Thursday, January 28, 2016

Liebster Award--Thank you Brini!

Here we are, the first Liebsters of the year. Thank you, Brini for nominating me. I'll begin right away with my answers to Brini's questions:
1.   What is your most treasured doll and why?
My most treasured doll is the one my mom gave me when I was just 20 months old. Her name is Sandra and I still have her. She is on my bed at my parents' home. The body was originally rubber, which over time, disintegrated so I had her re-bodied. She is the matriarch of my doll family! As far as the most treasured doll in my's too difficult to choose. From my natural haired So In Style Barbies to my most recent Fashion Royalty dolls, all are precious to me. In an earthquake, I'd probably bypass my own clothes and grab as many dolls as I could!
2.   What motivates your to continue your blog?
My passion for fashion. In putting together my blog I use many of the same skills as  those employed during my career in fashion and fashion education.  The blog keeps me connected and engaged in this field. It also provides an outlet allowing me to channel my creative energy while giving me something that gives purpose to my daily life now that I am no longer in the work force. Ideas for each post are drawn from current edgy looks as well as fabulous fashions I've seen throughout my life. Since digital cameras didn't exist until fairly recently, I use Pinterest as my scrapbook. My dolls are like tiny avatars, allowing me to "wear" fashion both past and present. All of you who are gracious enough to leave comments and lend support, make all the hard work that goes into producing this blog, very rewarding. Thank you.
3.   What doll challenges have you faced, (limiting, selling etc)?
The dolls themselves pose no challenges other than sneaking lots of their friends and families into my home. (How else could 20 turn into 100!)  I'm terribly sentimental so I haven't given any of them away. The challenge really comes with the blog which takes up nearly all of my free time. You know by now, I won't put anything up unless 1) it has a distinct link with "fashion" or has  "fashion appeal" 2) it is photographed in a way so as to seduce my visitors 2) and most of all----it is  interesting! As you've noticed, I operate more like a "magazine" in that my blog runs all year long with no real breaks. I do get away from time to time, but either I prepare posts in advance or I simply take the dolls with me and incorporate them into my trip. It's sort of the way fashion designers live.
4.   What new skills have you challenged yourself to in your selected play scale?
At first I found very simple ways to dress the dolls (draping designer scarves, feather boas or jewelry) around them. But one day while rummaging through my closet, I found clothes I'd made for myself that were really well sewn. Instead of approaching my work with the attitude of "Well, it's better than those made by Mattel," I started challenging myself with more complicated styles for the dolls and paying more attention to finishing. As a result, I think my work has really grown. I think this is especially important in maintaining the attention and interest of those who follow me.

5.   What was the last item you created or purchased for yourself that you had second thoughts about because you'd rather have a doll?
I have so many clothes in my closets and my lifestyle has radically changed now that I am no longer in the work force. So I don't feel the need to buy new clothes for myself and I don't need to update my tech toys as much as I once did. But, when I travel and say, dine out at a restaurant, I tend to think about what kind of doll I could have bought for the price of the dinner. This is very bad! Signs of a doll addict!
6.   How do you decide what to add to your collection?
I'm looking for dolls who have the same look and swag as real models on the fashion catwalks of the world. When I do see a doll who speaks to me, and is not outrageously expensive, I set my sights on her.

7.   What was the one doll mistake you made and what did you learn from it?
Making a Frankendolly without really thinking through my objective. Since all I need my dolls have to do is to simply strike a pose,  I had this crazy idea the body didn't really matter. I put an FR doll head on a Barbie Model Muse body, thinking I'd have the look of the doll without the full expense. Aside from the FR doll not being happy with her unarticulated Barbie MM body, I ended up with a devalued FR Kyori Sato doll. Even though she looked hot with either body (Photos: FR body on the left, Barbie MM on the right), the doll screamed and nagged me until I finally gave in and bought a proper FR body for her. In the end, it all came to the same price as a nude doll on the after market. Lesson learned----just go on and buy the whole doll!
8.   Which doll was your holy grail and do feel the same about the doll now?
The holy grail wasn't one doll it was Fashion Royalty dolls. Like many of you, I began collecting Barbie. I discovered FR while looking at other collectors' dolls pictured online. It took me awhile before I felt like parting with more than $20 for a doll but eventually I was seduced by the beauty of the FR dolls and how fashion relevant they were. My first FR was a "Envy" Monogram. I love her, but discovered quickly how challenging it was to fit clothes on dolls with articulation. (She kept bending in all directions.) Today, I still love FR and have stopped collecting Barbies. I bought an FR mannequin to avoid draping directly on those dolls!!
9.   Has anyone ever giving you a doll gift that you did not know if you should accept it or not?
With the exception of my "Christmas" gift (picked out by me and given by my dad) I'd rather people not give me the gift of a doll because I'm at a point where I'm looking for something very specific.

10. Which doll or item on your wish list that you will no longer pursue?

I was looking for the FR Hommes Takeo. On Ebay has always been expensive. Now there are so few on the market, he has become completely out of reach!
11. Which doll will be the doll you have to have this year?
She has not yet been created but I already know I MUST have her!!!
On that note, I nominate the 5 following blogs to continue the madness:
Here are the rules:
1. Thank the person who present you the award and link back to their blog.
2. Post the award image on your. 
3  Answer 11 questions posted be the presenter (see below)
4. Nominate 5 blogs with less then 200 followers (or in my case, those you love)
5. Create 11 questions for the nominees to answer.
6. List these rules in your post. Inform the people you chose to nominated by leaving a comment on their   blog and link them to your post!
1. What was it about the first doll you ever bought that prompted you to start a collection?
2. When you get a new doll, how does it make you feel and what do you do right after de-boxing?
3. Do you name all your dolls? If so, where do you get ideas for their names?
4. Do you do anything special to care for your dolls?
5. How do you organize your dolls' clothes, accessories, props?
6. What motivated you to start writing a blog?
7. How has your blog evolved since you first started?
8. What kind of camera do you use to take your photos?
9. What challenges does this hobby (or blog) present? (What have you learned?)
10. Where do you go to discover new dolls to buy?
11. Doll-wise, what are you hoping for in 2016?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Heart-FELT Desires

I've been wanting to make felt hats for awhile now. What's held me back is thinking I needed special rolls of wool. While I did buy a small package, I discovered that working with felt squares is easier, not to mention, faster! In preparation for this post, I tried a number of different approaches, all of which I share with you here. And while there is a plethora of photos on this page, don't think for a moment that any of this is complicated.

The reality is it is enormously easy because we are working with a super simple base which serves as a canvas for all of your creative expressions.

1.Felt squares are sold everywhere. If you can, try to find wool felt or at least, a material with wool content. Above the orange square is wool, the purple synthetic. Wool will make the process go even faster because it practically melts with steam. But if you are not so lucky, the synthetic still works, though requiring a bit more work to get a smooth finish at the edges. You will need a form. You can create your own. Click here for instructions. Or you can simply use some small object around the house, like bottle caps, to serve as your hat form.
2. Each hat on this page started out with a  4x4" (103mm) square of felt. First, treat the felt by washing it with soapy water, working the suds into the fabric. For the synthetic felt, I also put it in a cup of hot water, leaving it until the water cools.
3. Stretch the wool in all directions. These two steps serve to soften the wool fiber and making it pliable to smoothly fit over the hat form.

4. For my first hat, I stretched the wool around the form and tied it at the base.
5. Using a iron on a low setting, I press all around the crown.
6. At the base, I stretch out the gathers and press around the edge and underneath
7. Set aside and allow to completely dry. When dry, untie and cut around the base, allowing a small margin.

 8. For this model, I decided to use an inner hatband. I don't have access to a milliner supply store and didn't want to wait to order online. Instead, I used a narrow strip of elastic. Stitch to the edge (and not directly through to the hat. I ran my iron along the inner edge of the hem. If the hat has stretched a bit, you can put it back on the form, spray lightly with water and press the hat again with the iron.
9. For the finished look, I simply took the scraps, gathered them into a bunch and made a stitch at the center. Attach to the side of the hat and voila! Feel free to add feathers, fur trim, lace, ribbons, rhinestones, tulle.... For example:

 The basic hat is chic enough to be worn as is....

...or embellished with a wisp of tulle wrapped around the head and tied at the side.

 10-12 Here, I used my wide brimmed hat form. This works for either a cloche or a style with a bit of a brim. Again, I follow the same procedures as listed above. The iron is used to help shrink the fibers around the form. Be sure to work the gathers out around the string, ironing and moving the fabric around until the crown is smooth.
13. This shows what it looks like when it's totally dry.
14. I cut away what I won't use.
15. Then press the felt below the cord. You can use the cord to guide your scissors as you cut the excess away. Or you could press this down into a brim.
Here, I've cut the excess away, then added it back as a garnish on the side and slipped in a feather.

I made another hat using a purple felt. Instead of cutting away the excess, I thought it would be fun to leave as is. The result reminds me of head gear reminiscent of Japanese fashion from the 1990s.

This process worked so remarkably well (I made 10 hats in two days), I decided to see what would happen if I used scraps of wool jersey.
I did get the hat shape, however, it is really soft! I stitched in a hatband made from bias cotton tape, but it was difficult to keep the edges from stretching. I tried using a spray-on start or sizing agent but it tends to flake when dried!

Here, I tried using a scrap of wool (the same material as her suit.) I did get a dome shape but couldn't control the stretch when I tried to add a hatband. So.......I re-wet my hat, tied it back to the form. The when dry...added a small bit of faux fur.

16. The takeaway is that your hat will take the shape of whatever is underneath. A quick tour around the house and I found bottle tops, product caps and the like to shape my hats. Whatever you choose should be slightly smaller than the dolls head (as it will stretch when dry).
17. After preparing your felt, stretch it over the bottle top then hold in place with a rubber band.
18. Adjust the gathers around the rubber band so as to make everything above smooth.
19. Allow to completely dry. Notice how my hat has the shape of the product cap.
20. Cut away the excess. For this series of hats, I've left the rough cut edge.
21. I love the sharp edges of this container. The result is that perfect Jackie Kennedy pillbox!
 22. Again, I scooped up the scraps and chopped them up. Put them together and stitch in the center then attach to one side of the hat. You can also add a touch of glam with a rhinestone sticker squarely placed in the center.

No matter how simple or how elaborate your tastes lie, use your imagination and make this basic felt hat your own!
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Saturday, January 16, 2016

Doll's Eye View: Golden Globes 2016

Red carpet season is back beginning with the Golden Globes Awards. I still have issues with these formal events due to what I see as a lack of good old fashion glamour. For me, the dresses are lacking in interesting cut, beautiful (Italian) fabrics, and accessories. I have nothing against simplicity, so long as it's brilliant and flawless in execution. However, most of what I see today is rather.. ordinary. In part, it's the fault of the designers. Inasmuch as I am not seeing a lot of interesting dresses on the couture runways, I shouldn't expect much on anyone's red carpet. I put the rest of the blame on the stylists, who don't seem to have much in their repertoire when it comes to dressing women to look like queens. My girls were rather bored, but I refused to give them the option of coming home empty handed. So we compromised. I allowed them to improvise.

The most intriguing look for all of us was the custom designed Versace Haute Couture dress worn by Lady Gaga. True, your average woman (or doll) cannot pull off this dress, but the construction of this "Ace of Spades" velvet gown was amazing. Moreover, Gaga with her "Marilyn Monroe" hairstyle and her legendary sense of drama, pulled it off in spectacular fashion. I chose this dress, fully aware it would (and did) create all sorts of problems from the panne velvet fabric (way to bulky for the doll) to the padded (Kardashian) hips. I should point out, the original dress has lots more fabric in the skirt which I simplified to suit my doll, Brie.

I love how the neckline of the dress drifts off the shoulders and plunges deep over the bust. The darts are sharp and pointed while the fitted bodice gives way to an exaggerated, hour glass silhouette. I draped this dress directly on a spare doll body To get the shape of the hips, I taped cotton balls to the form and draped the fabric around it. It required two deep pleats to steer the fabric away from the form. The sides are then tapered back towards the body. I inserted a 3/4 circular wedge at the center back, just under the hips. At first I sewed in a tuft of pleated tulle above each hip, but the dress drooped, so I made tiny hip pads to maintain the shape. Working with the velvet was not easy. The proportions are slightly different, due, in part, to the bulky fabric as well as the difference in body proportions. If I were tempted to try this dress again, velveteen might be a better choice of fabric.

Very striking on the red carpet was Jennifer Lawrence in a fire engine red Dior dress. Though this dress is the epitome of understated elegance, it is anything but easy to make! I used a sheath dress pattern for the dress and a basic bodice top (without stitching down the darts) for the sleeveless bolero. In reality this outfit is really an exercise in trompe l'oeil. What seems to be two distinct pieces in the front, comes together as a single piece in the back with a keyhole over the torso in addition to the ones over the hips. My sheath fitted perfectly---that is, until I cut the holes over the hips. I had to make a lot of tiny stitches to hold it to the figure for the photo shoot. Moreover, my dress has darts while the original, which I believe was cut from a silk crepe, does not.

If I had the time, it would be interesting to find another alternative by draping a new pattern directly on the doll's figure.

My doll Samantha was not happy when she saw me choose the bubblegum pink Prada dress worn by Katy Perry. The dress was a banal slip dress, blending into the actresses natural skin tone. "So bland!" lamented Samantha. I made the 1/6 scale version using the wrong side of a silk satin.

The trick in getting my doll to wear it was in the accessories....opera length gloves and a furry shawl!

Karen was rolling her eyes at first over the Ralph Lauren's blue 2-toned gown worn by Kate Winslet. "B-O-R-I-N-G!!!" she cried. While this look works for a more intimate affair, I personally feel that a Hollywood fete commands a more glamorous gown, even if you do it through accessories. I remained faithful to the overall spirit of the Ralph Laurent gown. I used rayon-lycra jersey for the body of the dress and silk for the triangular insert and trim.

But to bring more "excitement" to the look, I added a cocoon made from polyester organza (another fun, instant glam fabric to be the subject of entire post in the near future).

And then there was that Stella McCartney white silk jersey gown worn by Taraji Henson, star of the hit TV drama series "Empire." And yes, Taraji did look wonderful in the dress, and the long train does add a certain amount of glamour, but jersey is well....a bit overdone. 

My dress for Yvette really has little to do with the McCartney dress other than the fact they are both white and have trains. I started with a foundation underneath then used a woven lightweight polyester to drape a more interesting neckline. I even took liberties with the train, fashioning the top edge into soft ruffles. The end result is softer, like whipped cream over the body.

Lessons to be learned here: Dresses with lots of gathers and fabric must be simplified to reduce bulk. When translating a full scale outfit into something significantly smaller, consider fabrics best scaled to the doll, even if it means a less fancy fabric. It is more important to capture the "look" or the spirit of the original dress than to attempt a line for line copy! And one more thing...don't be afraid of a challenge. You learn through your mistakes!!!

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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Ugg...Time to Reboot!!!

Up until today, we've had a pretty mild winter, here in the Midwest of the U.S. But this morning, mother nature ended all of that with freezing temperatures and a small blanket of snow. A couple of posts ago, we featured  junior models showing off the holiday sites in Paris clad in "ordinary" clothes. Quite a few of your dolls (and mine) spotted Jerry's "UGGS," a hot accessory on the cold streets of Paris. Though they are warm and comfortable, they are too wide, too flat and not sexy enough for my personal Then again, this blog isn't designed for me. It's for our little fashionistas and their friends! N'est pas???!!!

Due to time restrictions facing me when preparing that post, I took the easy way out by covering a pair of Barbie boots with bits of suede, tacking on a bit of sheepskin fleece around the top edge, and modeling a sole out of oven-bake clay. It wasn't the best looking pair of boots, but, my girl Jerry was happy with them. To my surprise, when she arrived back home, it grabbed the attention of other dolls, many of whom came running to me for a pair.  This forced me to study them more closely. Making these boots is really not difficult. The pattern only consists of four pieces: Upper, toe cap, inner and outer sole. And given the casual nature of this duck footed boot, it doesn't even have to be all that perfect. And while there are lots free patterns circulating on the internet for DYI Uggs, most are for 18-inch, flat footed American Girl dolls. All my models have high heel feet, so I decided to make a pattern to accommodate this. Creating my own pattern also allows me to make my own variations based on the styles the shoe company produces.

Jerry is wearing a shearling jacket she borrowed from the Ken dolls. (You can find this and the white coat tutorial by clicking here.) The jacket is made from leather with a wool fleece. Very thick (and not all that easy to work with.) Still, I thought, how cool would it be to make a pair of dolly Uggs out of "authentic" material!

Because my dolls were built to wear only high heels, I had to create a wedge platform.
1. I started out with a triangular piece of oven back clay.
2. Mold it to the bottom of her foot so that it lines up on the floor. Shave away the excess around the sides with a knife or blade. Don't worry about this being perfect because it will be hidden under the material.
3. After you have made one, make the other. I stand the doll up so that each sole will be equal in height. Bake this sole in the over (low temperature) for about 20 minutes.
4. Then, while the sole is on the doll's foot (you can tape it), put her leg sideways on a piece of paper and draw the profile of the boot. Her ankle is about 1/4-inch wide (5mm), so I've allowed 1/4" (5mm) on either side of the ankle. You determine the height of your boot. Since I'm designing this to have a cuff, my boot is 1-1/4" (25mm) up from the back of the heel. But yours can be shorter or taller.

 5. Once I've drawn the silhouette of my boot, I design what it will look like on the side. For this project, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible (especially since I'm working with a very bulky leather).
6. Trace off each piece then flip and trace off the mirror image from the center front of both the toe cap and the upper. Add a generous seam allowance. (For the white boot, I added even more than this to allow for the bulk of the fleece. Note: For the toe, I noted which side was up to ensure it would be attached correctly.
7. Glue the two pieces together. If you are working with leather or suede thin enough, glue the two pieces together to keep it stable, then topstitch it.
8. Cut notches in the bottom of the toe cap. I punched holes on either side. For the white boots, I decided to lace them up the back. For the black boots (below), I used tiny brads for the look of buttons. (You can also think of doing bows up the back!)
9. Apply rubber cement to the bottom of the wedge sole as well as to the underside of the toe cap perimeter.
10. When both sides have dried, press the boot to the sole. If you did not cut enough away for the notches (as is the case around the toe), now is the time to clip the excess away.

11. Because this was turning out to be a very bulky boot and I knew my outer dimensions would change, I waited until this step to create the outer sole. I took the boot and traced around the bottom of its foot. I'm using a heavy sueded leather for my sole for this and the black boot. You can also fashion your sole out of oven back clay, as I did with the original version.
12. I cut a very narrow strip of leather (2mm) for my laces. Because my fleeced leather was so thick, the grommets would not hold, so to get the laces through the holes, I threaded a very large needle and worked one side and then the other to the top.
13. From the back view, the boot looks like this.
In the original version, I had a couple of store bought buckles. But I didn't have any more so I made my own with a little bit of 18 gauge wire. (Click here for that tutorial.) The strap is wrapped around the ankle, gluing the two edges together at the back. I turn down the top edge and Voila. Very authentic looking Uggs. I'm happy with the end result, but I must warn you, the material was not easy to work with!
It is much easier to make them from a thin suede and add a tiny strip of faux fur for the cuff! First of all, working with a thinner suede means you can make a narrower boot and you can machine stitch the upper to the toe without any problem. For this boot, I decided I wanted buttons down the back. So all of the steps featured for the white boot are identical here. Except, I cut a shorter, more narrow boot and I used small "brads" down the back. (Like Jennifer's fur jacket? It's easy. Click here for the tutorial.)
So that you can see the difference amongst the three boots, we've lined them up for a closer look.
Up next: Some of our girls are out in Hollywood where they plan to upstage the stars on the Golden Globes red carpet. Stay tuned!!!!!
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