Sunday, March 27, 2016

New Romantic Shushu

New Romantic is a Regency style pattern from Adams-Harris Pattern Company designed for Ellowyne Wilde. It's from the Spring 2009 Collection and I first made it that same year for U-noa Lusis, shown here on the right with Bimong's Narae and Limhwa's Limho Mano. (Of the three, Narae on the left is the only one still at home.)
I've been thinking about this pattern ever since I made a Regency gown for Raccoon Doll Mika. I pulled out the 2009 dress and put it on Narae. It fit but was shorter on her than I liked. Next I tried the gown on resin Ellowyne and was surprised to find that the decolletage dipped all the way down to her waist!  Did I modify the pattern for U-noa's large bust when I sewed it originally? If I did I don't remember. Maybe resin Ellowyne is narrower on top than her vinyl cousin. (I keep forgetting to measure them.) Whatever the reason, it was obviously time to make a new gown.

I pulled Sunshine by April Cornell for Moda, a cotton fabric that I had hoped to use for Mika's gown. The piece wasn't long enough for Mika, but I had plenty for a gown this size. I also pulled some white lace for trim, but then ended up using a combination of ribbon and a different white lace instead, along with ribbon flowers. The pattern envelope shows a matching shawl. I cut it out from a white batiste but didn't sew it together. What I would prefer is to crochet a lacy-looking shawl. I have some white crochet thread that I thought would work, but either it's too thin or I'm all thumbs or I need a different size crochet hook or all of the above. I'll head over to the yarn shop this week and see what else they have in stock.
So here is the finished gown, modeled by MiniFee Shushu. She looks so sweet in it that I plan to make coordinating gowns for my other MiniFees.
Here Shushu is joined by Mika in her Regency gown and U-noa Sist in the earlier New Romantic gown. The Moda fabric is a heavier weight than the fabric I used originally, which accounts for the different way it drapes. In honor of Easter, Mr. Bun Bun has joined them for picture taking.
And because Mr. Bun Bun got cut off at the bottom of the above photo, here he is on his own, wishing everyone a HAPPY EASTER!
(Mr. Bun Bun is a tree ornament that I purchased at Jo-Ann's just before Christmas.)

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Knit, Purl, Single Crochet

My mother taught me to crochet when I was a child. I don't remember much of my early crochet experiences beyond an argument I had with a friend over which was better: crochet or knitting. Come to think of it, although I lost touch with that friend decades ago, I hear other people argue the same point even today.  Neither is better, folks. Both can give beautiful results, so just go with whichever of them gives you the most pleasure and/or the best results. That's the wisdom of age speaking.

Now, where was I? Oh yes, crochet. No examples survive of my early work; however, I am pretty sure that what I made back then were doll clothes. I had no patterns. It was all trial and error, working and adjusting and re-adjusting until I had something that sort of fit. Mom wasn't much help in that department. Her specialty was granny square afghans. Oddly enough I never felt the urge to crochet one of those, perhaps because there were already too many of them spread around the house.
My recent knitting books

Fast forward a few decades. Somehow I left crochet behind with my childhood. I was living and working in a university town. Some of my colleagues got me interested in knitting and together we took a course at a local yarn shop. My first project was a sweater vest for my Dad. It was to be a surprise gift for Christmas, so there was no question of trying it on him for size even if we hadn't been hundreds of miles apart at the time. (That's my excuse for why it came out so big.) Nevertheless, I was off and running. The sweaters accumulated. I changed jobs and moved a couple of times. The sweaters went into storage with everything else.
Practice, practice, practice!
Fast forward again. I am happy to find myself once more in a town with a yarn shop that offers classes. Last November I took a two-hour class in beginning knitting. Although I may not be a beginner I definitely needed a refresher on the basics. The skills quickly returned. It's nice to know the muscle memory hasn't deserted me. Not that I have made much with my resurrected skills beyond an eyelash yarn wrap for Raccoon Doll Mika and a small cap that currently fits no-one. I'd say it's a size 4-5. Too big for RealPuki, too small for anyone else.
Mika and her wrap
Yesterday I took a refresher in crochet. Hello crochet my old friend! Maybe it's my age, but I'm finding a single crochet hook much easier to manipulate than two knitting needles. The yarn doesn't slip off the hook so I don't drop stitches. That means I can remove individual stitches without watching a whole row unravel. I got the hang of it pretty quickly.

A few years ago I tried to relearn crochet from a book, but for some reason I couldn't get it. There are some differences between the book and the method I learned in class. Is one of them wrong? Or is it another way to arrive at the same result? I'll have to make a small square using the book's method to see if both look the same when they're done. The book has some crochet patterns for human size garments that I would love to make for dolls.
RealPuki Kaka attended class with me  Now he wants his own crochet hook.
I spent some time online looking for crochet pattern books for dolls. I found a few; however most reviewers complained that the directions made no sense. Experienced crocheters might be able to circumvent the instructions and still turn out a wearable garment. The rest of us should take warning. Hmm, I think I'll take my chances with re-sizing human garments instead. I did buy a knitting pattern book last year but haven't progressed to actual garments yet. The patterns are for 18 inch play dolls (most of the books are) so even if the patterns work, they still need re-sizing. Maybe I'll just play it by ear.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Happy St. Patrick's Day

As promised, here is the revised Irish step dancing costume. I replaced the original bodice with the one from the blouse in Steampunk for MiniFee (Adams-Harris). Because it's a blouse that is meant to be tucked in, I added two small darts at the waist to reduce the bulk and cut off the excess fabric at the bottom. The top is still looser than I would like on a doll with a small bust, but at least it will accommodate a larger bust if desired. This pattern allowed plenty of overlap in back for snap sets. The dress should have a high neck, but no collar is necessary, so I omitted the collar and turned the neck opening under. I reused the sleeves from the first bodice. I had to redo the embroidery.
The model this time is MiniFee Mirwen. She is accompanied by a wee leprechaun who is nervously guarding his pot of gold. He shouldn't worry. Mirwen is so intent on her dance that she hasn't noticed it.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Sunday, March 13, 2016

An Irish Step Dancer for St. Patrick's Day

Thursday is St. Patrick's Day. The day for the wearin' o' the green. And maybe dancing with the leprechauns. Except you won't see a wee leprechaun in this post because it's too late to outfit a Realpuki and take new photos. Wish I had thought of it sooner.

Casting about for a way to celebrate the holiday, it occurred to me to dress a doll as an Irish step dancer. Riverdance and all that. (Remember Riverdance? Big hit of the 90's. In fact, 2016 is its 20th Anniversary and the show is on tour to celebrate.) I don't have any Irish dance patterns, but I do have a skirt pattern for MiniFee that has the traditional box pleats (Flirty MiniFee). Now that I think of it, I probably should have combined it with the blouse pattern from Steampunk MiniFee. Simply replacing the short puffed sleeves with long straight sleeves would have given me a better overall shape (and fewer problems) than the crop top from All Dolled Up MiniFee that I ended up using. (All patterns from Adams-Harris.) I could still do it, even if it means redoing my embroidery. It wasn't all that great the first time.

I pulled The Costume Book by Mary Burke Morris for inspiration. It has several full-color photos of  traditional style Irish step-dancing costumes. Although the chapter on costume-making techniques contains valuable information, I wish this book included patterns. Maybe one in each category? If it did it would earn my unqualified vote for Best Costume Book Ever! (The book is subtitled: The Non-Professional's Guide to Professional Results. It's geared to dressing performers.)
My fabric stash turned up a Kelly green cotton that I had completely forgotten about. I sifted through my yellows and came up with a small floral print to serve as a flash of color for the underside of the inverted pleats. Some dance costumes contain a riot of embroidered motifs. (Check out the one in the center of the cover of The Costume Book, above.) I wasn't about to attempt anything like that on a small scale, but I did want some decoration. Appliques on this size garment were out of the question. Even simple Celtic knot patterns would be a huge challenge at this scale.
As an experiment I printed a set of Celtic rubber stamps onto paper. I then traced the simplest design among them onto scrap fabric using tracing paper. After a few stitches with embroidery floss the pattern rubbed off and I couldn't see what I was doing. I needed a simpler design. Off I went to my jewelry box. Most of the stuff I have collected over the years is Scottish rather than Irish, but beggars can't be choosers. I selected a blue and silver kilt pin and reworked the design slightly. My drawing is a bit crude, but the embroidery would cover it so it didn't matter.
I didn't take any in-process photos of the actual sewing. Frankly, once I get going it's hard to stop. I did make some alterations to the patterns to get the proportions I needed. That meant lengthening the crop top, omitting the flounce at the end of the three-quarter sleeve and lengthening the sleeve to wrist length. The skirt has a high waist, so I had to shorten it to fit closer to the doll's waist. The top was designed to be sewn in a stretch fabric. I've made it before and it fits loosely, so I figured it would work as well in a non-stretch fabric. I figured wrong. I had to add a one-inch placket to the back so that I could snap the garment shut without pulling on the fabric. Even with the extra width the fabric still pulls. From the way it's pulling, I'd say it wants darts. All the more reason to make a new top for this dress from the other pattern.
I had to create a pattern piece for the cape that fastens to the left shoulder and hangs down the dancer's back. It's a simple design cut from two pieces of fabric: green in front and yellow in back, with the yellow folded over the front to form the trim. Because I put it together before deciding what I would do for decoration, I had to be extra careful when stitching not to let my needle poke through to the back layer. I managed it, but you can bet I won't make that mistake again!
Although I sewed the costume with MiniFee Mirwen in mind, after she tried it on I decided it might look better on Resin Ellowyne Wilde. What sealed the deal was the black stockings. Mirwen didn't fit into them; Ellowyne did. Mirwen had more appropriate black dance shoes, but I simply didn't want to go with a naked leg. I'll post an update on Thursday with Mirwen wearing the costume with the revised top.
Erin go bragh! Ireland Forever!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Night at the Opera for Raccoon Lucy: the Skirt and Bustier No. 2

You read that right. I wasn't happy with last week's bustier. I tried for a couple of days to fix it--to no avail--and finally started over using a different pattern. My problem with the original pattern is that a single pattern piece attempts to do the work of both the center front and side front. As drawn, it didn't fit my small bust Lucy, although it might work better for the large bust. Try as I might, I couldn't figure out where to place a second dart to take in the extra fabric. The pattern already has a second dart, but it is so tiny that it's just about useless. Every time I tried to rework it, the dart ended up in a different place or pointing in a different direction.
The replacement corset, or, Bustier No. 2

So I turned to an old standby: Gracefaerie's #21 Corset for MSD. The pattern includes four custom sizes. I chose the one for 43cm Narae, knowing I would have to lengthen the corset to accommodate Lucy's longer torso. I also chose the pattern version with a closed front and lacing up the back, as that one most resembles the bustier in Night at the Opera. Considering the fit of the final version, I would have done better choosing a version that laces up the front. If I make this outfit again I'll try that. You'll notice I also changed my fabric. As pretty as the suede cloth is, it was too hard to sew and so I opted for a quilter's cotton with a Japanese print.
Front and back sections of the skirt. The green fabric 
looks gray against my light green cutting board.

With the bustier finally squared away I was able to start on the skirt. I made a quick muslin to check for length. Based on the results I added three-quarters of an inch to each skirt pattern piece just above the knees. The next time I use this pattern for a Raccoon girl, I'll make that a full inch, because the skirt is just a wee bit short in front. I used a fabric that looks like silk on the right side but is backed by a shiny synthetic. A note for next time: use a thinner fabric. The skirt is fully lined. While that conceals shreddy edges, it also makes the skirt thicker and heavier. The skirt is form-fitting through the hips to the knees, so this pattern will not work for Raccoon girls with the original glamour body. Lucy has the slim body.
This pattern calls for a tiny back zipper on the skirt. My doll zippers are easily twice the length of the zipper opening, in addition to which I didn't have a coordinating color so I used snaps instead. 
Lucy's wig is Shaine by Monique Gold. The color is champagne.