Sunday, 31 August 2014

Not so great Saturday

Ugh. Feeling unwell today, so am huddled in bed watching downloaded vids of project runway.

Here's a past Ellowyne Project to keep the blog going.  Made a couple of years ago with fabrics I hand-dyed and over-dyed.  I called it my Vivienne Westwood tribute....   Project runway made it seem appropriate.

Love the Debbie Harry wig too. 

More stuffs when I'm feeling better.


Saturday, 30 August 2014

Pattern #005: From some of my lovely customers.

This is the one, below. It's been my most popular pattern so far and is a very cute little dress or tunic.

I've been pointed to a few pictures by the lovely ladies who bought this pattern and made lovely dress or tunic from it.  There's a few here, with thanks to those involved for their permission:

These first three pictures are dresses and tunics made by the talented Tillietogs, whose work you can see over on Flickr.  She does lovely crochet items too and it's nice to see the sewn dresses along with crochet trims and accessories:

This first one - three gorgeous little crocheted and sewn outfits:

And a couple of tunics with the leggings (I think?) from pattern #007.  (Let me know if I'm wrong about that.) I love that beret with the tiny crochet flowers. :)

And my personal favourite, A pink ensemble in Liberty Tana lawn with more crochet.   I just love this whole picture. The dolly herself is perfect for the outfit and the little necklace - well, I'd wear it myself:

Next, here's a couple from Jodie Creations.   She makes really pretty dresses and underwear for Ellowyne and this is an outfit she made by converting the pattern. It looks adorable on Pru:

And a really lovely dress in blue fabric with daisies. Another favourite of mine:

Last but definitely not least, is a really lovely dress made by Elna Rothberger.... (Elna, if you see this, I hope it's okay to post this and mention you.  I did ask if it was okay on Facebook, but no reply as yet.  I hope I'm not being too cheeky. I'll take this down if you'd prefer.)

It's just so lovely, I really wanted to include it. I love the hem, which I can't quite tell if it's a picot hem, or there's some kind of lace there.  But the fabric is so pretty.

That's it for now. If anyone has made something from a Raccoon pattern, let me know where the picture is and I'll endeavour to show it off in future blog posts. 


Thursday, 28 August 2014

Throwback Thursday

Time for another past project for your perusal. (try saying that after a packet of wine gums)

This time it's an outfit I made for Pedigree Sindy many moons ago. Flared pants, a peplum strapless top, armlets and a reversible hat.  I had so much fun making this, and every time I look through my archives it's a blast from the past.

I adored my Sindy doll when I was a kiddie, and once made her a medieval costume, which looked pretty good for a 12 year old effort!  I wish to high heavens I'd kept both the doll and the outfit.  But at least I have pictures of all my adult projects. :)

Of course, making a hat wasn't good enough, oh no, I had to make a reversible hat.... With a removable hatband.

And I had so much fun with it, I ended up making a Pippa sized version. I think the hat was also reversible.  Mon dieu.

Both of these are in someone's private collection now, I can't remember what years I made a lot of my outfits in.  I've recently started to keep a sewing journal, so I can identify a frock with good old 2013, or whatnot.

And that's me for today.  Work on the tricorn has ground to ta standstill while I wait for all the trims.  And I had a manic day wrapping outfits and a doll I've sold, so not much time for anything creative.

Off I go to retire with a good book and a cuppa.  :) Has anyone else read the Lord Peter Wimsey books? I'm loving them.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Bits and bobs

Got the cheque from the Customs office a few days ago, re: the cock-up they made of my purchase of Lucas. (Tonner Phin with bad 'tash)  And now it's safely paid into my bank account so I can finally breathe again.

Stupid Customs. 

And on with the day.   First of all, My Ever After High Dexter Charming arrived.   Very speedily, I might add. I'm quite taken with him.

He's rather sweet and is currently my desk mascot. Of course his hair is full of glue or something and drastically needs styling, but at lease it's in a style that I can do something with.  I may add sideburns too, because they'll make his face look less wide at the cheekbones.  

He... really doesn't look like a 'Dexter' though. 

The clothing is surprisingly good too.  I like his jeans and tank, under the princely coat, and I'm looking forward to modernising him a bit.  He came with plastic boots that look a bit like Chucks, do that's all good. I should try some of my Ken shoes on him and see what looks good.

Next, I tackled a bandana for Ell. I'm making a pirate lass get-up for her, and am getting carried away with tricorns and bandanas and headgear in general.

Bandanas are often worn under tricorns, so I wanted to make both, and while the tricorn is going swimmingly, I need to wait for supplies to finish it, and bandanas on dolls are tricksy things to make.  the bulk is a nightmare, and it's hard to know a simple scarf shape, as the knots get too huge for the doll too. 

 Still, I came up with a cunning plan, and the result isn't too shabby:

This first one I made in a soft 4-way stretch viscose with Lycra. It's extremely soft and stretchy and fits really well.

I had to modify the pattern to make the same thing in a 2-way stretch jersey with no Lycra.  It's almost as successful, but needs a tweak.

I do like the stripey fabric though.

My main problem - if you look at the knots on the side of each bandana - is to get them to point down and not stick out the way they do.   Not sure how to do that, but will tackle it afresh tomorrow.

For today that'll do.  I've been holding back lots of the things I've been doing because I like to reveal an outfit once the pattern is drafted and ready for sale. This time however, I've gotten so wrapped up in the pirate look, that I want to make a couple of special outfits and maybe a few tricorns to sell long before I end up perfecting the sewing pattern.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014


I'm very nervous about this, and it might not work out, but here's a teaser of what I’m working on at the moment.

Much harder to get right than one would think!  But today's mistakes have taught me quite a lot, so I'll slog on and see how it comes out.


Monday, 25 August 2014

How long can I go without buying new dolls???

About five minutes it seems.   I'm so bad.  But at least these guys are playline and pretty inexpensive. 

I've finally caved in to temptation and bought a couple of Ever After High dolls.  I have several Monster High, and would like to know if I can tailor some of my MH fashions to fit EAH dolls as well.  then I can probably publish some patterns for them.

Well that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

I couldn't take to any of the MH boys (although Deuce Gorgon is still a
possibility) so I looked at the EAH lads. The huntsman character has silly hair, so Id have to do a re-root, but I took a look at Dexter Charming:

 Wasn't too sure, he still has silly hair - but I found a pic without the glasses and he's so darned cute, I had to have him.

 Maybe I can restyle his hair without having to re-root him.

Then I picked a girl.  I prefer my dolls slightly tan, so wasn't keen on Apple White, and one had hair that was too dark, so I chose Briar Beauty, because of the skintone, hair colour, and the face-up.

So yes. I've been naughty again.   But I have two new dollies winging their way to mah wee hoose, and I don't think I’m a bit sorry.


Friday, 22 August 2014

Throwback Thursday.

I thought I would maybe have a couple of regular features on my blog,  if I can remember to keep them up!   At the very least, it will give me something to talk about on the days when the sewing is never-ending and the pattern-publishing is grinding slowly.

I was going through my archives, and I discovered my very first OOAK doll, along with my very first attempt to sew for a doll.  Well, strictly speaking, I did manage to make a couple of really good dolls outfits as a child, (ooh wow, maybe I could try to reproduce them?)  but this is my first adult attempt, way back about 15 years ago.

I fell in love with My Scene barbie back then.  I had boxes full of nude dolls awaiting their makeovers at one time.   For this one, I made simple bandeau-style top and skirt waistband, and went about decorating them.

My photography was pretty poor back then though. Do excuse badly-posed dolly. I wanted to make everything, headgear, jewellery, shoes, bag, and she was even my first re-root.  I painted her eyes too.

I loved those arm wrappings.   And later on made some removable ones for a different doll, in leather.

These boots were not half bad for a very first attempt I thought.  They weren't removable though.

And I'd just wound down my jewellery making business, so I could use those skills to for her jewellery and tiara.

I love making hair slides. Why do I not still make these?  ... oh yeah, Most of my girls have short wigs now.  Heh.

As far as details go,  I was very lavish.

 Can you spot my passion for purple?

Unfortunately, as you can see from some bits which are not finished well, the whole ensemble was not really sale-able, but I'm glad to have the pictures of a first effort.   In the end, I made another dress for this doll, and altered her partial repaint and I did sell her.  

I used to have way more space to devote to doll crafts. Now I have to restrict myself to sewing clothes, mostly.  But some day I will have more than one room to call my own and Ill branch out a bit again, maybe.

What a fun trip down memory lane. :)


Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Getting into the routine

With the pattern making, I'm pretty much managing my health issues and my time.  Which is a good thing, as I love doing this.  I wish I could turn it into a full time job. I loved being self-employed in the past - I don't play well with others.  Not because I'm mean, or a psycho, or a general hooligan; it's just that the kind of agoraphobia and anxiety I live with is borne of a kind of a social phobia.   I'm good with one on one, or with about three people at one time, but I tend to fall apart pretty fast in a whole roomful of people, or even a half-busy shop. 

Making dolly things my proper source of income is a wild dream for me.. but any doll artist will tell you it's very hard to get rich from it. Not that I want to be rich - just to be able to make a small living out of something that I not only enjoy, but that won't make me mentally and physically ill.

But now I've babbled.  Heh.

So yes, I'm managing to spend half my day sewing and photographing, then the next half uploading, editing pics and writing up my tutorial documents.   Then in the evenings I hang out with my homies and read a lot.  Or I play with my dolls and take more pics just for my own entertainment.

I'm really excited about my next pattern. So excited in fact, I broke my rule of taking a break between patterns. I'll take a double break when I've finished this. :)

I'm keeping it under my hat until I publish, but I will say I'm using some exquisite Pakistani cotton lawn which I've hand dyed a really lovey mauve.  Hand dyeing is so much fun, I need a hot day and a clear run in the shared kitchen though, so I can't do it that often, and my hand-dyed pieces of stash become precious.

And so far my workdesk has remained relatively organised.  I'm longing to re-decorate my little room, and get some colour coordinated storage and desky-bits, but now the rainy weather has set in, I'll probably wait until next summer to paint. 

And that's it for the last couple of days.

I always get stuck for anything interesting to stick in the old blog when I'm working on a pattern, but here's an old project I found on my hard drive.  One of my first ever OOAK dolls. She's an Obitsu I sold several years back now.  I did the face-up, made the wig out of natural mohair, made the clothes, bag and the boots too.  Even the hair slide.  Some of those Obitsus are so purty and they're fantastically poseable.  I was really proud of this one...

... not so much the terrible photography though.   I've definitely improved in that area.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

Patterns market research

If anyone wants to add a comment and help me in a little market research with my dolly clothes pattern/tutorials, I'd be most grateful.

Here's the deal: The patterns I sell don't just come with basic instructions, they come with pages-long full tutorials, with loads of photos, that walk even a beginner through the whole process of making the garments. With this in mind, I've found it's prohibitively expensive to print out the instructions and the patterns and offer them as printed matter.

I don't want to get into professional printing services because there are a lot of costs involved, and planning etc, and mine is a bit of a niche market – so I don't expect to sell more than a few of each of my patterns. I'm not looking into starting a full-scale business!

So. I was going to offer this as well, for people who can't print out anything at home:

1) The printed pattern on sheets of paper (I can afford to print these simple black & white documents) Many people find it easier to follow the instructions on their tablet or netbook, and the pattern pieces themselves are usually the only things people need on physical paper.

2) A DVD with all the tutorials and bits and pieces in both A4 format AND US letter format. ( So I can be sure people can print them out if they are able to and want to, whichever paper size they need.)

3) If people can't use a DVD disk (due to only having a tablet device, or no DVD player on their desktops, etc) I can send the PDFs of the tutorial by email AS WELL as the two above items in the post. The emailed PDFs will be in whichever size the customer requests (A4 or US letter.) That way one gets instant gratification of being able to read the tutorials, and the hard copy of the pattern (and the disk) will be on its way.

((Cons: I will only be able to manage the Post Office once a week, because I'm agoraphobic anyway, and I live in a rural areas and have to depend on a kind friend for a lift. But I'll have to specify that on the sales pages.))

The physical product will be a couple of pounds more expensive than the PDF downloads only, and of course shipping on top. But I'd be careful not to make it all horribly expensive.


Saturday, 16 August 2014

Raccoon's Rags pattern #013

Hey, thirteen is a very lucky number!  ;)

In my Etsy shop:

Or here in my blog, on the For Sale page:

This is one of my most favourite dresses to sew for Ell. It's simple, elegant and can be prettied up in all sorts of ways.  The pattern includes the dress itself:

The petticoat:

And the lovely little belt, which is a really fun project you can use for all sorts of dolly outfits:

The petticoat can be made so it peeks out under the dress hem, or can be made not to be seen.  Personally I love to see petticoats under dresses, but I like to give people the choice.    

This is a lovely fabric from Joan McLemore over at Spoonflower. She reduced the scale of one of her designs for me especially, and as luck would have it, the stone colouring in the dress goes perfectly with the boots I dyed recently.  I'm a huge lover of clompy boots with floral dresses, and these look super-cute on my Ell.

I dyed the belt leather the same colour too!   I can make matching shoes and belts now. Go me.   You can have a go too, if you follow my advice in the boot-dying tutorial and decide you'd like to try sewing this newest pattern.

Any old hoo, here's the pattern cover, I'm really happy to be able to offer this one, and yes, God bless all who sail in her... ;)


Thursday, 14 August 2014

Phin got a gun

When Lucas arrived, there was that old-fashioned gun in the box, the one that comes with this version of the Imperium Park Phineas doll:

I hated the outfit, but loved the gun, holster and belt. The boots were frankly a bit rubbish too, compared to some of the MSD boots available.   I'm still playing with Lucas and Phin. I'm loving the trimmed fur wigs. Every time I pat their heads affectionately (..I am sooo sad. I sometimes actually cuddle my dolls. Not they I tend to cuddled Phin. He's not the type..) it feels so soft and kind of warm.  Makes me want to kiss them on the head.  Lucas probably likes it and goes pink, Phin quite obviously despises it so I try not to.

(Oh my god - is anyone else like this with their dolls?  I'm such a sap. How  embarrassing. Yes I do appreciate they're just pieces of plastic, but why collect dolls if you're not going to love them and think silly things about them?)

Anyway. Guess who won the argument over the gun?


He looks kinda like a gentleman adventurer crossed with a cat-burglar, de-steampunked and brought slightly up to date.   The gun is totally steampunk, and a wee bit incongruous, but I love it.  Phin would prefer a Glock, but hard luck.

Righto, spam, spam sausage egg and spam....

 He's very pleased.   I'm not sure if that's because he has the gun - or if it's because it's rightfully Lucas's gun.

The belt buckle and gun match up with the metalwork on his jeans too.  Except for the fact that I've only just now realised, the fly button is copper and the studs are brass.  D'oh. I'll have to change that.

Lucas is hoping for a lightsabre because Phin told him he was named after George Lucas. That's a crock. I just like the name. And where am I going to get a 1/4 scale lightsabre? 

He might be lucky if I can find a sword. Angels should have swords. And according to Phin, demons should have bloody great guns.

And I am getting on with that dress pattern. What I wanted to do was a bit too much just for one pattern, so I'm breaking it into two separate ones.  Makes life easier.


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

And now for some fur

Faux fur, actually.   You can't seem to get decent faux fur for dolls wigs in the UK for love nor money.  All the stuff available on eBay or on most of the fabric sites is that horrible acrylic shiny stuff.  The kind of fur wigs you can buy through eBay from Korea, America, Taiwan and China etc, all seem to be made out of the much better non-shiny fur fibres.

I tend to get my ready-made faux fur wigs from beachgirlnikita, as she uses really nice fur that's easy to cut and style.

I did find a hopeful site here in the UK though, who cater for bear-makers, and seemed to have some better quality long pile faux fur.   I ordered some in black/brown, and it arrived today.  The quality is gorgeous, I must say. The black 'hairs' are all sleek and glossy (not cheap shiny, but glossy) and the brown hairs are more matte, and more like the better faux fur I've been trying to source.

It's very dense though. Almost spongey.  So I have no idea how it will style when made up into a wig.   I fear it's a tad too thick for Lucas or Phin, but I'm going to make up a JID sized one for Xander (My Iplehouse Ryan) and see how it looks.

I'll report back here hopefully tomorrow.

The dress pattern for Ell, btw, is still coming along nicely. My head is all over the place though, and I keep making mistakes and having to start from scratch.  Argh.


The UK Customs matter

I was kind of surprised today to get a letter from Customs about the stupid mistake they made when they valued my parcel at $1900.00, instead of $190.00. It pretty much cleaned out my bank account, and I posted off the relevant claim form, all the invoices and stuff from the sender, along with an angry letter, less than a fortnight ago.

They've said I'm entitled to a refund worth almost £300.  Which is pretty much what I'd thought it would be. I'm not jumping for joy yet, because it will be some kind of cheque or 'payable order' which they will send within 30 days. Until I have my money, I won't be able to relax.

While I’m slightly impressed that it didn't take months and loads of phone calls - there wasn't even the slightest suggestion of an apology.


Sorry.  I don't like to be crude in my respectable dolly blog, but that's what they are, and I'm still pretty angry.   But at least it looks like the whole process may not be as agonising as I'd thought.


Monday, 11 August 2014

The next pattern is...

... A proper pretty frock for Ellowyne. :) 

I have some gorgeous Spoonflower cotton voile in designs by Joan McLemore, and will be using them for the dresses in the pattern.   Won't be showing too much before the pattern is ready to publish, but here's a couple of teasers of the first bodice:

Slow going again, but that's because everything has to be perfect, and I take several shots of each stage before I download them to my hard drive; edit them; write up the instructions; and then do a bit more of the garment.   Odd to be doing girls clothes again!

In totally non-doll related news (but it's my blog and i can do what I like)  I only just realised today that Mr McGregor's tattoo has grown some.   He and his lovely wife have had more babies, so he added to the tat. Which I think is kind of adorable.  There's something incredibly sexy about a man who loves his wife so much and adores his kiddies. 

This was what it was like when he was younger:

 And now it's like Topsy. Just growed....

Incidentally, here's a gratuitous photo, purely because he looks SO DAMNED HOT.

*Happy sigh*   My day is complete now.


Sunday, 10 August 2014

Something sensible - MSD boots restyle

Back to SRS dolly matters now I've finished messing around with the boys for a bit.

I've often tried to paint plastic Barbie boots in the past - with varying degrees of success.   I also find it hard to buy MSD boots to match the outfits I've made. they don't seem to come in too many different colours in general I find.   So, I was wondering how I could combat this when I decided to give shoe dye a go.

Back in my mis-spent youth, I was a penniless art student and constantly colouring my own shoes, and there's no reason on Earth it shouldn't work for dolls shoes in faux leather.

I had two identical pairs of the pink boots below, and wanted something more beige, so I got the appropriate dye and started work.  The results are fab. I'm so pleased. It wasn't all plain sailing though.  I didn't take progress pics, so this isn't a tutorial as such, but if you want a go, I can pass on my findings in the hope it helps.

Here are my materials (besides the boots.)

I used a soft watercolour brush, size 8.  Not the brush supplied with the shoe dye. They're horrible, frankly, and a softer brush leaves less brush marks.

I used stone beige, thinking it would be more beige and less stone. The result is almost a khaki, but I love it because it will go with some of my olive greens.

1) First dye the actual shoe with the shoe dye. They enclose a rough pad in the kit saying you should sand the shoes with it before application.  I wouldn't advise it. I practised on some spare vinyl/fake leather, and the rough pad wrecked it.  Doll shoes don't get grubby, worn, or greasy like human ones, so I don't see the need to sand them first. Just make sure they're good and clean.

2) Also - the instructions tell you the shoes need 3 coats. They lie!  I had to paint on six coats in all.

3) Paint the tongues first. Do all six coats and be very patient.  Don't apply a fresh coat whilst the previous one is still tacky.  - Then tackle the outers of the boots.

4) Don't be disheartened at the first coat. It looks terrible and is very see-through.  Subsequent coats will take better.

5)  Whilst painting, the dye/paint will look a bit blobby and you will see your brush strokes. But once completely dry, the colour flattens itself out and you do get a nice finish.  The manufacturers say you can apply shoe polish as you wold to un-dyed shoes, but I see no need for that with dolls shoes. They don't get the wear and scuffing that people-shoes get.

6) The dye dries rapidly.  I left mine in front of my little electric fan for an hour between coats, and they were perfectly dry enough to apply the next coat.

7) Leave overnight for the final coat to harden off, before painting the soles.  You don't need to, and shouldn’t, varnish over the shoe dye. The dye is made not to crack on soft surfaces - the varnish isn’t.

8) I plan to try and mix a colour next. According to Dylon, it's easy to do so. For example red with yellow will make orange. Blue with yellow should make green.

For the soles, I used Tamiya acrylic model paint, (in flat brown) and Winsor & Newton Galeria matt varnish.

1) Apply the acrylic paint in thin coats.  It only took three coats for mine. It's good stuff. You might find the paint dries slightly tacky. This alarmed me at first, but after I'd applied the varnish, it was fine.

ETA:  On reflection, I'm wondering if the tacky areas were due to grease from my fingers.  I washed my hands before doing the dye, but not before doing the soles.  Just make sure everything is squeaky-clean.  I'll wipe everything down with a swab of alcohol next time.

In the past I've used artists acrylic inks instead of Tamiya paints.  They don't dry tacky, but you need loads more coats.  I've applied up to six coats in the past.

2) Leave a good hour or so for the paint to dry between coats. I used my electric fan to good advantage again.

3) Leave the acrylic to dry overnight before applying the varnish.

4) I only used two coats of varnish.   Due to tackiness, I recommend leaving the boots overnight between every coat of varnish. 

And that's it.

Like I say, the dolls boots aren't subject to the wear of human ones, so this dye should last really well without cracking over time.  It's kind of  rubbery as it dries, so you can see how it's meant to be good for supple surfaces.

I have a pot of magnolia I want to try next. I use a lot of cream and ivory in my doll outfits, and it's very hard to find cream-coloured boots. I plan to mix the magnolia with white to get a nice ivory colour.