Sunday, August 28, 2016

Nearing Completion on the WithDoll Costumes

I'm getting there. Individual outfits need a tweak or two. The elves need casual cloaks--I'm debating whether to use a pattern or just wrap and pin a piece of fabric around each one's shoulders. Something along the lines of a Scottish fly plaid, ruana, or stole.

Even though Angela served as my fit model for the incoming dolls, I am not showing the outfits on her. Ruby and Priscilla will be the first to model their respective outfits.

I used three different patterns for Elf Ruby's costume: for the top I used All Dolled Up MiniFee (Adams-Harris) without the sleeves; for the skirt I used Down to Business (Fletcher Pattern) for Ellowyne Wilde, while for the leggings I used MHD Designs' Petits Riens. All three patterns are for different dolls so each called for a bit of finagling. The top would have been too small if I had sewed the side seams. Instead, I punched holes and laced up the sides, gaining a style element along with added width. The supple faux leather doesn't unravel, so I left raw edges for the hems on the top and skirt. Then I added beads because, forest dweller or not, Ruby is a girl who likes some bling. I need to replace her arm guards with a fabric version. As it stands, the laces interfere with the laces on the top.

Priscilla is not an elf. She will be a spirit of moonlight, if for no other reason than to allow me to use up what was left of one of my Frozen fabrics. I chose the long gown from Plaisirs D'Ete (MHD Designs) for Ellowyne Wilde. I knew going into it that the dress would be short on the taller WithDoll, but figured I could lengthen it with a bit of lace. I found lace in a lovely aqua tint and sewed it to the hem edge. So why didn't I like it? No particular reason, just a feeling that it didn't fit Priscilla's character. I looked again at my scraps of fabric. There was just enough to make a self-ruffle. I decided to add separate sleeves that she can wear or not as her mood dictates. I reached for the sequinned fabric from which I had made Frozen Elsa's corset. It had a wide strip of sparkly fabric without sequins just before the selvage edge. Perfect! Finally, I decorated the front with a beaded string tie with pendant half-moon.
Emma also lacks elf ears, so she will be a spirit of starlight. Unlike moonlight, which is the reflection of our sun's light onto the moon, stars are distant suns, therefore starlight is pure light. That meant that Emma's costume had to radiate bright white. I chose white crinkle cotton gauze and Robe Soleil (MHD Designs) for the base dress. Emma is my only small bust WithDoll, which gives her unique fit issues, so I made a muslin of the bodice to be sure of fit. After adjusting the pattern, I turned to the dress skirt.

Robe Soleil is designed to be a long dress. Because the pattern is printed on 8 1/2 by 11 inch paper, the skirt panel pieces continue onto a second sheet. You're supposed to cut them out and glue them together. Instead, I opted to use the pattern pieces without the extensions and make a shorter dress. Now that I look at the finished product, I am not completely happy with the outcome, especially with the addition of boots (my only white shoes narrow enough to fit her) and the short cloak. It's too late to sew the extensions on because the decorative streamers would then be too short, so I'm thinking of making a separate, full-length underskirt to give the dress a tiered effect. As an added benefit, a longer dress would hide the boots.
I have never succeeded in turning long, narrow tubes of fabric without tearing the seams. So instead of making fabric dress ties I substituted lengths of narrow white trim. I added a beaded motif to the bodice for some sparkle and trimmed the skirt with alternating strips of the white gauze and sparkly white eyelash yarn. As a final starry touch, I sewed star-shaped sequins to the dress panels, securing them with beads.
Both Priscilla and Emma will have cloaks made from #27 The Cloak (Gracefaerie Designs). I found a fabric similar to Priscilla's dress fabric, but in white and with a burn-out effect. The decorative dots, which I originally took to be tiny metal studs, seem on closer examination to be made of plastic. This made them easier to sew on the machine, but harder to deal with when I tried to hand stitch a rolled hem, which came out looking lumpy. I tried to pick out the stitches, thinking I would just hem it in the usual way, but it took too much time and effort not to tear the fabric. Like it or not, it is what it is. And it's impossible to iron. I can't iron the right side of the fabric in case I melt the plastic. Even ironing the wrong side with a damp cloth didn't tame it. I'm hoping it will eventually relax and hang better. The pattern instructions call for lining only the yoke and front panels. I lined the yoke, but wanted the more ethereal look of the semi-transparent fabric, which would have been lost had I lined the front.
After looking through buttons for an interesting star shape to use for decoration, I finally found a star in a sale bin at Jo-Ann Fabrics. It's not a button. It seems to be designed to slide over a hairband or wristband, so I made a band from the white gauze, passed a six-inch length of elastic through it, slipped on the star and closed it up. Voila! Instant headdress!
Emma got the short version of the cloak with a ruffled collar. I swear I followed the directions to the letter, yet my collar doesn't look anything like the illustration on the front of the pattern. What gives? No idea. Priscilla will get the long version with a hood. I would be tempted to go with a different fabric for the second cloak. The trouble is I've already cut out the pieces. It's possible the long version will hang better from the sheer weight of the fabric. I can only hope. One thing is for sure: I'm giving this one a normal hem.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

WithDoll Happy Ending Story - Lamb Laney

It's official! I am over-the-moon in love with WithDoll's tiny dolls. This past Spring I ordered two: Lamb Laney and Fox Lucy. Both are Limited Editions making a return after their first sales period. (Thank you WithDoll!) Laney arrived on Friday. So gosh darn cute, I haven't stopped squeeing since her arrival.
At 16cm, the doll is close to FairyLand's PukiFee in size. I wish I had taken some photos of her in various poses before dressing her, because she is capable of some amazing feats of balance. WithDoll has a link to a very short video showing what their tiny dolls can do. It's worth checking out: Withdoll 16cm doll pose test. The bouncy background music is accompanied by whistling. My birds went nuts when I played it. If the link does not work you can go to and find the link under any of the tinies listed under Limited Edition. It's in gray print at the end of the photos.
Laney came with a basic girl body (you can choose a boy body if you prefer), basic hands, fist hands, basic flat feet, and lamb ears, hoof hands and hoof feet. The lamb parts are shown wrapped in orange tissue paper. WithDoll included 12mm acrylic eyes, but I used some 12mm silicone eyes from my collection instead. It's a good thing I opened the shipping carton from the bottom because WithDoll packed the wig and lamb's clothing (bodysuit and bib) on top of the doll box. Opening the carton from the top I might have sliced into one of them.
The first order of business was switching hands and feet, because Laney shipped with her human parts attached. I was surprised to see hooks for the hand attachment, because WithDoll's 1:4 size doll hands have magnets. Not that the hooks were hard to deal with, just tiny. I have a sculpting tool that worked perfectly for scooping up the string and holding the hook firmly in place while I switched hands/feet. WithDoll does not provide extra hooks, so change hands and feet someplace where you can't lose them.
Part of the cute factor with these dolls is how roly-poly they look. It's all padding. My mother used to tell of the first time she ever dressed me in a snow suit and sent me out to play. She had bundled me up so well that I couldn't move. Think of the lamb suit as a snow suit and the doll as a toddler. Once you get the lamb suit on, it's hard to find things like knee and elbow joints to pose her, but, oh boy, does she ever look adorable!
I had some difficulty putting on the wig, lamb ears and hood. Starting with the wig and then trying to get the hood up over it made the head seem bigger, the wig loose and the hood too tight. After a while I figured it might be easier to attach the lamb ears to the hood first (there are magnets for this purpose), stuff the wig into the hood, and then pull the combined hood and wig onto the doll's head. It was so ridiculously easy this way I wish I had done it first.
I will probably name her Lamb Chop, after the sock puppet that was ventriloquist Shari Lewis's most readily identifiable character. Now I eagerly await Fox Lucy's arrival. I have a story idea already percolating in my imagination. In the meantime, here is a photo of Laney with AileenDoll Dragon Lapis for size comparison. (I no longer have a PukiFee for a side-by-side.) Lapis is the 12cm full-size dragon, not the 8cm baby I've shown recently with my RealPuki Papilio.
Lapis: "Fatter and cuter than me! No-o-o-o-o-o!"

Sunday, August 14, 2016

WithDoll's Egon the Elf Knight

The first time WithDoll offered Egon the Elf Knight for sale I saw him and thought, "Gosh, he's cute," but didn't order him. I don't remember which doll edged him out, only that I had to make a choice and he lost. At the time I didn't know that WithDoll re-releases its Limited Edition dolls. I believed that if I missed out, that was it. Poof! Gone. Since then I've learned to be patient because WithDoll does bring back Limiteds. My beef now is that they re-release several at a time when I can afford only one. So I'm still forced to choose.
Choosing Egon was easy this time around. The issue was how much of him to order. Blank doll? With face-up? To wig or not to wig? Optional girl body? Did I love his outfit enough to order it, or would I make my own? Did I need his option parts (sword, armor, loafers)? Wait a minute. Loafers? I looked more closely at the promo photos. Yes, loafers. Those weren't boots he was wearing, but what WithDoll calls "leg warmers" worn over plain black loafers. Definitely no on the option parts, then. So, having decided that the chief parts of his charm were the boy body, face-up and wig, that's as much as I ordered. And settled in for the three-month wait.
While waiting I ordered boots from Dollmore. I have a letter opener that looks like a sword. It might be too heavy for him to hold but it should work hanging from a sword belt. If not, I would craft a bow and arrows. I put his weaponry on the back burner for now. WithDoll's boy body measurements are close to those of the Luts Model Delf boy. The Model Delf is slightly bigger in the chest, waist and hips, so I reasoned that anything I sewed using the Model Delf as a fit model would work for Egon. Preferably it should be a little snug on the Model Delf. The LumeDoll male also has similar measurements, except his hips are a tiny bit smaller.
I assembled a group of fabrics in the colors of the forest and selected several likely patterns. For the leggings I used Petits Riens by MHD Designs. She has issued this pattern for several different doll sizes; I used the one for 14-inch Kish girl dolls. When I first tried out this pattern on MiniFee girls, I found I had to take it in. I don't know what idiocy prompted me to use the MiniFee version for the taller boys, but their hip measurements were similar, the boots would disguise any deficiency in length and the knit had four-way stretch so it worked.
The tee shirt came from Just Kickin' by Adams-Harris Pattern Company. The pattern makes a long-sleeve knit shirt with color inserts in the sleeves. I simply omitted the inserts and lower sleeve parts, as well as the collar. For the tunic I used the shirt pattern from Brummel, also by Adams-Harris. It's a pattern for 1:3 size male dolls that I photo-reduced for use with 1:4 size dolls. I used the body of the shirt and the collar but omitted the sleeves. The suede cloth I used is hard to sew. To keep sewing to a minimum, I gave the tunic hem and shoulders a zigzagged edge.
Finally, I made arm guards from old pieces of leather-look fabric. It may have been imitation leather upholstery material. Whatever it is (polyester?) it's not fine enough to be called faux. But it works for something that needs to look tough enough to protect a knight's arms in battle. My last shopping trip to Michael's turned up a leather trim with metal accents. Perfect.
Model Delf Avalanche wearing same outfit
I like the outfit so much (and the one I made for LumeDoll after discarding the first tunic I made for him) that I plan to make one for my Model Delf as well. He's not an elf, as the other two boys are, but can serve in their universe as a human forester.
LumeDoll's version

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Freya, First Girl in the SoulDoll Vito Line

I was so thrilled when SoulDoll announced a girl for their Vito line! Jin, my Vito boy, has been keeping company with a Dollmore Zaoll Luv, but they don't quite mesh stylistically. Where he is more like a tall 1:4 size, Luv is more like a short 1:3 size; together, their proportions are off. So in late March when SoulDoll announced a Vito girl, I made plans to order one. I didn't love her sculpt at first. The end of her nose struck me as bulbous. Otherwise she had a fun, sassy vibe. The first day she was available for purchase, I ordered one.
Four months later she has arrived. I'd like to say I'm over the moon, but I'm conflicted. Love her face...the body not so much. The Vito boy body is wonderfully sculpted and engineered. He takes a pose and holds it. If I don't love his grumpy facial sculpt, I put up with it because the body is so marvelous. Enter Freya with her voluptuous body. Some companies give you a choice of breast size; when they do I invariably opt for medium. I find that big is too big, small is too small, while medium is just right. SoulDoll offered no choice. The breast size is what some companies call glamorous, meaning larger than their large size. Her butt is so big you can almost balance things on it. With thunder thighs and small feet, this doll is rock solid when she sits but unbalanced when she stands.
I had to go back to SoulDoll's promo photos to see why I didn't notice the body's exaggerated assets earlier. Let's say she was very artfully photographed. In all honesty, I was probably fixated on her elbows and knees, which didn't meet my aesthetic standards. Ordinarily I would say no to a doll whose elbow and knee joints reveal sharp edges when flexed. I wanted to say yes to Freya because she was the perfect size match to Jin, and so I let myself be blinded to the features I didn't like about her.
Vito girl feet are only 6cm long. Because I wasn't sure how (or whether) she would fit into doll shoes I already own, I ordered her with both the full-set boots for her flat feet and a pair of high heel pumps for her heel feet. In SoulDoll's promo photos, Freya is shown wearing the boots with gray knee socks. Sorry, SoulDoll, but the only way Freya can wear those boots over those socks is to cut the sock feet off and wear the rest as leg warmers. Moreover, she cannot stand in the boots, as she tends to pitch forward, although this may have more to do with tight stringing and small feet than with the boots. Never mind, I thought, I'll simply change to her heel feet and she can wear the pumps.
I've changed feet on nearly every adult female doll I've ever bought. You pull out the foot, slip a hemostat, crochet hook or chopstick through the elastic so it won't shoot back up through the leg, unhook the flat foot and replace it with the heel foot. Carefully remove your hemostat (or other tool) and repeat with the other foot. Occasionally the little S-hook falls out when I'm switching feet. When that happens I find it, re-insert it and continue.

SoulDoll's setup is a little different. The S-hook is embedded in the resin. Brilliant! That means you can't lose the S-hook. On the downside, the space at the open end of the S-hook is smaller than the thickness of the elastic it's hooked onto. (I wonder if this is consistent with every doll or if it's just mine.) I tried to get the hook off the elastic. I tried every which way I could think of for fifteen minutes and then I gave up, afraid to pull too hard in case the hook detached from the resin. I was especially nervous about this because I once broke a resin hook in a Soul Kid girl's foot by pulling too hard on the string. Once burned, twice shy.
I contacted SoulDoll, explained my problem and asked for a stringing manual. They recommended cutting the strings and re-assembling the doll. They included a link to the stringing instructions for their Kid Girl N.L. body, saying the size was different but the stringing method was the same. Cutting? Re-assembling? Just to change feet? Every time I want to change shoes? Sorry. No. That's not happening. I went through my stash of doll shoes and found three pairs that she can wear, all MSD size. For now I'll just put away the heel feet and black pumps until such time as her strings lose some of their elasticity and I can try again.

Speaking of letting strings relax, Freya came tightly strung. Although her torso is jointed under the bust, it might as well be a single piece of resin because I can't move it either forward or backward. In repose her arms want to snap together in front of her. My Soul Kid girls had the same problem. It took a full day before I realized I could pull out her elbow peanuts to pose her arms. If I don't pull them out, her arms don't stay flexed. Vito boy does not have this problem. Hopefully the tightness will lessen as time goes on. I'm not banking on it, however, as my Soul Kids never fully relaxed. Whoever strings the dolls at SoulDoll must have the arm strength of two men!
I'm glad I ordered Freya's full set. It's beautifully tailored, although putting it on meant dealing with lots of buttons with tight buttonholes. At least I can loosen those. Sometime between promo photos and finished product, SoulDoll changed the badge on her vest from a fabric patch to a large red leather pin. (It says New York Style over a stylized skyline and has a metal heart with two doves clipped to it. Bizarre.) I have replaced that with a fancy button for now, until I can find something more appropriate. SoulDoll offered event gifts to celebrate Vito girl's release: a ten percent discount plus a gift outfit consisting of a dress with a flower wreath. The dress is quite elaborate and well made. It comes with a separate, very stiff petticoat (not photographed); I'll use it when I want a fuller skirt. In the photo below she is wearing DollHeart shoes for MSD and a Monique Gold Ginger wig. It may appear that she is standing on her own; that's because her doll stand is concealed by her bent arm and the position of one leg.
It's been difficult finding wigs for Vito Jin because of how far back his ears are set. I was afraid Freya might have a similar problem, so I ordered her full-set wig to be sure of having at least one that fits. My fear proved unnecessary, as she has taken easily to almost every wig I've tried on her. The only caveat I would offer is to buy a silicone wig cap, because most size 6-7 wigs are slightly big on her. A wig with heavy hair will fall right off without a cap.
At 51cm in height, Freya stands firmly between most 1:4 and 1:3 dolls. A fun height, but hard to shop for. She and Jin will probably be my only Vito line dolls.