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Falilla gets a makeover

Well, hi howdy hey, look who’s back. It’s only been {cough, cough} a month. But, uh, nevermind that, let’s look at nice pictures!

Many of you may remember Falilla, the fairy doll I made for Granota’s 4th birthday. I gave Falilla lovely recycled Barbie hair which creeped Granota out to such an extent that she threw the doll across the room. They warmed up to each other, though, and became good friends. Falilla got carted all over the place and slowly, ever so slowly, began losing hair. It finally reached the point this spring where poor Falilla was actually hideous to look at.

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After having made yarn hair for the Axl Rose dolls, I thought we might have better luck going that route. So Granota and I went to Michael’s and I let her choose new hair for Falilla and she settled on Patons Grace in a light lavender (I’d have to look to find the exact color name). It took one evening with a seam ripper to remove the wads of hair still on Falilla’s head. Then we had a hideous bald fairy doll. It took another couple of days to get all the hair wefts sewn together and then sewn on to her head. Granota was rather patient, considering.

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Falilla is looking much better these days with her magical purple hair. All ready for new adventures with Granota and Axl. Oh, didn’t you know? They’re friends, too.

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Sweet child(ren) in Paradise City

There was squealing. There was yelling. There was jumping up and down, hugging, twirling, grinning, and thank yous. And then a little bit of singing. Granota and Rana were so thrilled to find their dolls sitting under the tree when they ran down the stairs Christmas morning. That made the past several weeks worth it. But I am not sad at all that I won’t have to continue to hide those things anymore! It was beginning to be more and more of a challenge with snoopy little people asking way too many questions for their own good.

One good challenge was having several different tasks required to make the dolls. Machine sewing, hand sewing (blech), embroidery, pattern drafting, free-hand drawing, painting, failures, successes. Once again, I used my Joan Russell doll-making book and used the Indian girl pattern, which is the same I used for Rana’s cowgirl doll last year. Also, the Guns N’ Roses Photographic History book that I had received for my birthday became a sort of textbook for me, studying Axl’s features, tattoos, and clothing. All of the doll body pieces were easy to crank out one morning while Mr. Gren kept the kids occupied with a movie. I sew so often, that the kids rarely bat an eye when they hear the machine going. They did yell at me a couple of times because it was too loud and they couldn’t hear the movie that they’ve seen 3487 times.

First, heads were attached to bodies, then faces embroidered on heads. I traced Axl’s eyes, nose, and mouth from the photos in the book, trying to determine what exactly about his features makes him look like… him. The mouths were hard. See, Real Life Axl (RLA) has full and, uh, shapely lips (for lack of a better description). On a soft doll face, full lips look awfully girly, then combined with the long hair… It just wasn’t going to be good. I actually had to undo a top lip which was a little nerve-wracking; I was afraid that the phantom embroidery line would leave holes in the fabric, but it recovered quite nicely. Whew!

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So on the second doll, I just made the mouth a straight line. Kind of boring, but no illusions of girliness (After all the gifts were opened, Granota noticed that the mouths were different and asked that I make her doll have an “open” mouth. Close enough. A quick fix and she was happy).

A little Christmas morning embroidery got him right.

A little Christmas morning embroidery got him right.

Next, I painted on the tattoos which you’ve already seen on dismembered arms. There was no way I wanted to do that with them flopping around on a doll body that would constantly want to roll over and probably end up with paint in places where it shouldn’t be. Post-tattooing, the arms were quick to sew on, followed by the legs. I settled on yarn hair this time which turned out to be infinitely easier to sew into wefts than the doll hair that I used on the fairy and cowgirl dolls. It didn’t slip out as I was sewing and it seems resistant to shedding. Both good things! This time, instead of making several wefts and sewing them at different levels around the heads, I followed an online tutorial to sew the part onto the head and then make a line of stitching around, to hold the bottom layer of hair down and cover any bald spots. Then a second layer is added on top and sewn at the part and allowed to fall loose. I cut a few strands into bangs to poke out over the top of the bandanas.

The fabric choices for the clothing are one of the things I’m most proud of. Granota had requested an Axl dressed like RLA in the “Sweet Child” video. Leather jacket, leather pants, black t-shirt, cowboy boots and a blue bandana. For the jacket and the boots, I found a costume leather that seemed to have a realistic-looking full grain. The look is great, but I am a little bit concerned about the durability of this stuff. I guess time will tell.

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For the leather pants, I found a dance knit that had a leathery look.  The stretch was nice and made the pants fit nice and snug!

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The t-shirt was another dance knit and was quite thin; my machine hated this stuff and tried to eat it at every opportunity. All together, the effect comes off right!

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Rana had settled on the clothing that RLA wore in the “Paradise City” video, the one exception being she preferred his sneakers to the white cowboy boots. I did notice the other day that he does wear these sneakers in another part of the video — just not when he’s dressed in all white — so I don’t feel completely inauthentic. White leather jacket, black t-shirt, white spandex pants. I couldn’t find any faux leather in white, so I went with a heavy bottomweight cotton to give it enough stiffness. It also made painting on the logo easier since the paint probably would have smeared off a smooth fabric.

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White spandex was also elusive, so I used a white poplin that had a little bit of a stretch for the pants. The sneakers are white vinyl or somesuch.

For the shirts and jackets, I used the various patterns out of the Joan Russell book, with a little tweaking to make them work for this particular doll. The jackets were tricky. Tiny collars, turning points, and having to line the darn things! Yikes! They didn’t turn out as flawlessly as I would have liked. I was really under the gun trying to get these sewn without Granota catching on. Inexplicably, she began developing a keen interest in what I was sewing as I worked on the white jacket. Without the sides sewn together and no sleeves, it didn’t look like anything recognizable to her, but she was still very, very curious. And when that happens, it’s time to close up shop. It happened a lot more often than I wanted, leaving me precious little time to sew. Then I’d get rushed and seams turn out a little pinched and ripping it out would have just set me way back. So I squash down my perfectionist nature, look at the miniature piece of clothing with a less critical eye and decide that it will have to do.

Painting the white jacket was really fun! It made me nervous, too, though. I suck at drawing guns. They usually turn out looking like mutant candy canes. And roses can easily veer into cinnamon roll territory. Candy canes and cinnamon rolls, while tasty, will probably never be the name of a rock band. Once again using my GNR photo book, I meticulously freehand drew the band logo on the back of the jacket and was pleasantly surprised at just how well it turned out. Painting it just made it that much better! I haven’t measured it, but I’m guessing it’s just slightly larger than a silver dollar. Not a lot of room for error, but I did manage to cram in quite a bit of detail.

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For the zippers, I used a silver embroidery thread. It was very stiff and hard to work with. I had meant to add on the little side zippers on the black jacket, but in my rush to get it sewn up, I had already attached the lining. Oh well.

Bandanas weren’t a big deal, although I did have to enlist some help from a math teacher friend to figure out how big to make the square of fabric because I am pathetic at math. Both bandanas were made from fat quarters; I really looked hard to find ones with a print that would match the scale of the dolls.

The footwear nearly sent me over the edge. I didn’t want a seam running up the front of the cowboy boots, but it took me several days and several botched attempts to come up with the solution that now seems so obvious. There is one piece that goes over the top of the foot and meets in the back from the heel to the ankle. The critical piece ended up being a simple tube that wrapped around the leg and was sewn to the top piece (is there a name for that?) across the ankle and then up the back. A little easy scissorwork produced the typical cowboy boot shape at the top of the boot finished off with a zigzag stitch. Finally the sole was sewn on. As Granota noted, Axl’s feet don’t reach to the end of the boots; I told her that RLA’s feet don’t go into a point either, so it’s realistic. ha! The soft boots do have a tendency to get mushed down in the toe and look a little funny. I may need to lightly stuff the toe just to hold its shape.

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The sneakers were even more of a headache. The stiffer fabric would not lay flat over the top of the foot, so I had to fold side seams into it in order to contour the piece. The unfinished edge at the top didn’t look good, so those had to be cuffed under. Last to figure out was the little tongue that reads AXL. This piece was no bigger than my thumbnail and was not easy to maneuver. It was the afternoon of Christmas Eve and I didn’t have much time at my disposal. I probably could make a better-looking shoe with more time, especially now that I have some clue of what to do. But you know what? Rana likes them, so I like them. A red Sharpie bought that night finished them off.

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The girls were pleased with all of their Christmas gifts, but I noticed that they never left their dolls unattended all day. Even at dinner, Axl was tucked in behind them while they ate. It was such an all-consuming project for me, but the payoff is great. I’m looking forward to hearing little impromptu concerts and eavesdropping on all of the adventures that the two Axls will have. But you shouldn’t have to hear about anything Axl-related for a long time (unless you read my other blog). Hoping to finish a monkey hat for Konik soon. That should be fun, right? Thanks for reading!

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Merry Christmas!

More from the Underground Tattoo Parlor

Originally, I was going to post today about the little ornament that I crocheted for my friend. But I’m just too dang proud of myself and I have to show off my teeny tiny tattoos. They turned out pretty sweet if I do say so myself. And I do.

I finished drawing on the tattoos yesterday afternoon. Inexplicably, the tats on the second set of arms turned out larger than the first ones. Hm. I was in a little bit of hurry because the clock was counting down to the end of naptime and Granota was chomping at the bit to be released from her room. Apparently when I’m in a hurry I draw bigger.

Fine art. Literally.

Fine art. Literally.

To me, the second girl turned out better, but the first one’s not bad. The other tattoos are all comparable.

Yesterday evening, I worked on coloring them in. What really would have been nice would be fine-point pens in different colors besides the one black one I own. I was digging around in my drawer of craft paint and found some fabric markers that I had forgotten about. I made a little test scribble on a scrap of fabric and initially, it seemed like these might work, although the colors were limited. I started on the Victory or Death tattoo with the red marker and all seemed well, but ever so slowly, the red began seeping into the yellow. I didn’t take a photo of that one; it didn’t look so hot. Disappointing, but not the end of the world. Paint will right those wrongs.

I left that set of arms alone (the reason I made sets — which right now are attached together with thread — is because the hands didn’t all turn out the same due to variations in cutting the pattern) and pulled out the other one to paint with the miniscule tips of my new paintbrushes.

And it worked like a charm. Even my little GNR egg people look pretty good.

In living color.

In living color.

The cutest little rocker skulls you ever did see.

The cutest little rocker skulls you ever did see.

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Purple eyeshadow and semi-crossed eyes, just like the real thing. I’m really proud of that blue rose, though.

You better believe it.

You better believe it.

The cross tattoo is the largest measuring 1 1/4″. The smallest is the rose which is only 1/2″. The rest are all 7/8″. That’s little, folks. The hardest part was the thin yellow stripes on the cross; I had to do a little touch-up on those. They aren’t perfect, but it’s late and I figured I had better stop before I did any more damage.

If all goes well and children go to sleep on time tonight, I’ll be able to finish up the other arms and then get back to constructing the doll. I’m still trying to decide if I want to use embroidery floss or yarn for the hair. I did a few searches online and it seemed that the only doll hair that matched the color of Axl’s was either curly or only came in Barbie doll quantities. Besides, with the way Falilla the Fairy Doll has been shedding over the last year, I think I need something that I can sew on a little better. Any opinions? Yarn or floss?

Underground Tattoo Parlor

Don’t tell: I’m practicing tattooing without a license. No permanent damage to anyone so far. I’ve spelled everything right and my artwork is pretty close to what it should be. Good thing my client thus far is just a scrap of fabric.

Granota -- still clueless as to my intentions -- decided to add some doodles of her own.

Granota — still clueless as to my intentions — decided to add some doodles of her own.

I needed to test out my art-in-miniature skills before tattooing the tiny arms of the Axl dolls. I hadn’t quite decided on my medium yet. A ballpoint pen worked ok. An extremely fine point pen was the best for drawing the outlines and I was very glad to see that the ink doesn’t bleed. That was my biggest concern.

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Back when I bought all (most) of the supplies to make these dolls, I also bought uber-fine point paint brushes and I think the smallest one will do nicely to fill in the colored places on Axl’s tattoos. Seriously, this thing has like three bristles.

Right now, my biggest struggle is the Appetite for Destruction cross. I can draw the cross, but the skulls end up looking like itty bitty eggs with eyes. That may have to be close enough.

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"If I wanted a tattoo of eggs with eyes, I'd have gotten it already."

“If I wanted a tattoo of eggs with eyes, I’d have gotten it already.”

The dolls are coming along. Last night I finished embroidering the faces. Embroidery is not my strong suit. It’s hard to say that they look like Axl right now without any hair, but they do have green eyes and orangey eyebrows (it’s hard to match embroidery floss to hair color).

Next up: Tiny rock star clothes!

 

Off the hook!

Ever since I completed my Axl Rose afghan (or, well before I finished it, actually), the girls have been reminding me that they want one of their own. I thought that would be a good “big” Christmas present for them. We give them only three gifts (we like to keep things simple and not get too hung up on the “stuff”), one of which is something big and special, left unwrapped under the tree with a giant nametag on it. They love to run downstairs and see what it is. So, in a perfect world, the afghans would have made great “big” presents. Now that my French tutoring has started up again, I’ve come back into crafting funds (hurray!), but I’m realizing that it was too late for afghans.

Oh sure, I was optimistic and bought a little yarn (not all of it, thank goodness) and began Rana’s blanket. At that point in time, I calculated that if I finished five rows everyday, I could have it done in three weeks, leaving enough time to weave in ends and four more weeks to do the whole thing over again for Granota’s.

But then I missed a couple of days. Five rows had to be bumped to seven. And then nudged up to ten. And eleven. At which point I admitted to myself that this wasn’t going to happen. I was attempting to get my crocheting done in secret which meant only during naptime and after the kids were in bed. It sounds good in theory. Usually I am much more pessimistic realistic about things, but I guess crafting clouds my judgment or something. What was I thinking?! My kids don’t go to bed! Psh! My kids are the life-size version of Whack-a-Mole at Chuck E. Cheese. Three kids each finding some lame excuse to get up times three equals me getting up nine times to put them back in bed. Rana is notorious for lying quietly in her bed for half an hour, then, just when we think she’s asleep and it’s ok to turn on a grown-up TV show or get out secret craft projects, all of a sudden she materializes in the living room declaring in her most lonesome puppy dog voice, “I can’t sleep,” while her eyes scan for snacks that Mr. Gren may have gotten out or the last swallow of tea in my cup (Yes, Mom & Dad, I know where she gets that from).

Obviously that’s a problem. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do until Granota gave me an out.

We were cleaning house (cabin) on Saturday and Granota forlornly showed me her paper Axl doll. He’s a little crumpled; we’ve had to tape each of his legs back on; he’s looking a little worse for wear. But considering the life he’s had — created 6 months ago, getting slept on in a preschooler’s bed, buried and resurrected from the clothes drawer numerous times, and eventually hung from the curtain rod — he has survived surprisingly well.

But even a 5 yr old knows that a paper doll’s lifespan isn’t forever. So, as she cradled her little paper doll, she said wistfully, “I wish I had a real life Axl doll.” I knew what she meant, but I prodded her a little. “A real life doll?” “Yes, like Falilla [the fairy doll]. A soft one!” Rana was listening to this conversation and immediately piped up, “Me, too! I want one, too!” Just to verify, I asked her, “Want one of what?” “An Axl doll! I want an Axl doll, too!” To which Granota stated, “But they have to look different!”

Your wish is my command! I can do dolls in the time I have left before Christmas! No sweat! And that saves me from the ridiculous pace and long nights it was going to take to complete those afghans. I was considering just working on them at a leisurely pace throughout this next year, but I know myself too well. If I take things too slowly, I get bored and will never finish. Besides, Axl dolls and Axl afghans? Even for 1991 that might be a little… excessive (although as I was writing this, Granota was up in her room with “November Rain” on repeat, so that may be a moot point).

Soon to be replaced by a “real life” doll. But this one is so cute, I’m going to save it.

Now I’ve got to decide what to do with that yarn.

Spring is coming! (I think)

I know the calendar said that spring has already arrived. You can just never be too sure here in the Pacific Northwest since there isn’t a significant difference in the weather. But I’ve been seeing cherry blossoms as we drive around and the days aren’t quite as cold. It does give some hope that better days are ahead! Although we can still plan on it being soggy for another two months. Anyways, I thought I’d feature a little robin I made a couple of years ago for a spring-themed craft swap.

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The pattern came from here from someone in the UK who made it as a Christmas decoration. This part baffles me. In America, robins are harbingers of spring, but apparently in the UK, robins are a symbol of Christmas? Can anyone explain this to me? Because I would really like to understand the connection.

But anyways, to reinforce the idea that this was a spring robin and not a Christmas robin, I made a little nest with eggs. I made those up out of my own head.

Robin red-breast and her little blue eggs

She’s so cute and sweet, I think I might need to make another one to keep at home!

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I’m proud to introduce the newest addition to my etsy shop: an Easter bunny!

I say “an Easter bunny” because I don’t know that I can claim him the title of THE Easter bunny. Besides, I plan on making more.

Take me home!

Actually, I’m just ears and a tail away from finishing a little miniature bunny that fits perfectly in the palm of my hand. Konik picked it up the other day and said, “I like dis bunny” in his sweet little 2 year old voice. He may need one of those tiny guys in his Easter basket.