Thursday, March 27, 2008

Straw Boater Tutorial

This was my first Tutorial many years ago...but it still a basic and deserves repeating. Michelle

A Straw Boater 1":1' Scale



Sharp scissors

3/4" Dowel

Hat Straw and misc decorations

Glue with fine tip dspenser

Step 1

The Crown There is a linen cord/string woven in on either side of the hat braid. Pull this cord (either side) gently BUT firmly to curl the straw. Do not pull hard or you risk breaking the straw or pulling it all the way out. Glue (or stitch if you have to) straw into a 3/4" tight circle. To do this put a very bit of glue on the edge and overlap barely 1/16" on straw edge. Cut the end of the straw at an angle to help hide the cut end. Press Flat with steam iron.

Step 2


lue two flat strips of hat braid together lengthwise. Glue the second strip not on edge but half way covering the second strip. This will define the crown height so make it as tall as you would like. They should be long enough to go around a 3/4" dowel. Glue the ends together around the dowel and then glue the disk made in step 1 on the top. Barely glue the edge. If you need more glue then add more to the inside so it won't be seen.

Step 3

The Brim Pull the cord again as in step 1. Curl, by pulling cord approx. 7 - 8" worth of straw. But instead of making a tight disk as in the crown, leave a hole in the center that is approx. 5/8". Curl around and around gluing each subsequent layer just barely 1/16" over the edge of the layer before. Go around at least three times but this is your preference. Cut the end of the straw at an angle to help hide the cut end.

Step 4

Glue the crown to the brim at the center and decorate to your hearts content.

Thank you for visiting our Blog. Hopefully you enjoyed the tutorial.

Just as a gentle reminder, that tutorial was written to help to stimulate your creativity.

This Tutorial, Pictures, & Instructions are copy-righted & are not to be used as a tutorial of your own.

This means you may not copy and post this tutorial to your own website, or print it out and sell or distribute it as your own.

Tools of the Trade - Box 4 - Cut

Cut. I think "cut" is pretty self explanatory but it can be expanded on. Remember the rule, "Measure twice, cut once!" Fits anywhere and especially in sewing and miniatures. So, within cut I have rulers as well.
Let's talk cutting first. I do not put my sewing scissors here. These are paper and other scissors only. The first pair is a good pair of scherenschnitte scissors, (little paper cuttings and silhouettes), a good pair of paper cutting scissors and an Xacto knife with fresh blades. These are the must haves in miniatures.
The rulers are simple ones as well. A nice metal 6" ruler in metric and English, not pictures is also a transparent ruler, a couple of squares and a compass. The little blue ruler is one ingenious little measuring tool. Each side is broken up into measures of an inch and can be quite useful. Plus, it fits in a small space!
I also keep a fine set of calipers handy. I use this a lot in working with metal. Kathi

Monday, March 24, 2008

Tools of the Trade - Box 3 - Pinch

Pinch. There is not so much in the pinch box as I have recently cleaned it out. But we don't need much, a favorite is a favorite.

The little plastic box contains some electronic testing clips I purchased from Radio Shack. The light blue tool is used to make bias binding. I keep it handy as I use sewing for larger dolls. The ever present alligator clips, but I don't like to leave "tooth" marks on things. I have 4 favorite tweezers. Each of the small tweezers has a very sharp, pointed tips. The hemostats, some call forceps as well, are the ultimate tweezers, plus they will clamp closed to hold something in position.
The curved metal tool is for scooping up beads, and which of us hasn't cursed a time or two when we knocked over that box of beads? It really helps make picking them up and pouring them back into the container easier. Sometimes the best tools are not the most expensive.

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Shipment Of Austrian Metallic’s

I just got in a new shipment of tine metallic trims from Austria. It took me months to get them. But they are worth the nice. This is the good the trims from the turn of the century. Click Here to go: Metallic Trims on Michelle

Tools of the Trade - Box 2 - Wood

Wood. Today we talk about the box named wood. This is really a catch all for things with wood handles, but there are some tools for working with wood as well.

My favorite tools for wood are shown here. The 5/8" dowel and 3/4" dowel both have a half ball on the end as well. These are used as guides and shapers to make miniature hats. Hat forms, I should say.

The travel nail file and sand paper are for wood finishing. The three dark wood tools in the center are a rose tool, a combination rose tool and ball stylus and a needle tool. I have been asked many times how I keep white items clean while working on them and my response is the needle tool. I can use it to place or spread glue, poke things in place, tame feathers and ribbons and many more uses. I think it is my favorite and most used tool after scissors and tweezers.

Finally, the right side shows an orange stick and strange little tool of toothpicks and corrugated cardboard. The cardboard holds the toothpicks in place and the distance between the two is used to help make bows in a consistent size. This too is a tool I created from some one else's wonderful imagination. I did not have the space for a comb or other methods. I like this one.

Also in the box you will notice more tools, however they are more than likely doubles and varying sizes of the ball stylus. Kathi

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Tools of the Trade - Box 1 - Sew

Today I am going to show you the Sewing Box. Within this sewing box I have the various sewing items based on the sewing I do most. Let's talk about the items and what I like about mine and you can decide about your own.

In the sewing box all filled you will notice there are different kinds of pins and needles and couple extra cases. I'll explain these also. But you can see I can squeeze a quite tidy amount of needed items in my little plastic case.

My most used items are a set of tiny and long beading needles in the plastic bag. I think they are a size 15 or 16. I try to take good care of them. I have a long set of embroidery scissors (Gingher in black leather case), a set of cuticle scissors (multitude of uses), a small pair of Gingher (brown leather case), silk pins, needle cases for my favorite needles, a ruler and a little ironing board.

(You might notice that there is Japanese writing on the yellow silk pin case. I lived in Japan for quite a few years and have guarded this box jealously. )

I have two favorite sewing needles, Clover Golden Eye 10 Sharps and Nickel plated #9 needles. I have a ruler in almost every plastic box. The little ironing board is made from a tongue depressor, shaped into a point, padded and covered with cotton. Comes in really handy. I read about this a long time ago and would like to give credit but I have no idea where I read it.

In the box you might notice I have assorted straight pins, they come in handy. There are "bug" pins and quilters pins, a thimble and some thin beading thread and needle threaders. What is going to be in your sewing box? Kathi

Monday, March 17, 2008

Artist's Workspace

I dress dolls and make miniatures as well. I have a small built in desk in my hobby room. I have found over time any more surfaces soon become filled with things as I set them aside and don't put them away, so limiting my work space is a good idea. But what of all these tools we collect? One day I did a serious inventory and I also looked over my items and found some things I really used a lot, more things that I used sometimes, and others I do not use at all. I took the items I do not use at all and moved them out of site. The items I used sometimes, I figured out what the specific function was and decided to put them aside in a drawer. And finally, I took those items I use a lot and sorted them into categories. (The tools that are duplicates or I do not use, I trade or sell to someone who can use them) Those categories were; sew, cut, pinch, wood, write and wire. Sounds a bit weird, doesn't it? I purchased an Artbin (tm) Pastel. This wonderful case has 6 plastic boxes with a soft sided zippered casing and a sturdy carrying handle. Within the drawers I placed the items that fit the category. In the next few days we will go through the cases that I have sorted to give you ideas about your own tool organization and ways to manage all the fine things you have. Here is the case closed and opened for you to get an idea of what I have as well as a snapshot of my work space. The additional benefit of a set up like this is I can grab it on the go and take it to club and have everything I need for a quick project. (I cannot build with this box, but almost anything else I can complete.) As we share with you on Creative Doll you will learn more about Michelle and I. For example, you will find Michelle has the great ideas, bold color appreciation and many talents other than dolls and dollmaking. And me, well, you are going to learn that I am extreeeeemely organized and have a talent or two that might surprise you as well. Kathi

Artist's Collaboration

What happens when two very different doll artists get together to create one doll? The results can surprise and delight you. Nancy Cronin is a miniature doll sculptor extraordinaire. When I asked her how she got into sculpting she said what most of us say, " I have been doing something with my hands as long as I can remember!" Isn't that the truth! After working with Nancy on the kitchen witch project, she asked if I could dress a wee figure for her. I asked her to send it on, and asked what period, colors and styles she liked. Her answer, "Surprise me!" Our work is so different, Nancy makes wonderful, little witchy styled ladies and faces with so much character. I make ladies that are perfect mannequins for pretty and fancy clothes AND I need someone to tell me what they want. There is not an original bone in my body! But to no avail, Nancy remained firm. "Surprise me!"
I went to work on something that would make her happy and I would also enjoy. I happened on a costume drawing Throne V. Aldridge had done for a play titled Onward, Victoria and as sure as the picture was on the page, she became my inspiration for Nancy's lady. I have included pictures for the costume design and the finished figure. I was so excited and delighted. I sent the figure off and Nancy was not expecting her at all. As soon as she was unwrapped Nancy called me. She was as delighted as I. So, all my doll making and costuming friends out there, keep an open and positive mind and I'll be something wonderful will happen. We sure think it did. Kathi

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Remarkable Characters of Nancy Cronin

I started working with Nancy Cronin this year. It was something I had thought of for over a year, but as it is with any artist one admires we think they are untouchable and unreachable. This was not the case when I finally approached Nancy. I have loved her witchy little ladies and men and her unique perspective on the little ones since I saw my first one. I was asked to teach again at a Fun Day in Chattanooga and asked what the theme would be. "Something kitchen-y, we believe!" Well, all I could think of was Nancy's little dolls and told them I would like to do a kitchen witch. Well, I was set. And now I had to really chat with Nancy, I was nervous. But I did it!

During our planning I asked Nancy about her history and we chatted like most people getting to know one another. Nancy said when kitchen witches became popular in the early 1980's she thought she would like to make one to hang over her mother's sink. Her mother always liked the things Nancy made for her, so thought the lucky little witch would be a lot of fun for her. The witch she made for her mother was a soft sculpture made of nylons stockings. Nancy says, " I had a wonderful time and lot's of giggles creating her." Nancy continues, " Well mom took one look at her and declared, 'Take her away she is so ugly!' " Her mother was serious as she liked beautiful things, but Nancy did not feel rejected at all. She says she was inspired to make more, and that spawned her career in sculpting in many different mediums. About 5 years ago, Nancy was looking for inspiration in her huge collection of books and magazines, and she was drawn to her little yellow Post-It Note, which in turn led her to an article and pictures of 1/12th scale dolls. That was her light bulb moment. She was a miniature doll artist, she has never looked back and these little witches have remained her favorite characters to create. Kathi

Nancy is teaching a class at the Tom Bishop Show in Chicago. If you would like to make Glamour Puss visit here:

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bleuette and Her Dog

This is my Bleuette and her dog. You saw the mini Bleuettes the Lucie Winsky makes in the article on Feb 12, 2008. Now is a full size Bleuette reproduction that I love to play with. She is enjoying the sun in her cotton frock enjoying the warm summer day with her best friend. Kathi

Who is Bleuette?

Bleuette was born in France in 1905 as a premium for little girls who bought a subscription to “La Semaine de Suzette,” which was a popular magazine for French girls. The magazine offered Bleuette to all subscribers, and promised patterns for her in each issue. The magazine publisher ordered the original batch of dolls from SFBJ (a French doll company which included the remnants of such famous doll companies as Jumeau) and Bleuette was born.
The initial batch of dolls all had bisque heads and fully-jointed composition bodies. The doll was always 27 cm in height. It was very important that all Bleuettes were the same height and had basically the same body measurements, since the doll was intended to be sewn for! The whole purpose of La Semaine de Suzette was to help little French girls grow up into fine French women, and, of course, the skill of sewing was needed. Wouldn't it be nice to have little girls today interested in sewing?

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Bunka Bunka Bunka..What the heck is Bunka??

Bunka is a knitted rayon crepe thread. The best Bunka is usually if not always made in Japan. Its primary use is to embroider with. This is called painting with thread. A sample of this embroidery is to the left. This trim is especially valuable to miniaturists, because when you pull a single thread of the "cord" and pull, it unravels to form a nice, loopy, curly, stretchy thread which can be used for many things. Notice the unraveled samples in the photograph. You can also see the difference between a quality bunka(top) and a lesser. I think the KAO Brand is the best as when it is unraveled the curls are nice and even. I import the KAO Brand from Japan. It is sometimes thought of as a trim for the novice minaiturist. But I think there are zilllions of uses for bunka thread in miniature and doll making. You can use it raveled or as is (right). I have used it as a trim of course. You can make faux embroidered roses by snipping the raveled threads into bits and gluing into rose shapes. I have even used this little bits to fill in and color lace (left). You can also unravel it then iron it flat for a very delicate thread/trim. It can be used on other miniature creations to. Like piping for upholstery and drapery. There are artist's that use bunka to create faux punch carpets (below). They are works of art. It is the perfect fiber to use hair for doll's doll hair...or dolls of a smaller scale like 1/24. It creates perfect ringlets! It can also be used in making some flowers such as lilacs or even for flower centers. If you have unique use for Bunka send me a picture and tell me about it: I will add it to this Bunka article. Here is a picture of a customer of mine, Tres Beertema of The Netherlands, carpets. These are works in progress showing 1":1' cartpets made of Bunka.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Just 'cause they are CUTE!

Past doll I have made. The sweaters were knit by IGMA Fellow Christine Adams of England. I kind of of wish I had kept one. I love her knitting.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

All About Scale

Kathi’s Rules of Thumb (and other body parts)
A lot of people working in the miniature world have a great eye for what is and is not “in scale.” Some folks have it naturally and some of us have had to learn it the hard way. Good News! I have devised a set of rules that a beginner can use to be sure that valuable dollar is not wasted unnecessarily. I drew these up as I was dressing figures and am often found in the store with hands, feet and legs accompanying me. When you get the feel of this and then get more experience then feel free to break the rules and take chances. So, here are my “Rules of Thumb” (and other body parts) for a beginner or any miniaturist to get it right. The rules are useful for dressing furniture as well.

The Hand Rule developed by accident. I was considering a dress with an indecently large cabbage rose. The more I looked at it the more I thought I should be sitting on it and not wearing it. I noticed that my hand was about the size of the largest print I should wear and thought, “If it is bigger than my hand, I am not wearing it!” Well, I figured that rule would fare me well in fabric selection for the reproduction French Fashions that I dress and would thereby fit for the 1/12th scale miniatures as well. The “Hand Rule” was invented. Ultimately, I applied the same logic to many other things and the “Rules of Thumb” were invented.

Before we discuss the rules, let’s discuss when to apply the rules. When you are having fun and creating for yourself or are having fun with fantasy anything, don’t apply the rules, just have fun. When you are placing a doll in competition, apply the rules and a few minor exceptions that we’ll go into later, and have fun. When you are being juried, Artisan or Fellow or serious doll competition, strictly adhere to the rules. And, of course, the exception is application to a fantasy category; however I would NOT deviate far from the rules. I speak from experience. But you still must have fun, hard work fun, but fun just the same.

The Hand Rule
If the design on the fabric is bigger than the doll’s hand, pass it by. Think about it, would you wear a design that is bigger than your hand? When would that be? That would be upholstery, wouldn’t it? Scarlett wore draperies, but they were solid velvet. Take your doll hand with you to check the pattern when you are selecting a fabric for the next project whether from your stash or in the store. (They’ve gotten used to me with body parts in the store.)
Exceptions to the hand rule are:
· Pleating, smocking or other fabric manipulation
· Fabric you are going to be embroidering over, kind of filling in the design
· It is a great accent or a trim
· The character requires it. i.e.: Cher’s “Laverne”
· You just love it.


Maybe Yes Perfection

The Partial Hand Rule
Relax your hand. The thumb and index finger bend toward each other. Look at the bend, the distance between the bend, or the measurement of the “scoop” is about an inch and a half and is the same for figures. Straps for luggage and purses should not exceed this measurement. Gentlemen, you might need to think about how these rules affect your endeavors, and ask a woman to model. The rules are the same for men; however, the rule is man to man, and woman to woman for size relationships.
Exceptions to the Partial Hand Rule are:
· I can’t think of one. You tell me.

The Index Finger Rule
A strand of fiber or thread should not be long enough to go over the finger. Think about this one. Everyone gets tripped up by this one at one time or another. The pattern is a perfect size, possibly gorgeous silk brocade, but if the threads that pass over and under are greater than the finger, the threads will show up and be out of scale. A quarter inch in real life is no big deal. In the miniature world no threads pass openly for 4 inches, disaster! My cat would have it in seconds.

The Thumb Rule
If the trim is as thick as a thumb or even a pinkie, it is too thick. I cannot think of a single trim that would work, well maybe on a sofa, certainly not in dressmaking. If the pile of the fabric is that thick, be sure it is a carpet or a fur. Don’t wear the carpet and be conservative with furs. Most in scale miniatures are overwhelmed by natural furs. There are exceptions, shaved beaver for example, and I have seen some pros really make it work. If you are a beginner, try things, but in general, the pile is too thick.

The Foot Rule
If the leather is thicker than ¼ the depth of the foot pass it by.
Exceptions to the Foot Rule are:
· The leather is perfect for the sole of the shoe.
· Platforms and Wedges

The Eye Rule
Take note the size of your pupils. Your beads or sequins should not be larger than the size of the pupil of the eye.
Exceptions to the Eye Rule are:
· Big Earrings of the 60’s
· Big paillettes (sequins) on dresses in the 60’s, but then not bigger than the eyeball
· You are working in Fantasy category
· You love it.

Mini Sequin Punched from a Full Size Sequin

The Shoulder Tall Rule
This is a little loose, but I go by it anyway. In general we make lady dolls 5 1/2” high. That makes the shoulders about 5” high. A trunk is about 5” wide. (Even a vertical Steamer is 5 feet tall, which blew me away when I learned that, I thought they were taller.) So the trunk should not generally be wider than 5” or taller than 5”.
Exceptions to the Shoulder Tall Rule
· The only trunk that should be bigger than your doll is if it is being displayed in it.

The Shoulder Wide Rule
Hat brims are not wider than the width of the shoulders. In miniatures this is crucial if you are being juried. (Why take away from that beautiful face?) Miniature doll hat pins are rarely more than ¾” long. (My general rule is, have fun with hat pins and remember the Eye Rule.)
Exceptions to the Shoulder Wide Rule:
· Ascot Dress in “My Fair Lady.” (Although if you really look at it, as exaggerated as it is, it is placed on the side of her head so the brim really doesn’t exceed her shoulder width. But that is a really big hat!

And don’t forget most suppliers that specialize in "miniature fabrics" have done the hard work for you (the above and more are available thru Be sure to buy from them if you are unsure. And when visiting a fabric store, don’t be overwhelmed. Look at the fabrics and trims for awhile. You’d be surprised what will come to you.
I had a particularly hard problem to solve with a dress challenge recently. I told my husband I had to go to the fabric store and think for awhile. I slowly walked the aisles; a solution had to be hiding there. I thought I would know if I saw it. Bingo? Keep an open mind. Have Fun!