Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Shoe Biz: SNEAKING Around With Him

After the menswear report I did recently, the guys in the house pointed to their very slim selection of footwear available to them. Moreover, they don't want just any type of shoe. They want...SNEAKERS. While there are LOTS of tutorials and patterns online--folks much more capable than me-- I decided to try my hand at making a pair. But there was one small problem..... I'm not a sneaker girl. The proportions, the designs, and all those teeny weeny details all escape me! But after watching me master the girls' shoes last summer, my dude dolls insisted I give their footwear a shot. So here goes...

Arriving at a pattern that yields a decent pair of sneakers was not as it easy for me as it seemed. Sure you can follow those YouTube videos, but often the end result looks more like a pair of felt socks with ribbon laces that only a toddler doll would wear! I wanted something cool, something a little more "grown-up." So after attempting to create my own pattern from scratch, I looked at what was already available, made a few tweaks and then transformed those modest craft projects into something "real." The challenge was trying to make a pair of men's shoes that had a tiny bit of volume over the toes. Ordinarily, you need a foot form, otherwise known as a "last" which is the exact size and shape of the finished shoe. I made a set out of oven baked clay. The challenge is creating one that also mimics the exact proportions of the doll's foot in the shoe. In terms of a tutorial, this complicate things immensely. So, instead, I am showing you how to put this together on the doll's foot and you can cheat by 1) taping on cotton to pad the doll's foot before gluing the upper to the sole or 2) taking a tiny wad of cotton and stuffing it into the finished shoe.

In any case, I begin with the "Converse" (hi-top) sneaker as well as the ankle grazing sneakers and then simplify the process with an easy-to-make 1-piece and another 2-piece pattern which can be "embellished" to resemble most modern sneakers. For each style, I show the corresponding pattern, however if you scroll down to the bottom of this page, I have the patterns--drawn against 1/4-inch graph paper-- so that you can simply copy or trace off and make whatever modifications are needed to fit your own doll.

The Converse Shoe

The iconic Converse sneaker, here realized in black cotton broadcloth with white leather trim. Don't be put off by all of the steps. This is simply my way of handholding you through the complete process of putting this (and the other) shoe together.

1. For this shoe, here are the pattern pieces needed. Note there are two soles, one for the FR Hommes doll, the other for Ken. The sole should be a little bigger than the doll's foot. For best results, trace each pattern piece off onto the wrong side of your material, then carefully cut. Though I have drawn the cuts which fall over the shoe sole, you can cut in a straight line then cut the notches afterwards.

2. For each shoe: There is the back quarter (cut from black fabric), the heel (cut from white leather), an insole (white) cut from card stock, the outer sole (black) from a sheet of craft foam, and a white rubber band. glue on the leather bits to the toe and the heel while the pattern pieces are still flat. 

3. Place the insole on the doll's foot. Begin with the "vamp" (the toe) and after cutting in the notches, glue the bottom edge around insole. Line up the center back of your back quarter so that it lines up with the back of the heel. If necessary, you can add a few stitches to secure the upper to the insole.

4. Add a layer of strong glue to the bottom of the shoe.

5. Firmly press on the outer sole to the rest of the shoe.

6. Use a dowel or a pencil as a rolling pin over the bottom of the shoe

7. Put a layer of rubber cement around the outer edge of the outer sole.

8. Cut the rubber band in half and fit it around the shoe to get the exact fit. Cut away the excess. Next, put a layer of rubber cement around the inside of the rubber band. Allow the glue on both edges to dry. The surfaces will be tacky.

9. Very carefully, line up the middle of the rubber band to the center front of the shoe.

10. Carefully line up the rubber so that it is flush against the top and bottom of the shoe as you wrap it completely around.

11. The back of the band should meet flush together. If the edges won't stay down, you can use a tiny bit of tape to hold the two sides together.

12. With everything in place, feel free to customized. Use a pencil to lightly draw a line around the center of this band. This will serve as a guide. Place the shoe on the table.Take a fine tipped permanent marker and very carefully draw in the line.

For the shoe laces, I cut a very thin strip of the leather. I used the needle end of a circular compass to punch a hole on either side of the back quarter. If you have trouble threading the shoe lace, use a toothpick to help push it through the hole.

Here's my finished pair of sneakers!

The photo below shows the bottom view of these shoes.

We're going to make the same shoes again. This time I've added more details, more structure to the shoe.

1.  Here are my cut pieces for the entire pair of shoes. I have used a red broadcloth for the body of the shoe and red leather toes and heels. I have also used an interfacing to add structure to the top of the shoe and the tongue.

2. Here I have used an iron-on interfacing. Note that it is centered in the middle of the vamp, free of the seam allowance. 

3. If you use iron-on interfacing, be sure the smooth side is up and the grainy side is down. You can also use a sturdy sheet of paper instead. Glue this directly to the vamp and press.

4. Next, glue the toe to the vamp. Press, using an iron  on low setting. Use a sheet of transparent paper to protect the iron while you are pressing this in place.

5. Using a toothpick, apply fray check (modge podge or clear drying craft glue) around the edges of the tongue on the vamp.
6. Because my fabric frays, I have decided to turn the edges down and glue in place. Begin on either side of the back quarter. The pattern piece normally used for the decorative heel at the back of the shoe can also be used, instead, as an interfacing if your fabric is anything less than sturdy. This will give more structure to the back of the shoe. Line the center back of the interfacing with that of the back quarter as shown. Press.

7. Turn down the top edge

8. If you are using leather for your heel, you don't have to use the interfacing. The leather will add structure to the back of the shoe.
9. For each edge that will be turned under and glued to the bottom of the inner sole, cut in notches. Notching the edges helps to eliminate bulk. under the foot of the shoe.

10. Though I winged it on the first shoe, it is really best to plan everything ahead while the shoe is still flat. Now is the time when you can punch the holes, add top stitching or any other embellishments.

11. For this shoe, I decided to add tiny metal eyelets. After punching the holes, I place an eyelet on the (compass) needle. I placed the needle back in the hole and remove it without removing the eyelet. Make sure the eyelet is completely passed through to the other side. Then, using a small pair of flat nosed jewelry pliers, quickly press the pliers to flatten the eyelet in place. 
Note: if you are going to use machine top stitching, you should do that before installing the eyelets!

12. Now it's time to glue.Turn the pieces over, wrong side up.  Add rubber cement to the bottom of the insoles and to the bottom, notched edges of the quarter back.

13. Add glue around the front, notched edge of the vamp.
Place the inner sole on the doll's foot (dry side down to the doll, glue side up facing you). 

14. Place the vamp over the foot then quickly fold the side edges down onto the bottom of the insole. If you need to, you can secure the edges in place with a needle and thread.

15. Because I am going to use an air dry clay for the sole, I am gluing on a middle sole because it improves the clay's adherence to the shoe. You can skip this step if you find your clay adheres well enough or if you decide to use foam board as your sole instead. 

16. Using a pencil or a wooden dowel as a rolling pin, press to make sure everything is glued in place 
17. You have the option of creating your sole by cutting a shape out of thick foam sheet or you can fashion it out of air dried clay. Craft foam is quick and easy. Clay allows you to custom shape the sole and even press in patterns on the bottom of the shoe. To start, take a small ball of clay and shape it into a rectangular shape.

18. Place that onto the bottom of the she and press it into the shape you want. You might want to look at an actual shoe to get an idea of what shape you should be shooting for. 

19. Don't rush it. Keep working until the shape is just what you want. Cut away the excess. Smooth the sides and bottom when you are finished. Don't worry about the imperfections. They will be hidden with a band.

20. Again, this is a step you really don't need. You could simply paint the sole you just created out of clay once it has dried. Or, you can cut a strip of leather and encircle the sole as I have done in this photo. Be sure to butt the edges at the back of the shoe. Apply rubber cement to both surfaces and then press in place. 

Yes, I know, this is a little bit of work. But the end result is so much better than those molded plastic shoes they sell out of China!

Here's the same shoe but in a monochrome light blue denim with light blue leather accents. 

The Sports Shoe

The ankle grazing sneaker is really the same with a slightly different pattern. Here, I've made it pretty simple. There is the vamp which doesn't have a toe or a tongue and the back quarter. My sue is made of blue denim. Instead of laces, I poked holes and used white twist ties (to simulate velcro closures). The edging around the top and where the heel would be, is all done with a fine brush and white paint. The sole is done with air-dried clay. Simple!

This is the same shoe but using leather instead of fabric. The black leather with white sole has become a modern classic in mens footwear fashion.

Another leather shoe where I added metal eyelets and leather shoe laces. Instead of craft foam or clay, I cut the soles and heels out of a course leather. Since the entire shoe is made of leather, you don't need interfacing. But we can do something even more simple!

Les Booties

I wanted to make a hot pair of Rock 'N Roll shoes for my very trendy Ken, so I traced his foot and ankles to create a 2-piece shoe. 

1. There is only one pattern plus the soles. For this shoe I used a stretch fabric. You could also use a faux leather which also stretches.

2. Stitch both sides. Turn down the top and tack down.

3. Place the insole on the doll's foot. Add a line of rubber cement to the undersides of the shoe upper's edges and to the bottom of the insole. When dry, bend down the edges onto the bottom of the insole. 

4. Since this is shoe is entirely out of fabric, I add a few stitches to secure the upper in place.

5. Add your sole. Here, I have used an air dry clay. This is because I will customize it in a very special way. You can fake the lacing with a few stitches over the top of the shoe.

6. Once the soles are dry and hard, I repeat the pattern of the uppers using matching paint.

Using the same pattern, I decided I would make another pair of Pop Rock shoes with "steel" toes.

1. Putting this shoe together is really no different than the other shoes we've made already. The difference is, the pattern is pretty simple to make. Lay the doll's foot on its side and trace around. Allow for seam allowance all around. 

2. Stitch down the center front of the pattern. Turn the top down and glue or stitch down. If you are cutting this from leather or another non-woven material, you may not need to hem. 

3. Stitch the back seam and turn right side up.

4. Notch the bottom side of the upper, then glue the upper to the bottom of the insole.

5. What you don't want especially for a male doll, is a flat shoe. I cheat by taking a tiny piece of cotton to stuff in the toes. Start out with a small amount, adding more if needed.

6. Take a small stick and stuff it towards the toes.

7. For the metal toe, I used a tiny strip of aluminum self adhesive tape. Wrap the toes once, leaving the tip of the toe on the shoe exposed.

8. Wrap a second time, making sure it overlaps the tip of the toe. Hit the toe to square it off. Tuck everything under the foot and glue down

9. For this shoe, I will be using craft foam. But in this instance I wait until after the upper is finished. Place the shoe upper on the sheet of craft foam and trace around. If it is a little too big, that is okay because you can always cut it down later.

10. Using a strong glue, attach the upper to the black foam sole. When it has set. put a thin line of rubber cement around the perimeter of the sole.

11. You can use a black rubber band or a thin piece of black leather. Put a layer of rubber cement on the band. When both surfaces have dried, carefully press the band to the shoe beginning at center front. Again, but the edges end to end at the center back. If necessary you can use a tiny bit of tape to keep the edges together.
We can even go more simple by reducing the pattern to a single piece. The characteristics of the average sports shoe, is one that has a rather intricate set of patterns and inserts. By itself, this basic shoe pattern resembles a leather sock. However, you can use this as a canvas and add as many embellishments as desired to create a thoroughly modern looking shoe. The above photo shoes the basic shoe in suede. It has a leather sole and heel, but you can use any of the other materials we used throughout this project. For this the last shoe I made for this project, I decided to return to a faux leather with tiny scraps of leather.

1. There is only one pattern piece for this shoe plus the sole.

2. On the wrong side, stitch the shoe down the center back seam.

3.Turn right side up and put it on the doll's foot. Place the insole on the doll's foot. Notch the edges, add the glue and turn under onto the bottom of the insole.

4. Cut out a sole from a thick piece of craft foam. Glue to the bottom of the shoe.

5. Cut a white rubber band in half. Add a line of rubber cement to the side edges as well as to the underside of the rubber band. Wrap around the shoe with it, butting the edges at the back. Use a bit of tape, if necessary, to hold the rubber band in place.

6. Add embellishments. Here, I've added a tiny rectangle of leather then drew tiny lines to represent lacing.

7. Using all of those tiny little scraps that have fallen on the floor, I used them to create the embellishments that typify this type of sports shoe.

This pattern is on 1/4" graph paper.

Oh my, oh my....anything HE can wear, so can she! Coming up next: a short tutorial on making sneakers for her, even if she has high heeled feet!

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Saturday, June 13, 2020

Happy World Doll Day 2020

With everything that is happening in the world... what better thing to do than celebrate a day consecrated expressly to dolls and the joy they bring us. According to the World Doll Day website:

"The First World Doll Day was established on June 14th, 1986 with a letter by Mildred Seeley. It was created to spread the universal message of happiness and love. The day is not owned by any company, club or person and no fees, permission or obligations are required.

Many have celebrated the day by giving a doll to someone--a child or adult, but freedom of expression and celebration are left up to the individual. In the past, the day has been observed with exhibits, sales, seminars, doll shows and other doll related activities. 

In honor of this day, I encouraged the dolls in my house to organize their own event, document it and post it to their own blog... Fashion Doll Diva

Have a great dolly day.....

April and the gang!

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Ken's Eye View: Winter 2020 Menswear

The boys are back!!!! It's been awhile since I've presented a menswear report. That is because, for .the last number of seasons, men's fashions have been in a state of anarchy thanks to a transgender movement which does a mashup of mens and womenswear, underwear and outerwear, all rolled together in a clash of color and print. The stately male models have been surpassed by what appears to resemble awkward adolescents and nerdy 20-somethings. All of this is clutter to an eye of this seasoned reporter. But for the Autumn Winter 2020-21 season, me and my dude dolls took a trip to Paris and Milan where we were finally successful in finding a few looks we thought ranged from classically practical to colorfully interesting. 

Full Disclosure. The information for this post was gathered from last January's menswear weeks (pre-Covid days) in France and Italy. The spring/summer 2021 press presentations originally scheduled for this month have been cancelled.

Digital Noise (Milan)
Look out for a season of grey skies next Autumn. On center stage: lots of mottled knits, pebbly tweeds and a combination of textured novelty wools, sometimes all in the same garment. We love the grey on grey layering. And please note....pants run the full gamit from skinny jeans to geezer wide legged trousers. Though I didn't have any on hand, a pair of knitted socks would be perfect for making either one of these sweaters with its accessories!

Don't be afraid to mix up your greys and add a touch of aluminum for a subtle spark. Also on trend....great big overcoats worn with skinny, above-the-ankle jeans worn with high topped sneakers....all, of course in a palette of grey.

The Overcoat (Milan)

If you only have time to make your guys one garment, let that be an overcoat. Again, the silhouette for this item is super wide that you take and wrap around the body like a cocoon. Notice how big, round and broad these coats are. The bigger the better! I'm not a big fanof the Jil Sander coat, but this is something you could make that both genders of your dolls can share! In fact, for this report, I did think of duel purpose coats that could be shared amongst all my dolls!

For Zack, we went old school, relying on classic fall fabrics: glen plaids, small checks and tweeds. Zack's coat, a throw back to the glamour days of Humphrey Bogart films, is a simple, double breasted overcoat that wraps around the body and is worn over a funnel neck sweater and wide checked trousers with cuffs. 

An Officer and a Gentleman (Paris)
Very British indeed, my guys loved these coats by the house of Givenchy. Narrow officer's coats are cut from neutral colored wools, each marked with a small slice of velvet. Their worn over  skinny pants paired with knee high boots or moderately wide trousers.

Skin Deep (France)
Looking ahead to leather weather, look for the sheen of leather (or faux leather) to become a major force in monsieur's winter wardrobe. That includes trousers of all widths, super wide overcoats as well as sport jackets.  Black is big but so are dark tones!

Loic loved the look of leather on leather. But instead of replicating this line for line, for him, I opted for a more rock star silhouette. I cut the trousers down to skinny jeans and made those as well as his overcoat out of a really nice faux leather (skai). I must admit, working with skai was much easier to handle and sew than real leather. However, where it comes to was a bit of a chore. This is because, normally the seams and details of a leather garment are held down with the help of rubber cement (because you cannot iron the seams shut). Unfortunately, I discovered rubber cement doesn't work well with faux leather! My sewing machine is having issues, otherwise, top-stitching would be the best way to go. 

Livin' Large (Paris)
Seems like every 40 years, menswear takes a stroll down a very wide lane and 2020 is no exception. Woooyoungmi's zoot suits recall the 1940's with long, double breasted jackets and super fluid trousers. Fast forward to Yohji Yamamoto who has been faithful to his 1980's androgynous black suits that swing and sway down the catwalk. We particularly loved that zoot-suit piece of chain swaying all the way down past the knees of his 3 piece suit. They are in black but feel free to use pinstripes, tweeds or an entire gamut of dark tones.

Fur Real (Milan)
As men are now free to experiment with looks once reserved for women, fur (real or faux) will become a major part of a well dressed guy doll's winter wardrobe. And through we love the simple lines of Etro's simple coat, there are many ways to go with this trend. Featured here....a cape slipped over the shoulders of a jeans clad hunk, a triple layered mink coat slipped over a cable knit sweater and kaki trousers and finally--a spotted faux that slinks over the skinniest of pants.

Wild Thang (Paris)
It doesn't stop there. Our "Beasty" brothers are rocking their pop star looks with wild and crazy renditions of faux fox, leopard and monkey fur.  
I'm afraid that Lee got into the girls' closet and sneaked out one of their shaggy furs! (That's ok, the girls are always borrowing from the guys as well!). This is a shaggy faux fur sold at many craft stores. Front, back and sleeves is all the pattern pieces you need to make this hot fashion accessory. 

Again, this is a simple coat slung over a denim jacket and a pair of jeans. It doesn't matter that this isn't a fur coat. What counts is the pattern. In fact, Brad's coat was made from a piece of cotton fabric (quilting square). The right side had a color tone too saturated for what I needed so I turned it around and used the wrong side for a distressed, slightly bleached out effect that compliments the denim.

South of the Border (Milan)
It's colorful without being brash, playful without being resembling costumes... let's take a trip to South America for some fresh ideas. We loved the paisley prints, striped scarf fabrics, the lumberjack plaid topped with leather, the ponchos edged with fringe. These are looks that are very simple to make! 
Renauld loved the combination of plaid and leather. I cut up an old scarf to make his jacket. 

In Living Color (Paris)
This will not be everybody's taste... but it does show how color...vivid, eye popping bright worked into menswear...of all things! Again, the inspiration originate from far reaching cultures. The sun is shining somewhere in the world.
Integrity Toys produced a male doll  (Darius Reid Art of Manliness) dressed in a hot pink suit. Though I ordered the doll (he's at the bottom of this page), I got him nude because I didn't like the suit. And then I saw this suit and decided I would give it a try. It's a simple silhouette with a lot of pockets. I chose a funnel neck as opposed to a mao collar in an effort to simplify things and avoid bulk. Admittedly few of my dolls can pull this off. I did consider pairing the jacket with navy trousers (see below) but it seems to me this is an all or nothing look. I'm still not partial to those patch pockets (the color is already enough). Nonetheless, Lamar was able to work the look in style. 
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Velvet Underground (Milan)
There are no surprises here... just the classic good looks of a velvet suit that has been popping up on red carpets over the last couple years. 

Skinny Dipping (Milan)
First and foremost, the message here is the silhouette... dress jackets and sport coats are slim, long and trace the body. The next thing to notice..the "man purse." 
But for my guy, Kim, I focused on a simple double breasted jacket and slim pants with the startling application of "statement" embroidery. This red carpet look caught my eye and sparked m yinterest. Why not take a simple white suit and treat it as a canvas. When I first saw the original Alexander McQueen suit, I thought I saw a drawing of trees. My original intent was to make the suit and paint on the trees. But after all of the work on the jacket (notched collar, interfacing, buttonhole pockets..) I didn't want to risk making a mistake. The idea came to me to shred braided trim and then add strips of frayed taffeta, both of which were then tacked down to the jacket and dribbles down the pants. A sort of faux embroidery! But before I arrived at this design, I also considered cutting out a motif from a print and stitching to one side of the jacket. Or even adding lace and beads. The possibilities are endless! This was really interesting!!!

Desert Storm (Paris)
Balmain's designer (Olivier Rousteing) must have taken a trip to somewhere in the northern part of Africa. Most of the collection stepped right out of the desert and onto the catwalk with a series of draped looks for men. These are styles that are not easy to wear. However, some of these looks appeared so regal, I couldn't resist making one for the newest member of my doll family, Jean Pierre (IT Darius Reid Art of Manliness). 
I was not sure of the result. So I did this on the cheap using not-so-noble old T-shirt and a bit of stretch cotton for the foundation of the jacket. I did not have the right tone of dye on hand, so I decided to leave everything in white. For a desert look, my materials made more sense than silk. However, cut from silk and chiffon, this would be a majestic evening wear ensemble. It all starts with a simple, collarless jacket with a "train" (lengths of fabric) gathered and stitched into the shoulder seams. Those trains are then wrapped around the body and tied to the side. It's worn over sarouel pants. These originate from North Africa and the middle east. Fullness is incorporated into the top part of the pants, tapering in to fit over the calves of the legs. (Harem pants, on the contrary, are gathered at the top and at the ankles.) In real life these pants are hard to wear because they often look like loose diapers. But on Jean Pierre I was able to control the amount of fullness which, by the way, is gathered into a stretch waistband. 

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