It was about a year ago I brought home a Living Dead Doll, Hush, from my local Hobby Off and opened her baggie to be assaulted with the stench of nicotine. I wrote about scrubbing and scrubbing to remove the nicotine stains.
Eventually I got her down to an ivory white. She’d never be the same pink as her unexposed vinyl but it was good enough…then I waited for inspiration. She came to me in the form of Little Miss Muffet.
Little Miss Muffet was never actually made by Mezco Toyz, unlike Little Bo Creep. What struck me about her was that she was dressed like me. Maybe not the make-up and the tiny tie but everything else looked like it could have come from my closet.
I decided to make me.
Hush’s hair was string and smelled. It had to go. I started re-rooting her with strands of red and brown 100¥ shop acrylic yarn until I had a version of my bangs/fringe and ponytail.
In the last year I have discovered the wonder of buying glasses on-line. I’ve worn glasses since third-grade and needed them even earlier than that. Contacts aren’t easy for me to wear. Hard/semi-permeable contacts can handle my stigmatism but have caused scratches and pains in the past. Two week disposables can mostly handle my stigmatism but not perfectly and my eyes get itchy..I wear them for dance performances and little else.
For years buying good frames with the latest “as thin and humanly possible” lenses mean spending high hundreds of dollars…so I’d stick with the same frames for 4-6 years. Now for the first time I have one “safe/formal” pair of lenses that looks like my last pair (but with updated prescription) and two rather cartoonish over-sized frames…like the ones pictured above. My me would need glasses.
I had seen some doll sized glasses in a gochagocha machine a few months back and went to Akihabara and on Mercari to score some being resold.
Now, my doll has three pairs to choose from as well. the arms of the frames were too long so I had to snip them, drill to insert wire into the ends of the arms, and create newer “ear loops” with Apoxi sculpt….which I don’t appear to have photographed.
I’m glad I found oversized frames for her. I’ve drawn a cartoon version of myself with over-sized lenses since mid-college. Without the frames her face looks a little too sweet.
That’s one of the huge takeaways I’ve had with this. Remove the make-up from your average Living Dead Doll sculpt and it’s a very traditional looking base.
Face almost finished it was time to dress me up!
Someone in a doll customizing group suggested that 1/6 Yo-SD shoes would work for LDD dolls. So when I found these…which are nearly identical to a pair I wore in late college (except mine had a pink nose and pink inner ears) I bought them
I haven’t written for a while but I sure as hell have been making things.
You see, my friends and I were hit with not one but two sociopaths this summer. We didn’t know about #summerofscammers until after the devastation. We’re petitioning that if there is a destructive human force NEXT summer that someone send us the hashtag memo earlier.
One total fucking horrible person is in my hometown and we’re awaiting his trial. I won’t get into details because they suck. Suffice to say these both came to a head within four days of each other in late May.What happened in my hometown affected many people, some of whom I will never meet, many of whom I know…and my friend Emily.
And, honest to fucking god, I asked myself: is there a doll I can make to help?
I meant it jokingly. As in “What the fuck can I even do in the face of this? I customize dolls. ”
In reality I’m coming to know what skills I can provide in these times: listening skills, trying to hold space for people’s feelings, gathering/sharing information and networking friends. I’m also learning some of my limits after the fact…I’m glad I had friends there for me at the times this summer that I broke down.
I, secretly, started making Emily a doll.
My hands need things to do. I need to be creating objects. It counter balances so much of the mental and physical energy I expend even in smooth times. When things get crazy, less essential ways of coping…like writing this blog…fall away but I still need to be making things.
I had a doll. I’d purchased it at Dollyteria in Ikebukuro on my birthday in April. It was naked, in a baggie, had already once been repainted, and needed a new body. You know I have extra bodies and dolls just laying around in my craft room.
I neglected to take a full body shot because sometimes when I need to make things I don’t slow down and document it all. I NEEDED to make this.
I spent a LOT of time feeling like Emily’s stalker. Looking at her Facebook photos over many years. REALLY LOOKING AT THEM. HI, EMILY CAN YOU FEEL ME STARING AT YOU?
Her make-up routine is generally very dramatic dark eyes with winged liner and a fairly light lip. Emily often has a pink of light blue/green hair streak. There was NO WAY I was going to try and transfer all her tattoos.
I went wig shopping online at Dollyteria again and found a black/pink wig that would work.
I removed the existing face with rubbing alcohol/ paint thinner. Then I primed it and set to work. I added some blush with chalk pastels. Set that. Then started the layers of watercolor pencils, acrylic, and more chalk pastels.
You probably noticed Emily’s eyes. If you don’t get those right you don’t have an Emily doll. I found a good match at BeBeBlytheCo on Etsy and ordered them.
Almost finished. Later I cleaned up the inner eye
By this time I also had planned a two-week trip to America in mid to late August. I haven’t been to see friends on the East coast in…um…18 years. I’d see friends in a few different cities and then Emily and I would meet up in Philadelphia. Philadelphia is neither my home town nor hers…we wanted a city so we could just be someplace together and hang out. Talk about things that needed to be talked about when they came up and just have fun when it was time to just have fun.
I had a deadline. I wanted to surprise her with the doll in America when I saw her.
That left the problem of clothing.
Emily’s aethetic is deeply Victorian Gothic….but it’s not how she dresses in daily life. She’s also been very rockabily styled but those items haven’t been in rotation for a while. Comfortable jeans and a pullover hoodie didn’t really suit the doll I was making.
I started looking turning to Gothic Victorian styled dolls, Tim Burton, and Helena Bonham Carter for inspiration. I talked to my friend Ebony about it as well. Ebony’s also heavily goth inspired and has come to know Emily a bit through me and FB. Ebony suggested I add Penny Dreadful to my inspiration files.
Fun Fact: I promptly watched the WHOLE three seasons while working on the doll. This means I’ve seen one episode more than Emily. Emily has, in a desire for the story not to end, abstained from watching the final episode.
Bonus; Penny Dreadful has a whole DOLL thing going on in the third season. I was on the RIGHT TRACK.
I visited Shinjuku Okadaya (fabric and trims) for some fabrics…I still not was sure on what I would make. I also had a small supply of Ebony’s “spoooooky fabric scraps”.
At some point during all of this Emily and I had one of many a video chat session. At some point she had to turn off her camera to answer a call and I put one of my many dolls in front of the video screen to greet her when she returned. This lead to a tour of some of my dolls. The last time I saw her in person she’d been intensely curious about the dolls and when she got video introductions to some of them she was quite excited about their existance and my art…knowing nothing of the fact she’d be getting one. Another sign I was on the RIGHT TRACK.
Fun Fact: Emily used to be afraid of dolls.
I tried to draft my own doll corset but I soon found the deadline to America coming up too soon. I turned to my doll clothing pattern books. I have a fair collection now because JAPAN. I decided I’d modify the “Autumn” dress for my needs.
First up was the skirt. I love layering fabrics to make simple textiles look more lush. The skirt is a Halloween fabric layered over burgundy/wine silk. Spiders became my animal motif not unlike Vannesa in Penny Dreadful has scorpions as a leitmotif. I used an Obitsu body for her new body (her old body had floppy arms)
I decided she needed earrings. I asked Ebony if I could raid her stash knowing FULL WELL she stocks up on Halloween earrings and charms. Ebony came through when I visited her. The doll’s earrings are: Spider studs I added chains and web and cross charms to…all from Ebony’s stash.
But wait…there’s more!
I could have stopped but I decided to make a veil…
Which she can exchange for her clip on fascinator (which can also be clipped into the hair of her owner)…and I put a tiny spider clasp on the cloak.
She then was carefully wrapped and placed into a wooden wine box I’d also been given by Ebony. When I arrived in America I swapped the fleece wrapping fabric I’d used for some halloween fabric I bought at JoAnne’s
On August 25th my friend Rook (who I’ve made a doll for before) and I picked up Emily at the airport in Philedelphia. We went back to were we were staying (after a stop in which we actually bought more dolls…more on that later) and I told her I had a gift for her.
She had NO clue, the long wooden box did not tip her off.
I’m taking my Sunday to make a free tutorial. Why am I working for free? I’ve benefited from SO many online free tutorials that I’d like to give back.
Please don’t hesitate to give me feedback on what needs to be tweeked…or show me pictures if you use this.
Disclaimer: No one wants to read a story before a tutorial, they want to get the info, so my struggles will not be documented but know THEY EXISTED.
Disney’s Animator’s Collection Moana has a different body size from the other Animator’s collection dolls. She’s wider in the tummy and chest. This is adorable but renders closely fitted dresses the other dolls wear too small. That’s why I made this. Her size shouldn’t limit play.
Here are links to PDF’s I made with the bare bones pattern. Let me know if there are issues with my links or PDF’s. I don’t have a printer at home.
The seam allowance is 1cm. I use centimeters in this tutorial because I live in Japan and it’s what I use everyday.
The pattern shows the front panels of the wrap dress and the back. Not pictured is the skirt because you’ll just be cutting a rectangle 62cm wide and 13cm long.
Let’s get started
Top: I’m using the red polka dot fabric for the outer fabric and the light blue for the lining. You don’t need to use a different colored fabric for the lining.
The reason I line these is because it will protect the raw seams. These dolls are for kids and kids are dirty. The things they play with need to be washable.
Cut a rectangle 62cm wide and 13cm long.
I didn’t have fabric long enough so I added some to the right hand side with a french seam. Realistic tutorial. If you’re adding 20cm or less to get the 62cm length, the seam will be hidden by the wrap.
Before you start sewing
When was the last time you changed you machine’s needle? If you can’t remember, do it now. Needles wear out quickly. It’s a good to get in the habit of changing them each time you start on a project.
Have you read through this WHOLE thing first? Free tutorials don’t always flow well or give you the information when YOU need it. This one, for example, doesn’t even tackle the notions you’ll use until the very end…because I illustrate three different ways to finish the dress.
If you use the last method “Out of Order Mixed Method” you’ll want to read it before you start putting everything together. I’ll put a OOMM* astrix where it might be helpful
OK! Constructing the Top
Join the front of the wrap top to the back at the shoulders.
Press those seams with an iron. Then, open them and press them open.
Snip the edges to reduce bulk.
Multiple layers of cotton fabric on a human body is negligible but on a doll they quickly add to bulk.
Now to stitch the lining to the outer fabric.
Put the right sides of the fabric together and pin or clip to hold in place.
OOMM* if planning to use OOMM, insert your ribbons between the fabric before stitching.
Sew the neckline AND around the arm holes.
Liberally snip away triangles before turning it right side out. I could have done more triangles.
Now turn the top right side out by pulling the wrap/front through the shoulder openings and out the back.
I’m using a special tool to hook the fabric and pull it through. This isn’t essential but makes life easier.
Turned right-side out BEFORE pressing.
Get your iron and press that out.
Now it’s time to join under the arm holes.
use your iron to get inside the lower part of the arm holes where you’re going to join them together and press those seams open. Then, pin the lining to lining and the main fabric to main fabric (right sides together) as seen below.
Once you’ve stitched under both arm holes press those seams open.
Snip to reduce bulk.
Now press your lovely top and cheer for yourself.
If you’re feeling hungry or tired and are trying to work through it as not to lose your sewing mojo. STOP. Eat or rest or whatever. If you’re tired or hungry you’re going to make mistakes. THEN return to your project. I did. That’s why you get that picture. Spring is coming!
Fold the edges the fabric in 5mm and press. Fold in 5mm again and press again. Stitch this hem in place.
On the bottom long edge of the skirt fold 1cm and press. Fold in another 1cm and press. Stitch this hem in place.
After hemming your skirt should be 60cm wide. With a fabric pen or fabric chalk, you’re going to mark the edge you’ll gather. Mark at 22cm and 38cm. This means your 60cm length will be visually divided into a 22cm section, a 16 cm section and another 22cm section. 22+16+22=60cm
These marks will help us line up the skirt with the side seams when gathering to help keep gathers even.
First blurry picture. Sorry.
Maths: You can skip this if you don’t care where those numbers come from. If you plan to make a fuller skirt with a longer rectangle it’s worth reading.
The bottom edge of the top you assembled is 45cm long. First wrap section 16.5cm, back, 12cm, second wrap section 16.5=45cm. 16.5+12+16.5= 45cm
We’re taking a 60cm long fabric and will gather it until it’s 45cm. ( 60 divided by 40 is aprox 1.35. 60cm is aprox 135% the size of 45cm. 6
Because we want to try to evenly distribute the gathers it helps to mark the skirt fabric where it will join the seams on the top.
16.5x1.35=22.275 (we’ll round that to 22cm) 12 x 1.35=16.2 (we round that to 16) and check the math 22+16+22=60cm.
If you want a fuller skirt, say 70cm after hemming. 70 divided by 45 is aprox. 1.55. Multiply 16.5 and 12 by that 1.55…double check…and that’s where you’ll mark.
To gather the skirt we need to sew two seams along the top edge of the skirt, closer to the edge than 1cm (our seam allowance). Keep the seams wide (3 or 4 stitch setting), don’t back stitch and don’t cross the seams.
We’ll be machine joining the to the outer-shell of the wrap top, NOT the lining…but first, gathering.
If you’ve never gathered using this method, enjoy a youtube tutorial.
I’ve used a red thread in the bobbin and a black thread on top to make it easier to see. If you do this, make sure your different colored threads are the same thread weight/thickness.
You’ll be pulling at the bobbin threads (the threads on the underside) to gather the fabric.
You’ll hold the fabric in one hand and pull the bobbin threads with the other. There’s a lot of moving the gathers with your fingers so they are evenly distributed. You do this at both edges of the fabric.
Use the marks on the skirt and the seams of the wrap top to make sure the gathers are evenly spread along the skirt.
All pinned! Now sew the skirt to the outer fabric (right sides together).
I prefer not to sew over pins, to reduce the chance of my machine needle breaking. Instead I stitch slowly and remove the pins right before they’re about to go under the presser foot.
Blurry picture. Sorry! The skirt is now joined to the outer shell of the top. Press so the raw edges are pointing up.
Now turn the edges of the lining under, pin, and whip-stitch it by hand. Turn your piece over from time to time to make sure your stitches don’t show from the outside. Steam or press when finished to smooth out wrinkles on the outside.
We are so close to being finished!
Now let’s tackle how to close the wrap dress on your doll.
How to close the dress, 3 methods.
Top Stitched Ribbon Method.
I’m trying to keep >me< out of my tutorial…but this fabric is a shout out to Ebony. I didn’t have any more skeleton/spooky fabric in doll scale so I couldn’t have Moana being a toddler POC goth (a group seriously under-represented in visuals) so I made her Rockability instead.
This ties at the side. I wish it tied in back. I’ll give measurements for both a side tie and back tie.
Both use 1 meter of ribbon.
SIDE TIE (pictured): 42 cm ribbon. Start stitching after 18cm (the tie part) from the edge to a little more more than the center of the back to the edge of the “top” wrap (24cm stitched to dress).
Back Tie (not pictured): 52cm ribbon. Start stitching after 28cm (the tie part) to a little more more than the center of the back to the edge of the “top” wrap (24cm stitched to dress).
SIDE TIE (pictured): Now take the 58cm ribbon. Tuck the end in and start stitching it from the other edge of the dress to 24cm. You should have 34cm to tie with.
Back Tie (not pictured): Now take the 48cm ribbon. Tuck the end in and start stitching it from the other edge of the dress to 24cm. You should have 24cm to tie with.
Last, use Velcro/Magic tape or a snap to keep the inner flap in place. Put the dress on the doll and mark where to attach with fabric pen/chalk.
Snaps or Velcro/Magic tape method.
This was my first draft of the pattern so the top fit is a little off.
This is the easiest version. Put the dress on the doll. Mark where notions should go with fabric pen/chalk.
These snaps are probably too small for little fingers. They are all I had on hand. You’ll know what your child can use.
Stitch notions on the inside to lining and on the outside through the outer layer or both layers. You could also use a loop and button on the outside. Go crazy. It’s a FREE pattern.
Out of Order Mixed Method
This is a fuller skirt made from a 70cm long rectangle.
This method is out of order because I thought if it AFTER finishing the dress body. It would have been easier to do some of these steps while putting it together.
This method uses two 30cm long ribbons. I opened the seams at the edge of the wrap top, inserted the ribbons and stitched them in place.
I SHOULD have just stitched the ribbons in place when joining the lining to the outer fabric at the neckline and arm holes
In a perfect world I would have used light blue bobbin thread and red top thread to reduce stitch visibility.
Then I opened the seams under one arm and made a button hole. The button hole pictured is really rough. If I give this to anyone I’ll un-stitch and re-do this buttonhole.
But I think threading the ribbon through the button-hole might be too difficult for little kids. Use your common sense and what you know about your kid’s ability to manipulate objects. I’m a grown woman with good co-ordination and object permanence.
Then to wear it you just thread one ribbon through the button-hole and tie in back.