Sep 242012
Madison says hello from Africa!

To me dolls and books go together like peanut butter and jelly or tea and cakes. I remember making a nest in the hayloft of my grandmother’s barn and settling in with a Nancy Drew novel, my favorite doll and a bar of chocolate. I would spend hours up there in the summertime, discovering what Nancy had done in her latest adventure and then acting it out with my younger sister and our dolls.

So one day I was browsing the interwebz and came across a site called Dolls Like Me. Unfortunately it is closed for reconstruction at the time of this post. At that site I found Springfield doll Madison dressed up as the character Precious Ramotswe from the book series The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective by Alexander McCall Smith. Mma Ramotswe is a lady detective from the country of Botswana in Africa. She is very clever and very round and very funny. The series is so popular that HBO made a TV show based on the books.

Well, there was no way I could afford the beautiful African Princess gown worn by Madison at the Dolls Like Me website, so I began to think of a way to make my own African Princess gown for my Madison doll. This pattern is the fruit of my labor.

Free African Princess Dress Pattern

PDF file
African Princess Dress Front View
African Princess Dress Side View
African Princess Dress Back View

I looked at examples of traditional African dress patterns for people and noticed that many of them had very simple shapes. This was to my advantage because it made this pattern relatively simple to design. I was able to combine the sleeve and bodice into one pattern which eliminates the tricky step of attaching sleeves to bodice.

I originally planned to use white rick-rack as the decoration, but didn’t have enough for the complete project. I found my bag of rick-rack and went through it and the only other option I had enough of was this sparkly gold, medium-width rick-rack that I had purchased for a Christmas project years ago. I went with gold simply because it was my best option and I feel it turned out much nicer with the gold than it would have with the white. The gold gives the dress a sparkly touch perfect for a royal princess.

I had intended to make the skirt all one fabric, but my scrap was 2-inches too short so I added a strip of the bodice fabric to the hem to make it longer. This look turned out very pretty, and allowed an extra place to decorate with the gold rick-rack. I may continue to make the skirt this way from now on, simply because the dress is so attractive and well balanced with the bodice fabric repeated on the hem of the skirt. I didn’t have a scrap of the bodice or skirt fabric large enough to make the headwrap so I chose a completely different fabric that uses many of the same colors. This dress is a super way to use up fabric scraps that may be too small for other projects.

If you make this dress, consider sharing your experience and any pictures of your finished project with the rest of us.

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