Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Anna Project, Part 3

I started this week by finishing Anna's vest--and finished the week by completing her skirt. In between I embroidered. A lot. 
I bought a small embroidery hoop but didn't use it. Given a choice between creating creases that might not iron out and working loose, I chose loose. Besides, the process was working well enough without a hoop. That's not to say my embroidery stitches were looking fine. Maybe someday I will understand how a stitch that looks good going in can look bad once it's finished. More than once--usually as I was taking out stitches that offended my sensibilities--I wished I had opted for applique. Or even fabric paint!
As I became more comfortable with my stitches I realized they looked better standing alone than outlined. I admit my decision to outline was a defense mechanism at first, my way of saying, Look, this is supposed to be a circle! By the time I produced a circle that looked like one, it was too late to undo the earlier outlining as it was usually connected to the element below it. The same goes for my leaf stitch. Much of the veining disappeared once I outlined it, not to mention that my leaves ended up rather fatter than they were intended. The one good thing I did was to start embroidering at the back of the skirt. I figured that by the time I reached the front my stitches would be passable. Ah, well. It is what it is.
All I have left to do are the cape and bonnet. There are mittens (the pattern calls them gloves) which I may or may not make. I haven't decided. They look easy enough and I have the fabric. I still need trims for the cape. After shopping both JoAnn fabric stores in the area I came home empty-handed. I need mini pompom fringe for the edge and a coordinating trim for the body of the cape. Simplicity includes pattern pieces for this trim but no directions for how to deal with it. Time will tell if I am desperate enough to go this route. I had hoped to find both fringe and trim in the same color but that may not happen, even shopping online, unless I go with black. There is an absolutely perfect burgundy gimp braid in my stash. The trouble is that there is not enough of it and JoAnn's no longer carries it. And of course I am now fixated on burgundy. This is one garment where the shopping will be harder than the sewing!

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Anna Project, Part 2

When working with a pattern that doesn't fit your doll, there are many adjustments to make along the way. The smart thing is to make a muslin (i.e., to sew the garment in an inexpensive fabric--like muslin--to avoid wasting your "good" fabric), see where it does and doesn't fit, make alterations and try again.  I did a lot of that this week, with the result that I have one finished piece, have begun to sew another, and have a third just about ready to cut.

The first piece I tackled was the body shirt that will pair with Anna's skirt. These two pieces replace the dress in the Simplicity pattern. The body shirt pattern comes from MHD Designs' Le Pantalon, which I had sewn previously for an Elfdoll Soah. My finished garment was a little big for Mirwen, so I trimmed the pattern down by 1/4 inch all around. Then I started sewing. If you're waiting for the "unfortunately" that seems to qualify each stage of my garment construction, here it comes. My chosen fabric not only snagged each time I touched it, but ran like an old pair of nylon stockings when I had to take out a collar seam that went awry. My "perfect" fabric, perfectly ruined. A substitute knit in my stash helped me avoid a trip to JoAnn's and I completed the body shirt without further incident. It's not exactly the color I wanted, but there's no guarantee I would have found the perfect fabric in the perfect color at the store either.
Last week I mentioned that I had ordered a wig and boots to go with Anna's outfit. They arrived on Tuesday.  Although the braids are too long, I plan to keep the wig as is rather than risk cutting one braid shorter than the other. The boots looked good and seemed to fit. The problem was that Mirwen couldn't stand in them. I was able to substitute a pair of Iplehouse boots. She can stand in these by locking one knee and keeping the other knee slightly bent. And they're so much prettier than the other boots. You can see both the wig and the Iplehouse boots in the photo of Mirwen modeling the body shirt (above).

I had planned to combine the skirt patterns from The Patchwork Pansy's Just My Style with Gracefaerie's #10 Takeshita-dori; however, the more I studied it the more it looked like too much work. I don't mind making adjustments, but this seemed like reinventing the wheel. I scrapped that idea in favor of making a muslin of the skirt part of the Simplicity Frozen pattern. This experiment showed me that even though the waistline would be way too big for Mirwen, simply extending the skirt upwards would decrease the size of the waist. An inch and a half extension looks like it will fit perfectly. It also makes the skirt longer, which is a good thing seeing as the pattern was drafted on a shorter doll. Best of all it allows me to attach the bottom band of the skirt with no alterations whatsoever.
What looks like a yoke on the skirt (above) is simply the extension I added to my muslin. The actual skirt will be a single length of fabric with the bottom band added. I didn't make a muslin of that. You're probably wondering why I didn't continue putting the skirt together. I thought about it. What held me back was all the embroidery at the bottom. I wasn't ready to tackle that, mainly because it needs to be done before I can line the skirt, and I can't judge how much embroidery floss I will need. So I thought I would do something quick and easy first--the vest.
Did I say quick and easy? How about three muslins? That's what it took. First was the vest from the Simplicity pattern (above photo, top and bottom right). Not only was it huge, but I couldn't see a way to make it narrower, add darts and still keep the overall shape. Next I tried the vest from the MHD Designs Le Pantalon. I had to make the waist come to a point, reshape the neckline, and make the vest fasten in back instead of in front, so I made a muslin even though the original vest fits Mirwen. It's a good thing I did, because the resulting garment (upper left, above) was too big. I don't remember altering the original finished garment but I must have, otherwise this version would fit.  My last try was the dress bodice from The Patchwork Pansy's Just My Style (bottom left, above). I had to lengthen the bodice slightly, bring the center front to a point and reshape the neckline. Let's hope I am not being overconfident, because I selected this one as my pattern without finishing the muslin. Not only that--I embroidered the front.
The embroidery guidelines printed on the Simplicity pattern piece don't quite fit the amount of space on my vest, especially as I didn't want to embroider over the darts. They also lack the flowers. I copied the design from movie stills, but then I wasn't sure how best to transfer the design to the fabric. Originally I planned to cut stencils. With a design this small a stencil was out of the question. I do have transfer paper, however, so I cut a piece the size of my design (to avoid stray white marks on the fabric) and used a stylus to transfer the pattern. Working with such a small design made some stitches nearly impossible. I made a test piece (red leaves, above) to see what I could manage. Basically I've got outline stitches and some satin stitches for filler. I didn't need to test the French knots. By the time I took out some stitches on the vest that didn't look right, I had erased part of my design and had to rework it by eye. The result could be better but I'm not redoing it.
I had to leave plenty of blank space above and below the design to accommodate both the seams and some gold metallic bias tape. If after all this the vest doesn't fit, I will simply curl up in a corner and cry.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The Anna Project, Part 1

It was inevitable. After the Elsa Project, could the Anna Project be far behind?

I spent the week planning and gathering materials. I had the basic pattern and some of the fabrics. Before I could sew I headed over to JoAnn Fabrics, where I picked up a magenta knit for the cape. The pattern doesn't call for knit but I like the way it drapes. I also chose some dark blue cotton broadcloth for the skirt. I would have preferred a knit for this, too, again because of the drape, but I didn't find any in the shade I wanted. Because the very bottom of the skirt is a different shade of blue, I figured I could use a royal blue cotton that I already had at home. The two blues will be joined by a scalloped edge, which should be interesting given how easily the broadcloth shreds. I may head back to the fabric store after all.
It's nice to have the official Simplicity pattern for a guide, but the fact remains it was drafted on an 18-inch doll with no bust. Many people would just size up from the official pattern. I wish I were one of them, but I find it easier to take a pattern that already has the doll's bust figured into it. I went through my BJD patterns to see if something that fits (or nearly fits) my doll could be converted into the appropriate costume part and came up with two options.

First is Le Pantalon! by MHD Designs. With minor adjustments it will give me both the turtleneck top that forms the bodice of Anna's dress and the vest that goes over it. This pattern was drafted on an SD13 size doll and my FM60 Mirwen is closer to an SD10, so I will have to tweak the top to reduce the length and width. Anna's vest needs a solid front and fasteners in the back--the exact opposite of the vest in this pattern. This is actually an easy fix. All it needs is to place the front pattern piece on the fold, eliminating the seam allowance and extending the lower edge to a point. The back gets the opposite treatment, placing the pattern piece so as to be able to cut all around it, being sure to add a seam allowance at the center back.
For the skirt I am using Gracefaerie's #10 Takeshita-dori. This is one of the all-purpose patterns I use over and over again in various permutations. The pattern makes two outfits: an Elegant Gothic Lolita dress and a skirt-and-blouse combination. Again, because the pattern was drafted to fit 60cm BJDs and Mirwen is about 5cm shy of that, I will have to tweak it. In this case I will need to merge the yoke and skirt pieces, because Anna's dress skirt does not have a yoke, nor is it as wide as the skirt this pattern makes. I'll have to sew a muslin first to make sure this fix works!

The only BJD cape pattern in my stash is MSD size. As it lacks the capelet I will use the Simplicity pattern instead and enlarge it. It's a fairly basic garment, so hopefully will cause few problems.

One thing that has kept me from beginning to sew is the question of how to handle the embroidery. There is a fair amount of it, both on the front of the vest and all around the bottom of the skirt. I see three ways to handle this: embroidery, applique, or fabric paint. The pattern itself calls for applique. My problem with that is my edges never look neat unless I'm dealing with a straight edge that can be folded under. Of course, most of the lines in these designs are curved. As for fabric paint, I haven't used it in so long that my paints dried out in their bottles and I had to throw them away. I could buy new paint and cut stencils. The question is, do I want to? And what did I do with that brush, anyway?
That leaves embroidery. During the week I looked all through the house for the instruction sheet that accompanied a crewel embroidery project I completed years ago. Just when I concluded I'd have to buy a book, the sheet turned up in a box on the floor near my sewing machine--close to hand, where I should have looked first. I can do this, but exactly how time consuming will this project be? And how much embroidery floss will I need?  Thank goodness it's only two colors. (There is a third, but I think I can find enough leftover floss for three French knots.)  It sounds like I've convinced myself. Embroidery it is.

All I need now is some trim for the bottom of the vest (I have some gold ribbon that may work) and for the cape. Anna's braided wig and a pair of black boots are winging their way from Hong Kong as I write this and should arrive this week. And after serving as my fit model for Elsa throughout the making of that costume, Mirwen will finally see her own Frozen costume come to life.

Monday, January 11, 2016

FairyLand FeePle60 Moe Lacrima and the Elsa Project

I didn't expect FM60 Lacrima to arrive in time for January's doll meet-up, so imagine my surprise when she was delivered on the Wednesday before the Saturday meeting. I won't say she threw me into a panic, but she sure made me scramble to finish her outfit. After all, I couldn't show her off wearing only a body shirt and corset!
The first wig: Monique Gold's Bea

Excuse me if I didn't take in-progress photos--there was no time. Here are the patterns I used:  For the skirt I lengthened The Patchwork Pansy's #SD67 Just My Style, letting it flare from just below the knees to the floor, then added the slit partway up the right leg. I had to work with two layers of fabric, the plain but shiny fabric I selected originally under a see-through layer with a swirling pattern of glitter. The skirt pattern called for a full lining. I replaced that with just enough lining to finish the waistline, otherwise the skirt would have been too thick. She was already looking chunky in the midsection because of the double-layered corset over the body shirt.
The second wig, and crown, from Dollmore
By the time I got around to the cape I had half a day left until the meet-up. I used Simplicity pattern #S0747 (shown at the outset of the project) and merely lengthened the cape. In fact, I cheated the pattern a little bit. Instead of sewing around the applique, I took single stitches here and there to anchor it. I should probably go back and sew it properly, otherwise the applique sticks out like wings.
She also needed a face-up. Basic Lacrima is FairyLand's Tears of Raven doll without the full set costume or face-up. I'm actually getting the hang of painting my own dolls, which is to say I've improved somewhat since I started. Of course, I'm not usually racing both the clock and the elements. The sun was shining the afternoon she arrived and the temperature was hovering just above freezing. Good enough. I had to work fast to finish her before the sun disappeared and the temperature began to drop. Frozen droplets of MSC do not enhance a face-up.
I worked with a photo of Disney's Elsa in front of me. It soon became obvious that Lacrima's sculpt wasn't the best choice for Elsa. With several round-eyed FairyLand sculpts available, why did I select one with small narrow eyes? Also, her lips are too full. I did the best I could with pastel powder and watercolor pencil. Finally I decided it was the spirit of the character that mattered, not an exact copy.
There are some things I wish I had done differently, like the shade of the eye shadow (it should be a deeper purple) and the fullness of the lips (which I could have minimized). I also have a smear of color where the propellant in the can of MSC carried some loose powder away from her lips and left it on her cheek. I will in all likelihood repaint her next Spring when warmer weather returns. Maybe not as Elsa next time. I'll let her decide who she wants to be.

I bought two wigs for Elsa. The first one is Bea, a new wig from Monique Gold. It's not braided, and when I saw how curly it was all over I decided it would be foolish to attempt braiding it. (I know a mess-in-the-making when I see one.) I'm using it as an alternative wig for when Elsa wants to let her hair down. The second one, which became my primary wig, is a braided wig from Dollmore. I had plenty of opportunity to study this wig before ordering one for Elsa, because Dollmore sent me one in a smaller size as a gift when I bought my last Judith Girl. The style is not exactly Elsa's. The hair is braided all around the head near the hairline, with a ponytail at the nape. All it needed was to braid the ponytail loosely and sweep the bangs up instead of to the side.
Lacrima has that "new doll" stiffness that makes her hard to pose. I expect she will loosen up over time and I will be able to get more sweeping arm movements out of her. For the time being Elsa must summon the ice with some restraint.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Vermont Doll Lovers Meet-Up January 9, 2016

Four of us attended yesterday's meet-up: Nerdy Victorian, Modern Wizard, Lyrajean and myself. There was much talk about actors and/or characters in the new Star Wars movie, although it took me a while to figure that out. That's what happens when you wait for movies to air on television. Frozen, which I saw for the first time on TV, was dismissed as being irrelevant, with no plot, uninteresting characters, laughable music, etc. And me sitting there with my newest FM60 dressed and faced-up to resemble Elsa.

Here are Modern Wizard's dolls: (top) Elfdoll Hana Angel head on Hujoo wings body; (bottom) IOS Infernale head on Angeldoll massive girl body, with a couple of teddy bear friends.
Lyrajean's dolls included: (top to bottom) Custom House Petite Ai Uriel and Sariel; Volks Date Masamune with Volks Dollfie World Cup #1; Bimong Meronica.
Nerdy Victorian brought: Mattel 17-inch Monster High Elissabat shown with Spiritdoll Stayne; Volks SD Kira shown with Maskcat Ronia.

My group included: Resin Ellowyne Wilde shown with 2007's vinyl Essential Ellowyne Redhead;
my Raccoon Doll crew, left to right: Sarah, Sweet Mocha Gene, Natural Mika, and Sweet Mocha Lucy;
and my Fairyland FeePle60 Moe Lacrima as Frozen's Elsa. Lacrima will get her own post in the next few days, as soon as I find a suitable backdrop fabric. The American Girl winter scene shown here is a little too short to allow her any sweeping arm movements.
I brought a second wig so Elsa could let her hair down. It's a new Monique Gold style called Bea.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Raccoon Gene and Lucy Home at Last

Although expected the Monday after Christmas, Gene and Lucy arrived a day later. Mind you I'm not complaining, because both girls were definitely worth the wait. Both are in a new resin color: Sweet Mocha. What can I say except it's gorgeous! Much like Iplehouse Real Skin resin, but a little pinker. That may just be the newness of it. I suspect my Real Skin Iples started out looking like this and then faded/yellowed a bit. Again I'm not complaining, because it's still a beautiful color.
Above is one of my earliest photos of Gene (on the left) and Lucy (right). Both are wearing the For My Doll wigs shown on their Raccoon Doll sales photos. I ordered Lucy's short wig and Raccoon included Gene's wig as a special gift. The girls are wearing the dresses shown in progress in my previous post. I decided after taking a few photos that I really didn't like the big flower on the front of Lucy's dress, so I replaced it with a smaller white flower.
Gene wearing a Monique Gold Pretty Girl wig (brown black blonde). She looks good no matter what style or color wig I put on her.

I love the new slim body. The only place it's slimmer is in the hips and thighs, which you can't see with the fuller dresses, but it's just enough to balance out the small bust. I haven't ordered a Raccoon Doll with the larger bust, so I'm not sure how the smaller hips and thighs affect the overall proportions there. I expect I'll be sticking with the slim body small bust from now on.

Lucy wearing Monique Gold Yuri (blue blonde). This girl has a very strong profile, with the most prominent nose of the four. I chose a camera angle that minimizes the ski jump effect. But for Musume, who wanted to see Lucy in profile, here is a semi-profile, which is as close as I can find in any of my photos:

Over the last few days the girls have switched wigs several times. Wigs are one of the fun things about collecting BJDs. You can change a doll's appearance completely by a change of hair color and style. I still need to photograph Lucy in her finished pantsuit, which she wears with the Monique Paris stripe punk wig. The only thing holding me up is that I want to make a hat to go with the suit. I should get to that today.
Coffee and a bagel for two.
Portrait with coffee cups.
And because someone on Den of Angels asked to see Gene as a blonde, here she is in Monique Gold's Shaine (champagne). I don't know if this wig naturally has a lot of flyaways or if the problem is static caused by winter dry air, but I couldn't tame this one. The color still looks great on her.

I'm looking forward to some sunshine so I can get better pictures. The weather has been gray all week, which limits my photo-taking to a few hours of bright gray light each day. I also want to take photos of all four Raccoon Dolls together--other than the one below, that is.
The eternal search for shoes that fit.

From left to right: Lucy in FairyLand MiniFee high heels; Gene in Iplehouse JID patent leather pumps (probably not real leather); Sarah in Iplehouse JID pink and gray pumps; Mika in Iplehouse JID patent leather heels with the ankle straps removed. The Iplehouse JID shoes are a tiny bit loose, so stockings help assure a more secure fit. The pink and gray pumps are the loosest, so I added felt insoles inside the shoes. The scale of the Iplehouse heels works well with these girls, and the arch is a perfect match. The MiniFee heels are a perfect fit on bare feet but will not accommodate stockings.
And one pair that didn't fit.

On the right (worn by Iplehouse KID Lisa) is a pair of shiny gold pumps from LeekeWorld in size D for 4.5cm feet. I had hoped that these would fit Raccoon girls' 4.7cm feet because the length of the shoe matched that of the MiniFee heels to the left. Unfortunately, Leeke gave only the height and length of the shoe, not the width, with the result that the LeekeWorld shoes were not wide enough to fit. It's not a total loss as Lisa gets to play dress up in shoes that actually fit her.

This week I need to get back to my Elsa Project. I feel some urgency because my FairyLand order status has changed to Before Shipping. Just my luck--the doll will be here before her outfit is finished. I only hope we get a short spell of warmer weather (i.e., above freezing, with no precipitation) so I can do her face-up.

While I'm in editing mode, here is Lucy's finished pantsuit with my silly little hat. It's an attempt at a garrison cap. I didn't use a pattern. I looked at a few online, then played it by ear. I forgot to add seam allowances, so it ended up smaller than intended in some parts.