Monday, October 15, 2012

Make It Yourself Monday: Niya's Native American Outfit

AG doll Kaya -- Niya Dressed In My Pattern -- Niya Undressed

I wanted to share a pattern I've been working on the past week, but I didn't have it done in time, so I'm sharing a pattern that I has posted a few months back before the great delete of grief.

PDF File
I grew up with a very odd mixture of Native American culture, Fundamental Christian culture and Wicaan culture, which has given me an ecclectic world view as an adult. My great grandpa was Cherokee who was raised white, and his daughter, my Granny (now 92), decided as a girl to be mostly white, which was probably easiest for her, considering the times she lived through. She remains mostly white to this day, except when she goes to PowWow, when she is all Indian. My mom and my aunts are sometimes white and sometimes Indian, which after talking to other people of mixed heritage, I found out is pretty normal. I'm white. I know because when I tried to be Indian as a teenager I was imperiously informed by an Indian girl who was half and half that I was too white to be Indian. Then later, when I was at a powwow with my oldest son, who was 7 at the time and who thought being indian was the greatest thing he'd ever discovered, we were both informed by the PowWow leader that we were too white to be Indian. So, I'm not Indian, but some of my people are. Just like I'm not Wiccan, but some of my people are that too. Mostly I'm anabaptist, but that's neither here nor there.
My point to all of this background information is that I'm especially fond of Native American Culture and I thoroughly enjoyed the stories of the American Girl doll Kaya. A few years back Springfield used to make a native american doll named Niya. I plan on sharing her lost profile this Friday. She is the doll I used as my model for this pattern.
The pattern for Niya's clothes is my own invention, designed after looking at several patterns for Indian Princess doll costumes. The fabric was purchased on sale at my local fabric store. It took less than 1/2-yard for the dress and overlay. I think the material was intended as an upholstery fabric, but I could be wrong. It's stiffer than ultra suede, similar to microsuede, only not as expensive as most microsuede I've seen. The trim came from AC Moore. It's a cream colored cotton braid. I accented the front of the cape with small strips of red leather cord topped with a plastic gold bead. It was very challenging to sew through the red leather cord and if I had it to do over again I would choose yarn or even ribbon. Anything that is easier to sew. I only did 3 because it was so hard to get the needle through the red leather cord. The necklace is made from inexpensive glass beads strung on a thin elastic thread. I have a lot of them leftover from kid and craft projects over the years. The hair ornaments are big plastic buttons that were found on sale at Hancock fabrics about 15 years ago. They have lurked in my button tin until I rescued them for this project. I ran a short length of elastic thread through the button shank and then tied it and trimmed the ends. They fit on her braids like any elastic hair band would. The ends of her braids are tied with simple cotton string. Kiyah's boots are inexpensive Springfield doll boots I bought at a going-out-of-business sale at a craft shop in the late 90's. I stashed them with my doll stuff until bringing them out for this project.

The outfit I designed isn't associated with any particular tribe. It's modest and the cape gives it double coverage, which my inner anabaptist finds very pleasing. If you're making a historical character, this pattern can be made suitable for both Pocahontas and Sacajawea by using different colored fabric and varying the trim. I think an ecru or ivory fabric would be great for Pocahontas.  A darker color would do for Sacajawea since she is traveling. A baby in a papoose would be a fun and historically accurate addition to Sacajawea's ensemble. Felt is inexpensive and widely available at craft stores in 36-inch square yard packages. It is very easy to work with, especially for beginners. It would work perfectly for this dress.


  1. And for anyone who wants to have Niya again, Sunshine crafts dot com is selling them again, naked and w/o a box (except a shipping box). She's slightly darker than the newer Maria/Sofia doll. You should also know that the doll comes w/ braided hair and there is a permanent part sewn down the middle of her head, giving her less hair than the dolls w/ loose, unbraided hair.

  2. Thanks Sharry! I forgot to put that part in. I'll include it on Friday for sure. Niya is a lovely doll. Lots of fun to play with and I really like that she's Native American. I know Maria can stand in for her, but Niya holds a special place in my heart.

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  4. You are a life saver! My three year old granddaughter fell in love with Kaya and everyone recommended not to buy that particular doll until the child was 10 yrs of age. I found your article and pattern and was still able to buy Niya and am in absolute love with that doll. My granddaughter is soooo happy with her Pocahontas doll and if the doll's loved too much and the hair gets ratty, we are not going to care. A three year old needs a doll that can be loved as she is too young to understand that the expensive doll is more of a "collector" type thing and not a doll to play with.

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