Harriet the Spy – Spy Tools and Belt

For day 3, we’re going to complete Harriet’s look with her tool belt. The Spy Tools are what take Harriet from looking like a normal kid and transform her into a quirky spy-in-training.dsc_0515

In Harriet the Spy, Harriet “had fixed up the belt with hooks to carry her spy tools. Her tools were a flashlight, in case she were ever out at night, which she never was, a leather pouch for her notebook, another leather case for extra pens, a water canteen, and a boy scout knife which had, among other features, a screwdriver and a knife and fork which collapsed.”

If you’re lucky, you might already have several of these items on hand. I already had a small notepad, pencil, flashlight, and a tiny Swiss Army Knife. You might be able to find some of these items at Dollar Tree as well. My notebook and pencil is from an Our Generation bird watching set from Target that I purchased last year.  I’m a little stumped on what to do about a canteen, so I’m leaving it out for now. I’d love suggestions in the comments if anyone has a good suggestion. I did a quick google search and found a diy Vintage Wool Canteen ornament that is pretty dang adorable and could be slightly modified to attach to Harriet’s belt.

For our Spy Tool Belt, I decided to sew the belt and the two pouches for the notebook and pens. Then I added three loops to hang items from the belt –  the flashlight, pocket knife, plus a spare for anything your child might want to add.


  • Pleather, leather, or canvas. (I originally planned on using leftover pleather from making Quidditch shoes and pads, but changed my mind at the last minute and used leftover canvas from Harriet’s high tops. There is no definitive color listed in the book, so you have some flexibility.)
  • 2 D-rings Size 1″
  • Velcro
  • ruler
  • tiny notebook (have it on hand when you make the pouch so that you can make sure it fits)


Cut the material  17.5″ X 3.5″ to fit a 12″ doll waist. (Cut it longer if you want it to buckle over the extra bulk of her sweatshirt.)

Fold short ends over 1/4″ and sew seams on both sides.

Hotdog fold the material through the middle.

Fold raw edges in towards the midline. Your goal is to make a strip that is just under 1″ wide. Make sure the belt fits through the D-rings.


Sew the seams on both sides of the belt.

dsc_0495Feed both D-rings through one side of the belt. Fold belt end to back of belt and sew down. This is quite a bit of material to sew through, so don’t forget to use a heavy duty needle. I hand turned the machine with the Balance Wheel to help it go slowly through the material.

The belt is now done!


Possible Belt Modifications

  • You could modify the belt by using Velcro instead of buckles if you want to make it easy and faster for little fingers to attach. The belt won’t need to be as long if you use Velcro because it won’t be folding through the D-rings.
  • You could also check out the Trim-by-the-Yard section of your fabric store for cotton belting or webbing to save a a lot of sewing. You can even find webbing at outdoor stores. The belt will also be more flexible and easier to thread through the D-rings.


Pen Pouch

I used the general directions from ‘Make a Leather Bag for Your Doll.’ There’s a great tutorial at this site for making a leather pouch.

I cut a strip of fabric 6 1/2″ X 1 3/4″

Fold and sew seams at each short end.Fold it to the shape of the pouch. Attach the velcro. If you don’t want the closure to be straight across, you can sew the sides of the flap down at an angle.


Make the belt loop. Cut a piece of fabric 2 1/2″ X 1 1/8″. Fold in thirds and sew edges.

dsc_0510Fold ends of belt loop under and sew the belt loop to the pouch.

Fold pouch with right sides together. Sew sides. Clip edges and turn right side out.


Notebook Pouch

Follow the same general directions as the Pen Pouch with larger dimensions and two belt loops.

I cut the canvas about 3/4″ wider than the notebook I wanted the pouch to hold.


Find the smallest notebook possible or the pouch will look really big on your doll’s belt. Here is a visual comparison of 3 pouches that I made. The large pouch is on shown on Harriet’s belt for perspective – I think its way too big, so I ended up making a smaller one to fit the bird watching notebook.


Cut fabric strips 2 1/2″ X 1/4″. Sew into a loop with wrong sides together and turn right side out. I left these edges raw so that a key chain loop could slide onto it easily. (You could cut the strips wider and then fold them just like we did the belt loops on the pouches. It would look better, but it would make the loop very thick – which would make it very difficult to slide a key chain ring over it.) You could also just slide key chain rings onto the belt and skip this step.

Here is the final product with the two smaller pouches and the accessories attached to the loops. Watch out! Harriet is ready for her spy route!


Harriet the Spy – High Top Sneakers

Day 2 of Harriet the Spy tutorials will attempt to make Converse All Star style sneakers to go with her other ‘spy clothes‘. Harriet was completely ahead of her time. Back in 1964 girls just weren’t wearing high tops. Thanks for blazing the way Harriet!dsc_0483


  • black or blue canvas or heavy weight materials(see Note)
  • black or blue lining material
  • interfacing (optional) – I didn’t use it, the canvas was sturdy enough by itself
  • McCalls pattern 3469
  • white craft foam
  • matching thread
  • 12-16 silver or white eyelets
  • white soutache (I used White 5mm Elastic Trim from Hobby Lobby)
  • white lacing (I recommend White 1/8″ Poly Soutache braid, but I used scraps of elastic I had on hand.)

Note: You’ve got another choice to make with your shoe color. The book jacket cover shows black high tops. The description in the book (at the end of chapter 2) says Harriet wore “an old pair of blue sneakers with holes over each of her little toes.” I’ll let you decide how accurate to make these.

You’re going to follow the general directions for the sneakers / View F of McCalls pattern 3469.



When you cut pattern piece #19, you’re going to make it 1/2″ longer.




Pattern piece #18 also needs to be modified. You’ll be gradually adding 1/2″ extra material to the tongue of the shoe. I folded it in half and cut to make sure it was symmetric.



You’ll also use piece #18 to cut out craft foam to make the ‘rubber’ toe of the shoe.

Cut piece #16 (sole) from the white craft foam too.

No changes are needed to piece #20.

Sew everything together according to the pattern’s directions.


When It’s time to add the sole (#16), I simply glued it on with the glue gun.



Glue the foam toe of the shoe. You might need to trim the foam a bit to help it fit. I make sure the foam did not overlap with the sneaker side. Be careful, I burned myself on this step .


Add the soutache to the bottom and sole of the shoe. This step will cover the seams and edges and make it look much prettier. Be careful not to let the glue squirt out over the top of the soutache. You can see it on the toes of one of my shoes (first picture on the top – right shoe) and it doesn’t look nearly as good as the other shoe.)


Mark and add 3 eyelets on each side of the sneaker. You’ll have 6 total for the laces on each shoe. If you want to be really fancy, add 2 to the bottom inside.

I used a hand cut vinyl circle and star for the inside symbol. If you’re lucky enough to have a vinyl cutting machine, you can whip two up easily for the insides of the shoe. You can also glue foam or fabric for the same look. Lace up the shoes and you’re done!

Our last piece of spy equipment is coming up – Harriet’s tool belt!

Harriet the Spy – Spy Clothes

dsc_0488Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh is another classic in children’s literature. Harriet is very much flawed and provides great discussion with your child about honesty, friendship,  ambition, and exclusion. She reminds me of my best friend at this age – appearance, personality… even stories she wrote about our teachers. And, of course, I think everyone can relate to Harriet on a certain level – who didn’t go through a phase of wanting to be a secret agent? Who hasn’t felt like an outsider at some point in life?

As I was listening to the audio version of Harriet the Spy as I sewed her sweatshirt, my daughter told me that her first grade teacher’s favorite book is Harriet the Spy. She even dressed as Harriet on storybook character day! So glad my daughter is getting exposed to the various stories available to her once she has become a solid reader.

Today we’ll be making Harriet’s “spy clothes” Yes, she has specific clothes she changes into when spying. From there we’ll be working on tennis shoes and her handy tool belt with spy tools!



  • Simplicity pattern 4297
  • Sweatshirt fleece or even polar fleece in red or dark blue (See note below)
  • matching thread

Note: I went with red to match the iconic jacket cover seen on many Harriet the Spy  books. However, at the end of chapter 2, there’s a detailed description of her spy clothes – including her “old dark-blue sweatshirt with a hood.” Inconsistencies in the book and illustrations drove me crazy as a kid and a big part of me feels I should be true to the author’s original description. It pains me, but I opted to side with the illustrator in this case. Red stands against blue jeans much better than dark blue. You can cast your vote either way on this matter when you choose your material – or even recreate a movie Harriet look instead.

There are no modifications needed to make the sweatshirt. Just follow the pattern directions and you’re set. I recommend using a stretch stitch or a triple stretch stitch to keep your stitches from popping out since you’ll be using stetchy material. It’s heartbreaking to have straight stitches pop out when you pull the sweatshirt over your doll’s head.



Harriets’s “spy clothes consisted first of all of an ancient pair of blue jeans, so old that her mother had forbidden her to wear them.” This is a great time to reuse an old, ratty pair of jeans that can’t be salvaged and cut them up into doll clothes…unless, you’re still using them for your own spy route.

In the picture on the book jacket, Harriet’s jeans are dark and rolled with a large cuff. I cut up an old pair of maternity capris that were hopelessly out of style when I inherited them thru the cousin pipeline of passed on clothing. I used the same jeans hack I used for Fern’s jeans, but I made the legs much longer – so that we could roll up those high cuffs. I didn’t bother with keeping the original hem because we’re rolling the pants so high – it won’t be seen anyway (and the maternity capris didn’t have a normal hem anyway.)


Since I talked way too much about those maternity capris, I now feel obligated to show them to you.

Now you know why they are now doll jeans instead of being passed on to the next expecting friend.


Set the pattern up the same way we did for Fern, but extend the legs an extra 2″


Sew according to the directions, roll up the legs and you’ve got it!dsc_0456




Harriet “finished by donning a pair of black-rimmed spectacles with no glass in them. She had found these once in her father’s desk and now sometimes wore them even to school, because she thought they made her look smarter.”

I’m on the watch for a pair of reasonably priced black, doll glasses. (The ones I found in stores were expensive and the wrong color.) Even a pair of sunglasses will work because you can pop out the lenses like Harriet does. Until then, I will be content with my homely foam pair. If you’re being frugal like me, I’ll show you how I made them.


I started by tracing out a pair of glasses on regular paper to get the general size. From there, I cut them out of craft foam. I cut the centers out with an x-acto knife.



To get the ear pieces to stay back, I put a dot of hot glue at the corner where I want the bend. Hold the piece at a 90 degree angle to the lenses. You might need to work it back and forth a bit to get the glue to stick in the right spot.





They aren’t ideal, but they’ll do the trick. Just remind yourself that Harriet is wearing her father’s glasses, so they’re supposed to look big and wonky, right?

Our next post will be a pair of high top tennis shoes. Wish me luck!




Kiki’s Delivery Service -Accessories

Today’s post is a simple blueprint to finish your Kiki outfit. It’s mostly following patterns with minor changes.



dsc_0413Kiki has a lacy pair of bloomers that peek out from under her dress as she flies her broom.


  • Simplicity pattern 1392 View D
  • lightweight white knit fabric (3/8 yd)
  • 3/4 yd of 1/4″ elastic
  • 3/4 yd of 1/2″ wide lace

Follow the directions on the pattern. If anything, make the legs shorter.


Red Flats / Shoes


  • McCalls pattern 3469 View G
  • red satin (same material as hair bow) or red leather
  • Foam remnant 6″ X 5″ (optional)

I used the same fabric for the shoes and the lining. I left off the foam, ribbon, and soutache.


Messenger Bag


  • McCalls pattern 3469 View C
  • yellow or orange-yellow canvas
  • lining (I used the purple material from the dress as the lining.)
  • Snap

I left off the embroidered trim.



Now all you need is a black cat and a broom!



Kiki’s Delivery Service – Hair Bow

Kiki’s huge hair bow is essential for her costume. It can be made with three rectangles of fabric.


  • red satin
  • interfacing
  • 1/2″ elastic
  • ruler

Rectangle #1: Bow

  • Measure a rectangle approximately 12″ X 4″of both the satin and  interfacing. Interfacing should be placed on the wrong side of the satin.
  • Hamburger fold them right sides together with the interfacing on the outside. Sew the side edge, but leave a 1″ opening in the middle. (The scissors are pointing to the opening.)dsc_0422
  • Rearrange the fabric so the opening is in the center and stitch across the top and bottom edge. Clip corners and turn right side out. Hand stitch closed.

Rectangle #2: Knot

  • Cut a rectangle  3″ X 4″. Hot dog fold with right sides together, stitch tube, turn right side out.
  • With right sides together, stitch the tube into a circle.(If you’re an overachiever, you can slip stitch it closed, so that there are no raw edges. This part gets hidden, so I don’t bother with the extra work.)dsc_0428

Rectangle #3: Headband

  • Cut a third rectangle 13.5″ X 2″ on the bias so it has some extra stretch. With right sides together, stitch into a long tube that is just wider than the 1/2″ elastic. Trim excess edge. Turn right side out.
  • Cut a length of 1/2″ elastic 12″ long. Thread it through the tube.  Sew a straight line over the end of the elastic and tube. Repeat at the other end. The red material will scrunch because it is longer than the elastic.dsc_0430
  • Slide the headband tube through the knot. (The bow has also been slid through the knot in this picture, but it doesn’t have to be.)dsc_0433
  • Sew ends of tube and elastic together in a circle with right sides together. (This is another place slip stitching can make your work prettier, but I just hide this edge under the knot.)


  • Pull the headband around so that the raw end is under the knot.
  • Slide the bow through the small circle and arrange aesthetically. You may need to fold or bend the knot so that it doesn’t look perfectly flat.dsc_0445
  • You can tack everything together if you don’t want little fingers to be able to pull the bow out.

Strong work! The primary two elements of Kiki’s costume are complete. On the next post, we’ll add the finishing touches that make the outfit stand out: bloomers, shoes, and messenger bag.

Kiki’s Delivery Service – Dress

Kiki’s Delivery Service is a great coming-of-age animated film produced by the talents at Studio Ghibli. I just learned the movie is based on Eiko Kadono’s book – I need to find an English translation! If you haven’t seen the movie, I highly recommend checking your library to see if they have a copy.

Today we’ll be modifying a dress pattern to replicate Kiki’s witch dress. We’ll later add the bow, bloomers, shoes, and messenger bag.



  • dark purple (almost black) knit fabric – anything with a bit of drape and flow will work
  • McCall’s 7266 pattern
  • matching thread
  • 1/2″ velcro


Since Kiki wears a loose, flowy dress, I merged a shirt and coat pattern. I used pieces 1, 2, 3, 17, 18 from M7266. You’ll be overlapping them on folded fabric.


The back consists of piece #2 with #17 reversed and laid on top. We’ll be using the facing of #2, so that we’ll have a velcro enclosure on the back. Here is the view before and after cutting:


The front consists of piece #1 reversed on the fold and #18 laid on top. #18 hangs over the fold, so there will be a large portion of it that won’t be cut out. Here is the view before and after cutting:

If you’re wondering about the masking tape in the pictures above, they are marking the wrong side of the fabric. It is sometimes tricky to tell which is the right and wrong side of the fabric. When I have two similar sides, I use tape to tell them apart.

Sew the pieces according to the directions for the shirt (View A) included with the pattern.  Use a scant seam allowance on the sleeves to keep them wide. Using the 1/4″ seam allowance will make them look more snug than they should be. Be sure to shorten the sleeves to 3/4 length, which is still longer than View A’s directions.


One of the more confusing parts of the pattern is step 5 directing you to “Stitch FRONT FACING 3 and back self facings together at shoulders.” Pattern piece 3 (front facing) is connecting the two facing pieces from pattern 2 (back) like a bridge. This is what it should look like if you stitch them together correctly:


Step 6 directs you to understitch the facing. If you’re relatively new to sewing or just need a refresher, there is a great tutorial at Sewaholic. It has images and walks you through the process of understitching. Very  helpful.

The skirt length will need to be shortened.



Once you’ve finished, you’ll have something like this:



In our next post, we’ll be making Kiki’s large hair bow.

Paper Bag Princess – Sewn Bag Dress

For our final day of Paper Bag Princess tutorials, we’re going to sew a ‘paper bag’ dress. The paper bag dress we made two days ago is great, but isn’t long lasting. I wanted to sew a fabric dress that could stand up to play, but still looked like Princess Elizabeth’s paper bag dress.



  • tan fabric (I used an old pair of khaki pants that was ruined in the wash by a pen. You can use stiffer material if you really want to replicate a paper bag.)
  • matching thread
  • 3/4″ Velcro
  • pinking shears
  •  paper lunch bag

I recommend deconstructing a paper bag at the seams to get an idea of the folds. I have the one I used here and the dimensions. The numbers marked in marker are the dimensions before adding seam allowances.


After adding the seam allowances, you’ll cut panels with the following dimensions:

  • two 3 1/4″ X 10″ (these are the two panels that make up the back)
  • one 5 1/2″ X 10″ (front)
  • two 3 3/4″ X  10″ (sides)

For the following sewing directions, I used 1/4″ seam allowances.

  1. Sew the long side of 3 1/4″ (back) panel to the long side of the 3 3/4″ (side) panel – right sides together. Repeat for the other two corresponding panels.
  2. Sew the other long side of the 3 3/4″ (side) panel  to the 5 1/2″ (front) panel – right sides together. Repeat for the other side of the 5 1/2″ (front) panel.
  3. At this point, all of your panels should be connected. Fold and hem the raw, long sides of the 3 1/4″ (back) panels.dsc_0340

Trim across the raw edges on the top and bottom with pinking shears – this helps give it a paper bag look and will keep it from fraying.

Fold 2 1/2″ of fabric down from the top with right sides together. Iron.




With right sides together, stitch a scant seam across this fold. Fold over so that the wrong isides are together and iron the fold.


Iron all the vertical panels to help make a box shape.

Now we’re going to start folding, ironing, and pinning the base of our paper bag (which is the bottom if you’re packing a lunch, but will be the top of our dress – confusing semantics).

This part can be tricky and using your deconstructed paper bag to visualize the folds can be helpful. Take your time folding the base to make it look like a lunch sack.


Stitch down the diagonal folds coming from the corners. Go slowly and check that your bag is keeping the proper shape as you go. I turned it inside out and stitched with the right side up to keep an eye on the construction.

After that tricky folding, cutting the neck and arm holes is stressful. Cut a small opening and gradually make them larger. You don’t want to make it irreversibly too large -. heartbreaking after all that work. Try it on your doll as you go and adjust the openings accordingly.


I started the arm hole opening with a small cut 1 3/4″ below the shoulder seam with pinking shears.

dsc_0359I folded the fabric in half and cut it symmetrically.

Stay stitch around the opening.




Cut the neck opening at the front of the bag. Stay stitch.





Cut an appropriate length of velcro for the back. I cut the strip in half so that it is not so wide. The back panels overlap, so make sure the panels align to make a symmetrical box before you sew in place. I also put a small strip of velcro on the top.

I didn’t put velcro all the way to the bottom because I wanted to be able to trim the length.





Use pinking shears to trim the bottom of the dress to the length you want. Trace the bottom of a bag onto the front of your dress and cut out that half circle.



Don’t forget to iron the creases in the side of the dress to look like lunch sack folds.

Top with a crown and you’ve done it!

Whew! That ended up being more difficult than I expected, but the dress ended up looking pretty good. Come on, it’s a bag, so it’s only going to look so good. Please tell me my kids will play with it enough to be worth it.


Our next post will be Kiki’s Delivery Service!

Paper Bag Princess – Crown

Welcome back to day two of Paper Bag Princess tutorials to transform your 18 inch doll into Princess Elizabeth. We’re going to make Elizabeth’s crown today – post dragon attack. It’s fairly quick and easy to make. Best of all, my doll’s perpetually messy hair fits perfectly for Princess Elizabeth’s look.



  • Thick fabric – I used yellow canvas (gold would be ideal), cardboard would be fine too
  • Gold fabric paint
  • paint brush
  • glue gun


I started by measuring  6.5″ across the canvas. Then I drew out a general shape of the melted crown.

Paint the fabric and let it dry. The canvas was already starting to curl, which is perfect for the melted look that we’re going for.

Flip it over and paint the other side.

dsc_0362Glue or sew the two ends. I used a glue gun.

You can attach a clear elastic band if you want to keep it on during play.

dsc_0375The painted canvas is stiff enough to hold the prongs up, but flexible enough to be bent down to get the ‘melted’ look of Princess Elizabeth’s crown.

Next post, we’ll make a sewn/cloth version of the paper bag dress.

Paper Bag Princess – Easy Dress

Hi! Have you heard of the Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch? I somehow missed it when I was a kid and didn’t discover it until I had a daughter. It’s a great, empowering, heroic girl vs. dragon story.dsc_0375

If you haven’t read this illustrated book yet, a dragon attacks Princess Elizabeth’s kingdom, destroying pretty much everything, including the fancy gown she was wearing. With nothing to wear, the princess dons a paper bag and sets off to save the prince.

After our lengthy Quidditch uniform tutorials, we’re going simple today. I’m going to start this series of tutorials with a literal paper bag dress. No sewing today. We’re strictly in craft territory today. From here, we’ll move on to a crown tutorial and finally a sewn, fabric ‘paper bag’ dress  (much more durable and longer lasting.)

The paper bag dress is incredibly easy. A regular lunch size bag will fit your 18 inch doll. This dress can be done in a few minutes with scissors and tape! (Sometimes a fast costume to go along with a read-aloud is all you want!)



First, cut the bottom 3 inches off a paper bag.






Use the piece you cut off and trace the bottom curve onto your remaining bag. Cut that piece out.


Next, cut a line up the center of the back and cut a neck hole in the top.


You can cut the arm holes in two different ways:

  • You can cut them with the corners of the bag left on for a boxy look
  • /or/  You can cut the corners off when you cut the arm holes

Check the length to see if you like it. I ended up cutting another 1/2″ off my dress.

Fasten it at the back with tape.


Your doll is ready to save her kingdom!dsc_0375

We’ll have another quick post tomorrow on how to make the ‘melted’ crown.