Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Laney's Dolls


I'm so excited about this project.  It was a gift for my friend Laney.  A baby gift, actually, for her little girl who (you may notice) is no longer a newborn.   Milly was born in June, but the idea was born at a service auction in March.   I'd donated a couple of dolls, customizable to the winner's specs, and  Laney, our enthusiastic auctioneer, suggested that the winner could have a husband and wife set made.  She was really excited about the idea, and credited her prodding with driving up the auction price. I thought it sounded like fun, but I wasn't sure how Black Apple doll styling would translate onto male dolls.  So I was kind of glad when Sara, the winner, had something else in mind, and the doppelganger doll idea was dropped. 

I picked it back up again, though, a few months later while contemplating a gift to make for Laney's baby shower. Unfortunately, I knew I didn't have time to execute it before the shower, so I gave her a note that said something like "I know you like surprises!  And that's what  your gift will be!  Later!"

Part of the surprise, I'm sure, was just how much later this gift would arrive. Days before sweet baby Milly's six month-iversary, I finished and delivered this little family.  

Maybe you have to know Laney (an endeavor I recommend wholeheartedly) to appreciate this.    But I'm going to go ahead and point out some of my favorite details.

Prototype Milly with fancy earrings.
Milly was the first doll completed.  I started with the basic Black Apple doll pattern and shrunk it, but I wasn't entirely happy with the shape of my first attempt.  The arms are too long, the head is too big, and the body is misshapen.  Lucky for me, Grace loved it, (she's got a soft spot for the deformed ones), and (after a few requested embellishments) happily claimed ownership of the prototype.   I made a few changes to my template, and ended up with Milly 2.0, which I like a lot better.
She's wearing velvety pink baby pajamas harvested from a pair of velvety pink baby pajamas Grace used to wear.  I added a little bum flap cause I think that's cute, and a tiny pink bow cause Milly's not allowed to wear giant flowers in her hair.

Henry was next.   His best detail is the tiny pocket, just big enough for a Lego mini-figure rifle.  I know cause Sam tried it. 

He's also got removable shorts and a fetching little chunk of spiky hair.

To Sam's disgruntlement, I was happy with Henry 1.0, and there wasn't a prototype for him (Sam) to keep.  He has put in an order for a little boy doll of his own EXACTLY  like this one.  I didn't have the heart to tell him that I'm out of the stripey flannel I used for Henry's shirt.  But as long as Sam's version has a pocket, I think we'll be OK.

And now we come to the best thing about the whole set:  the (almost) (sort of) completely-to-scale sizing of the happy couple.  Taylor is the perfect match for Laney, smart and funny and clever and remarkable in hundreds of ways.  But if you meet him (and I recommend that you do), I guarantee that the first thing  you'll notice is his height.  He's nearly 12 feet tall.

Laney, for her part, is a bit more down-to-earth, and the juxtaposition between them in real life is (bless their hearts) a little comical.  So that's what I was going for here.  And I hate to brag, but I think I nailed it.  Doll Taylor's crazy doll height had me giggling through the whole construction process, and because I was having so much fun, it was really hard to keep it a secret.  But I did, even though it took me months and months to finish.
One of the reasons it took so long was that I had a hard time conceptualizing how to create and attach Taylor's tie.  In the end, it was pretty simple (and not all that different from the human-sized tie modeled by Sam here).   But for some reason I just couldn't wrap my mind around how to do it, until I just sat down and did it.

Another delay was that I had to make a couple trips to the craft store for supplies.  Don't be shocked.  I usually (proudly!) complete stuff like this with only my stash on hand.  But I needed to get just the right color felt for Laney's (and Henry's) hair.
And I also had to get embroidery floss, for stitching faces.  The faces on all my previous dolls have been drawn on with Sharpies.   I never loved the results, but I was scared of paint (Emily Martin's technique, seen here) and thought stitching would be too time-consuming.  I was wrong.  Taking a few minutes to hand-stitch is totally worth it.  So much cuter, isn't it?  And the added bonus is that unlike drawing with a Sharpie, stitches can be easily removed if I make a mistake.  (I won't tell  you how many times I re-did Laney's lashes.  But isn't she a looker now?  Oh la la!)

After her eyelashes, the next best part of Laney's ensemble is the little fabric flower in her hair.  It's attached with a tiny dot of Velcro, so she can take it off on days when she's feeling not-so-flashy.  The pink button matches her fuzzy pink scarf, which, incidentally, matches a pink scarf Laney happened to be wearing the other day when I finally gave her the set.  Also, she was wearing black.  (Am I good or what?) 

I meant to add earrings, but apparently I forgot.  Also, I contemplated cuffs and cuff links for Taylor, but decided it was time to just be done.  Maybe for his birthday.  Or Laney's.  In 2015.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


Melanie is cute and stylish and hip. And she's moving away.

I wanted to send her off with something useful and pretty that she wouldn't have to pack or wrap or box.

So I came up with this little makeup bag.   It went together really quickly, once I finally found the right fabric.  I sorted through lots swatches to find the right combination of cute and stylish and hip.  In the end I went with a couple home dec samples and a strip of golden silk, all picked up for next to nothing at the JoAnn closeout sale from whence my stash was born.

I know it's totally tacky to make a gift for someone and then brag about how little you spent.  But it's part of the thrill of creation for me, and at this point in my life I've given up hope of de-tackifying.  So, the zipper was 10 cents (They were begging us to take them at 10 for a dollar.  I'm kicking myself now for only buying 20.), and the sample squares were about $1.  So, I used about one square total (half for the inside lining, half for the outside), plus a smidge of silk, which I'm arbitrarily valuing at 20 cents. And there you have it: a pretty little purse for less than two bucks.

But wait!   There's more!  You can't just give away an empty purse. 

So I whipped up these dangly earrings.  As with the purse, selecting and planning took longer than executing.  It takes time to get it just right.    

And again, these were 100% stash-made.  The tear drop components and the ear wires are leftover from the supplies I bought in July to make jewelry for my sister's wedding.  The chain is cut from an old necklace from my salvage box, and the beads were hand-me-downs from my friend Amy.  Less than a buck spent there. 

Plus, I earned major stash reduction points.

Have I mentioned that I'm moving in 6 months?  And that my goal is to USE my stash, not MOVE it?  I'd better get to work!
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Monday, December 13, 2010

Ornament Exchange 2010

They say two bad pictures don't make a good one, but in this case, it'll have to do!

This is the ornament I made for the annual Christmas ornament exchange party.  As usual, I was working till the last minute and didn't take a picture before the party started.  Fortunately, for me, the party was at my house, so I had a chance to snap a couple blurry shots during the festivities before my friend Laney took it home with her.

The idea and the design came from this clever lady, who does amazing things with paper.

I really love it, but I'm not making any more until I get my silhouette machine for Christmas, (Shh!  It's a surprise!  Don't tell me!) cause cutting around all those curves with scissors and an exacto knife was kind of a pain.  And the end result is kind of messy.

But as long as you don't look too closely, it's quite something, isn't it?

As much as I love it, I love the handmade ornament exchange tradition even more.   This year, instead of making a full set of ornaments to trade, participants brought a single (handmade or not) ornament.  We played a little pass-around game to How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and everyone got to take home the ornament in-hand at the end of the story.

I got to keep this little couple, made by my friend Jessee

Crazy cute, aren't they?  And they smell amazing.   I hung them high to minimize temptation for the little ones.  Unfortunately, that means they're right at eye level for me.  What are the odds they make it through the season on the tree instead in my belly my kids' bellies? 

As long as I was snapping photos, I wanted to get shots of some of the ornaments other guests brought this year, as well as some favorites from previous years' swaps. (You know, so I can steal their ideas later, of course!*)  Unfortunately, my camera battery died before I could photograph them all (both at the party, and again tonight.  Time for a new battery!), so this collection is incomplete.  (And also blurry.  Because in an effort to get a few more shots out of the battery, I turned off the digital display.  Turns out I'm not so good with the view-finder.)

I wish I could remember who made all of them, so I could give credit, but some of them are from as far back as 2002.   But here's what I recall:

First row:  1) Judy Weston, 2002; 2) Rabecca Pierce, 2009; 3) Brown haired lady with lots of kids, 2002; 4) Rachel Winsor 2002
Second row:  1) Margaret Peterson, 2009; 2) Sara VanRy, 2009; 3) Someone Awesome, 2002; 4) Alaska Turner 2009
Third row: 1)Oops.  I didn't mean to put Judy Weston in twice, 2002 2) Maryann Nelson, 2002; 3) Rabecca Pierce, 2010, 4) Natalie Dayton, 2010;
Fourth row:  1) Natalie Gardner, 2010; 2) Stephanie Evans, 2010; 3) Denyse Carter, 2010, 4) Erica Smith, 2009

And finally, for my own photographic records, here's one I made for the exchange in 2007.  They were all different variations of a beaded bow theme.  Come to think of it, every ornament I've made for an ornament exchange has had some kind of beady ribbon thing going on.  ( Here's last year's set.) It's like I'm obsessed! 

*It didn't even occur to me that it was weird to take pictures of everyone's ornaments, until a friend asked if I was going to get a group shot with everyone (perhaps) holding their ornaments.  Umm ... hadn't even occurred to me.  I photograph crafts, not people, apparently.  So you'll just have to take my word for it that there were people there, and that they--the people--were the best part of the whole night.

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