Wednesday, 29 April 2015

More hand dyeing.

I've slowly been dyeing a few bits of fabric each day to get a nice collection of slightly aged, or shabby-looking shades. 

So far this is what I have: Some of them are a bit brighter than I intended, but I'm working on it.

I love to marble dye.   It's easy too, just leave the fabric in the dye bath without stirring it, for a couple of hours.   Hand dyeing is much less hassle than one might think, especially dyeing small amounts.

I cut off say a fat quarter or fat eighth of three different types of fabric, Dye them; and they're always dry overnight. As long as you put in a good generous heaped spoon of soda ash to fix it, you can't go far wrong.  I've been adding very small amounts of procion MX dye to my dye baths to get pale colours. Very little dye is needed for pale shades, hence mine being a bit brighter than I wanted.

To make them look a bit aged, you can overdye them with tea (fix the tea with salt in the solution).) I try to keep my tea dye pale too, so the original colour isn't obliterated.

Loads of fun.  For the dyes, you can go to UK supplier

The sell dye kits, or separate jars of dye 

You can also find soda ash to fix the dye, and lots of other bits and pieces on their site.  I'm not affiliated with them in any way, but I do love that such a good supplier is available here in the UK.


Monday, 27 April 2015

The ongoing tunic.

Finished up the second draft of the tunic for Prudence, and I'm happy with the result.  I ended up making the lining long enough to show under the outer, sort of a double-layered effect.

I love essential Prudence 4.  She's the pretties of all the other Prudence dolls and the Leekeworld wig I have on her is just perfect.

Pretty Pru

But I digress. Here's the finished tunic.  You may notice it's a bit blousy and doesn't hang as well as it should do say on a human body.  This is pre-styling.  I though I'd take the extra picture to show the difference.

Before styling

I wet the tunic under a warm tap, which has the added bonus of getting rid of all the vanishing ink I use, and gently wrung out the tunic.  I wring and twist the body, and do the same with each sleeve separately.

One needs to be gentle, but if a garment is well sewn and colourfast, no harm should come to it.  Unless you've used glue to attach embellishments of course. I always style before I do any gluing.  Although I prefer to sew on embellishments wherever possible.

Seriously, if you're hand dying some fabric, go for it, it's so enjoyable, but rinse that thing. Rinse like the wind, and make sure no more colour is coming out before you dry it.

Blot the garment in a soft clean towel, nice and firmly, so it doesn't drip once on the doll.  Here's my tunic, back on the dolly.

Styled tunic (still wet)

It's possible to tug down on the sleeves a bit, giving the illusion of weight of the fabric, and I tweaked and pulled the hems quite a lot to get the tunic into a nice shape.

The tunic fabrics look darker in these shots as they're damp, but will dry into exactly the shape they're been coaxed into. All these fabrics are ones I've hand dyed, but I've made very sure the colours are fixed and fast.  I also dye my fabrics in light or pale colours.  Dark colours are more likely to stain a doll. If I'm using deep or bright shades, I always line the arments with white or cream, or undyed voile to protect the doll.

Pointy hems
 I love point-hemmed tunics. I wear them myself. Can't help wishing I had Pru's figure though, but hey-ho.

And another gratuitous shot of my pretty girl.

I still have ideas for more bohemian clothing, but am waiting for more hand-dyed fabric to dry.  It's cold here today too.  I'm actually wearing my UGG boots, indoors.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Toile for a tunic.

The tunic idea went well.  Here's the toile - still damp, because I put it on the doll wet to style it.  With human sized clothing, the weight of the fabric is enough to make it hang well on the body.  With dolls of course, the scale is wrong for any weight of fabric, so getting something to hang right can be a pain.

I simply wet the clothing I've just made and put it on the doll. then I can tweak it and pull it downwards a bit to get the illusion of weight.  These sleeves for example, they just stick out and look a bit naff if not damped down and styled a bit.

In my tutorials section, there's a post on how to do it with skirts, but I will issue the usual warning - never leave damp clothes on a body-blushed doll. I guarantee you will ruin the paint job and the sealant.

This looks less complicated to make than some of my dolly things.  It's a bit involved because it's lined, but overall it didn't take me long, even hand sewing.

With this pattern, I'll make the lining longer than the outer, so it pokes out underneath giving a layered look. 

I may alter the neckline a bit, it might be too wide and too deep - I'd welcome opinions on that.   But after a few basic tweaks the pattern will be good to go... and I still have two more ideas I want to try.   Well. Actually, I have dozens but one thing at a time, eh?


Friday, 24 April 2015

And a side order of frills.

I want to put frills on everything in this outfit. I love them.  If it turns out to be a bit too much, I can always split the outfit and make two different looks... which I might have to do anyway. I'm wondering if some of the colours won't look right together, despite using the same shade of dye for all the different pieces of fabric.

The bloomers came next.  I've seen a lot of these in my googling for bohemian style pants, and they were so fun and easy to make. 

These are still damp from styling.  The nice thing about working with crinkle cotton is that you can press it almost flat to cut out the pattern pieces, sew it up, then wet the finished garment and wring it out (carefully.)  The result is that although I cut them deliberately too baggy, the creases in the fabric shrink the garment into a good shape on the doll.

Next I want to figure out the overdress. I have a couple of ideas and may end up making more than one outfit anyway.   I'm torn between a sort of sleeveless coat, a tunic and a shabby pinafore.  I want to make them all so probably will end up doing just that.


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Making a start.

Fired up by the desire for something boho, I spent the day making the undergarment leotard for Pru.  She may be bald at present, but I think she's pleased to be getting something new.

Flopsy sleeves.

I do enjoy sewing hand-dyed fabrics, although I'm getting a bit precious over the dotted lawn. It's not cheap and I don't have enough to keep making practice garments, so I'll make the overdress in cheaper voile before I cut into the nice stuff.

Picking out threads and starting on the leotard.

It should go without saying to use a toile fabric whilst making the first draft of a clothing pattern, but sometimes I get too excited and just start sewing with my decent fabrics.  Not this time, I'll do it properly!


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

I love windy days...

You can always tell when Summer is on its way, because that's when I make a mess in the kitchen and hang out my hand dyed bits and pieces to fry.  It's particularly gusty today, so the fabric was dyed and dried within a few hours of my intentions on Facebook.

MY cunning plan was to combine strong tea with some Procion MX dye to try and get an antique-looking rose colour.  However the tea made practically no difference used in conjunction with the dye, so I'll only bother with tea-dying in future if I want a tea colour.

Or I could try over-dyeing.  Hmm.

Anyway, the colour was alarmingly dark when I had the fabric soaking, but after rinsing it to death and drying it in the sunny breeze, the results were nice pale pinky colours.  

Some will tell you that dyeing fabrics is a precise thing, and you should measure everything out and write down your dye recipes ... but you know what? B**ger that. I just chuck in small bits of dye on the tips of teaspoons and see what happens.  As long as you pile in a good few spoonfuls of soda ash to fix the pigment to the fabric, you'll get some interesting results.  And when it comes to dyeing, I love surprises.

I've used some crinkle cotton,  Some dotted lawn, and the striped fabric is a viscose jersey with Lycra.  All these will make up my next dolly outfit. If all goes well.

I need a break from tailoring.  I do love to shape and get a perfect fit, there's nothing like it, but I've been looking at some Bohemian clothing on Etsy and it inspired me to try some for poor Prudence, who hasn't had a new outfit for some time.

These should make up a very pretty shabby chic ensemble.  I'm planning to produce the pattern too, as a nice simple one, if it all works out.

The only problem with flopsy, ruffled clothes in doll scale is that the fabric isn't heavy enough to hang and flop the way it does on a human.  But I'm hoping to get around that by dampening the clothes when they're finished, and styling them a bit like I do with my pouffy skirts.

I'm kind of excited to start this.


Falling leaves dress for 16" Poppy Parker

I love the fabric, and I do love the dress, but I'm not entirely sure about its proportions.  I think maybe I've dropped the waist too low, or the skirt needs to be a long one?   Perhaps also the neckline could be improved - maybe a sweetheart neckline would look better.

But yes, here it is finished, with a double-layered drop-waisted petticoat underneath.

Because I had concerns about the waistline being too low, I added a bow to try and give the illusion of fullness coming up a bit higher. If that even makes sense.  For the bow, I used the pattern from MHD Designs "Frou Frou".  It's not my own design, but is a great little embellishment when required.

A shot from the side:

And one of the two girls in their new fifties-inspired dresses:

I find it a tad tricky to photograph these 16" dolls, be they Tulabelle or Ellowyne, or even the 17" boys.  One of my pet niggles about doll photos online is when the head is up too high - pushed back as if the doll is looking up and not into the camera. It makes the doll look rigid and startled. Now it's a bit awkward to get  the doll to look down into the camera, and if one takes the photograph with the camera too high up, one foreshortens the skirt and legs.

I'm okay with dolly photography up to a point, but I've yet to work out how to shoot them without getting the camera too low so they're staring at the ceiling, or too high so the legs look stumpy and the skirt looks a bit foreshortened.

I think the answer is to move the camera a bit further away from the doll?  I'll have to give that a try.

All that aside, I'd welcome any constructive input on the falling leaves dress and its proportions.  I'm thinking of making a long gown version, but those princess line bodices are a lot of work, so I may take a break and do something else before coming back to it.



Sunday, 19 April 2015

Developing the princess line dress.

Whew.  It takes a lot of work to make a lined princess-line bodice.  Much more than a simple bodice with darts.   It's also tricksy to get the armholes right, once you've added all the seam allowances to your pattern pieces, it's easy to get the armhole placing just a bit off.

I carefully pressed all the seams and ensure they lay flat in between the outer and the lining, and here's how it looks so far:

I'm delighted that there's no unwanted ruching or wrinkles in the seams.  That took a lot of very careful hand stitching and plenty of cautious pressing.   Not bad for my first ever attempt.  :)

I'll keep going now. it needs a petticoat, carefully cut to avoid bulk at the waist, and obviously the skirt needs to be added.  But it's working!

 *Does the Snoopy dance*

I think the neckline could be nicer though.  It's hard to make it wider because the shoulders are only just wide enough to accommodate turning the bodice right side out once the lining is attached.  Perhaps a square or sweetheart neckline would look good on any future projects with this pattern.


Saturday, 18 April 2015

Drafting a princess line dress.

Being self taught and slightly dyslexic, I have a hard time with measuring out and figuring out how to make my own patterns for dolly couture.   I've never attempted a princess line dress before - although I have drafted corsets - so this is kind of scary as well as being fun.

What I do is drape tissue and masking tape on the doll, mark out where the seams go, then carefully cut the stuff off the doll and use it as the pattern.  I add the seam allowances, and make a toile to see how it fits.

Professional couturiers make toile in muslin or calico, usually in white or unbleached fabric.  I prefer to use up the scraps in my stash that are not much good for anything else, and with this princess line thingummie, it's quite useful to have the side panels a different colour to the centre panels.

It's all a mess at first.  I don't use fray check for the initial toile - which reinforces how awesome fray check is when I do use it.  Not only does it seal the edges for sewing tiny shapings and pointed bits of fabric, but it stabilises any pieces cut on the bias too, saving the need for any stay-stitching.

Another bonus, is that the brand I use - 'Fray Stoppa' dries slightly tacky, and I can use the warmth of my fingers to get two pieces of fabric to stay in place while I pin them.

Here's my toile. It was loose in the front panel, so I've pinned it here, and since writing this have shaved off some of the pattern to get it to fit.  Trying it on the doll inside out means you can mark the seams you need to alter with vanishing ink or pins.

And another view:

The pattern is basically a good one, and now I've made tweaks to the card pieces, I'm ready to attempt making the dress in a nicer fabric.  

I'm not quite sure where the design is going yet.  I have one or two ideas, and for this one, I'll be sitting around looking at it and thinking a lot about where to take it.

Fingers crossed and I'll post my results.


Friday, 17 April 2015

My first Silkstone

For a long time I've been sort of intrigued by Silkstone Barbie, but have never bought one because well... and I don't mean to offend anyone, I don't dislike their faces, but I personally am not drawn to them enough to spend a fair chunk of money on one.

Whilst considering what size 12" fashion dolls I could make patterns for, I looked up Silkstones on Ebay, and found a few nude dolls for decent prices.  When I saw this one, however, the Audrey Hepburn doll, I was smitten.

I adore Audrey Hepburn; what an icon. She was so devastatingly pretty and I love her in all the movies I saw her in.  After  a bit of sifting through Ebay I saw that the highest price was something like £150, and went down gradually to around £50 or £60.  Then I found a nide doll for about half that, so I bought her.

She arrived today, and whilst I've read about Silkstones, and how good the plastic is, resembling porcelain etc, etc... I was really surprised at how amazing the doll feels.  No I know why they're called silkstones!  The body is super-smooth and silky; the doll is heavy, and there's something about the plastic that feels cold, like ceramic would.  The legs don't bend, but who cares? I seldom sit my dolls anyway.  I'm bowled over by her. She's a stunner, and I'm looking forward to sewing for her.

My one criticism is that the face has a teeny bit of shine to it,   but I can live with that.

Here's my girl.  Her hair had stray bits sticking out, so I've styled it a bit with gel. I wasn't too keen on a curl over her forehead, so I brushed it back and gelled it all to keep it in place.

You can see the hair is a bit wet where the hair gel hasn't dried yet, but I couldn't wait to take some shots of her.

Her body shape is entirely different to modern bellybutton Barbies, but it looks a nice shape to sew for.

I've also bought a much cheaper model muse Audrey Hepburn Barbie. The body isn't great, but I have a few pivotal bodies that I can put the new head on.  Looking forward to receiving that one too.

I really do need to stop buying dolls.... That or sell some I have, to make room. The trouble is, I only buy dolls I really like, and I don't want to part with any of them.


Thursday, 16 April 2015


Messing around with trim for the Poppy Parker waistline.   I couldn't decide which I liked best, so rather than affix the ribbon trim to the dress, I decided I didn't have to make the choice after all, and that I could have all three.

I'm curious as to which one people prefer.

Option 1: Which I think emphasises the slim waist without chopping the body in half.

 Option 2: Again self-coloured, but with a little more detail.

Option 3: I like the contrast, and the ribbon here matches the peach petticoats, and breaks up the rust coloured dress a bit.

Here are the three detachable waist sashes.  One for whichever mood Poppy happens to be in.

I still feel as if the dress needs something else, but I have more designs I want to make. So I'll probably leave it here for a bit and see how I feel later on.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Fifties petticoat

Still doing battle with this 50's inspired outfit. 

My tulle arrived today, but I took one look at it and decided I was going to hate sewing it, so I reverted to my old faithful cotton voile.   I used peach to go under the toasted pumpkin coloured dress, and I like the look.

So what I did to keep the bulk away from that perfect waspie waist was to make a pair of line (yes, lined) knickers, and a petticoat with a yoked waistband, and then I grafted the petticoat to the knickers.

It works beautifully but is somewhat complicated if you're not a reasonably experienced seamstress.  Which means I'll have to do a normal yoked waistband petticoat when I come to write the pattern.

Here's the completed petticoat.  It has two layers of very full skirt. LOTS of hemming by hand. 

And underneath are the lined knickers to which the skirt is grafted:

The fabric looks a bit coral-pink in the pictures, but is actually peach.

Below is an artful pic I took from under the doll. I just love when you get this effect with really full petticoats; like a flower.

And one of the finished dress over the petticoat.  It's very bouffant as I haven't damped down the skirts to style them... but because I want a pouffy shape, I simply took the dress and petticoat off the doll, and styled them by gently scrunching them together and twisting.  Exactly the same way as in my tutorial  "how to style skirts"   but without any water.

I also don't quite trust the pumpkin coloured fabric not to bleed, so I'll have to be careful if I ever do decide to use water.

And a couple of Poppy because she's just so beautiful. <3

  One with the "graphic novel" filter in Gimp image editor. I doctored the background a bit but it's nowhere near perfect.

I want to make a waist-cincher, but perhaps I might leave that until I make the next dress.  So many ideas to try out with this fifties thang.


Monday, 13 April 2015

A little more on the fifties dress

Two posts in one day?  I must be keen. ;)

The dress for 16" Poppy Parker looks a lot better with a petticoat underneath.  I'm still not happy with the actual petticoat, but I'll perhaps make another.

It now has that lovely shape to the skirt:

As you can see from this smaller image I posted earlier, sans petticoat, it makes a difference.

I've ordered some tulle for the petticoat I'd really like to make, but for today, I had an idea and so I attempted to make one with some of the bargain chiffon I bought recently.  The only trouble is, I realised the chiffon I have is polyester. Eww. Blech. It's a nightmare to press the seams flat as polyester is notoriously difficult to get a crease into.

With a damp cloth I did manage to succeed... but after having spent the afternoon cutting and sewing the stuff - which wasn't quite as scary as I thought it would be, thanks to fray check - I went to press the first seam and ended up melting the stupid thing.

I use cottons almost exclusively, and so I'm not used to adjusting my iron for things like polyester.  I finished it off anyway, to see how it would look, and it's almost okay.   It looks much better with the dress over it.

Poly is impossible to style, and I only decided to try it because, well, poly fabrics are so voluminous and pouffy, and one can't wet them to coax them into a sleeker shape, so the only use I can see for the stuff I have is for a petticoat that needs to support a dress in a certain way.

Chances are I'll go back to my favourite cotton voile and make a double-layered petticoat.  I now have a bag of poly chiffon I don't think I even want to use. I'm so glad it was uber-cheap.


Beautiful fifties silhouette.

I had to cut the skirt twice, but the second time I was happy with it.   I'm loving this silhouette.  

Of course it won't look fabulous until I have the petticoats underneath, and because Poppy's waist is so tiny, I don't want to detract from that by having a thick waistband under the dress.

This means I will be requiring a cunning plan.   I have something I'm working on; not only to keep the bulk of  a waistband low enough on the body so it doesn't thicken her waist, but also to keep the petticoat in one place.  Sometimes they have a tendency to slip around a bit.

Anyhoo, here's Poppy.

Sorry about the poor quality photo, but I just took a quick snap whilst waiting for some fray-check to dry.

More on the progress with the petticoat soon. :)


Sunday, 12 April 2015

16" Poppy Parker

I've been in love with Poppy for so long now, but I prefer the larger scale to the 12" dolls whenever I have the choice, so I was happy to get a nude 16 inch Poppy Parker for a good price on Ebay.

I had to put the Sindy dolls aside for a bit. I've made two patterns for them, but I was getting all het up and feeling so pressured to sew for them that I needed a break.  Nobody's fault. I just get over anxious sometimes and have to have a day off and pick up something else.

To get my mind off things, I spent a day reading an Inspector banks novel, and just browsing 1950s dresses on Pinterest.   I love the shape of Poppy and Tulabelle. They're perfect for 50s fashion, so yesterday I started drafting a bodice for Poppy. 

It went right first time, yay.  :)   So today I'm trying to get the full skirt right.  I adore 50s dresses, and have been saving images  in an inspiration folder.  This first dress will be a very basic 50s shaped dress, and I'll get more ambitious the more I do.

I love the burnt orange/rust colour on her.

These following are not my pics, but I just love the vintage style.

Once I sit down and start drafting a new pattern, or sew, all the anxiety and the depression seems to lift.  Hence I do a lot of it!  I feel blessed to have something so creative in my life.

I've had to re-draft the skirt.  I need to get it just right, nice and full. The secret of a good 50s shape in a frock is the voluminous petticoats underneath, so I'm really looking forward to that part. 

More to come as I progress.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Happy Easter.

I never get around to taking pics of my dolls for things like Halloween, Christmas and Easter - I don't seem to have seasonal outfits or the right props.  So as I sat at my PC, munching my way through a hefty Toblerone, I was so happy to see the work of Tillietogs over on Flickr.

Lots of little dungarees and leotards!   It's lovely to see them all together and Trish has been really busy. 

Here's her picture of her lovely collection of Patience dolls in the SSP-007 Patience dungarees pattern.

Full credit goes to Trish for all this work, the photo... and all that dedication. I love that she's added her own special touch with those lovely little crochet hats.

 I hope everyone has a Happy Easter. <3


Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Bargain buy

I recently bought a kilo of chiffon offcuts, they were an absolute bargain and arrived today.

OMG. What was I thinking?? CHIFFON?

It's gorgeous though - now I just need the gumption to attempt to sew it.  I did have an idea in mind when I bought it, but now it's here in all its sheer slinky-slidey glory, I'm just a teeny bit terrified...