Friday, August 31, 2012


While I was out grocery shopping today, I swung by the consignment store. Basically, an overpriced thrift store where some crappy leather covered import footstool thing in a dark depressing color sells for the "great price, far below retail" of $299. Ouch!

Anyway. I scored.

I had to buy four little chairs to get this one, but the other two I will see about for outdoor furniture. The fourth one is heading to the real thrift store.

I'm excited because, if I can find turned posts like this, I could make more! A long time ago, I learned to do rope seats like this. Also caned seats and rush seats.
Yes, one more obscure thing I can do.

The chair is just a tiny bit too tall, and a bit oversized. But it gives me a starting place.
I might do what my grandma (5' 1") was famous for and apply a saw to the legs. It won't help the oversized aspect, but it will help the dangly feet.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Snuck some time away today from getting the house ready for our annual invasion of musicians to do my first ever dollieh modification.

I sueded her hips, elbows, and knee joints. I even took her head off! So many firsts.

It was interesting how looser elastics (essentially what you get when you replace the head with a chopstick to keep the elastics from heading south never to be seen again)  change how the doll poses. She was both more flexible and floppier.

I might be tempted in the future to loosen her up just a bit, but I'll wait and see how she loosens up on her own after several months.

I used moleskin (like for blisters) cut up and stuck inside the socket part of the ball joints. I think I would like to do her ankles and maybe her knees.

It took me a couple of tries to get it done. Next time I decide to do this, I'll just take the doll all the way apart because the hardest part was manouvering the sticky moleskin around the elastic.

I also think I'll read more on different techniques for doing this and see if there is one I like better.

She almost sits on her own. She will sit if she is tipped forward a little bit, and she is also less likely to swat herself in the face. So overall I'm pleased with my efforts.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

creamsicle swimsuit

I finally have (nearly) finished something for Queenie (Resinsoul Dai) that is not white! 

Why I would put a red-headed doll in orange escapes me. 

This is based on a pattern illustration from 1948, for sportswear.

The top is not done yet (it came out too snug so I will have to add loops and buttons instead of snaps.) Queenie is wearing a trial-version of the top.

The pleats in the shorts are not as distinct as I'd like them, but maybe more ironing will take care of that.

The short are fully lined, even the waistband is faced with plain white Bemberg rayon lining. The orange is a linen-cotton blend.

I will add buttons on top of the snaps (I chickened out making tiny buttonholes). I would like to find some acid green shank buttons. I'll use the green buttons on both garments. 

I'd like to make a green scarf for her, or a big white hat trimmed in green.

I've added buttons, a hat, and a tote in this post.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Review: Swagger Coat

This is a very long and wordy review. Go get some coffee or iced tea and settle in for the long haul.

Review: Swagger Coat #105, Hello Dolly Boutique patterns (c)2006 as sized for the 22" American Model doll

This pattern is based on a full-sized vintage pattern from the 1930s. There are sleeve style, hem length, and collar variations as well as a detachable hood. The coat and hood are lined.

This pattern has been hand-drafted down from the vintage original for a 22" doll. This pattern is also available for other size dolls. Bullet-point instructions are provided, with some very small reproductions of instructional line drawings from the original pattern.

I made the coat and hood up in some lightweight wool tweed salvaged from a Woolrich jacket (thriftstore) and lined it with Bemberg rayon lining. I did use lightweight interfacing on the facing pieces, listed as "optional" in the instructions.
I chose the 3/4 length view with 3/4 length sleeves, without the cuff and also eliminated the decorative sleeve band. I did the funnel neck rather than the collar view.

I do not own an American Model doll, however, the Resinsoul ball jointed doll I have is close in size to the AM doll so I have chosen to try patterns drafted for the AM, since they are generally widely available. I got the AM 22" measurements from a doll knitting website. I assume they are correct.

Measurements in centimeters
Diff          Resinsoul Dai   American Model 22"
+2   Height             58    56
-2.5 Bust               22.5  25
+2   Head circumference 20    22
 0   Waist              15.5  15.5
-3   Neck circumference  9    12 
-1.2 Hip                24    25.2
-3   Shoulder width      8.5  11.5
-2   Arm length         16.5  18.5

I suppose I should also add that I am not affiliated with any doll company or pattern company mentioned in this review and that I was not compensated in any way for this review.

I should also mention that I ultimately intend to use this coat on a different ABJD, an Impldoll Model, whose shoulders are the same width as the American Model.

Ok. On to the good stuff.

This is a nice, basic coat pattern but there are some minor flaws in the pattern as presented by Hello Dolly Boutique. These flaws do not detract from the overall usefulness of the pattern even though I spend most of the review on these issues. I hope my analysis of this pattern encourages you to go out and try it!

Errors can be divided into three broad categories: pattern notation, pattern drafting, and fit. 

Pattern notation errors:
Notches (for alignment during sewing) sometimes do not line up. Specifically, the notch on the side seam between the front and back pieces, the notch between the front and front facing pieces, and the cuff to sleeve notches.

“On Fold” notations: as is necessary with such small pattern pieces, sometimes the "cut on fold" notation is not placed on the pattern piece itself. It is easy enough to copy these over when working with the pattern.

However, there is possibly a missing "on fold" notation for the arm side facing piece. If cut as directed - a single piece not on the fold - it is too short to fill in the space between the front facing and the back facing. Cutting it on the fold is one solution, but causes a mismatch in length between this pattern piece and the back neck facing. The other possibility is a missing pattern piece.

Grainline marks are missing from all pieces, as well as any center front markings. The pocket placement limits the center front overlap to no more than 2cm. 

Pattern drafting errors:
The three facing pieces sewn together for the neck facing all have slightly different length seam edges.

facing mismatch
The controlling seam length should, I assume,  be the edge of the front facing. It is the shortest of the three. As a temporary solution to this, I simply trimmed the facings to a pleasing width and shape once they were stitched together, pressed, and sewed in place. 

Fit errors:
Until I have the chance to see this coat on an American Model doll, I can identify only two fitting flaws with this pattern: the finished garment neck opening and the useable opening in the hood. 

The neck circumference of the 22" American Model doll is 12cm (I got this information from a pdf document listing doll sizes on the dollswestdesigns knitting website). If this information is accurate, then the finished neck opening of the coat, with a 2cm overlap allowed on each side of the center front for closing, is 21.5cm. This is a bit larger then the doll's neck. This style coat should fit closely around the base of the neck.

Fixing this drafting problem is not difficult, simply extending while narrowing the front, the back, both sleeve pieces, and their corresponding facing pieces just a little bit will do the trick. The front sleeve piece (containing shaping for the shoulder) will be a bit more complicated to alter.
Shoulder shape detail

The cutting lines and pattern pieces for the collared view should also be checked. 

If you are picky about fit I would suggest making a scrap version of the coat (unlined, and un-faced but staystitched) from the waist up and check the shoulder and neck fit before you start. This is what I get for sewing for a doll I did not have at the time.

My hand standing in for a head
The hood is designed to be pulled over the head (my interpretation of the included line drawings) rather than wrapped as the written instructions imply. The opening as drafted when the hood is finished is about 8 inches, which would necessitate removing the wigs of most dolls and possibly the head as well. 

Adding 3/4 of an inch in length to both hood pattern pieces, and/or reducing the length of the seam forming the back of the hood, would remove this difficulty. 

I should state that the written directions provided by Hello Dolly Boutique imply the hood is completely open on the neck edge, which would avoid this problem altogether.

The directions for assembly are generally good with the exception of the admittedly puzzling detachable hood.

Alterations I would suggest for the assembly instructions are to stay stitch the neck edges of all the pieces before doing any sewing and certainly before pressing if your fabric is at all loosely woven or prone to stretching. 

I would also suggest assembling and sewing the facings to the coat's front and neck edges before sewing the underarm/side seams: easier to iron all that facing if you can lay the coat out flat. 

The Pockets:
The pocket pieces and instructions make little sense at first glance, but if you just follow the directions provided, they work out nicely.
Lined pocket flat

I do believe that the pocket trim piece should be a bit shorter from top to bottom, since it comes right down to the bottom edge of the pocket. The illustrations show the pocket trim coming not so far down. I cheated the trim piece a little bit when ironing the pocket to raise it a bit. 
Pocket from above

The trim piece, it should be noted, is slightly asymmetric, so the pocket has a little extra style built right in! 

The main pocket piece, according to the illustrations, is also supposed to have a lining. There is no lining called for on the pattern piece or in the instructions. It would be simple to add one if desired. 

The Hood:
By dint of squinting repeatedly at the hood pieces and the illustrations provided, and perhaps too much coffee, I determined how the hood was originally intended to be assembled. The bullet-point instructions provided for the hood are scanty. 

The pattern pieces provided are a left and right hood, each to be cut out twice. I believe they should each be cut out only once. There are matching notches on the hood pieces, creating an asymmetric hood shape (however, the double and single notches on one side seem to be reversed. It does not matter, since the hood is equally asymmetric either way). 

There are several illustrations of the hood included on the pattern instruction sheet. One drawing as worn, where one can see the criss-cross drape at the front mentioned in the instructions, one of the hood hanging down the back of the coat (on the pattern cover page), one of what is apparently the seam below the peak of the hood being stitched (not present in the written instructions) and one of assembling the hood which looks suspiciously like a Möbius strip. 

I have seen other 1930s garments with a similar twisted "right to wrong side" construction at the neck, and in this case, the twisted section of the hood, where both the outside and lining fabric are visible, lies below the wearer's chin. 

From two of the illustrations, it appears that the hood was intended to button in place on the coat. It may be more practical to use snaps on this scale garment, as the written directions indicate. 

One side or both of the hood must be detached in order to remove the coat. This is somewhat awkward, but the hood adds quite a bit to the overall style of the garment.

The "hanging down the back" illustration looks like the hood pieces may have been cut on the bias, or the fabric used in the illustration was a fine twill or other inherently easily draped fabric.

revised hood construction directions below** 

Changes I made from the instructions while constructing the garment:
From the illustrations provided, it appears that the lining was originally supposed to be either trimmed to just meet the neck facing pieces, or the lining sleeve and back pieces should not have been cut identically to the sleeve and back pieces of the coat. There is a notation on the front coat pattern piece to "cut here" for lining. That cutting line matches up nicely with the front facing. 

The written instructions direct the seamstress to turn the assembled lining's 1/4" allowance under and slipstitch the lining over the facings.

I chose instead to trim the front facing seam allowance away and bind the edge of the entire facing with self bias tape (made from the lining material).

I then slipstitched the facing over the lining.

Finished coat (inside) and hood (detached)
I hemmed and turned up the bottom edge of the lining, bias bound and slipstitched the outer fabric hem in place,

Bound hem allowance
 and then french tacked the lining in place.

French tack

I also tacked the lining in place at the intersection of the underarm sleeves. 

In addition to ignoring the instructions for slipstitch hemming the coat, I turned up the outer fabric 1/2" and the lining about 3/4" instead of the 1/4" and 1/2" called out in the instructions. So my version of the coat will be 1/4" shorter than the 3/4 length I originally cut out. 

I made these changes because one of my goals for the doll clothes I make is to emulate full-sized vintage construction techniques as much as possible, within the limits of my knowledge, and accommodating the challenges small-scale sewing can present.
I hope this review does not discourage you from trying the pattern. It is a nice basic raglan sleeved pattern and could easily be adapted to other vintage styles (I'm thinking vintage ski jacket or shooting coat or fur coat or cozy fireside robe or silk-twill evening coat.)

**revised hood instructions.

As far as I can tell, the hood is not attached to the back of the coat
 Pin together the two short notched edges of the left and right hood pieces. Continue pinning no more than the same distance down one long side. Sew where pinned. Repeat with lining pieces. You have just formed the peak and back seam of the hood.

Clip corners and press both assemblies. Notch the seam allowance where the stitching ends in the middle of one long side. Place one hood assembly inside the other, right sides together.

Sew the long (previously unstitched edge) attaching outer hood to lining on long edge of hood assembly.

Sew from the notch to the short raw edge on the other side. You will now have something that looks like nothing so much as a pair of pants you'd have to teleport a pair of torso-less legs into.

Hood assembly prior to slipstitching the raw ends
Turn rightside out and press this whole thing nice and flat.

You have two raw ends, each having one lining surface and one fabric surface. Put one lining side against the other fabric side, aligning raw edges, and start slipstitching them together.

You will have a Möbius strip when you are done. Press the slipstitched seam.

Figure out where the snaps should go and attach to the front of the coat. 

I attached the snaps in line with the front sleeve-to-front-coat seam, and the snaps on the hood about ¾ of the way in from either edge.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Thing One Arrives

The second doll I ordered but the first to arrive showed up today. I promise I did not stalk the USP man. Well, not much.

This is a Resinsoul Dai. I'm calling her Regina Marie Montgomery.

I'm quite pleased with her for a first doll. She is less expensive than the other one I'm getting so I'm only a bit nervous about moving her joints and just getting used to her rather than utterly paralyzed that I'll instantly wreck her.

She is a nice substantial doll, the resin is solid feeling (for all I know she is a lightweight but I'm happy) and smooth.

I indulged in pent-up-clothes-trying (all too big for her, which I kind of expected). I am looking forward to making her clothes in the right size.

Swagger coat will fit the other doll better (wider shoulders)

If the tap pants sat at the waist, they'd be OK
Also to big, but cute.

She came with no wig, so I got to wrestle her into the wigs I've been collecting. I'm pretty sure she's a ginger.
OK for the 1950s, not for the 40s
This one is possible, I'm not sure yet.
The bed I made is too short for her but I'm planning to make a second and third bed that will be useable as bunkbeds or single beds or even a couch. Modular furniture.

None of the cups and so on I've picked up are exactly right.

but I think the tea-set intended for an American Doll is probably closest. It is still a little clunky but acceptable for now.

Now I'm REALLY excited about making clothes for this doll. I got some more patterns today and have identified some clothes I want to draft for this doll.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tap pants

Tap pants are these old-school underwear, loose in the legs, worn at the natural waist.

Google patent search has at least one from the 1939 available. 

(The gray blob after "Here's a" is a link to the patent. Click it. Someday I will figure out how to add a background color to link text w/out having to mess with CSS. But not today.)

Here's a link to patent.

This pattern appealed to me because it was just a handful of simple shapes - deliberately designed to be made from small pieces of fabric.

I used more of the silk twill I have - it is not too bad to sew, but the twill structure makes it a little springy and it does not hold a crease too well.

I used a single snap at the waist to close (no elastic in these pants).

To derive the pattern, I made the assumption (wrong or not) that the pattern piece sketches included with the patent document were to scale. Certainly, the finished product is plausible, except for the crotch piece. That is very long and looks like the pants might ride up something fierce.

I suppose I could always take a tuck in it later.

I enlarged the sketch until the waist was the right size for The Dolls.

I may need to play with the proportions of the pattern pieces to fit The Dolls' less than ample posteriors. I believe the leg openings are too wide and the crotch piece is too long. 

I sewed the side front pieces to the front triangle, and the side back pieces to the back triangle, then attached the short sides of the crotch piece to the short extensions of the side front and back pieces. Then I did the side seams, and finished the waist and leg openings.

It might work better to attach the side fronts and back to the crotch piece, then turn under the allowances of the front and rear triangles, and apply them to the side/crotch assembly. I shall experiment further.

This first pair, I believe, will fit the smaller of The Dolls. At least in the waist.

Yes, eventually I will name The Dolls: I have gotten as far as looking up popular baby names from 1921 and 1927.


This is what waiting does for me, it makes me crazy.

Remember how I swore up and down (what does that mean, anyway?) that I would have Only ONE doll. Unlike Highlander movies, apparently there can NOT be only one.
I ordered a second doll today. Less pricy than the first one (which is still not here, and won't be until September). 

And is it crazy to get another one before the first one arrives? Maybe. Maybe.

It is a Resinsoul Dai. This is their 58cm doll, so she will be a bit taller than my other one, but she is also a little skinnier. I'm thinking younger sister. Or she may be bossy and decide to be the older one. Come to think of it, my younger sister is the bossy one. So who knows.

What this really means is that the clothing I've been working on can finally be modeled by a doll, rather than assorted non-doll items, like a tailor's sleeve ham.

like this.

I don't like the buttons very much. But I won't worry about it until have an idea how it will fit either of The Dolls.

The skinnier doll also has much narrower shoulders (or the companies measure them differently - no clue, have I) so that will mess with the fit of this coat.

On to stalking the UPS delivery person.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Sew and sew and so on and so forth

Worked on clothes for The Doll even though it is still at least a month out for The Arrival of The Doll. I just could not wait any more.
After all, my whole purpose in getting The Doll is to make clothes!! So there!

I dove into the vintage swimsuit pattern (#36) from Hello Dolly Boutique patterns:

the pattern has some flaws and issues, but the swimsuit is so far an acceptable effort for not having sewn doll clothes for - oh - I don't know - 40 years? I already want to do it over in a lighter fabric (I skipped the called-for lining in this blue version since the cotton was not as light as I would have liked it).
I will not finish the trunks or put the buttons on the top until I have The Doll in hand.

I also broke down and worked a little bit on an adorable skirt from Perfect Patterns: #85, a pencil skirt w/ pleated back and a cap-sleeved blouse.

I will hold off finishing the waist band and back close of the skirt until I have The Doll in hand. I still need to do the blouse.

It seems to me that the PP is much more closely tailored than the HDB pattern and, since The Doll is not exactly the same size as an American Model 22" (for which both patterns are drafted), I need to be careful how close to finished I make any PP clothes before I have the doll in hand.

I think I'll switch to my old Singer Featherweight sewing machine: it has narrower feed dogs than my newest machine (an electronic Bernina). I had to sew the side seams of the skirt lining by starting in the middle of the seam and sewing to one end, then starting again in the middle and sewing the other direction. It was the only way I could prevent the silk twill from diving down into the feed dogs and making an annoying lump of abused thread.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Bed: done (well, enough)

(link to previous bed post)

Got the headboard covered (ugh, not too well thought-out but got it done)
Pegged and glued the siderails, sawed off excess peg, hit it with a bit of sandpaper, then touched up the stain.

I tried a photoshoot on our kitchen table. It worked OK but there are a lot of windows and openings into the kitchen nook so it was hard to find enough uninterrupted wall space for a plausible "set".

Anyway, I am pleased with the overall scale of the bed. It looks believable. Now, the table I finished earlier IS too spindly, as I feared.

I think the tabletop size (area) is OK, but it needs to be thicker and the legs need to be longer and thicker. Longer, at least for use as a bedside table. And I would like to try a shelf and/or a drawer on the next table.

Moving on.

I did not take into consideration the other aspect of scale models: you can use small diameter pieces, but they are also WEAKER, as I found when trying to upholster the headboard. 

I managed to snap off two of the pegs holding the crosspieces while I was tacking the headboard cloth in place.
I swore a little bit and glued stuff back together.

The headboard is wool, two layers of cotton batting, and a cotton backing. I would normally have tacked a dust cover over the back of the headboard, but I am DONE pounding tacks into it. I don't want to re-glue AGAIN.

Here's a detail of the freshly stained pegs.

I had fun making the rest of the bedding. 

The tick is filled with feathers salvaged from an old pillow as are The Doll's pillows, and the coverlet is blue wool and orange silk leftover from previous (full-sized) clothes sewing. The sheets are cut down from high-thread-count pillowcases.
The piece of beige cotton batting in the middle of the picture (between the sheets and pillows; on top of the tick) goes between the tick and the sheets. Helps smooth out the feather tick a little bit.

I slapped some temporary slats (too few and way too narrow) in the frame for the photoshoot.

Overall I am pleased with the project. And I learned a lot about building scale furniture, which was also my goal.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Table: done

Finished the table tonight.

(link to previous post about the table. Will open a new window.)

It is 6" high, and the table top is 6 1/4" x 6 `1/4", sized for a night stand or side table.

I had considered pegging the angled braces in place, but decided to just glue them. 

I'm still thinking the table might be a bit spindly, but I hope it will look right for The Doll when she arrives.

The first picture is taken on the top of a wooden bookshelf. With the bare wall behind, it is quite convincing!

This next shot shows the color of the stain much better. And my messy project room.

I used basswood, Minwax Provencal stain, started using a Tung oil varnish but got impatient and used an acrylic gloss for the final coat on the top. It is a little rough to the touch, so I might hit it with some 0000 steel wool and put another coat on.

For those of you who like the details: first the bottom side of the table before the legs were glued in place (dig my sloppy glue job) and second a detail of the leg bracing. 

Now, on a 'real' table I think the leg braces should be longer. But this will do OK for a first attempt.

That's it! Next up is finishing the bed and bedding.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

The Wardrobe Steamer Trunk

Now, this is a HUGE project. Tons of details.

I'm wallowing again.

As I said earlier, this is a large trunk, designed to stand on end and open up, with space for hanging clothes on one side and drawers on the other. They run about 42 inches tall in real life.

I've decided to make a 1/3 doll sized one.

I made a lot of sketches and peered at ebay listings and pondered and looked for hinges and latches and so on.

I finally decided I needed to make a cardboard mock up so I could see the hinges and latches and trim on the 'real' thing (real at least in size).

So here's my butt-ugly mat-board version.

And here it is open

and here's where I drew on the hinges on the back

I ordered hinges and latches today, and will check the local hobby shop for other things I need, like plywood and dowels. A lot of the trim elements will come from paper-crafting.