Thursday, March 29, 2012


Two posts, back-to-back, in one day? Why yes, that was necessary. . . Because my doll teacher is made of WIN! (*waves at teacher*) After reading my post the other day in which I was indulging my OCD self regarding my longing for my dream doll, she called a friend, and it now seems possible that I will be making The Head Of My Dreams, because her friend has the mold, and a shoulder-plate that could work with it. Words can not describe. I went down stairs and literally did a dance in the kitchen, (think Spongebob Squarepants bringing it aroooound town, ha ha ha!) while my husband looked at me like, um, okay? Ha ha ha! Too excited.

Also, she confirmed that my body for Marie Louise looks as it should, so I am instantly less crabby about that.

And now, I'm off to watch my husband's soccer game. . . But you can bet I'll be staring blankly at the field while my brain pretty much explodes with doll thoughts!

See? I had to make a second post. I was TOO EXCITED not to! YAY!

At the moment, I'm feeling so positive and powerful that I'm pretty sure I'm going to be a prodigy at cutting eye openings on doll. Ha ha ha, we'll see how THAT goes! Also, I am now on a MISSION to master the art of painting eyelashes. When I paint them, they come out straight, instead of slanted. Why, I do not know! But it's something I am determined to get to the bottom of!

*dies of doll happiness* ;)

Body in progress. . .

The other day I cut out the piece for the body for the "Marie Louise" doll I'm making in class, and tonight, I did most of the assembly:

I am not particularly pleased with this pattern, (which is the pattern meant for this doll head - #BP84). For one, the pieces don't all line up properly, and I am never amused when that happens. I just feel like there's no excuse, as a patternmaker, to let a pattern out your door if you have not made it up and fixed any places where seams do not line up. I had to take some ugly tucks on this doll's backside to get things to fit properly. I find this annoying when I've spent all kinds of time being tedious and perfect about cutting things out. *sigh*

Also, I absolutely hate closing openings of stuffed things, and I have had to do it FOUR TIMES for this doll so far, because there are four openings in her legs, and I'm not even done with the doll yet!

And finally, I'm not keen on her body shape. But maybe this is just the way china head doll bodies are, and/or who cares because it will be covered with a dress, I suppose. . . At least that's what I'm telling myself!

At least it's done. Or, nearly so. I forgot to bring her arms home from class, so I couldn't do those, and I won't finish the top until I have the head in hand so I can make sure I stuff/finish it so that the shoulder-plate sits nicely on the body.

I'll kind of be glad when this is done. I've really enjoyed the process of cleaning greenware, painting the doll, etc., but overall, I'm not a big fan of china head dolls. I like the "Jenny Lind" style dolls, (like the one I got last summer), but that's about it. I really hope doing this one china head is enough for me to graduate to doing a French Fashion doll next! *crosses fingers*

Monday, March 26, 2012

Maybe I really have gone totally mad. . .

So, a freaky thing happened to me today. . . But I need to back this story way up so you can understand why it's so freaky. . .

Almost a full year-to-the-day ago, I saw this doll, and fell in love:

She is "F.G. Mlle. Florence," 20" tall when finished, and is from a Seeley doll mold (#S134). I found her because I had been hunting for reproduction French Fashion dolls that were no shorter than 20" tall. I'm obsessed with getting a doll of this size because that would make her 1/3 scale, and therefore able to use the large collection of doll furniture and accessories I've amassed over 23 years of collecting 1/3 scale doll things! Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one obsessed with larger dolls, and it seems that the popular dolls are more like 12", or 15" at most. At any rate. . . My search turned up this doll. And thus was born my crazy notion that I wanted to learn to make porcelain dolls. I was convinced I was somehow going to be able to buy the mold and make this doll!

Then, I got to finding a little bit more about her, and realized she doesn't have a shoulder plate. Instead, one needs to buy a $108 "composition" body, and attach the head directly to it. I was so disappointed, because I want a fabric body. I want to make the body in exactly the shape/size I see in my mind's eye, and I want the knees to be able to bend, and I think the arm color on the composition body they offer is ridiculously wrong. It's just really not what I want! I desperately tried to find a back-issue of the "Doll Artisan" magazine she was featured in, hoping I'd find out that maybe there was some optional shoulder-plate mold piece that works with her, that just maybe wasn't mentioned on the web site. I couldn't find the issue anywhere.

Full of disappointment at how close I had come to fulfilling my dream of the perfect doll, I relinquished the idea, and began my search again.

It was a long time before I found a suitable replacement, but at long last, I found this lady:

She is "F. Gaultier French Fashion," a 20" doll mould put out by the Bell company (#MD2649). Her face shape is so similiar, and with a prettier wig, I think she could really work! And, she has a shoulder plate, and an arms/legs mold. I got super excited! Now, all I needed to do was gather up the funds. She's $139 for her mold set, plus shipping (which will probably be high, as I hear these are heavy things), and plus any patterns I may choose to buy for her. (I already have the dress pattern for this doll - scored that on eBay - but I would probably go ahead and buy the underpinnings pattern, just so I woud have the complete set).

But then, I heard that this doll company no longer exists. Their web site is still there, but what I am told is that if I try to contact them to place my order, I will have no luck at all.

I have seen sites that will pour the parts for you and mail them to you in the greenware stage, but this is of no use to me as my studio only allows dolls poured in the studio into their kiln. (And I have no problem with this, because if it were my expensive kiln, filled with the work my other students had put their time, money, and love into, I would also not want to stick some unknown thing into my kiln and risk causing damage of any sort! So I completely understand and agree with this policy, for sure!)

At this point, I was really beginning to feel cursed in my quest for the perfect French Fashion doll of my dreams. I began looking at dolls I didn't like as much. I found this one:

This is Seeley's 20.25" "Leone Smiling Bru" (#S190). She's pleasant enough, but she just doesn't have the look I wanted. I don't feel jazzed about her. But she's the right size, and she has the shoulder-plate, so, maybe I could learn to love her. . .

Then I got struck with the crazy notion that maybe Smiling Bru's shoulder-plate could work with Mlle. Florence's head! Now, I know this is probably a slim chance. I understand a doll's neck has to fit really closely into the shoulder plate. But what if I got really lucky, and it fit - or was close enough that a little sanding in the greenware stage could make it fit? I promptly ordered the Dollmaker Worksheet for both dolls, so that I could find out more about them and think about this.

That was several months ago.

Today, completely out of the blue, Mlle. Florence suddenly popped into my head again. Maybe it's because I'm making such progress with my china-head in class, and am thinking it will soon be time to choose my next doll that I will make. At any rate, Mlle. Florence was dancing across my thoughts, and I was filled with longing for her all over again, like the first time I ever saw her. I went looking for the Doll Artisan back-issue - something I haven't done for months - and I found one up for sale! Then I got this creepy feeling like if I looked at the seller's other postings, the Smiling Bru back-issue might also be for sale by the same seller. How unlikely would that be? But hey, maybe that would be my "sign" that I should do this. So I had to look. Of the five other Doll Artisan back-issues this seller had for sale, guess what one of them was? Smiling Bru's. I literally got chills. I ordered both magazines. I had to; it seemed meant to be!

Now, I don't know if this is really a sign from fate that I should give this crazy plan a shot, or if I have finally obsessed over a doll so much that something in my brain has snapped! I mean, I could well end up with a head mold for the perfect head - but no body for it, plus a shoulder-plate and arms for a different doll - but no head. And this isn't a cheap risk either, because I'd have to shell out $164 (plus what I'm sure will not be cheap shipping!) to take this chance. In the event that I can not Frankenstein this doll together, it would then be another whopping $220 to get the compo body for Mlle. Florence and the head mold for Smiling Bru, and I would then have two dolls, neither of which were exactly what I wanted. (But maybe I could then sell at least one of them to recover my expenses? I don't know; something to think about, I guess. . .)

I think maybe I will give the Bell company a shot. Maybe the company isn't totally out of business (after all, why would you continue paying for your web site hosting, which I know from experience is probably costing at least $100/year, if you were not going to bother with your business at all?) but just only sort of part-time and bad about responding. I could pull a Shawshank Redemption and just start writing a letter (or in this case, call and/or email) once a week until they get so sick of me they answer, ha ha ha! Meanwhile, I'll gather funds. Because if I can't get through to Bell, I might just be insane enough to take this risk of attempting to Frankenstein a doll together from these two Seeley's molds!

The ONLY other thing I can think of to do would be to buy a kiln, order the Bell doll I like in greenware form, and fire it myself. The HUGE problem with this is that I'm deathly afraid of kilns. I have no idea how to use one, or how to do any of the pouring/firing of dolls, since in my classes we really only work on cleaning, painting, assembling, and dressing. I'm afraid I'd damage or even burn down my house, or at least maim myself somehow. Plus, a kiln is expensive. And then I'd have to figure out all the different other tools/supplies I'd need to do the pouring/firing myself, and that will probably add up too. And where would I even get this stuff? I think this plan is a little too crazy - even for me!

Humbug. I need to travel back in time to when dollmaking was super popular and buy up all the molds and supplies I could ever need. But then, if I'm time-travelling, I might as well go all the way back to the 1870s and buy one "brand new"! ;)

Friday, March 23, 2012

Review of the Battat / Our Generation Sewing and Dressmaking Set

It's official: I'm in love with the Battat "Our Generation" accessory sets! I think I need them ALL! Ha ha ha, okay maybe not all of them. . . I have limited space, after all, and some of them would be SO much fun if I was still a little girl, or if I had a little girl of my own. . . But since neither is true, I really am only interested in the sets that I can have fun making silly photo shoots with, or just displaying the dolls like they're doing stuff. (Okay, and sometimes because they are just SO CUTE that I can not resist them!) ;) I'm currently trying to remind myself that I do not, in fact, need the OG kitchen set, or the bath tub, or the laundry day set. . . Can you imagine how fun these would be to play with? I'd have had a ball! And the grocery shopping set - I used to LOVE playing store, and I can only imagine the ball I'd have had making pretend products to add to my doll's store. I feel like there's just so much to do with these OG sets. I can imagine them being able to occupy little girls for hours of fun. It makes me wish I had a little girl so that I could buy all this stuff, and have a ball playing with her with them - or at least get the kick out of seeing her enjoy them!

Anyhow. So I actually ended up buying three accessory sets! (Hey, like I said, I haven't bought anything for the AG crew in a loooong time!) I'm going to review one set a day for the next three days, so that I don't overwhelm you with a bajillion pictures at once, starting with the dressmaking set - of course!

Mia will be assisting me with the opening and reviewing. . .

"OMG, can it be?!?"

"A SEWING MACHINE! Finally!!!"

Contents of the set:

The sewing machine is adorable! Of course it's not functional, but the presser foot can be lifted, and the "needle" moves up and down a bit, allowing one to slip some fabric in so it looks like your doll is hard at work crafting a new dress for herself. ;)

My particular machine did have a slightly wrinkled decal, and some tiny bits of pink paint that look like maybe they dripped at the factory.

The decal I was able to carefully peel up and fix, no problem, and it looks perfect now. The paint I can probably scrape off, but haven't attempted yet. (Let's recall that this entire set was only $14.99 - I can be okay with a little imperfection here and there for that price!)

The iron and board are so cute!

The sewing box can hold all the small, easy-to-lose things, which is handy!

Here are the smaller accessories:

The spools of thread are just plastic, and the "chalk pencil" is also just pretend. The buttons could probably really be used, if you felt so inclined. Here are some details of a few of the smaller items. . .

The thimble can actually fit on an AG finger, which is cool!

The scissors are also of pretty good scale, and they open and shut (though can't really cut).

Here is the "pin cushion," which is just plastic, and looks like it could come close to fitting, but I saw a review where someone put it on the doll, and it scratched the wrist, so I'm not even going to try it. I'm just going to make a cute fabric one that can really be used. ;)

The sliding bit on the hem gauge can really slide!

Tape measure: too cute!

Also included are a garment bag, three "rolls of fabric", a pattern envelope (no contents), spray bottle (for use with the iron, of course!), and several coat hangers.

The complete set, plus a curious cat:

The final verdict? This is a super cute, fun accessory set that is totally worth every penny of the $14.99. Maybe there are some minor quality issues, but I really only noticed this with the machine, and again, they didn't decrease enjoyment of it. I think it's such fun that many of the pieces "move," and I think they really put thought in to what someone would need for their dressmaking adventures. A great set! A+!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Take that, American Girl!

I haven't bought anything for my AG crew in a while. Especially not from AG itself. Ever since they started discontinuing all the dolls I loved so much as a kid (and wasn't done collecting as an adult!) the charm of it has been sort of lost for me. I realize that times change, and that plastic is just the way things are now. . . But it still makes me sad because the whole point of American Girl when it started was to be NOT just another pile of plastic toys, but rather, high-quality toys that could last for generations, and that would teach girls about history as well as be fun to play with. I feel like the original mission of the company has been lost, and this makes me sad, because to me, it's what set them apart from other random dolls/toys. And now, it's just so expensive, and I really feel that with most of the things available at AG now, I'm really just paying for a brand name. I have difficulty paying more than I feel a thing is worth, just to get a particular brand name, in ANY area of my life! So, hence the drifting away from little AG splurges here and there. . .

One of the few things they've brought out that I wished I could convince myself to purchase was Chrissa's Craft studio. Since sewing is "my thing," I just really desperately wanted that little sewing machine for my AG crew!

I was sort of half-and-half about the accessories that came with it. I liked the pin cushion, tape measure, scissors, and little spools of thread. The knitting needles are fun, but just plastic, so I didn't care so much about those. The little hanks of yarn are a waste (I can so easily just wind little balls of sport-weight yarn for the crew, and even print mini versions of full-size labels for them), the bowl is silly (any bowl or basket will do), etc. And the table? I have no use for another table, seeing as how I already have three tables for my crew! Not to mention, having a shelf on the bottom of a table is really only acceptable for an end table. How annoying would that table be in real life?!? I like to be able to pull my chair right up under the table, and have my legs comfortably planted on the floor. That is the proper sewing stance. And I know, they're "just dolls," and they can't bend their knees. . . But still, I like things to be believable. And I've never seen it in person so I don't even know if the doll, when seated in a chair, can properly fit under the table.

But the kicker? $78! REALLY?!?!? Um, no. That is just so much money, and I couldn't bring myself to pay all that for a non-functional plastic sewing machine and a few accessories - half of which I could probably make - for my dolls.

So now it's retired, and you know what the after-retirement prices are like on eBay! But from time to time, I look up "American Girl sewing machine," just because I hate myself apparently, and also because I think, maybe some day, someone will bring out a knock-off machine. I was looking today in particular because I want to do a fun little photo story that would require a machine. . . And, at long last, I found one!

The "Our Generation" line of dolls (available at Target) now has a "Sewing and Dressmaking Kit" that includes an adorable little machine - which I actually think is cuter and more realistically shaped than the AG one was!

It comes with all the things I liked about the AG set, except that I hear the pin cushion doesn't fit the AG dolls properly (no problem, as I can make one), and there are no knitting needles. But it has other fun accessories that I find much more useful and fun than the AG set, such as the iron and spray bottle - CRITIAL sewing accessories there!

But the best thing of all about the OG set? $14.99!

So of course, I ordered it without delay. Basically, I got my sewing machine, plus lots of cute sewing-themed accessories, and saved myself $63! And with a few hours of my time, plus some scraps of fabric and craft supplies already in my stash, I think I can have a little pin cushion and maybe even some knitting needles to complete my fantasy AG sewing/crafting set.

There are definitely things AG has retired that I wish I'd bought, but I can officially stop kicking myself for missing out on Chrissa's Craft Studio, and instead, be proud of myself for being thrifty and patient, because this time around, it paid off! :)

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's a boot!

In today's class, I really wanted to focus on the boots, because the sooner they get done, the sooner I can make a body, and the sooner I can begin messing around with a dress for her! And at the rate I tend to work, and the way I tend to demand perfection of myself when it comes to sewing, I know I'll be spending way more time than I should patterning her dress. ;)

I also did additional layers on the eyes, cheeks, and lips, in an attempt to darken these areas up a bit more.

I feel like I'm getting close, because all I really have to add that is new is the "eyeliner" (for lack of a more appropriate word) and eye lashes. Oh, and the gold. Did you know the shiny gold on porcelain dolls is REAL gold? How cool is that? It's a bit on the pricy side, but this is my first doll, and she will be really special, so it is worth it! :)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Less creepy now that she has eyes. . .

So apparently, I missed blogging last week! I was totally called out on it at doll class tonight. ;) Sorry Sharon! (Also, I may have called you Shannon this evening, and if I did, I'm sorry for that too - I work with a Shannon all day and I just suddenly feel like I might have called you that!)

Anyhow. So that I don't get busted next week, here is my progress from class today:

Quite different from the picture in my last post! She's less creepy now becaue she actually has eyes. Scariest moment of today's class? Cheeks! I was so afraid I would give her clown cheeks. But actually, I think the cheeks I gave her are going to be too light, as they lighten with firing. So I'll bet I'll be having a round two with the cheeks next week. . .

Here's another angle:

I am so happy with the way she is turning out!

I had a few minutes of class time left over, so got to flip through a lovely book of china dolls, and my brain started exploding from all the costume ideas. Yay for that! As soon as I finish posting this, I'm off to sketch some of the ideas so they don't drift away by the time I get around to making her dress! And, so I can settle on an idea in case I need to order fabric. Because that's the way I roll: STACKS of fabric in every closet and cabinet, and yet I always seem to need a new one!