Thursday, 23 February 2017

NEW! Vintage animal dolls....

Last month I blogged about chanelling my inner Dr. Frankenstein and creating some new 'Frankendolls', mixing and matching assorted different animal heads to doll bodies.

Great fun was had by all and they've all successfully made it through the various kiln firings to end up as painted and assembled animal dolls.  So I've spent some quality time this week starting to dress them....

I wanted to try something different for their costumes, having found in one of my vintage children's books some illustrations of various animals in colourful printed dresses.

This presented me with something of a conundrum, as a quick Google search revealed no printed silk ribbons available anywhere.

Hmmm..... still, no problem, *I thought*.  I can make my own!

Now, this is exactly the sort of addle-brained thing I usually come up with.  Thinking that something is going to be easy and straightforward when it's anything but.

So things went something like this......

Me:  Right.  All I have to do is design and print perfectly scaled silk 'ribbons' to use for skirts and bodices.  Shouldn't take long.  I know I have some printable silk 'photo fabric' somewhere.  It's in a safe place.

Scene:  Several hours later, I'm sitting on the floor of the workroom, surrounded by the contents of dozens of boxes and files, but no photo fabric.

Me: *plaintively*  I KNOW it's here somewhere.  I've never even used it!  Where have I put it....?

Scene:  Even later.  Workroom looks as though a small thermo-nuclear device has detonated in it.  Stuff EVERYWHERE!

Me:  Buggrit.  Well there's really only one place left I haven't searched, but it CAN'T POSSIBLY be there.

Scene:  Five minutes later.

Me:  Well I'll be blowed.  It was here all along.  In the very last place I thought it would be.

Small Dog: *puts her head round the door to survey the carnage*  Hav we hadd burglirs?

Me: *scathingly* Yes, very funny.  Thanks for all your help.  NOT!

SD: *reprovingly* Doant be sarkasstick.  Iff yue wontid me to help yue onlie had to arsk.  Eniwai, ai wos haven mai shedewled napp.  Its in mai kontrakt.

Me: *sigh*

Having found the photo fabric, things did not noticeably improve and I had several abortive tries at designing, rescaling and printing, wasting a WHOLE SHEET of the VERY EXPENSIVE special habotai paper-backed silk in the process. 
Successive tries were either too big or too small.  Too much ink or not enough....

*more sighing and quite a lot of under my breath swearing*

Eventually, after eleventy hundred attempts, I succeeded in printing a selection of skirt and bodice patterns with just the right amount of ink, perfectly scaled to fit my new little dolls.


And so, I present the first of my new Frankendolls.....

Harriet Hare, Rosie Rabbit and Katie Kitty

Made from porcelain, they measure 1  1/2" tall and have jointed, poseable arms and legs.

They can stand, sit, do handstands....!
They each have silk underwear, lacy petticoats,little cotton socks and dainty silk shoes with leather soles.  Their printed silk dresses are fully lined and finished with ribbon bows.

Each doll comes in a neat little box with an illustrated lid.

Shown by a thimble to show scale

They're now listed on the website HERE

Coming soon....  Betsy Bear, Melissa Mouse, Daisy Duck, Lucy Lamb and Gertie Goose.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Thinking aloud.....

I'm sure I've blogged about this before, but Scrapbox have just brought out a new and improved version of their original craft storage unit.

I've drooled over this and its predecessor many, many times, but it's a very pricey piece of kit, (over £1300!😧) and since I currently have the unbridled luxury of an entire room in which to store my work stuff it's never been a serious 'must have'.

However, as I anticipate the prospect of downsizing with a view to taking a form of semi-retirement in the next few years, I've been revisiting my project plan.

Let's say, for the sake of argument, that in a few years time we decide to move, perhaps to a cosy, quirky little flat overlooking the sea.  In all probability it would be two-bedroomed, which means that having a dedicated work/hobby room would be out of the question. 😏

Space would definitely be at a premium, and the 'spare' bedroom would have to multitask as a guest bedroom/workroom/office, which is a big ask as it would likely be on the  small/titchy/boxroom bijou side.

So, I'm thinking, what if I could create a craft armoire?  Using, say, a bog-standard IKEA flat-pack wardrobe.  And customising the interior to contain my core miniature-making supplies.

Cue a quick flick around Pinterest, where, naturally, LOADS of people have already done something similar.


This is definitely my favourite!  Love the bi-fold doors.

Clever integrated fold down worktop......

Integrated lighting.... tick!

Inspiring before and after photos...

Not an inch of space wasted.  Love the pediment too!

Must be possible to add a pull-out table into something like this.....

Some of them have slide out work surfaces, some have pull-down tables.  All have maximised the available space in inventive, innovative ways, using readily available storage and display materials.

I already have dozens of plastic boxes, which I use to store everything from silk ribbons to menagerie animals for my pullalong toys, so they would be perfect for internal storage as they stack so neatly.  

And if we ever do get round to reclaiming two of the spare bedrooms then I'd be able to use one of them to house my craft armoire project while I work on it!

I just love it when a plan starts to come together.....

Microdoll costuming...

In my last post I talked about pleating silk ribbons and making silk underwear.

Moving on....

Socks are easy to make using pieces of cotton lace.   I was lucky to find fine lace with straight edges on each side, which is perfect for neat, little socks.

Next, the shoes.  Probably the most fiddly part of the costuming process.  I use narrow silk ribbon to match or contrast with the main costume colour.  The shoes are made in two parts, directly onto the feet.  I'm sure it's possible to make tiny removable shoes which will fit perfectly onto the feet, but I value my sanity so I've never dallied with that project.

The silk shoes have fine leather soles, which are glued onto the feet and allowed to dry thoroughly before carefully trimming.

Next stage.... cotton lace petticoats.

Then silk ribbon sleeves with teeny tiny vintage lace cuffs....

Next, the pleated silk skirt, bodice and sash.  All are carefully hand-sewn onto the doll.

Phew, nearly done!  After the wigging, I will add the pleated silk and lace bonnet.  The large bow is for the back of the dress.  The buds and bows trim and ribbon rosette bow will decorate the bonnet, along with a feather! 

Dressed in pale lavender silk and lace... just 1  3/4" tall!

It takes me several hours to dress and wig each little doll... that's after preparing the pleated ribbon and wigging material.

Even after all these years, and several thousand dolls later, when I add the final bow and survey my handiwork, I can't quite believe that this tiny doll started out weeks and weeks ago as a few thimblefuls of porcelain slip.

So this week I shall be mostly dressing tiny dolls.... bliss! 🙂

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Pretty pleats....

Finally finished stringing the last of my January dolls batch this morning.  *phew*

So in addition to needle felter's claw I'm also suffering from doll stringer's strain.  An unhappy combination of afflictions I'm sure you'll agree.

However, time and industrial injuries wait for no woman, so after the last doll was strung I immediately set about preparing to dress it.  As well as requests for my special offer doll from last week, I'm overdue restocking the website with Jumeau-style dolls in colours which have sold out.

This was the cue to undertake one of the more enjoyable aspects of microdoll dressing.... preparing pleated silk ribbons for the skirts and bonnets.

Although it's a mechanical process, I find it incredibly soothing.

First I have to decide on which colours I want to use from my silk ribbon stock boxes. Organised by colour, each box contains a myriad shades in a variety of widths, from 2mm up to 18mm. 

For microdoll pleating I use mainly 13mm wide silk ribbon.  When I've selected the appropriate colour, I press it by running it under the soleplate of a medium heat iron, which instantly removes creases and wrinkles.

I have several different sizes of pleating boards but for this I use one which makes tiny 1/4" pleats.

First I lightly spray the board with a fine mist of water.  This helps to hold the silk in place on the rubber board during the pleating process.
I then lay a length of ribbon across the board, in line with the top edge.  Using two plastic cards, I press the ribbon into the ridges, one at a time, holding each pleat in place with one card before pressing in the next one, and so on, along the width of the ribbon until I have pleated enough for the skirt and bonnet.

The rhythmic, repetitive motion of pleating silk ribbons is most definitely calming. Not only that, it is one of those lovely tasks where after a set period of time you can actually see what you've done and experience a warm sense of achievement. A whole pleating board covered with rows of neatly pleated, colourful silk ribbons is like a balm to the soul.

Row after row of neatly pleated silk ribbons

When I've finished, I spray the ribbons with starch, to help set the pleats, then put them aside in a warm spot (usually our airing cupboard) to dry overnight.  If I'm in a tearing hurry, I sometimes dry them with a hair dryer, but leaving them in the pleater for at least 12 hours does seem to make the pleats more permanent.

While the pleated ribbons are drying, it's time to crack on with the doll's underwear.

Up to high jinks in silk knicks! 

It's very important to me that my little dolls are properly dressed, and that includes underwear.

Silk of course, and trimmed with frilly braid around the legs.

Tomorrow....  lace socks,  leather-soled silk shoes and lacy petticoats!

Friday, 3 February 2017

Totally nailed it.......

If, like me, you spend A LOT of time on Pinterest (ostensibly doing 'research' 😉) you'll probably have discovered a wealth of 'Nailed It' photos.

You know the sort of thing.... you see a 'how to' tutorial on Pinterest and think...

"Blimey I could do that!  It looks so EASY!  In fact I can think of a few tweaks right now which would make it even better!"

Then you have a go yourself and proudly post the results.

For example....

Now, I've never been one to mock other peoples attempts at trying something for the first time.  

Laugh myself silly... yes.  Mock....definitely not!
We all have to start somewhere and there's no such thing as being ace at any craft right from the get-go.

So when I signed up to do a local needle felting class recently, it was more in hope than expectation that I would end up with anything remotely resembling a dog brooch.

Or, to be more precise, a Small Dog brooch.

It wasn't a beginner's class, but hey... I'm a craft artisan.  I can do stuff.  Right?  Surely I could pick up the basics on my own first?

I'm sure the tutor had her reservations, as I'd never picked up a felting needle before, but I begged and she relented.  That was several weeks ago and I was supremely confident that I would swiftly progress through the basics with the help of Pinterest tutorials and You Tube videos.

After all.... other people had clearly managed to do the same.

Anyway, I found a really easy teddy bear video.  This is what I was trying to achieve.

Apparently, according to the tutor, really, REALLY easy.  Two spheres and four cylinder shapes, plus 2 flat semicircles.

This is my attempt.....

Like.... TOTALLY nailed it!
If there was a market for wonky, misshapen, mutant zombie bears I'd be way ahead of the competition.  I was understandably a bit deflated when I finished, but as I sat regarding it, I began to giggle.

When I showed it to PP she started laughing too then the laughter turned to tears-rolling- down-my-face hysteria. It was some time before solemnity returned, with the stark realisation that I was soon to take part in a needle felting class and I was entirely likely to completely embarrass myself.

The class was held this morning and I arrived at the house with a sense of trepidation.  It's not often I'm on student's side of the table and I felt a tad nervous.  Also it rapidly became apparent that the other four students had attended several classes before, so they all knew what they were doing.  

No pressure then.

The class was run by Valerie May, a lovely lady who instantly put me at ease with a cup of tea and a biscuit.  Her gorgeous Bouvier dog, Evie, gave me an encouraging nudge and we all took our seats at the table, already laid out with examples of what we would (hopefully!) be making, and a lovely goodie bag for each of us. 

Over the course of the session, Valerie patiently led us through all the steps to make a 2-dimensional dog of our choice, to be mounted on a brooch pin.  The more experienced felters quickly romped ahead while I plodded valiantly on, hoping against hope that I wouldn't stab myself, or be first to break my needle.

Unbelievably I did neither, although two others required Band-Aids and there were several snapped needles.  I'm sure that as confidence increases, flesh wounds are more likely.  I was extremely careful with the viciously pointed, barbed needle but as a result I was much, much slower.

I had optimistically taken along a few photos of Small Dog to act as a reference.

"I want to make one like this....."

To their credit, not a single person raised their eyebrows or tittered at my ambition.

Now.... I know that you are all absolutely desperate to see what I made but before I do, I have to point out that I didn't have time to add the brooch on the back, so this is just the basic dog.

So without further ado.... I give you.....

*drum roll*

Tah dah!!!

Now, I know what you're thinking.  And you'd be right.  It's not a dead ringer for Small Dog. If I'm honest I think the tail is the best bit.  


It is indisputably a dog, therefore I win.

At the end of the class, Valerie very generously gave us each an extra dog kit, plus we were able to choose another 6 different wool bundles.  So when I got home, flushed with success, I immediately set about making another, smaller Small Dog.

Still far from perfect but a big improvement on my first attempt.  She's got a little leather collar and I even managed to make little back paws.

It will be some time before I can manage a proper 3-dimensional Small Dog, but I'm inspired to give it a go.

If you're relatively local to Hastings I'd thoroughly recommend Valerie's workshops.  She's informative, unflappable, patient and encouraging... all the elements of a good tutor.
You will find her website HERE 

I'm also inspired by her wonderful faux taxidermy and am wondering just how small it's possible to go....  1/12th scale doll's house faux taxidermy perhaps?

Predictably, Small Dog was less than impressed by my creation, although she did subject me to a very thorough 'Stop and Sniff' interrogation when I got home, accusing me (rightly) of consorting with other dogs.


Wednesday, 1 February 2017

VERY Special Offer.... and D'oh!

What a doofus I am!

When people leave comments on a blog post, I always get an email saying there's a comment to moderate and giving me the option to publish it.

Throughout January, I've often responded to questions by clicking 'reply' on the email, thinking that it would go straight to the person who commented.

But no.

No by no nonny no.

I only found out this morning that those reply emails go precisely nowhere!  They come via the blog on a 'no-reply' address.

So, sincere apologies to anyone who asked a direct question.  I thought I'd replied right away but my emails have disappeared into the ether.

Anyways, here's the thing.  I was going to personally, privately email everyone who entered into my January Giveaway Competition, but my otherwise damn fine plan has been thwarted by Blogger's email security (which in some ways is a good thing, but not when you want to get directly in touch with people who have been kind enough to comment and participate!) 

So I'm doing it here instead......  

As a special Thank You for following my blog challenge over the past 30 days, and for participating in our January Giveaway Competition, I’d like to present you with a very special offer!

You can request a made-to-order Jumeau-style toy doll, in the costume and hair colours of your choice for just £20 plus shipping (that's a huge saving of 40% off the ‘made to order’ listing on our website) and I will create the doll specially for you.

These are my very favourite dolls to dress, and during February I will be taking you on another dollmaking journey... showing you the stages involved in dressing one of these gorgeous little dolls.

Here are some examples of my Jumeau-style toy dolls in a selection of different colours!

Navy, pale aqua, silver grey

Dusky pink, sepia, pastel pink

Pastel peach, dark peach, dark orange

Cornflower blue, dark peach, sage green

Buttercup yellow, pastel yellow, olive green

Dark pink
Crimson red

Dark purple

Pastel lavender

Dark plum

Your doll  will be supplied in a bespoke illustrated box, accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity complete with a photograph of YOUR doll! 🙂

If you have ever yearned to own one of my little toy dolls then this is your chance!

To place your order, simply comment on this post stating your name, your email address, your choice of costume shade/colour (see the list at the bottom of this post) and your preferred wig colour, as well as your country of residence so that I can add the relevant postage charge.  
I will not publish these comments, so your name and email address will not appear. 

Alternatively, if you prefer, you can email me directly HERE giving the information requested above.

PLEASE NOTE - This offer is only valid until 28 February

Upon receipt of your order I will send you a PayPal invoice for payment.  Please allow 14-21 days for completion of your order, as your doll will be made to your specifications.

If you need any further information, please let me know, and I’ll do my best to help.

Thanks again for following my dollmaking journey!

Costume colour – choose from

Shade – Pastel, Bright or Dark

Colours – White, Pink, Blue, Green, Jade/Turquoise, Sepia, Lavender, Purple, Yellow, Orange, Peach, Brown, Black

Wig colour – Ash blonde, honey blonde, strawberry blonde, copper auburn, chestnut brown, dark brown, black.