My Mini-Me

Well, she took more than a weekend, but she’s done!

I managed to paint her face – with only one or two paintovers of the eyes.  I started with arcylic paints, and then I switched to pastel pencils.  The pastels didn’t blend as well as I thought they would, and, if I make another one, I think I’ll use oil pastels with a bit of water.  The next time I’ll probably make a stencil for the eyes, too, and maybe I’ll manage to get them to look symmetrical.  Processed with Snapseed.

And here she lay for a few days while I contemplated what she was going to wear.

Processed with Snapseed.

The woman who wrote the pattern, Anya Balybina, translated two parts of her Russian language only class  into the patterns I bought, but she hasn’t yet (or may never, I don’t know) translated the parts about clothing the doll and attaching hair.  By the way, if you’re ever looking for doll tutorials, and don’t mind some awkward google translation (or if you understand Russian), this site, I think it’s called Livemaster, I’m not even sure if that’s what it’s called or that’s the closest translation,  but it has tons of tutorials you can plop into google translate.  The Russians are huge into crafting dolls.

But, googling along to Russia aside, I was left to my own devices for the finishing up.  I decided to do what I know best, and knit.  I downloaded a bunch of vintage knit Barbie clothes patterns from Etsy for a buck a piece, changed the gauge, and adjusted here and there and voila!


Well, that’s not voila! yet.  That mess above was the crazy construction necessary to be able to get the sweater onto Barbie – the back needs to be snapped shut in order to get the clothes on and off. If I make another someday, I’ll definitely knit in the round, because I can always sew the head on after, like I did with this one.

Here’s the real voila!


How cute is that sweater!!!  Man I hate knitting stripes though – all of those ends to weave in – sheesh!  All of that work for a doll that’s just going to sit in my craftroom.  But, the fun is in these little details, so it’s all good.

Time to sew on the head! Oh, and maybe she needs some pants.  For the pants, I just cut off a leg of one of my old jeans, traced around the doll right onto the back of the jeans, sewed up the seams, and cut it out.  Another, Voila! Jeans.



For hair, I used some roving that I had leftover from a needle felting kit I never finished – I just poked it onto her head.


And now she can take her place among the other dolls of the craft room!



And altogether now!


Her clothes are definitely my best effort so far – it definitely helps to work in your comfort zone. Although – it may be too close to my comfort zone – Joe says I made a mini-me.  I can see his point – my blond hair is gone, and I’m back to the dark brown, and she is wearing a handknit sweater and jeans, my fall/winter uniform.  But, that wasn’t my intent.

So, now I’m feeling like clay.  But, it’s really hot again, and I don’t know if I have the patience for it – I think that’ll wait until fall – real fall, not this faux fall with 98 degree heat.  I really want to take these classes by Adele Po, but that’s not in my budget at the moment.  Maybe my holiday present to me!  I do want to continue to paint heads, so this weekend I might just sew up a bunch of heads, and the ones I like will get a body – doll eugenics!  I think it’s an acceptable method of survival of the fittest in this case at least.  Not quite natural selection, but I’m the creator, so I’m good with it.

Have a great weekend!  Next time, I’ll show you the great bead fail!

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Well, Hello Dolly

Spinning the creativity wheel this weekend – whirl! – all signs point to . . . dolls! In my cycle of painting and knitting and crocheting and jewelry making and whatever crafty thing crosses my path – this weekend I’ve landed on the doll square of the crafty board. At first, I was all internetting about cloth and clay dolls – again – but I found this cloth pattern on Etsy by Anna Balybina, and I liked it, and said to myself, that’s my project this weekend. I never did finish my Danita Art cloth doll – I started stuffing my body, and the neck was so infuriating – no matter how much stuffing I added, it remained floppy and crinkly. Aargh. So, I put it away, thinking oh, for tomorrow – but, tomorrow tomorrow tomorrow – never came for that doll. I guess it still could, I don’t know. But in any event, I’ve birthed a new doll –


The sewing is similar to the Tilda doll, but it’s much smaller, and the shape is different. It’s been so long since I pulled out my sewing machine, that I contemplated for about 2 seconds the notion of sewing it by hand . . . um, no. And, my worry was for nothing – I can still work ye ol’ sewing machine. And, in fact, since it was already threaded, it fired right up, the bobbin didn’t jam once, easy peasy!

I started stuffing, but then decided, tomorrow is another day. Huh, that didn’t work out so well for the Danita doll, but this one . . . it’s gonna happen.  So much so that I spent a little bit of my morning practicing faces – I’m a little worried about moving to fabric, but I can always cut and sew another one . . . and another – practice practice!

And that’s what I have on deck this weekend!  Hopefully, I’ll have a finished dolly to show you on Monday.  Have a great long weekend!

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Happy Pi Day

And, that’s enough math for today.  Or any day, for that matter.  At least on this blog.  I know somewhere in the world it’s changing the future, but not here.  Now pie is a different story, but not today’s story.  We’re on diets in this neck of the woods.  Forget that almost all of the below photos involve eating, that’s diet wine there!


Anyway, I’m just moving right along through 2016.  2015 you say?

I say, look at these completed layouts!

Both of these layouts are 80% Currently Core Kit, 10% Ali Edwards kit for her Project Life Class, and 10% miscellaney – stuff leftover from Studio Calico kits, stickers, labels I cut with my teeny tiny die cutting machine.

And, speaking of Studio Calico, they’re having a huge sale on old kits today – $10 instead of the normal subscription fee (around $26/mo).   Get thee to Studio Calico and spend a multiple of $3.14 – there were go – some math!

With the PL’ing out of the way for the weekend, I was  left to ponder what to do next.  As I mentioned in the last post, I seem to be off the knit.  I was writing an email to my friend Mindy (shout out!), and I remembered, like a bell went off, that I had actually watched the entirety of Danita’s Art Doll class, and after all the anticipation of taking it, and the excitement of snatching it on sale, I went off the dolls, and never made one.  That had to be corrected.  So, I got the doll making supplies out, and got to sewing.


And then stuffing.  I had a heck of a time with the neck.



My that little head took a lot of stuffing!


As you can see, I’m making two – so that when I mess up the first one, I’ll have the second one ready to go.  And, honestly – I’m good with that.  I’ve long ago gotten over the idea, at least with art, that I’m going to immediately get it right the first time.  It all takes practice.  I’ve always been a quick study, and I used to have a nearly photographic memory, so school, and tests, and my job – I’m not going to say I didn’t have to work at things, but I think I started out with less of a learning curve, and I had a shorter road to travel to get to a place of satisfaction.  Art is really hard for me, and I’ve gotten to a place where I’ve accepted that – that I have to draw, erase, draw again, paint over, throw out, start over, whatever it takes.  There’s no rush.  I have no customers, no critics, no deadlines.  What’s the rush?  To post a photo on the blog?   And, at the end of the process, when I call something done, it doesn’t mean that it’s good, it just means that I’m good with it, and that’s all that matters.

So, that’s about as far as I got when Joe came home from his Sunday all day overtime shift, so it was time to have dinner, and watch some t.v.

What to do, what to do, can’t just sit and watch t.v! And, I’m off the knit . . . well, the doll thing worked out, how about some crochet?

Yes, it’s time to revisit ol’ languishing Sophie:



Olive apparently approves, and has staked her claim!

So, hopefully tonight, I’ll finish stuffing the dolls, and perhaps get to gessoing.  And, if I don’t get to the gesso, tomorrow is another day!

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One Super Girl and One . . . Something Girl

So, this weekend, I went back to the books – or at least one book, We Make Dolls, an anthology of dollmaking edited by Jenny Doh.  This time around, I made a super cool character doll by Nichol Brinkman of Pink Cheeks Studios.  Nichol has three patterns in We Make Dolls, Mr. Strong, Mr. Grumpy and Super Girl.  I went with Super Girl.

How cute is she?

The face stitching on this doll worked out so much better than the stitching on the failed Frida – no ingrown hair problem here, since the muslin is backed with some batting.   Mine does looks a little different from the one in the book, though – I didn’t embroider the eyebrows and nose, rather I just used a sketch stitch on my machine.  I didn’t trace the template for the mouth, I just cut out a football shape, so mine’s more elongated, and I think, comparing it to the photo, my face doesn’t seem to be as long.  No matter.  My Super Girl seems a little more sassy in her bad self pink boots, and Nichol’s seems a little more bad ass.  Anyway, here she is hanging with the Tildas.

Could be the new Dreamgirls, eh?  Super Girl and the Tildas!

I made Super Girl on a whim.  What I was really jonesing to do was paint.  And, as I’ve mentioned I have a doll girl crush on DanitaArt, so I made my own little pattern, and went to paint town.

She started out looking like this:

And, ended up looking like this:

I like her face, but if this was the face I had intended to make, I probably would have put it on a different body.  I was really going for a more childlike, whimsical face a la Mindy Lacefield.  I started out with the big eyes, and the fingerpaint, and I ended up painting over the eyes at least three times, until I ended up with these.  Maybe next time I’ll paint the face first, since I really have no idea what I’m doing, or where a face is going, and do the body second, because I definitely would have put this face on a more proportional body.  But, no matter, she’s an art doll after all.

Here she is hanging with the girls:

I was really bothered by how long her neck turned out, so I gave her a fancy scarf.

She just looks like, “whatever.”

And, since we haven’t had  a gratuitous Lemon and Olive photo for awhile, here they are:

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Cloth and Clay Doll done!

And, here’s where we left poor Dolly – stuck in a bottle while I fought with the Gunnislake Pullover.

Since she was still hanging out in the bottle, I did clean her eyes up a bit, although there’s no getting around the fact that one eye is more smooshy than the other eye. But, no matter – no one’s face is perfect, right? Well, some faces are perfect, and I guess if you’re fabricating a face, it could be perfect, but this face, it’s not perfect.

But, she’s presentable enough that she deserves some limbs:

I had some trouble sewing the arms on because I really didn’t leave very much fabric around the arm area when I was putting down my first layer of clay.  Can’t sew into clay, that I found out.  But, I was able to get them attached, and I moved on to clothing the poor thing.

I took a little dive into the box of novelty/vintage/costumey fabric that I bought when I went through my crazy quilt phase (which, if you hadn’t noticed is so over), and emerged with a gauzy embroidered piece, and a scrap of velvet that was already cut into a semi-circle, perfect for a skirt.  For the shirt, I just traced around her to get the placement of the armholes, left a wide opening to get either her head or limbs through, and then gathered the collar with silk ribbon.

And, here she is – hanging out with the rest of the girls.

She does look so prim and proper,eh?  I’m thinking I might paint some boots on her, although I’m also thinking I’m pretty done with her.

And for my next attempt – I’m going a little smaller I think. I got my Poppet tutorial Ebook – so I think I’m going to go with this kind of body –


But, I’ll probably go my own way with the face – I’ve found that it is impossible for me to duplicate someone’s work – as you may have noticed when I scrapped the original face off of this doll when I tried to recreate Gritty Jane’s folk art doll.  But, we’ll see.  I’m definitely going to make more of an effort to get the eyes the same shape and size before I give up in frustration again.  And, I’m still totally jonesing to take Danita’s art doll class, but I just can’t justify the cost right now -maybe after I get some holiday cash in December.  We’ll see.

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The Many Faces of Dolly

If at first you don’t succeed . . . just scrape off a face, and make a new one.

So, I decided to finally try to make one of Gritty Jane’s Cloth and Clay Dolls.  I haven’t provided a link (the link is just to a photo advertising the old workshop) because the workshop is no longer available.  First, it was an online workshop on her blog.  Then, it was part of a ning community, and then it transferred to Jane Spakowsky (formerly Gritty Jane)’s art ning The Trodden Path.  When the Trodden Path closed its doors, Jane sent out an email with the links to the tutorials to those who had paid for the class, and set up a private Facebook page.  So, yep, I took this class years ago, and am finally trying to make this folk art doll.

What stopped me before wasn’t the clay, or the painting, neither of which I’m particularly good at, but at least I have no fear,  but rather it was the sewing.  Back then, I was so inept with my sewing machine that I just couldn’t see sewing the thin little pieces, and getting them turned.  Everything about sewing before I knew what I was doing was a hassle.  Curves – right, no.  So, now that I have overcome my fear and inexperience with the machine, and with my current doll making kick, I thought I’d give it a go.

Of course, I failed to save the pattern.  I emailed Jane, but she didn’t get back to me.  And, I can’t blame her – at all – she has done everything in her power to make the class continue to be accessible, and it’s certainly not her fault that I failed (or lost, I’m not really sure anymore) to download the course materials.  So, I found another pattern based on an Izannah Walker doll (an historic cloth and clay doll)  on Pinterest, and plunged ahead.  I watched Jane’s sculpting videos several times, covered my doll in paperclay, and made an attempt to sculpt a face.

Poor thing – she has the nose that ate the world.  Jane starts her dolls with the nose piece, and then continues to add clay to shape the chin, jaw and cheekbones.  I think I used enough clay for her nose to make a whole other face.  Oh well.  She’s not so cute.

Easy solution – I just scraped the face off, and started again.  This time, I didn’t really follow a tutorial, I just tried to make the clay into what I thought to be a face.

And, while her eyes went goofy, as do all of my eye experiments, I was happier with this result – here she is in a painting stage –

And, here she is pretty much done – or at least on time out. I think I’ll probably still try to clean up her eyes, but since the clay is cock-eyed, they’re never going to be perfect anyway.

Overall, I’m encouraged – I see definite improvement from face 1 to face 2.  And that’s what practice is about, right?  Next time, I think I’m going to hollow out an area for the eyes, but I won’t put clay eyeballs in, I think I’ll just paint them in – maybe I’ll have better luck at making them the same size that way.  We’ll see.  In any event, I am going to finish this dolly up, attach the arms and legs, and make her a little skirt.

So, tomorrow starts my Popavacation – the Pope is coming to Philadelphia, and Philadelphia is closing up shop for business.  I’ll take it!  So, I’m off for six straight days – thanks Pope Francis.  Tonight, ironically, starts Yom Kippur, and I would have been off anyway tomorrow, fasting, but what a bonus that I don’t have to use a vacation day!

And what am I going to do with my six days?  When I’m finished fasting and atoning, I’m going to  . . . oh my!  so many things – I can’t even get my thoughts together!

You’ll just have to wait and see.

By the way – I love painting with the doll shoved in the jar!

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Jess Brown Dolly

Finally, the weather broke – literally, the clouds finally cracked, rain poured down, and my craftroom is now, once again, a pleasant place to be.  And,  while my Jess Brown doll might be sitting around in her skivvies, I was comfortable in my t-shirt and shorts.

How cute are her little pantaloons??  So cute.  The clothes in the book are super simple to make, and were probably the least time consuming process of making little dolly.

This is the drawstring dress that’s on the cover of the book.  In keeping with the themes of the book, I did plunder my tiny stash of vintage fabrics for this embroidered piece.  While I love it, Joe thought she looked kind of nun-ish, with the smock like shape of the dress, and the high neck.  I love the simple look of the dress, but I think my niece might agree with Joe at least as far as the fabric goes – I don’t think she’d appreciate the vintage fabric – I think she’d just think it was old.  So, I think I’m keeping this doll experiment, and that’s ok.

And now for a look at the hair.  During the week, I said a heartfelt goodbye to all of my moth riddled sweaters.  I had them stacked in a pile, while I came to terms with the fact that they were too destroyed to be fixed.   That process took a few years.  But, finally, I felt ready.   Even though they were filled with holes, it was with a heavy heart that I threw them into the washing machine to be felted beyond recognition.  So, this head of hair was born from my favorite GAP sweater.  The handmade sweaters that I felted turned out much to thick for hair, but will find their ways into other projects.

As you can see, I had no idea what I was doing. The instructions in the book tell you to cut strips and sew them to the head. Not that helpful really. So, I started with the ribbing, and sewed that on, like they were bangs, I guess. Then, I sewed on a strip across the back of the head. Then, I got the idea to cut shorter strips, and roll them up at the bottom, like curling hair, I guess. I think it would have looked better had I not sewn that strip down the middle – but that I had sewed the vertical strips to the front bang strip. I don’t know. It’s just hair, no biggie.  And it is super soft.

And here she is, finished! Well, for the most part. I think I may use a ribbon around the neckline of the dress instead of the embroidery floss that the pattern talked about. But, for the most part, done. And, I do think she’s very sweet.

So, final thoughts.  As far as the pattern goes, it’s simple, but . . .  I think the pattern was designed for the sewer who is afraid of sewing curves.  Pretty much you sew a straight line, pivot, sew.  The only true curves are around the head, hand, and the foot – sort of – the leg is folded in half, and sewn.  I think if I were to make it again, I’d definitely do the base of the doll differently – so that it doesn’t come out like a triangle with pencils sticking out of her.    And, to avoid the pencil like leg, I think I’d make them longer, with a knee bend.  And, if you sew the arms on after – whether you attach them with buttons or just sew them on (like Tilda), you don’t need the stuffing hole in the back.   We’ll see.

And, in keeping with the notion that every child deserves a “comfort” doll as Jess Brown calls them, I chatted with my niece last night about making rag dolls as part of her bat mitzvah mitzvah project.  Right now she volunteers with my nephew’s autism meet up group, The Friendship Circle.  I thought maybe I’d make a bunch of doll parts, and Danielle would help me stuff them and dress them, and then we’d give them to the kids at Hanukkah.  Danielle thought that was a great idea, but we’ll see if there’s any follow through there.  If there isn’t, it’s no biggie – she does enough work as it is with the kids.  I would like to make some dolls to donate though.  While I don’t have any problems with the pricing of Jess Brown dolls – they’re handmade, with the best material, and have a definite high end vibe to them – I disagree that they are in fact affordable.  They are affordable to a certain market, sure, but not the market I’m privvy to.  Maybe if my plot with Danielle doesn’t work out, I’ll think about donating them to a pediatric ward of a hospital or something.  Our office does a toy drive every year, but doesn’t accept handmade toys.  I”m thinking if I leave off removable parts like buttons or plastic eyes, they should be ok.  I don’t know – still plotting.

The great ragdoll experiment continues!

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My Low End High End Ragdoll – Making a Jess Brown Doll

As I mentioned, I decided that before I start winging it with my own patterns, I thought I’d make some tried and true patterns to get the hang of construction and popular aesthetic.  So, over the weekend, I downloaded Jess Brown’s Making of a Ragdoll.

Before I downloaded the book, I did check out a hard copy at Barnes & Noble.  It really is a beautiful hardback book.  The photos are lovely, and give the book a vintage, natural feel.  Much is lost in the digital copy, and if you’re at all interested in this book, I would recommend spending the extra $15 and get a paper copy.  Jess Brown intends her dolls to be “comfort dolls,” and much of the curl up with the book comfort is lost with the digital version.  Also, piecing together the patterns from the downloaded digital version was a total pain in the butt.  The digital version directs you to an online PDF.  The PDF contains instructions for printing, and which options to choose in your print menu for tile printing.  Then, the pattern prints like puzzle pieces, that have to be cut, and pieced together with small x’s as guides.  Cutting and piecing the doll pattern as well as the clothes and the accessories took well over an hour. Oy!

Before cutting, piecing and taping, I did read Jess Brown’s narrative about the birth of the dolls and her love for all natural materials like corn fiber stuffing, bamboo embroidery thread, and non-plastic buttons.  I envied her that her job requires her to haunt flea markets for vintage fabrics and other textiles (as opposed to my job which requires weekly prison trips).  While the story of the dolls served as a nice introduction to the why of the organic materials, I had actually already heard the story told by Jess Brown on the While She Naps podcast, and the podast interview is really so much more interesting than the book.  For instance, in the book, she talks about how the first doll she made for her daughter was sewn from cashmere sweaters that had been destroyed in the wash.  In the actual telling of the story in chit chat way, without the formality of a book, it’s her husband who decided to do the wash that day, and destroyed the sweaters – this teeny tiny detail makes for a better story.  And, in the podcast, she goes into the effects of having Martha Stewart feature her dolls, working on a fashion week installation with life size ragdolls, and how she runs her business, including producing the dolls, pricing the dolls, and her thoughts on actually writing the book.

In this doll quest of mine, I’ve perused Etsy, looking at all sorts of dolls – art dolls, clay dolls, rag dolls, Tilda dolls, etc., and it’s was no surprise that there are a lot of Jess Brown knock-offs out there.  So, it was understandable when she talked in the podcast about how ambivalent she was about writing a book after being approached by Chronicle.  Why should she write a book, reveal her secret sauce to her pattern, and hand the keys to the kingdom over to these copycats when this is how she makes a living?  And, I’m really glad that I listened to this analysis of coming to the decision to write the book, and coming to a compromise of creating a new doll for the book that’s not THE doll.

Yes, the pattern in the book is not THE Jess Brown doll, but a Jess Brown doll.  The doll has all of the elements that make a lovely comfort doll – the simple body, instructions for her signature star eyes and felt heart shaped mouth, and cute patterns for a sun dress, a long sleeve dress, a coat, a hat, a duffle bag, and pantaloons.  But, if you were hoping for instructions on how to make her 22′ inch doll, with arms that are attached with buttons, this is not that pattern.  And, after listening to the podcast, I was totally ok with that.  It’s still a Jess Brown doll.

The pattern itself is pretty easy to sew.  I decided to transfer the 1/4′ seam lines to the backside of my fabric.  To do this, as you can see above, I used chaco paper, which is basically carbon paper.  The photo above shows the back of the doll.  I won’t go exactly into how this works – you’ll have to buy the book, but after sewing the two halves of the back together you have a more rounded head, and an opening for stuffing up the back.   This, apparently, is another departure from THE doll.  From what I can tell from online photos, THE doll has a pretty basic body – and if there’s any shaping of the head, I can’t tell.

Anyway, this chaco paper transfer was particularly helpful on the front of the doll, which does require you to transfer pivot points at the under arm pits of the doll.  If I had one qualm with the pattern it’s definitely these arms.  While the button shoulder arms may be one of the signature features of THE doll, it’s not original, not like the star eyes or the felt heart mouth.  I think she was giving away more secrets describing the eyes, than having separate arms.  But, in any event, having the arms attached to the body leads to a little kink where it joins the body.  Eh, so she has a wrinkle.  But, if you want to create a really simple, accessible pattern, I think it’s much much more simple to sew the arms separately and attach them to the body then sew around this really narrow area, and turn it seemlessly.

And, just in case you’re looking to make a doll like this, or any doll with skinny arms, here’s a good way to flip them rightside out.

1. First, stick a straw in the limb:

2. Then, turn it upside down, and stick a chopstick, or as I’ve used here, the stick that comes with polyfiberfil, into the tip of the outside of the limb, shoving the stick into the straw.

3. Then slowly, you don’t want to poke a hole in the end of your limb, roll the fabric down over your chopstick/stick and voila!

Limbs succesfully turned! Ownward. The next step in the book is to stuff and sew up the body, and do the face after it’s stuffed.  She gives you instructions to do the signature star, pulling the thread out through the back of the head, I guess to be covered with hair.

I opted not to do the star eye.  Confession time – I think the star eye is creepy.  So, what kind of an eye then?  I thought about buttons, but if this doll turns out ok, it’ll eventually be gifted to a 2 year old – buttons not so good.  While thinking about it, I happened to listen to another While She Naps podcast with Christina Platt of Bamboletta, and she talked about the theory behind Waldorf style dolls.  Apparently, the idea is that a doll should be fairly expressionless because this allows for the child to fully access their imagination when playing with the doll – they can imagine the doll to be happy or sad, and they’re not limited by a constantly smiling, happy faced doll.  So, while I didn’t love the star eye, I did want a neutral face, but a pleasant face.  So, after looking at a lot of doll eyes, I used this one, which I embroidered in a hoop before sewing the doll together:

I did go for the heartshaped mouth, because I think it’s sweet. THE Jess Brown doll’s heartshaped mouth is not red, it’s more of a dull yellow.

Anyway, so here she is so far.

Ready for stuffing!  The instructions in the book have you just sew across the front of the doll while attaching the legs, leaving a raw edge.  Since I’m not using any kind of special organic fabric, but kind of crappy but soft cotton from Michael’s, I think I’m going to turn a hem under.

The two year old I mentioned is one of my niece’s on Joe’s side, and she’s just learning to walk.  THE doll, the 22″‘er, came into being because Jess Brown’s daughter was learning to walk at the time she was creating the doll – so she measured from her arm to her feet, so that the doll would be a walking companion.  I like that idea.  So, if this all works out, I think I may make another one that’s more like Tilda – make the body bigger, get rid of the seam in the back, sew the arms separately, make them longer, attach them with a button, make longer longs, with maybe jointed knees.  We’ll see.

First, I have to figure out how to attach hair – because that’s not explained so well in the book.  Stingy on the secret sauce there. Eh, who can blame her?  Not me.

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Frida Fail

Ok, so I know that the real Frida Kahlo did have a bit of a shadow, perhaps a bit of mustache, however, on my little Frida, it looks more like an ingrown hair problem.  As I predicted, the muslin I used was too thin for this project, and you can see the backside stitching pretty clearly through the front of the fabric.  I really think that had I doubled the fabric, used a canvas rather than a muslin, or perhaps used some cotton batting, this wouldn’t have happened.

So, as you can see, her hair is lying next to her, and I’ve let her sit overnight, to mull over whether she deserves hair, or whether she will be operated on, to remove her stuffing as a donation to the next Frida.

This poor little Frida probably has a small window of reprieve because of current weather conditions.  No operations will take place in this humidity.  My craftroom is so hot that I nearly sat in my underwear last night finishing her up.  Which leads me to my Third Lesson Learned with this doll, it’s only fun . . . when it’s fun.  I was really miserable sweating over my sewing machine last night.  I wasn’t rushing or anything to get her done, but I was suffering.  And, there’s no suffering in doll making.  The heat should break this weekend, so by then I’ll probably have a new plan.

Which may not involve clay – since it’s probably baking in it’s packaging in the oven that is my craftroom.

And, in other news, Brave Girls University did open it’s doors yesterday, and it’s packed packed packed with classrooms.  Of course, being it’s first day of launch, there are things that look a little wonky, broken links, and 404 misdirect pages where there should be classrooms, but these are all kinks that I have no doubt that will be worked out.  I was particularly impressed that, following the site crashing within minutes of opening, they had another, bigger server, waiting in the wings ready to go fifteen minutes later.   There is some content that hasn’t been uploaded yet, but there’s plenty to get you started.  Of course, with my limited craft budget, I started assessing the value immediately – and this is personal value – to me – my personal assessment of whether or not I want to spend $25/month on this particular subscription service.

My initial thoughts – the “university” is organized into four categories of classes (with some overlapping) – Melody Ross classes (the Dean of the University), Soul Work, Art and DIY.  I have little to no interest in Melody Ross’s classes, and very little interest in most of the Soul Work, which is why I was never interested in the original Brave Girls Club, that lacked the Art Class/DIY category independent of the “soul” work.    I do not believe in online therapy from untrained, unlicensed practitioners.  No judgment here – you like these kinds of classes, great! It’s just not something I’m interested in.  And, who knows, maybe I’ll try to have more of an open mind about it, and stick my toes in something to see what’s going on, but I don’t think so – there’s too much in the Art and DIY categories to keep me busy.

So, are the Art and DIY classes enough to justify my $25?  I think so.  But, I think I need to approach these videos like real classes as opposed to binge watching a la Netflix.  I easily could binge-watch my way through all of the content in a month.  But, what’s the point of that?

Well, you say, you did just that during your month at CraftDaily, right?  Yes, correct – but those classes sucked.  There, I said it.  They were dated, poorly filmed, lacked accompanying PDFs and patterns, and much could be found for free in affiliate sites.

I think there is a real quality to the content at BGU.   For instance, the class I was pulled into first was Katie Kendrick’s Layered Impressions (which by the way, is not in the Art Category, but  in the Soul Work group, so I guess I’m dipping my toes).


Katie’s class was originally a four week workshop, that I think cost $100.  While I owned Katie’s book, Layered Impressions, and I’m a big fan of her work, that was over my general bright line price test for taking an online class.  Now, you can buy the DVD of the class for $100 through her website, or you can pay $25/month on Brave Girls and work through it there.  The difference between the original live class, and this class, I’m guessing since I didn’t take the original, is that there is no method of sharing on Brave Girls – no class forums, no private Facebook groups, no online photo gallery of student work, no teacher interaction other than access to teacher’s email for questions.  Without this compenent – the interaction with teachers and other classmates – it makes it hard to work through the material like a class.  Pacing is harder, doing the work without imput is not as fun, and making friends with other online art junkies is not happening.  So, can I commit to doing the work in a solitary fashion?  Watch the videos, do the exercises, and not move on until I’ve gotten the point of the lesson?

Well, I did try last night.  I watched the intro video, and the first exercise (using your nondominant hand to loosely create faces on telephone book pages – who has a telephone book????? – and then coloring in the face), and stopped.  Did not go on to the next lesson, did not charge ahead.  I didn’t do the exercise, because I was mid-Frida, but I’m going to try to do it before I move on.

And, if I stick to the plan, and treat class like class, and not like a movie, I should be good, and the content on the site should work for my $25/month.   Even if I just watch the Katie Kendrick class for the month of September, I’ll still be saving $75 off the cost of the original class.   But, I can see the non-interactive nature of the platform making it hard treat the site as “university” rather than a video repository.  Without this sharing component, I feel like I’m missing something on the site – did I miss a tab that I should have clicked on?  I’ve always gotten so much out of seeing other people’s work, and it’s such a big part of the learning experience.  There is a Facebook page – but it’s a business page, not a sharing group kind of page.  But we’ll see.

The bottomline – based on my initial thoughts and less than 24 hrs of tooling around the site – is that this site is a huge accomplishment for it’s founders.  I can’t imagine how hard it was to convince 80+ teachers to contribute their stand-alone content to this site.  I have no idea what their business plan is, and how everyone is getting compensated, but as far as the trickle down to the subscriber – it’s an awesome value, $25 a month is a steal if you’re treating the class like class and not like bingewatching the Walking Dead.  The only thing, as I mentioned, that I’m slightly disappointed about, is the lack of the ability to interact with other students taking the same class.

So, we’ll see how it goes.  And, I can definitely work on the Katie Kendrick exercise in an air conditioned corner of my house – no need to bake my faces in the craftroom.

Now, to rustle up a phone book!

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Sewer Down!

So, here’s my little experiment from the other day.  As you can see, her head is just gigantic.

Here’s a close-up of the paint/stitching:

I posted on Instagram that I was going to put her away to hibernate, and someone  mentioned she did look tired.  She does look weary – as if she’s saying, geez oh man you forgot to give me a neck, and it’s going to be exhausting trying to hold my head up.

So, before I again make a forever doomed to be exhausted little person/creature, I decided maybe next time, I should have a pattern or a sketch or perhaps at the very least, a plan.  And, I thought before I wing it, and reinvent the wheel, maybe I’d make some other folks’ patterns.

I’ve had Jenny Doh’s We Make Dolls on my nightstand for the past week.  I’ve been studying the pictures, and getting ideas, but I wasn’t really reading the instructions, or thinking about construction.  The book is an anthology of doll designers, their stories, and their patterns.  Reading their stories, and their passions for the craft makes me feel better about “wasting” time making toys.  Now, hopefully, their patterns will get me on the right path to making dolls that are more my own.

So, I started with my latest craft crush, Danita.  As I mentioned Danita has a rather expensive online dollmaking class, A Doll Story, that I have managed to resist signing up for.  And, let me just say, “expensive” is relative.  $149 is expensive to me – but as far as classes goes, obviously if you took the class in person, it would probably be double, and there are 48 lectures and 5 hours of content – it’s a lot of stuff.  And for someone who has such a signature style like Danita, that’s a lot for her to put out there and share.  So, again – I’m not judging – I’m just saying I know I’m going to buy yarn today for a sweater for my 6’4″ husband, and I would rather put my craft budget there, than an online class.  Just me.
And that’s not to say that if I have a month when I’m still in doll making land (because as I explained a few posts ago – my crafting ebbs and flows through different mediums), and I have the $, and a glass of wine, and some sadness from the day that I think a big ticket purchase will do the trick to cure, I won’t go for it. But right now, I’ll stick to the book.

Oh, as an aside, I did mention that I was particularly enamored with Danita’s cloth and clay dolls.  So, I did a ton of googling, and Pinteresting, and deep dives into the internet to find a similar looking doll – at least the form.  The clay head, cloth body, jointed limbs – and I found this CD/Book – looks like the same construction, different face.  But, that’s all good because I’d never be able to carve a face that looks like Danita’s anyway.  So, that’s on it’s way, and I’ll learn the secret of attaching the paperclay head to the cloth body (which is different from Gritty Jane’s paperclay and cloth doll – in that, the doll’s head is part of the fabric body, and you cover the cloth with the paperclay).

But, back to the book I have, not the book that’s on it’s way.  Danita has three dolls in We Make Dolls – a Frida Doll, a mermaid and a wood nymph.  I decided to have a go at Frida.  I free motioned stitched the face,  much like I did with amazon doll above, but with amazon doll, I doubled the fabric.  I should have done that again – my muslin is really thin, and I think the stitching would have been easier had it been stablized with the thicker fabric, and I think the stuffing is going to show through this fabric.  Lesson 1 learned.

Once done with the face, I went on to the body, and for the big big Lesson 2.

Free motion fail guys – as I was trying to sew the collar onto the body fabric, my fabric kind of got jammed in the bobbin – I just couldn’t get the fabric to move, even though I have a free motion slippery plate thing I put on my machine – it was just stuck, and as I was tugging it, and my finger got a bit too close to the needle – well, not a bit to close – it was under the needle – ouch!  I didn’t take a full stitch through my finger, but I got a nice poke/jab/stab.  But, I put a bandaid on, and continued on.

What’s the lesson here – definitely to stabilize the fabric, and the area that needs to be stitched cannot be right on the edge – I should have cut a much bigger seam allowance to so that I could have guided the fabric better without getting so close (under) the needle.  Or, I should have used a Pellon interfacing that was bigger than the body to stiffen the whole thing up.

So, I’ve learned my lesson, and I’m ready to finish her up – drat that work thing – I’m going to have to wait the entire day!

Hopefully, when I get home tonight, and attempt to sew her limbs, I won’t repeat lesson 2. I’m going to cross my bandaged fingers!

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