This is the story of Francie who came over as a gift from the US months ago (warning: it's going to be a long post). I don't have that many Francie outfits that are not already worn by the other dolls, and on top of that this girl has a major problem with her knees as you can see.
This particular doll is a Bendable Leg Francie, but you won't be surprised to hear that she is not able to hold that bend anymore. It rather looks like she had had to bend her legs too often, in fact one leg also has splits in the back, and I was a little afraid it would break off while working on her.
Usually you would use a doll like her for a body part donor or try to find a donor for her, but I thought for everything she obviously had to go through - children can be so tough on their dolls, I should know looking at my own Stacey - I'd give her an outfit to hide her knees instead.
First of all I washed off the grime of years, mostly off her legs. It was a surprise that the rest of her body and the head still looked quite good in comparison, and her face was beautiful with the rooted eyelashes still being perfectly full.
I started the jumpsuit in the same way as the last dress I made, with a bodice beaded in the Herringbone technique. The original plan had been to make the bodice completely in a gunmetal color, but I wasn't sure if I had enough beads, so there's a gunmetal strip at the waist now to separate the bodice from the legs.
So the bodice is now made from size 11 seed beads in a rich dark blue mix combined with size 15s in a very light shimmering blue.
Since I didn't want this to be an evening outfit, it's neither strapless nor does it have thin straps. In fact I even contemplated a turtle neck for a bit, but it was so hot when I worked on this part that I couldn't get myself to do it! I am weird that way, I do imagine what an outfit would feel like if I wore it. Beading all the way to the top gave me one or the other problem with the armholes, also because - as mentioned before - it's not easy to work having to hold the whole doll. It's amazing how limbs tend to get in the way!
The real problem, however, would be the pant legs. I had worked it all out in my mind ... how to work down to a particular point and then increase the pattern between the legs and bead down from there on both sides. I figured it would be hard to get started, but I really underestimated the task completely. The gap between the legs simply wasn't big enough to add the row of beads from which I wanted to work down, at least not to make it look good. I tried several times, but in the end I had to give up on it.
The new plan was a mini skirt and overknee boots. For decency I did add a small strip of beads between the legs which later proved to be completely needless. At the skirt bottom I added some gunmetal beads, like a little trim. These few beads will be important later.
Then I began beading the boots. In the end I had made them three times and ripped them up in parts or completely every time because they were kind of okay, but kind of okay simply wasn't good enough. I was so glad, though, that the legs survived that ordeal because I kept taking the boots off and putting them back on in my futile attempt to fit them perfectly to the legs. In the third attempt I added the part for the feet and that's when my scissors went crazy for good. It's strange how frustrating yet relieving it can be to cut up something you are not completely happy with!
Now if Francie didn't get boots, it had to be a long skirt or pants after all. The thought of making yet another tight skirt - after all the top part was already tight and I wasn't prepared to cut that up again as well - didn't appeal to me, though, and I had already failed with the pants. What to do?
That's when I had the idea of the bead tubes for pant legs which I would attach to the skirt part. I only wished I hadn't put "the trim" on, but how about turning that into a fun detail, maybe a hint of lace?
I also ripped the first tube up twice because I had to try out if I liked bell bottoms better, but in the end I found I needed the width of the tubes at the top to be able to sew them to the trim and to fit them around Francie's thighs. Also I didn't want to take more chances with her knees in an attempt to make the tubes fit tightly around them, so they were wide all the way to the bottom (which gave this project the working title "Francie Dietrich" ;-)).
Next I sewed the two tubes together for the seam between the legs, added two more rows of Herringbone, so they would sit right, and the same trim as on the skirt. Then I pulled the tubes over Francie's legs very carefully and sewed trim to trim with some more beads for the "lace" (that's another idea I may keep in mind for future projects).
Of course my mind is already bustling with ideas to improve the pants design, like making the "skirt" part as short as possible - although it can't be too short as it's not as easy to pull up those tubes with the small gap between the legs AND maybe I'll have to use a little powder the next time because the beads tend to stick on the vinyl - or wider or try a skinny jeans fit after all, but there are other things on my list first.
The next big challenge were the shoes, they always are, not so much in
this case because it is impossible to get shoes for Francie, but because
it seems right to try and make beaded ones to go with the outfit.
she has flat feet which called for some kind of slippers and to my
surprise it worked out at the first try - with ladder stitch and Herringbone and brick stitch.
biggest surprise, however, was that you can actually remove the shoes and put
them back on. They sit on the feet nicely and won't fall right off. I'll definitely have to keep
this design in mind and maybe I'll be able to develop it into a boot
design and even adapt it a little for Barbie feet which are made for
By now I was very relaxed because the most difficult things lay behind me.
All Francie needed was a bracelet because she couldn't go completely without jewelry, a purse and a hat.
The bracelet was quick and easy, just a little peyote strip from the size 15s.
The purse is done in peyote as well. It's sewn up on the sides only, so Francie can open it and put something in there, tissues, a few coins, probably a cell phone. It doesn't have a flap because I started running out of the blue beads. Inspired by genuine vintage Francie purses it has a little strap going through a loop to close it, though.
Last but not least I wanted to give Francie a hat. She has very full hair, but on one side the plugs seem to be filled a little strangely, so the strands of hair keep separating and showing the plugs, even after shampooing and brushing them thoroughly (not to mention that Gundel almost took off with her head that I had left on a shelf while the hair was drying, that would have been very awkward).
I figured a hat would take care of that, but also compliment the outfit. That too is done in peyote technique and picks up the outfit's colors.
Can you believe that I have exactly five beads left over from the blue mix now?
After putting the hat on, I had a vaguely familiar vibe coming from this outfit, and it came to me. While the style is not the same, the purse and hat and pants do remind of a vintage outfit called "Bells" (#1275 from the 1200 series fashions, 1967).
So here she is ... Francie in her brandnew outfit!
Francie, Barbie, and Stacey are registered trademarks of Mattel, Inc. I am not affiliated with Mattel in any way.