Monday, September 27, 2010

One Pattern Four Ways, Part One

I attempted a new pattern over the weekend:  Magalie Houle Dawson's (MHD Designs) Spring Summer Body Shirts.  The pattern makes four variations on a body shirt:  short sleeve with mock turtle neck; short sleeve with sweetheart neckline; sleeveless with bra top; sleeveless with halter top.  The pattern also makes socks in three lengths:  ankle-high, knee-high, and thigh-high.  It does not, however, make the hat shown in the photos on the front cover.  (Darn - I want that hat!)

Black-and-tan body suit taking shape.
(For some inexplicable reason, Blogger keeps turning this photo on its side and I can't turn it back again.)
 While the pattern is designed for SD-sized girls like SuperDollfie 13 and Elfdoll, I set out to make it for my slim minis.  Normally when I sew for the smaller girls, I take a pattern for Ellowyne Wilde and scale up if and where necessary.  But MHD didn't have the same pattern in the smaller size, so this time I worked backwards, starting with the larger pattern and scaling down.  I photocopied the pattern at 75%, which in my experience usually works for dolls like Narae, U-noa, Supia, Soul Kids, and Goodreau vinyl.  When I get around to making one for Iplehouse Tania, I will have to experiment with 80% or 85% and see what fits her broad shoulders, chest and back.

Sleeves with continuous cuff.  After attaching the cuff, I cut the fabric between the two sleeves and cut off the long piece on the right.
 MHD patterns are profusely illustrated with step-by-step color photos, much like the Japanese pattern books I referred to in a recent post.  There is little text.  In most cases this makes the patterns very easy to follow.  Maybe it's just me, but there are times when I would like a little more clarification.  I can't always see what she is referring to in a photo, especially when the garment under construction contains a busy print.  In this pattern, however, the demonstration garment is a solid color, which helps tremendously.

Nearly-finished body suit.  (It is inside-out at this point.)
Stockings are cut out but still pinned to the pattern.
 One feature of MHD patterns that I appreciate is the shortcuts.  When she puts a cuff on a sleeve or stocking-top, one long pattern piece serves for both sleeves or both stockings.  You line up your sleeve or stocking pieces side-by-side, place the cuff across both, pin and sew.  Afterwards, you cut the two apart.  Even though it saves steps, it took me a couple of attempts before I embraced the concept.  It's awkward at first to do something in a different way than you have been doing.  It might not work if your cuff is elaborate or irregularly shaped, but for straight sewing, it's a piece of cake.

Stockings with continuous cuff.  Note the two illustrations (bottom right of photo) which show three pair of socks/stockings joined with one cuff, and then separated.
 This pattern works best with fabric with a lot of stretch.  Of the two body shirts I completed this weekend, one (the black and tan) was made with a stretch lace that didn't have much stretch.  It wasn't all that lacy, either.  The other (the white one) had plenty of stretch in the base fabric, but the trim didn't stretch as much.  I made them both knowing that if they didn't fit one doll, they were sure to fit another.  That did not hold true for the stockings, however.  I ended up with two pair of stockings that fit no one, not even Innuendo, who has the smallest feet and legs of any MSD in my collection.

The white body suit taking shape.  Why, oh why, did I choose this fabric?  The thin lycra lining lies atop the pattern.
 The sweetheart neckline version is partially lined.  This caused me some consternation as I tried to figure out what fabric to use behind the loose white knit.  Anything I used would show through.  And it had to be a stretch fabric.  I had two to choose from: a heavy cotton-lycra knit or a swimsuit lining made of thinner lycra.  I opted for the swimsuit lining.  I don't know which was worse to handle:  the rubbery lining or the cheesecloth-like main fabric with its ruffled trim.  (I didn't add that - it is part of the fabric.)  It was a bad choice, if only because the trim partially conceals the sweetheart neckline.

White body suit with lining and sleeves attached.
 Now that I know what does and does not work in terms of fabric, I expect to have a lot less trouble with the remaining two versions of this body shirt.  My next project, once I get these made, will be to make skirts or pants to complete the outfits.  My models have already informed me that they do not intend to stand around half-dressed for an extended period of time, especially now that Fall has come to the North Country and days grow chilly in Resin World.  They were extremely sulky when it came time for photos, refusing to stand or sit as requested.  They finally consented to lolling on the sofa.  I'm afraid I had to threaten them both with re-stringing!

Narae (left) and U-noa Sist (right) model their body suits.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pattern Sources

I have talked a lot about patterns in the course of these posts, always in the course of describing an outfit that I have made.  Today I want to show some of the variety of pattern sources available to the sewer of BJD fashions.

The patterns I use most often tend to be from Gracefaerie Designs, Adams-Harris Pattern Company, Fletcher Pattern Company/Designs by Jude, and MHD Designs.  As you have seen, I do not limit myself to patterns drafted on the exact doll I am dressing.  There are few patterns for MSD boys, so I go to designs for SD boys and downsize them.  Other times, I will take a pattern for Ellowyne Wilde, who is not a BJD, and upsize it for MSD girls.  Adams-Harris often produces SD, MSD, Ellowyne and YoSD versions of some of her patterns.  MHD Designs produces size variations of her own patterns too, although she has only 2 MSD patterns and none for YoSD.  Both designers are branching out into patterns for the Kish girls and some other dolls as well.  Fletcher/Jude have patterns for Ellowyne and MSD, as well as various Tonner dolls.

Adams-Harris, Designs by Jude,Fletcher Pattern, Gracefaerie, MHD Designs

I frequently adapt patterns that appear in magazines.  As I have mentioned before, Haute Doll magazine is/was a frequent source of patterns.  So was Doll Crafter & Costuming.  Both magazines have published their last issues; however, you may still find back issues available via e-bay.  Haute Doll's publishers closed their website a few days ago.  They have promised to continue selling their remaining stock via ebay under the ID murat_caviale_inc.  I imagine this includes remaining issues of The BJD Orbyrarium, which Haute Doll also published.

Haute Doll pattern for U-noa Quluts

Doll Crafter & Costuming
Gone, but watch e-bay for back issues
(As an aside, Doll Reader has published its first issue incorporating Haute Doll.  From the front, the magazine is Doll Reader.  Turn the magazine upside down with the back cover facing you and you have an abbreviated Haute Doll.  The editor does not say if this will be a regular feature.  Time will tell.  For the record, the first Doll Reader/Haute Doll did not include any patterns.)

Doll Reader also publishes the occasional pattern.  If you compare measurements, you may find that patterns for a non-BJD will fit some of your BJDs with minor alterations.

If using a pattern in a foreign language with a non-English alphabet doesn't scare you, look at some of the offerings from Japan and China available on e-bay.  They do throw in the occasional English word, enough so that you know for which doll the pattern is intended.  One thing to beware of:  pattern pieces are overlapped to save space.  Copy the pattern (either photocopy or use tracing paper) and then be very careful when cutting.

U-noa collectors will be interested in U-noa Freak and the new U-noa Freak 2.  Both are anthologies of U-noa articles and include stringing instructions and face-ups as well as patterns.  There are patterns for different sizes of U-noa dolls.

Dollybird is a great source of patterns for many sizes and makes of BJD.  Issue number 10, which is the one I have, has underwear patterns for 50 dolls.  Not just bras and panties, it includes corsets, babydolls, bloomers, nighties, etc.

I picked up two Dolly-Dolly books full of patterns and illustrated instructions for complete wardrobes for several dolls: Momoko, U-noa Quluts, Blythe, Odeco & Nikki, Licca, Tiny Betsy McCall, Jenny, U-noa Quluts Light and a few others.  Unfortunately, the titles are not rendered in English so I can't say what either one is called.  One contains a basic wardrobe, while the other runs to weekend casual.

Dolly-Dolly books and My Favorite Doll Series
I also picked up a book of kimono patterns for Jenny and other slim 27.5 cm dolls.  Can't say what the title is, but it's from My Favorite Doll Book Series.  I haven't tried the patterns yet, but I figured kimono would be relatively easy to size up.

E-bay will also lead you to Chang Hsiu Mei's doll dress patterns.  I haven't bought one yet, but she is on my list.  Each of her pattern sets includes patterns for different sized dolls, but not every pattern set has all the sizes.  She designs for SD, MSD, Unoa Quluts, Yo-SD, and either Blythe or Pullip (I can't remember which).  Her styles tend toward Gothic Lolita with a lot of embellishment.  If that's your style, she's definitely one to watch.

There are other pattern makers out there that I haven't touched upon, for the sole reason that I have yet to buy some of their patterns.  (But I fully intend to.)

So many little time...

Sunday, September 12, 2010

A Red Dress for Sooah

Solange (aka Elfdoll Sooah) did not get a new dress for the Black-and-White party.  It was only right, therefore, that she should be the first to receive a new dress post-party.  And what a dress!  Red has to be as far as you can get from black and white.

I bought the fabrics earlier in the year from my favorite local quilt shop and put them aside for future inspiration.  (Many of my fabric purchases start out that way.)  I had a third fabric, a yellow-and-white gingham chosen to coordinate with the two reds, but not enough of it to feature prominently.  It ended up as facing for the sleeve opening.  It doesn't show, but I know it's there.  But I am getting ahead of myself...

First, the pattern.  I recently discovered Adele Sciortino's Costuming & Trim website.  Someone on the Sewing for BJDs Yahoo Group mentioned it some time ago -- it just took me a while to follow up.  You can find Adele's site at  I registered for her newsletter, and in the Summer 2010 issue I found a pattern called Country Ruffles, by Martha Boers.  I recognized her model right away:  Elfdoll Ryung, large bust.  The same size as my Sooah. 

Country Ruffles, by Martha Boers
Martha has published other patterns for Ryung in the recently defunct Doll Crafter & Costuming:  an absolutely gorgeous medieval gown in November 2007, and an ice fairy, complete with wings, in January 2009.  I have yet to make either costume, as they are both a little daunting for someone of my just-above-basic skill level.  Sooah, however, knows that I have them, and I know that she wants me to attempt them.  I keep putting her off.  The medieval gown, in particular, demands a fabulous fabric and I haven't found anything suitable.  Excuses, excuses...

Martha's stunning medieval gown for large bust Elfdolls
Martha's Ice Fairy on left; the medieval gown is in the issue at right
Back to Country Ruffles, which I did make.  The pattern shows the finished dress in two versions, one with lace around the neckline and one with trim.  I made a third version, without any embellishment at the neck.  I like the clean look of the plain neckline, although a necklace might be nice.  I also varied the pattern by making the stripes vertical on the bottom ruffle.  While I like the horizontal ruffle, my fabric was so narrow that I would have had to join four pieces to get the required width.  I didn't trust my ability to line up so many stripes without the result getting wavy.  By using my fabric on the vertical, I was able to get the width from two pieces.  The stripes lined up perfectly.

Sooah's red dress, minus rosettes
I photographed Sooah in the dress even though it is not completely finished.  I ordered light brown ribbon rosettes online, thinking I would have them in plenty of time to complete my embellishments before writing this post.  As luck would have it, the items shipped only yesterday, so I won't see them until the middle of the coming week at the earliest.  I am planning to add them at the upper edge of the ecru lace, evenly spaced out around the dress.  I'm hoping the color will come close to the dark gold roses in the print.  You can never be sure when you order online.  If they look horrible I won't use them at all.

I was able to accessorize Sooah's new dress with a straw hat that I had used before.  After spending a fruitless half-hour or so trying to add flowers to it without actually gluing or sewing them on, I remembered the flower wreath I had used with her 1790 dress.  It fit over the hat perfectly.  (I wouldn't be surprised if I had intended it that way back when I made the wreath.)

Hang onto your hat, my dear.  The wind is picking up.
For a wig, I turned to J-Rock, a Monique Gold wig in a color called golden auburn.  It seems more brown than auburn to me.  I had intended to give Sooah a new face-up, but found that the dark wig worked well with her original face-up.  So for now, no new face-up for Sooah.  I do, however, have several U-noa faceplates awaiting the touch of the brush.  I really should get to them before the snow flies and I don't feel like bundling up to go outside to apply Mr. Super Clear...

Stay tuned for the next Foto Friday to see if Sooah's dress got its rosettes.

Postscript added Dec. 28, 2010:  The rosettes were much smaller than I had anticipated.  Sooah's dress remains rosette-less until such time as I find a better size.

Postscript added July 6, 2011:  Martha Boers is no longer associated with Adele Sciortino's Costuming & Trim newsletter.  You can find her free patterns (and inspirational photos!) on her website and blog,

Monday, September 6, 2010

Black-and-White Party - Grand Finale

After having devoted the better part of a year to dressing ball jointed dolls in black and white, I am both happy and sad to see an end to the venture.  Happy, because I am craving color; sad, because it has been a fun and sometimes challenging project.  I could easily have made more dresses.  The little ones did not get theme outfits and there are a couple of large dolls that I omitted as well.  Two of the girls made do with white dresses they were already wearing, while two of othe boys made do with clothing borrowed from my non-bjd dolls.

On the grounds at Chatsworth: 
back row (all U-noas):  L-bi #1, Sist #2, Sist #1; 
front row:  Goodreau Innuendo, U-noa Lusis #1 
and L-bi #2
Although I had my heart set on photographing everyone together in a large group shot, the weather did not cooperate.  Resin Corner is a very windy place.  Chasing wigs and top hats across the lawn was not my idea of a profitable pastime.  And, try as I might to sweep all the debris off my front steps, I couldn't get it clean enough to suit finicky dolls who refused to get their frocks dirty.  As a result, the dolls were photographed indoors in small groups and PhotoShopped into their backgrounds.

At Bodnant Gardens in Wales:  
back row:  Supia Ysol, Limhwa Limho Mono #2,
U-noa Lusis #2; front row:  U-noa Chibi Lilin,
Rosette Marguerite and Soul Kid Mayu
Once that decision was made, the question arose as to what locale to use for the backgrounds.  Astute (or at least well-traveled) readers may have noticed that my locations tend to be literally all over the place.  I have already used photos from my travels to England, New Orleans, and even Quebec.  This time I thought I would pose the dolls a bit closer to home.  A few test composites convinced me to stick to previous locations, mainly because I wanted to continue the misty sort of mystery I had developed in my other backgrounds.  It simply wouldn't do to go from graveyards and dark city streets to a world of bright sunlight.  To keep the other-worldly sense of place, I opted to return to the British Isles.

On the grounds at Chatsworth:
seated:  Elfdoll Hazy;
standing:  Unidoll Anthony and Elfdoll Sooah
I hope you have enjoyed the dolls' black-and-white gathering.  I doubt I will do such a large-scale themed costuming project again, although, you never know.  My backlog of patterns and fabrics includes some that are perfect for steampunk; I am dying to make an aviator hat and goggles for U-noas.  Maybe I'll go there next -- as soon as I finish Sooah's new red dress and start her new face-up.  So many dolls -- so little time!
In front of the maze at Chatsworth:
back row:  Limhwa Limho Mono #1;
front row:  Pixiez Dharma, Iplehouse Tania,
Supia Yan, Narin Narae and Soul Kid Linn
All of the above background photos were taken during a 1984 tour of British gardens and stately homes.  They began as color slides using film designed for motion pictures.  If you've seen old movies that have not been restored, you know that motion picture film fades pretty badly.  I digitized my slides using a film scanner, then altered them using a diffuse glow filter in PhotoShop, which was perfect for the monochromatic look I was after.  (As an aside to other photographers who may have used this film:  it is also possible to restore the color via digitization and PhotoShop.)