Sunday, September 14, 2014

My Favourite St. Nick

My Santa is done. Between getting the garden cleaned up and fall/winter veggies planted and other assorted household doings, my next Santa is done. I think this is my favourite one yet. It must be the old world look and his brilliant red coat, but whatever it is…..he is definitely my fav.

A few details. The instructions were lacking in places and too much time was spent on trying to understand what was expected, so rather than dwell on that I just went along and did what I know to do and the end result is virtually the same.

I added a shirt pocket to the coat (not part of the pattern) to hold Nicks pocket watch. I embroidered a tree branch on it like what is done on the bottom of the coat. The pocket watch I made using things from Steampunk stash and fortunately it came together beautifully. I had a small pocket watch, but the perspective was wrong, too small.

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The sack is supposed to have a flap, but I couldn’t make sense of it because once you add your embellishments to the sack there is no place for the flap to actually sit properly, so I left that off. In the sack, I put some snowshoes and an assortment of greens. In the bottom of the sack I added some zinc weights. By the time I added the tree in front, he was starting to lean a bit, and the zinc brought him back. Another reason I never do the complete finishes such as securing the sack until I’m sure it’s all together and working right.

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I used flannel for the cuffs top and bottom, the hood trim and the scarf. For the scarf I doubled the fabric rather than use felt. The fringe is the same for lampshades, I used two colours, blue and red to pick up those from the flannel. The tree is decked out in little gift boxes and a red cardinal. My sweet Radar saw that bird on my worktable and gently put his teeth over it, until I gave the “no” command. Not happy that I took that joy from him…;o)

The embroidery on his coat did not call for beads, but I added some delicas to give a bit of sparkle. This Santa stands approx. 26” tall. So all three Santa’s for my customer are 18”, 22” and 26”. I think that will make a great display for him.

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I so love this Santa. His face is done as mostly a pancake style, the only dimension to it, is his nose. The details are created with pencils, other than a white gel pen for the whites and sparkle of the eyes. The whiskers are mohair locks from a local fibre artist. I think the glasses make him so much fun, they give him such a big expressive face.

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Now off to make the stockings. Back soon, enjoy.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Next Santa

The Santa I made recently for a customer was very well received, so well in fact, that he’s ordered two more Santa’s and two Christmas stockings. I have one of my Victorian Santa’s left from last Christmas and I’m going to tweak that one a bit for him, and that just leaves me one more to make. He definitely knows what he wants, and that is not a red and white Santa. However this new Santa does have a red coat but nothing at all like a Coca Cola Santa. This one is more a Vintage Santa, the other two are Victorian.

It’ll be done in the next couple of days, but these are just a few steps in the process to share with you. This particular Santa’s body frame is made with dowels rather than making a wire armature. The main part of the frame is built around the hips. One center dowel to go through the stuffed body up into the neck with two dowels going down for the legs. Smaller dowels are used to widen the hip area. 

After stuffing the body, there is still a portion of the hips showing. That portion is wrapped with duct tape and the bottom of the cloth body is gathered and secured around the hips. I added extra stitches between the legs to secure it more to the bottom of the body for more strength.The leggings come up and meet in the same area. I’m not a perfectionist and even though that area will never be seen due to the costuming, I will know it’s there. 

The first extra step I did was to enclose the bottom area of the hips. With muslin, I fashioned a bit of a diaper and stitched that in place. It just feels properly finished now.

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The second step is in regards to the body. It’s a muslin body but there is nothing in the costuming for a shirt to cover the body. I made this little tunic type top with a ribbed knit to cover the body. It’s sleeveless because I made the arms with velvet and once the coat sleeves are on, there won’t be much room to fit sleeves in there.

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The last thing I did was line the upper part of the shoes. In the directions, it’s not explained what to do with the flaps at the top of the shoes. I assume they are meant to wrap around the legs to add support. The lining will add more volume to the flaps, so better support. I used a vinyl fabric and did top stitching on the back. There are leather soles and the base is trimmed with black gimp. The lining is flannel and is the same fabric I’m using on rest of the doll.

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The extra steps, well, probably most might not worry about doing extra bits. My personal approach to my doll making is to do the best you can. If you have to take more time than others, who cares. Doll making should not be a race to the finish, it’s supposed to be fun. There is nothing I hate more than when I hear someone say, “oh that’s good enough” and that’s just not how you should view your work. Those kind of statements are maybe a sign that you’re not enjoying what you’re doing or worse, you think nobody will notice that you slacked off. I would feel so embarrassed and disappointed in myself if I did that and then tried to represent myself as a doll maker and artist.

Do your best work and when you give it as a gift or sell it to a customer, you will feel so good to know that if someone tries to peek inside the costume and they see all those nice finishes, they will see your good work shine through. More to come soon….;o)

Monday, September 1, 2014

Peter Pumpkin Eater

I saw this pattern on Cheswick Company’s Etsy page. At the time Cathy just had it offered as a paper pattern. I contacted her and she graciously agreed to have it converted to an e-pattern. She said it was one of her older patterns that she hadn’t converted, but I thought it was so cute I just had to make it. E-patterns are so handy and I love the instant gratification factor of course. ;o)

I made 3 of them. They are shelf sitters, but I’ve also added a hanger in case somebody would like to hang it instead. I weighted the bottoms with a zinc product. It’s just a small zinc pellet for killing moss.  They measure about 1/4” or less. They were left over from another project, but you can use any kind of weights, even sand would work.

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If you do use sand or something else gravel like, you might want to consider putting it in a tiny zip lock bag or make a little muslin pouch so it doesn’t come through the seams.

For my ornaments, I used 3 different shades of green for the bodies, 3 shades of orange for the heads and 3 different colours of trims around the neck. I bought a bag of the mini pumpkins (well seed pods actually), last fall so it just worked out by a fluke that I had them to finish these. Here they are, are they not just so cute.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

A Radar Update

I’ve had some emails asking how Radar is coming along. If you aren’t a cat lover, I won’t feel offended if you leave this page and go onto something else. ;o)

Well it’s been 2 months and he’s doing just great. To say he’s good to go wouldn’t be true, but he’s so much improved. To date these are the changes that have happened.

When he first came back, he was about as wild as wild could be. The first night, to invite him to sleep on the bed was a complete disaster. The claws and teeth took their toll and I had to banish him to the sunroom. No problem, his food, bed and box were in there, so all his comforts were met. This went on for about a week to 10 days, slowly allowing him more time at night with us before going to the sunroom.

After a couple of days, he got the hang of it and went willingly. In the meantime though, I also kept a water bottle handy and a short little burst in his direction, told him to stop his bad behaviour. I only had to use it about 3 times and he learned. The water only reached him once and that was enough…lol After that, at the first sign of the ears going back and that “look” that cat owners recognize came over him, all I’ve had to do is show him the bottle and he either runs for cover or settles down.

He wouldn’t leave my side for more than a few minutes during that first week. At one point I got a small blanket and put it on the floor under my computer desk. When he first saw the blanket coming and I guess the way I was carrying it, spread out, he bolted. That told me immediately, that someone had tried to catch him by throwing a blanket over him. That’s the only explanation I could come up with.

We now realized we were dealing with an extremely fearful cat and this was going to take time. Long story short, I used the Calming chewies I talked about in my other Radar post, for the fist 6 weeks or so, giving him 2 at night. In the last 2 weeks, I switched to a spray. I’ve only used it a few times. It’s meant to imitate the Pheromones a mother cat gives off to her kittens to calm them and reduce their anxiety. They also have a collar type and infusions.

Check with your local pet store. It’s available for dogs as well as you’ll see in the picture below. There is a line of these products for different needs. The first time I sprayed it in a couple of places in the bedroom, I made the mistake of doing it while he was in the room. He heard the spritzer sound and was gone… Ooops, the opposite reaction.

Coming forward to today. We are now in a new phase. I’m still not ready to take him to the Vet, he’s doing great but still not quite ready to meet and greet and not fair to take him to the vet unless he’s a bit more relaxed and not going to be as difficult for the vet to check him over. I realize that very few cats enjoy a trip to the vet but I would like to at least work more with him before subjecting him and her to that experience…lol

Now we are working on setting boundaries for in and out time. He has a bad habit of going down the street to sleep in the neighbours shrubs, and that would be okay except that she hates cats more than anyone I’ve ever known. So now, we’re working on keeping him in during those hours that he normally goes there. By the time we let him out, that time frame has passed and he seems to stay close by. In the early morning he starts to get restless to go out, so now I escort him to the hallway and close the bedroom door. He cries a little but then goes and sleeps under my computer desk until we get up to let him out at a reasonable hour.

Long update, sorry. But on the plus side he so much improved. He arrived back here so stressed, anxious and fearful. Like this picture shows. You can see the ears kind of pinned back, the crouched position and maybe you can see that his spine is showing a bit due to needing food and hydration. Around his hips and shoulders, he was sunken in. The facial expression speaks volumes doesn’t it. His fur was so coarse and almost feeling brittle. This was in the first few days of being back.

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And now this 2 months later. He’s relaxed, filled out and pretty content. He’s not fat, he’s a good solid weight, I call it having his body cavities filled in. He was what my neighbour called a rat cat when he first came back. Now he’s lean and muscular and his proper weight for the size of cat he is. His fur is now soft and silky, his eyes are bright, his ears for the most part stay upright unless he sees a cat he doesn’t like. He’s even attempting to make friends with our neighbours lab. What an improvement. So we will continue to develop his routine. Just a little more to read below. ;o~

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And finally, we’re also looking at option of a raw meat diet. It’s what cat’s are inclined toward. I watched a video by Jackson Galaxy regarding nutrition and in that video he also speaks to a nutritionist who believes in a raw meat diet for cats. Here is the link to the Jackson Galaxy video, and here is the link to the site for Feline Nutrition. Now to take some times to read and understand the benefits of this diet. Tons of information on the website.

Thanks for taking the time to read, especially if you aren’t a cat lover or owner. Bye for now.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mrs. Claus

Santa will be happy, his Mrs. is ready to come home. Last year I made this Santa for the tea shop. He is “Old World Santa” design by Deanna Hogan. The lady that bought him, requested a Mrs. Claus to go with him for this Christmas.

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Some of the details for Mrs. The body is basically the same as the Santa other than the tummy area. As you can see in the picture, I made a tuck in the stomach to keep her more ladylike. Since the only parts of the pattern I was able to use were the shirt and cape, I had to give her the rest.

She definitely needed some bloomers. She also needed some kind of slip, so I used a doily and between the two, they just fill the underside of her skirt nicely. You know everyone will want to look up her skirt, we can’t help ourselves, we have to know.

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The skirt is made of a heavy lining type of fabric. The blouse is cotton and finished with small vintage pearl buttons. The trim around the waist is finished off with a ribbon rose. In the finished picture you can’t see those details or even her hands, but the customer will be able to, at least she’ll be able to feel the hands if not see them… Confused.???? Keep reading.

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Her features are completed with her hair pulled up into a bun after needle felting white wool roving onto her head. There is lace around her wrists and neckline, with a bit of bling around her neck and finished off with another ribbon rose.

I added a sparkly cabochon at the side of her bun. The trim around her hood is rose pattern minky, as is the muff for her hands and the trim around the top of her boots. Her boots are made with soft white leather, the soles are dark brown neoprene.

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To hold her cape together at the neck, I used a piece of chain and gold buttons, to give the illusion of a closure. While posting the pictures, I could see that the bun is still a bit too tall on one side, so I have since needle felted that down to make it more even. Funny the things you see once the pictures are looking back at you.

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So here she is full length, front and back. She stands as tall as Santa, just under 14”. She’s off to the tea shop in the morning.

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

When it’s right, it’s right

When you do things right, Mother Nature will always reward you for your efforts. This is one of the dahlias that I didn’t dig up last fall. We got lazy and decided to take our chances. We only use compost and other natural fertilizers, and with just the right amount of watering and the perfect weather…..this is what happens

This dahlia is called Penhill Watermelon and I bought it here. Click here.  It’s over 5’ tall and the blooms are just as described, at least 12” across. It’s been stopping people walking by, even at dusk, it almost glows. Amazing….

I’ve already decided that next year I am going to plant mostly these dinner plate size dahlias. I don’t really bring them in the house that much anyway as I like people to enjoy them when they walk by, so I think a big display of big ones will be fun to grown.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

First Santa for Christmas

Oh my I’ve been so so busy. A friend recently moved to a furnished apartment, so a couple of garage sales happened, things to thrift stores and free on the side of the road items. In between all that, she graced me with some wonderful little furniture pieces and a couple of other things I very much needed. I was busy the last few weeks redoing, moving things around, taking out the old things to replace with the new. Sorting, clearing and in generally doing my spring cleaning in the middle of summer. But at least it’s done and feels so great to have given things a refresh.

I’ve been in complete slow motion with my doll making, but finally I have this one finished. It was a lot of start and stops, not sure why but it happens like that sometimes. This is for a customer. His request was simple, no red and white Santa and have fun with it. I went with the Victorian/Old World type which is what I really love to make, coming from an Austrian background.  

A few details. I started off with a pattern in mind and just kind of tossed it aside and did my own thing. The face was supposed to be Trapunto style but instead I used an extra clay face that I made when I did the Victorian Santa’s last year. The coat is upholstery fabric, and trimmed with fur. The hobby horse in his right hand is the pattern by Nancy Gowran and can be found on Doll Street. I used lampshade fringe for his mane.

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His Santa bag is filled with a teddy bear, present, mini books that I made, a stocking and mittens that I also made, a glass ornament of a penguin, a tiny nutcracker and an angel.

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The teddy bear came from the dollar store. I didn’t like the hat on his head or the cheesy looking Merry Christmas sign ;o~, so I removed both and made a vest for him with felt and top stitched with DMC pearl cotton and of course his bow tie to finish.

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The Santa vest is made with black velvet, silk for the shirt and home decor fabric for the trousers.The belt is leather, the buckle from an old watch. The embellishments for his vest are repurposed old jewellery.

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The coat is lined with a heavy lining type fabric. The boots are leather and embellished with chain, soutache and fur. Around his feet are more toys and bells. As usual I’ve covered the base with felt in two colours, black and gold and trim around the sides.

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In his left hand he holds a pocket watch to keep track of his time and just inside the sleeves you can see lace trim. He’s also had a bit of a manicure for good measure.

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And so he’s ready to meet his new owner and I’m on to my next commission before diving head first into my Christmas ornaments this year.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Robin Williams 1951 - 2014

We’ve all lost an amazing man today. A comic who could make you laugh until you cried. A serious actor that could hold you spellbound to the end of every movie he was in. My favourite comedian and actor of all, I am so saddened that he is gone.

From his early beginnings as Mork.  Season 1 Episode 1 Pilot
to his last work, The Crazy Ones, he played a vast array of characters, you wonder how one man could portray so many others.

He came here to the island a few years ago, for the filming of Insomnia, and I remember reading about how much he liked being here and how everyone was so excited to meet him and just know that this amazing man had spent some time in our little part of the world.

I have to laugh because I once bought this crazy greeting card because of the little gnome character and thought was a great inspiration for a doll. When I got home, I realized that it reminded me of him. What do you think???

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Insomnia was at the top of my list of Robin Williams movies, along with Awakenings, Hook and more, but my favourite movie, albeit lesser known than all his others, is, “What Dreams May Come”. A dark movie for sure, but so different from others that he has done. The story is captivating and maybe not so far off his recent past.

What can I say about Robin Williams that millions of others won’t. A man who with his many wacky expressions and humour that was so pure and raw. What’s not to love about this man. True to his craft to entertain, bring laughter through his comedy and a multiple of emotions through all the different roles he played.Who could ever forget Mrs. Doubtfire.

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What a loss we now have. There will never be another Robin Williams. Some people are just so irreplaceable and he is by far one of those people.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Feral or Stray–that is the question

And the answer is, Stray. I’ve been tossing the word feral around to describe this beautiful little cat that has adopted us, but having now done some in depth reading, it’s now more apparent that Radar is not feral at all.

The term feral is used so often now, that anyone seeing a cat wandering around not appearing to belong anywhere must be feral. Not necessarily so. A friend sent me a link to the rescue group in her area of Pennsylvania and since reading on that site, the difference between feral and stray, I now “get” the difference between the two.

Quoting from Alley Cat Allies, a site I found last night, this is their definition of the difference between the two types of cats.

“Stray:

  • A stray cat is a cat who has been socialized to people at some point in her life, but has left or lost her domestic home, as well as most human contact and dependence.
  • Over time, a stray cat can become feral as her contact with humans dwindles.
  • Under the right circumstances, however, a stray cat can also become a pet cat once again. Stray cats that are re-introduced to a home after living outdoors may require a period of time to re-acclimate; they may be frightened and wary after spending time outside away from people. ·
  • Another definition that may help:
    - “A stray cat is a domestic cat that has been abandoned or has ‘strayed’ from home and become lost. Stray [cats] were once pets and they can usually be successfully rescued and placed in homes.” – Stray Cat Handbook

Feral:

  • A feral cat is a cat who has either never had any contact with humans or her contact with humans has diminished over time. She is fearful of people and survives on her own outdoors. A feral cat is not likely to ever become a lap cat or enjoy living indoors.
  • Kittens born to feral cats can be socialized at an early age and adopted into homes.
Why does it matter?
  • Stray cats can readjust to living with people and can be adopted as companions.
  • Adult feral cats are not socialized to people, which means they cannot be adopted. As a result, they are likely to be killed if picked up by animal control or brought to shelters, so it is in their best interest to continue living outdoors.
  • Stray and feral cats can be difficult to tell apart, especially when they are trapped or frightened. Scared stray cats often need time to relax and show their level of socialization. Learn more.
  • Trap-Neuter-Return takes into account each cat’s level (or degree) of socialization to determine the best environment for them. Feral cats are returned to their outdoor home after being trapped and neutered. Socialized cats and kittens can be adopted into homes.”

Radar is definitely not feral, he is just a sweet little boy who has had to “make” it outside for a very long time. Some people’s perceptions of cat ownership are different, but the bottom line to having a healthy loving and non aggressive cat is simple basic training and providing a safe and loving environment to call their home. They are no different than us, we all need to that sense of comfort and belonging.

Since he’s been with us, I’ve made up some toys for him. Toys are necessary to encourage play time. I’m in the process of making some cat nip mice. He has others that he flings up in the air and pounces on them.

He now knows that outside at night is no longer an option, he has a curfew of 10 pm and seems to have an internal clock to let him know it’s time to come in. He is getting better at sleeping through the night without that need to be out on the prowl.

He had a hacking cough when he first came back and I was worried that he might have asthma or a heart issue or something terrible, but then I noticed that he only seemed to do that at night. I came to the conclusion that it was a stress reaction. It appears that i was right, because the coughing has stopped and he isn’t panicking when he sees movements in the dark.

Lots of changes and in a positive way. One thing that I have been giving him at night to help, are these one a day chewies from our local pet store. Calming

He is going for his meet and greet with the vet soon, and am sure he will get the all clear.

If you live in the Pennsylvania area, this the site my friend sent me. The Hundred Cat Foundation and be sure to watch the video at the bottom of the main page.

There is also Jackson Galaxy who has a good handle on the felines in our lives.

So that’s the latest from my desk. Have a wonderful week…

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Special Finds

These are some things I found in the past week. I love these special finds, especially when you weren’t looking for them.

The first one was a real treasure. It measures approx. 10” wide and high. The price of $10 was so good I bought two of them. I have no idea which dolls will get to enjoy their new cozy sofa’s, but they are just perfect for someone.

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The added bonus to the sofa’s was that when you flip the top of it back, you find a secret compartment in the bottom. What fun to make a doll for a customer and then show them that they can put some kind of little treasures in there.

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The other things I found were these sweet beaded purses. My friend Jessica and I went for a walk the other day and the first thing we came across was a garage sale. I don’t normally stop, but these little purses were catching the morning sun and just beckoning me to come forward…lol

They measure just over 6” both ways. I have a couple of spots to fix up the beading, Once I check them over and secure any other weak spots, I can then take them apart and I’ll use the beaded fabric on my dolls. They would make beautiful bustiere’s, and maybe a flowing silk skirt to compliment that. I paid $2 each for them. What a find.

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When we passed by the garage sale again on the way home, Jessica spotted these in a free box and thought I could use them for my dolls, and I agreed. They are either key fobs or handles from purses which is more likely. I could see them being used for belts, or if done carefully, I bet I could even use them to make some pretty bling inspired boots.

Don’t you just love it when others are looking out for you, and helping to keep your stash healthy. Thanks Jessica. ;o)

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