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?

Bathrobe

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.


AWOL

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Well, it’s been about a year since I posted here, but what a year it’s been! In March I got a part-time job that looked  like it was going to be a real, actual, long-term job. Then, in May, to our utter shock and amazement, we found out I was pregnant. After years of fertility treatments, my doctor had  finally advised us to adopt, and then six months later, God answered our prayers. I guess He just wanted to be perfectly clear about where this blessing came from. In July, I lost my job because I wouldn’t commit to coming back after the baby. I wasn’t exactly devastated — it was a lousy job anyway. I got a temp job that was supposed to be for two weeks but ended up being months long. Then, in December, the blessed event came to pass. Talk about getting knocked on your butt! Due to unforeseen circumstances at the birth, we spent a week in the hospital and then I spent six weeks on my couch, unable to drive or really get up and do anything. I wasn’t even allowed to lift the baby in his carrier.

But! Look what I got to show for it!

Newborn super genius

Newborn super genius

So, while I was too busy working full-time and too sick from being pregnant and giving birth to do any crafting or blogging, I spent a lot of time thinking about where I want to go with this blog. My original idea was to be an artist review blog, like Polymer Clay Daily, only for art dolls, but the sad fact is that I’m much less interested in traditional western art dolls anymore. I’m much more into ball-jointed dolls (bjds) these days, and I want this blog to reflect that. Also, I learned from my tree thrones project that people like to follow along with my projects, and I figure maybe blogging about them will give me more accountability to actually finish stuff in a reasonable amount of time.

So, I’m going to start blogging again. Expect more bjd-related content, more personal stuff about my life (though that’ll always be kind of minimal. Sorry, I’m just not an exhibitionist) and more “what’s on my sewing desk” type posts. You can also expect some renovations soon. I’m  studying web design, something I’ve done off and on for several years (the studying, not the designing) in an effort to get the skills to make a new theme for this blog. I’ve come to hate the one I currently have so much (the colors — what was I thinking?) that I may go ahead and put a new freebie skin on anyway. I also need to do some behind-the-scenes housekeeping.

So thank you for following along as I embark on this new chapter in my life. I hope you will take the time to comment now and then — I live for comments! Talk to you soon!


Kokeshi by Amarylis

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Kokeshi are a traditional style of peg doll from Japan. No one seems to know exactly when or why they were first made, (although one theory is that they were souvenirs sold to Edo-era hot springs patrons). The definition of a kokeshi is, apparently, a peg-shaped doll with a large head and no arms or legs. Traditional kokeshi are made from aged wood and painted with facial features and designs that vary according to region, but modern “creative kokeshi” seem to include dolls of many materials and levels of detail. The only thing connecting them is that they are generally small, have no arms and legs, and usually little or only shallow sculpting of the face.

Kokeshi exhibit in Seattle. Photo via Joe Mabel.

Kokeshi exhibit in Seattle. Photo via Joe Mabel.

Today, lots of artists from around the world embrace the kokeshi style as an art form. For example, the French illustrator Amarylis, who makes these adorable kokeshis from polymer clay.

kokeshi by amarylis

Check out the rest of her work on her website (scroll down to find the kokeshi in her gallery). For a wider variety of kokeshi, search for them on Flickr.


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.


Forest Thrones, Part 15: Silk Seats

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Hallelujah! The trees are finally finished! I’m so happy to get them off my desk. My painting desk looks so big now.

I did two more things to them before they were finished. First, I made cushions for the seats. The seats were originally pretty perfectly round, but since, as I’m sure you know by now, I’m very stupid, I overlapped the branches over the seat a little, resulting in each seat being off round just a little bit — and each of them being different. Sigh. I had this idea of these beautiful, neatly tailored little silk velvet cushions with perfectly smooth sides. Yeah. Those of you who have worked with silk velvet before can stop laughing now.

No, I mean it. Stop laughing.

I started by making a pattern for each seat cushion. I also labeled them and the seats so I wouldn’t get them mixed up. I had read somewhere that silk velvet was kind of slippery (STOP laughing!), so I ironed it onto freezer paper. Then I traced the seat patterns plus some seam allowance onto the freezer paper. I traced the seat twice so I’d have a bottom and a top.

Can you see my mistake yet? Keep looking. That’s right, I didn’t reverse the pattern for the bottom of the seat. Sigh again. Naturally, I had cut them all out before I realized my mistake. I had more fabric, but it was late and I didn’t feel like cutting out more pieces, so I decided to punt. I roughly measured the length of the side pieces, which turned out to be close enough to the length of my fabric that I didn’t need to measure. Then I carefully marked and cut inch-wide strips.

Due to the difficulty of working with silk velvet, I had to pin the side strips onto the top piece, hand baste them together, and then sew them. About four times each. Sigh again. On about the last one, I figured out it would get less gathered and bumpy and messy if I sewed them with the top piece underneath, rather than the sides. It turns out, you need to make five or six cushions to get the hang of it.

Notice there are only four cushions.

After I finished that — or maybe before or somewhere in the middle, I don’t remember — I used my patterns to cut cushions out of upholstery foam. Now, if I’d had proper bottoms for my cushions, I’d have pinned, basted and sewn the bottoms to the sides just like the tops, leaving an open space in the back so I could turn them and insert the cushions. Since I’d screwed up the bottoms, though, I ended up just gluing the sides of the covers to the underside of each cushion. I’d already established that they were going to look gathered and messy, and gluing them kind of enhanced this effect. I have been assured by my husband and my best friend, who are both apparently experts on fairies, that real fairies would rather have messy cushions than perfectly formal ones anyway. Who am I to argue?

So the chairs are finished. Oh, wait, the second thing I did was to add feet. While I was working with them, I discovered that just moving them around under normal use caused the paint to chip off the underside of the trees. This is bad, not just because it damages the trees but also because it might damage the surface they were sitting on. I decided to add felt furniture footies, but the logical places to put them, the bottoms of the roots, weren’t wide enough. So I made little feet out of air-dry clay, let them dry, and painted them before applying the footies with Goop glue. They’re not going anywhere.

I was going to do the big reveal in this post, but honestly it’s too long already. So check back in a couple of days to see the final product!

Index of Forest Thrones posts is here.


Forest Thrones, Part 14: Leafing Out

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Okay, slowly but surely I’ve been working on my little trees. Now I have a deadline so it’s going to become fast and furious. There are only two steps left (well, three, actually) and they’ll be completely done!

Here’s how they look now:

(That one on the end has been finished for months; I finished it up so I could show it off to people.)

I would love to be able to say that these trees represent a specific variety, like oak or rowan or something romantic like that, but the fact is, because I am very, very lazy, I used the leaves from a silk garland I had lying around, and this one with the generic leaves was the only one that seemed appropriate in scale. I pulled the leaves off one by one (well, okay, they’re in clusters of three, but one cluster at a time), and glued them on each branch. If I hadn’t had a garland, I would probably have used a leaf-shaped paper punch from the scrapbooking department and at least two shades of green paper, maybe in vellum or some other translucent variety.

At first, it always seems like they’re going to be so sparse I’ll have to go back and fill in later, but then when they’re done they look just fine. There are about 73 twigs per tree, in case you were wondering. I counted.

I originally tried to use white glue for the leaves, but it turns out that silk leaves are actually made of nylon, and instead of behaving like a porous material that should adhere to white glue, it acts like a non-porous plastic. So, basically, everywhere I took the first one I finished, little leaves dropped off it and fluttered to the ground like in Lothlorien. I ended up taking all the leaves off that one, touching up the paint on the branches, and then reattaching them with Goop (because I couldn’t find the e-6000 glue at the store). That seems to have done the job.

While I was working with these trees, I realized the paint was rubbing off the bottoms of them as they got moved around. So I decided to add some feet and some felt furniture sliders to protect them and whatever surface they end up living on. I’ll include some pictures of that process next.

Next up: Sewing the cushions! Silk velvet and upholstery foam galore!  Expect more reports before the end of the week.

Index of Forest Thrones posts is here.


And then these mushrooms happened…

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Hi! It’s me! Remember me? I’m still alive. I’m so disgusted with myself that it’s been a year since I started my forest thrones project and they’re not done yet, that I’ve been hiding out from the blog. Real mature, right?

Money’s been real tight around here, but I got some cash for Christmas and spent it on some LaDoll clay. See, I ran out of the paperclay I was using for my trees, which was irritating because I just needed that much more to finish the little details. So I decided to come up with some other projects to use the LaDoll with before it dried out. I bought LaDoll this time because it’s stronger than paperclay and I wasn’t happy with the performance of the paperclay in some cases.

Anyway. It took a while to work up the nerve to work on the trees again, so I decided to ease into it by doing another project first … and then these mushrooms happened. Maybe I’ve been playing too much Plants Vs. Zombies.

Three flowerpots of lifesized mushrooms, a topiary and my BJD, Trixie.

Trixie is unimpressed by the giant mushrooms.

The flowerpots are mini terra cotta pots which I painted and distressed. I want to learn to upcycle furniture, but the idea scares the heck out of me, so I’m starting with baby steps. I’m thrilled with how these came out, so I’ll be distressing more painted objects from now on.

So then I filled the pots and built the mushrooms. Okay, I have a confession to make. Their armatures are paper. The stems started as paper lollipop sticks and the caps are index cards. Then I bulked them out with Model Magic, which is horrible of me but I had a bunch of it lying around that I got for cheap. The LaDoll is strong enough that using these lightweight materials inside doesn’t seem to have made a difference.

See? They’re quite strong. I even dropped one on accident and it was fine.

Then I painted and glossed the shrooms, and dressed the “dirt” inside the pot with model train landscape fuzz for moss and raffia grass. If you look carefully, you can see they each have a little rock in the pot, too. I was going to add more stuff, but I think they look good like this. I added the lace and gold ribbon to the pots to draw the white down a little, unifying the colors and such. I have an art degree, leave me alone.

The scale thing kind of makes me chuckle… they’re giant mushrooms for the doll, but in reality they’re about life-sized (modeled after the ones that grow in my yard). Trixie is about ten inches tall, if you were wondering. The rabbit is wood and I don’t remember where it came from. I swear it isn’t blurry in real life, but it came out that way in all the photos.

The topiary is an old ufo I finished up last year while waiting for glue to dry on my forest thrones. I’m planning to make several more of them.

Meanwhile, I promise I’ll finish up the trees soon. I want to take them to a show in May.


Forest Thrones, Part 13: Making the Grass Grow

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So, when last we saw my trees, I had just finished drybrushing them. The next step in this endless tree project is to add the details. I’m going to make some details out of paperclay, and then I’m going to make grass out of raffia and apply silk leaves.

This particular tree has a long, shallow space on the front of the base, so I decided to add some shelf fungus to add interest without taking up any room. I sculpted them in paperclay and added them with white glue. I think this project has at least four kinds of glue on it.

(That’s not a spider in the picture. I’m not sure what it is, but I think I would remember a spider.)

After the paperclay dried, I painted it up and then I added a mushroom, also sculpted from paperclay.

(See? No spider.)

The mushroom is also attached with white glue. I thought I might have to drill some room to add a pin inside the mushrooms, to hold them on better, but actually they’re so small that white glue has done the job perfectly.

Now, for the really good part. I figured this technique out a long time ago. I take raffia (which, ironically, is made from a kind of grass, I think) and cut it up into the right lengths for grass. It looks like this:

No, those are not dried up old green beans.

Then, after cutting, I peel narrow little strips off until I have grass-like shapes.

I make a pile of those, and then I put a lot of white glue on the base.

Then I add the blades of grass, one at a time. I know, it seems like you should be able to do a bunch at a time, but it never looks right when I do it that way. I pat the grass into the glue with a tool; this time I’m using a piece of bamboo skewer. Technically, a toothpick probably would have worked better, but I’m just too lazy to go look for one when there’s a bamboo skewer right here.

Rinse and repeat until you get all the way across the base.

After the grass is rooted, I mix a little green and yellow paint and quickly paint the grass so that it isn’t the same color all over.

Hmmm…. apparently I failed to take any pictures of the grass when it was all done. Here’s a photo of another niche with painted grass and a couple of paperclay rocks.

That’s all for now — next time I’ll show you how I apply the leaves.

Index of Forest Thrones posts is here.


Meanwhile, back at the ranch

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

Mermaid

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.