Monday, December 30, 2013

That Time of Year Again...

End of the year, time to reflect and plan on the coming year, right? (Not to mention look back at everything you didn't get done in the current year.) I don't do resolutions. I never keep them. All I can do is try to get concrete things accomplished, and promise not to beat myself up too badly when I don't manage it.

So far, I'm making a preemptive strike on organizing my daughter's room. She has collections that need a little curating, and a whole lot of clothing that needs someplace to go. I think I have come up with a way to reorganize her closet and make better use of the space. Today has been all about laundry, weeding out things that don't fit and getting gifts washed and folded. Tonight maybe I'll go get the shelves I want to put in her closet, and then I can work on getting her better organized.

The basement is a huge mess. I managed to undo so much of the work I did last year, that I will practically be starting all over again. I really want to get that done this year, so I can get that wall painted.

And speaking of painting... I still have to finish stripping and sanding a bookcase I plan to use for cookbooks. (They're currently on a baker's rack that is starting to show a little stress from the weight.) I want to paint it to look like the pattern on my grandmother's recipe box. I want to paint the kitchen cabinets too, but that's going to be an enormous job, and I don't know when that will happen. I'm making new everyday kitchen curtains, but that will only take me a day, max. (Huzzah for quick projects!)

There's dozens of little projects, but if I can get those three big things done (her room, the bookcase, and the basement) then I think my life will be greatly improved for the other things.

Friday, December 20, 2013

From Dr. Thad to Groovy Girls

So I finished Dr. Thad and the Medications, and decided to leave the other 9 dolls for another time. It felt pretty good not to have to rush and panic! Then, in a surprising twist, she starts asking about Groovy Girls dolls again...

I had sent Mom a list of what I thought was the last updated inventory of the dolls she had, and then discovered that it was not an updated list, and that there were duplications. Hubby and I did a new inventory, and I pulled out all the duplicate dolls that were also in identical outfits. (I had already gotten new outfits for other duplications years before.*) We had stopped at one of the few stores in our area that carry the dolls, and I got three new outfits. When they left to go to the mall on their weekly pilgrimage, I undressed the duplicates and started messing with mixing and matching and giving them new hairstyles. When I finished, I still had one doll who needed a new outfit, and the clothes I had didn't suit. Chrissy Christmas wears green elf shoes and peppermint striped tights. She was going to need something seasonal for her outfit.

I tried looking for clothes online, but there doesn't seem to be any holiday clothing sets (odd, huh?), so I started looking for sewing patterns, and found an A-line skirt pattern/tutorial, but precious little else. So I winged it, like I usually do.

I crocheted a tube with a little flare at one end (looks a bit like a peplum), and added a ribbon at the center front to tie around her neck as a halter. For the skirt, I used material from something else that my mother had given me, because I needed a small-scale print. The skirt is basically just 2 rectangles sewn together in a tube, with elastic sewn into a casing at the top.

The green top doesn't match, but I don't think she'll care.
The ribbon is just looped through in a half-hitch.

I didn't have any narrower elastic than 1/2" -- I'll need to get something smaller.

Please note, I eyeballed and estimated everything. I didn't count my stitches, or use a pattern. I just held things up to her as I was going and decided if it looked right. (I have an unfortunate habit of cooking the same way, so lots of things never quite taste the same way twice.)

I had fun making it, did it in an evening, and now my daughter has a "new" doll! I ordered a handful of "naked" dolls on ebay, and will give them all new names and new outfits and hairstyles, and give them to her for Valentine's Day.

I'd like to make a doll wearing a bowling shirt like she wears for the Special Olympics bowling team, and she's been asking about a cheerleader doll (naturally, the only one on ebay right now is part of a lot), so I thought I'd make a cheerleader uniform in her school colors. Maybe make an iron-on (miniaturized) of the school mascot...

There seems to be precious little in the way of patterns for these wonderful dolls. If you've got an American Girl or Barbie or Cabbage Patch Kid, you're set, but not so much for the sweet and fun Groovy Girls. (If I end up making any of my own, I'll share them here.)

Strappy top from Anne E. Weaver (who also did the A-line skirt)
Wrap skirt and Halter dress from Hobo Mama
No-Sew Doll Fashions from old socks, from TLC 

Beach Baby Dolls has patterns for sale that will fit Groovy Girls.

Simplicity had patterns called "Dizzie Dolls" by Carla Reiss (from 2002?) that included a pattern for a 14" soft doll, one for clothes, and another for pets for those dolls. They appear to be out of print, but available on ebay. Look for Simplicity #5742, 5745, 5682.

* Why not just remove the duplicates and give them away or sell them? Because she knows when dolls have been removed from the collection, and that upsets her. It's ok if they get new clothes, but taking them out of her collection completely is Bad. She got home from school before we finished the inventory. I took the duplicates in our bedroom and hid them. She went upstairs, and immediately noticed. I had to get Marc to hustle her out of the house so I could finish the inventory and recostume them. When they got back, she went upstairs first thing and then brought me one of them, saying "she looks fancy." (One of the new outfits was an evening/party dress.) I told her that she had a new outfit, and she was fine with that. So long as no one is missing, it's all ok.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Betty Crocker Angel

For my kitchen tree, I needed the perfect topper. I decided to make an "angel" using the first Betty Crocker portrait from 1936.

Artist: Neysa McMein
I used a seven-inch paper cone (from Michael's), the portrait (adjusted for size), a felt snowflake that looked like a halo (from Michael's), a photo of my personal copy of the 1950 Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book (altered in Photoshop), paint, and hot glue.

I painted the cone red. Then I printed out different sizes of the portrait to decide which one I wanted to use. Making the wings was the trickiest, because I didn't want to distort the covers too much, but I needed them to fit the cone at an angle. The wings and portraits were printed on white cardstock.

Altered in Photoshop:
The finished wings are 10 inches wide and the widest point,
and the spine is 5 inches tall.

I spray-sealed the cover/wings, and her portrait and let them dry before I glued anything. I scored the wings so they would bend back slightly from where they were glued, and used the edge of my kitchen counter to gently round the spine where it would attach to the cone. That way I wasn't fighting the stiffness of the cardstock when I glued it down. I glued the snowflake-halo (off-white, so it fit with the cover perfectly) to the back of her portrait, then glued that to the cone, centered over the wings.

The jacket she's wearing in the portrait didn't print as vividly red as my paint, so I ended up painting a very light coat of the same red over her jacket, so it would match the cone. I also added a tiny bit of the same red to her lips.

The ribbon is held in place with tape, while I decide if I love it or not. I'm pretty sure I do, but I wish they were longer, and went to the bottom of the tree's branches. (I might get more ribbon to do that; that was one spool, cut in five pieces. I'll need two to make them as long as I want them to be.)

I want to include the other Betty Crocker portraits as ornaments somehow, but I haven't decided exactly how yet... As smaller angels? As cameos? I'll have to see what I find at Joann's when I go. (I need more felt for the candies and cupcakes.)

I love the way she turned out. The width of her shoulders in relation to the cone is perfect, the color of the cone is rich and wonderful, touching up the color on her jacket really made it blend with the cone, and the book cover wings are just awesome. Even the snowflake halo coordinates with the design on the cover smoothly. Everything came together exactly as I saw it in my head. And how often does that happen??

Monday, December 9, 2013

Kitchen Tree

Because I am crazy, when I finished my daughter's second round of Sesame Street "deep cut" muppet dolls*, rather than celebrating by taking the day off and enjoying the fact that they were done, I went out and bought another (small) Christmas tree to decorate.

I found a pure white three-foot tree (not iridescent or glittery, just white) and a white wire string of LED lights (multicolor). I already had a plan to make the ornaments for it, using recipes cut from vintage magazines and pasted onto oval paper maché things. I bought paper cupcake cups in an argyle pattern, harlequin patterned ribbon in lime and cherry, and from the dollar store: lime plastic measuring spoons, cups, a tea ball, and four hot pads in lime and cherry. I already had on hand four large copper cookie cutters, another tea diffuser, and two small wooden spoons that were Easy Bake oven accessories (that my daughter never used).

Here's how I made the recipe ornaments:

1. Paint the edges and a bit of the surface you're gluing on.

I used 12 of these; 6 red, 6 green, and each color had 3 of each shape.
(3 green ovals, 3 red ovals, 3 green rectangles, 3 red rectangles)

2. Make a template by tracing the edge of the ornament(s) you're using and cutting out the center. (This will be your guide to see if the recipe you want to use will fit.)

3. Find a recipe to use. (I used ads from vintage December issue women's magazines.)

December 1957 Family Circle
4. Use a template to see if the recipe will fit on your ornament(s).

5. Trace the outline of the ornament onto the recipe as a cutting guide. (The ornaments I used were not perfectly uniform, so I traced the ornament I was using onto the recipes.)

6. Cut out your pieces, checking first to make sure there isn't anything on the back you want to save.

7. Play with the placement, determine if you need more paint, and glue your pieces down. (I used a glue stick.)

The Pet Milk can covered up too much of the recipe.
I used it on the other side instead.

8. After the glue dries, spray sealant on the ornaments. Embellish as desired.

Finished, front and back. Back has a bit of paper tape as embellishment.
On the tree, with some of the other ornaments visible.

Materials needed: Paper maché ornaments (bought at Michael's), vintage magazines, paper (for a template), paint, glue stick, clear spray sealer, embellishments (scrapbook paper, stickers, ribbon, glitter, etc.).

Here's a few more, front/back views. You can see I used paper to cover the ornament
on the left view, top right, and then pasted the recipe on top of that.
All of the ornaments I made have a photo of the thing the recipe is for, because I love the look of those old magazine photos. You could also use photocopies/scans of family recipes (never, ever use originals, unless you're writing a new one just for this project).

I am still making ornaments for this tree. I have some little felt chocolates I'm making, and plan to make some cupcakes, too. More on those when I'm finished...

* This time, it's Dr. Thad and the Medications. The dolls turned out great, but they're slightly out of scale with Little Chrissy and the Alphabeats, because I had to recreate the pattern. I hope she doesn't notice and insist that Little Chrissy et al. be remade...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

"Apron" Curtains

I love vintage aprons. I don't want to use them as a window valance, because the afternoon sun would destroy them. I have a small wire frame "mannequin" that I use to display them one at a time in my dining room.

Mom gave me the idea to use the basic shape of an apron as a valance, but made with new fabric. I decided to try it, and even found some vintage-look Christmas prints at Joann's. I made a pattern piece for a gently-curved half apron, sized to fit my window. Each of the "aprons" is 20 inches wide at the top, 25 inches wide at the bottom, and 15 inches long, not including the rod pocket, which adds about 1.5 inches to the length.

Basically, I hemmed the sides and the bottom, sewed the contrasting rod pocket to the top, added a matching decorative pocket to the left front, and sewed on rick rack. I did it in a single morning.

Yes, Virginia, that is a Kitchen Witch. I didn't set out for it to, but the new valance coordinates with her.

Note that they are not as full as more traditional curtains would be. Usually, you want your fabric to be about double the width of your window, but I wanted the apron shapes to be apparent. My window is 72 inches wide, the width (at the top) of my valance is 100 inches. It has a little fullness, but isn't bulky.

I also didn't sew all of the pieces together; each of those "aprons" is a separate piece, that can be rearranged and maybe more importantly, can be washed separately. I did prewash the material, but with all those colors with the off-white fabric...

I went with three solids and two print (that were the same background color) so that it wouldn't be too busy. Each apron has a coordinating rod pocket and front pocket; for the five aprons, there are eight different fabrics. (In part because I couldn't decide between some of the prints, so I found a way to use most of them.) They overlap on the corners, showing off the decorative pocket. If I was feeling really ambitious, I suppose I could put something lightweight in the pockets, like little artificial flowers, or something, but I like they way it looks as is.

I'm so pleased with the way this turned out, I'm going to make more for year-round use, using more retro prints.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Thanksgiving Inspiration; Family Cookbooks

In 2005, I published Creating an Heirloom: Writing Your Family's Cookbook. Since then, a lot has changed in publishing options. I knew I needed to update the book, it had gone out of print, and the publishing chapter was inadequate. With Thanksgiving (and family cooking) around the corner, I was finally goosed into getting that chapter rewritten and updating the book. I wasn't able to get it done before Thanksgiving because of some formatting issues, but it's done now! And the Kindle edition is going to be available tomorrow, hopefully. Yay!

Available at Amazon.
I can now stop feeling guilty about neglecting my ode to family cooking, and go back to concentrating on making more Sesame Street dolls for my daughter for Christmas. (This year, she's requested Dr. Thad and the Medications.)

Monday, October 7, 2013

October's Hat: Pumpkin Beret

A quickie, made in a few hours. This is the same beret pattern I always use (McCall's 2629, out of print), but the top of the beret is pieced to look like the lobes (ribs?) of a pumpkin. Once I got it all sewn together, I ran a stitch up the bottom of the hat to connect with the pieced top. Yes, there is a seam that runs through the middle of my "pumpkin," but I didn't want to spend the day figuring out how to do it without the seam.

To get the stem, I cut a piece of felt on slight angle and rolled it up. I stitched that together at the bottom, and secured the loose end, then stitched it to the center of my beret. I found a pattern for pumpkin leaves, and used a crocheted corkscrew to look like vine, using a YouTube tutorial. (Yes, it's true: I didn't know how to make one of those things until today.) I was lucky enough to have yarn that matched the felt on hand. In fact, all of this was from my stash.

You can see the vertical stitch here.

Honestly, I don't think this could have been any simpler. And now I have something to wear when I meet Jill Thompson later this month!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Skirt of Evil!

Cross-posted to Plastic Heroines. This is going to be really brief, because I didn't get nearly enough sleep. Then I think I might have to take a nap before dinner... I'll post more about the overskirt I made later.

I finally got the Skirt of Evil cut out and sewn up. I finished the skirt at midnight, and got up this morning to make an overskirt. (It's the same simple pattern as the Skirt of Awesome, but this time I sewed the seams down.)

I saw the fabric at Joann's, but it was pricey, then they had an internet-only 24-hour sale, and I caved. Unfortunately, one of the styles (the dark grey in the top row) sold out, but I was able to buy some in the store (not on super-sale).
Purchased at Joann's. If you love it, go get it; they're sold out online.
I need 13 wedges to make my skirt. To figure out how I wanted to use the fabric, I used a triskaidecagon* with the wedges marked out, and the Photoshop "define pattern" and "fill" tools, and played with it until I got this:

Top of the image is the front of the skirt.
That enabled me to play with the colors and patterns until I got the look I wanted. Then I knew how many wedges of each color I needed, and could cut them out. Pinning it together took nearly as long as sewing. Then I turned in all the exposed edges, stiched them down, turned the waistband and added bias tape to the hem. There are no exposed edges, none.

Comfortable, floaty... and evil!

The overskirt is shimmer tulle petals attached to an elastic band using half hitch knots. It's longer in the back.

The overskirt isn't supposed to look like a tutu, or a petticoat (worn on top); it's supposed to look like a cloud of malevolence, stalking toward you. Mwahahahahaaaaaaa!

More craziness: e.l.f. makeup featuring palettes for four Disney villains, found at Walgreens. Bought 'em. Had to. All four of those ladies (Evil Queen, Maleficent, Cruella and Ursula) are all on my skirt! 

* triskaidecagon = 13-sided polygon

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Geeky Creations

I'm attending Geek Girl Con next month, and nothing is ever simple. Not when you're me, anyway... So I have all these projects in my head of things I want to do/make/wear, and (as usual) things aren't going as smoothly as I would prefer.

My first project was inspired by a friend commenting that I needed a little top hat to go with the Skirt of Awesome. And dammit, he was right. I used the Fleece Fun pattern and made one with fabric left over from the skirt, and have been playing with it since, trying to get the materials exactly right.

The decorative element at the band is a button. I originally
had a brooch, but it was too big and heavy. I still have to
attach this to a headband, and sew things on.

Then I was apparently experiencing an alien possession, because I decided that I needed a petticoat to go under the Skirt of Awesome. The petticoat is equally awesome, and matches the bias tape perfectly... and is inches too short. :( So, I bought a half-slip, removed the elastic from the petticoat, and will tack it onto the half-slip to lower the level of floof so it hits the hem of the skirt.

Currently safety-pinned on, I have to sew it yet.
I decided that for the Friday night kickoff party before the convention, I wanted to go kinda butch. I found a vest (that needed new buttons, natch), a sportcoat that I found on ebay that I'm still not 100% certain of, and a purple silk tie that I am going to embellish. Plus two purple fedoras (one is a trilby) that needed feathers. I need a plain white dress shirt, that I can wear with the tie. That's proving to be the biggest problem. With all of that, I also finally decided how I wanted to finish the spray painted jeans, so I have to finish that, too.

New hats! The purple/black houndstooth came with tan and red feathers -- ew.
I want to make a charm bracelet or two, using Shrinky-Dink plastic for inkjet printers, and a couple of necklaces. I've got my images ready to print out, but otherwise haven't started on that yet.

While I was at Joann's trying to find bits and pieces for the things I'm making, I stupidly glanced at the licensed fabric (just in case they had the Girl Power stuff or any related things). And I found some moody-colored stuff with the Disney villains on it. Then I looked at it online just after midnight, and saw that it was 40% online (web-exclusive sale) and only 25% off in-store. I couldn't resist. I started planning the skirt and an overskirt to wear with it. And then I checked online this afternoon... and saw that 2 of the 5 fabrics I ordered are already "unavailable" and I had to go get them in the store. At the higher price. (grrr...)

Won't that make an awesome skirt???
In the process of writing this post, the purple fabric has become "unavailable" and my order is still "processing." OMG... /headdesk (UPDATE: As of Thursday morning, 4/5 of them are "unavailable" and searching for "villain" - how they came up before - yields no results.)

I think it's time to break out the vodka.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Hallowe'en Comes Early!

I have a ton of action figures in the basement, displayed on Ikea bookshelves. One shelf had some of my Hallowe'en Barbies, but they were boxed and three deep on the shelf, so you couldn't see all of them. I got the idea to move them to the children's library (AKA, the guest room) and display them a little differently after I saw this blog post. I loved Valerie's idea of using props that are the right scale ("play scale" according to some Google searching), and decided that I needed a spooky tree for the witches. I had in my head an idea, and today I made it work. (Photo intensive!)

I forgot to take a photo of the first step, gathering a piece of dowel and a wire skeleton that had been a floral bush. Both things I had on hand, it just required me pulling the flowers off of the bush and taping them together. The dowel was even a good length without needing to be trimmed, because it was from another project already.

The dowel and the wire skeleton taped together, and all my gathered supplies.

Once I had those taped together, I wrapped the bottom part of the dowel in sheets of foam packing material, and pushed a toilet paper roll over the end.

Then I started layering newspaper around that, and pushed bent chenille stems into the cardboard tube. Those are going to be roots.

I wrapped the wire stems with more chenille stems, making branches.

It's about 32 inches tall.

I used newspaper to bulk up the base of the branches before I started taping them. The newspaper is also important because it enables the trunk and branches to be compressed (by squeezing them) after the tape is applied. This gives it a textured, wrinkled surface, looking more like bark.

I ended up using two different masking tapes, the second one being Scotch brand; the other brand wasn't sticking to itself very well. The Scotch masking tape did much better.

I added two more branches scavenged from more floral stems, because having branches only at the top looked weird. Once I had wrapped the entire tree -- branches and roots -- I used a twisted ring of newspaper to make a knothole on the trunk. The roots are reinforced with toothpicks, but it still doesn't sit quite level. I think I will probably glue a piece of balsa to the bottom to help it sit flat.

To show scale, with one of the dolls that will be part of the display.
I actually ended up cutting open the bottom and stuffing a couple of rocks into the cardboard tube, because it was really top-heavy. I haven't decided yet how I will color the tree, paint or stain or shoe polish... and I want to make "Spanish moss" with dyed cheesecloth to drape over the branches. (The guest room was supposed to be Mardi Gras inspired, so to keep it at least a little on topic, these witches are going to be in New Orleans, since NOLA also has a humongous Hallowe'en celebration.)

But it's mostly done; from concept to execution in one day. I even stained the wood shelves to match the bookcases that are in the library!

UPDATE #1: I did end up spray painting it flat black. I decided that while the shoe polish treatment does look cool (google: shoe polish masking tape), it's not the effect I want. So once this dries, I'm going to dry brush brownish-grey on the high spots. In the meantime, I need to hunt up some cheesecloth for the Spanish moss... I also need to do something about the base, because it really doesn't want to stand upright.

UPDATE #2: I added thin pieces of balsa to the base to help stabilize it. I also finished the detail painting I wanted to do, along with a little surprise.

Without flash

With flash

UPDATE #3: Cheesecloth moss is finished! I trimmed the "finished" edges off the strip of cheesecloth, because I wanted it to be ragged. I cut it into strips of varying lengths and widths, and played with the placement on the tree until I had what I felt were enough.

I used grey and yellow-green acrylic paint in quite a bit of water and added the strips. It wasn't enough pigment, though, so I added black paint and added the strips to the paint/water bath. I squeezed out the water, and patted the cheesecloth with a paper towel. There were some bits of paint that didn't get completely dissolved, and that left some darker spots on some of the strips. I used a tension rod in a doorway to hang the strips to dry. I could have dried them flat, but the paint stiffens the cloth; if I wanted them to hang over the branches, I needed to hang them from something.

They also wanted to curl into themselves, so I had to gently pull the strips back open. I didn't want it to be completely flat, though, because Spanish moss doesn't hang in a tidy sheet from the trees, either. Once the pieces were dry (didn't take long), I started putting them back on the tree. The color didn't have enough green in it, and the moss is a living thing, so I used the tip of a loaded brush to apply dots of the yellow-green randomly to the hanging strips, just like you might see on living moss.

True fact -- Spanish moss isn't moss at all. It's an angiosperm, and belongs to the same family as bromeliads.