Designing a dress

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One of the things I’ve been working on lately is a new dress for Trixie (Luts Honey Delf Anko). I noticed recently that she doesn’t really have any dresses. She has pants and tops, but not many skirts or dresses. She’s so adorable, she deserves to have piles of frilly dresses. Well, okay, not too frilly, since that’s not really my thing, but frilly compared to the other things I make. Let’s put it that way.

Anyway, here are two versions of the pattern so you can see the progression. I really need to repaint my sewing table. I didn’t do it right the first time and the rubber feet on my sewing machine have ripped up the paint. Also, I don’t know what I was thinking with the lime green.

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And here’s Trixie in a mockup of the dress. Sorry for the awful photo. I think my New Year’s goal will be to improve my photo skills.

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It’s a little wider at the bottom than a straight column, but it’s going to have a very structured a-line pinafore over it, so I didn’t want it to be too wide. The neckline stretched all out of whack; I’ll have to stay-stitch it next time. Or I might add a peter pan-type collar. I am going to add ruffles to the hem, and I’ve been dithering because I didn’t really know how to do them, but then I found a tutorial on Pinterest that shows exactly what I want to do, so I’m excited to try it now. I hope it works in miniature.

Next up: I finally got the nerve to dye a doll! I can’t wait to show you! Also, stay tuned because I’ll be adding some free doll patterns to this site soon. Nothing fancy, but I thought I’d share my patterns for tights/leggings/socks, underwear, maybe tee shirts. Oh, and simple bedroom slippers. Partly as charity for naked dolls, but also for my own nefarious purposes, which will be revealed at a later date.

 


Wiggin’ and Dreamin’ (Beautiful Dreamer, part 2)

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This was one of those weeks where I worked really hard and got almost done with several things, but not quite. Oh well.

Here is a picture of that wig after I took the curlers out. They worked really well, except I forgot how important it is to set the curlers in the right direction. So I’ll have to redo the curlers again sometime, but I was probably going to have to do that anyway, considering all the flyaways. The interesting thing is, I thought I was going to have to trim the bangs, because they went halfway down her face, but it turns out they were just meant to be curled.

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In addition to playing with my new wigs, I came really close to finishing the bed I’ve been working on. Sorry for the grainy, middle-of-the night pictures below. Getting better photography skills is on my to-do list.

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There are only a couple of finishing touches left to do. I’m probably going to add weights to the quilt, after all. It just doesn’t hang right. I want to run a line of stitching around the outside edge of the quilt, and I want to spray paint the frame white, since it’s rusty and all the brass coating is coming off (and I have no idea how that happened. None at all. Stop asking me.).

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The throw pillows are so tacky, they crack me up. They are an homage to a faux-fur pillow I had when I was a kid that was a hand-me-down from the 1960s. I wish I had made them bigger, though. Everything else is pretty much just how I wanted it, although looking at the whole thing now, I wonder if maybe I should have tea-stained it all before I glued anything down. I can’t wait to see it with all my tiny stuffies piled on it, like a proper little-girl bed. And maybe a book or two.

This week I’m working on a commission, so I may not have anything to show you next time. Coming soon: wigging for the whole family!


Wiggin’ out

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Well, I didn’t have much time to work on the doll bed project this week, but I do have something cool to show you. I went to a meetup Saturday, and I scored some cool stuff.

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The shoes are Dollmore and they’re a bit big for Leah, but I’m saving up for a tall girl body for my floating head, so hopefully they’ll fit that body when it arrives. Besides, I like them. :) I picked up the earrings because sometimes I think about piercing Cleo and/or Trixie’s ears. I hope to acquire another MSD who will be better suited to pierced ears though, so for now these will just go into the stash.

The long blond/pink wig is a Leeke color that I’ve always liked, so when I had the chance to get one cheap I jumped for it. It’s an 8, and I was hoping it would fit Cleo, who wears a 7/8, but it clearly does not. It does fit Teddy, my floating head, who is an 8/9, though, so I guess it’ll be hers for special occasions. Super-long wigs like that never seem to be default wigs in my house anyway. I guess I could have tried it on Leah, but I was afraid she’d kill me where I stood if I got near her with anything that adorable.

The other two wigs are very old, matted mohair wigs. After an hour of brushing and a ton of spray-detangler, the gold one is almost serviceable. When I brought it home, I couldn’t even tell that it had a part. Here’s how it looks on Teddy:

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I actually love this wig. Teddy is a Luts Senior Delf Frey, which is a boy sculpt, but is perfect for Teddy’s strong female character. I really want to give her a faceup now! This might become her default wig, but all that brushing to get rid of the matting also got rid of the curls, so I decided to wet it down and see if they came back.

This is what it look like now:

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Much better. I might decide to comb it out again and use some styling product to curl it properly at a later date. I also may add some subtle blond highlights, but for now I love it just the way it is.

The little white wig fits Cleo perfectly. She’s in pieces right now, waiting to be restrung, or I’d show her modeling it. But it was badly matted too, and after combing out the gold wig, I really didn’t want to comb out all those adorable ringlets. So I decided to put curlers in it while I was combing. I sprayed each lock until it was wet with spray-detangler, and then I combed it out and put it in a curler made from a drinking straw and a hairpin. This is how it looked after I finished with it:

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As of this posting, I haven’t taken the curlers out. I don’t think the ringlets will be as tight as they were before, but they’ll probably be more natural looking. Not that natural is what you want for an 18th century wig. I’m going to exhibit at a bjd show next year, and my theme is Venetian Carnevale, so I need 18th-century wigs for all my dolls, and this is one less wig for me to make.

I’ll leave you with a sneak preview. What could this be? I’m not telling.

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Beautiful Dreamer, part 1

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When you’re the “crafty one” in the family, sometimes people give you stuff that they think you can use. Sometimes it pans out, and sometimes it goes directly into the donation bin. So a while ago, my mom brought me this doll bed she got at a garage sale. It turned out to be an old American Girl brass bed, but it was in terrible shape. When I tried to clean the rust off it, I managed to make it worse by stripping most of the “brass” finish off. Then, my first attempt at a mattress failed miserably, so I kind of gave up. It got tossed aside in my UFO (unfinished object) pile for a couple of years.

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Then, a friend was destashing her doll stuff, and she gave me a fabric-covered box she said was a doll bed. When I discovered it fit perfectly in the bed frame I already had, I decided it was the universe telling me it was time to finish this project. So I went to work.

I bought all the fabric to make the bedding back when I first attempted this project. Apparently I had kind of a quirky, shabby chic style in mind. So I started measuring and cutting.

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Above you see the yellow stripes for the sheets, the red, orange and gold fabric for the quilt, the yellow flannel for inside the quilt, and the red stripes for… well, I don’t remember what I bought the red stripes for. I ended up using it for the back of the quilt and I plan to use it for the dust ruffle, but I’m really not sure if that was the original plan or not.

I considered adding some batting to the top of the box before gluing the sheets down, so the doll would sink into it, but I didn’t have any on hand and I didn’t want to throw any more money at this thing, since I don’t know what’ll happen to it after it’s finished. I might sell it, I might keep it. Right now I’m still in love with it, so keeping it sounds like a great idea. That feeling often passes, though.

I went ahead and glued the bottom sheet to the mattress, since I don’t plan to make another set of bedding to change out. That would be way too much like housework. Then I measured and cut the top sheet and hemmed it on all four sides. Real sheets have woven edges rather than hems, but this is all neat and tidy and it totally looks like I made two rows of stitching om purpose, and not because the first row didn’t catch enough of the turned-under part of the hem (You can’t see the two rows of stitching in the picture, but trust me, it turns out I’m really good at sewing a completely straight line. Who knew?).

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The quilt is unfinished so far because I had to run to JoAnn’s for yet another cut of fabric. Apparently, when I bought the fabric for the quilt, I forgot you need another fabric for the binding.

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So here’s where I am today (and naturally, my cat Soleil thinks the bed is for her). The quilt is ready except for the binding. I was worried about it being too thick to drape well, as mini quilts often are, but I think it works well. If it won’t hang over the sides after the binding is done, I’m going to sew some weights into the corners. Either glass beads or bbs, depending on how much weight it needs.

The sheets are done, so all that’s left are the dust ruffle and the pillows. I can’t wait to see how it looks with all my miniature stuffies on it. The sad thing? This is an MSD-sized bed and both of my minis are currently in pieces, so there’s nobody to lie in it. Oh well, I’m sure one or both of my tinies will fill in until the others get it together.

The big news this week: I’ve decided to exhibit at a BJD show next year. I’m shooting for Austin, but I’ve heard it might be hard to get in there, so if that fails I’ll try Doll-Akon or the one in St. Louis. My theme is going to be “Venetian Carnevale,” so I will consider building another, Renaissance-themed bed. I have a lot of things to build between now and then, but so far this bed has been a lot of fun.


Green Wings

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If you’re familiar with my work, you may know that I make angel wings from silk flower petals and sell them in my Etsy shop.

Blue and purple angel wings

I’m pretty proud of these wings, but they have one limitation: they can only be so big, since I can only get silk mums up to a certain size. So when I needed to make an archangel costume for my 72cm boy, I had to figure out something different for the wings.

After a lot of consideration, I went to the thrift store and bought an old silk blouse for a dollar. I pinned the fabric down on a layer of wax paper on a pizza box (it was flat and stable and available) and treated the silk with fabric stiffener.

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Sorry the picture’s upside down; I barely remembered to take any pictures at all.

This had the unfortunate result of leaving spots on the back side of the fabric. I’m not sure if the spots are transferred wax from the wax paper or pooled fabric stiffener. Maybe I’ll use parchment paper next time.

Then I measured out about a million rectangles and marked them with my sewline pencil, which I love for marking fabric, and cut them out.

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After they were cut out, I folded them in half and creased them and cut them to shape. If I decide to do this some more, I’ll experiment with shaping the feathers as the stiffener dries. Flower petals are curled, both front to back and side to side, but these will have to do.

I made a felt-over-wire armature just like I do for my smaller wings, only I supersized it. I call this the “chicken wing” stage of the project.

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Then I glued the feathers on, one at a time, like usual, and applied ribbons to one side for a harness. I touched it over with gold paint to hide the spots. The stiffened silk took the paint really well. It would be a good surface for painting, if one were into that sort of thing, which this one isn’t.

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I think they came out pretty well. The treated silk is pretty much exactly like the faux flowers, though maybe a little finer and more transparent. The only problem was, as huge as these wings looked while I was working on them, they were just barely big enough not to look silly on my boy. Seventy-two centimeters is HUGE! These wings are big enough for a standard 60cm doll, I think, but I will have to try making some even bigger wings later, with a different technique. These feathers aren’t detailed enough to be much bigger than this.

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Meanwhile, back at the ranch

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Here’s what I’ve been doing this spring.

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My best friend, Sariah’s birthday is at the end of March, and I forget it EVERY. SINGLE. YEAR. So this year I started thinking about what to get her at Christmas. I found this fabulous little merboy pendant from Green Girl Studios. Sariah loves mermaids and babies and I knew she’d love it. The only thing was, it was too big for her style of jewelry. So I decided to put it on a leather cord and add some seashells, and she could hang it on her wall in her bathroom, where she has a seashell theme.

Somehow, that spiraled out of control. I ended up making a beaded, seashell-encrusted environment for the merboy. It has two layers of felt for backing and fits in a six by four shadowbox frame. It was a lot of fun, and it looks a lot prettier in person than in this awful picture.

Besides, Sariah loved it, and that’s all that matters.

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I know it’s weird, but I really love the back of this piece. I kind of have a thing for freeform needlework, though I don’t actually do any of it, and I love the rhythm of the stitches back here.

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Then I realized my niece’s third birthday was coming up, and I needed to make something for her. When I asked her what she wanted, she said, “Tinkerbell.” So I made her a pixie. I haven’t made a cloth doll in a really long time, and this one I made from scratch, so I’m very pleased with how well it came out. I angsted over the wings for a while but eventually went with felt for them, too. I used cable ties to stiffen the wings, and I inserted one in her neck because she wouldn’t hold her head up. The face is embroidered — which came out surprisingly well. From now on, I’m doing all my embroidery at 4am the night before — and the hair is sort-of embroidered and sort of… what would you call it? Appliqued? Anyway, the braids were made separately and sewn on.

I thought it was pretty cute but it kind of got lost among the other four thousand gifts she got that day. That kid has more friends at age three than I’ve had in my entire life.

I hope you’re having a productive summer. Thanks for reading.


Fairyland BJDs

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I mostly focus on original one-of-a-kind dolls on this blog, but lately I’ve developed a love for Asian Ball-Jointed Dolls, so I want to share with you one of my favorite sites.

Fairyland dolls are beautiful and fantastically posable, but lately they’ve come out with some absolutely gorgeous fullsets (fullset dolls come with costumes, special paint jobs and wigs, unlike most ball-jointed dolls, which arrive naked and without eyes or wigs, ready to be customized by the owner).

I just adore the costumes on these dolls. The color scheme is perfect for winter and for their celestial/fantasy theme and the minute details are just amazing.

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Look, normally I’m not a pastel girl. But whoever designed these costumes is an expert in color theory, making their limited pink-purple-blue-white palette suggest fairy tales, magical fantasy, and the cosmos. I don’t know how you pile that much lace on a Fauntleroy suit and still make it clearly a little boy, but I think this costume pulls it off (though I might be inured to that sort of thing since I’ve been looking at lots of BJDs lately). The girl’s costume borrows a little from the Gothic Lolita tradition, but with a bit more 18th-century fairy tale style than usual. All those layers of lace and trim make her skirt look like a birthday cake. And the ruffles at her wrists are the perfect proportions. I can tell you from experience, that isn’t easy to do.

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Minifee Chloe, pictured above, is a 16-inch doll and has my favorite costume of this series. The layers of lace and ruffles combined with fantasy historical elements and delicate gold braid manage to be sexy without giving up any of the romantic charm of historical costumes. I also like the way the purple details punch up the white and mauve color scheme.

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Roke and Chloe Elf, above, are larger dolls, and hence have sexier costumes. I just love the floaty ruffles of Chloe Elf’s  skirt (though I think I’d like more coverage on the bodice!) and the lacy metal braid on her belt and bodice. Roke’s costume is what I call “Fashion armor;” his helm and leather corset might look sexy but wouldn’t do much else. I’m not sure if he’s wearing a skirt or a hakama, but I love the details of this costume, like the fur lining on his pauldrons and the iridescent paint on his helm.

Maybe I’ll do a bjd primer at some point. The hobby has enough jargon and unique traditions to be its own industry, or possibly a small country. However, the bjd industry seems to be thriving while other kinds of doll art are dying out, so I think it’s instructive to examine the best they have to offer.


New stuff on etsy

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I haven’t sculpted a new doll in a long time, but I’ve been making clothes for Asian ball-jointed dolls. I just love the style of their sculpts, and the freedom from the art doll’s eternal dilemma — is it art or is it a toy?

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BJDs are unapologetically dolls, meant to be touched and played with, even though they’re really for grown-ups. Making clothes for them is fun because you can make real clothes. Art dolls are often impossible to dress without constructing the garment directly on the doll, and many collectible dolls are so tiny or inflexible that you can’t dress them the same way you’d dress a human.

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BJDs have a different set of problems (I’m still trying to work out how to make a realistic-looking tee shirt for a doll whose head has a larger circumference than his shoulders) but for the most part, you can make their clothes just like people clothes, only smaller and with less material.

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Anyway, above are some pictures of things I’ve made lately. My model is a Kid Delf Bory and she is 40cm (about 16 inches) tall. She’s proportioned like a child, and I think of her as being around 10 years old. I’m saving money for a larger doll, who will be Cleo’s mother, because I want to make things like evening gowns and sexy fantasy costumes that don’t seem appropriate for a little girl. I’ve save $100 so far! Wish me luck!

P.S. I am actually working on a sculpted doll, which I hope to make into a ball-jointed doll of my own. She’s coming along, in fits and starts, and I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing. Other people make it look so easy, so maybe I’m just making it more complicated than it needs to be. I dunno.


Fairy and Angel wings

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There is a lot of information available on making human-sized wings for fairy or angel costumes. Some of these techniques won’t apply to dolls, but they might inspire you to try something you hadn’t thought of before, so here are some pages with wing instructions:

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Instructables.com is a great resource with lots of costume and cosplay advice. They have how-tos for articulated human-sized wings and feathered, articulated wings.
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Art of Wings claims to have the most unusual fairy wings on the internet, and they might be right. There are lots of varieties to choose from, so take a peek.

And here is a whole page full of instructions and links for various types of wings.

Enjoy!