Monday, August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: How we can help

 image attribution NASA/NOAA GOES satellite

 Images from the devastating rains of Hurricane Harvey bring the story of human and animal suffering into our homes.  What can we do to help?

An article in our daily paper lists several organizations that are bringing relief and comfort to the Southeast coast of Texas:

Here are some direct links:

The Salvation Army

The American Red Cross

Austin Pets Alive!

If you can, please consider helping.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Alphabet Girls: really simple clothing

Violet, Charlotte, and Hannah

V is for Violet, very Victorian
C is for Charlotte, who crochets charmingly, and
H is for Hannah, happy for hours :-)

Violet is wearing a bit of crochet lace as a collar, and a simple gathered skirt.  Charlotte is sporting pants and a crochet poncho, and Hannah wears a very simple pillowcase dress.

All seams are 1/4 ".   My dolls are about 10" tall, so you may need to adjust the size of the pattern for your own doll.  But, as you can see, these are just squares and rectangles, and the fit is loose and forgiving.

The skirt and the pants are a simple rectangle, as shown by the upper left and upper middle images. 

To make the pants, cut two rectangles 5 1/2" wide by 5 3/4 " long.   Mark the casing line at the waist 3/4 " from the top, and the hem for the pants 1/2 " from the bottom. 

Find the midpoint between the legs and mark the crotch cutting line 3" from the bottom of the pants, shown in the upper right image.  Don't cut this line yet; sew the crotch seam as in the lower middle image, then sew the side seams.  When sewing the crotch seam, as you get close to the turning point, change your stitch length to a very short one and take it slow around the corner.

Carefully cut along the crotch cutting line, and clip the corners of the crotch seam close to the seam.  This will let you turn the pants right side out and smooth the wrinkles out of the seam.  Lightly ironing this also helps.

Press down the casing line at the waist and press up the hemline at the bottom of each leg.  Sew the casing by machine 1/2" from the folded edge, leaving an opening at one of the side seams to insert the elastic. 

Use 1/4" or 3/8" elastic and wrap it around the doll's waist, with about 1/2" overlap.  Insert the elastic into the casing with a safety pin and work it around the waist.  Sew the overlapped ends of the elastic so it lays flat in the casing, then handstitch the casing opening closed.

Hand sew the hem with matching or contrasting floss.  Done!

The skirt is even simpler.  Cut your fabric 12" by 4 1/4", sew up the center back seam, press under the casing at the waist and the hemline, then sew up the casing as in the pants, insert the elastic, then hem the skirt.

The pillowcase style dress has to be the simplest dress in the world to make. 

Cut two pieces of fabric 6" by 6".  Sew the side seams up to 2 1/4 " from the top, then press the seam open, pressing open the unstitched 2 1/4 inches to make finished armhole openings.  Press the casing at the neckline down 3/4 " and stitch the casing in place 1/2" from the folded edge.  Do this on both the front and the back of the dress.

Insert ribbon into the casing with a large tapestry needle and run it all around the neck edge.  You can use one piece of ribbon, like I did, or use two pieces and make bows on both shoulders.

Turn up the hem and handstitch in place with embroidery floss, and you're done!

You can use the pillowcase dress pattern to make a very simple top to go with the pants and skirt, or make rompers out of it by lengthening the pattern a bit and making a crotch seam as for the pants.

Charlotte's poncho was very simple to make, using fingering weight yarn and a size 2 steel crochet hook:

Chain 48, join to form a ring.  In the ring work (3dc, ch1)eight times, (3dc, ch2, 3dc, ch1) once (front point made), (3dc, ch1) eight times, (3dc, ch2, 3dc, ch1) once (back point made).  Join to the first dc. 

Slip stitch in the first two dc, then work (3dc, ch1) in each ch1 space, and (3dc, ch2, 3dc, ch1) in each ch2 space.  this will create a point at the front and the back of the poncho.  Work until it is as long as you want; I think I worked 10 rows.

Sneak Peak!  Ann, Kitty, and Ursula :-)

Monday, August 21, 2017

Alphabet Girls: Making Faces

Charlotte, who crochets charmingly :-)

The first thing one notices about a doll is its face.  And faces tend to intimidate dollmakers, but they shouldn't.  When you make your doll's face, it comes alive and has the power to tell you stories.

A face can be as simple and as charming as two dots for eyes, and nothing more.  Illustrations by Joan Walsh Anglund have this look of innocence, and a lot of dollmakers use only this to create very endearing dolls.

But you can be a bit more daring, and create a more expressive face, and that is what this post will show you how to do, step by step.

So lets get started!

 Drawing the face

The right tools make a big difference in the ease of what you do.  I use a Pilot Frixion erase-able marker to mark the features on my dolls.  The beauty of this pen is that, if you don't like what you've marked, a warm iron will take the marks completely away, and you can start again!

Feature placement for your doll is important.  I prefer my doll's features to be in the lower half of the face.  This gives a more child-like appearance to the doll.  So first (image at the top left) use two glass head pins to locate the eyes, then use an orange glass head pin to mark the mouth.  Move the pins around until you get a symmetry of features that is pleasing to YOU.

Then, make a small dot at each of the pin points.  Carefully trace an even circle around the two eye points, then draw in the eyeliner and eyelashes.  Next, add eyebrows, and finally,  the nose and the mouth.

The mouth.  This is always the hardest part for me, but I've found the sweetest and simplest mouth is a single line for the lip parting, then two shorter lines above and below this for the lips.  And finally, in the last image (bottom right) your face is drawn!

 Embroidering the face, part I

I like to embroider the faces on my dolls, mainly because I have much more control with a needle and thread than a brush and paint :-)  And their are SO MANY floss colors to choose from!  For Daisy, I used DMC 926 for the eyes, DMC 817 and 350 for the lips, nose, and eyebrows, and black and white for the eye detail.  All of the stitching was done with two strands of floss.

 What to do about the knots??  Look carefully at the middle and right hand images on the top row.  The middle image shows the needle coming out of the eye, with a tiny knot up next to the hairline, but in the next image, the knot is gone!  What you do is tug the knot gently into the body of the doll, through the cloth.  To finish off the embroidery, run the needle out of the doll in the felt area of the hair, then take the needle back into the same spot, and out again in another location in the felt.  This will anchor the thread, with no knots showing :-)

Satin stitching the eyes does not have to be hard, but you do need to go slow and take care.  The best way to do this is to first outline the eye with an outline stitch, as in the bottom left image, then begin satin stitching across the eye, beginning in the middle and working to the bottom, then working from the middle to the top.  Now you have a nicely worked satin stitch eye.

Embroidering the face, part II

Add detail to the eyes with black for the pupil, eyeliner, and eyelashes.  Work the pupil stitches over the satin stitched iris, as in the upper left and upper middle images, then use a stem stitch to make the eyeliner and straight stitches for the eyelashes.

Add two tiny stitches in white for the eye light, as in the lower middle and lower right images.  Now she has lovely eyes :-)

Embroidering the face, part III

And finally, embroider the eyebrows, nose, and mouth.  I used the same color for the eyebrows as her hair, which was DMC 817.  Use the darker of the two lip shades for the lip parting line in the middle, again DMC 817, then the lighter shade for the lines that are the upper and lower lip, DMC 350.  I also used the lighter shade to make the points for the nose.

To blush her cheeks, use crayola crayon!  The color I like best is Wild Strawberry ( in my box of 64 colors), but any appropriate shade of pink or peach will do.  Rub the color into the cheek, then use a soft knit cloth (a clean pair of old undies will do) to rub the color into the cheeks and soften it a bit.

And now you've created a lovely face for your cloth doll. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Alphabet Girls, a dollmaking challenge

Molly, Sophie, and Belle; the first Alphabet Girls :-)

A is for Ann, amiable and artistic,
 B is for Belle, beautiful and bright,
C is for Charlotte, who crochets charmingly,
D is for Daisy, in denim a delight.

E is for Emma, earnest and engaging,
F is for Flora, fond of her flowers,
G is for Ginny, a gardening Goddess,
H is for Hannah, happy for hours.

I is for Ivy, incredibly intelligent,
J is for Jane, just and joyful,
K is for Kitty, kind and kinetic,
L is for Lucy, loving and loyal.

M is for Molly, merry and mischievous,
N is for Nettie, knitting so neatly,
O is for Olive, obstinate and ornery!
P is for Poppy, personable and pretty.

Q is for Quinn, quiet and quirky,
R is for Ruth, reliable and resourceful,
S is for Sophie, sassy and sweet,
T is for Tansy, trusting and truthful.

U is for Ursula, utterly uninhibited,
V is for Violet, very Victorian,
W is for Wren, winsome and wise,
X is for Xanthe, an X-Ray technician!

Y is for Yvette, who loves yoga and yarn,
Z is for Zinnia, zany and Zen :-)

So, can I make 26 dolls from the Rita pattern on Mimin Dolls blog?  All different, with names and characters from the Alphabet poem above? 

I have plenty of fabric, plenty of time, and right now, plenty of enthusiasm.  Four dolls are already made:  Molly, Sophie, and Belle, above, and Daisy, below, who  was just finished up this afternoon.


It only takes a day to make a doll; they are quite simple, and so much fun to dive into the fabric stash and pick the materials.  
And when they are all done?  What to do with 26 sassy, joyful, quirky, amiable dolls?  Gift them, donate them, love them :-)

Along the way I'd like to share some tips and techniques that will make your cloth dollmaking experience a joy:  how make faces, how to stuff bodies, how to keep from chewing up your fabric in the sewing machine, and anything else I can think of.

Maybe challenge yourself to make some alphabet dolls, with your own favorite pattern, and using your favorite names.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Simple Fabric Dolls

The internet is an amazing source of ideas and inspiration for dollmakers, not to mention a great place to find free patterns!  The three dolls above were all made from patterns made freely available by their creators.

I got turned on to fabric dolls (again) by a friend from the Hitty's Knittys Yahoo group, and went searching for dolls with sewn on felt hair.  One great place to look is Pinterest, where I found the links to these three dolls.

Josephine, the doll with blue hair, from the blog While She Naps.

Pepper, with the brown braids, from the blog Paisley Roots

Lily with the red jacket, from the blog Make It, Love It.

 In the beginning...

I love picking out the fabrics and trims for each doll I make, spreading it out over the kitchen table and trying to keep my cat from 'helping.'
Putting it together, in a rather messy workroom!

Then we move everything back to my workroom, where the sewing machine and ironing table live.  I found it easier when making these dolls, to: 

1.  leave openings for the arms and legs when sewing the body, 
2.  stuff the limbs, then,
3.  ladder stitch the arms to the body, 
4.  stuff the body, 
5.  then ladder stitch the legs to the body.
This was much easier than trying to fit the limbs inside the body, then stitch the body and turn it all right side out.

Also, I reduced the pattern sizes for these dolls.  One of the nice things about patterns online is that you can easily alter the size of the doll when you print the pieces out.  Josephine and Pepper were both reduced to 50%, and Lily to 75%.

The face is the soul of the doll

Once the face is added to the doll, they come alive!  They tell us their story, whether they are shy or outgoing, adventurous or bookworms, or both!
These dolls were very easy to make, and made up fast.  After they were done, I found one more free pattern, which I liked best of all!


Molly is about 10 inches tall, from the Rita pattern on Mimin Dolls blog.  There are no instructions for the doll, just the pattern, but these dolls are so simple that they are pretty self explanitory.  I increased this pattern to 115% when I printed it out.  
Maybe you will give one of these dolls a try, and delight the child in your life, or yourself :-)