Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Jury Is In: YiFeng is a Keeper

I received an unexpected gift yesterday:  a beautiful, warm, dry, sunshine-y January day.  Throwing all my other plans out the window, I gathered together my doll painting supplies and got to work on Only-Doll YiFeng.

Truth be told, he has been standing in a corner of my sewing room for the past two weeks, glaring at me:  on the one hand daring me to sell him and on the other daring me to attempt a new faceup.  The longer I looked at him, the more I disliked the faceup he arrived with.  The doll in the company photos looked innocent.  This one looked anything but.  It was the mouth more than anything else.  That hideous brown rosebud mouth.  And the heavy brown eyeshadow.  It was lacquered, for goodness sake!  The shine was driving me crazy.  And don't get me started on the eyelashes:  They reminded me of two fat brown caterpillars lolling above his eyes.

The original YiFeng faceup.  A little too "Chinese opera" for me.

I set to work on him with Q-tips dipped in pure acetone.  I did not want to remove the entire faceup, only the lip treatment and the eyeshadow.  I desperately wanted to keep the eyeliner intact, because I am not good at applying eyeliner.  Neither did I want to damage the eyebrows, because I am no expert at drawing eyebrows, either.  That left me a very narrow space in which to work, and color that was buried under an awful lot of varnish.  It did eventually come off, but not without a few nicks to the eyeliner and one nick to an eyebrow.  The operation took so much time, I was afraid I would lose the sunshine, but the weather held.  (That in itself is unusual, especially in January.)

Because I have so little of it left, I sprayed the MSC sparingly.  Just enough to do the job.  I tackled the eyebrow repair first.  Hunting through my set of Derwent watercolor pencils, I found a perfect color match:  Terracotta.  A few fine strokes blended in with the existing eyebrow.  Perfect.  Black to fix the eyeliner.  I was on a roll.

His lovely sculpt is much more evident now.

I was unable to remove all the original color from the mouth.  In the end it didn't matter, because what I couldn't remove -- the dark line between the lips -- was something I would have had to redo anyway.  I would have preferred to make the lips a little more coral than pink, but didn't see the appropriate color in my pastel set.  My larger pastel set was down in the basement.  I thought of going down two flights of stairs to get it, then opted to go pink.

I added the tiniest bit of pink to the brown blush on his cheeks.  Outside once again to spray with MSC.  I looked him over.  Yes.  Finally.  This is a face I can live with.  Black eyelashes, not so full as the original pair.  Some people don't like eyelashes on male dolls.  I am not one of them.  I had a bit of trouble putting his head back on.  It required pulling up his elastic, and everyone knows by now that I am no superhero in the upper arm strength department. 

With his new, more Western faceup, it didn't seem appropriate to put his Asian robes back on, but I hadn't had time to sew anything.  I pulled out the Beau Brummel outfit (Adams-Harris Patterns) I had originally made for Souldoll L-Heart.  I knew it would fit, because the pattern was drafted on an Iplehouse YID and YiFeng is nearly the same size.  I really want to make him something contemporary.  I have a pair of jeans cut out and ready to sew.  I have selected a tee-shirt pattern.  All I need to do is decide on a fabric for the tee and start sewing.

My weather luck did not hold long enough for Sunday's picture-taking session.  More seasonable weather prevailed, with colder temperatures, snow squalls, and a generally cloudy, gray day.  Should have taken photos yesterday.  Sigh!

The wig is Taiki from Jpopdolls.  The color is Winter Blond.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Spotlight on PukiFee Zoe

Have you ever noticed how some dolls grab the spotlight and refuse to let go?  Shy little Zoe is not one of them.  I haven't written much or often about Zoe since her arrival.  I also haven't sewn many outfits for her, mostly because there are few patterns available for such a small doll.  This weekend I decided to celebrate my little PukiFee, because in a few months she is going to have some even smaller sisters and even a brother. 

Zoe:  "Smaller than me?"

Yes, I have succumbed to RealPuki madness.  Fairyland is running a 10th Anniversary event featuring some new RealPukis along with some old favorites.  I will finally have my own little Soso!  And also KaKa and the new PuPu.  (Such unfortunate names -- the last two sound like what baby does in its diaper.)  But I digress.  This post is Zoe's.

I spent all weekend making little things for her, not all of them successful.  I wanted to make her a long-sleeve tee shirt and a pair of pants.  I knew exactly which combination of fabrics I wanted to use.  As I was rooting through my scrap bin for small pieces of those fabrics, I came across a discarded project from sometime back.  The fabric came from a pair of socks that I had purchased because of their tiny print.  I had used most of it for a sweater that ended up not fitting anyone, not even skinny Tamsin.  There were a few scraps left over, more than enough for little Zoe.  A bit too heavy for a tee shirt, it would have to be a sweater, but then I decided it was long enough to be a short dress, and finally I cut it up the front to make a mini-romper.  It was a lot of work, all of it by hand because the piece was too small for my sewing maching.   At some point in the sewing the armholes stretched.  And I didn't give her enough room in the crotch.  After spending most of Saturday afternoon on it, I felt too discouraged even to sew a snap set on the back.  There is enough sock left to try again.  It's such a cute print, I don't want to have to throw it all away.

What is Mommy making with this big ball of yarn?
(Trying to make a wig -- or maybe a hat.)
Then I decided to make a pair of pink bloomers and a top to go over them.  Because she already has short pink bloomers (from the one outfit I bought for her) I decided these should be long bloomers.  They came out rather full and not quite long enough.  Arrrgh!  Frustration!  The top, at least, makes a cute little dress.  I used the bodice and skirt pattern pieces from the Anchors Away pattern by My Own Little World.  Instead of pleating the skirt, I gathered it.  I also omitted the sailor collar, because I wasn't after a nautical look this time.  (I will be revisiting this pattern when my RealPukis arrive, because theirs is one of the sizes included in it.)

Zoe's new top made by me.
Short pink bloomers from Fairyland.
PukiFee bow shoes sold by Denver Doll.

Round about now I remembered that Anastasia (Iplehouse JID Asa) has a new dress that I have photographed but not discussed.  I made it from a gray knit fabric that has rows of ruffled tiers built in.  It was a quick, easy dress to make, with absolutely no pattern.  I decided to make one for Zoe, too, except that hers turned into a skirt and top.  I simply cut a small rectangle encompassing two tiers of ruffles, folded over the top and sewed a casing to carry a one-eighth inch elastic, added a snap set to the back and voila.  I didn't even have to hem it!  The top was another small rectangle, cut from a single tier of ruffle, folded over at the top to make a neat edge, with a snap set at the back.  Both girls were happy to pose for photos in their (almost) matching outfits.

I haven't forgotten that initially I meant to sew a tee shirt and pants for Zoe.  I'm going to do it the right way this time, and reduce a pattern for LittleFees so that I have actual pattern pieces to work with.  The wig/hat, on the other hand, is a make-it-up-as-I-go project.  We'll just have to see what comes of it.

Zoe's wig is K-004 in Baby Pink from LeekeWorld (made by DollGa)
Anastasia's wig is WS-106 in Baby Brown from Leeke World (DollGa)
Anastasia's white boots from Iplehouse

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Only-Doll YiFeng: It's All Iple's Fault

I bought YiFeng for all the wrong reasons:  he was relatively inexpensive, he was in-stock and I needed some instant gratification while waiting for my next Iplehouse doll to arrive.  (They are experiencing a backup on dolls requiring faceups.  This is adding a month-and-a-half to two months to the wait time for a new doll.)

Only-Doll is a Chinese doll company that markets its dolls in the US through dealer Mint on Card.  They are attractive dolls, well-made, and with some beautiful (and also well-made) costumes.  I ordered YiFeng, a 61 cm boy doll, hoping his aesthetic would mesh with that of my Rainy Elfdolls.  Rainman's girls look less than realistic when standing next to my Iplehouse SID guys.  I thought they deserved a guy who looked a little more like them.  In that at least I succeeded.

Outer box.  I was curious to see how the label underneath mine was addressed.
It was made out to the store, from an apparent distributor.

Before shipping, I asked Mint on Card if they could provide a photo of his faceup.  This is something they advocate on their website, on the grounds that actual faceups can vary from the dolls' promotional photos.  When I saw the photo, I wasn't sure how I felt about it.  First of all, the head had no wig, so it immediately looked different from the promo photos.  Secondly, the eyes were a different color.  And third, I thought the lip color looked odd.  Ignoring my misgivings, I told them to go ahead and send him.

Fancy inner box and lace-covered pillow.

He arrived within two days (shipped on Wednesday and delivered on Friday) -- and that despite a storm that dropped icy snow on this part of the country.  I waited until Saturday to open the box, however, so that I could photograph the opening by daylight.

Lots of treasures, individually bagged.

The outfit was packaged in several plastic bags.  It consists of long full white pants with brocade cuffs that lace up the sides; a plain white inner kimono; a blue floral outer kimono with brocade trim and laces on the sides; an obi belt; a beaded necklace and brocade boots.  There is also a long blue wig tied with a blue cord that matches those on the pants and kimono and decorated with a beaded hair ornament.  I am not a fan of blue hair, but the ensemble is very nice indeed. 

Costume parts (and a gift stuffed panda) on top; the doll
lies underneath.
I am having a problem with the pants and boots.  When the pant cuffs are laced, I can't get the boots to zip over them.  If I put the boots on first, the cuffs lace up but with a large gap.  Also, he does not stand well in the boots.  I have put him in a pair of flat shoes that were supposed to fit the Elfgirls.  They were too big for the girls. They are snug on YiFeng, and no more girly than the rest of his ensemble.
The costume unwrapped.

YiFeng himself stood solidly straight out of the box.  His balance is good.  His arms, however, are a bit too tightly strung so he has a tendency to hug himself.  Thanks to the double-jointed elbows, he can hold a pose in spite of the tight elastic.

Standing unsupported -- and on a carpet!

In person, the faceup was a disappointment.  Apart from the black eyeliner, it is done entirely in one color -- a coppery brown.  I am not a fan of the current fashion in doll lip coloring whereby the color is concentrated in the center of the mouth.  It reminds me of the exaggerated lip treatment you see on geisha girls.  On the one hand, I hate to remove a faceup when I have paid to have it done.  On the other hand, if I don't like it I should either redo it or pay someone else do it for me.  Doing it myself is out of the question until the weather warms up.  I always go outside to spray the MSC so as not to breathe the fumes.  Right now the spray would probably freeze on contact with the cold air.  I have too little of it left to risk squandering what remains.  Given the cold weather, I hesitate to order more in case it is delivered when I am not home and left to freeze on the front porch.

YiFeng wearing the default blue wig and a pair of
forest green glass eyes from my stash.

Apart from the actual faceup, I find the eyelashes are too full and too curly for my taste, as well as being the same coppery color as the face paint.  That's a relatively easy fix, especially as the eyelashes are already loose enough to fall off.  Some doll owners prefer no eyelashes at all on their male dolls.  I do like eyelashes, but I prefer more realism in their appearance.  The eyes, too, are "off" in their proportions.  He arrived with 18 mm eyes -- the biggest of any doll I have yet owned.  The irises were so huge that there was almost no white showing.  This gives a doll the look of a child.  I prefer smaller irises and a more mature look.  That was easy to do as I already had a small stash of 16 mm eyes in both glass and acrylic.  I am still playing with different colors.  I can't decide if I like a darker eye or a lighter eye.

YiFeng in the Dollzone Silverado wig and a pair
of pale blue glass eyes from my stash.

It's nice finally to have a doll that can wear the Dollzone Silverado wig without looking like a caricature of Harry Potter's Lucius Malfoy.  I prefer it to the blue wig in every respect.

A look at the full ensemble.  My girls would love to wear that hanfu!
Google Translator tells me that Yi Feng means Lean on the Wind.

Will YiFeng stay, or will he go?  The jury is still deliberating.  I need to dress him in jeans and a tee shirt to see how he looks.  I will make those from a pattern for Iplehouse YID boys.  His measurements are close enough that they should fit.  Then I will reassess.  Sometimes I fear that Iplehouse has spoiled me for any other brand of doll.

Meanwhile, I continue to wait for my Iplehouse orders (SID Shane, SID Zera, EID Lahela, and YID Mars).  With luck they will all be home by May.

January Mini-Meet-Up

I'm going to write two posts today, because I want to cover yesterday's mini doll meet-up in its own mini post.  We tried a new venue:  a local public library's community meeting room.  Big room, small group.  That's if you can call two doll moms a group.  Come on, Northern Vermont doll collectors!  Where are you?  We have lots of room, lots of interest in dolls, and would love for our dolls to interact with yours.  (They don't even have to be BJDs.)

"Um...hey, what are you doing?"

I know.  It's January.  The temperature was in the single digits to low teens with some new fallen snow.  But the roads were fine, and here's a secret:  dolls are the perfect cure for cabin fever.  Remember that when February rolls around and you're climbing the walls in want of something to do.

Let's see your average BJD do this.
So, who made it to the library yesterday?  ModernWizard was there, accompanied by Sardonix and Noodge.  I continue to be amazed at the completely natural positions Sardonix can assume.  She is a Jura Elf head on a Shiny Doll Thaasa body.  I think one of my New Year's resolutions needs to be to buy a Shiny Doll Thaasa doll.  Her creator is a Japanese engineer, and the man really knows his stuff.  Amazing body!  I'm not as fond of his doll heads.  To me they seem very young.  I am more than willing to give one a try, however.

Seriously, can you look at that face and not smile?

I absolutely love Noodge.  She is a Fairyland RealPuki So-So. The RealPuki are still marked "temporarily sold out," both at Fairyland and at Denver Doll.  What's up with that?  Many of Fairyland's small dolls have been "temporarily sold out" for months.  If it's because Fairyland is dealing with a backlog of orders, then I hope they get through it quickly and start selling the dolls again, because I want one.

I finally succeeded in popping Evgeny's elbow so that
he can bring his hand up.  ModernWizard had to help!

Vermont Chick (aka Ball Jointed Woman) brought Iplehouse Elemental Guardian SID Barahan, who goes by the name Evgeny.  For the event, Evgeny donned a pale blond wig from LeekeWorld.  It's a little big and falls over his eyes, even with a wig cap underneath.

Knowing we would have plenty of room to spread out, I would have brought a second doll, but SIDs are big and heavy, and I didn't fancy repeat trips to the car in the icy cold.  I'll be happy when the Iplehouse carrier bag I ordered arrives, because these dolls are awkward to carry and don't seem to fit into any sort of tote bag.  Alas, I won't be seeing it anytime soon, because Iplehouse is also backed up with orders.  I am so happy the company is doing well -- but I want my stuff!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

BJD Maintenance

Sooner or later, ball jointed dolls get loose and need restringing.  Sometimes dolls switch heads and bodies for the fun of it.  Or a bit of makeup flakes off and needs a touch up.  Or a tired old faceup begs to be redone entirely.

Instead of sewing this week, I decided to tackle some of my loose BJDs.  I didn't get around to all that needed elastic tightened, but I made a start.  The most critical was Planetdoll Emma, who has been listed for sale on the Den of Angels Marketplace for a couple of weeks now showing a very forlorn countenance.  I decided she needed a fresh faceup.  She also needed to have her head rejoined to her body, because Soulkid Linn had been using her body for a while until she switched to a Mini Supia body a week or two ago.

Planetdoll Emma's first faceup, March 2011.
First, the faceup.  I wiped her clean and redid her in the style of Kaye Wiggs's girls.  The results were satisfying, except for the red stain around her mouth.  How did that get there?  I figured that the blast of propellant from the Mr. Super Clear can must have carried some of the pastel dust from her mouth and deposited it there.  Emma looked as if she had been eating jam and got it all over her face.  I tried to fix it, but the only sure fix was to scrub it all off with cotton balls soaked in acetone and then start all over again. 

I'm glad I did, because the results were even better the second time.  I didn't follow anyone else's style--I merely let the pastel powder discover and enhance what was already in the sculpt.  Emma turned into a natural cutie.
You can barely see them, but Emma's new faceup has a dusting
of pale freckles.  Her new eyebrows have a quizzical expression.

Rejoining her head and body was another story altogether.  I tried for the first time a week ago, only to watch in horror as the large S-hook that holds the elastic inside the head slipped down into the neck and lodged there.  Undaunted, I decided to take her apart from the feet.  Usually this works.  But this doll was strung so tightly, and on so short and thick a string, that I couldn't budge either foot.  Still undaunted (sometimes my determination doesn't know when to quit) I went for the arms, thinking that if I removed them first I could reach the main elastic from there.  I only stopped when one of the small s-hooks that hold the hands in place punctured my thumb. 

I had to wait for my thumb to heal before tackling Emma again.  Today I finally got the little minx apart, then set about restringing her with new elastic.  After a long struggle, she is now restrung, although not as tightly as she needs to be to stand securely.  I simply don't have enough strength in my hands to do the job properly.  She can be made to balance and stand unaided, but I wouldn't leave her that way unattended.  Her new owner will have the honor of tightening her, because I am not going to do it again.

Linn on the Mini Supia body.  You can tell it's a
Mini Sup by the pointing finger.  The advantage of
this body over her original Soulkid body is the slim
wrists and ankles and smaller bust.  Clothing fits better.

Next step was to restring the Mini Supia body Linn has been using.  Piece of cake!  I think this one took me all of ten minutes, if that long.  I reused the same elastic, merely cut off a length of it and retied it.  Good as new.  I took photos, then took a closer look at Linn's face.  One of her eyelashes looked odd.  The end of it had come loose and somehow become wedged half-in and half-out of the eye socket.  When I removed her eye, I saw that the eyelash had become badly crimped.  There would be no straightening this one out.  Time for new eyelashes. 

Unfortunately, removing the eyelashes also pulled off some of the original eyeliner.  I noticed too that the painted-on lower lashes were beginning to flake.  This meant another trip outdoors to spray MSC (When did it start snowing?) and another trip to the basement for my pastel set, then back upstairs to touch up Linn's faceup.  I gave her new eyelashes, then reconsidered attaching her head to the Supia body.  The reason her head was on this body in the first place was because I thought I had a buyer for Supia Yisol's head.  That transaction having fallen through, I can now offer Yisol as an entire doll again.  With Yisol's head back on its orginal body, there was no place for Linn's head to go but back on her original body.  I think I'm done experimenting with her.  She and her body are going to stay together for the forseeable future.

Linn's outfit is Gracefaerie's Play Day.  Emma's dress is a variation
I made by combining the pinafore and dress in one garment.
Wigs from CherishDoll (left) and Leeke World (right).
Before calling it a day, I also restrung Soulkid Ahee, whose left foot hook I broke early last year.  I had left a message on Souldoll's Q&A page, asking if it were possible to buy replacement feet.  They answered yes, but never told me how to go about it, even after I left several more messages on their board.  If I couldn't buy new feet, I would have to repair the one I broke.  I applied SuperGlue to it, then left the foot alone for several months to make sure it was fully cured.  (Actually, I put it away and forgot about it.)  It showed no signs of strain as I reattached it and appears to be holding well. 

By the time I finished Ahee, it was too dark to take good photos indoors.  We actually had a bit of sunshine today, before the skies darkened and the snow came down.  I managed to retake Brooke's photos from last week, and to get new ones of Emma and Linn.

Next in line for restringing:  Narae, LittleFee Ante Elf, and Iplehouse Asa JID (the real skin version).  There seems to be no rhyme or reason for why some dolls require restringing while others do not.  Ante Elf is newer than LittleFee Shiwoo and Lishe, but neither of them has loosened.  Real skin Asa is the only Iplehouse doll that has loosened.  Linn and Elfdoll Sooah are my oldest BJDs, and yet neither has loosened.  It all depends on how they were strung initially.

Monday, January 2, 2012

First Outfit of the New Year

One of my friends had a brilliant idea for a Christmas present for me:  patterns!  She doesn't sew or collect dolls, so in order not to confuse her with too many choices, I directed her to MHD Designs (, suggested she look at patterns for Kaye Wiggs 18 inch girls and told her which ones I already had.  Better yet, she was just in time for Magalie's buy-3-get-1-free sale.  The result?  I'm as happy as a pig in a mud puddle.  And Brooke has a new outfit in which to start the New Year.

The outfit is called L'Ecoliere (i.e., The Schoolgirl) and consists of a pleated skirt, a blouse, a hat, a vest, and a choice of long or short jacket.  I didn't attempt a jacket this time, but made the other pieces plus a pair of socks from MHD Designs Petit Riens (Little Nothings) pattern. 

Because most MHD Designs garments are fully lined, I chose my fabrics carefully so that the finished pieces would not be too bulky.  The skirt, which looks like wool, is a lightweight homespun.  I can't for the life of me remember what the vest fabric is--it was a small scrap left over from a long-ago project--but I figured it would be less bulky than velvet or faux suede.  I didn't read the pattern directions through before starting, or I would have noticed that the blouse, too, was intended to be lined.  Unfortunately, that was not going to happen considering the stiff cotton I had already cut out.  The shirt was already threatening to stand up by itself!  I quickly drafted a pattern for front and neck facings and soldiered on.  Next time I use the blouse pattern, I will definitely look for a lighter weight cotton.

The skirt is pleated in front and gathered in back.
The vest has a half-belt in back.

Faced with the prospect of sewing a set of tiny fabric loops for the button closure, I came up with a viable alternative.  I purchased a length of soutache trim.  It worked like a charm.  Wish I had thought of that while making Soah's vest to accompany Le Pantalon.  I think I'll stock up on soutache in a variety of colors for future loop closures.

This pattern should work for my Iplehouse JID girls.  For fun I tried the blouse on small-busted Asa, and the only alteration it will need is for the sleeve cuffs to be narrower.  Kaye Wiggs girls have wider hands than JIDs.  The hat will need to be redrafted.  Brooke (Layla) has a huge head compared to my other MSD's--even compared to some of the larger dolls.

Brook reminds me less of a schoolgirl and more of a Scottish dancer in this plaid.  It seems an appropriate outfit in which to bid the old year, "Auld Lang Syne".

*Brooke's wig is Kye from Jpopdolls.  The color is Summerset.  Red Gothic Ballerina shoes are from Monique Trading.