Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Pirate's Life For Me

 The Pirate Coquette

 Coquette means Flirt - as in someone who is flirtatious.  I see Coquette as someone who has been Flirting with Danger.  Point of fact, that is how her own doll's story began- so why not have her end up there- but as the Danger herself. 

Coquette's hair is vintage 1940's blond bound mohair from my stash.  I lucked into a large quantity of this mohair years ago- and it is just the best to have sometimes.  I think it suits her quite well.

She needs a hat- but I am not sure what kind would be best.  This is the first one.  A Tri Corner pirate hat.  There are other styles of pirate hats.
She seems to like this one.  It needs to be trimmed out.  I have some vintage gimp that would look good.  Some marabou around the edges might be nice too.

Shiver Me Timbers

Top, pants and boots are finished.  She still needs her hat trimmed out, a pair of earrings, black ribbon in her hair and a belt with a sword if I can manage it.

The top is made from vintage damask fabric, vintage Victorian lace with a silk voile for the sleeves.  Most of the sewing on the top was done by hand.  The edges were all zig-zag stitched on my machine to prevent the damask from unraveling. There are 4 different laces on the top.

The pants are made from 1940's shaved velvet in black. Very rich feeling.

Hat and boots are made from 100% black wool felt.  The boots are trimmed in 1950's vintage french gimp.  I will trim out the hat with some tiny vintage gimp. 
I am still hunting down my champagne colored marabou feathers- they would look great along the brim of the hat.  If I find them, they will be sewn around the top of the brim.  If I don't find them, the hat will get some vintage lace instead- with the tiny gimp trim sewn on top of it.

Coquette has come a long way from being in a box with bad paint, and melted hair.  She pretty much takes over whatever room she is in.  I will have a hard time parting with her.

October is almost here.  I found my box of coyote gourds- which look like little pumpkins.  Thinking about them and doll related things... we shall see what comes forth :)

Reminder:  September 30, 2012 is the last day to leave comments to receive entries for the September Drawing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Sewing for Dolls

Picky Picky Picky

What kind of top will go best with this skirt?

Where should these skulls go?

When one is sewing for tiny bodies one needs to be as precise as possible and extra careful with fabric choices.  These photos were taken to send to a friend who wanted to know what I was up to.  They are action shots- of works in progress. 

People ask : "How did you do that?" 

After the post about Heddy's Fabrics trip- seems like a good time and place to share my thoughts and ways of working on such a small scale. 
Choosing Fabric

When sewing for a doll the size of Monster High- or Barbie or any other small doll, it is important to remember the scale of your doll as compared to you.  Barbie and Monster High are roughly 1:6 size dolls.  That means when you pick out a fabric with a print- the print should be something that translates well into 1:6 size.  To put it more simply- the print needs to be small most of the time. 

The next consideration when choosing fabric is how much body the fabric has- and how fluid it is.  Lots of cotton prints look good- but are difficult to sew properly because they are heavy fabrics- meant for use on quilts and made for daily use.  If you really like a fabric that is heavy- you can still use it.  When I find something I like that is too stiff to drape properly in a small scale, I will wash it several times first.  It simply goes in with the laundry a few times.  Before you wash it- stitch the edges with a zig-zag stitch.  This will prevent it from unraveling and getting tangled in with your laundry.

Certain fabric dyes will transfer to your dolls.  Most often the colors are black, red or dark blue.  If I think I may have a fabric that will bleed in a wash- I will soak it alone in cold water in the sink to see if it does bleed color.  If that fabric bleeds in cold water it has great potential to bleed into your doll.  You can use the fabric- but you need to line the garment so it does not come into contact with your doll.

 I always zig-zag the edges of my cut pieces first- or use a simple whip stitch by hand to secure the edges and prevent fraying.  One cannot afford to lose much edge on these tiny pieces- and it also makes for a messy finished garment if the inside edges are not closed in some way.  You may choose to use thin fabric glue on the edges (like Fray Check)-- whatever you choose, take the extra step for a garment that will last and not come apart. 
(You can also use pinking shears- but that is often impractical for such small pieces of fabric.)

Ribbons, lace, trims and buttons need to be chosen with the same care- too big will look like too much most of the time. 

A Few Words About Velcro

Do Not buy velcro with an adheasive backing.  It will muck up your needle and make it impossible to sew. Buy the clear and the thinnest you can find if you decide to use it.  Yes, it is handy.  Yes it costs less than snaps and hooks and eyes. 

I rarely use velcro. Here is why:

Velcro sticks to itself- and nearly anything else- like your doll's hair and the brand new sofa.  When you want it to stay closed, it often won't if you are trying to pull the fabric tight.   It attracts fluff and nubs and threads- and it can wear out.


If you have not sewn small before, choose a simple pattern to start.  After you've done some "small" sewing and have some experience, then you can step it up with some confidence.  There are some pretty decent patterns out there now that you can buy.  I make my own patterns- but- I have been sewing since the age of 10, and I am just a tad crazy.  The crazy helps :) 

Patterns you can purchase:

AND... if you really like a particular Monster High piece of clothing- you can use your seam ripper and take it apart and trace the pieces to make your own pattern.  Be mindful of what type of fabric they used.
Make notes and or take photos if you do this. 
Make notes of what piece was sewn on top of another - if you see an order to it- making these notes will keep you from wondering where to start later. 
Hey, voice of experience here.  I took a fairly complicated ball joint doll outfit apart to make a duplicate for a friend...and did not take notes.  It took me hours and 1/4 yard of muslin to figure it out.  The self talk got pretty rude too.  What?  You don't talk to yourself while you work? 


Sharp Scissors

Seam Ripper - I have more than one because they sometimes run away from me...!

Good Slender Pins that are sharp

Needles - a good variety

Sewing Machine -- that you know how to use
Okay, this has to sound funny- but really, having attended some quilting classes in years past, I have met both men and women who were clueless about their machines. 
One woman in a quilting class was hand winding her bobbins... I almost bit through my hand trying not to make an inappropriate comment. (What the FRACK are You Doing???!!!) 
The teacher finally saw her and showed her how to wind them on her machine. 
Gee, saved her like 2 hours a day in bobbin winding!
That said, I found myself admiring her- because she wanted to learn how to quilt so badly she was absolutely dogged in her pursuit.  
How many of us would have thrown everything in the trash if we thought we had to do all that winding by hand?

Machines usually come with instructions- read them.  Don't have instructions?  Google it- there is so much information at our fingertips these days.

Ironing Board (unless you are like my brother, and you iron your clothes on the kitchen counter top...)


>>Fit your doll's clothes as you go along. This means trying things on your doll before you are finished.  You may have sewn a seam too wide- and the skirt won't go past her hips. 
There is little room for mistakes on small things.

>>Do your fittings with the garment inside out- so you can mark it where you need to fix things.

>>It is easier to trim a finished 1/4" seam than to sew a seam width that is 1/8 of an inch.  For some items I sew the seam, trim it and then zig-zag stitch it.  It makes for a nice fit and a clean look.

>>Use your seam ripper- its not just a fun looking accessory.  If I sew a top stitch that is not crisp- I rip it out and do it over.  Part of your doll's  garment looking good is good stitching.

>>Use smaller stitches on your doll clothing.  Unless you are making gathers, sewing with smaller stitches will make sewing easier when you are easing in a sleeve or going around a collar. 

>>Sew at a moderate or slower speed.  Sewing too fast on your machine can mean making some big mistakes.

>>Take your doll with you when you shop for the fabrics and the trims.  Hold it up to her- see if the print works well with her size.  Try wrapping it around a leg or arm- how does it look? 

>>Sew on your lace or trim and do your hemming before you do your gathers or your pleating.  Much easier to do that way.

>>Age denim jeans with an emery board or fine sandpaper.  Put the jeans on the doll to decide where they should be roughed up- knees and so on.

>>Spoil yourself and purchase an older book on sewing from etsy or ebay - sit and read and try things out.  You may discover something you can use that will make your clothing look even better.
You would be surprised at what is in here-
this is a great book for a person who is learning to sew.

>>I am always learning. I try different techniques and approaches to sewing different things every week.  It keeps things fresh- and it saves me headaches later.  Win-Win.

>>Buy remnant fabric that is cheap and practice on it.  It is really painful to make mistakes on expensive fabric.  I bang my head on cupboard doors and walls when I do things like that.  It hurts.

>>Every doll is different.  Seems obvious.  Seriously though.  My Frankie or Rochelle would not be caught dead in the Barbie clothes I make.  Think about the doll you are making the clothes for.

When someone tells me that Barbie clothes fit Volks or Obitsu 1:6 scale dolls, and that Bratz clothes fit nicely on Monster High dolls...I do my best not to roll my eyes... but really.  I mean, look at the above photos and tell me that each doll can wear the same clothes.  Bratz clothes fit sort of- but I like my doll clothes to - well- to fit! 

New at Dolly Dolly

Dolly Dolly Fashions on etsy: 

Take your time and have fun. 
It will show in your work.

Remember to leave a comment on this post and get an entry for the September Drawing.  You can leave one comment on each post and get an entry for each of your comments.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Fabric Shopping

Our Trip To Heddy's Fabrics

"This is perfect for beautiful blouses."

"Can you imagine Lagoona in this?!"

Frankie fell in love with this fabric.  Unfortunately, we had to be more practical today.

They have a button section and trim section that will make you drool.

"We need a yard of this please."

"If you visit Las Vegas, visit Heddy's Fabrics."

Heddy's Fabrics has been in Las Vegas since the 1960's.  It is an old fashioned store with wonderful service and a large selection of quality fabrics. 
We affectionately call Heddy's our Mini Mood store.  Today there were people from different stage productions picking up their fabrics and supplies for the shows they are in. 
If you've seen a Cirque show in Las Vegas, you have seen Heddy's! We are wonderfully spoiled having Heddy's here.

                                                                   Heddy's Fabrics
                                                              5411 W. Charleston Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89146

Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Rescue

Meet Coquette

Coquette started out life as a Monster High Abbey Bominable.  She was blue with glitter everywhere.
Then someone decided to take off the glitter.  Acetone removes the glitter, and can damage and melt the plastic of the body.  Then they decided to do some painting on her face- and I have no idea what they used...but that too left a mark.  Then, I am pretty sure they used epoxy on her back for something.  And they used a Dremel, I think, to "sand" her body in places.  Most inelegant.  Her hair looked melted- so maybe a heat gun??? 

I wish I had picked my camera up before now, but to be honest she started out as this possible rescue project sitting in her own box on the corner of a shelf.  I got her out when I had the time.  I picked away at different things for minutes at a time and returned her to her project box. 
Every doll I work on has their own box.  Everything that relates to them goes in there and stays with them until they are complete. 

Ignorance had ruled this girl's world since she left her original box in some home in northern Nevada. She arrived on my porch via the USPS with Monster High amputees and other Monster High doll parts. 

 I didn't take photos, because, honestly, I thought she might end up in the experiment box.  That is the box dolls and doll pieces go when I cannot rescue them.  They become my testing ground for new paints, new glues and other ideas.  That way, if I try a new product and it does not work, I have not ruined a new doll.

Coquette hung in there.  When she finally spoke to me, I started working on her an hour at a time instead of 10 minutes.  Her face is almost finished, and her body is as good as she will get. 
Coquette is on her way to becoming... a  friend of the famous Anne Dieu-Le-Veut .
This week when I have time I will be making a new boot pattern, and a tri-cornered hat- for my little privateer.

I will post photos as I move along with her.  This is not a tutorial- just me sharing the progress of a doll that almost went the way of the waste bin.

Related Tutorials (click on colored bars and go there):

Removing Hair and Painting with white spray paint

Making a Wig and Rooting with Mohair

Custom Painting the face, Part 1 and Part 2:

Remember to leave a comment and get an entry for the September Drawing :)  Cheers, PB♥  

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Post Script

Photo Shoot

I really wanted to take photos outdoors- but- the weather has been too extreme.
I painted a canvas backdrop for her instead.

Her tail acts like a tripod with her legs.

She had to have a treasure chest.  Some things are glued inside, while others are loose.

She can use the chest as seating if she likes.

Draken is now for sale at Dolly Dolly:

Remember to leave a comment here and get an entry for the September Drawing :)

Monday, September 10, 2012

Dragon Mod Finished

Draken's Big Finish

Long ago in a far away life I used to make hand beaded moccasins.  Last night after putting everything away I remembered that I still had some leather scraps stowed in a bag on my shelves.  The pieces are small, too small for a doll cloak or a pair of human mocs, but plenty there for a top and bottom for Draken. 
Draken's top is cut from one piece and strings through the sides to criss-cross in the back.  The yellow tint of the deerskin is a great compliment to her deep violet and purple hues. I cut everything unevenly to make it look more authentic, more real.  She didn't buy this in a store.
We started on her hair as well.  One bit of fluff at a time.   She will also have hair on her tail.
The hair is Tibetan lambs wool dyed black with pinkish tips. Also a left-over from a past project- but there is plenty for tiny Draken to have a nice head of hair and have her tail look respectable as well.

Okay, guess which outfit she prefers?  Aww, you guessed.  Deerskin it is.  I will have to stow the other outfit for another doll.  Clearly, this is it for her.  This, the cape and the boots.  Draken all the way.  Now, I need to finish her hair!


A happy Draken.  No more fittings, no more glue.
I so wanted to take photos outside- but the wind was blowing  much too fierce- maybe tomorrow.