Sunday, September 14, 2014

It's in the bag!!!

For generations, "fashion" was only about "the dress." Then in the early 1950's, Christian Dior made history by being the first haute couturier to lend his very stylish name to stockings, shoes and an assortment of other chic accessories. Today, when you walk through the high fashion districts of Paris, one has the impression clothes don't count as much as.....handbags.

Admittedly, most of my focus with this blog has been placed on garments. Ok, so we did a few handbags using polymer clay (very successful posts, I might add). Up until the designer luggage post, I had really just skimmed through the handbag part, preferring to make terribly predictable, very boring simple purses. That post on Designer Luggage forced me to look more carefully at things like details and scale. It also forced me to reconcile the fact that designer bags are more than glitzy initials and quilted surfaces!

So for this post, I bit the bullet and did a little research on bags I'd like my divas to have. Inasmuch as I have two wonderful resources in Paris that sell leather scraps for a few Euros a piece, my girls get to have real luxury bags. Nothing beats the sheen or the touch! However, if you are not so lucky, vinyl, faux leather, pleather and the like are good substitutes. Should you opt for leather, choose the thinnest skin you can find for the sake of scale and manipulation. But first, let's go looking for pictures of the latest bags your dolls might want. Perhaps you may even have handbags of your own you'd like to make in miniature.
The idea is to take inspiration from these photos to arrive at an interesting interpretation. Most are based on very basic shapes. Start off by making paper models of them.
Have your doll nearby to check for scale. Figure out what you will or will not include in the detail in terms of details. Even if you are ambitious, realize that the scale will force you to simplify!
Take the paper model apart and use it for your pattern. I use a pastel pencil to trace the pattern directly onto the wrong side of the leather. Use sharp scissors. All but the first handbag (which I hand stitched) are no-sew.
I did this pretty much by trial and error until I was satisfied with the shape.
I drew this first on graph paper, then made it in paper. The straps and bag are all in one. The overall length is 4 inches (10 cm) by 2-1/4 inches wide (6.5cm) wide and 1/2' (13mm) deep. That inside strip measures 5-3/8" (13.5cm) by 1/2" (13mm).
Assembly is easy. The side gusset clipped along the seam allowanced and is stitched to the flat sides of the handbag. Turn the bag to the right side. I used an iron set on the lowest setting to press out the seams a bit.
The top of the straps are butted together and glued. I added a tassel (sold in craft and notions stores) to a 1/8 inch (2mm) of leather. The leather strip slips through an eye ring and is glued onto itself. That strap is glued to the back of the bag.
An even easier bag is my fringed "boho" hippie bag.
This is a simple rectangle of chamois cloth. The dotted lines are fold lines. On the pattern, you notice that there are two 1/4" folds. This is a soft pleat which I have glued together to add a touch of volume at the base of the bag. Though you are not obliged to do this.
I pricked a hold with a big safety pin then made rings to hold the shoulder strap. When you are making fringe, be sure to measure and mark directly on the leather before cutting so that it will be even! I added tassels (I made myself) to the side by taking a small strip of chamois, cutting it into miniscule fringe then knotting it at the end. The ornament is a bead cap, flattened and glued in place.
These next two are "classic"  bucket shaped bags with a bottom cut in the shape of a circle or square. A rectangular piece of leather wrapping around the base.
I turned both horizontal edges under and glued in place. A "cool" iron helps a bit with the glue. OR...take a hammer and pound! The seam allowance around the circular bottom is clipped first. I tried to fold and slightly press it as well to help in the process. Put glue on the seam allowance then press the side of the bag in place. Some of the clipped edges will overlap.
When you have finished, simply overlap and glue in place.
I use metal eyelets. First punch the hole. Put the eyelet in place, then crimp. My bag has 8 holes.
For the bag tie I cut a strip of leather 1/8" (2mm) then fed it through the eyelets. When you finish, make sure both ends come out of the front in separate holes. Pull the drawstring and tie. For my shoulder strap, I used a chain interlaced with another 1/8" sliver of leather, since my aim was to emulate a Chanel style bag. I thread each ends of the leather strips through opposite holes and glue it onto itself.
The next one, inspired by the blue Reed Krakoff handbag on my inspiration board, is a variation of this and begins the same way.
The bottom is a square which I have added 1/8" seam allowance then turned under and glued. The side is turned under on one horizontal side (which is the top of the bag). Manipulating this is much easier. You only need to clip the seam allowance of the bag's side at each corner of the bottom. Again, the rectangle simply wraps around the bottom base.
When you are wrapping the bag around the square, it is better that the back seam fall in the middle of the square as opposed to the corner. When you have finished, simply make a soft pleat on either side. My bag is held closed with a tiny square of Velcro discretely place inside. The strap is another 1/8" sliver of leather glued to the back. The loop in the front that holds it is simply a tiny rectangle folded inward. Thread the strap through it first, then glue it onto the bag.
Before I could conclude this project, I insisted on making something I have been searching for but could never find....a handbag with outside pockets.
Again, the pattern is super simple. It is a shorter, wider version of the tote bag we've made before with a side gusset.
The dotted lines are fold lines. This time, however, I wanted a bit more volume, hence the 1/4" section at the top of the bag. After cutting out my pieces,  I first pressed in the folds with a cool iron, then I folded the rest over the seam allowance of the side gussets.

At first I thought I needed to make cargo pockets. But the thickness of the leather is such that a simple rectangle folded into three parts and glued down provides the perfect illusion.
I cut out pieces of cardboard corresponding to the bottom of the bag as well as the top and glued those in place. Again, this adds structure to your bag. For the finishing touches, my bag closes with a button. I punched a hole on the outside of the bag. On the front I used a "brad" (Attaches Parisiennes). I attached a tiny self made fringe to the button and used pearl stickers for the pocket buttons.
One last thing....the shoulder strap. I cut slivers from my leather strap and made a braid. At each end I made a knot. It I attached to the bag at the sides with small metal rings. 
Well, believe it or week around the planet is in full swing. The girls have been on the ground for more than a week and will be back in a snap with their roundup of New York Spring 2015 trends!!!
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Saturday, September 6, 2014

Umbrella Stand

There are two types of umbrellas. The big fancy (and expensive) variety that open and closes smoothly and are often gorgeous to look at. But we tend not to buy those for fear of losing them, once the sun comes out. And then there are the cheap ones most of us buy on the street for a few dollars when we're stuck in the rain. 

This project shows you how to make an umbrella for your doll. The results, well....equate to the quality of the cheaper variety you probably use yourself. Mind you, there are gorgeous working 1/6 scale umbrellas around.....for a price. Often you can find them on Ebay or other auction sites like The Doll Page costing 20-30 USD. Joe Blitman sells them in a few different colors for 29.99 USD. Honestly, that's more than I spend on the ones I buy for myself. However, if you have or don't mind spending the money and can find one, you should buy it because they are tiny mechanical works of art. If not, should be happy with today's project.

There are a number of different doll umbrella tutorials on YouTube. Most feature umbrellas that remain either permanently open or closed but cannot do both. The better tutorials, including that of Joanne's Minis on YouTube, use a paper cocktail umbrella as a base. This is a very good and inexpensive idea for creating a functional umbrella. There are, however, issues. First there is a problem with scale. Cocktail umbrellas are too small for Barbie and friends. Second, a problem with shape. Those cocktail decorations are, in effect, parasols. Umbrellas are curved; parasols are straight. Nonetheless, I felt the basic concept was good enough for me to explore what could actually work for the 12 inch doll. I have posted many pictures here so you know exactly what you can realistically expect.....a "cheap" umbrella for your doll. (She won't mind so long as she keeps dry.)

1) I started out by using a compass to draw a circle big enough for the scale of the doll that could also be supported by the original umbrella. The pencil is 2-3/4 inch (72 mm) away from the needle, thus creating a circle 5-1/2 inches wide. 2) Cut out the resulting circle. Fold in half, then in quarters, then in eighths.
1) Carefully remove the paper from the frame. It is made from tiny paper spokes and is quite fragile. I add extensions to the edges of each spoke. You can either take matches from a paper matchbook and cut each one done to the same width or you can sacrifice another umbrella by cutting off the spokes. 2) Poke a hole in the center of your circle and stick the point of the frame through it. One by one, glue on the extensions, lining each up with the edge of the circle. 3) Paint the frame. For the red umbrella I used silver acrylic paint. For the black, I used black acrylic which tends to be matte. Honestly, the matte paint works better because it dries faster. The metallic remains moist longer and sometimes unglues the original spokes.

Next, cut the parasol. I did this two ways. The first (black) I simply folded and ironed in creases. For the second one I traced a wedge from my original circle and added seam allowance. To be perfectly honest, unless you want to create a special pattern or use more than one fabric for the umbrella, I did not see any advantage in cutting out and sewing together wedges.
Unless you are working with a non-woven material, you will need to hem your circle. I used a rolled hem. Make a stitch close to the edge of the circle. Then roll the fabric with your fingers and hand stitch. (This is the hem employed in quality scarves.)

1) Make sure your frame is dry. 2) Apply glue to the top of the frame, then line up each spoke against each crease (or seam). 3) When dry, carefully bend each spoke a tiny bit. You want a slightly rounded effect. If the spokes are longer than the circle, clip away the excess and touch up the paint.

Now let's finish things up. I created the handle using oven bake clay. Form the handle right on the bottom of the "cane" but make sure you can slide it off. The umbrella needs to be slightly long, so I took that into consideration when creating the handle. Remove from the umbrella and bake in the oven until hard. Put a dot of glue on the bottom of the "cane" and slide the handle on. You can paint it if desired.

To be honest, I was not happy with the red umbrella. Because the frame is made of matchbook size paper slats, you cannot build in the necessary tension to create a taunt look. No matter how many times I tried to make this umbrella, the results were always wavy. Instead of throwing it in the trash I decided to work with it by adding ruffles. I took a strip of fabric cut to 3/4-inch (20 mm), ran a basting stitch down the middle to create my ruffle, then tacked it to the edge of the parasol. With the right doll dressed in the right outfit, it works!

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Baggage Claim

With summer's end, it's time to set our thoughts on what the French refer to as "La Rentree." Simply put, it means back to school, back to work, back in action. And for that my dolls are packed and ready to that they have their own luggage!

I have been looking for Barbie sized luggage for quite some time now. But what I find is either a Mattel's molded (pink) plastic variety occasionally found on Ebay (cheap), Fashion Royalty's bags (expensive), or some marvelous miniatures you find on Etsy for the same price I spend on my own luggage! If you Google DIY doll luggage most bloggers use soap containers. My dolls needed something a wee bit classier! Finally, I figured it was time to make my girls some luggage they could love (and that I could afford). Quite naturally, they wanted designer luggage.

The pattern for these items is quite simple. However, the challenge is in the finishing. My items pictured here are not as perfect as I'd like them, but they are still better than a plastic soap container with wheels. Moreover, the roller bag actually opens and closes! I'm giving you the dimensions for a few very basic items, but feel free to change the dimensions. I only made one size of roller bag because it's how I travel, but maybe your girls need more luggage!

Ambitious person that I am, instead of choosing a simple fabric, I went straight for the LV baggage. And yes, I struggled. I used a sheet of (inkjet) printable canvas I emblazoned with a scaled down logo (using the technique I showed you when we did Dolly Versace prints last year). I do NOT recommend using this material for the roller bag as it was VERY hard to work with. AND, it is NOT waterproof. Nonetheless, I was so thrilled when I saw the printed canvas emerge from the printer, there was no stopping me. Next time around I will try using one of those inkjet iron-on transfer sheets over a thinner material.

This is quite simple with great results. The pattern in in two pieces with the measurements as shown. My bag is 1-1/2 in wide by 2" high by 1/2" deep (39x52x13mm).

Cut out the tote bag along the black lines. Fold on the grey lines to shape the bag. Fold the "gusset."  Glue the side and back tabs to the inside of the side/bottom piece.

Most designer luggage is a combination of canvas + leather. With the LV set, I've cut two thin strips of leather (1/8 in or 3mm) in width. I added tiny triangles at both ends then glued it onto the bag. Cut a tiny rectangle of leather to set in for the "label."

I did not want to complicate this by trying to plan a closure. My duffle is, as they say...for display purposes. Here is my pattern. The top part is glued to the bottom and measures 3x3 inches (72x72 mm). You can scale this up should you want to make a bigger duffle bag. Again, the cutting lines are black. Fold along the grey lines. You can leave it as is or add a strip of leather to the bottom (Honestly, I made a miscalculation and used the bottom strip of leather to hide that mistake.)
Make several cuts along the curves of both ends. I added a piece of cardboard cut to the shape of the ends which add structure to this part of the bag and provide a support to glue the clipped edges to. Glue the flap over this. Add two straps cut from strips of leather (1/8 inch or 3mm).
One last thing.....don't forget the leather label!
There is a reason why you don't find the roller bag in commerce. Though there are only two main pattern pieces, getting a decent result is a bit of a challenge.
The bag consists of a front, back and another side piece on which you stitch a 9 inch (22 cm) zipper. Most luggage has piping in the seams but my "designer" canvas was so stiff, I decided to keep things simple and not use it for this bag.
 I stitch one edge of the zipper to the long strip. I stitch the canvas very close to the zipper teeth. Attach the first rectangle (luggage side) to the other edge and hand sew. The zipper wraps around the this rectangle. Make a single stitch at the corner and then a sharp 90 degree turn. Take the second rectangle and line it up with the first one on the other side of the zipper. Again, hand stitch in place. I planned the zipper to close near the bottom of my luggage. Since I was crazy enough to use a metal zipper, I'm not so sure this was a good idea. Perhaps the side would have been better.
I cut a piece of cardboard to fit into one side of the bag. Another 1/2 inch strip goes around the perimeter. Use a bit of double sided tape to hold it in place.This adds structure to the bag.

Don't worry if the underside of your bag doesn't look so great. You will cover this part with a rectangle of fabric when you add the wheels!. But now let's work on the handles. The side handle (for carrying the bag horizontally) consists of a tiny strip of leather, two bits of wire bent into rings and two smaller bits of leather. Loop each end of the wider strip into the loops, fold over and glue. The fold over and glue the smaller strips. You will glue only the smaller strips to the side of the bag. Add metal stickers for the illusion of brass tacks.
 The longer handle is a piece of bent 16 gauge wire that I poked into the back seam of the bag. I bent the ends under in the interior. I also glued a tiny piece of leather onto the handle. Next the wheels. This is a toothpick and two buttons. After you have adjusted the wheels to the width of the bag, snip off the excess and paint the rest black. Take the axel to the bottom of the bag near the back to hold in place. Then glue another piece of material over to hide the bottom and trap the wheels. Finally, the bag needs to be able to stand up on its own, so you can use a bead or create a peg using Filo clay or wood which is glued to the bottom of the piece you've just added. A detailed photo is shown with the next bag.
Okay, so my dolls are THRILLED to have designer luggage even with its imperfections. But the more I pondered, the more I realized the multitude of possibilities there are making dolly's own luggage. Why....she can have luggage to match her outfit like the grey wool bag here matching a dolly's Haiden Ackermann inspired pantsuit!!!
The pattern (and the steps) are exactly the same as the bag just before. I made my own piping using a strip of shiny vinyl. A string is glued to the center. Fold over and press down near where you feel the string. I basted the piping onto the zipper (folded edge near the teeth).Now stitch on the fabric rectangles catching the piping in between the zipper and the fabric. Both the zipper teeth and smooth folded edge of the piping should face inwards (on the strip).

 Stitch each rectangle to the zipper/piping.

 From the wrong side it will look like this (left). While on the other side it will look like that (right). The piping will overlap a bit near the bottom. You can fix it with hand stitches to look better a bit later. Turn everything to the right side when you have finished.
Make your handle using wire and again, poke it through the top edges of the top seam near the back of the bag. Cut a piece of cardboard to fit one side of the bag and a 1/2-inch strip to place around the sides to give it structure. Bend it in place at the corners. You can use double sided take to hold it in place. Make the wheels using a toothpick and buttons as shown with the previous bag. Then cut a small rectangle of material. Fold over the edges and glue in place. On the four (wide) edges, wrap around the wheel axel and glue or hand stitch to the bottom of the bag.

Add a bead (for balance) and glue to this rectangle. You can also add pockets to the front of the bag.
Don't forget the handle on the side of the bag.
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