A Holiday Herd

I know the season is already late, but I have been wanting to make at least one big push for my shop before the Christmas season is fully upon us. With travel and sickness and general busy-ness, I feel way behind where I was last year at this time. But last year, I was traveling for Christmas and so had to close my shop December 1st. We are staying in town this year, so I hope to be able to take orders through at least the first half of December.

So to get you all in a festive mood, I want to show you what I’ve been working on in between bouts of croup and trips to the ER. It’s a new series of horses that I have been having enormous fun designing. I posted my first plaid horse on facebook a few weeks ago, and couldn’t wait to do some more. But after I finished them, I felt like they needed a little something more, like maybe a rider.

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I haven’t done a lot with pants for my dolls, but I like the little riding pants on this one. I even figured out how to make boots!

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Since they go so well together, I thought I would try something new and sell them together on my shop this Christmas. Here they are on a country outing.

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Aren’t they cute? I’m kind of excited about these two.

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But here are some solo shots if you would like to purchase them separately.

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And here are a few more of the herd by themselves.
One plaid with an auburn mane and tail.

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And this rather striking fellow with a lovely gray houndstooth coat.

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I am also continuing to sell my red horse. This one was by far my most popular last Christmas, but instead of wool, I decided to try making him out of a lovely cherry red corduroy. I like how it turned out.

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Due to the uniqueness of the plaids in these horses, (they are made from wool skirts) they will only be available in twos or threes. So think of them as limited editions, but hopefully with new and different ones to come.

Let me know what you think! (And feel free to share ; )

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Seven

Well, my little shop is humming along, thanks to all of you who have put in orders over the last several weeks. Life has been so very busy, but I am not quite at the point where I can say I am overwhelmed. Having five kids seems to be a new level of insanity, and I suppose I am stating the obvious here, but babies take a lot of work!
However, because I don’t seem to know where to draw a line, a few weeks ago I entered to win a spot in a very large Etsy Christmas Market in Nashville this December. I was a little panicky about doing it, but wanted to see if I could push my business a bit outside my circle of friends and family.
There were two weeks where I didn’t know if I would make the cut or not, and my mind was going a mile a minute trying to think of ways to increase my stock and make my brand look more professional so the market would be profitable for me. I couldn’t tell if I really wanted to make it or not, or if would even be wise at this point in my life, until I received an email last night saying I didn’t make it. My biggest feeling was one of relief, but it did help me to think about ways that I might someday promote my business in other ways.

In the meantime, I still have orders coming in. For instance-
A college friend of mine very generously decided to give me her all Christmas business- meaning a bulk order of dolls. She gave no specifications as to hair color or dress design, so it was fun coming up with something for her.
She and I were both in the music department in college, and both share a love of musicals. So when she gave me an order for seven dolls for seven nieces, I immediately thought of this.

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Now there are many things that aren’t exactly PC about this musical, not least of which is the opening anthem- “Bless her beautiful hide”- and continuing on to a mass kidnapping of all the town’s eligible women. (It’s all in good fun, right?)

But the scene I was inspired by was this one-

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I have always loved the bright, rainbow-y jewel tones in this scene, with the girls in complementing ginghams. But I didn’t have much gingham on hand, so I just put my dollies in simple jewel toned skirts with black buttoned shoes to match.

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There is something so satisfying about rainbow order.

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I can tell they are already friends.

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I wanted to be able to do a little photo session with them in dancing poses, but they just kept falling over. So here, for your enjoyment, is a little video instead.
http://youtu.be/TygmMPbwfjA

Following the trend

Business is slow folks.  Turns out Christmas is a busy time of year for shoppers!  Who knew?  And apparently the rest of the year is not so much. Hah!  Sarcasm aside, I was well aware that business would be much better around Christmas, and I am not entirely sorry to have a break from the rush. (I do miss the money though).

I have been enjoying myself, taking time to look at other options for my shop, and even to start sewing a bit for my daughter.  My Daughter! Have you figured out I am excited about that prospect yet?  I hope to show you my first project for her soon, but I have also been spending a lot of time on Pinterest, searching for inspiration. Animals, birds, dolls, you name it.  But one thing has come up consistently in all of my searches.

Owls.

I know owls have been trending over the past few years, thanks to Harry Potter and other owl inspired films, but I haven’t really gotten into them much myself.  Truth be told, owls have always kind of creeped me out a bit with their big, unblinking eyes, and their often angry stares.  My first introduction to owls was in fourth grade, when we studied their habits and then had to dissect an owl pellet. You know, those furry balls of undigested rodent bones that they regurgitate onto the forest floor?  We got to tear one apart and try to reassemble various skeletons found therein.  I remember the boys in the class having a blast.  Me, not so much.

The only time I have ever encountered an owl out in nature was at a summer family reunion.  We were staying at a lodge, high up in the mountains of Washington state. I was out on a walk by myself one moonless night, getting a good look at the incredible stars.  And as I was staring straight above me, a huge owl- wings outspread, bright white against the night sky- silently glided over me.  I looked into it’s big round eyes, and I was glad I wasn’t an unsuspecting rodent.  It really was beautiful- even awe-inspiring, but it spooked me out too.  I ran back inside.

All that to say- owls haven’t been high on my list of cutesy stuffed animals to make, but I finally figured I might as well make what people are buying.  I altered a pattern that seemed realistic in shape, but fanciful in design.  A whimsical owl, if you will.

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I made the body from nice, soft brown and white velvet, and then decided that I would forego feathers and stencil a fun design on the wings instead.  I mean, why not?

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I tried to make the eyes a little more friendly as well.

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Here is a closeup of its little wire feet.  I wrapped them in cotton, so they would be a little softer.

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And here is a view of the ‘tail feathers’.

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I really did have fun with this prototype, and I even think it’s a little cute! There are an infinite variety of things I could do with this basic pattern, and I might try one with feathers next if there is any interest.

I may have joined the trend a little late, but it never hurts to try!

The Fox and the Hog

Time to introduce some new friends for my shop, folks.  I’m still plugging away at developing my own patterns, or at least altering patterns that I find. And I continue to experience more frustration than success.  What, between adjusting patterns and trying out different fabrics, I am never sure just what I am going to end up with.

These next two projects are definitely rough drafts- especially the fox.  I have been on a velvet kick lately, since I like stuffed animals to be nice and soft to the touch.  But velvet has it’s own set of challenges, when it comes to sewing.

There are several things I would like to change about this fellow- the legs and nose for a start, but I like to use my blog as a place for constructive criticism, so have at it!

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And then there is my little hedgehog, who didn’t cause me nearly as much trouble.  I made him from some soft, purply velvets and stitched little ‘spines’ all up and down his back.  He is super soft and cuddly.

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I must say that I love his little face.

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Anyways, I am going to keep experimenting with animals, but I found a new book on sewing beautiful birds that I am just itching to try out. So we will see what comes of that!

Valentine Girl

Just a quick post to introduce my next 18 inch doll.  These bigger dolls do take more work, but they are so worth it! I love the bigger size since it enables me to work  in greater detail on face and clothing.

I found a lovely piece of fabric to up cycle- a sheet really. It’s 800 thread count Egyptian cotton, and such a nice shade of brown, I had to get it.  I wanted to try some more African American dolls, but I think this one turned out looking more Native American.

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The dress is another original design, in a cheery red color, since Valentine’s is just around the corner.  The white details are done in couching, which is a method using yarn, or in this case, thin strips of cotton jersey. You trace a pattern and tack down the ‘yarn’ at regular intervals.  It’s really easy and fun!

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I also wove some buttons into her hair, just for something a little different than braids with bows on the end.

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What do you think?

Puppies and kittens and squirrels, oh my!

Well folks, I have been trying to branch out a bit from my horses and rabbits, and it has been an interesting journey.  For one, I simply haven’t been able to find any patterns that I like.  Well, that’s not exactly true.  There is a lot of adorable stuff going on in the world of felt right now- miniature felt animals, little collectibles etc.  But working with felt is a whole different game, and I am not wanting to get into it right now.  So I ordered a book (really a pdf file) of some cute little miniature animal patterns and thought I would do some experimenting.

There were two problems with the book.  The pattern sizes all needed to be adjusted because I don’t want to do miniatures and, well, all the instructions were in Japanese.

The first animal I attempted was a squirrel.  Woodland creatures seem to be very popular right now, so why not join the trend?  I found a nice rust colored, upcycled corduroy and got to work.  I did alright following the pictures, despite the Japanese instructions, but I failed to take into account the stretchiness of the fabric.  Once I started stuffing, I just couldn’t stop.  The little squirrel rear end got fatter and fatter until it was as round as a ball.  The boys thought it was hilarious, and so adopted the bottom half of my first attempt as a new ball game.  They call it tumble butt.

So then I tried it out in a nice, unstretchy,  charcoal- colored wool.  I like how this one turned out better, except every one in the family asked me if I was making a rat.  Turns out, squirrels and rats look a lot alike, except for the tails.  The tail made a big difference once it was on, but I think I should stick to brown colors the next time to avoid rodent confusion.

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After he was done, I thought it would be good to try a little something more common, like a cat or a dog.    The cat pattern turned out to be a lot more difficult, or maybe I need to brush up on my Japanese, because I had to redo it several times.  I like the final product, but I feel like there is a lot of room for improvement.  These are definitely rough drafts.

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I do like her pink bow though.

And last but not least, the puppy dog.  This pattern caused me a lot of grief, and my family much hilarity, because I couldn’t seem to adjust the head to the proper size.  It was absolutely too enormous for the little body.  I wish I had thought to take a picture of before and after shots.  I re-sized and re-sized it, and even now, I think it is too pointy.

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What I would really like is a good book on developing your own patterns.  Any suggestions?  And any other feedback?  I am pondering over which direction my little shop should turn.  Thanks!

Finished projects

Sorry to leave you all hanging after my last blog post. I’m sure you are all on the edges of your seats, waiting to know how my projects came out!
Again, I wish I had taken better pictures of the process, but let’s just dive back in with what we have. As I mentioned before, I was tackling three projects- two scarves and a skirt for my ten year old niece. The scarves are super simple. I found two good quality t-shirts with colors that complimented each other nicely. (BTW, I am picky about the jersey I use. For the most part, I look for Pima cotton, found most often in men’s polo shirts. It is very soft and durable, and won’t pill.)
For my mom’s scarf, I chose a navy blue and a leaf green shade. For the gift exchange scarf, I used a cheery bright red and a silvery gray. Using a rotary blade and mat, I cut about a ten inch width off the bottom of my shirts, front and back. (Just make sure it’s wide enough for your stencil to fit)

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I left one side still sewn together with the original shirt seam and cut the seam off the other side. Make sure your two colors are equal in length.
I won’t use this post to show you how I made the skirt, but I used the most basic Alabama Chanin skirt pattern. It’s only four pieces, and I used a soft brown, with a bright blue-green for the appliqué.

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Pin the right sides of your scarf together, and sew the edges. I usually do this by hand using a simple running stitch, since my machine doesn’t handle knit cotton very well. Leave a few inches unsewn, so you can turn it inside out. (Sorry I forgot to take photos of this step!)
Once it is turned inside out, I like to sew the edges again with a running stitch. It makes everything look neater and more professional.

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Now here’s where we get to use our stencils. For the navy scarf, I traced the rose stencil using a chalk pencil, since ink won’t show up very well on dark fabric.

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For the red scarf, I used the medallion stencil from my book, and traced it with a disappearing ink pen.

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For the skirt (not pictured), I used the leaf pattern, also from my book. You can do your stencil lay out however you choose.

Now, you can just use an outline stitch to trace the stencils and secure the front and back together. But I really wanted to make the rose stand out, so I traced just the flower onto white jersey and cut out the petals. Then I pinned the petals to the navy, using the stencil as a guide.

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Once your outline stitching is done, we can do a little more to make the patterns stand out. Take your sharp little scissors and cut out the center of the leaves and medallion shapes, taking care to leave a small border around the stitching. We want to see the color underneath!

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Sometimes, if the shapes are too small to cut out, I just color them in with a sharpie! Be creative!

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Once, they are all cut out, you are done!

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I failed to get a photo of the red one completed. My newly married sister snagged it in the gift exchange and went off on her honeymoon before I could get a shot of it. But this is the skirt, outlined, cut out, and embellished with a few buttons for fun.

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It has been fun to get away from doll making for a few weeks and go back to some Alabama Chanin projects. I’m sorry if this ‘tutorial’ has been a little unclear. I will try for better pictures and instructions next time. But here is a question. I have been thinking of adding scarves and skirts to my shop. Would it be worth my time? Would you buy one?