Sunday, April 20, 2014

In My Easter Bonnet

I was so involved putting together the last project, the arrival of Easter Sunday nearly caught me off-guard. My dolls, on the other hand, did not forget! When I awoke this morning, many were looking at me cross-eyed. "How could I forget to make them Easter bonnets!!??!!"

So, I lied and told them I had not forgotten and then quickly hunted down my organza jewelry bags and a few silk flowers.

This project is a (last minute) quick & easy way to get your doll ready for the Easter Parade!

The organza bag (available at crafts stores in a variety of colors), is turned upside down and fitted to the head of the doll by drawing in the ribbon. You can tie on to itself at one side, then simply crush down the areas to "sculpt" the desired look. Feel free to add additional ribbons or tiny flowers.

I create my hat directly on the doll, pinning in place until I'm happy. Then I tack everything in place with tiny hand stitches.

In a variation of this, I've added a silk flower petal layer to the underside. This helps to frame the face and add an additional texture.

And then there is the story of doll named rose...... Inspired by Irish fashion designer, John Rocha, who often uses oversized flower hats atop the heads of his models. I've followed suit with these hats. It's best to use two flowers, either the same or different, simply because it provides more petals as well as the opportunity to better hide plastic bits.

To make this hat more permanent, I've created a tiny base (slightly larger than a Euro coin or a US quarter) using air dried paper clay. This base allows you to pin things into it as well as pin the hat in the doll's hair. Bend the petals around the head to frame the face and to hide the plastic centers. I chose to leave those centers in tact because I wanted to preserve the stamens. Again, I try this on the doll to get just the right look. When you are happy, you can then remove the pins and glue the petals to each other. Then pin down the flower onto the base.

Most likely this will not stay put on the doll. So we will do as our great grandmothers did..use a hat pin (straight pins with a pearl or colored bead is good) to keep everything in place. Just remember that, like your great grandmother, the pin should go in the hair and NOT the head!!!!

Happy Easter, everyone!!!!!

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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Skinny Dipping

While most everyone is busy coloring eggs for Easter, I've been busy at work.....dyeing fabric! Dip dye, to be exact. Some of you might know this as "ombre" the Spanish word adapted for a graduated drench of color.

With this very simple technique, there are many design options. It's just a matter of planning where you would like the point of color to be introduced and the fabric. I will tell you straight away to do as I say and not as I did. Test your color on the fabric first! The denim sheath dress was my first attempt and it was much more successful than I imagined. I was so sure the other natural fibers would yield the same intensity, I did not test it before making the garment. The (faded) purple over ecru wool basic dress worn by Gunilla (the blonde) was supposed to be navy! I hated the result and nearly threw the whole thing out. But then I decided to try it on the doll and to my surprise, it had a very "vintage" look. So I completed it and feel differently. I did test the color on the chiffon dress because it is polyester, a fabric which doesn't take the dye well. I started with navy, then dunked it in black for an hour and it came out pretty much as I anticipated. The red in the habatai silk two-piece wrap dress came out pink.

Since these are tiny garments, you need not use the entire package or even half. I call it "teacup dyeing." One teaspoon of powdered dye to a cup of hot water is more than enough. Wear gloves to keep from staining your fingers. You can add a teaspoon of salt to the dye bath for a darker color.

I started out first by making the garment or at least parts of the garment. You can control how deep you want the dye to travel up (or down the garment) by drenching more or less of garment or fabric into the dye. Just make sure there is a part of the garment which not immersed. You must leave it in the hot bath for at least 15-20 minutes. Rinse first with cold water, then lukewarm until the water runs clear. Afterwards, I wash in soapy water then rinse again until the water runs clear.

For the wrap dress, I dipped only the end points and the belt extension of the blouse into the dye as well as one side of the wrap skirt.

Of course, you can always dip dye a length of fabric and let it fall where it wants to fall in your design. And, don't think the fabric always has to be solid. Try prints, plaids or tweeds!


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Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Empire Strikes Back

A little while ago, I received a request to do a post on dresses with empire waists. This silhouette is not readily found in most fashion trends today due to the obsession with skin tight,"body conscious" clothing. But the empire waist dress was a very big thing throughout the Jackie Kennedy era, otherwise known as "Camelot." It is a gracious and very graceful look that reminds me of the reason I fell in love with fashion.

Though a few empire waist dresses do make their way onto a catwalk or two, they tend to appear in mass at this time a year when the younger set begin to plan for..the prom! And, think about it...prom night is for the teenager what the Oscar night is to the Hollywood star. Since I have lots of "younger" Barbies around, this is the perfect time to rediscover such an endearing style.

A true "Empire" dress has a bodice that fits over the bustline then releases a very full skirt. A short while ago, I featured a dress inspired by Valentino where I had draped the pattern. I still feel this is the most efficient way to create the pattern since it gives you complete control over the silhouette, however, there are some of you who better comprehend flat patterns. This post is for you.

The pink satin gown has a classic empire waist pattern. Using a tape measure, I measure down from the pit of the doll's neck to just under her bust as well as under the arm. After placing the fro ntand back slopers together at the side seams, I mark those points on the basic sloper bodice then draw out the cutting line.  Whatever the distance is between the underarm point and the waist, should be respected over the rest of the bodice.

For this particular bodice, I have decided to make a square neckline. On the front sloper draw out neckline keeping the side perpendicular to the bottom. Now line up the front and back sloper along the shoulder seam. Continue the vertical line from the front, onto the back for as low as you want. Then draw a horizontal line which is perpendicular to the Center back line. This will ensure the neckline will be consistent from front to back.

For the skirt, cut a rectangle the length of the doll (from just under the bust to the ankles) and as wide as you would like full. For most fabrics this shouldn't exceed more than 1 1/2 times the circumference of the doll unless you are working with a super fine fabric. Otherwise your dress will resemble maternity wear!

Gather this rectangle and join to the bodice. I've added short sleeves.

I imagined some of you wanting to do one of those "Grecian" silhouettes with a softly draped bodice. Go back to first step of the draft from the above pattern and redraw a strapless bodice. It is best that you try this on the doll then make any adjustments for fit before continuing. You can use any fabric, though I've chosen a crisp cotton for the bodice to support the draped design in chiffon. I've used the same chiffon for the skirt, which is about twice the width of the doll circumference, gathered into the bodice. Assemble the dress as instructed for the previous dress.

Go back to the bodice. Cut a strip of fabric, twist it and lay it over the bodice and pin in place. Adjust the gathers pinning the fabric where you would like it to settle on the bodice.

When you have finished, clip off the excess from the Center Back. Slip stitch those gathers over the bodice, tacking down the folds where you want to anchor them. Slide the needle under the fabric and make tiny stitches so that they remain as "invisible" as possible but secure the drapes in place.


My dress wouldn't stay up on the doll, so I added "spaghetti straps" made from small bits of ribbon.

Some of the dresses the 1960's had high waists but were not, technically, Empire waists. They were simply....high waist dresses.

This dress is really a fitted sheath dress with a "yoke" and a "tent." The silhouette is created by adding a gathered rectangle to the seam joining the yoke and the body of the sheath. My tent is 1 1/2 the width of the sheath dress.
 


The trick is in the assembly. Stitch the darts and the side seams of the bodice. Then stich the darts and sides of the sheath body, leaving the back seam of the tent open.

Baste  the gathered "tent" to the body of the sheath. Then baste this to the yoke and sew together. The first photo shows the three layers stitched together at the bust seam. In the second photo, I flip up the tent and stitch the center back seam of the sheath. The rest of the bodice is hand-stitched in place. I have folded back the center back edge of the tent which swings free over the sheath. A hook and eye keeps the dress closed on the back bodice and another is placed to close the waist of the sheath underneath.

I've also added a velvet ribbon trim to mark the "empire" waist.




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Monday, April 7, 2014

April Showers


At long last, winter is finally over!!!! But with Spring, comes the rain.....And we all know our dolls do not like to get wet. So.... Let's celebrate the month of April with rain gear, all the while....singin' in the rain!

Many of the projects on this blog can be transformed into suitable rainy weather clothing. After all, we've already explored basic coats, jackets and capes. The only thing really different here is the material....shiny vinyl. You could also use nylon, oilcloth....or, if you're really on a budget....heavy duty garbage bags! To make things a tad more interesting this time around, I'd like to start by introducing you to the raglan sleeved coat.

While a regular sleeve is just fine, the raglan sleeve simply gives you another design option. In World War I, these sleeves were used in infantry men's trench coats because they afforded ease of movement. In full size clothing, they are also much easier to sew than regular set-in sleeves.

I begin with the basic coat, to which I've added a bit of flair at the sides. Before we begin to manipulate this pattern, it is best to create your coat facing now. I don't like bulkiness, particularly on the shoulders, so I have combined the back facing with that of the front by adjoining them along the shoulder line as shown in my draft. That way the facing seam will be at the back which, for me, is less problematic.

Let's go back to the neckline of the coat. Note the width of the neckline of the Front Coat and mark 1/4 of the width over from the shoulder. That will be point "A." Next, note the length of the armhole and mark 1/16th of an inch (about 2mm) down from its mid point. That will be point "B." The shoulder armhole tip is point "C" and the shoulder neckline tip is "D." Connect point A to point B with a straight line across the body (indicated in green). Now draw an arc that rises 1/16" from the center of the line between A and B. That line will be the new "style" line. (You can now disregard the straight line.)

Repeat for the back. The point 1/4 down on the neckline (away from the shoulder) will be point "E." The point 1/16" (2mm) just down from the center armhole point will be point F. "G" will be the shoulder armhole point and "H" will mark the shoulder neckline tip. Again, draw a straight line between E and F. Draw an arc which bends 1/16" up from the middle of this line. Now cut or trace those two shoulder wings, taking care that all of the points are labeled.

Attach back to back and front to front, joining point G on the back to point C of the front at the midpoint of the sleeve. Each will be placed at a about a 15-degree angle from the top of the sleeve. The curved bottoms of the wings are then aligned to touch the curve of the sleeve cap. Each piece will then form a "V" shape at the top of the sleeve cap as shown in the above illustration.

After you have cut away the shoulder wings, you will be left with the rest of the coat pattern. Add seam allowance to the front and back coat pattern. The shoulder wings are now part of the sleeve shape. Add seam allowance all around including the "V" shape which is now a large dart. When you begin to assemble your coat, sew the dart on the sleeve first. Then attach to the body of the coat as usual.

Note: When sewing with vinyl, tape the pattern to the fabric or pin within the seam allowance. Same thing when you put the pieces together. Pin within the seam allowance or tape together. Remember, once you puncture the vinyl or plastic, the hole is there forever. Most vinyl has a cloth backing which facilitates machine sewing. However, if you use a plastic or vinyl without the backing and experience problems, tape a bit of tissue paper to the underside, then sew.

If you are tempted to press the seams, always use the coolest setting on the iron, and then protect the vinyl with paper towel. And, be sure to use a somewhat larger stitch. If the stitch length is too small, it will rip.


A rain slicker is one of the quick and easy ways to protect dolly from a sudden cloud burst. This is another version of the cape which is really quick and easy to make. And, I've added a hood....after all, it is raining!!!

Draw a line that forms a 90-degree angle. Take the front and back sloper and place them shoulder tip to shoulder tip, angling the back sloper so that it is 90 degrees perpendicular from that of the front sloper. Between the two shoulder tips, make a diagonal line which half way between the two shoulder tips.

Now trace the neckline and shoulder line of the back sloper, then along the diagonal line. Draw in the hemline. Repeat for the front sloper, tracing the neckline and shoulder line before tracing along the same diagonal line. Voila! The only other thing I've added was seam allowance and a hood.
 
I had no problems stitching the garbage bag plastic with my sewing machine. I did try to use glue for the hem, but it did not stick for long. So I used it to "baste" and then topstitched everything down. (Like many of the mass market rain slickers on the market, this is not really a garment built to last!)
One more thing.....for those moments when dolly is out and about and she didn't think to take along that wonderful new rain slicker you just made for her..... Make sure, inside of her purse  is a.....rain bonnet!


For this I used plastic from a ziplock food storage bag. I measured the front of the doll's head from side to side for the proper width of my bonnet. The length will be as deep as you want it to be. My cut square was 7x7" (18x18 cm). I fold the plastic back and forth into accordion pleats(about 5/8" (8mm), using my fingernail to crease as I go. When you have completely folded the square into one strip, you can wrap it with paper towel and then with the lowest setting on your iron, press the strip. This will help set the pleats. However, be VERY careful not to melt the plastic while your doing this.

Now, fold each edge under and pierce with a large safety pin or needle. Attach a brad AND a small length of ribbon. (I've used a bit of ribbon from Chanel No.5 Packaging!) Not exactly your grandmother's rain bonnet!!!!


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Making Fashion Doll Slopers: Pt. 2-6 (VIDEOS)

As many of you have discovered by now, I have added video tutorials to the mix. I began by embedding these videos directly in the original tutorials, then indicating the links in our Video Tutorial page to the left. The entire YouTube process is quite new, and while figuring out how to get the videos into this blog, I accidently created a separate post, Part 1 of the series, "How to Make Slopers for the Fashion Doll"on March 26" I apologize for that tutorial appearing seemingly out of sequence with the rest of the blog.

Nonetheless, I didn't want it to look as though there haven't been anymore new additions, so I've decided to post Parts 2 through 6 together on today's post before getting back to my normal set of projects. Inasmuch as I am a one-woman operation here (photographer-demonstrator-director-producer, and video editor), things do not always come out as pristine as I'd like. So please excuse the occasions when the doll goes a bit out of frame.

I will continue to add videos to the site. However if it's a subject I've already covered, I'll continue to embed them directly onto the original post then list them in the index. Otherwise, all videos with new subject matter will be directly embedded in that day's post and then listed in the index. Be sure to check the Video Tutorials from time to time to see what's there.

As I've stated in the videos, take your time with these basic slopers. Once they are as perfect as possible, you will discover that everything you make with them will fit the doll perfectly.

For those of you who create your own patterns by directly draping on the doll, the slopers are good for basic items. Things like shirts, simple skirts, jackets, tops, pants and skirts. Simple things you make over and over. Some things are easily drafted with slopers. Other things with complex construction and more "organic" detailing are better off draped.

When you are ready to transfer the markings from the cloth to the paper, be sure to cut your slopers from a stiff paper like Bristol and store them in an envelope with indications as to the doll body for which they were created. When you are ready to use them, you will do all of the manipulations necessary to achieve the desired pattern, first and THEN add your seam allowance.











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Friday, March 28, 2014

Cape Town

One of the biggest trends slated to hit the streets next Fall is the cape. I had planned to wait until next Autumn to do this tutorial, but last week after tuning into NBC's "Today" show, I saw co-anchor, Tamron Hall wearing this very stylish garment outside on the (Rockefeller) Plaza. Clearly the designers in the US have jumped the gun and rushed to get the cape into the stores, this Spring.

Originally introduced in Medieval times, the 1960's and 70's saw a rise in the popular of this swashbuckling outerwear garment. By day, the "cloak" as it is sometimes called, was cut from wool and tossed over the shoulders of a "mod" mini-suit. By night, it was glamorous, cut from satin, brocade or some other luxury fabric, while lending its wearer an undeniable Jackie Kennedy moment.

As fabulous as this outer garment can be, it is incredibly simple to create. Moreover, it lends itself to numerous interpretations.

We use the basic bodice slopers as a base. It provides sense of proportion of the body as well as the anchor of the shoulders and neckline which can be left as it or given the addition of a collar.

 
Begin by tracing the neckline and shoulder from the front bodice. Measure out about 3/8-inch (1 cm) from the side and draw a vertical line. For a single breasted cape, I've extended the front 1/4-inch (7mm) from the Center Front. And, of course, the length is whatever you want it to be.
For the back you will trace along the Center Back line, up to the neckline, and then over the tip shoulder. Then take the front cape draft and flip it over so that the shoulder lines up with that of the back sloper and the CF line is straight. Trace the new silhouette of this new front cape onto the back. Afterwards, cut out the pattern pieces, then line them up together side seams together. Make any adjustments you have to so that the front and back line up along the side. My basic cape is short enough such that my girl can still hold her bag. You can, however, put in a buttonhole armhole on either side of the center front should your doll decide to poke out her arms. I've added a simple collar to this cape.

Add seam allowance. You will probably want to line this, edge to edge. Use a single hook and eye to close the cape under the throat.

Here is the same cape but cut from panne velvet and trimmed in faux fur at the neckline and hemline.



Another popular style is a cape that has a front panel belted at the waist while the back falls freely. This is a very simple variation of our basic cape pattern.


For mine, I've decided to flare out the sides on either side. Take the cape we just drafted and from the tip of the shoulder (consult your basic sloper for the exact point), swing out to the desired flare. At the midpoint on the shoulder, I draw a vertical line straight down to the hemline. Make a mark down from the shoulder which will indicate how far down you should sew. (I placed the pattern against the doll to figure out at what point the arms would comfortably swing out from under the cape.) Cut the pattern in two, then add seam allowance to each. The back is all in one piece, however the sides swing out the same angle as the front. I have extended the front by 1/4" from the Center Front line (plus seam allowance.) For this particularly model, I attached a long rectangular scarf to the neckline of my cape. Simply, wrap the waist with the belt of your choice.

You can add as much flare as you want. Just remember to keep it consistent. Whatever flare you add to one side, you must add the same to all sides. For a full, 3-Mousketeers cape I, took my cape, (using an old-fashioned compass to get the proper arc.

Place the point at the tip of the shoulder and swing out by 90-degrees.
 


You will also add swing to the center. Begin at the neckline CF point and swing out by 90-degrees.

The back cape pattern will have a center back seam. Swing out the side by 45 degrees. Then swing out the top of the CB by 45 degrees. Be sure to mark the CB with an arrow so that you will lay your pattern on the correct grain of the fabric.

The hood on the doll below is part of the dress underneath. However, feel free to add a hood to your cape.


Night at the Opera.

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P.S. Check out our video tutorials on creating the basic slopers. They are at the very end of the original post.