Monday, December 30, 2019

Carter's Blue Woobie*

A decade ago, I made quite a few stuffed toys for my friends who were all having babies around the same time. I loved making them but ended up really burned out. However, there was no way I wasn't making toys for my niece and nephew's children. Here is the story of stuffed toy #2, this one made completely from scratch.

Patterns Used: For the head, I used Simplicity 8938 (2019) because I wanted to use the adorable face shape of the bear with its full cheeks. I also used the pattern for the one-piece body and curved leg shape. The shoulders and arms were adapted from both the Wee Wonderfuls Kitty, Bunny, and Bear 3-in-1 pattern (2006), and McCall's 7795 (2018.)

Did it look like the photo/drawing on the pattern envelope(s) once you were done sewing with it? No, it became its own thing.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Very much so, since I decided to simplify the whole stuffed toy experience from the last time I made a soft toy from fleece. This time, I choose not to have separate arms and legs. Really, the most challenging part was deciding which colors to use for all the decorative elements. I ended up cutting eye, muzzle, and tummy pieces in multiple colors and tried out different combinations.

The final design

Fabric Used: 59" Anti-pill Plush Fleece (100% polyester) in Mare Blue and Deep Blue, 59" Blizzard fleece (100% polyester) in Wedgewood, Gutermann 100% polyester Sew All thread in Iris #900 and Dark Blue #252, Kuni ecofi Classic Felt in Neon Blue, and Pellon Easy Pattern.

I used the chosen pattern pieces and Pellon Easy Pattern to trace shapes for blending and creating new pattern pieces.

The old and the new

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made: I created my own stuffed toy pattern by combining my favorite parts from primarily two patterns. I also drew inspiration from the book fleecie dolls (2008) by Fiona Goble, realizing that a fleece doll might be easier to clean and feel softer on a child's skin. over the years, I've made multiple versions of the Wee Wonderful animals, and while I love them all; knowing what I know now; fleece or a woven cloth works better than the flannel I used for them. Flannel is not durable enough for heavily-used (played with) dolls. The stressed stitches pulled right out of the delicate weave, and the fabric surface (and softness) wore down quickly.

Finishing touches that I added: Then came the truly fun part, adding details, the face, and personality using embroidery. This was so relaxing and meditative. I love his little face! The patch over the stomach gave the illusion of a chubby body and I even put a little puff of padding under both the tummy and the muzzle piece before stitching it down.

Blanket stitches in contrasting colors add both a hand sewn and finished feel to the whole project.

The last touch was adding a simple vest (which I'm sure was promptly lost) I adapted the idea from a tutorial for Tagalong Teddy from Betz White's book Present Perfect. (Unfortunately, the tutorial is no longer accessible online, so definitely go get the book.)

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others? Oh, yeah, this is my new TNT doll pattern.

Chewing is acceptable.
Gently guarded by the family dog.

 From all the signs seen above it seems to have been a success!

Remember what a "woobie" is? If you do, you are around my age if you know what 1980s movie that term comes from.

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Allee Willis - RIP

I just read that Grammy-winning musician Allee Willis has died. I just happened to have written a post on her retro-hip home design way back in 2009. Enjoy her out-there style.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Old Doll, New Clothes

Sorry! Wow, I really left you hanging, didn't I?

Do you even remember the doll I had been working on? Well, she's long been finished and has been living with her darling little recipient for months now. However, I still want to document the process and her completion.

If you remember, the doll, Dessa, was in a sad state when I started, and her clothes were even worse. She desperately needed new clothes. Knowing the taste and interests of my grandniece Wendy's parents, I had offered to make a little Wednesday Addams cosplay in black and white. But I felt I should make her a less somber dress too.

Using the magic of my phone and Pinterest, I put together a group of possible cotton prints for them to pick. Out of the floral and themed novelty choices, a small floral on a dark ground was among the pics. Once I spied this field of violets on black print, I scooped it up. The other iconic Wednesday Addams dress was constructed out of a Pima cotton with a lustrous sheen. A pretty white eyelet trim was selected for both dresses.

Using Pellon Easy Pattern, I made a tracing of what was left of the dress, stretching out the elastic to get an accurate measurement.

The most bizarre thing is that while checking out books on handmade dolls at the library, I came across Vogue Dolls and Toys (1989) by Helen Moore. In it, I found a cloth doll inside that also had forward-facing legs, a tush formed by darts, yarn hair, and a stitched line around her neck. Yup, I found the same pattern that was originally used to make Miss Dessa. How did I know for sure? Well, besides the publication year making sense, my traced dress pattern exactly matched the one in the book!

The dress pattern was used to make both dresses. However, for the Wednesday Addams dress, I had to draft a separate collar, which I thought would be easy, but when the neck of the model is more of a flat oval than a circle, it's kind of hard to get it to lay down right. I also had a hard time gauging how big it should be related to the dress. So there were multiple tries along with a facing to finish off the raw edge.

Both dresses were adorned with the white lace and given a ruffled tier on the bottom.

Because of the collar, the Wednesday dress needed to open in the back, and I used these vintage snaps from England for fastening.

Here's Dessa in all her glory:


Oh, and the black & white tights, I made those at the last minute with a remnant from an old knit top. I want my own pair now.

Friday, August 02, 2019

Go On...Get it, Vogue!!

Well, McCall's Patterns is on fire this month! Their latest Vogue pattern release is full of modern and creative clothing with angles, fabric manipulation, and asymmetry...just the way I like it!. I loved so many of the designs this time.

However, I want to focus on the obvious Duchess of Sussex/Meghan Markle love story they have been creating since 2018:

How could you miss recognizing Meghan's Oscar de la Renta peplum blouse as Vogue 1636? I loved this piece when she wore it to an engagement in Fall 2018 and was hoping someone would knock it off!

Vogue 9373 was in the last pattern release as a version of her Stella McCartney wedding reception dress, having been simplified by the elimination of the open back and train.

Don't forget that in an earlier release there had first been Vogue 9355, an obvious homage to her "last night as a single woman" Roland Mouret "Barwick" dress.  It could also be adapted to resemble the gray "Clover" dress she wrote in New Zealand. I own this pattern and hope to make both!

I would also include Vogue 9293, whose first view, when made without the tie belt is similar to the Carolina Herrera denim dress HRH wore to a polo match in 2018. All one would need to do is widen and lower the neckline and replace the attached bow with a wide belt.

What I love is that the below patterns could easily reproduce a DIY wardrobe worthy of any Windsor duchess:

Vogue 1631 is a take on the "Royston" dress by Roland Mouret, whose designs have been worn by both the Duchess of Sussex and Cambridge.
Vogue 1649

However, Vogue 1649 is ALL Duchess of Cambridge! Made in a solid color other than black, this could be one of her many Alexander McQueen coats, don't you agree? In fact, in a lighter color it would look just like this one:

Ok, I admit, I probably missed a few less flashy designs, but I'm a big fan of what Vogue is doing. To be honest, the wardrobe is the only thing I envy about being a royal, so thanks for helping a thrifty girl out!

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

New Baby, Old Doll

One of the display-only dolls recently

Thirty-some years ago, my two sisters and a friend of theirs bought three handmade dolls from a vendor. These dolls, with long curly hair and dressed in prairie dresses with lace trimmings, sat on display in their homes for years until my elder sister's little boy C. discovered her doll Dessa* and made her his own.

Poor Dessa, NOT display-only...

Fast forward to last Christmas, C., the now grown-up man was expecting his first child. Wanting his daughter to inherit his old pal, he rescued Dessa from the basement crawl space in which she'd been living. No longer pretty, she now had less-than-bouncy curls, barely attached limbs, and her dress was severely faded, the gingham pattern on it barely recognizable. By the end of that visit, we needed a Ziploc bag to hold all the loose strands of her mohair yarn hair. This doll needed vital reconstruction.

That is where I came in.

My job was to rehabilitate this doll for the next generation. Through the process, I would find that I don't like working on projects that I did not initiate.
I was tempted to change so much, from her hair, her facial expression, to the construction of her clothes even. However, I wanted to honor my nephew's childhood memories by handing over a doll that he still recognized.

Deep Cleanse

First steps: knowing she was in a basement crawl space for the last twenty years, I knew I was not going to hand this doll over without a deep cleanse. But how was I going to do that? She was in horrible shape, her limbs were barely stitched on, and the hair was falling out.

Reminded of how one washes fine lingerie, I decided to use a pillowcase, folding her up inside, and tying a knot down near the bottom. After a machine wash, I put her through the dryer several times to avoid any possibility of mold developing inside. It worked like a charm.

Visible Wear n' Tear

Over the years, my sister did little fixes to Dessa by putting in stitches when she noticed some wear and tear. However, the stitches were not the same color or uniform in size, and in the end, were not sustainable. Now it was time to secure and reinforce her limbs --- by first taking them off!

Poor Dessa!


When I was ready, I threaded my needle with matching thread and got to work with a slipstitch reconnecting each limb fresh, tucking in the fabric and polyfill stuffing as I went along.

State of the Hair

Original condition was similar to this.

Um, yeah...

Dessa's hair seems to have taken the brunt of his love obviously. He had loved her fiercely or perhaps one of the families' dogs spent some time dragging her around?

I tried to source her hair but didn't try too hard. Internet research made me think it was mohair, but I eventually decided to make do with her existing hair and the contents of that little Ziploc bag. I was tempted to remove it all and replace it with a clever felt "wig" but I wanted her to be the same doll my nephew remembered. My process was to apply the longest strands at her forehead, and some underneath her temples down to where her ears would be. Following tips in some dollmaking reference books, I stitched her hair down at the back along her nape to achieve some control but still allowing her hair to have movement. In the end, I added removable ribbon bows at her temples.I

If I hadn't kept her original hair I would have tried to make her some new hair using this link from The Project Lady.

Best Face Forward

Perhaps the most noticeable and visually important step, Dessa's tiny dot eyes were too small, insignificant, and unwelcoming. I decided to boost their size...the better to watch over my grand-niece.

A little creepy, right?

Great improvement!

I'm proud of this rehab job and hope she lasts another 30+ years and in better condition. Of course, I made her some new clothes. A post on those are coming up soon...but right now I'm making a special something for my grand-nephew who is turning 1 in two weeks. Stay tuned...

*Dessa - short for Odessa, my late mother's name