I Took A Doll Clothes Design Class

I’ve switched from dabbling in doll clothes to really putting my whole heart into it. After practicing diligently for some months I started collecting a pretty good pile of half finished outfits that just weren’t quite… I didn’t know. Whatever it was, I had determined I would figure it out on my own. Pretty much right up until the minute when I decided to take a doll clothes design class! Happy birthday to me! Everything changed. Thankfully, I was able to turn most my half made outfits into some that I’m really proud of.

Ultimately, I want to be able to see fashion, re-create it in doll scale, and then make my own patterns to sell. There’s so much to learn. Here’s where I am so far.

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Spring and summer fashions for 18″ dolls are available for sale. More pictures and full descriptions of each outfit at Alexis Art Studio on Etsy . Most are one-of-a-kind.

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ABOVE: A nice length+width+focal point balance that I think really works for her. It took a few alterations before I got satisfied with this outfit and then suddenly I was. Tiny buttons really brought the scale into focus. But it was still an unflattering boxy shape until I added a little elastic shirring around the back. A matching skirt and I’m pretty sure I’m finished with this outfit…I think. Vintage eyelet lace is from my collection.

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ABOVE: Sarong style skirt and gathered top just feel so authentically tropical. (Below, see two more color combos.) It was a pleasure to sit down and create this beautiful outfit with two excellent patterns from Forever 18 Inches. They came out great the first time without me having to puzzle out the design. Sometimes I really need that! The instructions included some new binding and finishing techniques that made me very happy.

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ABOVE: Also in blue. The drape is just wonderful thanks to the explicit instructions in the pattern. The wrap is faux. And the fit is adjustable with elastic in the back.

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ABOVE: In poppin’ neon green and a delicate Hawaiian floral print.

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ABOVE: This is the top that I was drafting (struggling with) at the time when I decided to start purchasing patterns for educational purposes. It was hard to get my mind around purchasing patterns when I’d just taken a class and what I want to do is design my own patterns. Glad I got over that because each pattern I purchase teaches me something new. And I get that much closer to designing my own with a bit more skill. Anyway, the top went through several alterations. Too long, too short, just right. A simple skirt is made from the very last scrap of that fabric. Outfit complete. Nothing wasted.

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ABOVE: I made several versions of this ruffle and ribbon embellished skirt. Trying to get the perfect fit…and that was before I learned how much the waist size of the American Girl dolls will vary. My challenge was to make a flat front waist with elastic back that doesn’t look like two different skirts. This took some experimenting.

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ABOVE: That skirt again, this time with a short sleeve button front shirt. The pattern that I’ve been working on for this shirt is pretty close. I like the fit and the length.

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ABOVE: Another, earlier, shorter, version of the short sleeve shirt. Paired here with a longer pencil skirt. The waist is elastic. I cut the sides with a little bump at the hip that gives soft curves to the somewhat tubular shape of the doll.

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ABOVE: This dolman sleeve top is my first design post class. I wanted to develop it because the sleeves are so easy to sew. In this version I think the gathers are a little too high. Chintz pull on jeans that intentionally don’t quite match are slightly imperfect in fit and drape. Still cute though, especially with a longer top. Up-cycled straw tote.

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ABOVE: The dolman sleeve top again, with the gathers lower. Maybe a little too low? Hmm? Will keep adjusting until the question marks go away. The narrow leg pants are slightly imperfect in fit and drape. It turns out there are a lot of versions in my quest for the perfect jeans. Of course, too cute to toss, and this longer top hides the flaws.

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ABOVE: My first attempt at distressing denim. In case you’re wondering, yes, it was a little stressful. After I sanded and picked threads with a tweezer, I put the finished skirt through the washer and dryer. Surprise, that final step really gives the distressing an authentic look. The midriff yoke top is the first draft of a pattern I’m developing. Was looking to create a little shape and wondering if I’d added too much. The more I look at it though, the more I like where it’s going. And that’s the value of waiting. Of not rushing into the next version.

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ABOVE: I’d been wanting to use sheer panels in the doll clothes scale ever since I saw it in a magazine. This little piece of sheer is up-cycled from an organdy gift bag. The outfit was good on its own but missing something. After I studied focal points I got the idea for the necklace. A simple string of beads adds the pop and sizzle.

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ABOVE: This amazing shirt from a pattern by Liberty Jane Clothing was a pleasure to make. The little cuffs have a continuous lap binding just like a real shirt. When I read the instructions for the cuff I thought it was impossible but I did it and it felt great! As  you can see, my doll has all the confidence necessary to pull off this look.

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ABOVE: Peplum top and narrow knee length button front skirt. Designs modified from Liberty Jane Clothing patterns. This top has several features that I really appreciate including the raglan sleeve and split neck. It did seem to be too long in the waist and too long in the peplum. So I shortened both the waist and the peplum and created the hi-low hemline at the same time. My seam ripper is such a valuable tool!

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Why else was design class so great? It wasn’t enough for me to just want to design the clothes. I wanted to ease my struggling and skip ahead to making awesome clothes. Not doll clothes but real clothes for dolls, as I learned. Class helped me narrow down my brand, style, and target age group for my designs. I was all over the place in those respects. Now I know a lot more about who I am as a fashion designer. That was a huge part of my struggle and I didn’t even know it.

For me to take a class at all required a major shift in perception. I had to convince myself that I’m a worthwhile investment. I had to go into it believing that I was “taking my awesomeness to the next level” (thank you to my sister, Judy, for the clarity of that quote). And I had to reassure myself that I was doing it because I’m smart, not stupid!

Another mental block to get past was thinking I didn’t need design class because of my graphic design experience. Oh wow, all I can say is that was just crazy wrong. My background helps, yes, of course it does. But because of the doll-specific focus of the class, I was truly enriched in the exact ways that I needed to be.

One of the most useful and surprising things I learned is that I can already draw. It’s lots faster to draw a revision than to sew one. A mindset change that’s a great big deal. It sure helped that we were encouraged to get a big eraser and use it freely. I like this better than the “old school” idea that good artists don’t erase. The floor of my studio was covered in eraser crumbs.

Next up for me is learning about specialty fabrics. I’ve done pretty well with the quilting cottons. Now it’s time to transition into apparel fabric. I’ll sometimes find myself stuck in the loop of what comes first the design skill or the fabric skill? A lot of times the answer is buying a pattern that’ll teach me both.

Also next, everybody loves shoes and knows that the right shoes can really make an outfit. So I want to start including shoes in some of my outfits. I’m considering purchasing shoes for re-sale at first, but eventually I want to make shoes and boots. And bags. And hats and scarves. Hair accessories, etc. All of it.

Thanks for reading my blog and checking out my artwork! Please let me know what you think!!

with love, Alexis

Visit me at Alexis Art Studio on Etsy

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2018, the Year I Crocheted Tiny Sweaters

Enjoy this tiny sweater fashion show. So much tiny style!

It’s been a full and busy year. Overwhelming at times. Crocheting tiny sweaters helped me through it all.

I really love miniature anything. At first, I didn’t know tiny sweaters were already a thing. Apparently, I stumbled into a “thing” by just having fun.

 “Just having fun is a worthwhile endeavor!” according to my sister, Judy. Guess I can go along with that. I feel happy each time I finish a tiny sweater and I think it’s because of how cute they are. In the last five years I’ve crocheted over 250 tiny sweater Christmas ornaments.

I started by checking out a few different free patterns before developing my own. If you like to crochet, click [here] for my easy and free instructions to make a tiny sweater.

Tiny Sweaters for Web Instructions

Tiny sweater ornaments in bright festive colors

After some refinement, I’m pleased with the shapes and proportions. Plus, now I’ve memorized the patterns. Not many things are as satisfying as being in that kind of flow.

Earlier this year I decided to crochet. To restock the popular and already sold out styles. That seemed reasonable. I didn’t expect it to take very long.

Then I got pulled into the rhythm of counting stitches. I find this very soothing. Meditative, even. A good enough reason to continue for a while. Maybe make a few extra.

Next I had cataract surgery on both eyes. This limited some activities while I waited for my vision to stabilize. Meanwhile, I had reading glasses that were the perfect strength for close-up work. Another reason to keep crocheting so I did. I love being still and productive at the same time. Crocheting lets me do that.

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Yarn to go

By summer I was getting on an airplane and flying to the mainland. Leaving behind my island home brings with it a certain amount of separation anxiety. It’s to be expected. I knew from my last trip I’d be happier if I had some yarn with me.

My brain had a lot of information to process with the multiple family reunions and reconnecting with old friends. Crocheting helped me feel grounded and resist the urge to fidget.

Once back home, more crocheting through the rest of the summer. It seems like several times I said was going to put my supplies away and then kept crocheting instead.

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In answer to the question, what have I been up to, lately?

Somebody should have stopped me right about here. I don’t know who “somebody” is, but I wish I did! I did not stop here. Nope. I still had a few styles I wanted to try.

One morning I got a text from Judy asking how was I doing? I had been pondering a question. So I texted back these two pictures of the natural white sweater and asked which bow she liked best.

“What if you added a belt?” she said, “Don’t decide now, just look at it.” Usually these things are decided by the materials I have on hand. This metallic silver trim goes perfectly with that over-the-top eyelash yarn. As a minimalist, I wouldn’t have instinctively added so many details but I love it! And I made several more just like it, too.

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Sweater ornament in natural white with metallic silver trim

It’s been so cool having a design consultant on staff. Especially since she’s proclaimed herself as one of my biggest fans. To prove her point, and without even thinking about it, she can rattle off a long list of my products that she owns (placemats, napkins, towels, wallets, jewelry, sleep masks, etc.). Thank you, Judy.

(And, yes, that’s a shameless plug for other items you may find at Alexis Art Studio.)

Our next design together was a his and hers sweater set. I’d been drawing a blank on what would make the perfect men’s style. That’s when Judy came up with the necktie idea. So cute and totally “crushed” the concept I was going for! She loved the prototype so much that she pre ordered four sets. That set me off on another crochet spree.

Later we played with a bow tie idea. We worked on it for a while, texting pictures and exchanging thoughts. After all that, I decided I liked the necktie better. It came to me in a moment and I just knew…

Repeating a great idea was going to feel better than introducing an okay idea just because it’s new. It’s one of my ongoing struggles as an artist. I’ve expended a lot of energy trying to be original all the time and finally realized it’s so unnecessary.

Making lots of sweaters also means making lots of little hangers. They’re bent from florists wire, one at a time. That’s why I’m so thankful for this jig that my husband made for me. I bend the wire around it to get the hangers a consistent size and shape.

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Jig and wire for making tiny hangers

Each sweater has a studio label inside with Made in Hawaii. Additional details about each ornament, the colors, and embellishments, are in the individual listings.

Oh, sure, yes. The thought did come to me a few times that I should stop. Making. Sweaters. But then the next thought was: I can only sell them if make them first. Because most of the work was in styles that I’ve sold before, I felt (pretty) confident that the extra inventory would be crowd pleasing.

Come check out the cute and happy tiny sweater Christmas ornaments in my etsy shop

Thank you!!

Alexis

PS: Might as well get some for yourself, too. More than once I’ve had buyers tell me they were planning to give them as gifts but couldn’t bear to part with them. Just sayin’!

About Me

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Happy in my studio

A graphic design background puts a sense of proportion and order in all the things I make. When I can brighten your day with something I’ve made, that brightens my day, too. Thank you for being part of the joy!

Since opening my etsy shop in April of 2016 I have been focusing most of my attention there.

Everything you see in my etsy shop I make, one at a time. I… Can’t. Stop. Making things! I’m a little nuts about it, actually. This is a lifelong problem that started with my grandma teaching me how to crochet when I was 7 or 8. Which lead to knitting and then to sewing and so much more.

I’m going to create things no matter what. And I’m currently in the process of learning how to connect my things to the people who will really appreciate them (marketing).

I work in whatever medium is intriguing me at the moment. And I like to really dig into a project. For as long as the process fascinates me. For as long as I’m enjoying it and learning something. After that, I say no to boredom and stale ideas! That’s how I ended up with such a wacky and fun assortment of treasures. I would love to find homes for all of them.

There’ll be more. Always more. Including some surprises for you. And me, too!

About the Work

Through my etsy shop item descriptions, I get you some backstory on each piece. I try to explain the why of it, and sometimes also the how.

MY PROCESS. I have piles of fabric, stacks of patterns and paints, and tools stuffed into every corner. All mixed with things from my personal life. All in big heaps in small spaces. I have a friend who likes to picture me sitting at the sewing machine whipping up worlds of whimsy. Hold on to that image because that is the reality—it’s just hard to take a photo of it because of there are so many ideas laying around everywhere.

QUALITY. I do my very very best, always. I’m proud of my work which is good. The downside is that I nit pick and grab my seam ripper (and other tools of destruction and undoing) far more often than might be strictly necessary. What can I say? Tightly done construction is part of my look and style.

MINIMAL WASTE. That’s my mindset. I love working with beautiful new fabrics. I also love to upcycle and repurpose. To score great finds at garage sales and thrift stores. To use up every last scrap of fabric. Take apart old jewelry and repurpose beads. Cut up old books for collages, etc.

MINIMAL PACKAGING. Sometimes I sew studio labels into my pieces, other times I attach a tiny paper tag with my logo. I ship almost everything in a padded mailer with just a little bit of white tissue wrap.

Island inspired art and gifts hand made in Hawaii.
THANK YOU!
Alexis

Jewelry Play

Finished necklace.

Finished necklace.

For a while now I’ve been resisting making jewelry. Many dozens of excuses! Finally, I called a friend for help and I am so glad I did. Help was so important to get me past that stage of not even knowing what I kind of jewelry I wanted to make. Some excellent reading materials were provided to me and I studied them.

Here is a picture of the finished piece that I’m highlighting. Click on any picture for a larger view.

While looking through the jewelry supply catalog, I spotted a project I wanted to make. Picking a project to make got me past my instinct to design something. As much as I love designing, to get started I just wanted to practice the making. Sort of awkward anyway, to attempt to design something that I have no idea how to make. Something had to come first. And as it turns out, the design I liked determined the techniques I wanted to learn. Felt good to finally get off of square one.

Because the (two inch thick) catalog was a little dated, some of the supplies for my chosen project were sold out. Others cost more than what I cared to spend. This was perfect, it gave me the opportunity to make the necklace my own instead of following the design exactly. Win. The design appealed to me because I have a tendency to make things too even. This one is definitely apart from my usual rhythm. I’m not sure if I really love the asymmetry as much as I crave irregularity, but I’m getting that figured out.

After studying a photograph of the design I wanted to make, my wonderful wonderful friend, Charlene, combed through her collections and shot me back photographs of charms and ephemera curated just for my project. I was thrilled to choose several absolutely perfect pieces from her photos before I decided what I still had to purchase. I decided on several items from the materials list, relying on that information to get the correct gauges and sizes for this scale and type of project.

Me with Sissy and Buster.

Me with Sissy and Buster.

Before long, the day had arrived for me to pick up my tools and goodies and head on over to Charlene’s for my lesson. Here I am with the fur babies, Sissy and Buster. Miss Bird was feeling camera shy and declined to be photographed. In this picture I’m being given a nice pep talk by Charlene before we get started.

This project involved some wire wrapping which I’ve wanted to learn and assumed was way out of my reach. The wire wrapping lesson was so much fun. I wanted to wrap everything! Beforehand it seemed like a far away mystery but I was given some special secrets. Such as, in every project something is expendable. In this case, the wire is expendable!! Take off more than I need and toss the extra. Start over and don’t worry about saving the bent wire. Practice. At one point Charlene said, when I show you how to tighten the wires you are going to say “ohhhh” and she did and I said “ohhhh” right on cue, it was involuntary, really. We both laughed. Silliness.

In process.

In process.

After a few hours of advice and instruction, and several charms and components richer, I went home to assemble. I had been encouraged to expend wire and I did. It took several attempts at wrapping to feel that it had the look and security that I wanted. To achieve a stronger loop, I decided it was easier to use a double strand rather than a thicker wire, at least this time. I spent the rest of Friday afternoon wrapping and hooking dangles together. Rearranging the possibilities. I was surprised to discover it was 6:30 pm and I was still in the studio.

Beads and baubles.

Beads and baubles.

Saturday morning I sat down and got serious about the assembly. I don’t have much for process photos. I really didn’t know what the process was yet! In above photo, the main part of the necklace is completed and I am adding the dangles. Still deciding which parts to hook together. The beads are strung on a crimped beading wire. The rest is assembled with jump rings and other findings.

Here is a picture of some of the components I worked with. An assortment of bought, found, and made items were used. The large chain pictured is actually a lightweight nylon-covered rubber chain. Very easy on the neck. An assortment of jump rings, head pins and eye pins are what I used to assemble the necklace and dangles. In this project I used a variety of metal colors and I’m enjoying the the mix. Also, gotta love the many “antique” colored metals available, no polishing required.

There were some surprises. First, because I was facing the work, I made a mirror image of what I thought I was doing! Later, I discovered it makes a delightful little clinking noise when I put it on and move around. Like an itty bitty wind chime.

Below are some closeups of the dangles and wire-wrapped components.

Now I’ve decided that jewelry making is definitely going to be one of my things that I do. I love that it is a quiet job. No power tools. No chemicals. I get to take my time making decisions and can change my mind without leaving a trace of correction behind. (Even if I have to expend a few jump rings to get there.) It took several tries to get the dangles at the bottom to hang in the order I wanted them. I just kept taking the components apart and rearranging the findings until I was satisfied.

Even with all the fussing and re-doing, I wrapped it up Saturday afternoon and felt very good about the experience. I deeply appreciate having this clean studio to work in and clean tables to spread everything out onto. So many thanks go to my sweet husband who gave me the fabulous gift of this beautiful studio.

I’ve tidied up for now but am keeping the tools and supplies close by and dreaming up some new projects.

Thank you for reading my blog!
Aloha, Alexis

Doll Clothes Summer Fun Fashion Show

Highlights from last week’s photo shoots. Featuring tiny clothes for the Hawaiian Girl Dress Up Doll. There are shorts and tee shirts for the Hawaiian Brother Doll, too.

Posing the dolls was a lot of fun, I especially enjoyed the flying hair. Occasionally, I used a pin to help hold the pose. It takes me a few tries to get the exact shot that feels right. I throw away several shots for every one I keep. Sometimes the smallest adjustment of a limb or the tilt of the face goes a long way towards bringing the dolls to life.

Using my iPhone 4s, I shot in my studio on a variety of partly overcast days. Mostly only natural lighting coming through the windows. Only a few times did I turn on the overhead lights, and liked the result of that, too. I used a tilted surface to keep the dolls in place while casting the shadows just enough to give the appearance of standing. Throughout the day I turned the tilted surface to follow the sun. The white cloth background helped me see when the angle was capturing the most available light.

While the outfits are all made from only a few basic pattern pieces, I spent a good amount of time developing them. During the process I would redraw the patterns after each outfit I sewed. Making micro-adjustments until the fit and proportions were to my liking. On clothes this small, it doesn’t take much change to create a whole new look. Fit and proportion are so important. Really, once I figure out where I want the hem, which can take a few tries, it is just as easy to hem it at a stylish length as anywhere else. No doll should have to wear ill fitting or unflattering clothes!

The dolls and outfits are available for purchase on etsy where I have more pictures and full descriptions for you. I’m working on all the listings this week so please let me know if you are not seeing the one you really want.

Click on the images for a larger view.

We’ll have the boys first. The boy and girl bodies are identical so these could be considered appropriate for either. I made two of each of these outfits while all of the rest to follow are one-of-a-kinds. Here the denim cutoffs are stitched with orange for a classic jeans style. Legs are frayed at the bottom instead of hemmed for that authentic cutoff look.

Shorts sets for the girly girls. The “Aloha” tank top and plumeria cropped tee shirt are both stamped and hand painted with fabric markers. Long shorts and short shorts. Hooray for summer vacation!

Long denim pants and jean skirt, both have double stitching details in front and real pockets in back. Slim fit jeans, pencil skirt.

Pajamas and nightgowns are two of life’s great pleasures. Let’s get comfortable.

These are ready for sleepovers with a matching eyelet trimmed pillow.

Tutus for dancing and playing fun. They have a little skirt or pair of shorts built in. Tank top with embellishments or decorative stamping and hand painting.

Long muumuu dresses. An elegant look for shelf-sitting dolls.

Skirts and tops and a pants set. I love it when I find prints that fit into the small scale of these clothes.

Thank you for your interest in my dolls. I love making them and hope they bring joy to many.

Alexis

Satin-Lined Sleep Masks

[These masks are all sold out. And a new and improved version is available so check it out in my etsy shop.]

Satin-lined sleep masks in an assortment of pretty Hawaiian print fabrics. Intended as a light weight travel accessory, it really is handy to have wherever you are. One of those small things that can make a big difference in personal happiness. Soothing for eyes. Good for sleeping on airplanes (or just creating some privacy!). Nice for resting in unfamiliar places.

Also wonderful at home for those full moon nights. Plus sweet-sweet daytime naps. Satin lining is cool on your face. Padded with a layer of cotton batting for thickness. Comfortable elastic band fits most. Trimmed in coordinating or contrast piping for a neat look. Most have black satin, a few have red. I’ve used a variety of black and colored elastics.

Below is a slide show of some sleep masks that I currently have in stock. A fun tropical souvenir that is also useful at home. A gift appreciated by men and women alike.

Cotton on the front and cotton piping. Satin lining is polyester. About 7.5″ wide and 3″ tall with a 16″ elastic band.

Satin-lined sleep masks are $7 each and the shipping is free. I’ve enjoyed making them for you. Please visit my etsy shop to purchase.
Thank you!
Alexis

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