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Friday, January 30, 2015

January 2015 Sewing

Most of the sewing I did this month was in the form of shoes. The doll sewing group had the theme of shoes for our Sew Along. It was really nice to be able to see what everyone was making and to get advice from those that had more experience with shoes.

For my official Sew Along project(s) I made 6 pair of shoes- a mix of styles. I wrote a post about sewing them thinking I was done sewing and moving on the other projects. Then I tried a new pattern and that sparked an idea to make something different. That idea reminded me of the City Outfit from American Girl and that inspired me to create an outfit this last week. I proceeded to write up a blog about that outfit too. I decided to combine the two posts into one longer post for today.

So here is a recap of my doll sewing for this month:

Sewing the shoes

First I want to acknowledge that successfully making shoes is very hit or miss for me. Also I am still struggling with being neat with the glue aspect of the process. That part is no surprise to me since I have never really mastered the hot glue gun. I tried a couple of other glues this last week and they simply set up tooooo slowly for my taste. So I am still fighting with the hot glue gun. I did quickly discover that my new glue gun is much hotter than my old was (you can probably guess how that discovery was made)

One big admission here- for every pair of completed shoes that I am posting photos of I threw away at least as many if not more.

And of course I had to make shoe boxes for all the shoes too.

All the shoes with their shoe boxes

So the shoes I made in no particular order:

The flats- I tried a couple of different patterns I had on hand and found that my “re-draw” of an old one was the easiest for me to make. I ended up with 3 pair of these. They are all made of satin type fabric. I went to the store to look for a black but also picked up a beautiful purple (my favorite color) and a dark gray. These are all lined with an inexpensive lining fabric in an off white. For the insole on all of these I used a piece of paperboard (actually from a Bisquick box) with a piece of fleece on top and this was all covered with a piece of the lining fabric. I like the slight padding on the top of the paperboard and found that fleece can be cut with my shoe sole die in my Big Kick just like the foam and the paperboard- saved a lot of time. The shoe upper was glued to this piece and then a bottom sole made of a thick piece of craft foam was glued on. On the black pair I decided to see if I could use an open embossing folder in my Big Kick to emboss the bottom. I need to play with that a bit more but I think it has promise. All of these shoes then had a trim added to the area where the sole met the shoe. On the gray pair it was made of 3 pieces of embroidery floss braided together. For the purple pair I used 6 pieces to make a thicker braid. The black pair has a purchased trim. 


The tan pair of shoes is made from the Liberty Jane pattern titled Janes. This was a fairly easy shoe to put together. The fabric is just some tan colored pant weight fabric I had in my stash. The insole on these is made of paperboard. And the trim is a piece I got at Joann Fabrics.

The blue sneakers are also from a Liberty Jane pattern and are made of some old jeans with some cotton fabric to accent them. The pattern called for narrow bias tape but I couldn't find any and rather than wait until I could go to town I just cut some from the accent fabric. I used the same fabric on the insole and at the last minute decided to use it for the toe cap also. I like how it turned out. For the trim around the sole I used strips of thin craft foam. For the laces I remembered that when my daughter was a teen she liked to collect ribbon to lace her shoes with. I had some blue that I thought looked really cute with this pair.

The brown boots are made again from a Liberty Jane pattern- Slouch Boots. This time I pulled some of that wool I picked up a couple of months back and lined them with some pink and brown fabric from my stash. The fasteners on these are those plastic snaps from Joann Fabric that are sold for baby stuff I love how they come in so many colors. 

Black and red outfit

One thing I had noticed when I was watching the unboxing videos on Youtube as people received their new girl of year dolls this year was that so many people had also purchased the City Outfit from her collection. I must say I watched all of these videos as I was very impatiently waiting for my doll to arrive. It took mine almost 2 weeks to get here!

Anyway I had not purchased any of the clothing (I did write a blog on what I did purchase and it is here) so I took another look at this very popular outfit in the catalog. It is really cute but I really wasn't tempted to order it. Then I decided to take some of the elements and make an outfit that was inspired by this outfit.

Here is the result of that inspiration.

I actually started out thinking about the shoes in the outfit. I had just finished making my first two pair of shoes from the Plain Janes pattern from LJ and I got to thinking that adding some contrasting color on the toes would be pretty easy. Also I wanted to play with that pattern some more.

So after a trip to the fabric store for some solid color quilting cotton in red, pink, and black (¼ yard each) and ½ yard of some off white cotton I was ready do tackle the shoes.

black and red pair
Lately rather than running small pieces of fabric through the washer and dryer I have been getting the fabric really wet and then using my dry iron to press it until it is just a bit damp. That seems to be working fine and it sure is a lot quicker. Since I was afraid of the colors running I would have probably had to run all 4 pieces separately to be sure none of the fabrics leached dye into each other. Since I didn't have anything else to wash with them I felt that would have been a lot of electricity for such a small amount of fabric.

pink and red- more like the AG version
So when I was sure the fabrics were dry again I cut both the pink and red off so that I had a piece that was about 10” by 8” next I cut a piece the same size of the red and then split it the long way so I had 2 pieces that were about 10” by 4”. I used my sewing machine to join a red strip to each of the other colors. I pressed the seam toward the red and ran a top-stitching line along the seam. (Note next time I will be top-stitching closer to the seam)

I had already printed off another copy of the shoe pattern and drawn a line on the it where I wanted the two colors to come together. I very carefully lined up my line on my pattern with the seam line on the fabric strips.

For the insole of the shoes I used a paperbacked fusible to attach my lining fabric to the plain side of a piece of a cracker box. I then ran this through my die cutter with the Punch Place shoe sole die. While I had the die and the Big Kick out I cut out 4 soles from black craft foam and then gathered some scraps of black craft foam and cut some partial soles to be cut later for the heels. 


I pretty much followed the pattern as it is written for the shoes. After all the glue was dry I tied some small ribbon bows and glued them onto the shoes with fabric glue.

Now for the outfit:

The top is my favorite t-shirt pattern. I started several years ago with the pattern from Joan Hinds Contemporary Wardrobe book and I have been tweaking that pattern ever since. I now have it just the way I want it and it is used often. I have even made several different necklines that I can use depending on what style I want. For fabric I used one of those cheap t-shirts from Joann's. They were on sale a while back and I picked up several in different colors. I buy the biggest size I can get (I get several doll shirts out of each shirt so it pays in the long run) This time I used the shirt hem for all my hems so I just had the seams and the neck edge to sew. 


Next I dug out a homemade stamp in the shape of an open heart and stamped the finished shirt with black fabric paint. When it dried I coated the image with some fabric glitter glue and added fabric glitter that is black. I love the sparkle!

The skirt is actually a skort (you know- shorts on the bottom with a skirt on top) I had been meaning to try this pattern for a while and I think it turned out really cute.

So that is my version of the City Outfit. What do you think? What would you have done differently?


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Beginning with Polymer Clay- What do I need to get started

Since I have been planning to do a series of easy clay food tutorials for my 18” doll Youtube channel I figure now is as good a time as any. I know there is a renewed interest in doll size baked good for our dolls with the release of Grace- Girl of the Year for 2015. One big advantage is that polymer clay baked goods can be really easy to make and are good beginner projects.

First for those of you that don't know who I am and I why I am going to teach you how to use polymer clay let me introduce myself.

I have been making foods for the dollhouse scale for about the last 20 or 25 years using many products. I love to share what I have learned with others. I have a Youtube channel dedicated to the dollhouse scale (you can find it here) where I have a lot of tutorials for clay foods. Many of the foods I have made over there I will be doing here in the larger scale for the 18” dolls.

Today I want to talk to you about what you will need to get ready to make some polymer clay food. My goal is to start you with as few tools as I can- and many of the ones I will recommend will not be expensive. If you follow along with the projects I offer here and in the videos I will help you to build both your skills and your tools slowly. I want you succeed and enjoy this wonderful pastime.

Since my background is in dollhouse miniatures that are aimed at the adult collector one of my goals has always been to make things look as real as is possible. In the world of dollhouse collectors the goal is make something that looks so real you can't tell it from the real thing without something in the picture to show the size. That is the same mindset I apply to my 18” doll items and that is the mindset I want to instill in you.

One caution is that these are not meant as toys for young children. They do look real and before a child can be allowed to play with them they need to understand that they are to look at and not to eat. My daughter was raised around my dollhouse foods and started playing with them at a very young age but not all children can handle that. These do look real but they are just for the dolls.

Okay on to what we will need to have on hand to make some easy projects.

three brands of clay to look for
First off you will need some polymer clay. There are several brands on the market, Fimo, Sclupey III and Premo are probably the best known and the best choices. I try to stay away from the store brands if possible. This is simply because I am unsure of how well they will work and how well they will hold up over time. I know for a fact that the three brands I mentioned here are all good quality and can all work together. Yes, you can mix the different brands and they will work just fine. In fact sometimes it is advantageous to mix them to get certain results (we will talk about that when we get to projects where it is important. Another really good brand is the Kato clays but I do not recommend it for beginners, that brand is really best left to polymer clay artists that have a lot more experience. Also the baking temperature is so different that I would not mix Kato with any of the other brands.

Walking up the display of polymer clay can be very overwhelming- there is an entire rainbow of colors available. For each project we make I will list the colors I use and I will also try to give you alternatives in the other brands.

one of my work tiles

Next you will need a work surface. I really recommend you not work directly on a wood surface, the clay can damage the finish on most wood furniture. My favorite work surface is a 12” by 12” ceramic tile from the home improvement store (Home Depot, Loewes, etc) the kind they sell for floors or walls in real houses. Pick out one with a smooth surface and in a light color. These are fairly inexpensive- you can usually get one for under a dollar and have many advantages. First off they are portable, you can carry them around if you need to move, the smooth surface is easy to work on and they clean up great.

clay rolling tool
You will also need a tool to roll out your clay- I use an acrylic roller made for this task. This special roller is not a must however there are alternatives- my favorite is a smooth sided glass jar like the ones that capers come in. Also some sauces like horseradish come in a smaller version. Really anything that is smooth and has straight sides. I try to stay away from wooden rolling pins (or dowels) because they can leave wood grain marks in your clay. Also be careful of plastic because the clay can eat some plastics- more on this in an upcoming article.

If you find you love working with the clay and get into it big time you eventually will probably want to get a clay roller or pasta machine that is dedicated to clay. I actually have two of them although one is currently in storage.

To help you get consistent results when rolling your clay I would suggest collecting a few items to use as spacers between the rolling pin and the work surface. Craft sticks, bass wood strips in various thicknesses, even stacks of playing cards are handy to make sure you are rolling the clay out to the correct thicknesses and that it is even all the way across the surface.

container of cornstarch, brush and cotton ball
Sometimes we will find that our clay wants to stick where we don't want it to. For this I like to use a bit of cornstarch- from the kitchen. You won't need much, just a Tablespoon or so in a small container will last you for a very long time. You can dust it on with a cotton ball, your fingers or a fluffy brush (I use a make-up powder/blush brush from the dollar store)

texturing tools
For a lot of projects we will use tools to texture our clay items. To start out with a cheap toothbrush and a dental pick from the dollar store along with some toothpicks, a small amount of aluminum foil, some sand paper (or emery boards-nail department of the dollar store) and a couple of peppercorns will allow you to do many items.

chalks and brushes
For most baked goods we will need to give our clay a “golden brown, yummy, baked color” for this I use chalk pastels. They are available at most craft stores and not very expensive. You can also use matte finish eye shadows in the correct colors. We also use these for many other foods so keep your eyes out for them. To apply the chalks I use eye shadow brushes from the dollar store, paint brushes work too but I have better control with the eye shadow brushes. In a pinch you can use a cotton swab or your fingers.

some misc cutters
For some projects you might need small cookie cutters or shape cutters. Also a clay blade is a very handy item to have, these are not too terribly expensive and make cutting and moving clay items a lot easier. To begin you can use any sharp blade- many people use single edge razor blades.

clay blade

wet wipes
It is also handy to have a small package of wet wipes on hand to keep you hands, tools and work surface clean.

paper plate to bake clay on
Next we need to bake our clay. I almost always use cheap un-coated paper plates. You know the kind, the ones that if you actually put food on one you will be wearing your food right away. These come in a huge package in most grocery stores for cheap. Since we bake our clay at a very low temperature (235 to 250 degrees Fahrenheit) the paper plate is safe in the oven. The paper plates have several advantages over other surfaces I have tried. Number one is that they don't leave the bottoms of your clay items shiny like a lot of other surfaces do. Also if you are experimenting with techniques you can make notes right on the paper plate so you remember exactly what you are doing. Also if you are working in a group you can write names on the plates so they don't get mixed up.

As for where to bake the clay. I know a lot of people swear you need a separate small oven to cook the clay. I have been using the oven in my kitchen for the entire time I have been doing clay. I don't worry about it. That is up to you.

one of my containers of clay
When you are done with your clay you will need to be able to store it. I like to keep each block/ color of clay in a zip top sandwich bag. This keeps the clay clean and ready to use next time. These bags can either be stored in a larger bag or in the clear plastic shoe boxes that are sold in stores. Be careful of how you do store the clay you want it to stay nice so you can use all of it.

So off the top of my head these items should get you started. Are you ready??

I love working with clay so much and I love to help others get the same joy out of it that I do. I hope you will join me on this journey and learn to make some extraordinary foods for your dolls. 


On my last trip to Dollar Tree I picked up this cute little set of make-up brushes that I think would be great for someone wanting to start in polymer clay. The larger fluffy brush would work wonderfully for cornstarch. The 3 eyeshadow applicators will all work for chalk pastels. And you can use the eyebrow brush for texturing clay. That's 5 tools for $1!

Monday, January 26, 2015

Shoe Box for 18” Dolls

If you have been following this blog you might have read the Allison's Journal post about shoe shopping (you can see it here). I wrote that blog post to feature some of the shoes I am making this month for the sewing challenge on my doll sewing group. (more about that at the end of the month in the sewing review) When I wrote that blog I decided that for the story line I wanted to have the shoes in shoe boxes. After all when you buy shoes they usually come in shoe boxes. 

shoes and their shoe boxes

Since boxes are pretty easy to make it didn't take me much time to make a bunch of them. After the blog went live I got a bunch of requests for a tutorial on how I made the boxes. So here we are- how to make shoe boxes. Really how to make any kind of lidded box. You are only limited in size by the size of the paper you can find.

Since we are talking about paper- I am using cardstock from the craft store. The kind the cardmakers and scrapbookers use. It is heavy enough to hold its shape but light enough to fold nicely. It also comes in a rainbow of colors and in many designs. As for the design paper- I find that most of the stuff I find that is sold by the sheet is too lightweight for this kind of project. Look for the stuff that is sold in tablets for card making. It can be spendy at regular price but comes on sale regularly. 

the cardstock I used

cutting mat, ruler and knife
The other supplies and tools you will need are:
a work surface
a craft knife (or scissors)
cutting mat (if using a knife to cut)
scoring board (optional I show you how to score with out it in the video)
scoring board
wet wipes or a damp cloth

wet wipes, glue and clamps

The box I show in the video is a pretty average size shoe box. It measures 1 ½” tall and has a foot print of 2” by 4”. Most small shoes should fit into it. If you want to make it larger here is one process to use to find your cutting size.

Figure out first how tall you want your box to be in the example mine is 1 ½” then decide if you want to fold over the top edge (I really recommend you do) I usually fold over ½” so add these two amounts together (2”) then multiply by 2 (4”) Now you need to decide how big you want the bottom of the box. Ours in the video is 2” by 4” so we now need to add the side measurement to these two measurements to get our cutting size. In this case I cut the paper for the box 6” by 8”. If you want to make a larger or smaller box just follow this procedure. 

my pattern templates for this size box

Now for the box top. I like to have a double edge on the top so I fold over ½” on each side. Since for a shoebox the lid side is pretty minimal I used ½” for that measurement too. If you are making a larger kind of box just add whatever your measurement is to the ½”. Again multiply this by 2 so for this shoe box- ½” plus ½” is 1” times 2 is 2”. Now so that the lid will fit over the sides of the box neatly add 1/8th” to the size of the box bottom. For this shoe box that made a measurement of 2 1/8” by 4 1/8” add the 2” to that to get the cutting measurement of 4 1/8” by 6 1/8”. Pretty simple really.

I always make up a trial box out of scrap paper before I cut into my good cardstock. This way if your math is off you can make corrections with scrap paper instead of wasting the more expensive cardstock. This trial can be any weight paper I usually grab some printer paper out of my recycling bin.

Once I have my measurements figured out I also make up a “pattern” from some printer paper with all the lines drawn on where I am going to score/fold and cut. I keep these all together so I can refer to them next time.

Our next step is to score on all the fold lines. On this box that is super simple we score at ½” and 2” from each edge of the box and at ½” and 1” from the edges of the lid.

Next pre-fold on all score lines, this makes it so much easier to cut the next step and also means neater folds in your finished box.

Cut the sides free from the ends of the box and on the box part I cut off the fold over area on those sides. It just eliminates a lot of bulk in the finished box.

Follow the steps I used to glue your box together and you are finished.

I usually clamp my edges until the glue dries but it might not be necessary depending on what glue you use. Just be sure all the glue is dry before you put the lid onto the box.

So there you have it a shoe box. I think you might find these a bit addictive once you start since they are so easy and oh so cute when done.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Chelsea is here!!!!

I am so happy my cousin Chelsea is finally here. She arrived this morning and we had beautiful weather for once. I think even the weather is happy she is here! LOL

I waited by the door and greeted her on the front porch before she even got in the house!

Anyway she is really tired, it was a really long flight and mom says she has jet lag. I think she is planning to sleep most of today. Mom says she will be starting school on Wednesday to give her a couple of days to get used to being here.

She loved her new room. She was so happy with the pink walls and we found her a bed that is black and pink along with a nightstand that is black. She said that was the colors she wanted- bright pink and glossy black. She even loved the bedspread and pillows I found for her I found for her! 


She brought me some cookies that are shaped like the Eiffel Tower and she brought macarons for mom and dad. Mom said that Michael and I can each have one too. I am really excited to try them. Chelsea says that macarons are her new favorite cookie that was why she got some for mom and dad. Mom says if Chelsea likes them that much she will find a recipe for us so we can make some soon!

Chelsea had so many suitcases but I guess pretty much everything she owns is in them. They have moved so much that she says she has just gotten rid of almost everything else. 


Her dad surprised her by sending a really cool picture of the Eiffel Tower for her wall. He had shipped it so it would be here late last week. We had it sitting in her room waiting for her. She just has to decide where she wants to hang it. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

after the last post

After I got the last blog post published I went back to take down my photo set up and put things away. I had to take a photo of what I found-

Buddy checking out Allison's bed

I guess that bed is just as comfortable as it looks! LOL

That is my son's cat Buddy, I guess he wanted to snuggle in the middle of the day like he does at night.

Exciting News

I am so excited, so much is happening around our house right now.

First how do you like my new wall color?? I love the new purple color, mom let me choose what color I wanted. 


Michael is getting a whole new room but that is okay because of the reason. He is getting to move to the extra room in the basement. He is really happy about it and since he and Jeremy make so much noise so am I! LOL

The reason for his move and why I am so happy is that our cousin, Chelsea is going to come and live with us. 


She and I are only 6 weeks apart in age and we have always been really close. Up until a couple of years ago she and her dad (my Uncle Mike) used to come to visit us several times a year. Then he got transferred to the east coast and they haven't had a chance to visit since. Thank goodness for our cell phones and video chat we text several times a day and chat almost every day. 


Well, Uncle Mike got an offer for a new job but it is in Europe and it will mean even more travel and moving.

Chelsea told me she is so tired of moving, when she comes to live here and starts school with me it will be the 17th school she has been to! In third grade she went to 4 schools in one school year.

Mom asked her what color she wanted her new room and she didn't even have to think before she picked pink. She has been dreaming of a room she can have just the way she wants it.

Mom and I have been shopping for some things for Chelsea's room and when she gets here will be able to get everything else.

Right now she and Uncle Mike are visiting Paris so she can see where he will be living for a while.

I can't wait until she gets here next week!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Grace is Here!!!!!

Grace finally got here, it took forever- or at least it seemed like forever! I ordered her on the 1st and she finally got here today. (the 13th ) I guess this is one of the downsides to living on the West coast of the US when everything ships from the east side of the country. I actually briefly considered driving to the nearest American Girl store on the 1st to get her in person but since that is a 4 hour drive (each way) I decided that would be out of the question for a rational person. I did consider it though.

It did take a lot of self control to not tear the box open right in the middle of the parking lot at the post office but I was good. I waited until I got home. I was going to film an un-boxing video but my camera decided to not play nice and the video didn't turn out. Of course I didn't realize that until I had everything out of the box and I just don't feel like putting everything back together and starting over. I want to play instead. So you are going to have to settle for this blog post with photos.

My first impressions of Grace: she is so pretty! I don't normally like dolls with freckles but she is the exception. Her face mold is so pretty and I love that her brown hair has highlights. The blue of her eyes is really pretty too.

 I have only purchased American Girl dolls online since the store is so far away (and fairly new) and I always worry that I will get a doll that has a defect but so far I have been lucky. My Grace is a little looser in the leg joints than I would like but not bad at all. She stands just fine, it is just that one of her legs droops a bit when you hold her up horizontally. Otherwise I can't find anything wrong with her.

I do love the cute little boots she is wearing and while the tee shirt, skirt and undies are cute they are not really special. I do wish I had added the ear piercing to her, I was going to and forgot about it when I ordered. I mainly wanted to do that to have the cute Paris themed earrings that would have come with her then. The charm bracelet that comes with her is very cute but very hard to put on. I think I will probably switch out the fastener on it to something that is easier to use.

I also purchased a few things to go with her.

I got the second book so I would have her entire story. I haven't even opened the books yet but I am looking forward to learning about Grace.

I also got the welcome gift set. This includes a box of macarons, an Eiffel Tower cookie in a bag, a bouquet of flowers, a pink felt beret, and 3 post cards. The pieces are really cute, I am looking forward to challenging myself to making some more of the macarons I will make them separate however. (I didn't get a photo of the beret before the battery in my camera went dead on me)

The other thing I got- and probably the part I was most excited about was the Baking Set! I fell in love with the mixer as soon as I saw it. It looks just like my real one (okay different color but you know what I mean) I knew I would never be able to make a mixer that detailed and it will be so cute in the kitchen set I already made. You can expect to see a lot of this set in future blog posts! 


This set also contains- a box of almond flour, a sifter, measuring cups, a pastry cutter, a wooden spoon, a recipe booklet (for real treats) and a pretend tablet for the dolls.

I am really excited to add Grace into my collection although she will not be keeping her name. I have another name already picked out for her and she will be joining the rest of the dolls in one of my Allison's Journal blog posts very soon.

I hope you enjoy the photos and will be back to meet this doll and learn her place in the family .