Wednesday, September 30, 2009

New Arrival ~ Harvest Moon (unabridged) pattern

I spent most of last night and today typing, proofreading, printing, collating and assembling the unabridged version of my pattern "Under the Harvest Moon." I'm so glad to have this project done. This was the pattern published in the September 2009 issue of Doll Crafter & Costuming, which was condensed for the magazine.

This new release includes patterns for two types of ears as well as a wig template for Tibetan lamb (like my Treasures of the Gypsy doll). There's also a full-page color insert that reviews some of the face coloring techniques I use.

You can find the pattern HERE for $15 plus postage. Postage used to be included in the price of all my patterns, but with rising postal rates and the cut PayPal takes, I've made the decision to charge actual shipping (sorry). I wish there was an easy way (at the PayPal site) to update everything quickly and make adjustments with every increase in postal rates without having to generate code for every item!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Raining Again

It's raining again, and really starting to look like Fall. There are tons of garden spiders, and they're so darned efficient at building their webs (wish this photo did this web justice.) I'm all too aware that I look like a complete spaz when I unknowingly walk through a web, imagining a big fat juicy spider on my person.

Since it's so dreary out today, I decided to forego the laundry and housework and add another layer of Paperclay to my Halloween Challenge doll.

For this particular challenge, the Reigning Dolls & Bears club is using the "Genevieve" pattern from the book "On Making, Mending, and Dressing Dolls" by Clara Hallard Fawcett, copyright 1949. I was more than a little disappointed at how hideously mis-shapen the head was after sewing and stuffing it. It really needed some alteration. So I decided to make a clay-over-cloth pumpkin head doll. This is kind of outside my usual box, and I'm looking forward to the challenge.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Harvest Moon Class

I taught my first in-home class this weekend. I had three students, and sewed along with them. What a pleasure, not having to lug all my stuff to a different location (and hope I didn't forget anything!)

From left to right are Roxanne, Ginger, and Rhoda. Wish I could say the dolls were completed in class, but we were able to focus on the trapunto style face (and attaching it to the head), the hinge joints, the shoes, and the face sculpting and painting.I also shared my "system" of logging/recording the dolls I've made. From my very first doll, they've all been recorded in a notebook. Each doll/entry is numbered and dated. The entries in the log include a description of the doll, the pattern used, size, etc. Once the doll's been sold or given away, the entry is highlighted yellow.

In about 2004, I saw a similar journal up for auction on eBay. This was Edith Flack Ackley's journal, and she included a little snippet of the fabric she used for each doll's dress by their corresponding entries. I thought that was a great idea, and started doing that myself.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

TOG Wig Done

Yesterday was less productive than I'd hoped it would be. I did, however, give my Treasures of the Gypsy doll her Tibetan lamb wig. As she's not an all-painted cloth doll, I was able to ladder stitch the wig in place.

I received an email a couple days ago, asking when my "Under the Harvest Moon" pattern would be available. The abridged version of the pattern was in the September issue of Doll Crafter & Costuming magazine, but it's been my intention to release the full pattern with a few extras as soon. Yesterday's wig project makes me think the wig template and instructions would be nice to include, too. Just a couple more challenge dolls to finish, then I can focus on the pattern. Stay tuned!

Sewing with Freezer Paper - Tip for New Dollmakers

Freezer paper is an absolute necessity for me when sewing dolls, especially when sewing small, detailed parts like fingers. I find this much easier and more accurate than tracing around a template and sewing on the line - nothing against those who do so, this just works better for me (that, and the fact that my purple air-soluble pens are often too dried up to use, or the ink disappears too quickly here in the moist Pacific Northwest). In addition, the traced line has some width to it, and fingers may get chubby and end up with seam allowances that are to narrow to be turned right side out and stuffed without blowouts (that happens to all of us). Freezer paper also lends some stability to the fabric you're sewing. Plastic-backed freezer paper is usually available in the canning sections of most grocery stores, but you can certainly order it online. I use Reynolds brand as it is readily available locally.

To start, trace the pattern pieces onto the freezer paper. Use a window and natural light if you don’t have a light box. Avoid using a pencil to trace the pieces, as the graphite can stain your fabric if you accidentally sew over the line. Be sure to transfer any other markings onto the freezer paper – any indicated openings, fabric stretch direction, etc. It’s helpful to put the name of the pattern you’re using as well, for easy identification later (I’ve had a torso piece pinned to my wall for years, as I have no idea from which pattern it came). 

Next, carefully cut out each pattern piece from the freezer paper, along the drawn line. Some patterns have darts, so follow the pattern instructions to determine if you need to cut the dart from the paper or leave it drawn.

The freezer paper template is then ironed (plastic side down) to doubled fabric, right sides together. Pin through the layers to prevent the fabric from shifting.

The sewing is done right against the edge of the paper. Sew slowly and accurately. When you come to curves, stop sewing and leave the machine needle in the down position. Raise the presser foot and turn the piece, then presser foot down and continue sewing. Sometimes you’ll find yourself only sewing a stitch or two between turns. Most times you will leave a small section unsewn so you can turn the piece right side out. Other times you will sew all the way around, then cut a slit in one side (e.g., two-piece heads with a front and back only). 

Then trim the fabric to the appropriate seam allowance as indicated on the pattern/instructions. If you’ve left a section open for turning right side out, I suggest making this seam allowance a little wider as the fabric edges can fray a little as you stuff the part, making closure a little trickier. Clip any curves, taking care to avoid snipping through your stitching. If you remove the freezer paper carefully, you can reuse it over and over. 

Unless yours is a simple pancake doll, this technique may not be applicable for all doll parts. For example, use freezer paper to sew the center seams of the body front and back (for a 4-part body), but not when sewing the front to the back.

You can also use this technique with many fabrics, knit or woven. Below is craft velour, which has some advantages. It doesn’t fray, it’s quite forgiving, and is available in a variety of skin colors. Using an open-toed presser foot really helps you see where you're going - whether using the freezer paper OR the traced template method. My (green) presser foot is Teflon coated, so it slides along the fabric easily. 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Treasures of the Gypsy Challenge, WiP

It's gorgeous in Astoria today. After finishing my cup of coffee (ok, I might make another), I'll be working on my Treasures of the Gypsy challenge doll. I've got her basic clothing done, but still need to make her shoes. Then all that's left is hair and embellishment. I'm using my "Under the Harvest Moon" pattern for this doll.

Her clothing is completely removable. Her underskirt is made from silk - an old sari purchased on eBay. The fabric is thin, so her unders are made from the same silk - if I'd used something else, they may have shown through the skirt. The other fabrics are those I purchased (or came with my TOG packet) from Pamela Armas.

I've got a lovely piece of brown Tibetan lamb that I'd like to use for her hair. I'll draft a basic wig pattern using a paper towel first, darting it to get a good fit. As this is an all cloth doll (that is, not covered in Messy Mix and paint), I'll ladder stitch the hide/wig in place.

The last thing I'll do (and the part I find most challenging) will be the embellishment. I've got a lot of doo-dads from Pamela - some from this year's packet, some from other years. Wish me luck!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Messy Mix Tutorial

Excerpts from The Cloth Doll, Summer 1988, by Helen Pringle:

When the entire head of a large, heavy cloth stuffed cloth doll is painted, permanent damage can result from an otherwise minor accident, and can leave permanent dents. Because the paint was applied directly to the cloth, the paint had soaked through and stuck to the stuffing inside.

...after trial and error and experimentation, the problem was solved with'Miracle Mess Mixture' - a mixture of one-half modeling paste and one-half acrylic gel medium, applied in multiple thin coats to the doll head and arms before they were painted.

Helen used Liquitex Modeling Paste and Liquitex Acrylic Gel Medium. Buy small volumes of each, as the paste begins to harden once it's opened. Use a good brush and save it just for the mixture. Helen prefers a 3/4 inch soft nylon "exploded tip" brush as it minimizes brush marks.

Mix one part paste to one part medium in a clean, small glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Add water sparingly, a few drops at a time, when the mixture begins to thicken. Adding too much water will result in poor adhesion which will eventually crack. Once the paste has been opened and partially used, wipe clean the top edge and lid of its container to avoid dried bits falling into the remaining paste. Before replacing the lid, cover the mouth of the jar with plastic wrap. Mix only the amount you can use within a few days.

Work quickly. The mixture begins to dry when exposed to air. Swish the brush in water if it gets clogged and press out the excess water from the brush. Allow the first coat to dry for a couple hours before applying the next coat. Then allow 1 hour drying time between coats. Apply a minimum of four coats. After the second and subsequent coats, sand carefully with medium sandpaper or a flexible sanding pad to eliminate brushmarks and rough spots. Wear a dust mask.

If the head will have a wig, you don't need to sand that portion of the head. Also, you can build up hair by applying extra coats to that area.

When coated to your satisfaction, paint with either oils or acrylics.

Disadvantages: Once the first coat is on the cloth and dry, the shape of the head cannot be changed.

Advantages: The coated head always remains flexible and the undercoating adheres to the cloth and remains on the surface, rather than soaking through and sticking. Clean up with soap and water.

The purpose of this method is to prolong the life of the paint and to help avoid permanent dents. It is not meant to imitate other materials or mediums.

In my experience, after applying the first couple layers you can smooth out some of the brush strokes with a light spritz of water and smoothing the surface with your fingers - do this while the Messy Mix is still a little damp.

If your doll's hands look flat and unnatural, you can put a little curve in them and the Messy Mix will help hold that curve.

Friday, September 18, 2009

H1N1 Rap

Everyone needs to help prevent the spread of H1N1 and seasonal flu:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Santa Fat Quarter Swap Challenge

I recently participated in an online group challenge - the Santa Fat Quarter Swap. This challenge was hosted by the Santa Studio, which is one of many studios found at the Ning group "Cloth Doll Artistry." Now that the challenge is over, I can post photos of my guy. He stands about 19 inches tall.

I received my fat quarter fabric packet from Helen Grossman, containing beautiful, non-traditional Christmas fabrics. The doll pattern was one designed by Kat Lees. I made him from craft velour and added the sculpted nose. Craft velour stretches in one direction, so I made him with the stretch running vertically - making him tall and thin. His hair, beard and eyebrows are natural wool locks, needle-felted in place.

I may make another Santa with the stretch going across the body to illustrate what a difference this makes.

I designed his costume, and his tunic and pants are removeable. Hopefully the clothing won't have to be altered too much to fit a short fat Santa. His hat is ladder stitched in place.

Monday, September 14, 2009

I HAVE to see this movie

I grew up reading and loving "Where the Wild Things Are," by Maurice Sendak. You can be sure I'll be in line to see this one brought to the screen:

Sunday, September 13, 2009

At least it's a start...

Despite myself, I've managed to get a decent start on my Treasures of the Gypsy challenge doll. I found some mystery fabric for her skin, purchased at Fabric Depot in Portland. It's a nice flesh tone on one side only. I usually use dyed muslin, but this is something different. Now I'm wishing I'd bought more.

I made her lower legs from dupioni silk. I'm glad I remembered to trim my seam allowances a little wider, as this stuff frays quite easily. I found a couple big buttons with which to joint the hips. The buttons will be covered with the skin fabric, so it really doesn't matter that they're mismatched.

I've got the upper and lower arms sewn. I just need to stuff and joint them. Then it's on to the challenging part - building her costume.

Friday, September 11, 2009


It feels like I haven't made a doll in ages. I'm constantly reminded of all my projects with their due dates, but have been having trouble finding the time to get to them.

I did manage to cross one off the list when I made a simple Santa doll for the Fat Quarter Challenge hosted by one of the Ning groups to which I belong. They're posted on the Santa Studio blog for voting right now, and when that's done I'll post him here.

This is what I got in my Treasures of the Gypsy packet this year. Now I'm just trying to figure out what to do with it. I may kill two birds with one stone by using my pattern "Under the Harvest Moon" to make my gypsy doll, as I have to make a Harvest Moon sample doll for an upcoming class I'm teaching. Now to just make it all come together.

Of course, it's 88 degrees outside today, and it's even hotter in mt upstairs studio. I may expire before I get anything done.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

O'dark Thirty

Today is Kyle's first day of Clinicals. It's still dark out, because it's only about 5 a.m. This week's going to be ugly for him. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday he'll be doing clinicals from 6 to 2:30, followed by his shift in the ER from 3:30 to midnight. That's three days in a row, with just a few hours sleep in between.

Of course, I feel compelled to get up an hour early, just to make sure he's up and ready to go. Can't be late for Clinicals. Ever.

Between school and work, he's learning lots, though. When he's finally just working shifts, it'll feel like a breeze to him.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

A Beautiful Day in Astoria?!

You'd think this would keep people from coming to the ER today, but NO...
This is outside the ER ambulance bay doors, about 8:30 a.m. Looks kinda like fake movie effects, doesn't it?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Music to my ears

I really miss singing with the local community chorale, especially after watching a fun piece like this: