Thursday, August 12, 2010

Girls love glamor

My 4-year-old has been pestering me for her mermaid princess dress for the last week or so since I came home with the fabric. I had hemmed and hawed over what to make her, and she has finally agreed to wear this for both an upcoming mermaid party and Halloween (or so she says today). Possibly for the fairies and unicorns party as well. She told me, though, that she didn't want the mermaid tail skirt because she was a mermaid who could come out of the water and look like a regular princess. Hmm. Okay, so scrap the pattern for the tail ... need glamorous princess gown instead. She did NOT like the idea of a tutu-style skirt over the tail. She wanted floor-length, drapey, and full-on glamor. I showed her several patterns, and nothing was clicking for either of us, but when she got her hands on the fabric and held it up, we started formulating a plan.

I have to admit that I *love* working with her. She has amazing ideas every day and I let her act on them as much as possible, fostering every bit of her creativity. She got me thinking, and one night, trying to get little miss e to sleep, I realized that I could use the bubble dress pattern to make this dress.

The bubble dress ... my new favorite go-to pattern, from a tutorial by Lex on her blog. She does some absolutely amazing fashions, and I am so impressed with the simplicity of this dress. I made five in two days, which sounds crazy, but it's true.

So I took Lex's idea and just made it strapless, per Miss E's instructions, adding a casing in the chest band for elastic. I used the basic fabric headband idea, stitching one end of the elastic to each end of the chest band, and making sure it was exactly the right size to stay up. The dress is a bit heavy because of the crushed velvet panne (yes, the cheap polyester stuff; this is a costume!). That's the underlayer, which is necessary because she needed something soft against her body, and because I didn't want a see-through dress. The top layer is from the special occasions fabric collection at JoAnn. I had another fabric in hand, and this one was at the cutting counter screaming "MERMAID" at me. It didn't let me down. I think they work together perfectly, leaving her with a flowing, absolutely beautiful gown.

The top band is from Amy Butler's Love collection, the fabric that is the inner lining on the purse/tote I started mid-February. No, it isn't finished yet. I keep interrupting myself and leaving it sitting, 75 percent done, in the back of my closet. However, the fabric for the mermaid princess dress was on the floor right in front of the purse, and I realized that they were almost the exact same color. I figured it would be nice to have a cotton around her chest, and it would be easier to work with than the slippery panne and nylon.

I think it took about two hours to finish, and with the serger, all the crazy stray threads were removed and anything that wasn't was made all nice and pretty and orderly. If she does decide it feels like it needs a strap, I think I would cover a big button with the bluer part of the Love fabric and put that right in the middle of the top. Then I'd serge the sides of a long piece of the sparkle fabric, put an elastic loop in the center, and use that as an optional halter. However, she wore the dress for at least two hours tonight after it was made, and she never once had it slip. Sounds like I got the elastic right! If she doesn't need the halter, I may make a big gauzy flower for the front center. I haven't decided, but I guess that is yet to be determined. For now, it's really a very striking dress and I can't believe I made it myself!

I'll include a couple other bubble dress photos here. Just such a great way to make a quick dress, and both girls look so cute in theirs, as does our neighbor, who got a matching one for little miss e's first birthday party. Miss E's American Girl Doll Bitty Baby got one, too! They all looked like a royal court in purple and chocolate.

The first one I made ended up being too short, really, but when paired with little brown leggings, it is just adorable on little miss e as she toddles around.

Have fun, and try out Lex's awesome tutorial!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Here she is!

My first Waldorf doll, and I love her! Meet Mandy. I gave Miss E a list of five names to choose from, and she wanted Mandy, like our former cat Mandy. She is madly in love with Mandy, too, and very glad that she is finally finished. So are my fingers and thumbs! Stitching on the hair was tedious and tough on the fingers and thumbs, but the doll needles are so amazingly cool for the task. I was using the 5-inch needle yesterday, but pulled out the 7-inch needle today and oh it was nice! I felt like some kind of strange surgeon sewing on her head like that, but the needles are fantastic and made it through.

I will say that I've learned a whole lot making my first, and now I can't wait to make more. I even ordered handspun, hand-dyed wool yarn today off Etsy and I'm so very excited to make doll hair with it! I also can't believe how much yarn you can use for hair! I used almost a full skein of 93 yards on Mandy!

I'm still waiting for the book I ordered more than a week and a half ago. I knew I should have just gotten it from Amazon and not from an Amazon seller who uses snails to deliver ... oh well. Live and learn. In the meantime, I used several tutorials to create the head, the hair, the body, the doll. Even found a great video tutorial from Leslie at Stitch Lab (via someone else's blog!) on how to properly do the ladder stitch so I could put the head on just right. That part alone has made me so happy. All these years of making dolls and bears, and I've never studied how a Waldorf doll was made. Now I see the light, and I've got a new favorite thing to make!

The supplies are expensive and the dolls are time-intensive, so now I see why they cost so much to buy. If I get good enough at it, I want to sell some, too. There are some amazing women out there making them and I can only hope to have something close to as beautiful as theirs.

Because I have a toddler screaming on my lap at the moment (the one who refuses to sleep. ever.), I'm cutting this short. I would like to publish my list of tutorials I used and the beautiful dolls I've found, but that isn't going to happen right now. I really did want to post photos of my doll, though!

Welcome, Mandy!


The head, neck and arms sewn together.

The body sewn up! It took until this evening before I removed the safety pins and stitched her feet and legs. She has since borrowed a dress from Bitty Baby -- the one that matches Miss E's dress, of course. I will make her a dress of her own, very soon, and some dark purple panties. I just want to hug her -- she's so sweet!

The hair, the hair, the HAIR! It's a beautiful light brown with golden tones. Not an exact match to Miss E, but similar enough that she feels I "got it right". She has two layers of sewn-on hair. I used the "wig" method. I feel like I may need to open her shoulder and stuff more wool in to support her head more. The hair is kind of pulling her head back a bit!

Here she is, as close to being done as possible! She still needed the stitching on her feet and along her leg bends, but she was close to done at this point. I'd photograph her now, but she is being happily snuggled in a bed and I won't disturb that.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

My first and so adorable already!

Okay, so I am now officially obsessed with doll making. My Waldorf supplies got here on Thursday from Weir and I dug in last night and made my first doll head. Tonight, I finished it off and embroidered the face. I'm making her for Miss E, so she got special Miss E eyes -- a mix of gray and brown specs, plus a wide smile. I am in love already and I can't wait to put the rest of her together. I am constantly thinking about what to make next and how to do hair, dresses, toes, noses, eyes ... eek! But oh what fun!

I just had to share some photos of my first. Note, too, that my sewing table has been overtaken with doll supplies. (The white fleece bear is Miss E's latest project.)
Stay tuned for more!

p.s. There's no way I can keep this one until Christmas. I think I would burst! And Miss E would cry her beautiful eyes out!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Doll fun

I'm back to dolls again. I got hooked on Waldorf dolls last week and gave it a go to see if I could manage ... now I've got a bundle of supplies headed my way on a UPS truck and can't wait! (A book, too.) Here's a glimpse of my first, my little Chocolate Fairy. I haven't decided on a name for her, but she is beautiful. Her head is too skinny, I think, but I went with the materials I had at hand and have studied other tutorials now and see that I should have made it wider. So, I made up for it with ginormous amounts of crazy hair in a yarn I've been dying to use on a doll.

I started on a dress for her, but unfortunately ran out of olive felt ... and so did JoAnn. Yikes. So, that will happen at some point. I may instead try out another dress idea I have in mind.

In the meantime, I updated Jessie. She is all glammed out now with new layers of hair, and, at Miss E's insistence, a new face. I made her a dress, and though it looks really cute, the details on the straps and buttons are so incredibly lame that I look like a remedial sewist. Yikes. I haven't sewn a buttonhole for 25 years, and I need a lot of practice, it appears. Overall, though, Miss Jessie is very cute now!

Can't wait for those supplies to get here!!!