Wednesday, February 24, 2021

About Fashion Month This Season...

It's been a couple of weeks since I last posted and I wanted to bring you up to date on what we're doing. As usual for this time of year, we have been following Fashion Weeks of the major capitals. But as we near the one-year mark of this pandemic, we what was once a parade of catwalk shows have been transformed into virtual, static presentations for the second time in a row. Six months ago we felt the fashion industry had reset and was moving towards a refreshing return "real" clothes. But now, after all the lock-downs, curfews, work-from-home lifestyle changes, we are now perusing yet a second set Fashion Month of virtual shows..... and much of it is not pretty. 

A number of major fashion houses around the world announced they would not be participating in Fashion Week. Others are delaying their presentations which will pop up in the midst of another country's allotted week. What is left is a puzzling mix of what resembles college art projects, Salvation Army blind grab bag frocks, not-ready-for-prime-time concepts and bloated silhouettes totally out of step with modern lifestyles...not to mention our fashion dolls' minuscule proportions. 

And so... after viewing New York Fashion Week, I had a meeting with my dolls who felt they could do better. 

So instead of sending the girls off on their usual trip to treasure hunt in Europe, they have agreed to pick up pencils, paper, fabric, scissors and create their own "trends"  based on what they would like to see and wear for Autumn/Winter 2021. In fact, they have already begun! Where they see something from the actual shows, they've promised to incorporate it into this presentation. This promises to be a very different trend report from what we usual do. The girls need a bit more time, so while you wait, let us entertain you with a little something from our favorite YouTube dolly site.

Meet Moonyyi.

These brilliant dolly catwalk shows are the work of designer Moonyyj who makes the clothes then breathes life into the dolls with the help of wire, fishing wire and a painstaking technique known as "stop motion animation." This involves setting up scaffolding, wiring the dolls to stand on their own, then photographing each and every tiny movement, which is later stitched together using software then set to music.This is something I have always wanted to do but never found the time to try my hand at this.  Their hand and head gestures, the swaying of their hips as they walk that model walk...the video is very convincing! Enjoy!!!

We'll be back shortly.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Pearls of Wisdom

With Valentine's Day a stone's throw away, I thought I'd surprise my girls with another trip to Tiffany's. I've loved pearls all my life. There is something about the warmth of their lustre, the silky touch of them against my skin. My mother's first gift of jewelry to me was a cultured pearl pendant in the form of tiny cluster of grapes. I have all sorts of pearls from a classic collar of cultured pearls and Mikimoto natural pearl earrings, to the more whimsical ropes of colorful fresh water pearl necklaces I put together myself in a former hobby. 

I am not alone in my love for this lustrous jewelry. Kamala Harris, the newest Vice President of the United States has made pearls her signature style. While a strand or two of is enough for me, sometimes I like to go overboard and pile them on.... Chanel style! The iconic designer was to incorporate ropes of faux pearls into the hushed world of Haute Couture..something for which she was both criticized and applauded. In fact, for this post I consulted several of the house's modern designs for my dolly versions. Needless to say, I had LOTS of fun! In advance I apologize for the length of this project, but once I got started, well you know was hard to stop. And frankly, I couldn't figure out how to divide this into two. While there are a few jewelry making basics, this post is really an assembly of tips and ideas adopted for dolly.

You will need to buy a few things for this project. But everything is available in your local craft store (or online) and nothing is expensive. 

Jewelry pliers: flat nose, long nose and if you can, bent nose pliers. 
Craft wire: This is a soft wire that comes in a variety of thicknesses (the higher the number the thinner the wire). For 1/6 scale jewelry, 20- 24 gauge wire is perfect.

Invisible or nylon thread. (Invisible is perfect)
Beading needles
Jump rings
Eye pins
Crimp beads
Clear gel glue
(Doll size) clothes pin (to be used as a bead stop)

An assortment of pearls (or beads). Seed beads (1mm for the smallest, 2mm are "to scale," 3mm are "large" and anything over that is "oversized). Faux pearls are fine. They generally have larger holes and you can probably use regular sewing needles. Tiny fresh water pearls are more interesting but their holes are smaller and require fine beading needles.


Beaded chain 

For the purpose of vocabulary, I am posting this reference to necklace lengths. My measurements were based on an Integrity Toys 12.5" doll. 

Prior to this project, I had a tendency of stringing beads on a bit of wire and wrapping it around the doll's neck. The problem with that is that my necklaces never "hung" like the ones I wear around my own neck! While researching the "perfect" string for making necklaces, "bead stringing wire" was recommended. And though stringing pearls on this material was flawless, my necklace was still too stiff!

Using the traditional bead wire results in the matinee length necklace forming a circle as shown in the upper right image. Beneath it is the same length necklace created using the invisible thread. To show more clearly the difference, I've put the two together. Notice the difference when both necklaces have been strung with the invisible (clear) or nylon thread. Get your supplies together, let's get started!

The Rope
Bella is wearing a 6" rope of (4mm) fresh water pearls in a style made famous during the 1920's. All you need is a beading needle and clear (aka "invisible" thread. Thread your needle with enough length to make the necklace and place a doll size clothes pin at the far end of it. Slide on enough pearls to complete. Leave a tiny bit of space at the end so the pearls will still be flexible, then tie the thread into three knots. Cut away the excess. You can add a tiny dab of glue to the knot to make sure nothing unravels and everything stays put. If you are using nylon (sewing) thread, this is very important to keep the thread from unraveling.

It is pretty common to see a rope necklace knotted in the middle. But we are working on a scale where there is not enough length to do this. We get the same look by adding a small loop of (2mm) pearls strung on wire. Twist the loop around the necklace to simulate the look.

The Choker
This is another easy to make necklace that doesn't require any special tools or hardware. 

This is essentially a single strand necklace of (5mm pearls) with a (7mm) floater pearl in the middle. (I show how to do the floater further down in this post.) The underlying thread is knotted three times. The necklace is then folded into a double layer and wrapped around the neck, slipping the larger pearl through the bend of the other side. Everything stays in place as is. Her earrings are simply floater pearl attached to a standard pierced earring post.

There's another easy solution for creating necklaces. And that's with beaded chain! 
Sold by the foot (or by the centimeter) beaded chain (sometimes called rosary beads), comes in a variety of chains, beads and colors. All you need to do is add the hardware. You don't need to cut anything. Using your flat nose pliers, simply open the links to get the length you want, and join them together to form one long rope. We can also do a multi-strand necklace. 

Before we start, let's think about how the necklace will close. You can always use a store bought "findings." But you can also make a simple S-ring with a bit of wire.
On the left, an S ring. Not only is it economical, but it makes it easy to get the necklace on and off the doll easier than regular closures. On the right, I've used a classic closure. Note that is in not in scale. Though they do come in smaller sizes, a larger closure makes the necklace easier to get on and off! This is how I make my S-ring:
1. With the long nose pliers, I bend the wire into an open loop.
2. Note where the circle is pointing.
3. At that point, bend the wire into the opposite direction.
4. Here, you can see more clearly the direction I am going.
5. You are literally forming an S. 
6. Eventually completely close the bottom of the S (over the end of the necklace), while leaving the top slightly open.
7. The closed end of the S is joined to an eye ring which, in turn, is attached directly to the necklace. 
8. The jump ring on the opposite side should be slight larger. 

Now let's make our multi-strand necklace. 
1. Decide the length of the first row of beads by draping the chain around the neck of the doll. 
2. Open the link with your snub nose pliers and place a jump ring on both ends. 
3. Make the next length a little longer and add this length to the eye rings on the first strand.
4. Repeat for subsequent strands you want to add.
5. When you are finished, add the closure findings to the same eye rings.
Now, let's do this with a pearl chain!

Of course, you can always keep it simple by making single strands of everything then combining them with chain necklaces to form a spectacular look! For the next look, I was inspired by this image:
I love the toss of different sizes and shapes of rope necklaces all worn with such ease. The white on white is gorgeous, but I decided to do something a little less classic...a little more "urban."
We combined these four necklaces (L-R): single strand rope, double strand pearl chain, single strand pearl chain and chain with CC charm. Together this makes for the look on the far right.
On the model, look how fabulous it dresses up a basic dress!

Let's go back to the classic pearl necklace. You can always tie the stringing thread to the findings, but the purpose of this exercise is to show how to get a more finished look from start to finish.

For this necklace you will need your tools. 
1. I have needle and a double thread. Tie one end around the jump ring. 
2. Thread a crimp bead onto the thread and over the excess thread as you move it close to the jump ring.
3. With your pliers, crush the crimp bead
4. Slide the first pearl onto the thread and once again, over that little bit of excess thread. (Essentially you want to hide that tail under the bead.) Finish threading on the rest of the beads.

5. Continue adding beads until you have reached the desired length. 
6. Add another crimp bead to the end. (But don't crush it yet.) Loop the needle and thread around the closed end of the S-ring (or other closure ending) and through the holes of the first 3 beads. 
7. Pull to draw up the slack but do allow for the beads to remain flexible on the thread so that they are not overly taunt.. 
8. In between the third and forth bead, tie a knot directly on the necklace a couple of times. You can also dab a tiny bit of glue on the knot for added strength. 
9. Go back and crush the crimp bead.
Here is my finished necklace with a closeup of the back closures.
I made this necklace for my Barbie (Model Muse) using 2mm pearls. If you want the necklace to look a bit special, add in clear crystals to give the necklace a bit of sparkle. I also mix in crystal beads when working with dark pearls. 
To Denise's two strands of pearls, I've added a "brooch" which is, in reality, a vintage earring!

Here's Gail wearing a black, seed pearl choker, a matinee length (4mm) black pearl necklace, and the three strand blue crystal necklace together. Her coil bracelet is made using (1mm) seed beads.

Now, let's have some more fun. For my next item, was inspired by this chunky Chanel "charm" necklace. The original has a mix of oversized pearls and charms suspended from a golden chain.  
I decided, instead, to do this a multi-strand necklace. I played around with this for a while, at first adding a fourth strand of pearls. But it overwhelmed her, so I stopped after the third strand! Strand by strand, this is how Kym's necklace is composed:
One strand has double CC charms and a variety of pearl sizes.
Another is a strand of 2mm silver beads
The bottom layer has pearls and an assortment of charms and pearl drop clear beads.

So, you are wondering...where did I get those double C charms from!?! this is how I made those double C charms I made them and without the use of a soldering iron....
Using the long nose pliers and a tiny bit of 18-20 gauge craft wire, bend the wire into a pair of C's. Take your time to get them as close in size and shape as you can. Next, using a hammer, pound each C flat. With a toothpick, dab a tiny bit of clear glue on the curve of each C then layer one over the other. When dry. Hammer the charm a tiny bit more to flatten them together. You may have to clean up the excess when all is dry. I bent a small bit of fine wire (24 gauge) around the middle of the charm and in the form of an eye loop to hang onto the necklace. 
I did see another necklace with pearls suspended from chain. I like the variety of sizes incorporated into this piece and how they seem to tumble down her cleavage. 
Here's Morgan wearing my dolly version of this necklace. As with the original, I suspend a series from "floater" pearls from a chain. This is not difficult, but it does take time and patience to complete.

Headpins resemble straight pins except they are blunt and are made from a more flexible wire. They come in a variety of sizes which you can always cut to size, but you will need to bend them into a loop so they can be joined to a chain or necklace. 

1. After threading the bead through the pin, bend the wire in about a 45 degree angle using your long nosed pliers 
2. Bend the wire into a curve moving in the opposite direction
3. Clip away any excess and continue to bend into a loop. 
(Note: if you run out of head pins, you can always improvise with a bit of wire. After threading the bead through the wire, add a dab of clear glue to the bottom to stop the bead at the base.)

Above, this is a 1/6th scale rendition of a necklace in my own wardrobe. It is a single chain necklace with four strands of chain/pearls suspended from a single pearl on both sides. It's not difficult to make. 
1. You can buy eye pins or make them yourself. This is essentially a wire with a loop on one end. The bead is slid through and you create a loop on the remaining end. Like this you can suspend other beads (creating your own "chain" or, as in this case, you can attach a jump ring at the end and add whatever amount of strands as your design needs. I threaded a small bit of wire through a 6mm pearl and using long nose pliers, I formed an eye.
2. Repeat on the other side.
3. Measure out the length of chain you need to wrap around the back of the doll's neck and over the shoulder. Open the link and remove.
4. Add the pearl to either side of the chain.
5. Add the strands of pearls/chain to the bottom loops below the pearls at both sides.
6. Put the necklace around the doll's neck and check to see if you are happy with the length. If not, pull the chain up at the back of the neck. Remove the unwanted links at the midpoint. To each of those two ends, add a jump ring and S-ring or closure. 
Take the pearl with the loops on both sides and add a bit of chain to create this simple, classic pendant.

We can also do something more minimalist. There are variations of this necklace all over Pinterest. Basically it is a long chain with pearls on each end. One end is threaded through a loop in the front. I did not have the right size loop, so I decided to make something more decorative with craft wire instead.
1. This begins with a pearl on an head pin attached to both sides of a chain. I decide how much of a drop under neck I want the one end of the chain to hang and attach an eye ring at that point,
2. To create the decorative part, I use an eye pin.
3. Bend the pin in a series of loops until you get roughly the look and size you want. The loop end of the pin will be adjoined to the side of the chain that doesn't move. 
4. At the last minute, I decided to slide on a couple of tiny beads for added interest. You can skip this if you want. However, you might want to keep manipulating your wire design until it is exactly what you want and the pearl is able to be threaded through the design.
5. When you are finished, it should look somewhat like this. The left side of this chain will be threaded though an opening in the wire design.
Here's my finished result.

Before we end this very long project.... without a doubt, you've been eyeing those bracelets. The coil bracelets are a small tribute to a high school friend of mine. DonnaD was known for her gorgeous memory wire bracelets comprised of 8 spirals of semi-precious stones and crystals. 
1. The 1/6 scale renditions for my dolls use ordinary craft wire (22-24 gauge), (1-2mm) pearls. I roll out enough wire to spiral around the doll's wrist several times. Use a miniature clothes pin as a bead stop at the desired length of wire. Like this, you don't have to cut it until you are ready; you have the option of making it longer; and you maintain control of the beads. You can use all the same bead or mix it up a bit.
2. Leave enough wire at each end to make a loop.
3. Using the long nose pliers, create your loop.
4. Close the loop. If you can, tuck the end of the wire into the closest bead.
5. Add a charm or bead (strung on an head pin) to each end of the bracelet. 
Wrap tightly around the doll's arm from the wrist up. 
If your doll has removable hands, you can leave the bracelet in a coil. But for Barbie, you will have to wrap it around her arm each time.
Just for the fun of it, the second bracele is an exercise in free form with wire.
1. This is all very organic. There is no right or wrong. I begin by threading pearls onto fine (24 gauge) wire. Whatever amount you want is okay but don't fill up more than 1/2 of the length of wire.
2. Begin by making looks, circles or whatever. 
3. I even crushed this in my hand. Now place on the doll's arm and continue playing around with the loops and waves until you get something that fits her wrist! 

Photos of Vice President Kamala Harris courtesy of

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