Saturday, September 28, 2013

Adventures with a Sewing Machine

Another cloudy weekend morning where I have to go into work. I have actually been more interested in working on this commission than crunching some data and struggling with the new assay we are using in our lab. My boyfriend got me this little machine. Having never machine sewed, I did things via trial and error. After 1/2 a spool of hand sewing thread, I figured out a couple things:
-I can't use hand sewing thread on a machine
-When bringing up the thread from the lower bobbin, I need to actually pull out the loop, not maintain it
-I can't get good tension with super thin fabric
-Although there are techniques for sewing round pieces without pinning, for a first time user, it's better to use pins

After a couple of hours figuring it out and finally getting the tension right, I started working on this unicorn. I have the head, legs, and body sewn. Now it's just waiting for ears, mane, horn, and eyes. I put my finished kitten next to it to show the scale. Both are private commissions.

Hopefully after my project due on the 6th, I'll have more time to work on dolls.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How I started my hobby on a budget

Hey guys,

So I was talking to someone who had some concerns about starting a plush hobby. First off you have to understand my personality that I mull over things (and do a lot of research) for a long time before I make a purchase, but for plush making I did not, so I'd like to share my story with you:

Some of you may have heard this story before: I had my eyes on a BJD for a while and was doing my research. I loved looking at photos of my favorite sculpt at the time: Rosenlied's Clover. I had my heart set on that doll (which I actually never ended up getting), and I wanted the whole package, doll, clothes, wig, and most of all, I wanted her to have a little bear. While I was browsing Den of Angels, I came across a collector who was a miniature bear artist. Since I couldn't afford one of her OOAK bears, I ended up purchasing a pattern and kit off etsy.

When I first started, I was going to a small university in a village (yes it wasn't even a town). There was one hardware store and one craft store within walking distance. The craft store was overpriced to begin with. Anyways, so after I purchased my first pattern, I purchased 1 complete kit, 1 large piece of hand dyed viscose and mohair from Europe. 

I set out to make my first plush. I had never sewed before and when in the instructions it said I needed doll needles, I walked into the "downtown area" of the little village and  bought darner needles and sewed with them (making a miniature, it's not ideal given how thick darner needles are). I couldn't find upholstery thread at the time, so I bought embroidery thread remembering how to take it apart. I had no idea how to do certain stitches and had to scour the internet because the instructions assumed you could sew. I also had no idea how I was supposed to sew on foot pads and ended up with a messy blanket stitch which when turned had spots where the filling poked out. 

When I was nearly done I realized that my doll wouldn't sit because it's head was so much heavily than it's body. I then went back walking into town trying to find steel shot. I started with the hardware store thinking I could find something like steel shot there. No luck. Most of the workers had never heard of it despite it being a mom and pop store. I tried thinking about BBs but those were not only too big, but they would rust when wet.  After a futile search, I had to settle for paying 8 USD for 1 lb of plastic beads. (Cost 3-4 USD at Hancock Fabrics) After finishing it, I dunked it in a cup of black coffee that I borrow from my department's office, and dried it off and there was my first derpy doll.

I tried making some substitutions afterwards to stretch the 3 pieces of fabric and 10 joints I purchased.

These are some of the ways I tried that did and did not work:

♥Buying everything all at once to save shipping costs
♥Learning everything online rather than attending a class/workshop
♥Substitute cotton fabric for mohair in the body (makes mohair last a little longer)
♥only jointed the head (sew on rests of the limbs)
♥button jointing the limbs to save on cotter pin joints (very loose joints, doll may or may not hold poses right, have had a doll's head fall off because button was too small)
♥used hardware stores washers and cotter pins instead of ones made for dolls (BAD idea. Cotter pin heads are too big and will budge out and is visible on your bear's arm)
♥use hardware pliers to turn cotter pins (worked well enough but I prefer the ease and comfort of jewelry pliers)
♥buy a pillow from walmart and use that as a surface for needle felting as well as stuffing for the dolls
♥I never tried this, but you can some plastic joints because they are cheaper. Just be careful of fraying when you insert the joint. 

Hope this gives you some insight on how you might try your hand on mohair dolls on a budget. This is just how I started. As I got more and more into the hobby I invested more money in tools and such that would be useful in the long run. This might help you just make a doll or two if that is what you are interested in.


Monday, September 9, 2013

Starting a New Kitten

(Yes this is my small and slightly messy workspace for my soft sculptures. I have a laptop for entertainment, beading wire & duct tape of some sort for armature, jewelry plyers, darning needles, embroidery & fabric scissors, hemostat, tweezers, isopropyl alcohol for clay work, tea and magnesium for headaches)

It's cloudy outside this morning which makes it a perfect time to blog. I actually meant to write this yesterday, but didn't get around to it. The commissioner requested that this kitten be able to reach up for something, so I put my hand to understanding and working armature. This is my first time trying to wiring the limbs and tail, and while I had a general idea of how it was done I could not figure out the specifics on how to get the wiring to stay in one place while stuffing. I went searching in other places and became especially curious on how artist dolls (dolls with resin heads and limbs, but soft pose-able bodies) were assembled. Luckily, Magweno ( had an old tutorial that provided some insight. The solution to my problem was to wrap the armature in quilt batting so that I would not have to stuff it afterwards. I would sew one side of the arm, flip it, put the batting wrapped armature in it, and ladder stitch it closed. I am not sure yet if this is more time consuming than how I usually work, but it works very well. The armature doesn't shift and I'm able to pose the arm as I like.

Since then, I have started prepping the face for needle felting, and will work on the later in the week when I have more time. Mondays and Tuesdays are always the busiest days for me.