Thursday, October 28, 2010

Who wore it best?

I finally finished the little yellow dress that matched the purple one yesterday and put it on Holly to model. I took photo after photo, all of them blah. I thought it might be my boring white background so I put a pumpkin in the shot to give it a bit of oomph. It looked better, but it still wasn't right.

And then I saw Ash out of the corner of my eye with her bright orangey hair...

I think she wore it best :)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Huzzah for my stash!

Incredibly, I had everything I needed to make Miss B's witch costume on hand and after a frantic sewing session last night this is the result. I think it came out quite well. It only ended up costing $8.00 for the hat and is a great improvement on the horrible thing I nearly bought her from the local shops. She thinks she looks pretty good in it and has been preening in the mirror ever since I finished the final stitch last night. Scuse the photo - it was taken in a big rush before school today. I swear it was easier to snap a shot of her without a silly expression on her face when she was a toddler!

I am feeling very smug about it all as I didn't have a pattern - I just cut out a rough dress shape, with sleeves and fudged a little (hence the pintucks!) until it fit. Amazingly it all went together with no trouble at all - even the sleeves - and I am now master of the automatic button hole function on my sewing machine. Embarassingly I had never needed to sew a buttonhole on it until last night, even though I've had my fancy pants new machine for over 5 years. All it has sewn is quilts, doll clothes, a few skirts and some costumes for a school musical that somehow didn't require buttons.

The reason I'm so pleased with myself is that although I have done lots of dressmaking in the past, it was always always with a pattern. I would not have had the faintest idea how to run up even a simple costume without one. After sewing for Blythe, human clothes are a walk in the park!

Seeing Miss B so happy with the costume made me feel a bit sad that Halloween is not really celebrated here in Australia. I know that the seasons don't aline properly etc etc but it really is a lot of fun and I can't see the harm in having to provide a few sweets for the trick or treaters. Last year Miss B dressed up and we took her around our street trick or treating but we weren't exactly welcomed by most, so this year we will go to the one child friendly event in our city that is halloween themed - the Manly Halloween Street Party. It's not quite the same (it's not even held on Halloween, but on the Saturday!), but at least she'll get to wear her costume again. On Friday night we'll carve a pumpkin and decorate the verandah - hopefully we'll see some trick or treaters on Sunday. Otherwise I will have a lot of chocolate and lollies to eat!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sewers block begone!

This dress, and it's little yellow sister, have been the cause of some major sewers block for the last 2 weeks. For those who don't know, sewer's block is the inability to either finish the item you are working on, or move on to another project because you for one reason or another you have become "stuck".

For these dresses, it was the trim that held me up. I really do love the look of linen, but it does tend to be somewhat plain on it's own. I really wanted to make a sweet Japanese inspired dress with it, but once I'd finished it just lacked a little something. I had originally made pockets out of the same contrasting fabric as the sleeves but when I held them up against the dress, it still looked kind of flat. The answer came in the form of these cute little flower cutouts I bought a while ago - I think they are perfect! It just goes to show that stash building can really come in handy when you least expect it.

Speaking of stash building, I visited the craft expo here in Brisbane on the weekend and bought some lovely lovely fabrics to play with. I can't wait to get stuck into them, but first I have to make a witch costume for the lovely Miss B who is singing "This Is Halloween" in front of all the grade 4s tomorrow. I originally thought I'd just buy something as I remembered seeing a few cheapo costumes at the local newsagent, but as it turns out they were $30 and really quite horrible. I don't know if I'll be able to come up with anything better, but at least it won't cost me anything!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Reroot progress report

Yesterday I ignored the large pile of laundry sitting grumpily in the bathroom and instead spent a pleasant few hours working on Poe's reroot. I know people complain about how much slower mohair is in comparison to saran, but I am finding that it seems to be coming along quite quickly. Maybe I'm doing something desperately wrong! I have nobody to show it to, so I'll just have to cross my fingers and hope that it will work out ok!

I am using a method I saw on Flickr a while ago. There used to be a tutorial on how to do it, but it has since been removed, so I am kind of just combining the info I have gleaned from all over. It is a knot method, but instead of tying the knot at the very end of the plug, it's tied in the middle and the two ends are fed through adjacent holes. It leaves a really neat finish on the inside imo, and seems to be very secure. It's only suitable for long length fibre, but it's a nice compromise between lock and loop and the usual knot method. I use a large headed needle to feed the mohair through the holes. It isn't terribly fast, but then I have yet to find a method I can successfully use that is! Having the mohair all nicely combed is a huge time saver, and I just make the plugs up as I go.

I am glad that I did that disastrous reroot on the Basaak - even though it didn't work out terribly well I did learn a lot from doing it (mostly, what NOT to do!) and I feel a lot more confident this time, even though I haven't worked with mohair before. The Blythe scalp is sooo much softer and easier to work with in comparison!

I have given Poe a thatched side part - as you can see her scalp was very damaged along the centre part and although I have repaired it (that's the big white strip), I don't feel comfortable having the closely rooted rows in the torn plastic. I've just started the upper fields which are also very closely rooted - once I've done the first couple of spirals I'll start skipping holes. Poe's Disco Boogie scalp seems to be have the holes more closely spaced than a normal scalp, so I'll probably just do every third hole and see how that looks. One thing I do know, it's going to be poofy - which isn't the look I was going for. I think that perhaps those lovely wispy straight reroots tend to use lots and lots of extremely fine plugs and take a bit more skill than I posess right now. Maybe next time.

All this fussing about with Poe is giving me a lot more of a feel for her identity. I am kind of excited to be sending her away for her faceup. I have decided that I am going to get her lips carved rather than leaving them stock and I think she might be a lashless girl. I have found an amazing Australian customiser and although I am on the list to send her overseas for a free faceup, I am thinking that maybe one of the other girls might go there in her stead and I'll just have the work done locally - the list is very long and I am really looking forward to seeing her completed now. I'm pleased that I didn't end up selling her - she has real character, even if she is still a trainwreck!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A fun distraction

After the success of my pink mohair I was itching to have a go at processing some more, and remembered that a while ago I bought some red wensleydale locks but didn't end up using them because they came like this.

I made a few plugs, but that's as far as I got. Yesterday I tied a couple of curls together and washed and conditioned them and they came out looking like this.

Much better! And I must say that it was nice to have lovely clean fibre to work with - it brushed out so much more easily. The photo doesn't really do them justice - I don't think it could handle the colour too well. They have a really nice pearly lustre to them and I quite like the way they are like little ringlets. It's a shame that I don't really need them for anything. I suspect that I enjoy processing and combing the fibre more than I do the reroots!

I admit to procrastinating a little about starting Poe's. Last night I repaired her scalp and painted it with acrylic paint so I could begin today, but the paint dried a little bit tacky, so rather than get to the end of the reroot and have paint flaking off, I think it would be best to sand the stock brown colour off and just use it flesh coloured. I did read that non-acetone nail polish remover is good to get the stock paint off, but I rubbed and rubbed at it and it didn't budge for me. At this rate I feel like I'll never get started, much less finish the job!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Processing Mohair - part 2 - Success!

I just wasn't satisfied with how my mohair turned out. So I did some more research and then thought I'd throw caution to the wind and just dye the stuff with food colouring for fun as it seriously could not have looked worse than before and in any case, I didn't want to throw any more money at it. And here is the end result.

Seriously, I could not be prouder of this bit of fluff if I had grown it on my own back! It's shiny and luscious and perfect (even if it is pink)! As it turns out, the secret to gorgeous mohair is all in the combing.

When I was preparing to dye it, I thought I had better brush it as the locks were so tight that there was no way that the dye would have penetrated to the centre. So I divided it into lots of little locks - about 12 for the ounce of fibre I had, brushed each lock into a big fuzzy cloud and tied it together at the top with string. All of the little bits of VM and dirt came out in the brushing process so it looked much cleaner. The floor did not. It's a pretty messy business and not for the squeamish. I am reasonably certain that a lot of the little bits of "stuff" in there was goat poo and it was obvious that my previous attempt to wash it had not been all that effective as my hands were still getting oily from the lanolin.

There was quite a lot of mohair caught up in the brush - I wasted heaps, but from what I have read this seems to be pretty normal. Then dyed it with the food colouring. I chose pink because I thought there was less chance of it being completely unacceptable if I made the colour too strong or too weak as I was not sure how well the fibre would take the dye. For the record, it really grabs it! I was aiming for palest pink and it turned out much darker than I had anticipated, but it's still ok.

I wet the brushed locks with hot water and laid them neatly in a glass dish. I used a lasagne dish - as I was using food colouring it was perfectly safe to use regular cookware - obviously if I had bought the acid dye I could not have done this. Then I made up my dye bath using a few drops of pink food colouring, hot water, a glug of vinegar and a squirt of dish soap - very scientific. I didn't measure anything! Then I just poured the dye mix over the top of the mohair and "baked" it in the oven for about an hour. This method works well because the water stays nice and hot without violently boiling, which can cause felting. Water + agitation is bad news for mohair or wool, so don't stir it.

When I pulled it out the water was clear as all the dye had gone into the mohair. Then I rinsed it in hot water and conditioned it (just put some conditioner in your hand and run it down the length of the lock from the top - don't scrunch it up like you would your own hair or it will felt!), and left it to sit (ie...I went out!). When I returned 3 or 4 hours later I combed the mohair with the conditioner still in it (lost quite a bit more hair), rinsed it and left it to dry. And that's all there is to it!

Things I've learned for next time:

Separate into lots of small bunches as it's easier to comb.
Brush before washing to remove all the VM & make it easier to remove lanolin.
Comb again with conditioner still in the hair, then rinse thoroughly.

A lot of people dye their fibre "in the grease" - ie unwashed, but I think that I would probably wash it first as the mohair I had was quite greasy. I really want to do this again and experiment with some different colours. I wonder if it would take parisienne essence or tea/coffee for a natural brown?

My only concern now is that there is a LOT less fibre than I started with. I just hope that I have enough to give poor Poe a decent looking head of hair. It is a good thing that the mohair I bought is long so I can use a technique where I double it over, thereby getting double the thickness.

Now I just have to remove the paint from her scalp and repair her torn partline.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Poor Poe...

I've spent the day fooling about with mohair and after all my hard work cleaning it I think I'll have to end up dyeing it after all. I held a bit up against Poe and all I could think of was Mrs Quickly from Nanny McPhee with her frizzy yellow perm. Not quite the look I was going for. :(

The photo is terrible - it's raining and the light was fading, but you can still see enough to know that this is not a good look. Even taking into account that she still needs her face-up. I'm thinking of dyeing the mohair - but can't decide on a colour. Trying to toss up between pastel easter egg type colours or just going with a natural dark brown. I have so many brunette girls already though. It's starting to get boring! At the moment I am leaning towards a pastel greenish/blue.

Mohair processing - not for the impatient or inflexible!

As some of you might know, I've been in the process of trying to find some fibre the right length (and price) to reroot poor Poe with for a while now. A few days ago my fibre arrived and I've began processing it so I can begin the reroot.

The mohair I ended up buying is from an Aussie seller, and as I mentioned, pretty much straight off the goat's back. I will admit that I was expecting it to be kinda gross and stinky, but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. While it was absolutely not perfectly clean and lovely, it wasn't too bad and even better, the seller kept the locks all nice and together so I don't have the nightmare of untangling a big messy wad of fibre. Here's how it looked straight out of the bag.

In it's unwashed state it is kind of greasy, and there's a bit of "VM" (that's vegetable matter - hay and possibly...goat poo!). It does smell a little bit goaty, but not terribly so. All the same, if you are finicky about such things, then attempting to process your own mohair is possibly not for you. Looking at the fibre in its raw state it is difficult to imagine it gracing the head of one of my Blythes!

Most of the info out there on processing mohair is geared towards spinners rather than doll makers, who need that lock kept nice and intact through the cleaning process and if you follow their methods you will end up with nice clean mohair that has ended up in a tangled clump, rather than the nicely combed locks we need. Luckily I found this excellent guide to washing mohair by Mohairhouse. Quite possibly what I did is not the best way to wash mohair, but here's the method I used.

I basically separated the mohair into three smaller bundles, tied at the top with a silicone hair tie and followed the method for washing locks using dish detergent and very hot water. If I was to do this over again, I would have picked out the bigger pieces of VM before I wet the mohair. As I discovered it doesn't come out in the wash, but the water does help to distribute all of those tiny pieces right through the entire lock, making your locks really dirty. Oh well, you live and learn...

The fibre was very dirty, and after three washes was still not looking lovely and white so I soaked it in some very hot water with dish soap for a good 20 minutes to see if I could get it any cleaner. Next time I'd pick out the VM first, then wash once to get most of the dirt out, soak in hot soapy water and then rinse and wash again. It is entirely possible that my mohair is stained or the goat that it came from isn't white but cream (actually I don't really know why I assumed that it was white as the goats come in several colours including blonde and a silvery colour) because even though it was much cleaner looking after the soak, it still wasn't really super white like other mohair that I have seen - more like white with blonde tips. So at that point I figured that that was as clean as it was going to get, rinsed off the dishsoap and conditioned the fibre using a generous amount of human hair conditioner (just squishing the conditioner into the tied locks, not agitating at all) and put it into ziplock bags for 20 minutes or so. I was pleased that at this stage I had barely lost any hair at all from the 3 bunches - yay for silicon hairbands!

After I rinsed, dried and brushed a section of it, (at which point it turned into a cloud of frizz that was only subdued by dampening it), I couldn't help but feel a little disappointed with the result. My mohair seems to be of the super crimpy variety rather than the loosely curling type that I wanted, not especially shiny and worst of all, it's a pale straw colour that I am not a fan of at all.

It is also apparent that I will have to dye it as the colour does not suit Poe's skintone. Ironically it looked pretty good against the paler Blythe-in-bits, but I have already got a scalp for her. I am looking at using Landscape Acid Dye to improve the colour in either Pacific or Tasman - both are shades of blue/green in different intensities. They are really pretty colours, I just hope that it dyes up nicely and doesn't end up going bright green on the cream mohair. I am also considering playing with food colouring to see if I can get a pretty pastel colour I can live with.

At this point after all the work and the less than satisfactory result I've achieved, I would not recommend trying to save a few dollars by processing the mohair yourself if you have a particular look in mind for the finished scalp. It's not the amount of work involved that I consider to be the issue, but rather the unpredictable (and in this case, somewhat disappointing) result. At the end of the day, the look of the combed mohair depends mostly on the animal it came from (age, genetics, colour, living conditions) and also the part of the fleece that the locks were taken from (some parts of the fleece are guaranteed to be stained or just very very dirty). Buying mohair fibre without knowing these things means that you can't be certain how the processed fibre will look.

I wanted to achieve white or cream shiny mohair with a gentle wave and so far, after several hours work have ended up with pale blonde mohair that is matt and crimpy. It's still quite nice, but it isn't what I wanted and will look very different to the way I had envisaged.

The fibre (including postage) cost me $14.00, and I also spent an extra $10 or so on a brush, conditioner and conditioning spray. On top of that, I now need to purchase the dye which will set me back another $14 or so. I think that all up it would not have cost me much more to have purchased the fibre I really wanted in the first place and I have had to accept that the look that I wanted for Poe's customisation will now have to change to accommodate the mohair that I have ended up with. If you are patient and flexible with your customisation than it is quite doable, but for specific results you are much better off buying your mohair already processed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Dear Takara...

Dear Takara

Can you please space out your new release Blythes so that the more attractive ones are alternated with at least 3 boring ones with yellow blonde hair that I won't be tempted by?

My wallet hurts.

Thank you very much :)

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Something new...

I've been busily sewing away this weekend as it is horrible and rainy. Here's the baby doll outfit that I mentioned yesterday. Not sure if these will be a regular in the shop - I guess it depends on how well it's received. At any rate, it's nice to be filling up the shop with new things. Things got pretty quiet on the sewing front for a while but I seem to have my mojo back.

Today I made this little set, but I'm still undecided as to if I will sell it or not. I don't have any more of those little flower beads left and I kind of made the cami so I could re-take the bloomer listing photos as they were pretty abysmal. Not to mention the fact that there were plastic boobies in every shot!

I am toying with the idea of making a little diorama to take my shop pics in as the white background is getting kinda boring. I will have to sweet talk my hubby into making the box up and I'll see what I can find to decorate the room with. I'm going to have to do it on a budget as I'm saving my dolly pennies so that Simply Vanilla and Sparkly Spark can come to live with me.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Sparkly Spark!!

I may have squealed like a piggy when I saw that this gorgeous girl is coming up for release on November 10. I have been wanting a blue haired girl ever since I attempted to reroot Frankie my less than successful Coraline fakie and now CWC/Takara have very kindly decided to release a new one. I did toy with the thought of getting one of the older blue girls - Can Can Cat or Asian Butterfly but I'm not overly fond of the SBLs with their yellow eyeballs and impossible to open heads so I have resisted temptation so far. I also like that her hair is a nice managable length. Three of my girls have ankle length hair with no bangs and it is a real pain to keep it under control.

Regrettably she won't be as cheap as the normal Simply girls, but who knows, maybe the dolly funds will stretch to cover it.... I hope so as she is lovely! I will have to get cracking and produce some new dresses to put in the shop (actually I made the cutest little dress today, but you'll have to wait until tomorrow to see it as it's been too dark and dreary to get a good photo).

I also hope that the quality control will be a bit better on her than it has been for her unfortunate sister, Thumpty Thump. A couple of collectors on the forums have had problems with her hair being really badly cut, which isn't good considering that these girls are a little pricier than the normal Simply releases. All the same, I cannot wait to see her promotional shots.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Bloomin Bloomers

At last I have worked out a way to make these that does not make me swear like a sailor! Bloomers are available in my shop now, should you need a pair for your plastic princess.

To be honest, I probably would not have persevered were it not for the fact that I had a specific request for them and I was determined not to let a pair of tiny knickers get the better of me. There were a few failures...including a pair that would have fitted a pencil (elastic too tight!), an enormous pair that were miles too baggy and my first attempt that were a bit on the low-rise side (ie. the crotch was waaaaay too short!). Now though, I've got it all nicely worked out and they are pretty damn cute if I do say so myself.

I had fun dressing up all the girls in them for a photo shoot only to realise that there was no way to photograph them all together nicely since they wouldn't all fit in the lightbox and I am too chicken to prop them up against the wall in case of falls and scratched faces! It's a shame that Poe is not in better shape as I made 7 different pairs but only had 6 Blythes to model them on. I really need to get on and do that reroot for her as I'm hoping that Erica will soon be able to work her magic on her faceup. I've now found a place that has nice long mohair at a price I can afford without resorting to selling my organs, so hopefully it will soon arrive so I can get started.

The mohair I found is cheaper because it isn't washed, which I hope will not pose too great a problem. In the pics the seller shows it comes up gorgeously white and lustrous...I just hope that I can manage to get the same results. I have no idea how to wash it - should I use human shampoo or woolwash? Cool water or warm? I see a lot more research in the immediate future....

I had actually found some fibre through another Etsy seller, but after I had paid for it she contacted me to say that I owed her more money than the amount listed as she needed more for shipping and handling and she couldn't be bothered working out the postage to ship to Australia...double the amount that she had originally quoted. I thought that was pretty uncool as I would not have bought the item in the first place with shipping that costly. I cancelled my order, mostly through feeling a bit disgruntled, I must admit. The way that she worded her convo asking for more money wasn't the best - she sounded as though I'd tried to rip her off somehow. Incidentally, this was through my "buying" account so I'm not calling anyone out here.

I have found through my own shop that sometimes the amount I charge is not quite enough to cover the postage to certain places, and when that has happened I just absorb the cost myself and then adjust my future listings for that item. As far as I'm concerned that was my error, not the clients.

Anyway, I shall dismount my soapbox, I've had my whinge and feel much better. Until next time :)