Archie

My adoring fans have reminded me that it’s been a long time since I’ve blogged. And she is they are right.

As I mentioned a while back, I’ve been participating in the Sewing Buddy Challenge at Whipstitch.

Our first challenge wrapped up this month, and my partner and I won 2nd place! We were to collaborate to make a pair of boy/girl projects, which works out perfectly since I have Dexter and Elisabeth has her baby daughter, Cate. We made these precious little dolls from Wee Wonderfuls called Olive and Archie.

This pattern was absolutely worth the money. I only had one problem with it, which I will go into later. But, for your $15, you get the patterns for both Olive and Archie, plus all sorts of clothes, and accessories including backpacks, sleeping bags, and a cat pal.

Elisabeth and I chose a color palette, using Moda’s A Walk in the Woods line as our inspiration. I would have loved to just get some of that fabric, because it is PRECIOUS, but I’m trying to stash-bust. So I had to bring that vibe to my doll while keeping down extra purchases.

I created a few sketches, with three major goals in mind:

1. Use what I have as much as I can.

2. Stick to the color palatte/theme we chose.

3. Make the little guy look as much like Dexter as possible.

I easily found a felt in color similar to Dexter’s hair. I ended up getting a blend because I was trying to keep costs down. I can tell that it’s pilled a bit, but overall I think it’s fine.

But finding a skin tone nearly drove me crazy. I shopped at Joann Fabrics, which I normally really like. But they had a whopping total of two fabrics that could possibly work for skintone. One of them was too orange (we are an extremely pale family) and the other was thinner and weirder looking than I’d like. I made the smart choice and went with thin and weird.

I started stitching my hair on. So far so good. Except in this photo, you can see straight through to the paper under the fabric. But surely that won’t be a problem, right? Right??

I’m 99% certain I washed my fabric before cutting. But I really can’t remember now. After sewing all my hair on and starting to assemble the body, I ironed some seams, and suddenly the weirdness of the fabric became an actual problem.

The fabric melted/shrunk. The photo above shows the difference between the pattern piece and how much shrinkage occurred. In retrospect, desperation to find the right color may have caused me to get something partially synthetic. But I will never know, because when I went back to Joann for a replacement, I couldn’t find the mystery fabric.

So I came some with the too-orange fabric, washed it… and then realized under our lights that it was yellow.

Long story short, I went to Hobby Lobby and found an acceptable fabric. The twist: A few days after I submitted my doll, I found my own stash of fleshtone fabric. Sigh.

Aside from that, the pattern started out ridiculously easy. But there comes a point when the creator tells you that you will be cursing her name, and she was not wrong. I didn’t curse *her* per se, but I nearly lost it several times. The problem is that wretched bottom panel. If you’ve made this pattern before, I’m sure you know what I am talking about. If you haven’t and plan to, you *will* know what i’m talking about! I Googled and searched and pleaded to the internet fairies to give me the answer and I never found it.

In the end I just had to wing it. So Archie has a funky butt.

I thought it might bother me that my handstitching is so awful, but I’m just glad that part is over. And as with childbirth, I’ve almost forgotten the pain and would do totally do it all over again.

The eyes where my only other creative difficulty, because I wanted Archie to look like Dexter, but Dex has hazel eyes that are difficult to replicate.

I almost settled for these plain dark eyes, which I love, but I just really wanted light eyes, even if they were still wrong. So I chose to do a circle of charcoal gray with pale blue on top to create irises.

I stuck on all the features, subbing felt scraps for the mouth and nose, to get the correct placement and shapes. Then I just stitched on the face.

I made a little red jacket last minute using the hoodie pattern included in the set. I didn’t finish the seams, because I was running out of time. But I really wanted that pop of color to complete the look I was going for. It was then that I realized that I didn’t like the placement of the arms, beause with the jacket on, things look a little weird and the jacket actually doesn’t want to stay on.

But, I was extremely happy with how he turned out!

More importantly, Dexter is extremely happy with him. I wish I could have captured how thrilled he was initially. I gave him the choice of whether he wanted to change the name and he really liked “Archie”. Or “Artsy”, as he calls him.
And he sleeps with Archie every single day.
Even if I didn’t win anything in the challenge, this would have been enough!
But I won’t say no to the 1/2 yard bundle of fabric 2nd place gets :-P.

Felt Piglet Tutorial

We’re having a Winnie the Pooh craze around here. Craze may be putting it a little strongly, but Dexter is frequently Pooh, pretending to suck honey off his hand and telling me he’s spitting out bees. He asked the other day if I’d make him a piglet… so I paused for a half-second and said, “Sure!”

If you’d like to use the exact pattern* I traced out, here it is:

 
I’ll show below how to assemble him and how I drafted my pattern.
*1. Where the body meets the legs, use the top pink line. The lower one was a mistake I didn’t remove. *2. My pattern is not symmetrical. It just didn’t occur to me until it was too late. This will be most obvious on the ears, the inner parts need to match the correct ear, unless you care to correct that on your pattern.

You can do this with any character really. Piglet is pretty simple in that he’s almost entirely made up of 2 colors. I found a picture online, blew it up to the size I wanted, printed it… and realized it wasn’t quite as big as I’d expected. So I roughly traced around it to enlarge it.

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You can see that I did a lot of correcting throughout the whole process. I was flying by the seat of my pants and really didn’t spend anytime in the planning phase! But all of these corrections should be reflected in the PDF pattern.

I folded over my felt and traced the pattern onto the side of the fabric that would be on the inside. Then I cut out both layers together.

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Next, I went scrounging for fabric for clothing. I didn’t want to have to hem anything, so I used only felt and t-shirt scraps. I didn’t have any dark pink, and I felt like he just HAD to have stripes. I figured purple would work too. It’s a warmer purple than it looks in all these pictures.

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So, lay Piglet down where you’d like the stripes to fall. Again, fold your fabric, with the wrong sides facing out.

I used a Sharpie to mark the points at his neck and crotch, and then traced the sides of his tummy.

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You’ll get a an outline that looks like the picture on the left (if you do it without the pattern I linked). Then just connect all the lines, making a dip at the top for his chin.

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Then I turned all the pieces right-side-up and started building Piglet.

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Cut out all the facial features. He’s starting to look pretty cute! Also, he looks a little broader than normal, but when he’s stuffed, it turns out just right.

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Sew on all the dark pieces.

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Next, layer the snout.

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Then add the little nose triangle.

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Then sew the clothes to the front and the back. Remember, you have not put him together yet, your back piece should still be separate from the front.

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Flip the sides and trim off any excess t-shirt fabric. You’ll want to check the front side after you do this and make sure you trim the parts you can’t see from the back.

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Now you create your Piglet sandwich (hmm…) and sew around the outside, starting below one ear, and ending at the bottom of the next ear.

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Piglet’s head should be floppy and open like this:

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Stuff the arms and legs first, leaving it slightly soft where they connect to the body, so that he won’t be completely stiff. Then talk some little kid into stuffing the rest for you. Actually, he got tired of this pretty quickly and I had to finish. He just wanted to shred the stuffing.

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Then I stitched across the arm joint to give them a little range of motion. I didn’t bother doing this with the legs, but you’re welcome to try if it pleases you.

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Round the Polyfil at the top, keeping it clear of where seams will be. I didn’t put any stuffing in the ears.

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Sew around the curve of the head, still ignoring the ears.

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Pin the pink parts onto the ears. Keep in mind that if you used my pattern, the ear parts are not interchangeable.

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Sew around the edge of the dark pink, both attaching it to the ear and closing the ear openings.

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Then trim off the threads and he’s good to go!!

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The first thing Dex did was cram him down into a jar. Poor Pickled Piglet.

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And he felt like he needed to compare the pattern to see if they matched up.

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He now sleeps with Piglet every night, which is awesome. I should add that felt starts to look a little ratty when it’s handled by sticky hands everyday. Just a heads up.

There are lots of steps, but this was a pretty quick project. All told, it took me about 2 hours to complete, including drafting the pattern and taking pictures.

I’d love to see if anyone comes up with any other characters! I hope to make a Winnie the Pooh sometime! But then I’d probably lose it and end up making the whole Winnie the Pooh family. Felt is dangerous!

The Transformation of Mr. Hunny Bear

Dexter has finally chosen a comfort item.

When I was pregnant, my husband sent me a beautiful (and yummy!) fruit bouquet for Valentine’s Day. A soft white bear happened to be attached, so I just added it to the tiny but growing basket of Dexter toys. In the first 21 months of his life, he barely paid attention to it.

Then he became socially  aware.

He now recognizes that his cousins, Ty and Micah, sleep with bears. One day we were talking about it while I was rocking him (Actually, I was singing about it. Yes, we have a Ty and Micah song.) and afterward Dex really wanted a bear to sleep with. I pulled out the girly white bear and he has slept with him ever since.

A few days later, we were having lunch with my friend, Lisa, and her daughter, Alex. Alex’s favorite toy is a bear named Sunny. Dexter was really excited about “Sunny Bear”, and talked quite a bit about her. And eventually he started calling his own bear Hunny Bear.

Since the attachment is growing stronger, I decided I’d risk ruining Hunny Bear early on in order to make him more boyish. And less dorky. Let’s face it, random bears that come with bouquets aren’t made with aesthetics in mind.

Here is Hunny Bear’s journey:

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Meet… Anya.

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I really think my least favorite part is the ugly floral embroidery on the foot. But we’ll get to that. Easiest first step: Lose the bow!

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What I really wanted to do next was get away from the white fur. If this becomes Dexter’s permanent buddy, white is going to look gross fast. I was hoping to warm it up to a honey tone, but a few things were in my way. 1. I know almost nothing about dying. I knew the tone I wanted, and I knew it needed to be child-safe. But I didn’t really know what would work on the mostly synthetic fur. Which leads me to my next point… 2. I am IMPATIENT and I wanted to start dying NOW. So my options were pretty much limited to a tea bath.

I boiled a bunch of tea bags, added some vinegar for good measure, and gave Hunny Bear a bath. Dex enjoyed watching the process from his high chair 🙂

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Poor Hunny Bear really went through a lot. I hope for his sake that Toy Story isn’t true.

The pre-dye soak:

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Into the boiling hot water:

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The “Poor Wet Rat” stage (btw, THIS is the color I hoped he’d be.):

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Rinsing and wringing:

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After this, I realized that the dye was just barely taking and that the tea bits were not going to come out of the fur with a hand rinse. I think Dexter’s favorite part of the whole process was to personally throw Hunny Bear into the washing machine 🙂

While he was washing and drying, I made a tie. If I had to do over, I’d research the actual proportions of ties and plan the length a little better. But remember the impatience we discussed earlier? I decided to just go for it. I cut a folded length of fabric into the approximate shape of a tie.

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I didn’t want to put a lot of effort into it, and I didn’t mind if the tie frayed, so it is just a single layer.

I unfolded the tie and machine-stitched around the edges. I did two rows to help ensure that the fraying didn’t get entirely out of control. I really like the way it looks!

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After failing to understand several diagrams, I used a tutorial video to learn how to tie my necktie. I stitched at the knot so the necktie wouldn’t come off.  I think, since I made a weirdo little tie, that it almost looks more like a scarf than a necktie. But it’s way better than that purple bow.

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After he was dry, I could tell the dye was just *almost* a waste of time. But at least now he is a gentle vanilla shade instead of stark white. So ultimately it was worth the effort.

Dexter was happy to see Hunny Bear again and didn’t seem to mind the new changes.

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Phase Two involved covering all traces of purple. I used scraps of chocolate brown fleece to patch over the nose and feet. So so cute!!!! This was my favorite change!

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One last step… Goodbye forever, Anya!

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And officially hello, Hunny Bear!!

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Dollies Travelling Abroad!

I was excited to get a notification from Dolly Donations announcing that if we hurry and send in our dolls, they can leave the US for Haiti on December 18th!! If you have time to throw some together, there is still a little time to get them there!

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I wish I had more completed, but I’m very glad I got to participate. I have more cut out, so I’ll try to slowly make them and just send out what I have when drives are announced.

These were great practice dolls. I’m hoping we’ll eventually have a little girl in our family (It’s looking like my brother’s baby is going to be a boy as well!). I’m really glad I’ve found an outlet for my girly creative energy! Some of these babies are kind of funny looking, but it was a nice opportunity to figure out the best techniques. For example, take it easy with the eyebrows or your doll will look like a Marx brother!

They have faux fur for hair (faux fur for, say that 3 times fast!), acrylic painted faces, very simple scrap dresses, and coordinating diapers.

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Sneak Peek: New Dolls!

I’ve been in a desperate dash to the craft fair finish-line this week! I’m pretty sure I’ve never been quite so goal-oriented in my life 🙂 Alex helped me create an action plan, and thanks to a management and production book he’s been listening to, I’m now acquainted with such terms as “throughput” and “bottle-necking” lol. I’m currently trying to maximize throughput by avoiding bottle-necking. Which is fancy-schmancy speak for trying to finish more products by identifying and tweaking your most time consuming steps. I don’t fully understand it, that’s why I said “acquainted” with the terms and not “best friends” with them 🙂

Everyday I have a specific production goal. Yesterday’s goal was to complete 3 dolls (I decided instead to complete 7 doll *bodies* and have them ready for faces, which I can do anywhere).Today’s is to finish all the sock monsters I already have started, and to hopefully begin a few more.

I haven’t had time to take real pictures, but here’s a sneak peek at my dolls, via my phone’s camera:

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They’re babies, not big girls, hence the barely-there hair. Some of them will have dresses, some of them will have diapers. But I plan to make them all a tiny blanket to match their clothes.

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This baby had pigtails, which left her hair all freaky 🙂 I definitely plan to replace them asap!