The making of a Ninja Turtle

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Hi, I hope everyone had a great New Year’s!

This weekend, my doll club is having a meeting with the theme of  “Superheroes.” As much as I’d love to make a Flash or Green Arrow costume, I don’t have time, so after surveying my dolls to see what they wanted, I decided to make Sebastian a Ninja Turtle costume. A dear friend of mine suggested a while ago that when I don’t have time to make a real costume, I can always have my little kids play dress-up, so we’re building a turtle shell out of cardboard.

The cardboard is actually pasteboard from a soda case. First I drew the shapes I needed on the cardboard. I cut an octagon out of cardboard and used it as a template to draw the shapes on the shell. This turned out to be a wasted effort.

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Next, I cut the pieces out. I decided to give the back shell some texture, so I folded it on all the lines of the octagon pattern. This gave it an interesting texture and resulted in a curved shell, which was pretty cool. Okay, so I guess the octagons weren’t completely wasted effort, but I was sad that they completely vanished when I started painting. It all worked out, though.

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Next, I painted both pieces with acrylic. Apparently, my artist brain took over, and I think I painted the back shell too realistically for a Ninja Turtle. But, hey, look, I figured out a really easy way to make a fairly realistic turtle shell. Expect some totally bizarre turtle-themed fantasy costumes in the future. Or, actually, I’ve been wanting to make some armor. Fantasy armor could involve turtle shells. Hmm…

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If you’re getting the impression that everything I do is an experiment, there may be a reason for that. I am a mad scientist, except without the science. A mad artist. That doesn’t sound right. Hm. Actually, I’m pretty easygoing and hardly ever get mad.  Oh well.

After searching my stash for orange fabric (Sebastian would have to choose Michelangelo. I told him Leonardo is the hero, even though Raphael is always the most popular, but he doesn’t care. Michelangelo is funny.), it turns out that polar fleece is the only thing I’ve got that’s remotely appropriate, and I’m not buying fabric for this silly project, so if I can’t make the polar fleece work, he may suddenly become Donatello. It would be easier to make a quarterstaff than a pair of nunchuks anyway.

I wish I had time to make a doll-sized pizza box.

Stay turned for updates.

 


Building a BJD

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I’ve been on hiatus for a while, because life got in the way, and I was thinking about moving the blog or redesigning it or whatever, and I still am, but for now I’m going to keep posting what I’m working on.

So, for years, I’ve wanted to make my own bjd. I started on a head a while ago. She was named Calico, because an unfortunate oven accident left her scorched in a variety of colors. She worked out well enough, but I got caught up with trying to make her perfectly symmetrical and never finished.

Then, a couple of months ago, I decided to just quit dilly-dallying and make a bjd, already. If it sucks, it sucks. At least I’ll be able to say I did it. So I picked a tutorial by Allison MeCleary from the Woodland Earth Studio forum that used polymer clay and worked from the inside out, which made logical sense to me, and just started it. Here’s what I have so far. Her name is Elidee.

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The tutorial I’m following uses wooden beads for the ball joints, but that’s because she was going to make a mold and cast hers. I’m not planning to do that, so I want the whole doll to be made out of clay. I decided to use the beads to form the sockets for her joints, then form the ball part of her joints out of polymer clay. It was going great until I got to her knees. Knee joints are hard! I’m hoping that once I figure them out, the elbows will be easier.

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This was my first attempt at the knee joint (You can see that I left the head and one leg piece in the oven too long and they turned a darker color than the rest of the pieces). I thought it was working well, but unfortunately some liquid clay got into the joint while I was curing it the second or third time, and it all fused together. It broke into pieces when I tried to separate it from the leg. But I already carved out the excess stuff and rebuilt the sockets, and I still have the sculpted knee part, so all I have to do is rebuild the ball joints. Meanwhile I’ve sculpted the other leg and now I know to be more careful with any part that has liquid clay on it.

One part of this that has been great is that I’ve been forced to use an X-acto knife and a Dremel tool to carve the cured clay a lot more than I’ve ever done before. There’s something satisfying about it; it feels like being an engineer. One thing that baffled me before was how to sculpt over a hollow form, but this way I’m sculpting over a solid form made of cured polymer clay, and then drilling out the channels for the strings.

I think she’ll be about 18 cm when she’s finished. I’m terribly in love with her right now, but I know she’s not up to a professional level yet. She’s nowhere near symmetrical and her joints probably won’t work as well as I want them to. The one thing I want is for her to be fun to play with. If she’s fun, then I’ll consider her a success.


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.

 


Don’t blink

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A few weeks ago I completed a weeping angel costume from the Dr Who TV series. This weekend I finally got some good pictures of it.

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The wings are felt, made the same way as my flower petal wings, and you’d never guess that their original color was oatmeal. I painted the heck out of them, which is hard with felt because it just sucks up paint like it was koolaid. The unexpected benefit is that the feathers are so stiff, you’d think I put fabric stiffener on them.

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The dress is plain muslin (unbleached, which is why I chose oatmeal felt for the wings, so everything would start out the same color), treated with Stiffy fabric stiffener, and then painted. The tricky thing was that the Stiffy goes limp when it gets wet, which makes painting it difficult. But I managed. Now that’s dry, the dress stands up by itself, even without a doll in it, which is kind of hilarious.

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The pedestal is something I had around the house. It was a plaster thing I bought at a craft store a gazillion years ago and painted. It was perfect for this shoot.

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The “wig” is what I’m least happy with. I sculpted it out of Model Magic, and somehow I seriously miscalculated the hairline. I was considering adding yarn hair at an early stage, so maybe I thought I was going to have yarn to cover the extra space. I have no idea. Oh well, it served well enough.

I’d probably sell this if someone made me an offer, but for now it’s going in the stash in case I need a creepy Halloween costume or something.


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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A new year, a new project.

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This is the year of finishing projects, as far as I’m concerned. My stash of fabrics and craft supplies is completely out of control, so I have a couple of projects lined up to use scraps and stash items.

The only new thing I’m starting on is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. I’ve been sewing for dolls for a couple of years now, and I’ve been thinking that I’d be really good at making patterns. I’m pretty good at teaching and I’m a graphic designer, so the publishing part will be easy. I just needed the time to develop some patterns.

So the first pattern I’m doing is a bathrobe for big boys. I made this bathrobe so that my first big boy would have something to wear until I made him some real clothes. Bathrobes don’t need to fit very well, so you can make one to a doll’s measurements without having the doll in hand, and reasonably expect it to fit. I also wanted something for my dolls to wear while they’re sitting around waiting to try on something I’m sewing for them.

In order to develop the pattern, I figure I’ll need to make several bathrobes (which I’ll probably offer for sale in my Etsy shop), and this week I finished the first one. I wrote the instructions for the pattern while I was making it. I probably need to make a couple more, one for each of the “views” I’m going to include in the pattern, and then another example using the pattern to make sure it all works.

The  finished robe is pictured below. My previous version was shorter, but I like this length. What do you think?

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I made his wig. Isn’t it awful? Turns out it’s a lot harder to trim short wigs than I thought it would be, lol. I’d make a new one, but I don’t have any more black mohair.


Forest Thrones, Part 16: Final Pictures, or, Hallelujah, Part Two

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I can’t believe I wrote this post way back when I finished these trees, and then never published it. What an idiot I am sometimes. Anyway, here are some final pictures of the finished trees. I still don’t have really good pictures of all of them, so you may see more pictures later on.

Now that they’re finished, I have one final secret to share with you. Each tree has a tiny door in the back of the trunk. I sculpted the doors in paperclay, painted them and applied the stoops or steps when I was adding the grass and mushrooms and stuff. Is it a doorway to Faeryland? Or does someone have the nerve to live right under the faery king’s… er… nose? I’ll let you decide.

Thanks for following me on this ridiculously long journey. I’m really happy with how these came out and I’ve loved every single response I’ve gotten. I hope you’ve learned something that will be useful to you in future, and I hope you’ll tune in to this space for more projects coming up!

Index of Forest Thrones posts is here.