Sunday, February 28, 2016

Night at the Opera for Raccoon Lucy: the Bustier

Instead of launching into another Regency gown this week, I put it aside for later and opted to try a different pattern.  Night at the Opera for DeeAnna Denton, from Designs by Jude, is not a pattern I would have attempted for the Raccoon girls with glamour body. As you can see from the photo on the pattern envelope, the finished dress is close fitting through the hips. Raccoon's glamour body is a half-inch larger than DeeAnna's in the hips, while the slim body's hip measurement matches DeeAnna's exactly. I'm not saying it can't be made for the glamour body, only that making it for the fuller figure requires some calculation and redrawing of the pattern. So I am making the outfit for Lucy, who is on the slim body. Either way it needs adjustment for length, because Raccoon girls are taller than DeeAnne.
I started by cutting out a muslin (below) and set to work putting the bustier together. I didn't bother to cut a lining. Instead I hemmed the bustier where the lining seams would go. Because of the doll's ample curves, the bustier pieces were awkward to sew and even more awkward to iron. So who can blame me for taking a shortcut? I eyeballed the muslin bustier, told myself it would fit (actually I muttered, "Close enough,") and started on the garment.
The photo immediately above shows my fabrics for this garment. The skirt fabric looks like silk but I believe it is a blend of some kind. (I buy many of my fabrics as remnants. By the time I get around to using them, the label is long gone and it's anyone's guess what the stuff is.) Despite how it looks on the photo, the skirt fabric is actually more green than gray. I don't know how it will work up as I haven't used any part of it yet. The bone of contention here is the floral fabric in the middle of the photo. Love how it looks, have used it before, know it's a bear to work with but am using it anyway. I think it's suede cloth. The sewing machine needle refuses to go through the painted design--or if it goes through it chews up the fabric and sounds like I'm pounding a tough piece of meat--so I have to sew by hand.
You can get an idea of the awkwardness of this pattern from the above photo. (At the bottom left is the wrong side of the batiste lining. I prefer white, even though it sometimes shows around the edges of the garment, because it lessens the danger that a fabric will stain the doll.)  Even after ironing the seams open, the bottom of the bustier puckers.
In the above photo the top seam has been sewn and trimmed. I wish I had tried the bustier on the doll at this point, because it would have been easier to fix a problem with fit. Unfortunately, I didn't notice how loose the bust was in front until I laced it up the back. Rather than take everything apart, I made a couple of darts (very thick because of the layers of fabric involved) and hoped they wouldn't show. The perfectionist in me says pick it apart and do it correctly. My lazy side tells me to leave it alone as the doll won't care one way or the other. I think my perfectionist side may win out on this one. The bust just doesn't fit right.
The appliques may be coming off, too. They don't really add anything aesthetically. Mostly they just look odd, especially the one on her hip. That one was intended to go on a front side panel. It ended up on a side back panel to cover an uneven seam line.
The pattern calls for eyelets in back to lace up the bustier. I like applying eyelets about as much as I like poison ivy, so I looked for other means of closing the back. There wasn't enough overlap for snap sets. If a corset or bustier closes in front I like to apply lace to each edge and run a ribbon through it to lace it up. There was no point wasting pretty lace on the back of the garment, so next I considered hooks and eyes. Finally I settled on metal eyes and laced a ribbon through them.

Next week I tackle the skirt.
Bonus shot of Lucy, just because...

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Regency for Raccoon Doll Girls

Welcome to the first blog post in a long time that is not Disney Frozen related.  I was itching to do something else and happily turned to my small pile of DeeAnna Denton patterns, which I am sewing for my Raccoon Doll girls. The one I picked to work on is Regency, by Tamara Casey from Designs by Jude.
The pattern calls for an overlay that uses a different fabric from the main dress. I wasn't sure how this would come together so I started by playing with muslin. After working on it, I can say without hesitation that muslin is not the fabric of choice for this gown. Never mind that early 19th Century English novels often describe heroines as dressed in gowns of "sprigged muslin". Not sure if I'm interpreting this correctly, but I always assumed the term referred to a muslin printed with a tiny floral pattern. If anyone out there knows differently, please let me know. The point I'm getting at is that muslin is too thick to give a good idea of how the finished dress will look. You can't tell by looking at the photo on the pattern envelope (above), but the overlay over the bodice is gathered. You end up with a lot of fabric covering the bust. Thank goodness I opted for the small bust for all four of my girls.
I decided to omit the overlay this time and focus instead on getting the gown to fit. I am happy to report that the fit of this gown is nearly perfect. I did lengthen it, because the Raccoon dolls are taller than DeeAnna Denton. In fact, I lengthened it too much and had to put the doll on a stand with a wooden base instead of the thin metal I usually use. I will eventually shorten the dress. I just didn't feel like doing it today. After trying and rejecting several possible trims, I chose a blue and white floral trim to accentuate the bustline.
I intend to make at least one more dress from this pattern. As I was going through my fabric stash looking for possibilities, I came across a thin, transparent fabric printed with small pink flowers, very similar to the one on the finished gown on the pattern envelope. Instead of green, I plan to make the underdress in white. On the other hand, there is a pale yellow cotton with tiny blue flowers that I would love to use. It's too pretty to cover with an overlay, so it might become a third gown. It would be fun to make a Spencer jacket and a bonnet to go with one or all of them. There is a pattern in my stash that I should be able to adapt--not that I want to get caught up in another project when there are dolls on order who will need clothes. I can't sew for them, however, until I see how they fit into clothing I already have. They will be a project for another day.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Frozen Heart: Elsa and Anna

I posted a Frozen-inspired photostory on Den of Angels, and thought I'd repeat it here for anyone who doesn't have access to DoA. Some of the photos are different. I have also tweaked the text in a few places. Enjoy!

Anna: I can't believe Elsa has made it snow in July! It's pretty, 
but I really hope she'll bring back summer.

Elsa: Anna, what are you doing here? You must go back! You're not safe here.
Anna: Why wouldn't I be safe? You're my sister. And besides, Arendell 
is in really, really deep snow. Please, Elsa, end this winter and come home.
Elsa: This is my home now, Anna. I'm happy here. Leave me alone.

Anna: How can you be happy all alone? I need you. 
Arendell needs you. Surely you can reverse this winter!
Elsa: I can't! Don't you understand? I don't know how!
Elsa: I don't want to hurt you, Anna.  But you're
in great danger here. Everything I touch turns to ice.

Anna: Oh! Oh, no...

Anna: So cold. So very, very c-c-c-cold.
Elsa: I'm sorry, Anna. I can't be what you want me to be. 
Now will you go?

Anna: I'm not leaving without you, Elsa.
Love will find a way.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The Anna Project, Part 5 and Done

It's done!  At last.  Well, all but the mittens and I'm still debating whether or not I want to make those.  To tell the truth, I'm a little tired of this project. I want to move on to other things. On the other hand, they're just mittens...
Thank goodness I made a muslin of Anna's cape and bonnet, because it took those practice pieces for me to figure out how to put these two items together. At one point the cape directions sent me to Elsa's coronation outfit cape for the next step. Or two or three. When do I go back to Anna's cape?  I guess when the directions stop making sense. The cape muslin also showed me that I had cut out the wrong collar piece. No wonder it didn't fit! To save time I pinned the bonnet muslin together but didn't sew it. Bad move. Even though I thought I understood the directions, I still sewed the bonnet brim wrong. Finishing the muslin might have saved me from taking out a lot of stitches. It was so much easier once I did it the right way. The pattern actually fit as printed, but into account the inch-and-a-half extra length I gave the skirt, I lengthened the cape slightly as well.
Probably the greatest amount of time went into the gimp braid. I could have made a fabric trim instead. The Simplicity pattern included pieces for it. But no, I liked the fancier look of gimp. It's funny, but in all the times I've worked with narrow gimp I've never had a problem with unraveling. This time I bought half-inch braid, only a little wider than my usual. It was too thick to fold over the ends, but I didn't want the tape that was holding it together to show. I thought it would be safe to sew across the braid near the tape and cut off the end. Well, doing that cost me at least three inches of braid before I was able to stop the unraveling. And those three inches meant I didn't have enough half-inch braid for the collar. I looked at the narrow braid that I was going to use for the bonnet. Would there be enough leftover from the bonnet to do the collar, too? Though it didn't look like it, there was just enough. Project saved.

The bonnet pattern called for a piece of cording to go inside the brim. Not sure what that's supposed to do, especially as Anna's bonnet in the movie is trimmed with a piece of fur. I substituted a fur-like trim for the lumpy cord. It's actually a tiny feather boa that looks like fur from a distance. It's messy to work with and impossible to clean up. I'll be inhaling tiny feathers for a while until I can vacuum. But the look is worth it.
I will probably devote one more post to the completed project. There wasn't time today to set up and photograph both girls together, especially as I didn't get around to ironing my other backdrop.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

The Anna Project, Part 4

This past week I accomplished a number of small things that advanced the project without providing many photo opportunities. The biggest photo op came with a small break in the cold weather last Monday, when I decided to repaint Elsa.  Her previous face-up wasn't bad, it was simply marred slightly with stray pastel powder that extended her lip color to her cheek. Even though I fixed my photos in Photoshop, I knew that showing her at doll meetups meant others would photograph her smears and all. For her first face-up I had used photos of Elsa as a guide to eyebrow placement, freckles and makeup colors. This time I decided to forgo photos and let her face sculpt be my guide. I even left off the freckles. She didn't need them. (What she does need are new eyelashes, as her present ones got mashed during removal and re-gluing.)

The result surprised me. My renewed Elsa looked younger than her sister Anna. I took some photos and studied them. There was only one thing to do. Elsa became Anna and Anna became Elsa. I'm thrilled with the new pairing. Mirwen as Elsa looks more like the young queen who is terrified by her powers. Lacrima as Anna gives off the feeling of happy optimism that marks the younger sister. I only wonder why I didn't see it sooner.
The garments that I have sewn so far have been bothering me for a while. Both Elsa's and Anna's skirts were loose at the waist.  I decided to alter both of them to fit. Elsa's was an easy fix; all it took was moving the snaps. Anna's skirt took a little more thought and a lot more work.  The skirt has four pleats--two in front and two in back. Adjusting them would have been easier if I hadn't lined the skirt. Even though I planned to alter only the back set of pleats, I had to take out the back seams, the two skirt pleats, the corresponding lining pleats, and the waist seam that encompassed them before I could sew everything back together. The finished skirt is a better fit. Of course, now that it sits at her waist instead of below it, it's also shorter. This skirt definitely could have used more length, but with all the embroidery on it there is no way to add fabric. I could always remake it. Tantalizing as the opportunity to perfect my embroidery might be, do I really want to go there?

I had hoped to finish a muslin to check Anna's cape for fit. As luck would have it, I ran out of muslin before cutting out all the pieces so I had to go back to the store. I got as far as basting the body to the yoke and pinning the capelet at the shoulders.  Just eyeballing it on the table, I think it needs to be longer. I'm hoping the shoulders will fit. If not, I'll have to alter the pattern for width as well as length.

After spending time online looking for the right trim for Anna's cape, I settled on a dark red half-inch gimp braid whose color was identified as ruby.  I had hoped for a wine or a burgundy.  It looked dark on my monitor, but we all know how very different colors can appear in real life versus online.  I ordered two yards of it and held my breath until it arrived.  Big sigh of relief! It's even darker than the small length of gimp I was hoping to match. My old piece of gimp braid is narrower, so I may use it on the collar and save the wider braid for the body of the cape. I didn't bother ordering pom pom fringe. One, I couldn't match the color of my braid and two, I don't like pom poms anyway.

To cap off my week I ordered some fabrics to serve as photo backgrounds for the finished outfits. I wanted snow and/or wintry scenes, two motifs that the local stores seem to have put away for the season. In fact, the nearest fabric store had progressed beyond both Valentine's Day and St. Patrick's Day and was showcasing Easter.  I guess that means that a few weeks before Easter we'll be treated to the red-white-and-blue of the patriotic holidays as well as the beachy colors of summer. Welcome to retail!