All Dolled Up
When Kim King’s dolls get dolled up, they go to the State Fair and bring home blue ribbons.
By Eugenia Jones
Along with her mother, Kim King counts her beloved Aunt Clyda as having been a major influence on her life.
“She taught me to sew,” King, who began sewing at the age of seven, recalled. “I learned to sew by hand and stitched on practice scraps. Aunt Clyda made me rip stitches out if they weren’t small enough or straight enough. She always told me, ‘Things you do, do with might. Things you do half, are never done right.’”
According to King, those words stayed with her.
“I’ve tried to apply Aunt Clyda’s words to my sewing and my life,” King remarked.
Aunt Clyda used a treddle machine to make all of her nieces’ clothes and doll clothes when they were children. King credits Aunt Clyda for igniting her own desire to create.
“As my sister and I got older, we were allowed to choose the patterns Aunt Clyda used to make our clothes,” King said. “That’s where I got my love for creating fashion because, in choosing patterns, I got to be my own fashion designer.”
Kim remembers her aunt’s scrap box filled with left over scraps of fabric.
“I was allowed to play with those scraps,” King said with a grin. “Aunt Clyda really let me play with the scraps after I used a box of Kleenex to make doll dresses!”
Eventually, King began making and cutting out her own patterns.
“I wasn’t very successful at it,” King said with a smile. “But I definitely knew the style I wanted-I liked historic styles and lots of ruffles!”
King gave up sewing temporarily when she married and had a family.
“I was busy being a wife and mother,” she noted. “When my daughter’s Cabbage Patch doll clothes fell apart after being washed, I knew I could do better. After all, doll clothes children are playing with should be washable!”
Kim’s hobby of making doll clothes became competitive after she visited the McCreary County Public Library and saw a State Fair Premium book listing all of the KY State Fair categories. Intrigued by the State Fair category for doll clothes, King decided to enter a handmade wedding dress for an 11 ½ inch Barbie.
“When I got married, my veil and train weren’t long and full enough,” King said with a smile. “So I designed the Barbie’s dress as my dream wedding dress.”
King sent her first State Fair entry by mail and ended up winning a 1st place blue ribbon.
“It didn’t seem real when I won,” King declared. “I had to pinch myself!”
After winning her first blue ribbon, King’s husband, Larry, bought a doll for his wife to dress for entry into the following year’s State Fair. Once again, King and her doll walked off with another blue ribbon.
After two years of winning blue ribbons at the KY State Fair, King once again took a break from sewing as she continued her education and became a school teacher.
Eventually, she resumed sewing and entering doll clothes in State Fair Competition. King decided to aim for a higher honor after learning about the Handmade Doll Clothes Sweepstakes category with its big blue ribbon.
“I decided I wanted that ribbon,” King exclaimed.
In 2013, King accomplished her goal of winning Sweepstakes blue in Handmade Doll Clothes by racking up three blue ribbons (1st), two reds (2nd), and one white (3rd) with her six entries.
That Sweepstakes victory spurred King to the next level.
“Since I had won the Sweepstakes in Doll Clothes, I thought surely I could win Sweepstakes in Textiles,” King exclaimed. “All this comes from my being so competitive!”
During her first try at the Sweepstakes Textile category, King brought home five blue and two red ribbons for her handmade doll clothing and an honorable mention, one red ribbon, and two white ribbons for her Stuffed Animals. She came up one blue ribbon short of winning the Textile Sweepstakes.
Undeterred by coming up one blue ribbon short, King is still determined to win. However, since the Sweepstake categories have undergone a name change to Best in Show, King is now shooting for first place in Textile Best of Show. It won’t be a surprise if soon, King brings the Best of Show blue home to McCreary County.
King has a system for dressing her dolls. She begins on the inside and works her way outward as she hand stitches the under and outer wear-including panties, puffed leg pantaloons, and petticoats-worn during the era represented by the doll.
“I begin by looking at a doll and determining the era she will represent,” King explained. “I have to match the fabrics and styles of the time. I order a lot of my fabric for the heirloom sewing. My silks are manufactured in New York. I also think about which colors to use-colors I and others will like.”
The process is time consuming. King said it took three years to complete fourteen entries for one State Fair competition. Including doll clothing she has made for her daughters and nieces and the clothing she has made for the McCreary County Public Library American Girl parties, King estimates she has completed more than one hundred outfits.
King has a sewing room in her home filled with a few of her favorite things-including dolls and Nancy Drew Mystery books.
“This room is my happy place,” King noted with a smile. “I’m fortunate my husband, Larry, is very supportive of what I do. That is important. He never considers my hobby to be frivolous and makes sure I have my space with all the latest gadgets.”
With more than fifty years of sewing to her credit, King continues to aim high with her needle and thread.
“If my sewing is not right, I rip it out,” she chuckled. “I rip it out and do it over. Believe me, through the years, I’ve ripped out plenty of stitches!”