Last week as I beavered away sewing doll coats and hats while watching the 3rd season of Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, I imagined what it would be like to work in a couture salon making dresses and hats for ladies in the 1920's.
In a flight of fancy I mentally redecorated my sewing room with mashup of vintage furnishings to inspire my designs. This stream of thought generated quite a lot of doll hats and jackets now available in my shop PinkGingerKitty.
If money was no object and I could furnish my imaginary sewing studio from Etsy, these would be my picks:
The cubby would be stocked with threads and notions in every color. The phone would be used for talking to girlfriends while doing fine embroidery. In my imagination, all these items would be arranged in some whitewashed attic room with windows that looked out on a birch forest for birdsong and fluttering leaves. Dappled shadows moving across the floor makes me happy.
The following items are also needed to inspire hat designs:
From ribbons to buttons and flowers, its the details that take a design from yawn to yum! One can never have too many bits and bobs stored away. So it follows that I'd also want the following extras:
My studio would also include a cupboard full of lovely vintage fabrics, a fireplace or stove for winter warming and a snug basket for the kitties who are keeping me company. A comfy chair, farmhouse table and electric teakettle would also feather my studio in a cozy way.
If you like my imaginary sewing room you can find more ideas for a vintage craft space on this Pinterest board. Or look through my pins on my Art Studio Inspiration board. Have fun dreaming up a studio addition of your own!
With the holidays and winter on their way the look on the street is all about layers. This is the perfect season to dress fancy! No need to let your doll collection suffer from seasonal stagnation. A few small changes to their attire will give your dolls a beautiful look for winter.
What is the first thing you notice in the doll photos above? Probably the hats, but look a little closer. The hats are decorated with feathers, jewels and bows. Three of the dolls wear scarves fashioned from vintage hankies. All the dolls wear felt coats. Don't they look holiday ready? These are simple changes that really add pizazz!
If you're not handy with a needle, don't worry. I just started listing the hats in my Etsy shop (more to come) and I'm offering a free felt doll coat to anyone who buys one of my Garden Party Girl dolls through December 24, 2015. Visit my PinkGingerKitty shop to get the details and coupon code.
If you like DIY and want to make quick changes, start with your craft closet or jewelry drawer. Do you have spare bits of felt and ribbon, vintage hankies or single earrings that have lost their mate? If not, try the thrift store or flea market. Then start layering your finds on your doll. Small scraps of felt can be turned into a hat (see this post for "how to" instructions). Tie on a pretty bow or hot glue on a single earring over a feather for a holiday pin.
A coat can be fashioned from felt (see this post for my pattern) and then layered with a vintage hankie or odd crochet bits from your cupboard or the thrift store. If you're handy with the crochet needle you can quickly whip up a scarf to match your doll.
This crochet um, thing, was 50 cents at the thrift store (I have no idea what its used for). It was a perfect circle with a hole in the center. I cut through to the center and pinned it on Myrtle's coat under her lapels. It makes a pretty shawl collar for dolls and can be removed when you feel like changing the look.
Why settle for just one look for your dolls when its easy to accessorize? A faux fur shawl and hat looks very chic. Collect different hankies or tie on a scrap of pretty fabric from your sewing room. Pile on some faux pearls or sparkly pin to add luxe to the look.
My dining table is where I turn scraps of felt into doll hats and coats. I collect felt at the thrift store or reuse center. If a piece is really big I'll cut off what I need and give the rest back to the store so they can resell it. The felt is still cheaper per yard than retail and this benefits the thrift store's charity.
If you can't find felt at your thrift store, look for remnants and use coupons at big box sewing stores. Just a half a yard will yield a lot of hats and coats. Team up with your crafty friends and buy different colors to share.
I hope this post motivates you to play fashionista with your doll collection. Its easy and fun, so put on some holiday tunes and start styling!
Meet Ellen Finch, event planner, fashionista and eternal optimist. Ellen loves to plan and throw parties, especially weddings. She's known for her elegant extravaganzas which always include something pink in the decor, because Ellen sees the world through rose-colored glasses. She strives to look confident and party-worthy at all times because you never know when you might meet a potential client.
This handmade doll has raspberry pink wool hair and bright blue eyes. She is wearing an aqua and green brocade dress with a floral belt. A bright pink and yellow striped ribbon accents the neckline and waist. Her knickers are floral like her belt. She wears pink leggings and brocade shoes to match her dress. Ellen chases away the chill with an azalea pink felt coat and a salmon pink felt hat with a double bow accent.
Like all my party girl dolls, Ellen's arms and legs are fully posable. Her arms can spread wide for hugs or cross to lend a sassy attitude.
If you had told me two years ago that I'd be opening an Etsy shop to sell my handmade toys, I would have wondered if you were delirious. I had just started sewing again after years of paper crafting, enchanted by all the artful softie makers I was seeing on the web. I plunged into learning softie design and loved the results of my experiments. Before long I had way too many samples in my studio and sold a few to friends who encouraged me to keep designing. I kept going resulting in 120 different soft toys by this writing.
Today, I have an online shop, PinkGingerKitty, and I've been invited to exhibit my dolls in a gallery show in January 2016. It is exciting to dream of where my toys might take me next.
If you're harboring a desire to make soft toys I invite you to give it a try. Make a New Year's goal to create time for this craft. There are many styles of softie design from sweet and sassy to primitive, goth dolls and monsters. There's genres for every desire be it creating toys for children of all ages or for art doll collectors. Start with simple forms or patterns, develop your own style and learn by doing!
For inspiration I've rounded up tips on softie design from the Teacup Incident archives including new links from recent posts on doll clothing design.
DIY softies, a beginner's guide. Everything you need to know to start making softies today. This is my process for designing and sewing toys, from inspiration to final touches.
Inspiration from Stuffed Magazine. Tips I gleaned from the artists featured in Stuffed magazine on how they get inspired.
The Process of Making a Toy. My doll making process in photos, start to finish.
Sewing tips of Softie Artists. Useful softie sewing tips from the pages of Stuffed magazine.
Sewing with Vintage Sheets. Sheets are great for making prototypes and they are fun to collect.
Doll Hair for Beginners. My sewing experiments with yarn hair.
Don't Give Up. Creativity often requires a learning curve - try not to get discouraged.
When Imperfection is Better than Perfect. Learn from doing.
Quotes for Beginners. Creating can be hard work but its also rewarding. Keep it in perspective.
Share your art with the world. Join competitions and forums. Invite feedback from other sewers.
Teach Others in Order to Learn New Skills. Offer free patterns and tutorials to get your work known.
Be Different, Even If It Feels Scary. Create from your heart because the world needs your unique perspective.
For Doll Makers Only
Designing Doll Clothes. How I design clothing for my dolls.
Switching Up Your Doll for the Seasons. Making accessories for your dolls.
Design Your Own Doll Hats. My method for making chic felt doll hats.
As Franklin D. Roosevelt once said: Above all else, try something! There's really no stopping you once you commit to learning something and make time to work on it. Whether you take a class, buy a pattern, or just noodle around in a fabric store getting inspired, the hardest part is getting started. The sooner you start the sooner the fun begins!
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic and power in it! Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
It snowed here overnight so the dolls are especially happy to be wearing these faux fur accessories today. They are all available in my Etsy shop. Charlotte and Lucy show off the white fur hat and shawl set and Marguerite and Eleanor model the plum fur set.
The hat and shawl fit all my Garden Party Girl dolls, with or without additional layers. The fur adds a little winter elegance to any outfit. Marguerite wears her purple fur set over a muted plaid doll jacket, also available in the shop. Dolls sold separately.
Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. Robert Collier
Have you ever had one of those weeks where nothing went the way you expected it to? From small problems like doll pattern issues to big failures like our home heater conking out on bitterly cold night, I can only hope that this week will be an improvement over last week. I'm going to chalk up the troubles to some planet in retrograde and count my blessings instead.
I managed to get several cute doll outfits started including the faux fur hat/shawl set and blue waffle weave coat seen above. The fur hat and shawl look great on their own and adorably cozy when layered over a felt doll coat. I have several fur colors to work with so you will be able to choose your favorite.
Below is the same faux fur hat and shawl set combined with a pretty peacock blue felt jacket with gorgeous silver trim. The jacket needs a a bit of tweaking before its shop worthy. The white faux fur set will be listed in my shop soon.
I count among the week's blessings:
My husband and these two darling kitties. John and I celebrate 26 years of marriage this week! Ellie and Max celebrate everything (fresh kibble, toys, clean laundry to hide in) because that's what kittens do.
A fun excursion to Art Parts Creative Reuse Center for felt, faux fur and trims (thank you Patricia for pulling out extras from the storage room!).
A free fabric and pattern swap at Elfriedes Fine Fabrics in Boulder where I found these fun retro hat patterns. Aren't the 1960's hats (on left) hilarious? I'm hoping to learn new tricks from the pattern instructions. Sign up for Elfriede's newsletter mailing list if you want to hear about the next swap.
The heater was fixed today - yay! Blessings to the heater repair guy who works Sundays, the first appointment we could get. Thankfully we had space heaters and a working fireplace for our three days without heat.
Chatting with my sister by phone for an hour - so easy now that she lives in the US instead of New Zealand.
A sunny Sunday hike along Kohler Mesa.
I'm sure there's many more blessings I could think of but these were the big ones this past week. If you need encouragement to persevere through your project, click here for inspirational quotes.
Fog and snow make me want to wrap the world in a bright sweater and serve it chai tea. As fall winds down and the colors seep from the landscape I like to plump up my photography with pops of color. Playing with color is my antidote for the winter blues.
I made a list of my favorite color props to prompt me when I'm planning blog photo sessions. Here are six ways you can add color to your photos this winter.
1. Flowers, leaves or fruit. These don't have to be expensive or fancy. A bouquet of supermarket flowers or silk flowers will do. You might want to use leaves and seed pods spray painted in seasonal colors, like plum, pink and copper. A bowl of lemons or green apples adds depth to a composition. This is my favorite way to add color.
2. Painted backdrops. Large canvases purchased at discount chains can be painted with acrylics in shades of your favorite color. Painter's canvas drop cloths covered with inexpensive "mistake" colors from Home Depot also make a fun backdrop and give you a chance to try out unusual colors. Remember to paint with colors in the same family if you want it to remain a backdrop and not the focal point. Paint new shades over your colors if you tire of them.
3. Small props such as washi tape, thread spools, vintage toys and stacks of books can be added to your main subject. Small items take on importance when grouped in mass or by color. They make interesting color counterpoints to a favorite object or bouquet.
4. Fabric and table linens. Placing your subject on a vintage tablecloth makes a statement in your photography. You can set the mood with your choice of fabric: a quilt says something different from a vintage party gown or silk kimono.
5. Color block your photos in a photo editing program. Crop a few photos down to their essential messages. Group by color or theme and fit them together like a puzzle. The photos above play with shades of yellow and green and suggest a cozy fall moment.
6. Focus tight and small. Find an object that has luscious color and photograph it up close. This highlights shape and materials in a wonderful way. Small objects like a vintage toy or tiny bouquet of flowers look lush when photographed in close focus.
Have fun playing with color in your photos. It will cheer you up when skies are grey!
My inspiration bookshelf, one of several. This shelf is full of creative sparks. I have another one devoted to doll design.
Chilly weather and the approaching holidays bring out the bookworm in me. Whether I need a lift from winter's chill or ideas to spark holiday cooking, books are my go-to source for happy inspiration. A cozy hour reading on the couch is my favorite way to watch the snow fall.
While Kindle and iPad reading has its uses I find actual books more inspiring, especially large decorator or art books. There's something delightful about oversized photos spreads in gorgeous colors.
Lingering after breakfast with tea and a couple of inspiring books is my idea of heaven! As far as inspiration goes my books fall into two categories: pure visual beauty books such as decor and travel books and creative instruction books such as how to make paper toys, photo foray ideas or how to design fabric patterns. Here are a few books that I'm reading this month:
Both these books are pure eye candy. Make Do by artist Beci Orpin offers loads of hands-on craft projects in her favorite mediums: paper, fabric, wood and "found". I particularly love the instructions for a Kantha stitched patched cushion and creating a crepe paper "surprise ball" full of trinkets, a fun idea to adapt for the holidays. In between the projects are photos of her inspiring studio, home and things that catch her eye. Just seeing her playful artworks gets my creative wheels spinning.
Anna Spiro's decorating book Absolutely Beautiful Things shows off her maximalist style where color and form are linked together with lovely abandon. She has a fun color sense and friendly writing style that imparts wisdom as much as permission to add what you love to your home. With so many decor books favoring minimalist, mid-century modern style these days it feels energizing to look at a book full of collections and color. Ditto for Amy Butler's Midwest Modern book about her designing style and home.
I am a big fan of patterns. My pattern board on Pinterest is pure eye candy. I have several of the Print and Pattern books by Bowie Style because they are full of lively color that perks me up when I'm out of ideas.
Recently I bought Khristian Howell's Color + Pattern which contains 50 exercises for exploring pattern design. Khristian worked for years in pattern design at Nordstrom's HQ before venturing out on her own. She has seen all aspects of the design business and through her exercises, gives a taste of what its like to be a fabric designer today. Interspersed in between exercises are cameo appearances with artworks by top designers in various categories like kid's lines, abstract doodle art and conversation (novelty) fabrics.
I find it relaxing to draw or paint patterns for fun. Playing in corollary crafts to your favorite one increases the ideas you can draw upon when you go back to it. Does this mean I want to become a surface pattern designer? No, my interest lies in mixing colors and scale of patterns, not putting everything I draw on an iPhone case. But I would like to learn enough about designing patterns to make my own Spoonflower fabrics for use on my toys. The new Spoonflower handbook on designing fabrics and papers will be the next addition to my bookshelf.
See For Yourself by Design Within Reach founder Rob Fobes contains lots of reasons to get out your camera/phone and go exploring. He demonstrates through his photos that by consciously seeking patterns or paying attention to things that we love we are teaching ourselves to experience the world more vividly.
Categories such as Form, Pattern, Point of View, Light and Shadow and Color offer examples of why close observation of your world feeds your imagination. He finds interesting ways to collect what catches his eye, be it architecture, culture, manufacturing or manhole covers.
I reviewed The Little Spark book here, and its still one of my favorite books for quick creative exercises. There's always something in that book that I can do immediately even if my time is limited.
I hope you've enjoyed this roundup of what's currently on my creative bookshelf. What are you reading for inspiration?
Fall leaves; the Boulder Bookstore, Boulder's independent bookstore.