Sunday, March 26, 2017

Opulent for Raccoon Monica

I'm trying a new pattern for my Raccoon girls: Opulent for 18-inch Kitty Collier, designed by Tamara Casey for Designs by Jude. Usually I use patterns for 17-inch Super Deluxe DeeAnna Denton. Neither doll's measurements are the same as Raccoon's, but both are close enough that they can be adapted with a few modifications. Kitty's bust is the same as DeeAnna's, her waist is one-eighth inch smaller, her hips are a full inch smaller. Because of the hips, only full-skirted fashions for Kitty Collier will fit Raccoon girls. Raccoon's height equals 17.5 inches. Designs by Jude makes the same patterns available for several size dolls, so I could have chosen Opulent for DeeAnna. I simply would have needed to lengthen the skirt.

The outfit consists of a full underskirt, a petticoat, and a fully-lined overdress. I made a muslin of the bodice and was pleased to see that it looked like it would fit without alteration. If I had bothered to line the muslin (that's not a step I normally do), I would have noticed that the extra thickness means the edges just barely meet in back. It's too late to cut the back pieces wider, but I think I can make it work with hooks and eyes. Laces would be better, or even just an extension panel to allow snaps. The dress isn't finished so I still have time to think about it.
Finished underskirt with unfinished bodice
By-and-large, the pattern is easy to follow, if you don't count the missing steps. I read the pattern instructions several times to make sure I didn't skip over them. Not there. Unfortunately they deal with finishing the bodice. What really annoys me is that I could have made the bodice up to that point with no instructions whatsoever, but once I joined the lining to the main fabric at the back and neckline as directed, I wasn't sure how to proceed with the rest. Should I leave the sleeve and side seams until ready to join bodice and skirt? Or should I do them now? Should I sew the sleeves and side seams of the main fabric and lining together as if they were a single thickness of fabric? I don't like that option as it leaves raw edges exposed that can snag and unravel, as well as catch on the doll's hands when I'm dressing her. If I do use that option, I have to hand finish all the raw edges because I don't have a serger. So I finished the fabric and lining separately, hoping to join the two at the cuff. Although this didn't quite work, I think I know where I went wrong. I'll give it another try before I join the overskirt to the bodice.
The pattern, unfinished overskirt, and some trims
I chose to make the gown in cotton in case I encountered problems that might ruin my fabric. It's a lovely fabric, just not what comes to mind when one hears the word opulent. I'll save my fancy fabrics for when I've worked out all the kinks. The cotton did give me some trouble, specifically when gathering it to fit the waistband. Thank goodness I ran two parallel threads for gathering, because one of them broke off as I pulled them through. Even so the fabric ended up wider than the waistband; I had to finish gathering it by hand.

Embellishing the gown was fun. I used a variety of materials: lace, trim, beads, ribbon, and silk flowers. I took the silk flowers apart, discarded all the plastic bits and then joined the flowers to beads to hold them onto the skirt. The underskirt and the skirt part of the overdress are done. I still want to add a few flowers to the bodice and the sleeves. I also need to join the bodice to its skirt, fix the lining, and sew the petticoat, and then I'll be done. That means a photo of the completed gown will have to wait until next week.
Notions for trimming overskirt

Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Wandering Fashion Stash

I have a small stash of clothing left over from a former fashion doll collection. Every so often I come across it as I root around my basement storage looking for other things. I try to make note of where I saw it so I can find it again, only to search in vain the next time I want it. It's as though the box had legs capable of carrying it from one basement room to the other. I'd been on the hunt for it for well over a year without success--until it resurfaced a week ago, on a top shelf well out of my reach. Did I run upstairs for the step-ladder? You bet I did. And glad I did so.

The box contained clothing items for Tonner men and women, as well as for Franklin Mint character dolls. I found a jacket for Tonner men that looks like it will fit Model Delf Avalanche. I didn't want to take off his Highland garb so he didn't try it on. (SoulKid Yarn has been rehomed so Avalanche inherited the Scottish outfit Yarn had been wearing.) I also found a Tonner tuxedo jacket. How and when did that get separated from the shirt and pants?
Monica wearing Emme
I never had many fashions for Tonner's Tyler, probably because I bought dressed dolls and didn't change their clothes. The one outfit I have--Shakespeare in the Park--is too small for anyone currently on hand. I won't get rid of it because you never know when a future doll may come along who finds it a perfect fit. There was an outfit for Tonner's plus-size model Emme, which almost fits Raccoon girls. I'm debating whether or not to alter it. Not only is it loose on top, but when the doll is seated the high-low gown readily reveals whether or not she is wearing underpants. The shoes fit (if you like flimsy plastic shoes).
Vinyl Princess Diana fashions
Most of the stash consisted of extra outfits for Franklin Mint dolls: Princess Diana, Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, and Laurel Empress of the Elves. I can thank a flooded basement in a previous home for the fact that I still have my Diana dolls. The flood damaged the boxes of both a porcelain Diana and the vinyl fashion Diana, so I never felt I could sell them. (The dolls themselves were on display in my bedroom and came to no harm.) That's good news for my WithDoll girls, who are now enjoying Diana's gowns. The gowns are a better fit on Priscilla, who has a large bust. They tend to engulf Emma's smaller chest. I also have Diana's wedding gown, as well as the pale blue suit that came with the doll. Although the jewelry fits WithDoll girls, I found that Diana's tiara suits Raccoon Gene's smaller head better, while the large necklace that came with Gene's pink gown works better on Priscilla, so they switched jewelry. The Franklin Mint clutch handbags are so small they look like wallets. Shoes don't work at all.
I can't see any of my WithDolls wearing Marilyn's gaudy red gown. Fortunately, the Marilyn Monroe doll is one that didn't sell--too many of them available at any one time--so I have the option of exchanging outfits. The boxed doll is wearing a cute pink and black gown that should look sweet on Priscilla or one of the elves. I don't know about the Lucille Ball I Love Lucy outfit. It's from the episode where Lucy and Vivian are on the candy-making assembly line. It would work as a waitress uniform if I ever want to pose dolls in a diner-like setting.
Ruby wearing Laurel
The final outfit available to me was one belonging to Laurel Empress of the Elves. Laurel was a beautiful doll resembling Arwen from Lord of the Rings, but because The Franklin Mint didn't have a licensing agreement for LotR they gave her another name. The outfit consists of a long green sleeveless tunic worn over a white blouse and brown trousers. Everything fits my WithDoll elves except the boots, but the tunic is a little too tight to wear over the pants. I suppose Angela could wear the blouse and trousers while Ruby wears the tunic together with the leggings and arm warmers I made for her. For now, Ruby is wearing the leggings with the blouse and tunic (above).
Laurel's tunic with my leggings & arm warmers
I have a small number of vinyl dolls left, some that did not sell, others I didn't want to part with or for whom I have no boxes. I'm beginning to see these less as a storage liability and more as an untapped source of extra fashions. I've already mentioned the possibility of switching Marilyn's two gowns. There is an Elizabeth Taylor doll with a gorgeous white ballgown. I also have a couple of Mel Odom dolls (Gene and Madra) whose outfits may fit MiniFee. I know MiniFee can wear Madra's coat.

As for Tonner's Captain Jack Sparrow (Pirates of the Caribbean), I think I'll keep him just as he is.

And before I forget, here is Raccoon Monica in the unruly Iplehouse wig after I tamed it with a hot water soak. The "before" photo follows it.
The taming of the wig
I've given it another soak since the "after" photo was taken and it's looking even better. I think the trick is not to blow it dry, because the dryer seemed to add curl rather than straighten the hair. I thought it would do the opposite.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

FID Claude and Raccoon Temptation Monica

Yesterday was bitterly cold, with leftover ice and snow from the day before, so I skipped the March doll meet-up. Not to worry, though. If I don't have meet-up photos, I do have photos of two new dolls to share.

The first arrival was Iplehouse FID Claude. His SID version was the first big Iplehouse doll I fell in love with, early in the Elemental Guardians series. No way could I resist that sweet face with its quirky little smile. I eventually sold SID Claude for the same reason I sold my other big Iplehouse dolls: too heavy, too hard to manipulate, impossible for me to restring. Not to mention how much display space they occupy. Then along came FID Claude. Under 50cm tall but with all the detail of the bigger version. In other words, perfect. Even so I almost didn't order him, put off by a face-up that made him look too boyish for the mini Hercules body. (For the record, FID is a slimmer HID, not a miniaturized SID.) Fortunately the B-type makeup not only looked more masculine, but resembled the makeup I wish I had requested with my original Claude, so I ordered him. How could I not?
Claude arrived a week ago yesterday, having spent a mere two days in transit. I tore into the box before the delivery man even left my driveway. FID Claude did not disappoint, although the wig I ordered did. At least it wasn't intended for him, but for Raccoon Monica, who was in transit at the time. More about the wig later. I didn't order clothing this time, just brown boots for my JID boys to free up their black boots for the FID men. A word of caution about JID shoes and boots: the boots fit FID men, the shoes don't. Boots are always a bit longer than shoes, and male FID feet need that extra length.
I gave Claude the wig I had intended for Leonard. It's odd, to me Leonard's face looks slimmer than Claude's, but whereas the wig seemed skimpy on Leonard it fits Claude just fine. The wig is James from Facets by Marcia. Most of her wigs are by Monique, but she also carries a few styles identified only as being from a Custom Manufacturer. Inside the wig is a tag that reads JF Styler.
The shirt I meant to put on him was badly wrinkled after Lawrence wore it. I did eventually iron it but for now, in a hurry to take photos while I still had good light, I dressed him in pants and shoes and got to work. Even half dressed he gamely played up to the camera.
Raccoon's Temptation Monica in Sweet Mocha resin arrived Monday. You'll remember that the first Monica I received was the wrong color. I sent her back, not minding the extra 3 or 4 weeks it would take to re-make her if waiting meant I'd get the color I wanted. Finally the shipping notice came. I had tracked her progress and knew when she was out for delivery, so I started to panic when it looked like the mail carrier wasn't going to stop. Maybe he saw me in the window or else he happened to remember he had a package, but he backed the truck to the end of the driveway and walked up. Thank goodness!
So here's where Iple's miserable wig comes in. I wish I knew how they tamed it for their photos. I couldn't make it look presentable no matter how I brushed it or tried to pin it back. It sticks out all over the place, totally uncontrolled and uncontrollable. Not only that, but sections of the first row of the cap look like there is no hair attached. It's also extremely tight on a Raccoon girl, whose head is slightly smaller than an FID woman's. That's the second FID wig I've purchased from them--both were unwearable. Their construction reminds me of the cheap wigs I bought early in my BJD collecting days. It's not the quality one expects or normally gets from Iplehouse wigs. The first photo below shows the wig on Monica. The Iplehouse wig is on the left in the second photo with a For My Doll wig on the right. She's wearing the For My Doll wig in the other photos.
Back to Monica. The Sweet Mocha is such a lovely skin color, dark but still light enough to show every detail. I had already decided that she would wear a dress I made from a Designs by Jude pattern for DeeAnna Denton called Hollywood Ahoy! I had ordered Raccoon's pink evening gown with her in mind, but Gene claimed it when I returned Dark Mocha Monica. Gene has informed me that she will not relinquish her gown, especially now that I've finally found the small stash of clothing from my old Tonner and Franklin Mint fashion dolls. (I've been looking for it for well over a year.) None of the clothes fit Raccoon or FID women but the jewelry works, so with the pink gown Gene now wears a tiara and necklace originally belonging to vinyl Princess Diana. The dresses, surprisingly, fit my WithDoll girls.
I had trouble photographing Monica and Claude together. My camera takes its reading from her and Claude ends up washed out. Granted he is pale to begin with; even so I'll need to pair him with Normal Skin girls. With a darker girl, distance shots work better than close-ups.
Monica photographed better with FID Lawrence. Iplehouse Real Skin is slightly warmer in tone than Raccoon's Sweet Mocha but the colors are otherwise closely related. They work well together.
I now find myself in the unusual position of having no dolls on order. That's not to say there are no dolls on my want list, only that any new orders will have to wait until a doll sells or my tax refund arrives.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Bagpipes for Leonard

Last week after I posted FID Leonard in his Scottish Highlander outfit, one commenter suggested that all he needed was pipes. To tell the truth, bagpipes hadn't occurred to me, but once planted the idea took hold and I couldn't let it go. (Thanks, Mia!😊)

First I looked online to see if I could find suitably sized bagpipes for sale. The musical instruments site where I bought my small bouzouki didn't have any, but I did find some pipes advertised on another site as a Christmas ornament. The size seemed right, the price was decent and yet I didn't buy them. Instead I pulled up lots of images of the real thing, hoping to find a pattern. Although I didn't find one, I learned enough simply by looking that I decided to make my own anyway.
I started by assembling materials. I didn't buy anything. Heaven knows I have enough craft materials on hand to stock a shop as it is. I just went with what I had. Pictured above:
  • an image - I could have printed a diagram from the internet, except I found an image in one of my books: What's What, a Visual Glossary of the Physical World, by David Fisher and Reginald Bragonier Jr. Hammond, 1981. There may be newer editions, but for something as ancient as bagpipes it didn't matter.
  • fiberfill - for stuffing the bag.
  • glue - to hold it all together.
  • round sticks - 2 sizes, for the pipes. (Mine came from the grocery store.) I used a candy apple stick for the bass drone (the tall pipe that is thicker around than the others) and a couple of wooden skewers to cut down for the chanter, the blowpipe and the two tenor drones.
  • paints - I used black and dark brown acrylic craft paints. I painted a coat of dark brown first, then after it dried I painted black over it. I was going to use silver paint for the metal bits, but decided to use craft sheet metal instead (see below).
  • polymer gloss medium - for a bit of shine on the pipes and protection from scratches.
  • 2 paintbrushes - one for paint and a different brush for gloss.
  • wire - The photo shows a small roll of florist wire covered in white thread. This was to have wrapped around the drones to represent the mounts, but I found as I tried to work with it that the thread unraveled. Glue just made a bigger mess, so I discarded it.
  • tartan fabric - to cover the bag. I replaced this with red velvet.
  • ribbon - to connect the tops of the drones. I replaced this with a length of yellow cord (pictured below) with tassels at either end. No idea what it was originally attached to--it's been sitting in a box of notions for years. It was the perfect length so I went with it. So glad I didn't use it for something else!
  • muslin - for the bag itself. Actually the muslin was a test of the paper pattern I drew. It worked, so I used it. Bagpipe bags are usually covered with either a solid fabric or a tartan.
  • ArtEmboss metal sheet. I cut a strip about one-half inch wide. The metal is soft enough to cut with scissors and folds easily. I folded each long edge under by one-eighth inch, so that my final width was one-quarter inch. The folds make it thicker and the edges are smooth so I won't cut my fingers. I cut the long strip into pieces just big enough to wrap around each pipe. Although the metal looks gold in the photo, the color is pewter.
  • fancy braid - to decorate the end of the bag cover. It should be a fringe, but I didn't have any.
  • jump rings - my substitute for the florist wire. I used jewelry making tools (a cheap set acquired for doll projects) to open the rings enough to insert them and them clamp them shut again.
  • miscellaneous - scissors, sandpaper, craft knife, wire cutters, ruler, needle and thread, etc.
The finished pipes. From left to right: tenor drone, tenor drone, bass drone, blowpipe, and on the bottom: chanter. I admit to a somewhat unscientific approach to positioning my pipes. I made the bag, stuffed it, sewed it shut, and then jabbed the pipes into it. When it came to putting the bag cover on, I had no way of transferring the holes to the second fabric so I made new holes where I thought they should go. They didn't line up exactly--if at all. If I make another set I'll mark the placement of each hole on the pattern.
And here are the finished pipes in use. They probably could have been slightly bigger. My bass drone couldn't have been any taller unless I cut it from a dowel, because what you see is the actual length of the candy apple stick, minus about one-quarter inch that's sunk into the bag. I did find measurements for standard size pipes on one website, but when I converted them to doll size the resulting instrument would have been way too big. It is what it is.
In other news, FID Claude arrived yesterday and I'm expecting Raccoon Monica tomorrow. I'll discuss them next week unless there is a doll meet-up next Saturday. Or if there is a doll meet-up and snow, in which case I won't go.