Saturday, June 22, 2013

Clothes Making for a Waldorf doll

Up until two weeks ago, my house was a doll free zone. I don't have anything against dolls, the idea just never occurred to me. I had no interest in dolls when I was a child, and it never even dawned on me that Baby Bee might feel differently. Imagine my surprise when her notes from school started containing messages like "she had so much fun feeding the baby dolls today!" Whoops. Minor parental oversight there.

So, we decided that it was time for a doll at home, but really wanted something handmade. Enter Waldorf dolls - adorable handmade dolls made of cotton and wool (with bonus points for being low on the creepy doll meter). There was a minute where I thought about making the doll myself, but it really seemed like something left to the experts. And let me tell you, the workmanship on this doll is incredible. I am so glad I decided to go the purchase route. 

"Faye" as she has been named was meant to be a birthday present, but my curious child stumbled upon her in my closet... six months early. So her new wardrobe has been a little bit rushed, but it's coming together piece by piece. There aren't any established patterns out there that fit this doll, so I've had to tinker with some American Girl Doll patterns. Faye is a 14" Waldorf (for those curious, she is a "Jewelwing" from Dragonfly's Hollow), but she's similar in girth to the 18" American Girl Dolls. The two trouble spots are definitely the arms and legs - I've had to expand the arm holes and leg holes to accommodate her chunkier hands and feet. It's been good practice at pattern making and a garment sewing. 

The yellow dress is a  modified version of  Liberty Jane's Kimono Dress, available here. The pattern is well written, with lots of pictures. I heart a pattern with an abundance of pictures, especially because I'm completely clueless about garment sewing. Minus a few slip ups that were completely my fault, the dress was a pleasure to sew up. It has a lot of beautiful little details that make for a really nice finish. Like the decorative stitching on the waistband -- Baby Bee is thrilled that her dress has "hugging cat(s)" on it.
After I finished the dress Baby Bee asked that I make Faye some matching pants  (she insists on wearing pants 100% of the time herself, no idea why), so I whipped these up in less than an hour. They are seriously that easy. They are cozy flannel PJ pants, adapted from this pattern by Little Abbee on etsy. I'm still trying to figure out if my pattern printed funny, or if there was an error, but either way, it was a quick and easy project. I just love the little bow on the front!

I'm hoping to make the full PJ set one of these days, but I really really need to stop procrastinating and start my sister's wedding quilt. Yikes!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Curves Made Easy (or at least easier)

I have two charm packs (one of them is 2wenty Thr3e! I just love that line!) that I want to make into cathedral window-like pillows, but without all that ironing and top-stitching. Not to mention the fabric waste. You know, easy-peasy piecing (except for all the curves and perfectly matching points)?

So I broke out my Robbing Peter to Pay Paul die from Sizzix for the first time and painstakingly pinned along each seam. And I finished a block. Yeah. I'm not posting a picture of what that looked like, and for good reason. Granted, I didn't try that hard, but it was way too time consuming for a four inch block (3.5 finished, yikes!).

Enter the Curve Master Presser Foot. Careful if you google it (ask me how I know). Thanks to Amazon Prime, my foot arrived in two short days.

And then it was time to play. I installed the foot, which was able to snap-on to my Janome without any of the ankle adapters that come with the package. Initially, I was a little worried because my needle comes down in sort of a strange place on the foot, but it seemed to work just fine regardless.I will try to get a picture to add for the visual.

And then I cut out all the little shapes in two seconds flat thanks to my Sizzix. Bonus points since one charm square can produce three of the half-oval shapes.

And I started sewing all those beautiful little fabric bits together.  It is going to take a little practice, and it won't ever be as easy as patchwork, but it is completely manageable. And the results are pretty great. This little block took me about 10 minutes from start to finish, isn't it cute?

Even though this worked really well, I have to shelve this project for now. My fabric diet is over (yay!) and I have some serious quilting to get started on. And I have some doll clothes (long story for another blog post) that need making ASAP. More soon!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Cannot Escape the Plush

I've been on a fabric diet, and I can't seem to stop making softies. Not that I'm complaining, but I swear this sudden deluge of fluff was unplanned. I promise to get back to quilting soon. I have my first all-solids quilt planned and can't wait to start!

But, back to this little foal (donkey? mule?)... My original inspiration came following the news of Moore's devastating tornadoes. I had really hoped to find him a home there, with a little boy or girl who might appreciate the comfort. Try as I might though, I couldn't find anyone who was able to find him a home -- which is completely understandable. Handmade toys are a bit of a niche thing. As it turns out, hospitals generally won't take stuffed animals either because of the infestation risk. Ah well, lesson learned.

At any rate, on the face of it, this seemed like a pretty easy project. The pattern came from Jill Hamor's book Storybook Toys Sew 16 Projects from Once Upon a Time Dolls, Puppets, Softies and More . (As an aside, if you haven't checked out her blog,  you should. The eye candy is amazing). The horse is my favorite project in the book. I just love his vintage look. In fact, I loved this horse so much that I decided to make a very similar horse in royal purple (Jill's was navy blue).

Well, as it turns out, I'm still a bit of a novice at toy-making.  I really struggled with this pattern, and there are quite a few imperfections in this guy. For example, you need to hand stitch the head gusset around the muzzle first (as seen in the top right picture in the mosaic) because that curve is a little too intense for a sewing machine to handle on its own. Not to mention the fact that I was also fighting the mane and ears that were tucked inside.  

Well, I'm too impatient for that kind of artistry. His crooked head just goes to prove that, ha! Luckily for me, his crookedness translated into "aw, the horse is tilting his head." Phew :)

I also decided (a little too boldly!) to modify the pattern and give him three dimensional feet (it calls for the legs to come together as a two-dimensional seam). I used some of the techniques outlined in Stuffed Animals: From Concept to Construction to draft his foot pads. You can see my template in the bottom right photo above (it's the light blue circle). Man, those little hooves were fiddly! The footpads were small and required sewing through 5-7 layers of wool in places. Not easy, but I'm glad I made my way through it... though only somewhat successfully. One of his hooves came out tiny and stunted, see it up there? He's been affectionately dubbed Nemo ever since. 

Nemo's legs are stuffed with cotton batting scraps to give him enough structure to stand on his own. The rest of him is stuffed with squishy wool. I'm happy to report that the firm stuffing job went a long way in correcting his stunted hoof. His mane is wool yarn, and his hooves are 100% wool felt. Nemo's saddle was made from Kate Spain's Good Fortune collection for Moda. His saddle includes a metal snap (new trick for me!), so it can come on and off as needed. 

As for his fate? My mom insisted on taking Nemo herself, so he's going to make a not-so-surprise-birthday-present for her tomorrow. I know he'll be loved there, and I'm pretty sure that she will take good care of him :)

And now I'm going to swear off curved seams and 3D construction for awhile. For real this time!