Monday, August 19, 2013

Garments from scratch

I've drafted two successful patterns in the last few days, so I thought I'd share the process with you.

I usually start with a sketch, just to pin the idea down, whether the idea is out of my own head or inspired by something I saw. Then I dig around for a pattern I already have that is close (basically a cheater's sloper). I make a trial garment from that modified pattern, and do a test fit. Usually there is one thing I need to change before the final garment, but I've gotten pretty good at this process. (Pat, pat, pat - my arm is sore!)

Here's the sketch and notes for a wrap blouse.

I had a request (I don't do commissions but I do sometimes take requests) for some clothes for a Volks SD 16, a doll I don't own, but that is vaguely similar to my Impldoll. The Volks is taller, bustier, and hippier, but the waist is similar. The shoulders are also wider on the Volks then on the Impldoll.

At a past doll meet, the Volks' owner had tried on some of the clothing I had for sale (made for the Impldoll) so I had some idea of where I needed to go for a blouse to fit the Volks.

So I decided on a wrap blouse - no collar, no buttoned cuffs, as I'm also trying to find a way to speed up my garment production so I can offer a better price. Most of the cost of my garments is in labor, not materials.

Anyway, I sketched out the changes I wanted to make on the existing button-front, collared, button-cuff blouse, and chopped up a cheerful red and white and pink striped thrift store blouse for my test run.

I had a feeling, when I tried the garment on my Impldoll, that the overall size would be good for the Volks, but that I was probably going to need to add a bit at the front in length to make up for the large bust. And, indeed, that was true.

So, one minor alteration later, and I have a blouse pattern to fit Volks SD16 and - if I decide to have it tie shut, a blouse that will fit a variety of wide shouldered busty SD dolls.

Here's the finished product, with a bonus baby pink belt.


The other garment I worked on was a bias plaid skirt inspired by one Bette Davis wore in the film "June Bride".

Here is a clear image (thank you, Internet) of the waist line of the skirt, and another that gives a good overall idea.

The skirt (I watched the movie with the invaluable aid of Tivo's pause function) has a center front and center back bias seam and probably a side seam that is moved toward the front and includes pockets.
The front of the skirt has soft pleats on either side of the center front seam.

You can see a little bit of the effect of the bias seam + pleats in the first picture, where the pattern changes along the line of the pleat. I just instantly fell in love with that pleat!

My first attempt was with (sadly) plaid that was not 4 way symmetrical, so pattern matching the plaid on the side seams didn't work out so well, but it was obvious that I had at least nailed the center front seam/pleat effect.

So off to the store to look for a symmetrical woven plaid. I needed to find a sufficiently small scale for the doll, so I had to turn down a number of plaids. The fabric I chose, cotton,  had a nice drape before washing, but washing, while necessary - it bled green for a while - swelled up the fibers and changed the hand and hang of the fabric. Boo hoo! I would also like to find a plaid with a stronger tonal contrast.

Anyway, I eliminated the pockets and moved the sideseam to the center of the side. I elected to use my mad math skills (which involved looking up the formulae for circles on Google, ha ha). I knew what I wanted for a finished length and knew that the distance around the doll's waist was about 6 1/2 inches. 

With those two measurements, I drafted a large 1/8 of a circle for the back pattern piece and marked the section of a smaller circle representing the waistline. Then I  drafted a larger 1/8" of a circle (2" longer in radius) for the front pattern piece,  moving the waistline section down two inches to allow material for the center front pleat.

I allowed 1 cm ease in the waistband, cut out the waistband and the four skirt pieces (this is about a 1/2 circle skirt), and stitched it up. 

Ta da!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Re-setting a wig

My Impldoll head on a Resinsoul body is a redhead. I have a Glib wig in red. It is a long wig, past shoulder length on the doll, and it gets messy really quickly. I'm not good at remembering to put the net back on the wig when I'm not actively taking pictures (I can't even FIND the net now).

I am trying a straw+bobby pin method. I did all this work with the wig off of the doll.

I brushed out the wig as best as I could, trying to keep separate the sections where the artificial mohair is attached to the net base. 

Then I cut up drinking straws to about 1 1/2 as long as my special short bobby pins

and proceeded to roll sections of wig on the straws, doing a final brushing and detangling of each section as I went.

In most cases, I secured the straw sections with two pins - one from each end - since my repeated flopping around of the partially set wig while combing and setting other sections tended to undo the single pinned straws.

I decided to make all the sections curl under, to keep things simple.

Just curling the sections around a straw was enough to restore some of the curl. I spritzed the set wig with a little water, and I let it sit overnight in hopes the water would add even more curl to the process.

Here is the wig (blurry, I know) with the curlers out. Since I rolled them from the ends to the roots, the ends of the locks are tighter than I wanted.

And here it is all brushed out and pretty! Kind of like a redheaded Dolly Parton - Big Southern Hair.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Chair - o - rama

Ana White has some great (human) scale plans on her site.

She does have some doll things there as well (I think for American Girls).

I took the Harriet Chair plan and tried it out in 3/4" square hardwood stock I had lying around. The original plan calls for nominal 2x2.

For a project about which I took little care, it came out alright.

Great Potential!

Imagine these in bright, primary colors with loud floral cushions!

I'm considering using a pair of longer screws for the bottom of the back of the chair, using one long screw to both hold the back of the chair and the lower cross piece together, as well as attaching the side/backs to the cross pieces. Clear as mud, yes?

Well, anyway, Here's some pics for you.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Been a while...

I have too many hobbies, and this one - the most creative one I have, often takes second (or third or fourth) place to the others.

The big news is ... I finally made a sale of my doll clothes!


It was during a local meet-up. I got lots of people trying the clothes on their dolls, and I got lots of feedback on fit and desired sizes.

My dolls are on the small side for SD dolls, and a number of people with va va voom dolls (32cm bust and hips, 17.5 waist) are also looking for doll clothes.

I have an idea how to take care of them, but more on that later.

I also decided to continue Etsy, but also list on Den of Angels, since that is a community that is FOR the dolls for which I am making clothes.

So, signing off to go make my very first DoA Marketplace thread!

As the young kids say, XD!

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Man's collared shirt, tie

I've been working on a shirt for the Doll Leaves body (and btw, the head is ON THE WAY. So excited).

I want this shirt to work with a suit: vest, coat, tie, and pants. So the best pattern is one that includes a collar band/stand. The stand provides a place for the tie to go around and then the collar lies nicely over the tie.

I tried this shirt first in a lightweight quilting cotton: too bulky and that bulk made the cuffs and collar stand nearly impossibly thick for buttonholes.

This version is in a very fine and light pima cotton batiste: perfect for this application.

Yes it is pink. Get over it and admire this vintage Arrow shirt advertisement with PASTELS.

I did not interface any part of the shirt, although I might try judicious amounts of cotton organdy next time.

If you look closely at the neck, you can see that the collar stand sticks out farther than the shirt front on one side.

This is due to the difficulties of getting my fingers, the shirt, some pins, and the sewing machine foot all in there are once. The end you can't see, of course, is perfect.
I hate to hand baste, but I might have to if I want this shirt to work.
I did make the band just a little bit wider (taller) then it was originally, and it might look a bit odd, but it was much easier to sew, but still not problem free. So I might regress to the original height. Still pondering.

I'm also not happy with the placement of my buttons on the front. I would have liked one less button on the front (to the same length, so wider spacing), and to have started the top (non stand) button just a bit farther down. Not to mention my buttons are all higgledy-piggledy facing every which way. Bleah.

I've narrowed the sleeves and raised the armscye (armhole) quite a bit since the modern shirt pattern I based this doll version on was quite sloppy loose and it was rather awkward under the close fitting vest.

The sleeves are better now, but I'm wondering if I need to make the shoulders just a tiny bit narrower.

I kept the plackets on the sleeves although it added considerable to the time involved.

This means that sewing the cuffs on was another "exciting" adventure, since the placket is NOT on the seam, so the cuffs are put on after the sleeve is sewn. More hand basting in my future. ARRRRGH.

The plackets seem rather long, but that is necessary since this Doll Leaves doll has lovely large manly hands. And check out the crooked button! ARRRGH.

The back pleat is proportional to the original pattern but it looks too narrow to me.  And from the back, it is clear that my collar stand IS too tall.


The pants are a work in progress: this version is too snug in the butt and thighs, making the pockets and fly pull unattractively. Mark III pants will be the next post, I think.

I scaled down a tie pattern for this: I kept the three part construction, although I will not keep that for the future since the seams make it difficult to roll the tie at the narrowest spot.
The last tie I made (blue winter print)


came out unexpectedly long, so I used a Windsor knot on it. The red version is 1/4" shorter, and I used a Pratt, which is not symmetric. I will put the missing 1/4" back and stick to the Windsor knot.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Vintage French-back boxers

A proper sized head is on the way for my SD male body, so I got inspired to pick up the boxer pattern again.

I bought a rather beat-up but intact 1945 Simplicity sewing pattern for boxers. After scaling it down, then up, then down, then finally arriving at a reasonable draft, I set out to make a pair "for real".

I had intended to list this pair on my Etsy store (The Educated Flea: see side bar) but this is a time-consuming pattern. Like, 2 hours for cutting and assembly, not including buttonholes and buttons! So I would have to charge between 20 and 30 dollars just from the time involved. And I think that is a bit steep for a pair of doll underpants.

But they are COOL

I do have some problems still to solve with the pattern: It is not left/right symmetrical. You can see this a little bit in the photo. The left and right waistband are not the same length (this is supposed to happen): the difference is made up by cutting off the left hand side of the waistband. Somehow, in combination with my 1/4" seam allowance, means that the right side of the boxers is too long. So I suppose the way to solve this next time is to NOT cut off the left hand side short.

I also had to change the order of sewing quite a bit to get the boxers assembled without a lot of swearing.

I used pima cotton batiste and 1/4" buttons for this. If the pattern draft had been any smaller, the buttonholes would never have fit. As it is, I had to pick out and re-do two buttonholes.

You can see in the front picture that the buttons are very close together. I really like the three-button front, but I might change subsequent versions to 2 buttons. The buttons are right next to each other, adding to the difficulty already built into such small buttons.

The back should have had two button holes in each side of the waist band back extensions, but there is just not room at this scale for two. These buttonholes were made with the automatic buttonholer for my Singer Featherweight. They are 5/16", the smallest cam I have.

The next version will be in striped fabric, like the version on the original pattern's cover.

Friday, January 18, 2013

A meetup

Today, I went to my third or fourth doll meetup. As usual, I had a great time, learned a lot, and may have fixed a few more names in my head.

The meetups I have been to here in the Sacramento area have all been hosted at private homes, although in the past some have been in parks or in other public venues.

Imagine a kitchen table, covered in doll parts, pastels, colored pencils, tools, surrounded by women working on dolls: painting gorgeous tattoos, piercing ears and noses, body blushing, and anything you can imagine.

In the living room, another crowd, flopped on the couch and the floor, some working on dolls but some just watching a movie.

Every once in a while, the conversation swells from a dull roar to a louder roar punctuated by ear-piercing shrieks of laughter.

Outside people are spraying clear coat either before or after adding color, and some are dremmeling and sanding.

I had sprayed two of my dolls (the headless Doll Leaves male and my treasured Impldoll) before I left for the meet. I managed to blush the Doll Leaves, but my attempt at coating the Impldoll was not very even so I will save her for another day.

I also got the assembly of a fur coat for my Etsy shop (fake fur, of course) done. Several people expressed some interest in the clothing I have for sale but I made no sales. However, folks did get a chance to see the quality of work I do and I have hope for future sales.