 2, knit 2.”

6. Random stitch—knit any random number of stitches, then purl any random number of stitches; this works best when the numbers of stitches knitted or purled are fewer than 10 each time. Random stitch does more to randomize and mingle the stripes of different colors in a multicolored knitted fabric than any regularly repeating pattern.

What the six stitch options listed here have in common is that they all mix up knit and purl stitches enough to give a 5:9 or even 5:10 stitch-to-row ratio instead of the standard 5:7 ratio found in stock stitch. If you want to use a fancier pattern based on stock stitch, you may need to block and stretch the squares to make them lie flat. Blocking works better with wool than it does with cotton or acrylic, so I recommend using a row-intensive stitch.

To begin each square, work 2 rows (1 ridge) even, slipping markers.

Next row (rs): *Work 2 together, work 32 in pattern of choice, work 2 together,* slip marker, and repeat 3 times more.

Next row: Work back in pattern as set.

Next row: *Work 2 together, work 30 in pattern, work 2 together,* slip marker and repeat 3 times more.

Continue decreasing 1 stitch at each side of each of the four quarters of the square until you have 4 stitches left on the needles. Remove markers, join these 4 stitches, and use one long end of one yarn to sew the square together.

Choose a side of this square, pick up 36 stitches along this side, cast on 108 more, and repeat.

Continue to pick up stitches along sides of previous squares to begin new squares until you have a blanket of the size and shape you want.

Knit or crochet borders, add fringes, or add other embellishments if you want them.

This is not my Foursquare Patch Afghan, but it shows the sort of effect produced by knitting with two strands of yarn together:

[Photo from Wikipedia: “Close up of multi-coloured knitting slip-stitches” by Brian Sawyer from Westford, MA, USA – close_up. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons –]

Knitting a Blanket Shawl

From time to time knitters need a “stash reduction project.” One should never throw away yarn—it can always be used in another project, and at worst, if you’re planning to quit knitting, you can always give or sell your stash to another knitter—but whenever I’ve accumulated more than a 60-gallon bin full of yarn, I do something quick and frivolous with some of the leftovers. (I try to plan my knitting and yarn buying in such a way as to have lots of leftovers.)

When I made my Blanket Shawl during the poncho craze at the turn of the century, I took out all my leftovers and sorted them into groups of congenial colors: shades of pale pastels, pink and red, pink and coral, red-orange, yellow-orange, yellow-gold, yellow-green, mossy greens, grassy greens, blue-greens, true blues, blue-violets, dark colors, black-white-and-greys, neutrals, browns, and some odd bits of chunky craft yarn for which I’d found no other use. I peeled off as much yarn as I’d wrapped around each ball in one direction…anything from five inches to a hundred yards. I then rewound the yarn from each group into balls of congenial colors, always winding and later knitting two strands of yarn together, taking care that one strand was always acrylic.

If you want to do a project like this and use up scraps of wool, silk, cotton, mohair, and even rayon, it will wash and wear like acrylic as long as one strand is acrylic. Mohair will gradually lose its fluff as the piece is washed, but will stay soft to the touch. Other fabrics will behave themselves; when washed the wool and rayon will try to shrink, but the acrylic will stretch and exert enough counter-pressure to keep the piece pretty much the same size and shape for many years. When worn or otherwise used, between washings, the piece will stretch slightly until the next time it’s washed.

The Blanket Shawl consists of three big squares arranged in an L-shape. For something that will completely cover an average adult from neck to ankle, with side vents, I used my #10-1/2 needles and cast on 120 stitches for each square…remember, it will be heavy and stretch when worn. I used the rewound “magic balls” in the rainbow sequence described above.To discourage curling I alternated rows of plain, reverse, and garter stitch in a sequence suggested in Deborah Newton’s BOOK Designing Knitwear. If you can’t get a copy of that book, you’re deprived of seeing lots of other inspiring patterns, but for this project, no worries; just work the first and last 20 rows in garter stitch if you want to be sure the edges don’t curl, and work each group of 20 rows between in whichever pattern pleases you. You could use moss, Irish moss, seed, and Betty Martin stitch as well; I didn’t, because they take longer, and this is a large project.

The big question to answer if you’re planning and knitting a Blanket Shawl is how big you want each square to be. By the time you’ve done enough knitting to have a stash of this size, you should be able to guess the average gauge you’ll get (it varies slightly as thicker and thinner yarns are worked in) with two strands of the yarns you’ve been using. I use a lot of yarn that knits up to between 4 and 5 stitches per inch on #8 needles; doubled, it worked up to an average of 3 stitches per inch on #10-1/2 needles, which gave me approximately 40”  squares even when one strand of yarn was lightweight or extra-bulky. Anyway, make sure each piece is square by folding it diagonally, then bind off the last row, pick up a row of the same number of stitches down one side, and work another square in which the stripes line up at a 90-degree angle to the stripes in the first square. Do this twice so the squares form an L shape.

That’s all I did. You may, of course, use up an extra hundred yards of a suitable yarn by knitting or crocheting a border around your shawl.

My Blanket Shawl is long enough to be worn over my head in very cold weather. If you made a smaller shawl or are taller, you might want to attach a hood, or better yet knit a companion scarf…the fabric doesn’t feel heavy on your shoulders but it does, to me, on my head.

You now have an outer garment that is warmer than most coats and at the same time, due to the air vents at either side, less likely to make you feel overheated before your whole body is warm. Splendid! I wear my Blanket Shawl with pride in freezing weather. It’s much warmer than either a trench coat or a wool coat; when pulled tight it’s about as snug as a bearskin coat. Also, because the pale stripes stand out under any kind of dim light, it’s more easily seen when I’m walking at night.

It lacks only one advantage. Because so few people realize how wonderfully comfortable a Blanket Shawl can be, it’s not nicely inconspicuous. If you wear a Blanket Shawl, even if you use only soft neutral colors, you will be noticed.

(Graphic from Jdurham at Morguefile, .)