Thursday, January 21, 2021

Behind the Design: Painting with Markers

In a few months, our divas will be ready to show off their spring summer fashions. And from the looks from our last report, it seems that floral prints will be really big. The secret to creating any one of these cool warm weather looks, is employing prints that perfectly adapt to 1/6th scale garments. Awhile ago, I did a tutorial showing how to recreate designer prints using photo editing software and an inkjet printer. But what happens if you don't have access to a printer, or cannot find a commercially made floral print of your doll's dreams in a store? Here's the perfect solution: Create exactly what you need using textile markers! 

Textile markers look just like the regular variety except, they are filled with permanent, color-fast dyes specifically formulated for fabrics with smooth surfaces. Available in wide, chisel tip, fine and ultra fine nubs, they are sold separately as well as in variety packs both online or at your local crafts/art supply store. While they don't replace commercially produced fabric prints, they are quite useful for those times when you want a very specific print, "ethnic" stripes, or a unique hand drawn OOAK print for a special garment. 

For this project, you need fabric markers, perhaps watercolor brushes, pencil, container of water, and embroidery hoop (optional). I've included the embroidery hoop for those who might be drawing an intricate motif. The hoop comes in a variety of sizes and is good for holding the fabric taunt while you draw detailed motifs.

To begin, we must first create a "motif." This is a basic design which will be repeated all over the fabric. You really don't need to be able to draw. Since the doll is so small, you only need to create the "essence" of a design. For my floral print, look how I've only used circles, X's, little scallops (for leaves) and a few squiggly line. It doesn't take much!
While creating the motif, remember, again, scale is everything. Cut a small scrap of paper and scribble your print. Place it against the doll to check the scale. Next, choose a basic fabric with a smooth finish: cotton, silk, satin... In one piece, cut enough to make the entire garment. (But don't lay or cut your pattern pieces unless you want the motifs to fall in specific places.)

Now make a grid for the repeat of your motif. Most prints are staggered in a diamond shape. The boxes I've drawn here represent the placement of each motif. They can be closer together or further apart depending on the overall look of the finished print.

Before you start, do a series of small tests to see how the marker reacts to the fabric. Shake the marker before you start. And if it seems a bit dry, dip the nib in water first. 
Pictured above, I began with the motif on paper using the same fine tip marker I'm using on a variety of fabrics to show you the differences. On the upper left hand corner is the original motif on paper, and from there, I've shown how it looks on a medium weight cotton, a fine, tightly woven polyester, a shiny satin, a twill weave silk and finally, a sheer chiffon. Note how in some cases, my marker sometimes bleeds into the fabric's fibers.

Once you have chosen your fabric, motif and plotted the pattern repeat, you might want to trace the design onto the cloth. Usually you don't need much fabric for most garments, so I tape the fabric onto a window, slide the motif underneath and trace onto the fabric. Even if you don't want to trace all of the motifs, you need to at least make enough of a guide so that each motif will remain in scale and relatively similar.
The print I made for the dress at the top of this post, reminded me of this drawing of violets, a logo of a famous bygone New York department store. What you note is that even though the drawing looks detailed, it really is only a series of dashes, dots and strokes. My interpretation is not a copy of this logo. But it does simply convey the essence of the original. Because the original fabric has a 3-D component, I have tacked on a petal created with polyester organza. 
I show you this to give an idea as to how to go about interpreting an existing print. 

Note how at the base of my flowers, there is a splash of transparent watercolor. This is achieved by either scribbling the color onto the surface then using a wet brush to blend or wetting the surface first then drawing over with the marker and letting the color bleed. You can work in layers. Make a wash, let dry then draw over with a crisp line. The beauty of this medium is that you can always come back and add to what is already there. Moreover, you create add a 3-D effect by adding petals, beads or embroidery.

Another useful way to use this medium is to create what is called "Ethnic Stripes." These are what appears to be hand drawn stripes which gives the print a folkloric look. Essentially, you still need a guide so that the stripes don't get too out of sync. But again, what is nice, is that you can create your own color palette and design create your own pattern of thick and thin stripes.
Again, I begin with a smooth surface fabric. In this case I am using a medium weight cotton and a chisel tip textile marker. But first, you need to lightly draw vertical lines in with a pencil and ruler. Once you have finished, place the market at the top of each line and drag it down to the bottom. Don't worry if it is not perfectly straight. These are, after all "ethnic" stripes. 
The end result, complete with imperfections can make for a really interesting garment!

There are other things you can do with these markers. For example, they can be used in conjunction with rubber stamps! Most craft stores sell stamp blocks in all different sizes and shapes. Just be aware that the final result will be somewhat irregular.

Use a broad tip marker to thoroughly ink over the surface of the rubber stamp. Work quickly and press it into the fabric, rocking it from side to side. Again, plot your repeat pattern and apply accordingly. But if the edges are a tad bit too blurred, you can always use a fine tip or ultra fine tip market to fill in as I have done on the lower right box.

If you can use these markers with rubber stamps, you can surely use them with stencils!
You can find stencils (like roses, stars and letters) online that can be used for your final design. 
1. Make your selection, then trace off onto freezer paper.
2. Using a broad tip marker, fill in the cut out spaces.
3. When you are finished, it will look like this.
4. Carefully, peel away the paper.
5. Here's the result. But notice, there are a few fine details missing.
6. You can take a fine point marker and fill in the missing details.

Note: Unless you are using recycled fabric, it is advised that you wash the fabric prior to applying the marker designs. This is because many fabrics have some sort of sizing product which may alter the results. Also, most brands of markers claim you do not need to iron the finished design to set the color. They advise waiting 24 hours after painting before using in the garment. Out of an abundance of caution I iron the fabric anyway and, if the marker bleeds through the fabric to the backside, I tend to line the garment or dress the doll with an undergarment. NEVER use regular markers (or Sharpies). The chemicals are different and they will most likely stain the doll.

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Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Ragtime Melodies

There is something called "artwear." Generally found at arts and crafts fairs, these are hand made, one-of-a-kind garments and accessories created by regional artisans. Most of the time these items are not fashion. However, from time to time, designers are influenced by a craftsman's technique and translates it into high fashion. A few years ago, I saw a shaggy jacket during menswear week that I thought could be interesting. So, for this first tutorial of the new year, I have revived the "rag jacket" and scaled it down for my dolls. This is super easy to make and takes almost no skill. 

The concept is simple. In essence, It's a rug knotting technique used to create a jacket or shawl. You begin with a netting material at the base and an old garment cut into slivers. Tie each piece onto the honeycomb cell of the base. There is no sewing. It's as easy as tying a simple knot! My base material in this case is the plastic nettin that encased my Christmas turkey. Sometimes vegetables are wrapped in the same "material." But if none of your food comes wrapped in such a material, an old fashioned hairnet (generally found at beauty supply stores) will work as well! 

You need to use the most simplest patterns as possible. I really wanted sleeves, so I created a very simple "boxy" pattern that is joined along the underside of the sleeve and side of the garment. But frankly, the simple tube  we used to create our shrugs or a stole is less complicated and will render almost the same look. 

Here is the pattern I used. It was created by stretching out the doll's arms (for width) and deciding the length of the finished garment and drawing a box around the whole thing. There is a slit at the center front. Usually whenever I've used such a pattern, there is a horizontal slit at the neck. However, the netting is so loose, you don't really need to introduce a slit.

Cut a piece of the netting so that it covers the pattern. You will use the pattern to help guide you as you tie on the slivers of fabric. What I discovered is that it is better if you make that cut along the center front line. You can "finish" the front edges with fabric ties.
1. It's very simple. Whatever your fabric or material source is, cut them into slivers. For this jacket, I cut up an old pair of my dad's jeans into slivers that are approximately 1/2 inch (1 cm) by 4 inches (9cm). They don't have to be even. If the fabric frays, all the better. But if you want a more "controlled" effect, you could use ribbon, for example. You could even cut up non-woven materials like tulle, vinyl, even dryer sheets. 
2. Get comfortable. Put on a good movie or two. Pour yourself a glass of wine or put on a pot of coffee. You're going to be working on this for awhile. Tie each piece around the cells of the netting. Continue until you have covered the area. 
3. Put this on the doll and cut more ties.

4. I use more fabric slivers to tie the underarm and sides of the jacket.
5. Once I have finished, cut away the excess netting. Then tie on more slivers to hide the cut plastic edges.
6. And Voila! Here's Nicki and her new jacket. Very 1980's! But very versatile. With jeans and sneakers it's an extravagant daytime look. With a short circle silk skirt and thigh high's urban high fashion. 
I will say this. The jacket is heavy. What I learned is that you do not have to tie up the entire surface of the netting. But where you see gaps (around the neck and sleeves, for example), you can "modify" the fit simply by tying the cells together. The look of this jacket will change depending on the material used.

By changing the fabric to a lightweight metallic, my 80's jacket is upgraded to something that could walk the Met Gala (US Vogue Magazine's annual high fashion red carpet event at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art). 

Katoucha wears it over a silver lurex gown. Of course before finishing this post, I wanted to try one more variations. What happens if you use yarn?

1. This is your ordinary wool yarn. I cut it into pieces of 6" (15cm) in length). I cut two pieces which are then folded in half and cut to make four pieces. I thread the four pieces of yarn through each cell and tie. Eventually I smooth the yarn so that it is all moving in the same direction. 
2. Since this is a stole, the base is a simple rectangle. When finished, you can add two longer lengths of yarn as ties to hold the stole around the doll's neck or shoulders.
3. When finished the backside looks like this. 
4. If you want, you can add on a lining. Here, I've used a piece of panne velvet as my lining. Turn the edges down and pin in place. Then hand stitch the lining in place.

And voila....Samantha looks stunning in her shaggy shawl!  Stay safe. Have fun!

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Friday, January 1, 2021

Happy New Year 2021


Let's face it....2020 was brutal. We had a difficult time getting inspired but somehow....we marched on! Hopefully 2021 will be much kinder to us! On behalf of all the dolls who reside chez moi... I'd like to wish all of you in dollyland a very Happy New Year filled with the dolls of your dreams!

Big hugs and well wishes for a happy, healthy New Year filled with love and especially.....pretty dollies!

April and the gang......