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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  1. Great pictures of the girls in the city. I have looked a million times at Joe Blitman's umbrella's in the past, but never can I justify to myself the price unfortunately, although they are probably the right price for such a nice accessory. I might make an attempt to make your version though, they look great, especially the black one, it would be great to take pictures of my dolls in actual rain outside (plenty of opportunity in Belgium :-) ). Thanks for this excellent tutorial!

  2. Another great tutorial. Thanks for your generosity!

  3. I know exactly what you mean!!! There's no way I spend $30 on an umbrella for myself! These umbrellas weren't as perfect as I would have wanted, however, the more time passed, the better they looked to me. And I knew there were others who might want to make one for their dolls. I, too, prefer the black one.

  4. You did it again, April! A wonderful tutorial. You're so gifted and imaginative! And I'm so desperately lazy....
    Kisses Billa

  5. Thank you Billa. You are quite talented as well. I have the unfair advantage of no longer being part of the work force. So I've got lots more time to figure things out & post!


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