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Sunday, December 30, 2018

Paper Clay Doll Ivy

Ivy is made of paper clay.
She is 16 inches tall, and jointed at shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.

I am rarely without a lineup of hobby ideas waiting for attention.  Because my work-space does not allow room for multiple projects at a time, I typically complete one project before moving on.  A thread-sketched greeting card can take about eight hours from sketchpad to completion.  A larger thread sketch may take about 40 hours.  Forsaking Christmas cards and housekeeping, I worked on Ivy for more than 100 hours in December.  I have enjoyed every minute.  Read on for pictures and explanation of how Ivy came to be, including some of the trial and error.  Here are more links for pictures without words:


After days of adding ideas. 
Initial design was sketched on a legal size sheet of paper.  I refer to the drawing many times using it to size the head and limbs.  As I go along, I try to make all notes on that single sheet of paper.

Many decisions are made as I go, but a few decisions must be made at this stage, including how the doll will be jointed.  This dictates hole placement and how the limbs will be shaped to accommodate the beads.  

Paper Clay Parts

Her head began with a bit of tin foil wrapped around the end of sturdy wire.  The wire extends down into the soft body for stability.  I add thin layers of clay over several days allowing the layers to dry before adding another.  

Legs and arms were first created without hands and feet.  Because the hands are so small, it is easier to create them separately and affix later.  The shoes take shape later only because I have trouble settling on a style.  I used a skewer to make holes where the doll would be jointed.  It is important to pay attention to hole location because it dictates the angle at which her legs and arms hang.    

Soft Body

After the clay body parts were shaped, I created a soft body using muslin and stuffing.  The opening is at top so the wire can be slid into the body.  Waxed thread was used to attach head and upper torso to the soft body.  The body could be made of clay.  I prefer soft body because the clothing can be sewn rather than glued to the body.

Skin and Facial Features

Although touch-ups and additional detail can be added later, it is easier to add skin color, and in Ivy's case, tattoos, before attaching arms and legs to the body.

For Ivy' skin color I used chalk and powdered eye shadow.  I like the look rather than paint, but it is a time-consuming effort.  Each layer of chalk and powder had to be buffed before adding a second layer until reaching the desired color.    Eyes and Lips were colored with acrylic paint.  

Satisfied with skin color, the tattoos were first lightly drawn with pencil.  Then, very carefully, for days and days, I drew the tattoos.  Micron pigma archival ink pens were used.  I do not have a steady hand, so this was pain-staking.  A little burgundy acrylic paint was added using tiny nail art design paint brushes.  After skin detail was complete, I used a small amount of PaverPol as a sealant.  Paverpol is a textile hardener, not expressly meant for paper clay.  I use it because I do not like brush-on varnishes nor do I have a place to spray varnish.  The Paverpol adds a layer of protection to the clay surface and is non-toxic.   Care must be taken, however, when brushing Paverpol over the chalk.  Overworking the Paverpol can lift and smear the chalk.    

The eyes are always the most difficult for me.  A steady hand is required to add so much detail in the tiny area.  Some of the paint was applied with the point of a straight pin.    


It would have been easier to mold the shoes as part of her foot, but I wanted a sandal look that I felt required building the shoes separately.  

The shoes were created in stages allowing clay parts to dry before adding a new element.  I cut a sole from clay, shaped it to her foot and let it dry separately.  After the sole dried to shape, the grosgrain ribbon across the toe was sized and secured between the sole and platform.  When that dried, the heel was added.  The shoes were painted black before securing to her feet.  The shoe back and ankle strap, made of ribbon, were added after gluing the shoe to her foot. 

Adding Limbs

Stringing the doll is an exciting time.  Each doll goes together a little differently and it seems a personality starts to emerge.  The shape of the limb at the joint dictates how the limb will move.  Ivy's elbows and knees are rounded, making the joints more loose than a blunt shape. I used 10mm beads with a 1.2mm hole size and 1mm flat waxed thread.  The thread passes through the bead hole twice.  It is a cozy fit, but it works.  I use a small gold metal decoration on each side of the bead.  I don't know what they are called...I found them in the beading department at Craft Warehouse.  

Dressing the doll requires a lot of handling.  Dangling arms and legs can hinder the process.  If the clothes allow, lower legs and arms are not attached until the end.  Because Ivy has one long sleeve, I attached the lower arms before making the clothes.  If lower arms are attached at this early stage, care must be taken to protect her fingers and hands from flopping around and banging on the work surface.  



Clothes are fun.  Although I start with clothes in mind, often it is trial and error before I find something that suits her.

I usually start with simple underwear.  I had originally planned to have several skirt layers.  I made a ruffled black organza skirt to fit under the gold, but decided against it.

The corset bodice took a little time in fitting and re-fitting.  It is a good example of why I have a closet full of bits and pieces of fabric and trim.  The smallest bit may be just the right size!  


I had an old, inexpensive doll purchased years ago when I was making American Girl doll clothes for our granddaughters.  I spent several days cutting her locks and remaking them into wefts that could be used for Ivy.  Once I had it ready for styling, it made her look totally different than I had envisioned.  So, I was back to eyelash yarn.  I purchase most all my eyelash yarn on Brokemarys Etsy shop.  She has a variety of unusual threads and yarns, and I can purchase small skeins perfect for my needs.  After experimenting, I am happy with the crocheted wig using black and burgundy eyelash yarns.   

Creating wefts
Wig cap from pantyhose

completed wig cap before adding synthetic hair

Not the look I wanted


Button earrings were fashioned with clay and paint.

I wrapped Ivy's hair in plastic wrap to protect it from glue while doing the finish work. False eyelashes were applied.  They can be trimmed, but I like the over-the-top look of the long lashes.

I decided a masquerade mask would make an unusual fascinator hat.  I drew a basic outline on transparent water soluble stabilizer.  Pinned that to gold tulle fabric and used a free-motion stitch to create a design.  A small piece of gold trim was hand-sewn around the edge.  I stiffened the mask with Paverpol so it would hold shape when sewn to her head.   

Ivy on her display board

At long last, her lower legs were sew on and she was complete.  

Thank you for visiting!  

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Tanner Springs Summer Reflections

In addition to bright, warm sunshine and brilliant colors, autumn brings a little melancholy that cannot be fully explained.  Perhaps my wistfulness simply laments the end of another beautiful Portland summer.  

These thread-sketched greeting cards celebrate summer in Tanner Springs Park. 
Because the cards were created using the same steps described many times, there are few words of explanation.  As always, please let me know if you have questions about product or process.
I hope you enjoy.


Sketch pad drawing of a new heron who visited a few days this year.
Sketch transferred to water soluble stabilizer, taped to canvas and ready for outline stitches

After stitching the outline in black, a little acrylic paint was used to add background color before filling in more free motion stitches.

4x6 greeting card


Sketch of bench where the spring bubbles up.

Finished 4x6 greeting card

Baby Ducks

Nothing heralds spring and summer in Tanner Springs like the arrival of baby ducks.

Lily Pads and Carp

My sketch does not do justice to the beautiful water lilies in the Tanner Springs pond.  
The introduction of carp into the pond threatens the ecosystem.  It is amazing how large some of the carp have grown in such shallow water.  It is still unclear how the problems caused by the carp will be resolved.
The carp was not part of the photo I took in the park.  I decided to add it later to create more interest.

This carp is more colorful than the carp you will see in Tanner Springs.  

Thank you for visiting.  I hope you will come back again.

Saturday, August 18, 2018

Fun Cross-Body Bags

If you are familiar with Portland, you already know that NW 23rd is a destination.  Shops and restaurants line the street for many blocks.  The area glows with eclectic energy.

Artisan Avenue Marketplace is one of my favorite places to drop in.  Featuring local artists, there is always something new to admire.  The owner is delightful and helpful.  She has shared inspiration and ideas to explore.  My last visit, she suggested cross-body bags with animals.  I came home and started work.  I had a few false starts that I may share later in a blooper blog.  As a result of her suggestion, I made six cross-body bags, three of which feature animal art.  

The process I use has been described in many previous posts, but if you cannot find an answer for your question, please send me email.  I am always happy to hear from you! 

I hope you enjoy!


8 inches across the top, flaring to 9-1/2 inches across the bottom.  7 inches tall

Friday, August 17, 2018

Un-Recessed Zipper Bags

Handbags come in an endless variety of shapes, sizes and features.  That is also true of handbag patterns and tutorials.  Even with many free tutorials and patterns available online, it can be challenging to find just what you are looking for.  Adapting patterns to create bags with the features you want can be fun and rewarding,.....and, a little like solving puzzles.   Perhaps that is why I never tire of making bags.

Personally,  I am drawn to bags with pockets, inside and out, and with a wide opening so items are easily retrieved from the bottom of the bag.  I also like zipper closures, especially for bags I use for travel.  I just completed six new bags.  In this post, I focus on a few things I learned while making these bags, including adapting features and recovering from unexpected results!   I used new products and altered techniques found in several online tutorials.  Although the bags are the same size and have similar features, each one went together a little differently.  Read on to see what I mean.  

The Design

I started with basic requirements:
  • finished size about 10 x 11
  • shaped with a two inch flat bottom to provide a little more room
  • one interior pocket and at least one exterior pocket
  • an area of fabric that could be used for a thread sketch
  • adjustable, removable strap

Size and Shape

Although I use a rotary cutter to make most cuts, I still like to cut a pattern from freezer paper.  It makes it easier to position and visualize pockets and art features.  I also make notes on the freezer paper so I can remember what I have done.

For this bag, I used two small leaf designs, drawn and stitched using my normal "sketch-pad-to-fabric" process.  The lining pieces (not shown) were cut to the same dimensions.  The exterior has one zippered pocket.  On the side without the zipper, the contrasting fabric serves as a pocket.

Mistake to Feature

Making this bag was my first experience with a recessed zipper.  I wanted the bag to look like a small beach tote.  Recessed zippers are usually found in larger bags and totes.  I learned, through experience, they do not work quite as well for smaller bags. However, with a minor modification, the recessed zipper technique can be used to create a nice feature for smaller bags. 

I searched YouTube for a good recessed zipper tutorial.  My favorite was posted by Carole's Cricut Crafts.  I modified her instructions to suit my smaller bag by shortening the length of zipper on each side of the bag. However, this kept the zipper from fitting properly inside the bag.  Also, the  zipper and panels took up valuable room inside the small bag.

In an attempt to salvage what I had already done, I flipped the zipper panels up and top stitched to the lining.  Not only did this add 1-1/2 inches to the height of the bag, the extended zipper tabs and open-end panels created a wide mouth for easy access.  A new favorite feature was born!

This first bag had a pocket on the front, but no external zippered pocket.  Onward! 

Zippered Pockets

It was back to YouTube to find a good tutorial for external zippered pocket.  Sara Lawson on YouTube Sew Sweetness Channel has a tutorial on how to add a zippered pocket to any bag.   Her instructions are easy to follow and adapt to any size bag.  With only a slight modification to pocket size, I followed the Sew Sweetness tutorial with success!

Now would be a good time to talk about zippers.  I never seemed to have the right zipper color or size for my projects....until I found the Zipper Lady.  I purchased zippers by the yard in a number of colors and styles.  I could not be happier.  I cut the zippers to the exact length I need eliminating waste and saving money.  In addition, her selection of high quality zippers and pulls is almost overwhelming.  This picture may not display the beautiful zipper details.  It is a 5mm shiny silver nylon coil.  It looks like metal, but cuts and sews beautifully.  

Exterior Pockets Without Zippers

For most of these bags, I decorated an external pocket with a thread sketch.  To keep it interesting, I tried a few pocket shapes and styles,,,,not with equal success.  

I thought it would add interest to have the lower part of the Fremont Bridge thread sketch disappear below the curved pocket edge.  To create the edge, I cut the desired shape and auditioned it over the thread sketch.  


I positioned the pattern on top of the pocket fabric.  The folded edge of bias-cut trim was shaped along the edge of the pattern.

    Bias trim stitched in place. 

Outside pocket fabric with bias trim and the lining fabric were placed right sides together.  The layers were sewn together by stitching on top of the the bias trim stitch line.   Cut away the top part and flip the lining to the backside.  It takes a little easing and light pressing to make it lie flat.  

In the end, I did not use this pocket as prepared.  I liked the look, but it was too bulky.  I replaced it with a another pocket with a lighter-weight lining and eliminated the bias trim.  Bulk is an issue for discussion at another time.  

This scoop shape pocket was created similarly to the bridge bag pocket.  The lightweight fabric used for the thread sketch was padded with fusible batting to help maintain shape and provide a little padding to protect items inside the bag.  

Stitching Small Pieces

Before sewing all the parts together, you need to consider how the strap will be attached.  I use several methods, depending on the size and type bag.  I often use small loops instead of metal rings to attach the strap.  Very small fabric pieces can be difficult to stitch.  Using tear-away stabilizer helps move them through the machine without bunching or slipping. 

Putting It All Together

I mentioned earlier that all six of these bags went together a little differently.  Each method had pros and cons.  The jury is still out, but I think my favorite method is explained best online at Sew Modern Bags.  The Koda bag in the tutorial is different than my bag, but has a lot of good features.  The instructions had to be modified somewhat because of the zipper panels, but the result was clean and professional looking.  

Three photos at the same point in construction.  Above, the lining, exterior bag, and zipper panels are layered and ready to sew together.  Below, looking closely at the exterior, you can see the small gray loops at the seam line where the strap will attach with swivel clasps.  

For these bags, I purchased hardware online at Bag Maker Supply Etsy Shop.  They have a large variety of hardware and fast service.  

With the zipper extending beyond the split zipper panels, the bag has a wide opening for easy access to whatever is at the bottom of the bag.

Even with soft sides, the two-inch square bottom allows this bag to stand.  

Well, that's it!  Although this was a lot of information, if you are new to bag making, you will need more help to get started than I have provided here.  Many online tutorials provide free PDF format patterns for you to follow.  Try following the pattern as written for the first few bags.  If you have questions for which you cannot find answers, or need a good beginning pattern/tutorial, send me a note.  I have many more favorites!

Thank you for visiting.  I hope you return again soon!