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1  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Amka the Ijiraq (Inuit Shape Shifter) Art Doll on: May 29, 2019 12:43:51 PM

Meet Amka! I made her for cmarion3 in the most recent Art Doll Swap. Among other cool things, my partner listed "raven/crows," "tall, gangly artsy women," and "fantastical creatures" as themes she was hoping for, along with mentioning a love of earthy colors. I decided to bring these all together for this doll, which gave me the opportunity to build an art doll from scratch with techniques and materials and styles I had NEVER worked with before! I took my inspiration from the indigenous cultures of the American Pacific Northwest (the Inuit, the Tlingit, the Haida, and others). They incorporate ravens, and wings, and masks, and flowing clothing so often into their traditional dances, and that's where my brain went. Here's my original sheet of inspiration images from a variety of cultures!

After extensive research, and sketching, and planning, but before I got started, I gave a her a name, a personality, and a little story to help guide the process (I did tweak it a bit when I was finished crafting, but not much!):

Please meet Amka, an Inuit name meaning one with a friendly spirit. She is an Ijiraqa wild shapeshifter from Inuit myth. Her species can be dangerous, but also playful, curious, or even helpful. Amka loves dancing more than anything and often changes into a girl so she can sneakily join the Raven dances in the many cultures that span the Alaskan and Canadian coast. She incorporates art from the Inuit, Tlingit, Haida, and others as she goes. Shes a bit young and inexperienced, though, so she confuses the dancing masks for parts of the people, which is why she seems to be growing her own! Please take good care of her, and dont forget to share your favorite dances with her, too!

For this doll to really live up to my vision, I got stuck on pose-ability. All my previous cloth art dolls have been button-jointed, so they can pose but not stand or hold poses on their own, and I wanted to do that differently. Clearly, she needed an internal skeleton of some kind. (Insert hours of fun rabbit-hole research on doll and puppet jointing systems...) After tons of craft wire experimentation and breakage, I settled on galvanized picture wire from Home Depot! The stuff is SOLID! Holds shape, holds weight, bends reasonably easily, and still doesn't snap after extensive bending in the same place. I wrapped the wire around itself to build her armature.

In order to pad her out, I began wrapping her skeleton with long strips of regular doll batting. If you are careful when you pull it out of the bag, you can unroll it into filmy sheets, which I then tore into strips. Her chest shape is supported with two wired-on wooden beads, so it won't collapse, and her hips, thighs, and behind were made of more tightly rolled fiber fill.

I added thinner wire armatures for fingers and wrapped them in the same manner, using much thinner strips.

Once her fleshed out skeleton was complete, I began building her "skin" from a random, unidentified fabric I found at Walmart! It was a 4-way stretch knit with a suede-like texture on one side, and since she's only passing herself off as human, I thought it was a soothing color and feel. It was also surprisingly cooperative to machine sew, which I wasn't expecting.

I traced her limbs onto paper, then used that to cut out a folded rectangle of fabric, then sewed around the paper pattern pinned to the material. After the stitching was done, I cut out the "skin socks" and pulled them on her like stockings! At each joint, I folded the raw edge under and whip-stitched the fabric to her batting layer.

Hands up to put your torso on!  Cheesy Fortunately, she is VERY flexible, so she was able to contort herself to get into all the tight spaces of her final skin piece, which I then tacked down using invisible joins. I was delighted to see how well the mystery fabric hid all the finishing stitches!

I wasn't sure originally if she was going to be fully humanoid or not, but in the end I decided that she would have the traditional style dancing mask for her whole head! I used bake-able Fimo in an off-white color to sculpt her head based on this specific Tlingit dance mask: http://www.thecobbs.com/auction-2015-11-15-lot-29.html. After baking, I gave it a few coats of acrylic paint and then sealed it several times! I used E6000 to secure her head to her neck; this is the only part of her that isn't completely pose-able, but we must make some sacrifices for beauty. Wink

In order to have realistic animal hide clothes, I went to the Auto department of Walmart and bought a giant piece of chamois! It's cute and sewed very easily, and I will definitely consider using it for suede-look doll clothes again. I free-handed the pattern pieces for the skirt and bodice, and then hand-embroidered them in a variety of free-form shapes.

In order to make the fringe on her garments - a must for any dancer! - I very carefully hand-cut individual strips from the bottom of each skirt piece. This took quite a while, but was also strangely relaxing!  Grin

Her final garment is her Chilkat blanket, a traditional Tlingit item of clothing for royalty and dancing. It's supposed to be a woven garment, with the extended warp/weft pieces creating the fringe, but needs must! I made the body of the blanket first from chamois again, and used Sharpie markers to free-hand the expanded raven design on it; it's a simplified raven face from blankets I found online, crossed with the wing patterns you see on the inspiration sheet dancers. Once I was happy with the art, I sewed on additional chamois shapes around the edges, and then hand-cut the appropriate fringe.

And here she is in all her glory, showing off how well she can pose and dance! She can even hold things in her fingers.

A final look at her front:

And at her back:

I absolutely loved making her. It was an exciting and unique set of challenges and learning steps all around. I am delighted that she has now gone to live in such a wonderful, inviting home. Cheesy
2  MISCELLANEOUS TOPICS / Completed Projects / Ukranian Wax-Resist Egg Dyeing - Pysanky on: May 28, 2019 02:08:16 PM

Since finding this craft online a couple years ago, I've always wanted to try it, but I wasn't in a place to just be able to buy all the tools. Imagine my delight when I found out that the Quilt Shop where I do my charity sewing group also hosts a lady who teaches Ukrainian egg dyeing throughout the year! I dragged a couple of my friends along, and we signed up and took the class. It was careful, thoughtful work, but not too difficult.

You can tell that it takes a lot of practice to make neat, straight lines, and soft, evenly spaced spirals, like on the teacher's eggs, shown here:

You start off by scraping beeswax into your variously sized styluses, and then dragging them lightly over the surface of the eggs to leave designs. Then you dip dye in your lightest color.

You add more wax to your egg anywhere you want to keep that color, then dip into the next color of dye. Repeat until you reach the darkest color, often black, but also red or blue or any other dark jewel tone.

Once you are done with all your dyes, you carefully hold the egg in a candle flame to melt the wax, slowly turning it and wiping it until all the wax is gone.

We finished our eggs with a pour-on varnish, which is less traditional but works very well! We didn't blow our eggs, but over the next several months, the insides will dry out and harden.

Here are my two beautiful eggs displayed on my mantel. Not bad for someone who's never done it before, and doesn't have a lot in the way of 2D art skills. I would happily try this art form again. It was so fun!
3  CRAFTING FOR GOOD AND NOT EVIL / Crafty Charitable/Social Causes / Pretty Skirts for "Crafting Comfort" on: May 22, 2019 05:47:52 AM

These are two of the skirts I helped finish for the local sewing charity "Crafting Comfort." They partner with SAFE Alliance, which is a combo of women's and children's services for victims of violence, abuse, abandonment, and more. These skirt were going to their service for free nurse-provided forensic exams for rape victims. Since their clothes would be taken as evidence, this gives the nurse volunteers some pretty clothes (they also give out soft t-shirts, but those are purchased and donated) to give to the women after the exams that they can wear home and keep. The emphasis was on comfortable fit and cheery fabrics.

The skirts are simple 4-gore trumpet skirts, and the pieces were already cut and serged together in a previous work session. I made casings, ran the elastic through, sewed the hems, and added sizing tags. I completed 4 in the 2 hours I was there. Smiley Other ladies worked on fabric grocery bags, drawstring bags for children's toiletries, soft sleep masks, or chemo camisoles (to hold the pumps/ports).

I love sewing with this group. I don't get to go every time they meet, but they are always super welcoming. Everything is provided, including the machines, so you just show up and sew! This time, one of my best friends went with me, and they were happy to have her jump right in, too! A wonderful time and a wonderful cause to support.
4  CROCHET / Crochet: Completed Projects / Crocheted Button Flower Hair Clips on: May 16, 2019 11:46:02 AM

I have had links to this kind of crocheted flower, made directly into a button's holes, saved for years, but never had a reason to make them. Then, they popped up on the Pinterest page of my Angel Swap partner, and she mentioned that she liked wearing single hair clips, so no matching sets needed. YES! Perfect opportunity. Smiley I used the following pattern as a guide, although I made several adjustments for the size of my thread/how I wanted them to look: https://thecrochetcrowd.com/crochet-button-flower/

The tiny bow is made from this pattern: https://daisycottagedesigns.net/crochet-bow-tie-pattern/

For the big flower, I crocheted into the back of the main flower to add the second layer of contrasting petals. Each metal snap clip is covered with embroidery floss using a buttonhole stitch; I found the bright silver detracted from the overall design. All the decorations are also various embroidery flosses, and I got to use my favorite teeny-tiny antique crochet hook.  Grin

I'm so glad she enjoyed getting them! They were fun to make and not terribly complex, although rather time-consuming since I decided to cover the clips and all. Worth it!  Cheesy
5  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Dala Dachshunds Ornament on: May 09, 2019 08:28:08 AM

I've loved the style of Dala Horses ever since getting Kirsten Larson's Craft Book from the American Girl series as a kid, but I never made the craft (partially because I don't really care much about horses or the color red or model painting).

Last year, for the annual ornament swap I do with my coworker's mom, though, I decided to revisit it as an embroidery project...in blue...with a dog.  Grin She breeds dachshunds, and also my co-worker has one, so I thought it was appropriate!

I found free dog clip-art online and used that to trace the body pattern, and then I free-handed the pieces for the saddle and straps. I used DMC embroidery floss for all the stitching, in regular colors and metallic silver. I thought the blue scheme was appropriate for winter. Smiley I also added some little pearl beads I had in my stash for the collar. It was a good opportunity for me to brush up on my stitching (I free-handed the date on the reverse side in back-stitch!), and this was the first time I've ever been successful with a french knot! I whip-stitched the two halves together to hide all the loose ends.

I love how this came out, and she ADORED it! Every year we up our game, so who knows what will happen this year. Now I want to make more of these in different colors and animals... Cheesy
6  NEEDLEWORK / Needlework: Completed Projects / Soot Sprite Hoopla on: May 07, 2019 12:58:41 PM

Now that the recipient of this project has received it, I can post it! This was my first-ever Hoopla--something I didn't really know existed as a thing until this message board. Although, now that I think of it, I had a childhood one with a Bible verse and flowers done in embroidery and cross stitch in my bedroom.

My recipient, kartiana, had a TON of cool things all over her Etsy/Pinterest favorites, so it was super hard to choose. In the end, my love of Spirited Away and konpeito (the little star-shaped Japanese sugar candies) won out, along with the excitement of getting to use one of the super-small hoops I've been hoarding for theoretical Christmas crafts.

The Hoopla serving as inspiration on her Pin appears to be this one: https://www.deviantart.com/loveandasandwich/art/Soot-Sprite-Embroidery-246552710

As you can see, it is a normal size. For me, CUTER IS BETTER! So tiny-hoop it is. Of course this meant that I spent a while drawing and re-drawing super tiny patterns, and cutting things out with the very tips of my scissors. Cheesy Everything is then held down with a tiny little running stitch. I used basic back-stitch for the limbs and tendrils, and colonial knots (not French!) for the pupils in the eyes. Wink

Since she likes orange, I thought this cheery tangerine polka dot was a good substitute for the red fabric in the original.

So. Many. Stars! I made more than I ended up using, since I wanted to be able to play with colors and placements.

While I still have a ways to go in terms of neat starting/ending threads, this is probably the neatest embroidery project I've ever managed!

And here it is all finished front and back. I had a fun orange felt in my stash, and used it to free-hand embroider my Craftster handle and the year for the back. I then added a ribbon hanger, just in case she needs it (rather than hanging it on a nail, or whatnot). Overall, I am delighted with how these little guys came out, and I hope she enjoys looking at them! Grin
7  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Baby Groot's Nostalgic Easter Outfit on: May 03, 2019 10:36:51 AM

Remember the days when all kids got special (frequently home sewn) outfits for Easter? I lost those privileges after I dragged a white dress through an oil slick while looking at the pretty "rainbows" and also used my Easter hat for a Frisbee, but hey, Baby Groot is a good boy all around, so he deserved one!  Grin This particular figure is a 1:1 (literally the realistic scale for the one from Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 film), and he's been with me for about a year. He gets dressed in many various outfits and toted around for amusing photo ops in pretty places (I don't have kids or pets, so he's the very cooperative substitute).

I've wanted to make Groot his own Aloha Shirt/Hawaiian shirt since I got him, but didn't have time to do it before going to Hawaii in January (although I WAS able to buy him one there for photos--it came from a souvenir stuffed bear). Easter seemed a good reason to finish the project, and in a fit of sudden motivation I made the entire outfit on Good Friday after work!

This particular outfit is not only 100% self-drafted and handmade, but very personal. My Dad has worn Hawaiian shirts to work for most of my life, and this tiny shirt is made from the shirt I have the strongest memories of him wearing when I was a kid. It was damaged at some point and ended up in the garbage bin with tiny holes all over it (I think soda spilled on it). I rescued it and saved it for craft projects!

After measuring and drawing my patterns, I used the pre-sewn hems of the shirt, and cut out my little pattern pieces from places that had the nicest motifs. I constructed it flat, and then sewed the side seams, which I have found to be much easier than doing set-in sleeves, sewing at this scale!

Since this is a doll-sized shirt, it was important to me to have to-scale buttons and closures, without the large gap that usually happens when you sew snaps or Velcro to something this size. I experimented and realized that by using thread loops (make 2-3 long stitches over the same space, then cover them with buttonhole stitch) and the hook half of a hook-and-eye set, I could get it to meet perfectly without gapping, so it looks like it's actually buttoned! I was so pleased that it worked. Smiley

Dad almost always wore khaki slacks with this shirt, so Baby Groot needed some, too. These are made from some random stash fabric, and have an elastic waistband; I spent a while adjusting the bottoms so he could get his feet through but not looking like he was swimming in fabric. All the seams on the inside of both pieces have been finished with tight zigzag stitches, so these little suckers are totally miniature clothing, capable of standing up to actual wear and tear.

And here's the final outfit, just before I packed him up to go to my parents' house for the holiday. When I saw him dressed up, I had such a wash of childhood nostalgia I actually teared up a bit! And then when I showed him to my parents, THEY DID, TOO!  Cheesy Baby Groot in his cute clothing is now perched on a bookcase in my living room, beaming at me.

8  TOYS, DOLLS AND PLAYTHINGS / Toys, Dolls and Playthings: Completed Projects / Kimono Self Portrait Art Doll on: April 25, 2019 11:17:45 AM

I made this doll as a birthday present for my Dad in 2011, after I had returned home from living in Japan for 2 years (I taught English at an eikaiwa/language school). While I lived there, I accumulated quite the collection of vintage and second-hand kimonos and kimono accessories. One of my favorite stores also sold scrap pieces of kimonos that had been too damaged to sell whole. I loved going through those color-coded bins of silks and wools and cottons. This doll's clothing is not only 100% percent accurate for dressing (no cheats were used, like fake obi bows or faux sleeve linings -- she is dressed from the undergarments out in a full replica of a human kimono set...because I am apparently a crazy person...) but also made entirely from remnants of actual worn kimonos and yukatas in various kinds of silks and cottons.

This beautiful little lady (who, yes, has my face profile just like the Hula Portrait Art Doll) took well over 25 hours, and another 1-2 hours just to dress! All her layers are tied on properly for traditional Japanese wafuku standards, and her obi is properly wrapped and hand tied; it  even has a small plastic scrap tucked down the front to keep it from wrinkling in imitation of a real person's.

Her hair is made from hand-sewn/tied embroidery floss and then actually french braided around her head and finally sewn in place. Her flower kanzashi hair ornament was also made from kimono silks, as were her tiny zori slippers. I cheated only on the tabi socks, as they are sewn onto her legs as her feet, but I did rework the original foot pattern to give her a proper split toe so she could actually wear her shoes.

Dad was absolutely floored. *heart* The doll lives happily at my parents' house on the same shelf as her Hula "sister."

(I did also make the origami here and bring back the rabbit bell from Japan, but I did not make the Hawaiian dance implements--those came from a Hawaiian craft fair many years ago)
9  MORE ART, LESS CRAFT / More Art, Less Craft: Completed Works / Watercolor Turtle Petroglyphs on: April 25, 2019 08:55:13 AM
This was my first foray into painting as an adult, and pretty much the last, too!  Grin Sometime I'd like to go back and try the same technique with different images of my own design. These pieces were all given as gifts, as they are directly inspired by some of the the paintings of Hawaiian artist Cindy Conklin. Several years ago, my parents and I visited the Volcano Art Center on the Big Island of Hawaii and saw her series: "Turtle Squares." My mother adores honu (Hawaiian for sea turtle) art, but was unable to swing the (understandably) very high price of the original art pieces (no prints of this series were available until several years later).

For Mother's Day that year, I taught myself through a series of experiments how to reproduce the technique--trial and error, baby!--and presented her with the below set of 4 tiles in her favorite colors. The look on her face when she thought I'd snuck behind her back and spent that kind of money was PRICELESS!  Cheesy Clearly, she thought they were original, which delighted me. I made sure that on the back of all the frames, there is a clear note indicating the origin of the art style/idea and artist's name, should anyone see the pieces and want one. I also produced at least 7 other tiles in different colors, mostly so she could swap out, if she wanted, but they eventually became gifts for other people.

To do these paintings, I first hand-tore heavy textured paper from a notebook I had on hand into rough squares. Then, I spray-coated each with artist fixing spray (left over from a college course on forensic art...). Next, I added a wash of the chosen background colors over each full square using basic artist watercolor paint and a sponge brush and allowed them to dry over night. The following day, I painted the petroglyph turtle outlines first, then traced around them with more paint, and filled in all the blank areas before the outlines could dry. Finally, after another 12 hours of total drying, I added a final coat of finishing spray to seal.

The main project: the 4 tile, framed art piece for my Mother. She chose the 4 colors she wanted (interestingly enough, the exact 4 I had picked for her, although we shuffled the order around a few times before I fixed them to the matting)

Two of the additional paper tiles I made. The light blue one is in a shadow box style frame, so there is about an inch between the art and the glass. My mother picked the frame, which came with the burlap backing, and I affixed the Hawaiian lava chunk and lava tube, as well. The orange one is framed on a plain black mat in a regular black frame, and it sits on my work desk next to a couple other orange things. My grandmother also received one just like this, but her tile was shades of red (her favorite color); it's now with my Uncle since she passed away. My Dad has the final set, which is a double vertical tile set in a single black frame/mat combo, in shades of blues and purples. Smiley

I love these things (they are actually quite a bit brighter in person), and every time I see them, I'm reminded how pleased and surprised she was.  Smiley
10  OCCASIONS AND HOLIDAYS / Easter / Swirled Easter Eggs with Sharpies! on: April 18, 2019 07:48:39 AM
Last night I had a random crafting bug, and remembered I had 2-3 dozen blown egg shells from a couple years ago that I had never done anything with! A couple web searches for things I could do with items I already had around my house and this won.

I used this tutorial: https://happyhooligans.ca/tie-dye-easter-eggs-sharpies-alcohol/

Even not quite knowing what I was doing yielded very attractive results, and I plan to get more Sharpies today so I can make more colors. Also, I decided to use my Dremel to make a pretty pattern on the one I made for my parents (again, something I bought the diamond dust bits for at least 2 years ago, but never did).

**A couple notes about Dremel-ing egg shells: 1. Wear a mask of some kind; that dust is very breathable; 2. Buy the right bits; the ones from the hardware store will not cut it for this kind of project - the cracked egg that I used for my tests is the result of a normal bit from a couple years ago**

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