Sunday, July 31, 2011

Joie de Vie for Smiling Soah

Balljointed Woman has been on vacation for the past week.  It was a stay-cation, i.e., I stayed home.  Having all that time to myself was a wonderful gift, as I was able to tackle an intricate pattern from MHD Designs called Joie De Vie (The Joy of Life).

There are three pieces to the outfit:  a coat dress, harem pants, and a hair piece.  In actuality, it requires many small pattern pieces to put these three components together.  It took me the better part of a day just to cut all the fabric, keeping in mind that most of these small pattern pieces must be cut at least twice (some of them 4 times) to include a lining.  For instance, the sleeve cuff is made up of two identical pieces of the outer fabric, each of which has an identical piece cut from lining fabric.  In order to make two cuffs, it is necessary to cut 8 pieces of fabric.  The only parts of this pattern which are not lined are the upper sleeves and the main pants pieces.

Adding the sleeves to the upper bodice.

Then there were the ruffles, which had to be created from one of the main fabrics.  Magalie Dawson has a video on You Tube showing how to make these.  I am both proud and embarrassed to say that I did not watch it.  I figured out how to make the ruffles and stormed right ahead.  I should probably watch it anyway, because one thing I could not determine was how wide each ruffle should be.  They look small and narrow in her illustrations.  Mine are definitely wider.  And not uniformly wider, either.  If there is a way to ensure that each ruffle is the same size, I want to know it.

This pattern also gave me plenty of practice turning narrow strips of bias-cut fabric.  I could tell from the required length of each piece that this was one time my Itsy Bitsy Finger Turner wouldn't be equal to the task.  I studied the photos in the pattern instructions, which showed a long narrow tool with a loop at one end and a hook at the other.  What the heck is that thing, I wondered?  I thought I had a good selection of turning tools, but this one was a mystery.  After some searching I found it at JoAnn Fabrics.  It is a Loop Turner, from Dritz, made specifically for turning bias tubing.  According to the package, it makes Chinese ball buttons and purse straps, frog closures, button loops, and shoulder straps.  Where have you been all my life?  (And why doesn't the store display these things on the same wall as the tube turners?)

Loop Turner on the left, instructions showing a loop turner center, and
several strips of unturned bias tubing.

Actually, there was a bit of a learning curve as I sought to manipulate the tool.  First I couldn't get the metal latch through the fabric, then I couldn't get the fabric to turn rightside out.  Just as I was thinking I would have to go back to the finger turner, the Loop Turner finally pulled through.  One strip down, six more to go.

I don't want to make it sound like sewing this outfit wasn't fun, because it was not only fun but easy.  Magalie Dawson illustrates her pattern instructions throughout with color photos, so there is no guesswork in following the steps.  You go from picture to picture and before you know it you have a completed outfit that looks professionally made.  Take it one step at a time and you can't go wrong.

Why can't someone invent an invisible doll stand?

I did wonder what I would do for buttons.  The pattern calls for 21 small buttons (or 22 if you use 4 on the bodice as illustrated on the pattern piece).  I had plenty of buttons in my stash, but none were the right size for the fabric loops.  Flat buttons won't do here; you need a shank button because of the thickness of the loop.  I was contemplating another trip to JoAnn Fabrics when it occurred to me that I could use beads instead of buttons.  Of course, none of my beads were the right size either, so I drove down the road to a bead store and found the perfect beads.  Well, almost perfect.  They could have been a wee bit larger.  I suppose I could close up the loops a bit with thread.  For the time being they work well enough.  The color was absolutely perfect.  I took the unfinished coat dress with me to the store and matched the beads to the color of the ruffles.  How cool is that?  I bought twice as many as I needed, because I am going to make the same outfit for Hazy in a different fabric that incorporates some of the same colors.

Some of Soah's 22 buttons:  there are 4 on each sleeve cuff,
4 down the front of the bodice, and 5 on each pants' cuff.
Although they look white in the sunshine, they are a pale aqua.

The ladies in the bead store ooh-ed and ahh-ed over my unfinished garment, and made me promise to bring in the finished piece for them to see.  It looks like Soah is going to have her first public outing, probably next weeked.  These folks have never heard of Asian ball jointed dolls before.  This should be interesting.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

No-Pattern Sundress for When It's Too Hot To Sew

Resin Corner was almost hot enough this week to melt resin.  Fierce heat and oppressive humidity, made all the worse because we Northerners are not accustomed to such weather.  Balljointed Woman nearly failed to get something together for a blog post.  But during the night the heat broke, to be replaced by a blissfully cool day and a beckoning sewing machine.

I managed to make two sundresses, one today and one yesterday, when it really was too hot to sew.  There is no pattern.  Each dress consists of a rectangle of fabric and a long strip for a ruffle.  I measured each doll -- a large bust Iplehouse JID and my Unoa Chibi Lilin -- around the hips, over the bust to the point where I wanted to gather the dress, and from top of bust down to where I wanted the ruffle to start.  On the first dress I doubled the hip measurement to get the width of my fabric.  The final product was a little fuller than I intended, so on the second dress I doubled the hip measurement and then took away about four inches.

I tripled the hip measurement to get the width of the ruffle for the JID version.  I allowed two inches for the depth of the ruffle, so I would have enough fabric to hem the bottom.  For the Chibi version I doubled the skirt width to get the ruffle, allowed one-and-three-quarter inches for depth and then removed threads from the bottom edge instead of hemming it.  There is nothing at all scientific about these measurements.  I simply played it by ear -- and by eye.

At the top of each dress I folded down a quarter-inch of fabric to form a casing for one-eighth inch elastic.  On the Chibi version I used round cord elastic instead, thinking it might be less bulky on the smaller doll.  Under the bust, I could have sewed the elastic to the fabric, stretching as I went; instead I sewed a hem tape to the wrong side of the dress to form a casing and drew the elastic through it.

I sewed up the back of each dress from top to bottom.  The elasticized bust makes it possible to pull the dress up without the need for snaps or other closure. When it's hot out, I'm all about ease, whether it's sewing or dressing.

I added a few embellishments to each dress.  On the JID version I made a vertical gather on one side to vary the hemline and added a small bow for visual interest.  I repeated the bow at the top of the dress.  For the Chibi version I added a narrow trim in a different color to break up all the purple, along with a flower at the top of the dress.

While I was at it, I dressed my other JIDs for summer weather.  A few weeks ago I made a tank top for Unoa from a stretch lace fabric.  The pattern was part of the jodhpurs outfit that appeared in Haute Doll.  I've made this top twice, and both times it came out too loose to be a good fit for Unoa.  Luckily it was perfect for JID Tania.  I coupled it with a skirt I made for Asa earlier this year (also from Haute Doll and last seen with a white sweater). 

My other Asa (I really need a name for this girl!) is wearing a green floral sundress from Iplehouse.  In my opinion, it is a better fit on small-bust Asa than on large-bust Tania, who was previously photographed in it.  Asa is also wearing new shoes and wig, both from Cherish Doll.

This coming week I want to tackle an MHD Designs pattern for Soah.  I also want to make the same, in different colors, for Hazy.  I know myself too well  to think I will finish both in one week.  On the other hand, I am on vacation this week and not going anywhere, so perhaps I can get both done.  No promises, mind you, but check this space a week from now and see how much I have accomplished.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Introducing Smiling Soah

As long as I have collected BJDs, I have wanted an Elfdoll Soah.  I saw her as a softer, sweeter version of my first Elfdoll, Sooah.  By the time I decided to take the plunge, however, the only Soah available was a pricey special edition complete with costume.  Lovely, but too much money for my means.  Then Elfdoll parted ways with its international distributors in order to sell from its own website, and it looked like I was not going to add Soah to the family at Resin Corner after all.

Fast forward to 2011.  Rainman reintroduced Soah to his lineup of BJDs in both the standard and a new smiling version.  I studied the photos of both, ultimately deciding I wanted the standard, classic Soah in white skin.  I placed my order in May and sat back to wait the usual 8 weeks for delivery.  She arrived this week.  I picked her up at the Post Office and drove 30 miles to work, where I sat all day with the box under my desk, just itching to open it.

Posing for a "before" photo.  The stump of her left wrist is missing
the magnet that should hold her hand in place.  Soah is wearing
her dark brown Elfdoll eyes.

It's a good thing I waited until I got home.  That way my co-workers did not witness my disappointment when I opened the box and found Soah smiling back at me.  Smiling.  Elfdoll sent my Soah with the wrong head.  She also appeared to be missing a hand, but a quick search of the bottom of her box revealed the hand as well as several loose magnets.  Actually, they weren't loose so much as all clumped together, as magnets will do.  One of them belonged in her headcap, which I did not notice until after I positioned her headcap and then watched in horror as it fell to the hard floor below.  Even her stringing felt looser than Elfdolls usually do.  I have never before received a doll in such rough shape.

Inside headcap. The round indentation on the right shows where
one of the missing magnets belongs.  Another belongs in her wrist.

I posted to Den of Angels, which was somewhat comforting as I learned that several others had experienced the same mix-up.  I also fired off a "Wrong Head Received" message to Elfdoll's Q&A board, requesting an exchange.  There would be no immediate answer, I knew, because the woman who manages the board for Rainman was off for a week to have a baby.  Determined not to look at the doll again, I went to bed.

The base of the hand also requires a magnet.  Clinging to a pair of metal
tweezers (so I won't lose them) are the 3 magnets that came loose.

The next morning I looked in the box.  Still smiling.  Stupid doll.  I went to work.  Stopped at a craft store at lunchtime to buy some SuperGlue for her magnets.  Home again at the end of the day, I put her eyes in.  They were dark brown, almost black.  Not my favorite color, but they suited her.  Warm.  Inviting.  Friendly.  Stop it.  The irises were too large for my taste -- I like to see the whites of the eyes -- so I knew I would have to replace the eyes with a smaller pair.  Even so, Soah was beginning to look good to me.  Against my will, I was warming up to her.

Soah head-to-toe: Reiya wig from Jpopdolls,
dress from Elfdoll, shoes by Dale Rae.

Today I glued her magnets, then put back her missing hand.  Like my Hazy, Soah came with both fists and open hands.  I don't know when Elfdoll switched from hooks to magnets to attach hands to wrists.  The magnets do make it easier to change hands; however, I never had problems with hooks coming loose.  (Hazy has hooks.)

Black wig from Elfdoll. This one came with Hazy, but it
is so heavy it falls off Hazy's head. Soah's larger head
keeps the wig snug and in place.

I also replaced her eyes.  If I'm not mistaken, I have given her the eyes I received with Hazy.  Hazy's eyeholes are even smaller, and so I had to go down a size for her, too.

Iplehouse wig IH-015.  I love a short wig on her.
With her headcap finally staying put, we were able to try on wigs.  When I was trying wigs on OasisDoll Natalie, I was dismayed to find that wig after wig just didn't suit her.  She is a pretty doll who has a hard time finding a good hair style.  Soah, on the other hand, looked great in every wig we tried on, and we tried on plenty.  (I photographed many more than I can show here.)  It doesn't matter what color, what length or what style.  As soon as I put it on her head, she blossoms.

Iplehouse wig IH-031

Taiki wig from Jpopdolls.  I usually reserve this
and the IH-015 short wig for the boys!

I figure Smiling Soah is a keeper.  Now all I have to do is go online to Elfdoll's Q&A board and confess that I love her after all.  I don't need or want to exchange heads for the Standard Soah.  She has won me over completely.

Glamour wig from Jpopdolls.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Anchors Away Elves

I had been looking for a pattern to fit my littlest doll -- PukiFee Zoe.  When I came across the patterns by Rachele Fisher of My Own Little World, I knew I had to try one.  At the time I purchased it, there were only two to choose from:  a fairy dress and a sailor outfit.  (Since that time, I believe she has released a third.  I'll have to check to make sure.)  I opted for Anchors Away, the sailor outfit, because it made not only a dress, but also bloomers, a romper, and two different hats.  For the record, I love patterns that give me the option to mix and match pieces to create different looks.

Once I had the pattern, I began the hunt for a suitable fabric.  My stash contained some fabrics printed with stars.  I considered and then discarded each of them for the same reason:  the print was out of scale for such a small doll.  Besides, I wanted something nautical.  I searched my local fabric stores and several online stores to no avail.  I've been burned online in the past, when a print I thought was small turned out to be too big for the intended project.  Even when they display the fabric swatch with a superimposed quarter or a ruler to show size, you never really know how the piece will work until it shows up in your mailbox.

The tiny anchor pattern is called Bar Harbor, from Moda.

Success finally came my way two weeks ago at a quilt show.  A quilt show, you ask?  How so?  It's simple.  Along with the display of quilts comes an array of vendors.  Fabrics from shops around the region and beyond.  I knew I would find something and indeed I did:  the perfect tiny anchor print in three different colors, along with a tiny stars-and-stripes print that promised to coordinate well with them.  I could finally tackle the sailor pattern for Zoe.

LittleFee Ante (left), PukiFee Zoe (center), Kaye Wiggs' Lillie (right)

An especially welcome feature of My Own Little World patterns is the fact that each pattern includes sizes to fit a number of small dolls.  While I was dressing Zoe, I figured I might as well dress one of the LittleFees, too.  Zoe has elf ears, so I chose Ante elf for the LittleFee version.  It then occurred to me that the LittleFee size might also work for Kaye Wiggs' Lillie (also an elf).  What?  Elves don't go to sea?  They do in my world!

"Hold on tight!"

If I had been a little less ambitious and made two outfits instead of three, I might have had time to make both hats included in the pattern.  As it is, I made only one.  It was supposed to be PukiFee size, but I found it too large for little Zoe.  It was a much better fit for Ante.  I'll go back and make Zoe the PukiPuki size.  Luckily I had a ready-made stiff felt sailor hat that fit Zoe well enough for the photos.

"I really wish I couldn't see his dinner..."

I found the dress pattern a little odd.  Everything went well until it came to finishing the back of the dress.  There were no instructions, so I was left to decide for myself whether to sew up the back or fasten it with snaps.  I opted for the snaps.  I just wish it afforded a little more coverage over the doll's posterior.  When Zoe put on the bloomers included in the pattern, there was hardly enough skirt to go around, as most of the fabric is in front where the pleats are.  Next time I'll make the skirt a little wider in back.  I'll also make it a little shorter, because her legs barely show.

Ready for a chorus of On the Good ship Lollipop.

I had intended for Ante to wear the blue dress and Lillie the romper.  Again the dress was skimpy in back and didn't fit over Ante's bloomers, so I put her in the romper (without bloomers) and put Lillie in the dress.  Lillie is thinner, so the fit was much better.  If she looks wistful, it's because she really really wanted to wear the romper.

"Something smells fishy in here."

The red-white-and-blue sneakers were intended for LittleFee Shiwoo, who has in fact worn them.  They were so tight on him, however, that I had to remove his feet in order to get them off.  That argued against Ante's wearing them with her outfit.  Lillie, on the other hand, has thinner feet.  The shoes are loose enough on her that she can wear them with socks (as soon as I find a pair).

The girls are posing with two members of my glass menagerie:  a goldfish and a pelican.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Cleaning House at Resin Corner: Who Stays, Who Goes?

Sooner or later it happens to every collector.  The collection outgrows its allotted space.  I buy dolls to costume, photograph and enjoy them, not to hide them away in their boxes, unseen and unappreciated.  But when the dolls no longer fit on the two bureau tops and one bookcase that constitute display space in my house, and the boxes are stacked floor-to-ceiling in one closet and in scattered piles in the basement, something's got to give.

It would be one thing if I were able to say:  "This is my collection.  It is complete.  I will make room for the dolls I have and restrain myself when I feel the urge to buy more."  Fat chance.  IpleHouse has recently restyled its JID (Junior IpleHouse Doll) girl body, introduced a new sculpt and given new faceups to the existing sculpts.  I want them all.

Needless to say, my pockets are not that deep.  It has reached the point where I must sell dolls in order to buy new ones.  That has forced me to look at my collection with more critical eyes.  In the beginning I bought some dolls that I would not buy if I were starting my collection today.  Comparing the American BJD and Free Spiritz Pixiez Dharma to other dolls on the market now, I wouldn't give them a second glance.  It is time for them to move on.

American BJD vinyl Innuendo, left, and Free Spiritz
Pixies Dharma, right (before I gave them new faceups)

Photos on a doll company's website always show a doll to advantage.  The doll is styled and lighted to show off her best angles.  The reality can be a shock and a disappointment, as you open the box and find a stranger instead of the doll you have been dreaming of for the past two months.  I've had a few of those, most recently DoD's Twing-key.  Picture me, staring into the open box in disbelief:  "That can't be Twing-key.  They've sent me the wrong doll -- haven't they?"  I've tried to like her anyway, but it isn't working.  She isn't the Twing-key I fell in love with.

Dream of Doll Twing-key on girl body

Then there are the boys.  I have nothing against boys, mind you.  It's just that clothing for boys and men is so awfully boring to sew.  With the exception of an IpleHouse BID, all of my boys currently reside in their boxes.  I will probably keep the U-noas, because they can fit into some of the clothing made for Tonner male fashion dolls.  Less work for me to do.  I will keep the little ones because they are little, so costuming is not so tedious.

It seems a shame to let Unidoll Anthony go, because Unidoll as a company seems to have disappeared.  He's a great doll, with excellent posability, but his large size makes him awkward to dress and display.  I can display two smaller dolls in the amount of space he takes up.

67 cm Unidoll Anthony

All three sizes of Limhwas are going.  Beautiful head sculpts, every one of them, but I don't like their bodies, especially their hands.  Actually the smallest one, ToYou Sara (who has not been profiled in these posts), has a better body than the others, in my opinion.  She's just so tiny and delicate that I can't see making clothes and buying wigs, shoes, etc., in a different size than everyone else wears.  What can I say?  She was an impulse buy.

27 cm Limhwa To You Sara in beauty white resin. (At 10 inches,
she is smaller than Barbie but her proportions are more naural.)

44.5 cm Limho Mono in tan (left) and normal beige (right)
57 cm Limhwa Luna in normal beige
(Limhwa's normal beige is almost white.)
Some people sell doll bodies that don't work for them and keep the heads, in hopes of finding other bodies that they like better.  I don't want to go that route.  For one thing, it's hard to match the resin color; for another, not all head openings accommodate all necks.  Customization is fine, but you can drive yourself crazy trying to create a hybrid.

I'm conflicted about my SoulDolls.  I doubt I will ever part with Linn.  She was my first resin bjd and I still love her head sculpt, even if I don't love her body.  Right now she is occupying a Planetdoll body.  Its mobility is much better, the resin is a good match; however, I don't love the Planetdoll torso.  I wonder if the SoulKid torso would work with the Planetdoll limbs?  My other SoulKids are staying one day and going the next:  I can't make up my mind.  SoulDouble L-Heart is definitely looking for a new home.  He hasn't seen the light of day for the past two years.

63 cm SoulDoll SoulDouble L-Heart

Another one I'm conflicted about is Rosette School of Dolls Marguerite.  Lovely doll, but an odd size, and her length is all in the legs.  I have made her one outfit and bought her one additional wig.  And that's it.  Her primary function in my collection seems to be to provide a lap for the little ones to sit on.  I don't think she has a future here.  I even bought a Wilde Imagination Evangeline Ghastly (vinyl version) in hopes that they could share clothes, both being of a Victorian sensibility.  What was I thinking!?  Evangeline is another one that has to find another home.

47.5 cm Rosette School of Dolls Summer Term Marguerite (full set)

If you are keeping a running tally, you might be wondering if I will have any dolls left after I finish culling.  Not to worry.  My Elfdolls aren't going anywhere.  Neither are my IpleHouse, my Narae, or my U-noas.  All of the tinies are staying.  (They hardly take up any room at all, are portable, and are cute as the dickens.  What's not to love?)  I'm adding to my Kaye Wiggs group, so obviously they are staying.  Oasisdoll Natalie is staying, although I wish I had bought LingLan or Yaoyue instead.  I only bought Natalie because I couldn't decide between the other two.  I wonder if someone would trade heads with me?

Once I get their numbers down, perhaps I can get around to making new outfits for everyone on a regular basis. Only a few days ago I noticed that Chloe (U-noa Sist) was still wearing a pumpkin and autumn leaf print dress.  It's now summer!  Obviously, I have not been keeping up with the seasons.

Where to buy:  I will be offering some of the above-mentioned dolls on the Den of Angels Marketplace and some on e-bay.  (The American BJD, Pixiez Dharma, and Evangeline Ghastly are all Off Topic at DoA, thus will be sold on e-bay.)  They won't all appear at the same time, because I am new to selling and need to put a couple of toes in the water before I jump in the deep end.

Wish me luck!