tape love

I spent some time in New York looking for decorative tape.  I like to use it to jazz up my boxes when I ship out an order. I had no luck. Actually, it was worse then that- everyone acted like I was asking for something totally nuts! I tried the Japanese bookstore, Pearl River an oriental import store in Soho, Pearl Paint (art supply store), a paper store… well actually several.So, I came home, googled decorative tape and hit the jackpot at Archie McPhee- Hallelujah! Lucky me! I got tiki tape, sausage tape, cowboys, black cats, pirate tape, wacky rubber duckies and sushi tape. Probably a lifetime supply.

From my walk yesterday- winter bricks.

nyc report 3- purl

Next stop- Purl in Soho. You know, purl bee in real time?

I !LOVE! this store- it is so pretty and inspiring and they have all kinds of goodies that look so tempting to try. The glow from the window works like a magnet on me! Above is the fabric store- Purl Patchwork and below is the yarn store.

And, lucky, lucky me! I had a gift certificate!

I felt like a kid in a candy store. I binged on felt- 100% wool in beautiful colors. They sell bundles- 8 selected colors, 8 x 12, gorgeous… how could I resist. It’s like having that new box of crayons or the new paint box- such perfect colors! I also picked out some of the bigger sheets and one piece of the hand dyed woven wool. But that’s not all! I’ve been meaning to get a copy of Jane Brocket’s book and there it was- perfect, onto the pile. And then to finish it off, some pearl cotton in my favorite colors- I’ve never seen them before and can’t wait to try them. Underneath it all is a canvas bag which I will happily be carrying my projects around in. Everyone can be jealous that I got to shop at Purl!

notes on stuffing

When I post photos of a doll that I really like, it is hard to do the next post and push it down towards the bottom of the page!

Some notes on stuffing. I am very particular about the stuffing I use. I am brand loyal for the most part. I want to know what I am dealing with when I open a new bag. One of my craft mantras is “limit your variables”. In other words, get to know your materials and happily experiment, but don’t be adding so many new things all the time that if something goes wrong, you won’t be able to identify what is the problem.

The first thing I learned about stuffing is that there are 2 varieties of polyester type stuffing. One type feels bouncy, slippery or oily- those are different ways I’ve heard it described. No matter how much you stuff a piece, it will still be squeezable. I think this is probably good for kids toys and pillows. It is what is most available at the big craft supply stores. I use a different kind. It feels “dry” to me, not slippery. You can stuff a piece rock hard with it. You can make a creature stand on it’s legs using this type of stuffing. When I was making dolls with painted body parts, I could stuff them hard enough that I never worried about paint cracking. If you are in a store and the bags of stuffing have finger holes poked into them, you can be sure that someone was trying to figure out which kind of stuffing was in the bag.

I use Super Fluff, by Buffalo Batt. It comes in a loose roll and the fibers are combed in one direction so I can pull long tufts of it off the roll when I am stuffing a doll.

I’ve been stuffing more of my dolls with wool batt from West Earl Woolen Mills. I found the wool batting handled very much like the Super Fluff. I was happy. The top wool fluff is from my order of last September.

The lower wool is from the more recent batch I got.

Okay, so here is my current aggravation.  I have bought new supplies of both types of stuffing in recent months- 20 pounds of wool, 40 pounds of Super Fluff. I have started using them and imagine my surprise- both types of stuffing have changed… humph. You’d think that a highly manufactured item like polyester stuffing would be consistent over the years. The new batch is not as soft and somehow seems less refined. Is anybody else using Super Fluff? Have you noticed it? I am sure I will get used to it, but it was an unexpected surprise.

The wool is very different. In a natural product so it is not so unexpected. The 5 pounds I bought in September must have been some of the last of the domestic wool. The new order is from the Australian wool. The new wool is much softer, whiter and the fibers are longer… all sounds good, right? Well, it is very different to work with. The old wool stuffed like the polyester and the new wool just doesn’t. So, there will be a readjustment and a learning curve.

And here is another kind of stuffing I’ve tried- Back in September I asked if anyone knew about reclaimed wool stuffing. It seemed like an obvious product to me. Thank you to Lisa who left a comment on the post and directed me to a source.

Here is a photo of the recycled wool fiber-

I was able to use it for some of the cushion/pillow type dolls- like the tikis. It wouldn’t be good for small detail stuffing but worked fine for bigger things. There are 2 reasons that I won’t be ordering more. The main reason is that shipping it from Portland (area) Oregon to Boston (area) Massachusetts adds so much to the cost that it is prohibitive. The other (lesser) reason is that it is messy. The tiny wool bits got on everything. Actually the new wool is pretty messy too- I am working on that. Get out the sticky paper fuzz picker-upper.

The last kind of stuffing I use is a homemade kind- my wool scraps from projects-

I don’t use them in all the dolls, but when I do, it adds a nice firmness and weight- good in the swaddled babies, for instance. I just put a handful in the core and surround it by softer stuffing.

tattoo man 3c

I am hoping to have 6 done by Monday and then post them all on Etsy.  Here they are, in progress, this morning.

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I got one finished today-

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I thought I’d ruined him with the acrylic wash, but I love how he turned out.

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Vintage bias tape, rick rack and snap belt-

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Back view-

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I finished him at about 5:30 pm and then took him outside to photograph.  The light was just right and I got lots of photos that I really liked- not the usual situation- hurray!

threading needles

Who needs fireworks!  This is a beautiful asiatic lily, amazingly not devoured by red lily beetles.

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And this is my new tool/toy-  a needle threader from Clover.  I am loving it.  And yes, I can usually make it work with one or two strands of cotton embroidery floss.  Wool crewel, no.

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It looks like I will be in Ithaca, New York in 2 weeks.  Anybody out there?  Any recommendations?

slow motion

Things seem to be moving slowly around here. It was incredibly hot for a few days, better today. Also, Eleanor is home from Cape Town- horray! I am working on this female version of a robot, a fembot I guess. A number of people suggested that my dalek inspired robot was female- I thought I would try to do it on purpose. She is coming along slowly. She is of the Rosie school of robot.

robot 7

Some random robot parts on my desk-

desk

and a tool I already had but just discovered works really well with the wool and felt-

tools

It is a hole punch. I bought it to use when putting in eyelets. You hit it with a hammer. Perfect little holes!

wool flower

flower

I got a few more of these sizzix punches on Mothers Day. I made the flower with a heart and little circle punch. I backed it with a cut-out called “Sun”- a notched circle. I was having all sorts of trouble with the sun punch and then I realized it was defective- the cutting blade was upside-down. Now I have to go return/exchange it, which sort of takes the fun out of getting new toys- humph!

cutting circles

Sometimes I just have to give it a break…

mess

I’ve been struggling with this Robot 2 to try to get “arms” that I like. My desk is piled up with rejected parts. Time to do something else.

Some of the tools I use for cutting circles out of felt and wool-

sizzix

A while back I bought a sizzix’s cutter to try, not realizing I needed a kit to use it properly. I was a little reluctant to spend more then $20 on something that might not even work. I cut my risk by buying it on ebay for a lot less. Anyway, it turns out it is great! It cut the felt very cleanly. You can place the cutter anywhere on the fabric and then you hammer it to cut through and get the shapes. It is easy to cut 2 at a time. I haven’t tried more layers then that. I wonder how long the individual cutters will stay sharp.

Here are some of the other less successful tools I use-

bigpunch

I have bought several of this type of punch, but the small, inexpensive ones don’t work at all. This one is pretty good. The problem with it is that you have to squeeze the felt into a slot to punch- this often causes a misshapen circle. Also, it limits the felt to the thinner pieces. It does not cut completely cleanly, but that is easy to fix by going over the circle with scissors.

handpunch

This paper punch is one of many that I use. As you can see, it also doesn’t cut a nice clean circle out of the felt. I have to trim them out and I’m not very good at it when I am doing the smaller sizes (1/4″). I know the sizzix comes in a 1/4 inch circle so I will probably buy one of those.

I like using repeating shapes to decorate the dolls. If you know of some other good shape and/or die cutters that work well, I’d love to hear about them.

tools and toys

these are probably my most important tools-

my sewing machine- Bernina 930, bought used a few years ago-

machine

I also have a Bernina Nova that I use when I am doing a lot of sewing- I thread it up with black and just use it for that.

My scissors and forceps (hemostats).

tools

I get at least one pair of my scissors sharpened once a year- that way I can usually find at least one sharp pair! The little scissors are so sharp right now that I have to be careful not to cut myself. Sharp scissors make any project easier. I use my forceps all the time- I use them for stuffing, for clamping, for turning fabrics, for pulling out tiny threads that I can’t pinch with my fingers and so much more. They are easy to get on ebay if you want to get a cheap pair.

I’ve been getting the supplies together for my gourd head doll class. That means I’ve been shopping for art materials. That means I’ve been tempted, and have succumbed, to new toys ahh… I mean tools!

stuff

I am always a sucker for buttons. My latest search has been for tools that will cut out a nice circle from felt. When I combine my circles with one of my favorite toys, my scallop edged pinking shears, I can get all kinds of fun shapes.

scallops

And, I couldn’t resist when I saw that floss was on sale…

floss

tools and techniques

I’ve been thinking for a long time that I want to put up a free pattern on my blog. Then, I get overwhelmed at the idea. So, I’ve decided to try doing it in baby steps. First I will post about the tools I use. Let’s see how far I get with this- ha!

The first tool is my camera- I just got a new one, a Canon A610. So far I am very happy with it. I had a Nikon 5400 before and was never able to get it to take photos the way I wanted- I thought I was inept until I read all the reviews on Amazon and realized a lot of other people had the same focus issues that I did- phew. This new camera makes this project seem a lot more doable.

This is my light box- my newest favorite tool-

light box

it is one of the many things I picked up from my parents house in the big clear out. It is an old x-ray viewing unit. I use it to make patterns which always seem to involve a lot of tracing. And here is what I am often tracing onto- freezer paper-

freezer paper

This is an old roll that I also got from the parents house, but it is available in supermarkets in the US. I have heard it is called deli paper in other parts of the world. It is paper on one side and plastic on the other.

What I love about freezer paper-
-It sticks to your fabric by ironing it on- Any fabric from bulky felted sweaters to slippery light silky stuff.
-You don’t have to worry about seam allowances.
-You can reuse the same piece several times- I usually ruin the paper before it gets to the point where it won’t stick to the fabric anymore.
-It is cheap so it’s not precious.

sewing

Freezer paper saves a lot of frustration from patterns slipping around. I always use it for my wool dolls. The photo of the hands show another tool I use a lot- the darning foot for my sewing machine. When I make the hands for my wool dolls, I do a free-motion embroidered outline on the machine. Then cut close to the stitching, around the edge.

hand

That’s all for today- any questions?