Saturday, June 30, 2012

WIP: Well, bother!

This is the story, so far.

This morning, Miss R White
was sewn and stuffed and sealed
and had layers of paint sanded to silky smoothness.

Here she is on her sketch.
She has longer legs, 
because I like rag dolls to have long legs
and she has bent knees for sitting.

So far, so good, right?
I'm happy. She's happy,
and apart from her dislike of being
 wrapped in plastic bags while being painted,
we're getting along pretty well.
She looks sweet in her chosen colours 
of yellow and black.

I felt it was time I added 
some more colour to her face.
She's a black and white Dutch rabbit,
 and on such bunnies, 
the black is a deep and rich black
and the white is a clean, cold white.

Very  striking.

I started to add some of the detail to her face,
 with a light ring around her eye.

There's a lot more work needed on the face, 
but it's a start.  

Feeling confident,
I decided to go forward
and paint on striped stockings
Alice has striped stocking in
'Through the Looking-Glass'
so it seemed just right for Miss R White.

Here she is, all taped up for painting.

But I have to say, I'm less than happy with the result.

It looks really clumsy to me.
I can't decide if it's cute and idiosyncratic
or just messy and awkward.

It makes her look like a painted toy
(which is what she is)
as opposed to a shy little girl rabbit
(which is also what she is)

I can fix it.
I think my choices are to 
paint her legs black
and sand and buff,
and then they'll look like 
black stockings.

Either that, 
or I could sew some stockings 
for her to wear.

Dear, wonderful, gentle readers,
your input, your advice 
and your wisdom would be very helpful.
Do they look ok? Am I being hypercritical?
or are my instincts right and are the stripes
a bit of a disappointment?

Be brutal!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

WIP: Paint, sand and leather

Now, if you make dolls 
or you're interested in quirky, cute 
and highly idiosyncratic creations, 
you probably know the work 
Dylan and Jo.

They make sewn and painted little creatures
 that are sweet and spooky,
cuddly and creepy,
delicious and disturbing
( I've run out of alliterative adjectives.)
You can find their lovely stuff
 for sale here

Why am I eagerly promoting them so loudly?
It's the least I can do. 
They were the first place I saw the whole 
technique of turning stuffed cotton
 into a kid-leather soft surface.

And do you know what?
It really works.
This is my test piece.
A spare arm.
I painted it black. 
Let it dry.
Sanded it.
Nothing special.
Then, I painted on a second coat.
Let it dry.
Sanded it. 
And it turned into this.
Sexy or what?

Without the words, this is a really, really odd picture.
Not only does it look like leather
it's amazingly soft to the touch.
I tried a layer of PVA glue
(White glue? School glue?)
at one end as a finishing seal.
It's lovely and shiny,
(but not what I want for Miss R White
I'm testing a matte spray sealant tomorrow.)

Having done a test piece, 
Miss White and I discussed the options 
and she said she was prepared to give it a go
I was going to paint her, after all.
Might as well make her smooth and pretty.
I was so pleased with the trial arm
 that I'm going to paint on her striped stockings
and she's in full agreement.

Protective gear.
(Dollar General bag)

The reason for the protective clothing
is to keep PVA glue off her cloth body.
I've been looking for a way to seal the paperclay
before painting it and the
 best and cheapest I've found is PVA glue.
I'd done a test piece some time ago
and it seems stable, 
doesn't seem to be affected by humidity 
and takes acrylic paint  well.
 The biggest drawback is that you have to be certain 
you're absolutely finished with the sculpting process.
Because when you're done with the glue,
 you're done.

I covered all of Miss White's head and ears and shoulders
in a thick layer of PVA.
Then let it dry.

Then, I painted her head and ears, 
her arms up to the elbow
and her legs from top to toe
in thick white acrylic paint.
No fabric medium and very little water,
just enough to help the paint flow.

 So, paint and sand
And then paint again.

And another view.
Yes, our lawn is that brown.

I was going to write "Assume the Position" here,
but that would be in poor taste, right?
 I sanded down the painted cloth areas
with #100 grit sandpaper.
And now she has smooth, soft skin on her arms and legs.
It's a really satisfying process.

Smooth and shiny!
 Tomorrow, we begin face painting!
Yes, we're both excited! 

For Miss R White's beginning,

To see what happens next,
look here.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

WIP: The Body in Question.

Today was a big day for Miss R White.
(Oh, I just realised this was a big day for me and the blog, too!
This was my hundredth post!)

Today, she got her body.

Not a try-out.  Not a temporary fit.
Her actual body and limbs and paws.

She has soft sculpted knees and ankles,
a moveable elbow and shoulder joints using the brass loops.

I had to do some re-constructive surgery.
The breastplate was too long 
and too square and felt really intrusive.
So I cut it back and smoothed it out with a soft curve.
It looks and feels better.
The whole process was traumatic for both of us
and neither Miss White nor I want to talk about it...

It's all better now.
She looks happy and she sits prettily 
and I think she deserves some nice new clothes.

 I'll start with some pretty drawers and
maybe a petticoat and I might go crazy 
and make her some stockings.

To see Miss R White from the beginning,
the story starts here.

To see more, try here.

WIP and a Wonderful Day!

We break our normal services for a 
News Flash!
As  part of the celebrations for Alienore's 3rd birthday
I entered a giveaway on Teresa's wonderful blog
and I was one of the lucky names picked out of the hat!

Today, I received a parcel in the post!

Aren't they the most exciting things?

Don't you love getting them?
I do!

(And, at this point, the batteries in my camera died
and I had to recharge them 
but pretend this happens all in one go. )

I opened it up and inside I found
wonderful things!

Will you just look at all this goodness?

There was more than I could fit into one photograph,
so let me just list for you some of the goodies 
Teresa very kindly sent me.
Some lovely pieces of fabric;
 from a crisp white fat quarter
to a rectangle of deep, soft rayon velvet.
Pretty cotton prints and tulles 
and weaves in blues and greens and
(my favourite) reds.

Here is Miss Rabbit modelling a piece of white broderie anglais for you.
That's 'eyelet' for our American cousins.

There was a bag of delicious coloured scraps, 
big enough for a bunny or three.
There was a bag of ribbons and braid and 
simply wonderful lace, 
in ecru and grey-blue and white.
There was a hank of soft black wool roving.
There were two strings threaded with 
glossy wooden beads, for doll joints.
In fact, all kinds of things to gladden a dollmaker's heart 
and I was thrilled with every single thing.

Thank you, thank you, Teresa!
Pop in over to her blog and say Rhissanna sent you.
Teresa always has something wonderful going on.
She also has a pretty amazing doll collection. 

As for Miss R White,
(and you can see the start of this
work-in-progress here)
I stopped pouting about not having any paint,
and drew on a temporary bunny face with my box of crayons.

Then I got out a body that I thought might fit her.
(You do have a pile of odd bodies 
lying around in your house, don't you?)

I like the flat feet and I think I like the arms,
but the torso is too long and too wide,
so I need to work on that.

Oh, and she'd like some clothes. 

See that bulky square breastplate?
See it disappear, here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

WIP: Rabbit Pie

The bunny in the oven is still working well.
I've not had any issues with cracking or flaking
and I'm more confident about building up
 thicker layers of paperclay,  as I don't have to 
wait until Christmas for it to dry.

Progress so far.

So, apart from final smoothing and sanding 
I thought Miss R White was done.
I was so pleased with my progress, 
I re-arranged all my crayons 
to look like the rainbow.

Then I tried some colours on the working drawing.

Now, I'm pretty happy with the colours
and I've decided on giving her human feet 
just so I can make her a pair of
little black leather shoes with a strap and button,
just like Startrite.
She will, however, have bunny paws.
I don't have to make fingers (yay!)
and, as bunnies do not have paw pads,
I won't have to do those, either.

What I did have to change, however, 
was her giraffe neck.
Even with a choker, it was going to be too long.

I built up the shoulders,
as I couldn't face decapitating her and shortening the neck.
And, to make sure her arms hang from the shoulders,
rather than half-way down her ribcage,

I poked eyes
(not actual eyes. Eyes from 
hook and eyes from a picture hanging set)
into the wet clay and I'll attach the arms to those.
Maybe this might have been a happy accident I can use again.
Or, maybe the eyes will just pull loose. 
I don't know how well the shrinking clay will grip them.
Either way, the shoulder plate is stronger for the additional clay.

And yes, rabbits look weird when seen directly from the front.

There's more story (and more weirdness), here.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

WIP: Baby Bunny Steps

I now have a head, covered in paper clay
and this is where I make a confession.
Until today I've never thought of
 drying my paper clay in the oven

I know!

How could I have been that stupid, for so long?

Don't answer that.

It means I can get from this rough-hewn stage

to smooth and paint-ready, much quicker.
And I feel like an idiot for not doing this sooner.
Why didn't someone  tell me?

I have decided on a colour scheme.
Although the Rabbit is named Miss White
(White Rabbit, geddit?)
she's going to be a black and white Dutch.

Cute, huh?

I've taken to wearing these
 fancy yellow earrings with a black t shirt,
so I've decided to dress Miss R White in a 
crisp, yellow gingham dress, with black bows.
The Alice doll will be wearing blue, 
(because Alices do)

Of course, all of this assumes that things go to plan...

Fancy yellow Fimo Earrings. $5 off Ebay.

 I'm not the only one who thinks
Dutch rabbits look good with yellow.

If you know where I found this Easter Card,
 please let me know so I can provide a link.

The oven drying tip?
I went to check it was safe 
(just in case I'd contaminated the area and 
a HAZMAT team was needed)
Apparently there's full instruction on the 

30 mins+ at 250deg F

So now we know.

There's more, here. With pictures.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Work in Progress:Progress

Today, I found some bunny head references that were right for what I needed.

So one thing led to another and I now have my  base cloth head!
The sewn head will not be seen, as it will be under the sculpted clay.
I soft sculpted the eye sockets and ironed the ears.
Everything is now covered in the first layer of paper clay.

I know this gives the illusion that I know what I'm doing
but I wasn't sure if the clay would stick to the or just crumble and flake off.

What I did learn is that I am never making a stuffed cloth head for one of these again
Next time I am buying a commercially made, preformed, off-the-shelf
polystyrene egg, because there will be less crying 
and fewer salty oaths.

For more, look here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Work In Progress

I'll try and pop up little snippets of what I'm doing,
with pictures.

This is part of a sketch for my 
 'Miss Rabbit with her Alice doll.'
I'm sorry this is a such a crummy photograph.
I have a scanner, but it's still in the box.

I'm not a Luddite, 
just idle...

This is my main working sketch. 
The doll should be the size of the original drawing, 
about 16 anna half inches.

The body of the doll is drawn first
and then any underwear
and then some preliminary ideas for a dress
and an apron with a pocket big enough
 to hold the Alice doll.

These are all sketched on top of each other, 
on the original drawing.
So, as art, it's a mess
but it helps me to see the whole design.

A working drawing, as it will do a lot of work.
Any new ideas will be recorded here
so I can keep track of what I'm doing.
Already it's clear Miss Rabbit will need at least one bent arm,
 so she can cradle her doll,
 and I might keep her head turned to the side,
to make her look more animated
(that, and rabbit heads look really odd from the front).

The head will be either paper clay over cloth 
or over polystyrene(styrofoam).
The ears will be cloth and then stiffened with paper clay.
As the head and ears will be painted
I'm considering painting the hands and feet
(or paws?).
and then sanding them for a softer texture.
I have a fluffy Christmas stocking I bought for
10 cents and the white fur is just perfect for a tail.

I have a question,
oh, Gentle readers.
Does the bunny tail show through the dress,
 or just through the bloomers?

I welcome your advice.

Part 2 is here.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tea Staining Tutorial # 2307 (and counting)

I make no apologies here.
I know there's a lot of tea staining tutorials out there.
Where would Prim and Shabby Chic be without tea staining?
Ralph Lauren even brought out a tea staining wallpaper glaze.
Hitting the tea is nothing new.

I use tea staining to make fabric 
the right colour for cloth doll bodies
It has its limitations.
I can't get a really dark colour,
which is very limiting,
and I have no control over the end result,
which is very liberating.
On some fabrics (mainly John Lewis curtain lining,
for which I can't find any substitute here in the US)
the tea has a softening effect, 
making the fabric pleasant to handle 
and closer to warm human skin.
This is important to me because I like my dolls to be handled
otherwise they're not dolls;
they're just rather naff dressed figurines.

Sookie. Likes to be handled. Can I say that on a family friendly blog?


Choosing and using your tea.

So, if you're British, or Ozzie or a Kiwi or Irish,
just drink tea as normal
and throw the used tea bags into a plastic tub.

If you're Southern, make iced tea as normal
and throw the used family sized tea bags
 into a plastic tub.

If you pretend to occasionally sip at tea, 
and think a tea party sounds lovely, 
but you don't actually drink the stuff on a regular basis,
just buy a dollar box of tea bags at your local store.

The cheaper the tea, the paler (and more pink) the outcome.
Good strong tea, like PG Tips, gives a lovely, dark
golden colour on the right fabric.

Now you have the tea bags, and the tea bags are your dye.
You don't need a mordant.
My chemistry is a little vague here,
but I'm assuming that the tannin acts as a mordant.

Choosing and using your fabric.

I only dye pure cotton this way.
Anything polyester would give odd results 
because of polyester's reluctance to take up dye, 
and because I prefer the feel of pure cotton.


Wash and rinse your cotton.
(You probably have a big machine that does just that, right?)


 Fill a big stock pot/pasta pan with
water and the tea bags, 
lots and lots of tea bags,
(at least 10 and up to 50)
and bring to the boil.
Keep boiling for ten minutes.

Scoop out the tea bags 
or you will get tiny flakes of tea in your fabric
 and they won't come out.
If you have any burst tea bags, 
you will have to pour the dye through a coffee filter.


Turn the pot down to simmer and add the fabric.
(dry or wet, up to you).

the pan must be big enough and full enough
for the fabric to move freely, 
or the dye will be uneven.
Don't dye a huge piece.
I usually dye a quarter yard; 
half a yard is the biggest I can put
in my stock pot.


Let the fabric simmer on a very low heat
for half an hour.
Give it a stir occasionally 
and make sure the fabric is below the surface.

Take it out and check the colour. If it's dark enough
(remember, it will lighten as it is rinsed and dried)
you're done.

If the fabric doesn't seem to be getting any darker,
you're done.

Two different colours, same technique.
Either, let the fabric cool in the pot, 
if you're aiming for as deep a colour as possible.
or take it out while hot if it's the colour you want.
 Rinse until water runs clear.
After rinsing,
I usually put mine in the tumble dryer on hot
just to set the dye.
All this boiling and tumbling is another reason 
why I like to use cotton.

 Iron and then admire your dyed fabric.

The finish isn't just for skin colour. 
It can be used to age patterned fabric for a vintage look, 
or to shift the white background to a creamier colour.
But you already knew that, right?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Posies in Purple. Cherie and Valentin

My sweet and lovely sister-in-law, 
Cherie, married her 
handsome beau, Valentin,

 I arranged the flowers and made a Money Tree for her.

(I love doing that kind of stuff!
If I wasn't making dolls, 
I'd work in a flower shop.)

I had some photos of the couple 
that just right for making silhouettes, 
and I coloured the design purple,
because that's always been Cherie's
 favourite colour.

(Does your family have favourite colours
 for each member?
I can highly recommend it.
It comes in very useful for gifts and Christmas,
birthday balloons and all kinds of things.
Mine's red. 
Should you ever need to know...)

The lady who was to be the Matron of Honour
(that's a Maid of Honor over here, right?)
couldn't make it, 
so I was asked to stand in.
I was thrilled!
I got to hold the 
posy of flowers I'd made!

Cherie and Valentin!

*wipes eyes*

Later this afternoon, 
a tea-dying tutorial!
With photos!

(Yes, I know the Internet needs another 
tea-dying tutorial
like it needs more advertising.)


Friday, June 8, 2012


I haven't forgotten you, or the blog. 
I've been busy.

June always seems to be the dollmaking season for me. 
 Here is the window in the kitchen
where I get the best light for making stuff. 
It's close to the kettle, too. 
Can't make dolls without tea. 
Can't do anything without tea, actually,
it's part of being British.
As you can see, there's some assorted heads, some limbs,
a bag of reject paperclay being softened.
Heads and limbs!
All rather gristly.

So, to take your mind off that, 
here is a pretty picture of some flowers.

I had friends over for dinner to celebrate the 
Queen's Diamond Jubilee.
(We had Coronation Chicken, of course)
I just happened to find 
red, white and blue flowers for the table. 
I was so pleased I took a pic!