Saturday, November 28, 2009

Doll Matters

Still away from home!

First, thank you all for the unbelievable response to the Owie Dolls! I am still reeling from the speed at which it all happened - they all disappeared from the shop in less than 24 hours. It's wonderful that they are all going to good homes but I also feel bad for those of you who didn't even get to see them in the shop after reading the post, let alone buy them. I am so sorry.

I've had many inquiries about whether I will be making any more. The short answer is yes, if you are not in a rush to get them for Christmas gifts. I'd love to whip up a new batch right away but they are such a labor-intensive project with so many parts. I'm also thinking seriously about only doing them as custom orders, so that I'd only sew what is needed. The advantage of a custom order, of course, is that you'd be able to pick hair color, hairstyle, eye color and even suggest a color of the dress/shirt for your doll, or request special features like a hairband. Depending on what I have in my stash, I'd then make your doll to order. Emily asked for her doll to look like her so I imagine other little girls (or boys) might like that idea as well. I'll let you all know when I'm ready to make more.

The other question I've been asked is whether I will make an Owie Doll pattern for sale someday. I'm afraid I'll have to say not anytime soon. For one, it is likely to go on for pages and pages and end up as a miserable book because of all the parts. The reversible dress alone is a pattern in itself, for example. For another, the fabric is weird. The only way to find it is to go around with a little velcro square doing stickability (thanks, Lucy, for the word!) tests. But mainly, I am daunted by the prospect of taking thousands of photos in blah indoor lighting and writing instructions for all the parts. I am such a coward. And taking photos does interrupt the making process so. You wouldn't believe how many projects I'd planned tutorials for that I'd given up mid-photodocumenting, just so I could finish them. It's so sad.

Well, now that I've given Emily and Jenna the Owie Dolls that were supposed to be their Christmas gifts, what in the world are they getting for Christmas? I'll have to head out to Target and buy something plasticky.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sloper Drafting Resources

Hello all! Away for the weekend but we brought our Macbook with us!

I have been very interested in following up with the comments,
questions and requests regarding slopers and drafting that
I posted about here and here. I thought I'd start responding
to them sometime in January during the post-Christmas lull
but recently a reader sent me a fascinating video link that I
so enjoyed. So I thought I'd share it and ramble on about it
in my usual fashion. Also the demonstrator in the video wrote
this book that's been on my amazon list for the longest time.

It has great reviews but since I haven't actually read it,
I didn't want to blog about here yet.

Here's a book that's been making the rounds in sewing blogland:

I haven't read this one either but between the two, I'm
more inclined towards the first one because its
reviews say nothing about fashion.

Ha! That's what makes it promising, people. Drafting a
sloper is not about fashion, is it? I am looking for a
book that is about how to take measurements and
turn them into a 2-dimensional paper pattern that
fits my body. I am less interested in a book that shows
me how to make fashionable clothes. The reviews for
Patch's book also hinted at it being better for less
endowed figures. I'm thinking, "what sort of
patternmaking book discriminates between body
types?" But again, I've never read it, so I'll say no more.

And now, here's that fascinating videoclip
Chris sent me (thank you, Chris!)

Chris also asked if this was a good place to start
for sloper drafting. Short answer: Yes!
But I like rambling so I'll be honest and share
what I thought of this video:

  1. I loved how visually McCunn made the process of transferring measurement to paper. He even set up the flipchart at the same height as the model so you could see the correspondence of model's waist to sloper's waist etc. Clever!
  2. I loved the chain thingy he slung around the model's neck to get an accurate location for the neck measurements. See point 9.
  3. I loved that he made a sloper in just under 8 minutes! It takes me a lot longer (more like half an hour to 45 minutes).
  4. Once you establish the vertical line as he did, there are many different ways to begin to draw the sloper. McCunn began from the waist and worked upwards to the shoulder, so his horizontal reference line was the waist. When I draw mine, I have two horizontal reference lines - top of the paper, where the shoulder meets the neck, and the waist. So I am working with a rectangle of sorts when I begin. It's just how you've been taught, I guess.
  5. When I draft a sloper, I take all the measurements of the model and write them down. Then I draw from those numbers. Boring, and not at all visual. So McCunn's method of folding the tape measure and marking off points is funner to watch.
  6. I was mystified at what happened to the bust dart in his sloper, frankly. Bearing in mind that he was drafting a sloper (i.e. form-fitting) and not a dress pattern, there should be a dart that starts at the apex of the bust and opens into the armhole. But I've noticed that many other slopers are also missing that dart, and maybe that works for slenderer people, or those with lower cup sizes. I've always had to draw that into my own slopers - or risk immodesty at the sleeveless armholes.
  7. Maybe he ran out of time at the end, but I am also curious about how he drew the neckline and armhole in. Just a swish of the pen. Wow. To have that talent.
  8. The front of the sloper (which he drew - this video does not include the back) is, for most women over the age of 12, very different than the back. I would never, never draft the front bust by measuring around the bust and dividing by 4. Unless it's for a person who has breasts both in her front and back. I dunno - maybe on the planet Zorg. I'd measure the front and back chests separately and draft those numbers into front and back slopers, respectively. If you keep in mind that his sloper sketch is a visual demo of the sequence of steps of sloper drafting, (and he did say that the fit would be much better later) you'll be OK.
  9. A great point that came through in his presentation: accurate measurements are the most important first step in making a good sloper. His model has a ribbon thingy tied around her waist (mum and I used whatever string we could find lying around at the time). If you've taken measurements of a person's dimensions, you'll know how hard it is to locate the waist and measure from it! Also the best way to be accurate is to have someone else measure you, especially back measurements and anything from the waist down. This is probably another reason for why my kids get a lot more sewn clothes than I do! When getting measured for a sloper, wear underwear or whatever you will be wearing (thermals, camisoles, bodysuits etc) under the garment you're eventually making. In Singapore, it was too hot to wear any extra layer under our garments other than basic underwear. So we were always measured in that.

So yes, that video is a great starting point for visualizing
the process of turning numerical measurements into the 2-D
sloper. I'm glad I got to watch that. Other readers have left
comments to those two sloper posts I wrote, with lots of
great resources - books, authors and commercial patterns
to adapt, so please feel free to pick up tips and ideas there.
I have such awesome readers! Thank you for sharing!

Once you've drafted your sloper (or adapted a well-fitting
commercial pattern) and want to tweak certain bits, the article
I linked to in that first sloper post, is very useful.
Scroll down to its 'troubleshooting' section to find out how.

I promise, promise, promise, that when I do finally draw
a sloper, I will share all! Mistakes, too. Especially mistakes
because, ha ha, there are going to be lots.

Well, goodnight, all! I hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!
I ate too much. I always eat too much.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Owie Dolls

This is Julia.

Julia is in hospital because she has one million owies.

She is taking it admirably, though.
Not the least because she has to wear the standard issue
dressing gown, which is pink (not her favorite color).

The standard issue slippers, though, she likes a lot.

She thinks they are much better than the polyester slipper
socks in the
other hospitals she wouldn't care to name.

While she was lying horizontal with nowhere to go,
she made friends with her ward-mate Rebecca,
who just had an appendectomy

but who liked to pretend she was much sicker
(because she had a secret crush on Dr. Miller).

Their other ward-mate, Celia, broke her leg falling off
a tree, into some
very prickly bushes.

When they were in the common room, they liked to
hang out with the other kids

and complain about the sad state of medical fashion,
although the girls thought the boys didn't fare so badly
in the footwear department, either.

So of course when they were finally well, they were more
than ready to swop their gowns for something
less uniform and head home.

Julia kept her slippers, though!

This has been a strange year, healthwise. Not so much for us
(we got the swine flu and that was as bad as it got) but
for friends and family. Earlier in the year, a good friend
underwent a live-saving medical procedure that was
thankfully successful (and she is back on her feet again
and driving around town and everything!) And her little
kids were fabulous in how they adapted to her recovery.
I remember feeling a great urge to make them dolls with
which to play doctor as they watched their own mom heal.
Part of the impetus to make these dolls was my usual
penchant to turn everything into an excuse to sew
something. But part of it was because I believed it
would be therapeutic, especially for children.

After teaching high-school Physics for, I dunno, almost
a decade, I was a school and crisis counselor for a
couple of years. Mostly I conducted workshops, teaching
teachers to counsel their students and do suicide intervention
and build resilience and all that, but I also had the privilege
of working with kids and young people themselves who
were suicidal, or stressed, or coping with grief and loss
of some kind, along with the usual pressures of school.
I remember many instances when little children, all calm
and cool in our conversations, would suddenly open up
to a puppet on my hand about some sad thing that
was happening in their day/week/life.

And dolls were another way for the kids to express
stuff that was going on inside them. I've always loved
eavesdropping on my own kids when they are playing with
their dolls and dollhouses - so much is a mirror of what's
going on in their lives, and some of it is hilarious! Jenna is
always making someone use the potty. Emily is always
putting everyone to bed. Kate is enamored with the
babies and the doggies and packing everyone
in the car to go somewhere.

The girls also love playing nurse/doctor/vet - which
child doesn't, really? Oh the countless times we've drawn
little Band-aids on adhesive labels so they could liberally
apply them to the furriest of their softies after
sadistically injecting them with the vaccination du jour!
And the yards of flannel bandages I've run off the serger!
And all the handtowels in the house disappearing
mysteriously, only to reappear as bedlinen in some
triage bedroom filled with horribly injured dolls!

Anyway, all that to say, I finally made the Owie Dolls. They
are the same kind as last year's Operation Christmas Child
dolls (see the old post here to chuckle at their evolution)
but I gave them different hairdos and added some boys.
I made one for Jenna and one for Emily (Kate was not
interested; she said she preferred markers to dolls) and
then the mass-production bug bit me and I made... more.

I alluded to them in this earlier post as the Weird Dolls
and it is all the fault of the fabric they are made of. I
wanted velcro band-aids to stick to them- on
any part
of them, without having to put little squares of velcro
bits on their skin. I mean, who wants to cuddle a
scratchy doll? So began my quest to find the fabric,
which explains why it took me so long to finally make them.

Some of you know I stash a measuring tape in my purse
but maybe not so many know I also carried a little
square of hook velcro along with it. Whenever I was
in a fabric store and spied something promising, I'd fish
out the velcro, glance furtively around to be sure no
one was staring at me, jaw on the floor, and then
surreptitiously do my Does The Velcro Stick To This Fabric
test. It was the craziest thing in the world.

The conditions were stringent: velcro had to stick to it,
but lightly. And the velcro should not rip fibers off it,
like it does with acrylic felt. And the fabric itself couldn't
be plasticky or horrible. And it had to come in skin tones.
And after several months, I'd all but given up and was
contemplating using just muslin or felt.
But oh, I couldn't let go of the velcro idea!

Long story short (too late for that now, though),
I found it - the mysterious weird fabric - generically labeled
on the bolt as some kind of "velour". Rather pleased,
especially, at how soft and flannelly it felt.
And yes, yes, yes, velcro sticks to any and all of it, anywhere!

But wait, there's more craziness -
their hospital gowns are

Ha ha ha!
I am insane and I have invented the reversible dress!
Far, far better and easier than sewing facings and bias-tape
on necklines and hemming sleeves and serging tight curves.
No raw edges! No basting! Oh joy!

Such lunacy. Such mental instability.

But it is done. And I had a fair bit of fun.
Let me show you the little set:

So there's the reversible gown, the modesty shorts
(the boys get pants), the slippers, the foot cast,

the arm bandage,

the eye patch, the head bandage,

the arm sling

the velcro band-aids

and a roll of DIY, self-expression bandage.

And a drawstring bag to hold all the little parts.

Everything an Owie Doll might need to feel better -
except for maybe a good home. I thought I'd put a few
in the shop if anyone wants to adopt them for Christmas.
Please note that I will need to ship them by the 10th
of December (earlier if you are outside the US)
to get to you by Christmas.

Those miniscule velcros!
There were about a hundred.
I can't believe I sewed them.
I must be even insaner than I thought.


Sorry all - the draft post (minus all links) went out before I listed the dolls in the shop. One of my girls hit "Publish Post" when my back was turned. Dolls in the shop this afternoon.

Update: 2 pm:

OK, dolls all listed. Wow, Gerald and Ronald are already gone. Goodbye boys! Catch up with the girls on facebook or somewhere! I thought I did something wrong and lost the listing. Thank you all!

P.S. We're going to be out of town for Thanksgiving and I haven't packed! Back on Monday. All dolls adopted this weekend will be sent out in the post on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Now must go pick Emily up from school.

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

MIniscule Velcros

What do these remind you of?

More pictures tomorrow - I failed to take
enough of the right ones today.

I Bought Fabric


My second online purchase! I'm finally getting somewhere. Or, I'm dangerously close to developing a new bad habit.

The only other time I did this was to try out oilcloth (still in a pristine roll in some closet downstairs) which was all over the craft blogs, and which I couldn't find in the physical store.

Tonight, though, I stayed up way too late and found Maisy fabric here. MAISY! Adored by Jenna to the point where I had to make her Maisy underwear for potty training. What shall I make with it? Pillowcase? Small purse? Fun skirt? Whooo. Not dress, though - it's cotton - ick.

Project update: Tonight also finished the Miniscule-Velcro project I mentioned here. So relieved. Took me, what, three weeks? That's 20 days longer than I'd planned. Pictures sometime soon, weather permitting. Children still haven't seen it. Hurrah! The online shopping spree was my um... (whistling) reward.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Paper Christmas Tree Advent Calendar

We have three (at least) different advent calendars in
our house - two wooden ones with little nativity characters
to complete a scene, and one that is usually made of
paper each year. Last year we made a simple paper chain,
just to give Emily an idea of the time left before Christmas.

This year, with both Emily and Jenna being able (and
very interested) to craft, we made some paper cone trees.

The prep work was very simple: I cut out twenty-four quadrants
(with a little "seam allowance" on one straight edge for gluing)
from construction paper. The radius was roughly 4.5" - I cut
a semi-circle with the shorter edge of the paper as its diameter.

Then we got out the usual suspects: craft glue, foam
stickers, regular stickers, markers, stampers, adhesive
gems...... and let the girls decorate their quadrants.

When they were done, I glued the straight edges together
to form a cone, and we stuck stars on the top of their trees.

Here are some of the variations -

Foam stickers:

Foam stickers and gingerbread fairy tree-toppers:


Jenna did these. I continue to be amazed at her careful,
deliberate attention to detail and great need to cover
every single square millimetre with stickers.

Markers and stampers. Emily did all these except the
rightmost tree, which was done by Jenna before
she discovered her calling in jewels.

Other miscellaneous trimmings - chenille candy canes,
beads and stickers. Had we had these in the house,
I would also have used small uncooked pasta
and tiny pompoms.

This is still early for the advent season, but after Thanksgiving,
these little trees will be filled with small items and glued upright
onto a board and fake snow stuck on to create a snowscape.
We also plan to add more things to the snowscape over the
next weeks - styrofoam snowmen (will post tutorial when
we are finally there!), our
gingerbread houses and whatever
else we can think of. We'll number the trees 1-24 and have
the girls pop one open each day till Christmas Day.

Some of the items the girls might find under their little trees:


Chocolate coins
Other chocolate shapes
Clues to start a treasure hunt
Conversation starters
Verses from the Bible
Game instructions
Treat tickets

What other small items could we put under our
little cone trees? We'd love to hear your ideas!

Edited to add:
Forgot to mention that we are also making a bigger
cardboard version of these, that the girls will paint and
decorate. We'll mount them on circles a little bigger
than the base of the trees and add a loop handle at the
top. These will be gift boxes for Emily's teachers for
Christmas, and we'll fill them with treats and a baby
Jesus softie thing that Emily will draw on fabric.
She knows nothing of this yet, of course! I love
(successfully) keeping secrets from the kids! Will
post pictures when we get round to doing it.

Thank you for all the ideas already pouring in, folks!
There are so many good ones!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

SMS Handmade Holidays - Cake!

My funny foam cake is on Sew Mama Sew's Handmade Holidays
today! What an honor for me. The cake aside, do stop by there
for a wonderful array of different things to make, bake, print
and win for Christmas. You might just end up bookmarking
almost everything!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Gingerbread Houses

Halloween was an interesting season for crafts but we think
it pales in comparison to the possibilities of Christmas
making. Today we did the first (we hope) of our holiday
season crafting - yes, we're skipping the whole
Thanksgiving-turkey thing. The girls made some gingerbread
houses out of tissue paper boxes and scrap cardboard.
I did some minor prep work beforehand -

  • collected three large (rectangular) tissue paper boxes
  • shortened them to about 6.5" long (random number)
  • covered them with brown paper so the girls would have a clean surface for decorating. I used a spray adhesive. If you are already in possession of brown cardboard boxes, like mailing boxes, you're all set!
  • glued on a roof and little triangles to cover the attic space
  • cut a door in the long side and a little window (or two) in the short sides

Then got out markers, stickers, foam stickies, glue and
chenille stems, and let the kids work on them.

I found a little book of candy stickers in the craft store
for $1 which was perfect for this activity.

I like crafts that take the girls a while to complete because
it trains them to persevere and plan and gives them enough
time to experiment and develop their ideas. Jenna spent a
long time peeling and positioning her stickers, after which
she colored in the holes in the stickers and then declared,
"I'm tired of coloring now!"

Emily colored one side of her roof red and the other green
and added contrasting trim and candy canes. I didn't take a
picture of this but there is also a Christmas garden (evergreens,
"Christmassy flowers" etc) on the back wall of her house.

Kate opted for the minimalistic look - a scribble on the roof
with a red marker and then moved on to coloring on paper
(and herself). I felt sorry for her house so I played with
foam stickies a bit, and she returned to stick on
the green dot and the blue heart.

When they were done, they considered making paper
gingerbread people to live in their houses, but decided
instead to lease them out to the felt gingerbread folk.
Tomorrow we will add these houses to Carville,
and have the Little People come visit.

It took the girls a good hour (at least) to finish decorating.
Kate, of course, was ecstatic to be allowed close contact
with markers for more than 1 minute. Jenna was so fun to
watch, her face solemn with concentration, completely
ignoring Emily's praise of her colorful roof.

And Emily said, "I like crafts that take a long time."