Gratitude

Sunday, August 21, 2016

WithDoll Happy Ending Story - Lamb Laney

It's official! I am over-the-moon in love with WithDoll's tiny dolls. This past Spring I ordered two: Lamb Laney and Fox Lucy. Both are Limited Editions making a return after their first sales period. (Thank you WithDoll!) Laney arrived on Friday. So gosh darn cute, I haven't stopped squeeing since her arrival.
At 16cm, the doll is close to FairyLand's PukiFee in size. I wish I had taken some photos of her in various poses before dressing her, because she is capable of some amazing feats of balance. WithDoll has a link to a very short video showing what their tiny dolls can do. It's worth checking out: Withdoll 16cm doll pose test. The bouncy background music is accompanied by whistling. My birds went nuts when I played it. If the link does not work you can go to www.withdoll.com and find the link under any of the tinies listed under Limited Edition. It's in gray print at the end of the photos.
Laney came with a basic girl body (you can choose a boy body if you prefer), basic hands, fist hands, basic flat feet, and lamb ears, hoof hands and hoof feet. The lamb parts are shown wrapped in orange tissue paper. WithDoll included 12mm acrylic eyes, but I used some 12mm silicone eyes from my collection instead. It's a good thing I opened the shipping carton from the bottom because WithDoll packed the wig and lamb's clothing (bodysuit and bib) on top of the doll box. Opening the carton from the top I might have sliced into one of them.
The first order of business was switching hands and feet, because Laney shipped with her human parts attached. I was surprised to see hooks for the hand attachment, because WithDoll's 1:4 size doll hands have magnets. Not that the hooks were hard to deal with, just tiny. I have a sculpting tool that worked perfectly for scooping up the string and holding the hook firmly in place while I switched hands/feet. WithDoll does not provide extra hooks, so change hands and feet someplace where you can't lose them.
Part of the cute factor with these dolls is how roly-poly they look. It's all padding. My mother used to tell of the first time she ever dressed me in a snow suit and sent me out to play. She had bundled me up so well that I couldn't move. Think of the lamb suit as a snow suit and the doll as a toddler. Once you get the lamb suit on, it's hard to find things like knee and elbow joints to pose her, but, oh boy, does she ever look adorable!
I had some difficulty putting on the wig, lamb ears and hood. Starting with the wig and then trying to get the hood up over it made the head seem bigger, the wig loose and the hood too tight. After a while I figured it might be easier to attach the lamb ears to the hood first (there are magnets for this purpose), stuff the wig into the hood, and then pull the combined hood and wig onto the doll's head. It was so ridiculously easy this way I wish I had done it first.
I will probably name her Lamb Chop, after the sock puppet that was ventriloquist Shari Lewis's most readily identifiable character. Now I eagerly await Fox Lucy's arrival. I have a story idea already percolating in my imagination. In the meantime, here is a photo of Laney with AileenDoll Dragon Lapis for size comparison. (I no longer have a PukiFee for a side-by-side.) Lapis is the 12cm full-size dragon, not the 8cm baby I've shown recently with my RealPuki Papilio.
Lapis: "Fatter and cuter than me! No-o-o-o-o-o!"



Sunday, August 14, 2016

WithDoll's Egon the Elf Knight


The first time WithDoll offered Egon the Elf Knight for sale I saw him and thought, "Gosh, he's cute," but didn't order him. I don't remember which doll edged him out, only that I had to make a choice and he lost. At the time I didn't know that WithDoll re-releases its Limited Edition dolls. I believed that if I missed out, that was it. Poof! Gone. Since then I've learned to be patient because WithDoll does bring back Limiteds. My beef now is that they re-release several at a time when I can afford only one. So I'm still forced to choose.
Choosing Egon was easy this time around. The issue was how much of him to order. Blank doll? With face-up? To wig or not to wig? Optional girl body? Did I love his outfit enough to order it, or would I make my own? Did I need his option parts (sword, armor, loafers)? Wait a minute. Loafers? I looked more closely at the promo photos. Yes, loafers. Those weren't boots he was wearing, but what WithDoll calls "leg warmers" worn over plain black loafers. Definitely no on the option parts, then. So, having decided that the chief parts of his charm were the boy body, face-up and wig, that's as much as I ordered. And settled in for the three-month wait.
While waiting I ordered boots from Dollmore. I have a letter opener that looks like a sword. It might be too heavy for him to hold but it should work hanging from a sword belt. If not, I would craft a bow and arrows. I put his weaponry on the back burner for now. WithDoll's boy body measurements are close to those of the Luts Model Delf boy. The Model Delf is slightly bigger in the chest, waist and hips, so I reasoned that anything I sewed using the Model Delf as a fit model would work for Egon. Preferably it should be a little snug on the Model Delf. The LumeDoll male also has similar measurements, except his hips are a tiny bit smaller.
I assembled a group of fabrics in the colors of the forest and selected several likely patterns. For the leggings I used Petits Riens by MHD Designs. She has issued this pattern for several different doll sizes; I used the one for 14-inch Kish girl dolls. When I first tried out this pattern on MiniFee girls, I found I had to take it in. I don't know what idiocy prompted me to use the MiniFee version for the taller boys, but their hip measurements were similar, the boots would disguise any deficiency in length and the knit had four-way stretch so it worked.
The tee shirt came from Just Kickin' by Adams-Harris Pattern Company. The pattern makes a long-sleeve knit shirt with color inserts in the sleeves. I simply omitted the inserts and lower sleeve parts, as well as the collar. For the tunic I used the shirt pattern from Brummel, also by Adams-Harris. It's a pattern for 1:3 size male dolls that I photo-reduced for use with 1:4 size dolls. I used the body of the shirt and the collar but omitted the sleeves. The suede cloth I used is hard to sew. To keep sewing to a minimum, I gave the tunic hem and shoulders a zigzagged edge.
Finally, I made arm guards from old pieces of leather-look fabric. It may have been imitation leather upholstery material. Whatever it is (polyester?) it's not fine enough to be called faux. But it works for something that needs to look tough enough to protect a knight's arms in battle. My last shopping trip to Michael's turned up a leather trim with metal accents. Perfect.
Model Delf Avalanche wearing same outfit
I like the outfit so much (and the one I made for LumeDoll after discarding the first tunic I made for him) that I plan to make one for my Model Delf as well. He's not an elf, as the other two boys are, but can serve in their universe as a human forester.
LumeDoll's version

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Freya, First Girl in the SoulDoll Vito Line

I was so thrilled when SoulDoll announced a girl for their Vito line! Jin, my Vito boy, has been keeping company with a Dollmore Zaoll Luv, but they don't quite mesh stylistically. Where he is more like a tall 1:4 size, Luv is more like a short 1:3 size; together, their proportions are off. So in late March when SoulDoll announced a Vito girl, I made plans to order one. I didn't love her sculpt at first. The end of her nose struck me as bulbous. Otherwise she had a fun, sassy vibe. The first day she was available for purchase, I ordered one.
Four months later she has arrived. I'd like to say I'm over the moon, but I'm conflicted. Love her face...the body not so much. The Vito boy body is wonderfully sculpted and engineered. He takes a pose and holds it. If I don't love his grumpy facial sculpt, I put up with it because the body is so marvelous. Enter Freya with her voluptuous body. Some companies give you a choice of breast size; when they do I invariably opt for medium. I find that big is too big, small is too small, while medium is just right. SoulDoll offered no choice. The breast size is what some companies call glamorous, meaning larger than their large size. Her butt is so big you can almost balance things on it. With thunder thighs and small feet, this doll is rock solid when she sits but unbalanced when she stands.
I had to go back to SoulDoll's promo photos to see why I didn't notice the body's exaggerated assets earlier. Let's say she was very artfully photographed. In all honesty, I was probably fixated on her elbows and knees, which didn't meet my aesthetic standards. Ordinarily I would say no to a doll whose elbow and knee joints reveal sharp edges when flexed. I wanted to say yes to Freya because she was the perfect size match to Jin, and so I let myself be blinded to the features I didn't like about her.
Vito girl feet are only 6cm long. Because I wasn't sure how (or whether) she would fit into doll shoes I already own, I ordered her with both the full-set boots for her flat feet and a pair of high heel pumps for her heel feet. In SoulDoll's promo photos, Freya is shown wearing the boots with gray knee socks. Sorry, SoulDoll, but the only way Freya can wear those boots over those socks is to cut the sock feet off and wear the rest as leg warmers. Moreover, she cannot stand in the boots, as she tends to pitch forward, although this may have more to do with tight stringing and small feet than with the boots. Never mind, I thought, I'll simply change to her heel feet and she can wear the pumps.
I've changed feet on nearly every adult female doll I've ever bought. You pull out the foot, slip a hemostat, crochet hook or chopstick through the elastic so it won't shoot back up through the leg, unhook the flat foot and replace it with the heel foot. Carefully remove your hemostat (or other tool) and repeat with the other foot. Occasionally the little S-hook falls out when I'm switching feet. When that happens I find it, re-insert it and continue.

SoulDoll's setup is a little different. The S-hook is embedded in the resin. Brilliant! That means you can't lose the S-hook. On the downside, the space at the open end of the S-hook is smaller than the thickness of the elastic it's hooked onto. (I wonder if this is consistent with every doll or if it's just mine.) I tried to get the hook off the elastic. I tried every which way I could think of for fifteen minutes and then I gave up, afraid to pull too hard in case the hook detached from the resin. I was especially nervous about this because I once broke a resin hook in a Soul Kid girl's foot by pulling too hard on the string. Once burned, twice shy.
I contacted SoulDoll, explained my problem and asked for a stringing manual. They recommended cutting the strings and re-assembling the doll. They included a link to the stringing instructions for their Kid Girl N.L. body, saying the size was different but the stringing method was the same. Cutting? Re-assembling? Just to change feet? Every time I want to change shoes? Sorry. No. That's not happening. I went through my stash of doll shoes and found three pairs that she can wear, all MSD size. For now I'll just put away the heel feet and black pumps until such time as her strings lose some of their elasticity and I can try again.

Speaking of letting strings relax, Freya came tightly strung. Although her torso is jointed under the bust, it might as well be a single piece of resin because I can't move it either forward or backward. In repose her arms want to snap together in front of her. My Soul Kid girls had the same problem. It took a full day before I realized I could pull out her elbow peanuts to pose her arms. If I don't pull them out, her arms don't stay flexed. Vito boy does not have this problem. Hopefully the tightness will lessen as time goes on. I'm not banking on it, however, as my Soul Kids never fully relaxed. Whoever strings the dolls at SoulDoll must have the arm strength of two men!
I'm glad I ordered Freya's full set. It's beautifully tailored, although putting it on meant dealing with lots of buttons with tight buttonholes. At least I can loosen those. Sometime between promo photos and finished product, SoulDoll changed the badge on her vest from a fabric patch to a large red leather pin. (It says New York Style over a stylized skyline and has a metal heart with two doves clipped to it. Bizarre.) I have replaced that with a fancy button for now, until I can find something more appropriate. SoulDoll offered event gifts to celebrate Vito girl's release: a ten percent discount plus a gift outfit consisting of a dress with a flower wreath. The dress is quite elaborate and well made. It comes with a separate, very stiff petticoat (not photographed); I'll use it when I want a fuller skirt. In the photo below she is wearing DollHeart shoes for MSD and a Monique Gold Ginger wig. It may appear that she is standing on her own; that's because her doll stand is concealed by her bent arm and the position of one leg.
It's been difficult finding wigs for Vito Jin because of how far back his ears are set. I was afraid Freya might have a similar problem, so I ordered her full-set wig to be sure of having at least one that fits. My fear proved unnecessary, as she has taken easily to almost every wig I've tried on her. The only caveat I would offer is to buy a silicone wig cap, because most size 6-7 wigs are slightly big on her. A wig with heavy hair will fall right off without a cap.
At 51cm in height, Freya stands firmly between most 1:4 and 1:3 dolls. A fun height, but hard to shop for. She and Jin will probably be my only Vito line dolls.


Sunday, July 31, 2016

Papillon, Dragon Hunter Extraordinaire, pt. 5

Papillon and the little dragon headed into the forest. Even with the dragon lagging behind, it felt different today, more like friends walking together than follower and followed. Papillon found he enjoyed the little one's company.
When they came to the stream, something caught Papillon's eye. It was the cloth sack he had abandoned yesterday, looking like the wind had blown it onto the rocks.
"What do you think? Should I go get it? You never know when it might be useful."
Papillon took the dragon's grunts as a Yes and picked his way across the rocks. Lucky for him the ties had snagged on a rock, which kept the sack out of the water.
Returning to the path, he stashed the sack under his other supplies. The dragon seemed disappointed that the sack contained nothing to eat. They resumed walking. They hadn't gone far when the little dragon ran ahead. Did he sense that home was near? Would that big oak tree turn around and reveal itself to be the talking tree Papillon had met a few days earlier?
Nope. Not the talking tree. The dragon rooted around the base of the tree and then sat down, chewing on something.
"What did you find, little fella? Another shoe?"
It wasn't a shoe, although it smelled a bit like an old shoe. It was brown and sort of round. A chestnut? Not at the base of an oak tree. It looked too chewy to be a chestnut in any case. Suddenly Papillon knew what it was.
"You've found truffles! Are there more?"
There were, and Papillon greedily gathered them up.
"You know, I've heard of truffle sniffing pigs and truffle sniffing dogs, but I've never heard of a truffle sniffing dragon. You're pretty special!"
He didn't say it aloud, but Papillon wondered if Madame Peapod would accept a bag of truffles in lieu of dragon meat. He would have turned around right then and headed home with his treasure except that he still had a task to perform.
"Come on, little guy. Let's deliver you to the nursery."
Papillon honestly didn't remember how to find the nursery. He was hoping the dragon would home in on it like he did the truffles. Papillon knew when the little dragon quickened his steps that he was right. Suddenly, there was the clearing with the oak tree and the stump people. And two other baby dragons that he could see. Maybe more.
The tree greeted him. "I see that you have allowed the little gray to return to us. Thank you."
"I never meant to take him away. He followed me home yesterday, so I've brought him back."
"And he is unharmed."
"Of course. He has special talents, this one. You should keep him safe."
The little dragon seemed to sense a farewell in the air. He began to cry.
"Don't cry, little one. You belong here, with your kind. And who knows? Maybe we'll see each other again. Maybe for a little truffle hunting?" Papillon didn't care how many creatures were watching. He leaned in and kissed the dragon's forehead.
Papillon turned to leave. He almost wished the little dragon would follow him again, but knew the tree would keep a closer watch this time. Besides, he needed to make good time if he was to deliver his truffles to Madame Peapod.
She was standing in her doorway when he arrived, as if she had been watching for him.
"Good day, Monsieur Papillon," she said. "Is that dragon meat you're bringing me?"
"I come bearing something more precious than dragon meat, Mme. Peapod."
"More precious? Show me."
Papillon opened the sack. He beamed. "Truffles, Madame!"
"Yes, I know what they are. Well, well. You are full of surprises, Monsieur Papillon."
A funny-looking animal came up beside her.
Papillon said, "What is that?"
"It's a cria," she said.
"A what?"
"A cria. A baby alpaca. Her mother is grazing in an upper pasture. The baby is very tame. See? I can climb on her back and ride her."
The penny dropped. This was the herd Mme. Peapod wanted him to tend. Surely that wouldn't be necessary now?
"Mme. Peapod. I know what truffles are worth. I believe they are more than adequate exchange for the few provisions you have advanced me. If anything, you are in my debt instead of the other way around."
"That's only if I accept the truffles in lieu of dragon meat."
She wouldn't...she couldn't...refuse?
He thought quickly. "If you don't accept them, I will sell them at market myself and bring you the exact amount of money I owe you. How's that?"
"You drive a hard bargain, Monsieur Papillon. Very well. I accept the truffles."
"And?"
"And I extend your credit for their full worth."
 "We have a deal, Mme. Peapod."
Ah, but victory is sweet!
















Sunday, July 24, 2016

Progress on the Elf Costumes

You may remember that a few weeks back I showcased WithDoll Angela's unfinished elf outfit. Since that time she has acquired arm guards and boots, as well as a metal sword that she discarded for a lighter weight resin one. I remade her belt from some suede trim that is already embellished with contrasting stitches. The boots are from Iplehouse, purchased when I still had JID girls, so you can imagine how delighted I was to find that my WithDoll girls can wear them. In addition to the tall brown boots Angela is wearing, I also have short boots in white and dark red. Emma will get the white ones and Elf Ruby will get the red ones. The boots fit flat feet. JID girl high heel shoes fit the WithDoll heel feet, which means I won't be hunting for shoes for some time to come.
I made the arm guards from imitation leather that I've had for years. It's just thick enough and has what I suspect is a polyester backing, so there was no need to line it or finish the edges. I simply measured around Angela's wrist and just below her elbow, measured for length and then drew a paper pattern. One of my paper punches makes a 1/8th inch diameter hole, so I used it to punch four holes on each side of the guard, then threaded 1mm leather cord through the holes to tie the guards on.
Lumedoll Meissa (whose elf name is Sylvan Oakenbough) and Model Delf Avalanche (standing in as a fit model for WithDoll Egon Elf) both got leggings made from the Petits Riens pattern by MHD Designs for 14-inch Kish girls. I have variations on this pattern in 3 different sizes. It includes most essential underwear pieces for each size doll and comes in especially handy when I need a basic pattern to adapt. Both Sylvan and Avalanche are closer to 18 inches, but in comparing the corresponding pattern pieces I saw very little difference between them. If anything, the 14-inch pattern has a longer crotch which I figured would work better for the guys. Avalanche's leggings are too tight to go all the way over his well-muscled legs. They should work fine for Egon, who has a slimmer build.
The guys' shirts are variations on the knit top in Adams-Harris Pattern Company's Just Kickin', a pattern designed on the old SoulDoll Kid boy body. I gave Sylvan long sleeves and a collar, while Avalanche got a short-sleeve tee. Avalanche also got arms guards from the same pattern as Angela's.
I wanted both boys to wear tunics over the shirts and leggings. I chose the Adams-Harris Brummel pattern for the purpose. It was designed on the old Iplehouse YID body and fits similar 60cm boy bodies. One of the first things I did when I bought it was to reduce the pattern on a photocopier for use with my Limhwa Limho Mono. (I'm having a strong sense of deja vu as I write this, probably because I incorporated parts of Limho Mono's Brummel outfit into Sylvan's Steampunk costume earlier this year.) Knowing that the shirt fit Sylvan with room to spare (so it should also fit Egon) I used the front and back pattern pieces as the basis for my tunics.
I wouldn't be me if I didn't run into a few problems along the way. Avalanche's version of the tunic turned out just the way I wanted. Sylvan's didn't, and I blame my fabric choice for it. The fabric I used for Avalanche/Egon is supple and has wonderful drape. The suede-like fabric I chose for Sylvan is too heavy to drape much at all. I slit the front panel up the middle to make it more like a coat. Because there are no hooks or other closures, it hangs unevenly. In the end--after the bulk of the photos for this blog post were taken--I slit the back up the middle and removed a half-inch of fabric, which then decreased the back by an additional half-inch (in the seam allowance) when I sewed it up again. Unfortunately, even with one inch of fabric removed, it still fits like a coat. I may go back to the drawing board on this one.

In the photos, Angela is wearing the short resin sword that came with Iplehouse Kid Lisa's The Addiction full set outfit. The original sword I gave her was so heavy it was pulling her belt out of shape. But that sword was too pretty to give up on, so I have used it here as the sword in the scrying bowl (actually a Celtic candle holder). The sword symbolizes the unity of all the families in the elf clan, and each elf wears his or her family badge prominently. Each outfit will eventually have a cloak. I think I'll wait until all the outfits are done and then make them all at one time.
It occurs to me that Dark Knight Priscilla (on order) may not be an elf. WithDoll doesn't show a photo of her without a wig, and I can't see the tips of her ears. Egon, on the other hand, is identified as Elf Knight, so I suspect Priscilla is human. I'm working on a way to bring Priscilla and Emma into the elves' world, perhaps as spirits of the forest and water. And that means--costumes!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Papillon, Dragon Hunter Extraordinaire, Part 4

[In case you missed it, Part 3 ran yesterday.]

Papillon dreamed that he awoke to find the dragon gone. When he woke up for real, the dragon still slept in the doorway to his house.

Papillon stretched. He could use some breakfast. He looked around. The dragon must have eaten his loaf of bread--or else something had carried it off during the night. There was no other food in the house. He would have to visit Madame Peapod again.

What do baby dragons eat, anyway?
He found Mme. Peapod outside her shop and wished her a good morning.

"Monsieur Papillon. Back so soon?" Her tone suggested that the large milk bottle and huge loaf of bread she gave him yesterday should have lasted longer. As they would have, if not for the dragon.

"I must beg your kindness once again. I need milk. And something to eat."
"Where is the dragon meat you promised me in exchange?"

"Ah, I don't have it. I mean I didn't kill one. Yet. A dragon, I mean. But I know where they are. I just need another day to hunt them."

"I'm not sure how far I can extend your credit..."
"Only one more day! I ran into difficulties yesterday. I lost the food and had to come home early. But I'm good for it. If you let me have milk and bread, I'll repay you tomorrow." Cheese would have been nice, too, but he wasn't about to press his luck.

On principle, Papillon hated begging. But Mme. Peapod obviously had spent the early hours baking, for the air was filled with delicious aromas. Papillon's empty stomach rumbled. He was so hungry he nearly fell to his knees and wept.

The shopkeeper had a good long think about it. "You are running up debts," she said, not unkindly. "How do I know you won't take the provisions and disappear on an extended hunt, maybe never to return? Who would pay me then, hmm?"
Papillon's stomach rumbled louder. "You mean, if a dragon kills me..."

"Or you run away."

"Never! I am Papillon, Dragon Hunter Extraordinaire. I kill dragons; they do not kill me. And I pay my way," he added with all the bravado he could muster. My reputation is at stake, he thought, not to mention I have a baby dragon to hide and feed. Oh, I'm in a real pickle this time.

"Certainly you will pay, if not in dragon meat then in some other way. I will give you until tomorrow at this time. If you return without dragon meat, you will agree to work for me until your debts are paid."
Work? How could he hunt dragons if he was forced to work?

"What kind of work, Madame?"

"Nothing a dragon hunter cannot do. I have the beginnings of a small herd. They need tending: feeding, brushing, cleaning out their enclosure. Watching so that no one attempts to steal them."

What kind of herd? Cows? Sheep? Goats? "It sounds like shepherd's work."
"Too hard for you?"

"Of course not."

"Then we are agreed."

Agreed? When had Papillon agreed? She drove a hard bargain, did Mme. Peapod.

"Until tomorrow morning," said the shopkeeper.
And that was that. He had milk for the dragon but nothing for himself. How was he to hunt dragons on an empty stomach?
At home the little dragon waited, wide awake and no doubt hungry.

"Good morning, little one. I trust you slept well. I have your milk here. As soon as I pull my things together, you and I will go back to the forest, where I will return you to the nursery and find some meat for Mme. Peapod. If I fail, she expects me to turn in my sword for a shepherd's crook. The shame of it! Oh, I'm in a pickle, all right. A jam of a pickle. A true pickle jam. But I am Papillon, and if I'm not the greatest dragon hunter that ever lived, then I don't know who is. Right, little one?"
By the time Papillon finished this--for him--lengthy speech, the wagon was packed and Papillon's mood was much improved. He headed down the forest path, the little dragon trailing behind.

"To the dragons, little one. Adventure awaits!"

 To be continued...

Papillon is a FairyLand RealPuki Papilio
Madame Peapod is a FairyLand RealPuki Pupu
The dragon is an Aileen Doll Pico Baby Ashes