Ever since I first read the story “Anne of Green Gables”, by L.M. Montogomery, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island have held a special place in my heart. That “Anne-girl” painted such a delightful picture of her beloved islands, that a part of me wanted to claim them as my own. Though my visits to the to the islands have only ever been in my imagination, I still managed to find a real “kindred spirit” there in Eve Coleman, the charm and talent behind “Keepers Dolly Duds Designs”.
For the last several years, Eve has made a name for herself in the world of historical doll clothes fashion. Her exceptional designs and attention to detail set them apart from all others. This career path has been a long time in the making as her love of sewing began at a very early age.
“I remember watching my Mom cut and sew outfits for us on her Imperial sewing machine. I know she did it out of necessity and didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I enjoyed watching her. She would let me have the scraps, a needle and thread, and a pair of blunt scissors to keep me busy and out of her hair, no doubt. I can remember laying fabric on the floor with my doll on top and cutting around its figure. Then, I’d sew the “dress” at the shoulders and up the sides while it was still on the doll. As a young girl, my older sisters and I use to have a play house with a huge box of scrap fabric in it and we spent many hours searching for the right piece of fabric to see who could make the prettiest outfit for our Barbie dolls. As a teenager, I made most all my clothes on my mother’s Imperial sewing machine (see picture of me in my homemade outfit… 1976!). It was a straight stitch with reverse and a button hole attachment. I always loved looking through the pattern books for new outfit ideas.”
Though her earliest sewing experience began with her dolls, like most girls as she grew older she put them away to spend more time sewing for herself and her home. Still, she always held a special affection for dolls and in 2004 she came full circle when she began making clothes for “American Girl” dolls.
“For a number of years I handmade jointed mohair teddy bears, and would often dress them. I sold many of these
bears over the years on a website called KeepersBears.com. I also owned an 18-inch “Girl on the Go”doll which I had made a wardrobe for just for the fun of it. I really liked sewing for a doll that size. My husband, who happened to be an avid “eBayer”, encouraged me to try my hand at selling my bears and my doll clothes on eBay. I quickly discovered
that doll clothes were very popular, especially ones made for a doll called “The American Girl Doll”. I wondered where one could buy a doll such as that. Well of course my husband knew where and surprised me with my first American Girl doll, Kirsten, which of course he bought on eBay.”
American Girl dolls provide a unique opportunity to explore history, and this is perhaps one of the things that sets these dolls apart from others.
“I am not such a fan of modern clothing. I rather like when girls were dressed as girls and boys as boys such as historical fashions depict. I am old fashioned for sure. I believe styles are like history lessons although I would never claim my doll outfits are historically correct. How could they be…using today’s fabrics, notions and fancy sewing machines? I do like them to look as real clothing would or at least as close to that as I can manage given the scale of the 18″ doll. I often watch old movies, look through vintage catalogs ( my husband is always on the look out for old catalogs for me), and photographs. The internet is an endless source of historical clothing, and patterns, for that matter. Inspiration is not difficult to find when surfing the net.”
When Eve began selling her dresses on Etsy in the fall of 2011, I saw her work for the first time. Her dresses were exquisite, and I really felt she gave me something to aspire to. At that time, I was working on my very first pattern. The dress design had been well received, but after making it numerous times, I was ready to move on to something new. It seemed a shame to retire it, so I decided to try my hand at turning it into a pattern. That first pattern took me months to complete because I had a lot of new ground to break. Still, I found the process immensely satisfying. Despite the dress’s popularity, and all my hard work, I was still very unsure of myself when it came to actually publishing the pattern. In November of 2011, I decided test the waters and offer my nearly completed pattern to a few seamstresses willing to take it for a test run. Eve, was one of the first seamstresses to take me up on the offer.
“Her pattern was very well done and I was impressed! I wrote to her telling her so. I had mentioned that I wished I had her talent so I could develop all my hand drawn bits of paper patterns into something as professional looking as hers. So many people were suggesting and asking me to sell patterns. She wrote back and said she had an idea… The rest is history!”
This month, Eve published her 11th pattern with Thimbles and Acorns. “Sweet 70s” is a trip back into a more recent part of history with a dress styled after the ones many of us remember wearing ourselves. Working with Eve these last two years has been a privilege and a delight and I am honored to be able to play a part in bringing her patterns to you.
Visit Eve and Keepers Dolly Duds Designs here.