Gratitude

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Elsa Project, Part 2

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving had a good one this past week. Despite the holiday, a craft show and appointments, I still managed to sew Elsa's corset--not once, but twice. This seems to be a recurring theme. I sew an item, for whatever reason it doesn't work, so I make another. Call it a learning curve. (Some curves are steeper than others.)

For my pattern I turned to the tried and true #16 The Corset from Gracefaerie Designs. I've made it several times, always with success. This time I chose a different version of the corset, the one with a solid front. It laces up the back but I chose to close it with either hooks or snaps. I don't know why I second guessed myself here, because the pattern already allows for extra fabric in this version with a slightly wider back piece. For some reason I assumed that I would also need additional fabric in front to make up for not lacing it. Bad idea. Corset #1 ended up way too wide.
Corset #2 in progress (inside out)

That wasn't the only problem. The pattern recommends using a tightly woven medium weight fabric. My knit fabric was not only hard to sew in and of itself, but even more so when paired with a lining that has no stretch. (Why do I do this to myself?) Add to the mix a very basic sewing machine, which offers no stretch stitch, and you have a recipe for disaster. I substituted a small zigzag stitch. This works well on some garments; here it left me with seams too narrow to top stitch. I did the best I could under the circumstances. Not good enough. I could go on listing the mistakes I made putting this corset together but I won't bore you. I think you get the general idea.
Corset #1 (top) and Corset #2 (inside out; bottom)

Another day, another corset. I'm still using the wrong weight fabric because it has the look I want; however, this time I'm going to make it work for me. I start by changing to a regular straight stitch. I'm still using the ballpoint needle because why ask for trouble, right? Everything progresses smoothly. There are a couple of places where my thread gets tangled in the knit's loose weave, but I fix those and move forward. Now admit it: you're waiting for something to go wrong. Sorry to disappoint you but Corset #2 is a winner. I fit it on Mirwen and decide I have enough room for snaps in back. Not sure I'm going to keep the silver beads I added to the body suit neckline. The Simplicity pattern adds glitter. No thanks--I've got too much glitter scattered around the room as it is. What I really want is to make another version of the body suit in a tighter knit--if I can find a fabric I like. The light blue knit just doesn't hold up.
Corset #2 (right side out)

The Simplicity pattern for Elsa's costume combines the corset and cape into one piece. I considered doing it that way, then decided I might like to use the corset with other skirts occasionally. That means I need to treat the cape as a separate piece that attaches by means of hooks or snaps. I would have started work on it today except I forgot to measure Mirwen for the length. Oh well, it's too dark to do any more sewing today. The day that started out cloudy, then cleared up to give us a brief hour or so of bright sunshine, finally turned dark again and sent us snow. 'Tis the season.

Edited on Tuesday, December 1st to Add:

Another day, another body suit. If the first one was too tight and the second one was too loose, finally the third one is just right. I only wish the fabric were not quite so dark. It does have gradations from dark to light, as well as a sort of star trail in a sequin-like material that was surprisingly easy to sew, so there is visual interest. Here it is:
And here it is with the corset:
It's hard to get correct color in photos that have no white or gray. The chair, however, is indeed yellow and the outfit pieces are more aqua than true blue, so the bottom photo is nearer the right color.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Elsa Project, Part 1

Recently I viewed Disney's Frozen for the first time. To say that I was thoroughly captivated would be an understatement. The wheels started turning in my mind, scattering stardust, ice crystals and fairy magic. I want to make the costumes. Which dolls can I turn into Anna and Elsa? She looks a little too worried to be the happily optimistic Anna, but FairyLand's FM60 Mirwen will play the part. Elsa is not here yet. I have FM60 Lacrima on order from FairyLand. She's coming without face-up or costume--a blank slate upon which I can create my ice queen. As I don't expect her before mid-January at the earliest, I have plenty of time to gather materials and sew.
One of the first things I bought was a pattern. Although it's for a different size and style of doll, I wanted to have it on hand to study how the pieces go together. For those of you unfamiliar with the movie, Elsa is the blonde in the above photo and Anna is the redhead. Mirwen is already here so it would make sense to start with Anna's outfit; however, seeing as I need to use Mirwen for Elsa's dress fittings I decided to begin with Elsa.
The Simplicity pattern appears to join all the dress pieces together except for the cape. I decided to go about it differently. For the long sleeves and the bit of fabric above the corset front and back, I am substituting the body shirt from the Adams-Harris Annabella pattern, omitting the fullness from the top of the sleeves. I ended up making two body shirts. The first time I misjudged the length of the sleeve once you remove the top section. Also my chosen fabric didn't give me the effect I wanted. Although the shimmery dance fabric with four-way stretch worked up beautifully, the completed shirt looks more like body armor than ice crystals. She needs to look icy, not silver-plated.
It's a good thing I went through my fabric stash before heading back to Jo-Ann's, because I found the perfect substitute in a very thin, light blue, two-way stretch knit. I remembered to shorten the sleeves; I also widened the front section slightly because the silver version is a tight fit. The new version sleeves are just right. The body of the suit is actually loose because the blue knit has much more give to it. Or maybe it's because I haven't attached the snaps yet. Either way doesn't matter--the corset will hide it.
I bought the rest of the fabrics for the outfit from Jo-Ann's. Below from left to right you have the transparent skirt overlay, the main skirt fabric, the corset fabric, the completed body shirt, and the cape. The corset will be lined with the main skirt fabric, as well as interfacing if that's not stiff enough. I would have preferred a different fabric altogether for the corset. I've worked with this stuff before and the needle gets bogged down (and downright sticky) from the glue holding the dots to the fabric. The only alternatives I saw were a blue version of the silver dance fabric or a solid color, maybe in the same weight as the skirt, with an overlay. In the end I loved the color of the sticky dot fabric enough to sacrifice a ball point needle.
The woman at Jo-Ann's who cut my fabric kindly folded it with the sparkly stuff on the inside of the folds. In order to photograph it, however, I had to unfold the overlay and cape fabrics. My dining room floor now sparkles with all the little bits that fell off. (Not to mention all the glitter I had to sweep off my dining room table after taking the photograph.) I imagine I'll be eating and inhaling a fair amount of the stuff before I finish assembling all the pieces of this dress.

Next I'll tackle the corset while I still have the ball point needle in the sewing machine.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vermont Doll Lovers November 2015 Meet-Up

How many of you forgot that we are now meeting monthly? To those who weren't there:  Missed you, but we had fun!

ModernWizard brought a groovy 60's style roombox designed for the American Girls Mini dolls and named, aptly enough, the AG Minis Groovy Room. The explosion of psychedelic colors extended to the neon colors of the occupants' hair.
I love how the walls show the influence of Piet Mondrian's abstract style. The dolls, from left to right, are Jujube (an Elfdoll 14cm Winky), Dorothy (an Elfdoll 14cm Dodo) and across from them Jeff (an Elfdoll 14cm Kai). I remember being tempted by these small dolls when they first came out. I didn't realize at the time how small they really are (14cm = 5.5 inches). The room is narrower at the far end than at the front, which gives a wider angle of view for photos. Way cool!
Her Submit, who previously sported an Elfdoll Doona Kathlen head sculpt, has acquired an Elfdoll Hana head and set of faceplates. Hana originally came in two versions, angel and devil. This is the devil set, and is another Elfdoll I wanted way back when. The angel set never appealed to me--the expressions seemed simpering. The faceplates in the devil set show more attitude.
 
Shown with Submit in the previous photo is a Mattel Megabloks Monster High playset, a small set designed for the Monster High dolls to play with. Works for other dolls, too, including DragonGems' hand sculpted 1:6 scale Russell, who was absolutely fascinated with all the interactive pieces in the set.
Russell felt the cold weather coming on and dressed for the occasion in a new hoodie, distressed jeans and knit cap that DragonGems made for him. She also made the man purse. Here's another view:
Except for the way he's dressed he reminds me of a realtor I once worked for.  My boss was more into the professional 3-piece suit look.

I brought six dolls to the meeting. Oops! Make that seven. I added one more before leaving the house. First up is Wilde Imagination's Resin Ellowyne Wilde. I bought Ellowyne as a blank doll, which gave me the opportunity to paint her myself. Not sure if this is her final look, but she likes it for now. She is wearing the Robe Nuage dress I blogged about earlier.
Also appearing at her first meet-up is Dollmore's Judith Girl Arasa Blue Zinna, my fabulous Russian Princess. She goes by the name Zora. Dollmore's Dollpire Kid Shiloh makes a reappearance, this time in period dress and a different wig as her undead love interest, Count Timofey. He may look younger than she does, but the child vampire is at least 200 years older. Unfortunately he is also hungry and keeps trying to nip at her wrist, to her embarrassment and displeasure.
"Not in front of everyone, Timofey. Have you no discretion?"
"Just a sip, Zora dearest. To remind you that you belong to me."
"Behave yourself. We are being observed."
"So luscious. So forbidden. Your words stab me to the quick."
"Melodramatic little turd," thinks Dollmore's Judith Girl Maxima Suntan Zinna, standing behind them. "How can she stand to let him touch her?"
Alida, my Maxima Suntan Zinna, is wearing the denim suit I sewed for her. She popped a button as soon as we arrived. The metal studs attach via prongs that pierce the fabric and are bent down on the other side. Apparently the jacket waistband was too thick to allow the prongs to attach securely.
RaccoonDoll Mika (on the right) is making her Meet-Up debut. RaccoonDoll Sarah (on the left) has returned to keep her company. I took a knitting class last week--mainly as a refresher because I hadn't knit in so long I couldn't remember how to start. The day before the meet-up I decided to knit a cape or shawl for Mika. I have a large stash of yarn from abandoned craft projects and from it I chose an eyelash yarn to match her dress. It worked up into a thick, lush, almost faux fur-like fabric. But was it ever hard to do! I kept finding extra loops on my needle, no doubt from picking up eyelash threads instead of yarn, and had to stop frequently to count and decrease. There was no pulling rows out, because I couldn't see the loops to put them back on. It was full steam ahead regardless of the consequences. Luckily, the result couldn't have looked better. Yay, me!
Sarah pretends to be Marilyn Monroe standing over the subway grate. As for Mika, well, sometimes a girl likes to show a little leg. (A little?)
Meanwhile, looking grandly out of scale is Iplehouse nYID Oscar in his Imperial Guard uniform. Oscar was disappointed not to find any larger girls at the meet-up. ("Just when I get a few hours leave, all the cool girls are gone.") Hmm, maybe Sarah is trying to get his attention rather than channeling Marilyn Monroe. Come to think of it, that might account for Mika's leg thrust, too. Ellowyne wants to know: "Are you making fun of me?  He's twice my size!"
Ignoring the female commotion he had caused, Oscar stalked to the other side of the room to sulk.

For more photos of this meet-up, see ModernWizard's blog: http://vtdolllovers.blogspot.com/2015/11/vermont-doll-lovers-november-meetup.html.


Next meeting is Saturday, December 12th. It's time for our annual Christmas extravaganza!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Two New Outfits

Sometimes I just don't feel like sewing. Other times I'm a flurry of activity, cranking out one after the other. I have two outfits to show you today. One of them sat around in various stages of Are-you-going-to-work-on-me-or-not? for a couple of weeks. The other came together in a matter of days.
The one that took forever to make was Ellowyne's Robe Nuage from a pattern by MHD Designs. These patterns should be easy to sew: they are beautifully illustrated step-by-step in color photographs. What could possibly go wrong? I've made clothes from her patterns before, mostly without incident. This is the first time, however, that I came upon a couple of sewing terms in French. I grew up speaking French at home, so understanding French is normally not a problem. That said, it took me a while to recall that corsage meant bodice, while encolure only came to me in context. (It would have come sooner had I remembered that col is collar; therefore encolure equals neckline.)
I followed the directions to the letter. There was no stretch to my fabric. My seams were exactly 1/4 inch. The dress should have fit. So why was the bodice abnormally large? Because the dress is fully lined, taking it in was awkward, but I managed to remove one inch from each shoulder seam. The result is still poufy on top. There's room in there for a lot more bosom than Ellowyne has, for sure!
The jacket was not only poufy on top, but too narrow in the waist to fasten. What's up with this pattern? By now I didn't feel like fussing with it, so I decided to leave the jacket unbuttoned and billowy. It's called robe nuage (cloud dress) so maybe it's supposed to fit like this. I could believe that if it weren't that the photos on the front of the pattern show the dress and jacket to be fitted. Could it be that Resin Ellowyne is smaller than her vinyl sisters?  I'll have to find my one remaining vinyl Ellowyne and compare.
The other outfit I made is a two-piece suit with turtleneck top. The pattern is Urban Beat for DeeAnna, designed by Gary Fletcher for Designs by Jude. This is one of the patterns I bought because the DeeAnna Denton doll's measurements are close to those of both the RaccoonDoll and Judith Girl dolls. I started with the skirt. As soon as I saw how short it was, I opted to make the outfit for the slightly shorter Suntan Zinna instead of Raccoon Mika.
This is another case of the finished product deviating from the cover photo. The skirt on the pattern envelope has a wide ruffle. It looks like what you would get if you didn't fold the ruffle in half lengthwise, as the pattern markings and instructions direct. My skirt's proportions are visibly different. The next time I make it, I'll give it a wider ruffle. The jacket was a total surprise. Because the cover sample is made up in white, the details are nearly invisible. The blue denim I chose clearly shows the three pockets and the topstitching on the yoke, panels, collar, cuffs and waistband. Despite a multitude of small pattern pieces yielding 22 pieces of fabric, it worked up like a dream and fit beautifully.
The only part that gave me any trouble was the turtleneck, and I chalk that up to my choice of fabric. My four-way stretch knit was so limp and slippery that sewing it was a nightmare. Because my bottom-of-the-line sewing machine has no stretch stitches, I used a zig-zag stitch where I could and hand stitched the rest. Hand stitching actually gave me more even seams than I usually get by machine, so all was well in the end.  And the four-way stretch ensured that the sleeves would go over Zinna's hands no matter how narrow the sleeve turned out to be. Getting the knit sleeves through the jacket sleeves was another story, however.
I have one more pattern from Designs by Jude that I haven't made up. It's for a Regency dress. I'm debating whether to make it for Mika so she can wear it to next Saturday's doll meet-up. Now that we've changed our meeting schedule to monthly instead of every other month, I'll need to do more sewing!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

My Second Raccoon Doll - Natural Mika

I hope Raccoon slows down a bit, because my wallet can't keep up with him.  Of course, no one said I had to buy every doll he sculpts.  And I have to save up in case the next one he sculpts is the one I have to have above all else.
Raccoon Doll's box illustration
That said, I couldn't resist Mika.  She was offered in two versions:  Natural Mika (with a softer makeup) and Qipao Mika (with more dramatic makeup).   As much as I loved the Qipao version, the makeup reminded me too much of Sarah's, so I went with Natural.
Mika's box of goodies

Sarah arrived almost three weeks to the day after I ordered her, with no advance shipping notice.  Same thing with Mika.  What's funny is that in each case the doll arrived, a couple of days later I got a notice of delivery, followed by a second notice of delivery, and a day after that a shipping notice.  I think Raccoon's computer program needs tweaking to reverse the order and timing of those notices.
Mika in Qipao

Natural Mika is a sweet Asian beauty with a partly open mouth showing a bit of teeth.  Normally I don't care for toothy dolls, although my collection holds exceptions like the sultry Judith Dolls, the impish RealPuki Soso, and the lovely Narae, who gets so little of my time.  (One of these days I'll have to remedy that.)  Mika looks ever so slightly amused.
Wearing Monique Yuri wig in Blonde/Blue

I ordered the Qipao with the doll so that she would have something that fits her right out of the box.  I do have a few outfits that I have bought or sewn since Sarah's arrival, but I wanted something uniquely Mika's.  From the moment I tried to dress her in it, however, the Qipao gave me trouble.  Thank goodness for the top snap, because that was the only fastening that worked.  The frog closure has too small a loop for the size of the ball.  The bead loops are too loose to hold the beads securely.  No sooner would I loop one and move on to the next, then the previous one would pop open.  I sewed snaps between the beads, which seems to have solved the problem.  I also had to re-attach one of the beads when the thread's knot pulled through the fabric to the outer side.
Wearing Monique Paris wig in Stripe Punk, a brown/blonde combination

In addition, the armholes were sewn so tightly that I had to ease one seam open in order to get Mika's arm through it.  I e-mailed Raccoon to let him know of the problems.  He e-mailed back that he checked all the Qipao and fixed the problem.  He also awarded me some points (used for discounts) as recompense for my trouble.  That was super nice of him.  I didn't expect anything like that when I wrote; I merely wanted him to be aware of the fit issues.
Mika's high heel shoes

A few days after I ordered Mika, Raccoon listed her black high heels for sale.  I meant to add them to my order but forgot.  Imagine my happy surprise when Mika's box revealed an extra item labeled "Gift".  The black high heels!  Thank you, Raccoon!  The shoes have a substantial platform base, which makes Mika taller than Sarah in her MiniFee heels.  That actually works well in the scheme of things.  Put any two people together--how likely is it that they will be exactly the same height?
Sarah (wearing Monique's Jojo in Brown Blonde) and Mika

Raccoon's first two girls--Sarah and Lucy--have not been re-offered for sale.  The two Mikas, however, are an open edition, as is the newest girl, White Emma.  I have not ordered Emma.  I see a slight asymmetry in her sculpt that bothers me.  I had the same problem with Iplehouse Lahela.  As soon as I perceived that she had one eye smaller than the other, I couldn't un-see the asymmetry and ended up selling her.  I know people's faces are not perfectly symmetrical, but there you are.  When it comes to a doll I need both eyes to be the same size and shape.  *Edited to add that Raccoon has added a Black Emma to the dolls available.  Her makeup is reminiscent of Lucy's pin-up makeup but with darker red lips.  The heavy black eye makeup actually makes the eyes look the same size.  I'm in trouble.
I think I prefer the Paris style for her.

I still have a number of dolls listed for sale on Den of Angels.  Until they find new homes, I won't be ordering anyone new.  The last order I placed was for a basic edition FairyLand F60 Lacrima:  no outfit, no wig, no face-up, no extras of any kind.  It's the only way I could afford her.  She'll need high heel feet, which I don't believe are included in the basic doll.  I'd better check and then order them separately.  After that I'll be sitting on my hands so I don't press any more Buy buttons.

Now I'm off to finish sewing a dress and jacket for Resin Ellowyne.  I just need to close up the jacket lining and add embellishments to both pieces.  The pattern includes a hat and purse.  Maybe I'll make them.  Or not.  We'll see.