Sunday, 8 February 2015

Doll Tools And Research

I've been lucky enough recently to be able to invest in some tool sand research books that I've been wanting to get for ages. I've been saving my pennies for my very own mini hobby pillar drill. I treated myself to a beautiful pin cushion. And I finally got a set of Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion books.

It might not seem like much, but having a nice pin cushion really does make a difference when you do a lot of sewing. And as soon as I saw these ones from Lorna Bateman on Etsy I knew I'd found the perfect one. It's made specifically to add pretty vintage embroidery to the top, but I decided to add one of my favourite Welsh Wool fabrics to it instead. It was very easy to cover and came with easy to follow instructions, and it's of very good quality.
The little potato pearl bead pinned to it has been in every pin box or on every pin cushion I've had for years :)
Have a look at Lorna's lovely shop here -

I like to make my dolls in batches, making up to 10 or 12 of each size at a time so that I can do all of the messy stuff over a few weeks. I don't have my own craft room and work in our dining room when I'm sawing and sanding all of the wooden parts I use for my dolls limbs and sculpting my hands, feet and faces with clay so I try to keep the room as tidy (??) as I can most of the time. Right now I'm in the middle of my next batch of dolls and have things drying on racks all over the table. It's only so long I can expect Cris to put up with it so once they are all made I'll have a clear table again and lots and lots of new dolls to dress and bring to life.

Each of my arms and legs is made of 2 cut and drilled wooden dowels, that's 8 pieces to each doll. And each body has to have two drilled hole so that I can string the limbs to the doll with the vintage thread and tiny glass beads I like to use. It usually takes me ages to drill the holes in each piece, half of which have to have a hole at each end so the arms and legs will bend. It was taking me days to get them all done so I thought it was time to invest in a little hobby pillar drill. It took me a while to find one small and light enough to pack away in my dresser, but I found one here -
It's a really great tool and I'm so glad I got it at last. It's quiet and easy to use with a nice solid feel to it. And getting all of my pieces drilled only took me an hour or two rather than days. I'd highly recommend it to anyone needing a drill that can handle small delicate work.

These books by Janet Arnold are a set of 4 beautiful books filled with endless details, illustrations, pictures and instructions that show you how historic dresses are constructed with pages of patterns that can be scaled up to use and to show you the shapes in fabric that are used to make all of the lovely layers, drapes, fancy swags and tailored bodices. The books lead you through the years showing you all the styles and cuts of different gowns with historic details, as well as references to the women that wore them and where you can see some of them in person at different museums and collections.

I first bought Patterns of fashion 4 when working on some of the details for my on-going Elizabeth I project as I wanted to see up close details of how to construct a ruff, supportase and stomacher for her. This beautiful book is full of stunning photographs and illustrations of the items themselves along with the embroidery, trimmings and construction. They have given me loads of ideas and I can't wait to get started using them for my doll designs. I'm just waiting on my Patterns of Fashion 3 to arrive to complete my set :)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Woodwork, Taxes And A Commission Doll

Tax Season hit and passed quite quietly this year, and I had it all done out of the way before I knew it. I was very happy after doing all of that paperwork to just relax for a few days and let my head come back to creative things. And I decided I'd get myself started on a new batch of dolls. I'm hoping to soon be able to pick up a miniature pillar drill to help me drill holes in all these wooden arms and legs as every joint needs to be strung together. I normally manage to persuade Hubby into helping me but he gets very fed up after the first 60 or so little bits of wood it's time I got myself some proper tools. Here on my work bench I have mugs all lined up with all the different sized legs, thighs and arms in all sorts of sizes, and a big jar with lots of lollipop looking wooden beads and dowels ready for me to build up into heads and bodies.

I have been doing some sewing, and here on my knee is the Toadstool top for a fairy I'm making my mother for her birthday. The wonderful Cynthia of Fairy's Nest is helping me out with the wings as I've not yet managed to find a solution I like yet when I make them. Cyn's are so pretty and delicate looking with just enough sparkle to match my Fae's dress, which is pale sage green, yellow and gold.

I've also been working on a commission Asylum doll for a lovely lady in the US. She's to be a middle aged lady with a family named Amelia. She's dressed in a chocolate brown gown that has a fine pinstripe, and will have a strait jacket, shawl and bonnet. She hopes soon to move to the nice new modern Asylum where they don't use restraints or make the patients do drudge work or be shut in all day. The new place has gardens and bright clean rooms. She's just hoping her son will agree to pay the extra costs...
I'll tell you more of Amelia's story when she's a little more decently dressed. But for now here are the details of some of her underwear.
PS - Sorry for the phone photos :S My computer doesn't seem to like uploading them from the camera at the mo.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

A Custom Order - Ivy Levan

In November I was contacted by a lovely lady called Della that wanted me to make her a doll of her daughter as a Christmas gift for her. I like getting custom requests and Della's daughter was very pretty so we started talking about what she would like.
You can't imagine how surprised I was when I realised that the girl I'd be making was Ivy Levan!
After a good look around at her music videos and Google image results I was nervous about whether my style would be right with my big eyes and odd faces, but Della was sure so we started to plan out her outfit.

Ivy has a very dramatic sense of style with gorgeous dresses and sleek styled platinum blond hair. She's very glamorous and has a beautiful voice, and after narrowing down our options Della and I decided I'd make the outfit she wore when she sang with Sting on the Letterman show.
If you'd like to watch the video you can see it here -
They do a great version of Drive My Car by The Beatles.

Della told me Ivy's stunning Morticia Addams style dress was made for her and you can see it fits her like a glove. It's not a style I usually make but it was very interesting to try replicate the design in a small doll. Firstly I had to build up the hips of the doll to make sure she had a lovely curvy shape like the real Ivy, so I fitted her with black lace underwear and a tutu-like petticoat. Next came a fitted pencil skirt type petticoat over the tutu to get the roundness to her hips and give her a bum (my dolls don't have one of their own and I tailor the clothes to give the shape to the lower half of their body).

The dress itself had a really low plunging neckline, right down to the waist, so after making the panels I had to relay on strong glue to make it stay in place on the dolls body which is something I wouldn't normally do as I prefer to rely on my stitching. It's proof that the gown fitted Ivy perfectly that it stayed on her body with such a low plunge and the only way I can think it stayed on was with the help of body tape.

The shoulders are padded and shaped into small points over the tight fitted arms. And the skirt I made in three pieces so I could get the smooth front lines and the trailing hem at the back that sweeps across the floor behind her. I used a soft black satin that has a dull sheen rather than a high shine. And made her a tiny silver moon necklace on a silver chain. When it came to her hair I tried both an up do and with it down and Della decided that she preferred it loose and wild.

I really enjoyed making this doll, and I've heard from Della that Ivy was really pleased with her gift so I'm thrilled :)

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Merry Christmas And A Happy New Year - Sale

I hope your all having a wonderful Christmas and are planning a very very Happy New Year.
I've been very spoilt and my lovely family and friends have given me beautiful gifts this year. I'm so grateful for their kindness and I've missed being able to see them all because my back has been playing up. I've spent most of Christmas laying on the living room floor, but it's not stopped me enjoying myself just because I can't get around too well. I've even managed a shot walk out in the frosty air today :)

My lovely husband bought me this wonderful little Plague Doctor doll from Angela's Animals on Etsy -
Isn't he lovely! She makes the cutest felted animals with fantastic detail, but I fell in love with this little guy with his feathered cape and tall hat. He has long fingered hands and his hooked beak is just perfect.

My Mother and Father in-law gave me the Froud's Fairy Tales book and I'm amazed at the mix of illustrations and photographs of their sculptures in it. The stories are  strange and unusual and it's all laid out so well. I love the Froud's work and hope one day to be lucky enough to own a piece of it myself.

My bestest friends both gave me amazing gifts as they always do. They are always so kind :) I would have modelled my beautiful Lindy Bop dress from Sarah and Liam if I could stand a bit straighter right now. And Becky and James gave me something that made me cry when I opened it. They gave me this ceramic poppy that was part of the huge installation at the Tower of London this year, and I'm so thrilled to have one for myself. The idea behind the installation was beautiful and the whole effect so stunning. I wish I could have seen it myself, but now I have a small piece of it in my home.

I've had books and dvd's, new makeup and a warm hat, a smart new purse and a delicate silver bracelet, thanks to all of my wonderful family and friends and feel very lucky that they are all in my life.

To start off the new year in style and as a Thank you to all of the supportive people who have offered me kindness and encouragement this year I'm having a January Sale, but this time with a little difference since Etsy has new settings for it's coupon codes and I'm now able to alter the deals to make them better and better for my lovely collectors. I've listed them below and they will be active until the last day in Jan. As always I'm happy to reserve any of my dolls you may be interested in.

Spend £20 (peg doll size) and use code HAPPYNEWYEAR1 at checkout for 10% OFF
Spend £50 (small doll size) and use code HAPPYNEWYEAR2 at checkout for 15% OFF
Spend £130 (med doll size or a mix) and use code HAPPYNEWYEAR3 at checkout for 20% OFF
Spend £275 (large doll size or a mix) and use code HAPPYNEWYEAR4 at checkout for 25% OFF

I hope you all have everything you could wish for in 2015

Monday, 15 December 2014

Dolls Are Getting Excited For Christmas

Ok, so maybe the dolls aren't the only ones getting excited for Christmas :)
I love Christmas!
I mean really Really REALLY love it. I've had all my gift bought since Halloween and my tree up since Dec 1st. All the card are written and gifts wrapped and now I'm ready with only 9 days to go until I get to give hubby his presents and find out if my friends and family like what I got them too. I hope they do as there are a few odd ones this year (not telling who's :)
I've taken Christmas Eve off from the Day Job and will spend it getting even more silly and wound up until I get told to calm down by Cris or get one evil look too many from Darcy Cat. It'll be here before you know it and I hope your all planning to spend lots of time and make happy memories with those you love.

I have been doll making but at this time of year I don't get to share much. I've been working on commissions and their all Christmas gifts so I can't share just in case I spoil the surprise for someone. There have been peg dolls and secrets and a rather glamorous lady in a va-va-voom black dress. I've also been working on a gift for my Godmother and another for a very lovely friend across the seas, and with all the packing and shipping and trying to finish off Effie and ideas I'm all in a mix. I huge horrible stinking cold hasn't helped either, but now it's gone I'm hoping to get some serious work done :)

Effie Gray is sitting very patiently waiting for her hat and a few trimmings, and my Remember and Secret ideas are coming along slowly too. Maybe I'll have some doodles to share soon. I hope your all having fun getting ready for Christmas and New Year.
Take care

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Harlequina Maria - New Art Doll

Harlequina Maria earns her money entertaining the crowds at the Masquerades every week. She dresses up in her finest and cavorts through the crowds of revelers, dancing, singing and performing acrobatics and tricks. She particularly likes to take the gloves or handkerchief from handsome rich gentlemen and make them chase her through the ballrooms until they agree to dance with her in her elaborate show dance.

By the time the night is over she has sore and tired feet. She’s always worn out and hungry, looking forward to her small fire and comfortable chair in her neat little apartment. Her pockets are filled with coins from the entertained party people, and she usually has enough to afford a small treat for tea the next day after she’s paid her bills. Once she wakes in the morning she’ll be back to work sewing and mending her costumes ready for the private balls and the next grand Masquerade.

Maria has a very lavish outfit of soft diamond pattered fabric trimmed with gold and cream lace, satin rosettes, beads and gold thread over cotton underwear. She has long knickerbockers and a short full skirt over petticoats that has two gathered and ruffles over skirts. Her bodice is laced at the front with gold thread and she has a rich red glittered mask to wear to the Masquerade.

She sits on a green velvet cushion which is included with her.

Next I'm working on a Wonderland Caterpillar while I wait for different fabric to arrive for my Effie. The embroidery I did for her skirt looked good, but not quite right so I tried to nick and fray the fabric to get the pattern I wanted. It wouldn't work on the faux silk I had and after trying it on a piece of real silk I've ordered new to do it to that. Hopefully she'll be finished soon.

I have a few small commissions for Christmas to do but still have spaces open if you'd like a doll from me. Let me know what your looking for and I'll be happy to talk it over with you.
Oh, and look!!!
Cris bought me this wonderful little model spinning wheel from a local charity shop this weekend. Isn't it adorable! I'll have to start thinking about Fate or Rumpelstiltskin for it :)


Monday, 3 November 2014

Puzzles To Solve In Doll Dressmaking

This week has been a puzzle week.
I have a custom order to make a doll dressed in a beautiful sexy black dress. And while I can't tell you just yet who she is or who she's for I know I can show you all my puzzle so you can see what I've been up to.

After fitting my lady with a shaping petticoat or two to give her some curves I added her sleeves as they were easy. Next came my draping and pattern cutting, and as I'm sewing in a soft black silky fabric I used iron on interfacing for my patterns so I could sew around them. Both the top and skirt part of this dress are made in a double layer of fabric.

After sewing the neck line of the bodice I couldn't get it to stay where I wanted it, so my lady had to have a lazy day relaxing while the glue I used to stick that plunging neckline in place set thoroughly. She looked very 80's with huge shoulders as I hadn't put in the shoulder seams. I wanted to wait so that I could sew them while in place to make sure I got a super slinky fit.

Now the skirt.
And this was my puzzle.
The rest of the bodice was straightforward enough apart from working out the pointy shoulders, and the bodice came out looking fitted and glamorous just as I wanted it. My issues with the skirt took some working out as the fishtail train is big and dramatic, flowing out behind the dress with even the front of it longer than floor length.
It needed to have no seams in the front that could spoil the line of the dress, but the fishtail fan had to be wide and trailing.

This shape isn't my usual style, but I really wanted to make it special for my lovely customer and really wanted it to be a good copy of the original dress. So I was determined to have as few seams as possible. In the end I managed to work it out with three (also a dart in the back).
One seam on each side and another in the back at the top of the fan so that I could add as much shape and train as I could by inserting an over-half circle of fabric.

It came out just as I wanted it and now my lady is sitting in her tight slinky sexy number waiting for the ruffles I need to add to her dress and her stunning blond hair.

I'm looking forward to sharing with you how she comes out in the end, but as she's to be a Christmas gift my lady has to remain un-named for now xxx