Monday, December 31, 2018

New Years Bling

As you know by now, the biggest social event in my house is my dolls' Black and White Ball each New Year's Eve in my living room. It started out as a party atop the piano, but I acquired more dolls than piano top space to accommodate everyone. So...we extended the party to the cocktail table and then atop the buffet in the dining room. And now, there are parties all over the house!!!

Throughout the year, while replicating designer fashions, red carpet gowns and the like, my girls "ear mark" the dress they want for this ball. Over the past couple years, I have made so many gowns and party dresses  that every single doll in the house is dressed and ready to rock the New Year in. But still....there are always last minute requests for "special" items. And since I haven't posted too many tutorials lately, I decided to do one last one before the year's end. And though you might not be able to make one of these dresses in time for tonight's party....don't forget...the red carpet season is just around the corner!

Sequins are small round discs in contrast to paillettes which are super-sizes sequins that usually come in a variety of sizes, shapes and materials. Popular back in the 1960's, these sweet little dresses were guaranteed to get you noticed at any party. In fact, a dress we spotted from the spring 2019 fashion collection of Ashish (UK), served as the catalyst for this post. Take a close look. The first thing you notice is how simple the basic dress is! 

For this project, I used three dress foundations: a one piece tube I made directly on the doll from a folded over rectangle of fine tulle, a strapless stretch lame sheath, and a basic foundation sheath made from (woven) white cotton. Again, the focus is not the silhouette of the garment, but rather, the overall effect and sparkle of the paillettes! 

Basic Tube Dress
Personally, I prefer to use some sort of stretch material in a matching or neutral color as a base for these dresses. When I made the first one, I selected a medium grey fine tulle and decided to make it directly on the doll. Here's how I did it:
1. Cut a rectangular square large enough to fit around the doll's body, then add an additional 1/2" (1cm). The length will be whatever your desired length is times 2. So for this doll, my rectangle measured 7" (18cm) long by 5" (13cm) wide. Fold in half vertically (the fold will be at the top), then stitch each side by about 1/4" (5mm)
2. Turn outside in. You can press this down with an iron on low setting and a press cloth. 
3. Wrap this around the doll, folding over the seam allowance at the back and pin down the center.
4. Turn over to the front. You notice how the tube dress is gaping around the torso.

5. On each side of the body, fold the excess towards the back to form a long dart. Try to keep the two darts fairly even in terms of volume.
6. Pin (dart going towards the back) then hand sew this down using a back stitch. Be sure to tie a knot at the start of this dart and another at the end so the dart stays secure. Don't worry how this will look because the paillettes will eventually cover this.
Inasmuch as this was the first dress I made, I simply started sewing on the paillettes, starting from the hemline and working upwards. I wanted the look of scales overlapping each other in a downward direction. The first line of paillettes were stitched on the center front of the dress. When I arrived at the top, I knotted the last one, cut the thread, then began again, using the first column as a guide.

The result was exactly perfect though me and the doll were pretty happy. A lot depends on the look you are going for. If it is going to be tiled like shingles, then you need to add in guide lines like we did in the dresses later on in this post.

But if, for example, we were to use irregular shapes or simply wanted a random look, then the helter-skelter way in which we worked will suffice. By the way...notice how on one side of the center back, I have overlapped the paillettes whereas on what will lie underneath that seam I have purposely left an empty margin. Use snaps or hooks and eyes to close along that seam allowance and fold the one side (our right) over the other (our left) for a perfect fit.

But let's get back to the basics.... Here's a close up look at how I sewed on the paillettes.
1. Double thread the needle, tying a knot at the end. Start by pushing the needle from the underside of the fabric. 
2. Make two tiny stitches and another knot.
3. Pull to tighten then add your first paillette.
4. Pull the needle through the hole of the paillette, then wrap the next stitch to the side of the paillette.
5. Then, poke the needle through the hole again, this time from the back but at the top of the paillette. You want to anchor the first and last paillette this way. Pull the needle through.

6. Place the needle about 1/2 the width of the paillette away and make another stitch.
7. Place the needle through the hole of a new paillette then repeat step 5. That is, place the needle through the back of the paillette and pull through the hole.
8. You want to keep repeating this step until you have completed an entire column. I tend to work from bottom to top, but depending on the effect, you can also work side to side--especially if you have paillettes with holes at the top.
9. When you have the last paillette in place, wrap the needle around to the side to near the hole in back of the paillette, back through the hole and again push the needle to the underside.
10. Make a couple of tiny stitches and knot. Continue until you have covered the pattern piece.

Working with stretch
You don't have to work with tulle. A stretch fabric is also good to use. What could be interesting is to team up paillettes with either complimenting or contrasting colored fabrics. But with stretch fabrics comes another challenge. How to get the paillettes on without contorting the fabric. 

If we were working in couture for this kind of work (as well as beading and embroidery), we would have to transfer the pattern to the fabric then put everything onto a frame prior to adding the first paillette. But for the sake of simplification and coming up with a technique that is fairly easy, I did away with using a frame for most of the dresses. The purpose of working on a frame is to avoid the fabric from shrinking and buckling from all of the stitches. For the most part, I found working with a frame to be very time consuming, super difficult to stitch together the garment after everything is in place (especially if it has darts) and for me, the outcome wasn't worth the effort for the look I was attempting to achieve. HOWEVER...when it comes to working with stretch fabric....I found the frame to be most helpful.

1. You can use a wooden picture frame or make something yourself. Here I've used painter's stirring sticks which I taped together at just the right proportions.
2. I transferred my pattern onto a piece of gun metal silver lame jersey. I chose this fabric to compliment the hologram (otherwise known as 3-D) paillettes in a discount store in Paris. First I used chalk to mark the cutting line of a strapless jersey pattern onto my fabric. I put guide lines in: a yellow thread (use a broad running stitch) marks the center front and back of the dress; the blue lines indicate the stitching lines. Attach this to the frame, using tacks (the red dots) to hold in place. Don't stretch the fabric. You just want to keep this taunt enough to stop the fabric from moving or shrinking as you sew on the paillettes. 

1. Again, I wanted the look of scales. So I started at the center front line near the hem. Attach the first paillette using the above instructions. Secure the first one in place, then work your way up.
2. I apply the second one so that the hole is at the top of the edge of the one beneath.
3. Continue along that center front guide line until you reach the furthest edge.
4. Stop, knot. Then begin the second column at the bottom. 
5. I like to work from the center front towards the side, using each row as a guide. 
6. Note how, not only have I overlapped each paillette from the top, but I have also overlapped slightly on each side.

7. When finished, it will look something like this
8. Cut along the cutting lines. To sew, fold down the side seam of the front and lay over the side seam of the garment back. Hand sew in place. Repeat for the other side. You can use a a strip of tulle (or similar product) to finish the top of the dress as well as the hem. The dress foundation is stretch, so it will simply slide on and off the doll!
Okay so now we are at the stage where I can hear some of you saying....why on earth would I want to spend time sewing on "sequins" when I can buy already made fabric. Well.....first of all, most stores won't sell less than 1/2 yard or 50 cm, so you can make only what you know you'll use. Secondly, you can customize. I've made dresses here where I've simply covered them with the same paillette, but you, on the other hand, can mix, match, create patterns or simply apply on part of the garment!
For example, you can apply a few rows of paillettes as a trim. Think what you could do to the hem of a dress, skirt or even bell bottomed pants or calypso sleeves with spangles!

Embellishing woven fabrics
For my last experiment, I made a basic sheath dress from a non-stretch cotton. What I should have done was to either remove the darts or to have chosen a shift or tent style dress. Out of habit, I made this dress to fit the body..which is really why one would use stretch. Nonetheless, I completed what I started, darts and all. What is good about using wovens is that you can add a lining to your garment afterwards.

1. I made this dress from a simple white cotton. I wanted the focus to remain on the paillette in its natural state. But after you make that first dress, don't hesitate to play around with your paillettes and different colored backgrounds. The darts and the side seams are stitched. There are plenty of guidelines to help me through the process which we have described earlier in this post.

2. Here's a tip: As you approach the sides, be mindful of these curved areas. Leave them until the end. Then add the paillettes in to fill the space.

3. When you have finished and it's time to close up the shoulders and back seam....fold the top shoulders down and lay them over the back shoulder seam allowance in such a way that the rows of paillettes are relatively close to each other.
 4. When you have finished, you should not see the seams. At the back center seam, fold the center seam of the left side of the back down and lay over the seam allowance of the right side and stitch down, leaving enough room for the doll to get in and out of the dress.
For a sleeveless dress, fold the armhole seams inside and baste. Do the same around the armholes of your lining. Pin the lining face to face with the garment around the neckline and hand sew in place. Slash the curves around the neckline. Line up the armholes of the lining and the dress, hand stitch together with tiny hidden stitches. Close the dress with a hook and eye at the neckline.

And so, my dolly friends.....that brings us to the close of 2018. I've enjoyed sharing all my creative dolly endeavors with you. On behalf of all my Barbie divas and their Ken companions, my Fashion Royalty princesses and their handsome FR Homme princes, my sultryTonner dolls and even the three  audacious My Scene dolls who somehow sneaked into my home and heart.... 

Happy New Year!
We'll see you back here in 2019!!!

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Monday, December 24, 2018

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all my visitors who pass by this blog, whether you're a faithful follower looking for ideas and patterns to create something fabulous for your doll or a passer-by who simply likes looking at the pictures. Thank you all for visiting my page, for your support and for all the lovely comments you leave. At this time me and the dollies at Fashion Doll Stylist would like to wish each and every one of you (and your dolls) a very, creative, fun-filled, Merry, Merry, dollicious Christmas!

Five years ago, we shared a poem with you that we felt was time to offer up once again. In celebration of the holiday, here's our dolly rendition of 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. (Our sincerest apologies to the original author, Clement Clarke Moore (1779-1863).

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even the dolls in my house.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that April would soon pass with lots of new clothes by there.
The dolls were perfectly posed on their stands,
Though a few, thinking to grab a few gifts, tried to flex their hands.
Adrianna, Estelle, Radiah and Nichelle, all the Barbies were ready,
Veronique, Jordan, Sofia and the other Royals held steady.
Away to the door they flew in a flash,
With hopes of peaking at their new stash.
The light on the sewing machine provided just enough light,
For the dolls to see lots of party clothes for any festive night.
When, what to their wondering eyes should appear,
April holding miniature designer handbags, fur coats, and leather gear,
So much so, the dolls all began to cheer!
April’s eyes-- oh how they twinkled! She was definitely feeling merry!
She made us all something lovely to wear in tones of red cherry!
A seasoned fashion pro, she is a diva, thin and chic,
In contrast, we are plastic, barely 12 inches and at times, quite meek.
As the dolls strained to see what else was there,
April laid out suits of clothes for the dude dolls on a nearby chair.
One thing was clear, as we looked to see more,
None of this came from any store!
Leather suits, sheepskin coats, spats and leather skirts,
And yes there were Chanel suits and Versace medallion shirts.
Lace bustiers, Easter hats, red-carpet gowns, and corsets galore,
How could we ask for anything more!
April spoke not a word as she continue to work,
Laying all of our clothes out, then she turned with a jerk.
She thought she heard us, so she ducked out of sight,
But just before going to bed, she whispered:

"Merry Christmas to all, and to all my dollies, a good-night!"
Hello Dolly: My Christmas Dollies 2018

My apologies for the lull in postings and the lateness in responding to your comments. I've been battling a succession of colds over the past month. However, I'm feeling much better and already working on one more tutorial which will be up in just a few days!!! Stay tuned.

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Saturday, December 8, 2018

Paris Christmas Windows '18

When I was a little girl, my mother would take me downtown to look at the department store Christmas windows. With all of the dolls and assortment of dolls placed just right within a series of fairy tale scenes, it was like gazing into paradise.  Those department stores are long gone, but lucky me....I have the good fortune to find myself in Paris right around the holidays--a place where each holiday season, the stores (and many of the boulevards) are transformed into winter wonderlands for young and old.

Me and the girls have been taking a little time off. And since the department store windows are really designed for children, I decided to give Conner, our resident assistant who is with us via Hiyadolly's Dolltown, the job of giving you a touch of Christmas in Paris this year.
Beaugrenelle Shopping Mall
Conner started out in a very sophisticated manner. She loved the look of the laser cut paper lace which not only creates a winter wonderland back drop in all of the Dior high fashion windows, but also graces the exterior of the main store. We could not afford Conner anything in that store, but we did make a white fluffy faux fur jacket to keep her warm throughout this project. If this all looks familiar, it's because the decor was inspired by one of the sets from last year's Christian Dior exhibition!

On her way downtown to the department stores, (where all the real action is taking place through January 7), Conner passed by Cartier jewelers who, apparently, had a lot of fun putting together a series of lilliputian scenes to hawk their high fashion baubles.

Galeries Lafayette (Department Store) last....we're on the famed boulevard Haussmann where two major  stores are situated. There are so many children crowded around the windows, Conner had to push her way in to get a good glimpse. Though we are presenting static images, everything in the following windows are animated which makes it extra fun!

Step inside the store to see the humongous Christmas tree that is several stories high!!

Au Printemps (Department Store)

We all scream for ice cream!

Conner decided to step inside to peak at the Christmas tree at Au Printemps.
If you look closely, there are dollies inside this enormous tree!!!

In the center of the city, there is BHV, another department store with more fun windows. On her way there, Conner passed by a very quaint toy store with lots of old fashion things inside.

  At BHV, the theme was "The Fabulous World of Mary Poppins."

Marche de Noel
And if, somehow, you just didn't get your fill of Christmas decorations....there is the Christmas market in the Tuilleries Gardens (a public park that stretches from the Louvre to the Place de la Concorde)!!! There are tiny chalets selling everything from trinkets to sandwiches and hot drinks, a skating rink and plenty of fun rides for the kids.

"Thriller" Christmas Zombie ride.

Champs Elysees decked out in red. (Collaboration between the City of Paris and Chanel.)

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