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Tiny Sewing – Building a Mini Wardrobe

June 3, 2016 , In: Fiber, Inspiration, Mixed Media
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I’m pretty sure it’s become clear that beads have been on the back burner lately for me.  It has been a bit frustrating, to be honest, because I’m full of ideas and experiments…but not the drive or desire to pick up a needle and thread to sew beads together.  Part of this is due to being physically more active (ballroom dancing) – I have always found that physical activity saps my creative energy.  But also…dolls.  Dolls have taken over the bead room recently.  Before you become alarmed that dolls are replacing my need to bead, you must know that these two obsessions have been a part of my life from a very early age…occasionally they even collide into one (see my previous post!).  I have long known that my creative drive ebbs and flows, rises and falls, and different outlets get focused on while others wait their turn.  The beads are waiting right now…while I sew!

I have been sewing, by hand and machine for as long as I can remember…that’s even longer than I’ve been beading.  Mom started me out at a young age, because it kept me from asking her to make my dolls and stuffed animals clothes, blankets, and pillows.  As a teen, I costumed multiple plays, which lead to my college degree – a BS in Theater, with an emphasis in Costume Crafts and Design.  But really, most of my hands on sewing experience occurred when I worked for 4 years at a puppet company in the costume shop.  We not only sewed the “skin” and clothing for your typical hand puppets, but also large walk around character costumes and mechanical parade float puppets.  In those 4 years, I gained more sewing experience than I ever could have imagined, especially with unusual materials, plus patterning and sewing for 3-dimensional shapes.

An armload of stars, freshly sewn, during my time at the puppet company.

Now that I’m swinging back around to my doll obsession, I get to apply all of this hard earned knowledge into sewing mini wardrobes in different scales!  My 3D pattern skills are fairly well developed, but patterning clothing is a completely different beast.  Because of this, I am working mostly from commercial patterns, sometimes altering to fit different body shapes if I can’t find something that works for a particular doll (or don’t want to pay an exorbitant amount for out of print patterns).  To give you an idea of what I mean by “scale” – these are some dresses I sewed for my Momoko dolls:

The flock of Momoko’s and their new duds!

But my lil Momoko girls are near the small end of the spectrum of dolls I am currently sewing for, as you can see here:

Back row (left to right):  Sasha doll, Luts BJD, Dream of Doll BJD, Gene and Trent and tiny Dollinian BJD.
Front row (left to right):  Soom BJD, Hujoo anthro mouse and rabbits, plus Momoko.

After sewing SO MANY outfits and separates for the lil girls (seriously, they might be considered a swarm at this point)…my other dolls were feeling pretty nekkid in comparison.  Just in the last couple weekends, I’ve been tackling new outfits for my Sasha dolls.  My first Sasha and Gregor were my b-day present this year from my amazing, supportive (even through the recent “creepy doll” phase) life partner.  My best friend growing up had several of these dolls, and ever since then I’ve wanted to add a few to my household.  Finally, it has happened – I’m now a Sasha doll owner, and discovering part of their classic appeal…they are super fun to sew for.  No bust darts for child bodies, after all!  Ruffles, and gathers, and ribbons, oh my!   And so I don’t leave Gregor out…so far he’s got a new pair of jeans and a fedora from the American Girl store.  The hat is a little bit big on him, but he can wear it for now until I can use it as a pattern template that I can downsize to fit better.

My two Sasha dolls in their new dresses, and Gregor in his new jeans!

I have also been dipping my toes into the world of Asian Ball Joint Dolls (also known as ABJD’s or just BJD’s).  My recent acquisition of this small collection has been an adventure in itself, a tale for another time, but as soon as Sasha had a selection of dresses I felt it was time to start adventuring into sewing for the BJD’s.  This has proven to be more difficult – In general they are more shapely, plus different brands have very different silhouettes.  Even if your doll falls into a particular size category, it doesn’t mean the pattern will end up fitting without drastic alterations.

Beyond the fact that they are gorgeous, and essentially designed for customization, part of the appeal for me is that these dolls are made out of beads.  This is what makes them so pose-able!  Their little hands and feet are the anchors, while the limb segments are long beads, and the body is one giant “converter”, bringing all the strands of elastic cord together, to hold on the head.  It’s easiest to demonstrate (at least when home alone with no one else to operate the camera) on one of the tiny’s:

Here you can see the elastic stringing all of the limb “beads” together.

I thought you might like to see the steps that go into sewing a typical pair of pants…it’s a bit more involved than sewing two tubes of fabric together and slipping them on your doll.  I had previously traced out and cut the pieces for this pair of trousers, my first attempt at some clothes for one of the nude BJD’s.

Besides all of that…one of the major challenges with doll clothes (all small scale sewing), is that differences of millimeters can change the fit of the entire garment.  Say your pattern calls to be sewn with 1/4″ seam allowance (sewing 1/4″ from the edge of your cut pieces)…but you find your machine is a bit difficult to steer – your seam might vary by a few millimeters, especially around curves.  When the circumference of the body you’re sewing for is  only a couple of centimeters…a few millimeters makes a huge difference.  I can’t tell you how many tiny sleeves I’ve had to re-stitch because my doll’s hand won’t make it through the cuff!  This outfit is the first draft of these patterns – there are a few things I need to tweak for the next set…

Orientdoll BJD modeling his new ensemble…the pants could use another inch of length, and the shirt needs a bit of adjusting along the back of the shoulders – it’s too tight and keeps pulling his arms back out of pose.  Other than that, not bad for a first draft!!!

As soon as nobody is left nekkid, I plan on venturing into the world of doll shoe making!  I mean, what good is a new dress if you don’t have the perfect pair of Mary Jane’s or sandals to wear with it?  Goodness knows I have enough leather to play with.  And Gregor’s hat?  Perhaps that will lead down a path of miniature millinery.  And while we’re in accessory-land…none of the big dolls have jewelry yet…Has anyone successfully cloned a human yet?  Because I need an assistant!

I hope you’ve had a fun time following along on my adventures, and that you’re staying delightfully creative, no matter what direction that takes you.

P.S.  Thank you for all the lovely comments on my last doll post!  I was nervous of how it would be received, as there is still quite a bit of stigma attached to the doll hobby and that post was my first step out of the “doll” closet.  I really appreciate all of you that took the time to comment, and to those of you that also have dolls, I would love to connect some time about our mutual obsessions!

 

Lindsay Star

Lindsay Starr is a beadwork and mixed media artist currently based in Nashville, TN. She spent her early childhood in Alaska, and her school age and college years in Oregon. Lindsay has a great appreciation for history, science, and nature and is consistently inspired by insects, sea life, color, and the significance of beads and beadwork throughout human history. She spends her days beading, walking at the zoo, and practicing yoga. Lindsay loves to share her knowledge and passion for beads and beadwork to hobbyists of all skill levels.
  1. Reply

    I learnt to sew by making clothes for my barbie dolls and that is what led me to become a designer. I am so far away from making clothes (even for adults now) now but I have pure admiration for what you do. It can be really frustrating to correct an armhole that it only a centimeter or two

  2. Reply

    I started my bead obsession by sewing beads on doll clothes. I too made Barbie clothes as a child, but as am adult I got into 1800's costumes for lady dolls and that led me to bead. Keep up your interest it is fun and you are doing well.

  3. Reply

    beautiful , I coveted the Sasha doll when I was a girl!

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