Friday, January 23, 2015

Order Form for Ruby's Cloak

It's time to make your dreams come true! We are now taking orders for our replica of Ruby's Cloak. Want to order one of our popular red velvet cloaks? Here's where you do it! Be warned - we are only taking orders for 5 cloaks right now, and it will be at least 3 months before we open orders again!
Cloak Order Form
Want to order one of our popular red velvet cloaks? Here's where you do it!

Each cloak costs $339.00 + $25 US domestic shipping and handling (priority mail, fully insured). At this time we are only taking orders for residents of the United States. Because of the expensive nature of the materials, all payment is required in advance.

Each fully lined cloak is made of a gorgeous damask velvet and is 100% polyester, making it easy to take care of.

Since the fabric must be specially ordered from the mill, please allow 3-4 months for your order to be completed. We will keep you updated and let you know when the fabric arrives - once it does, your cloak is only 6 weeks away!

  • Generally the only customizable part of the cloaks is the length. However, if you have any unusual physical features (very plus sized, short/long arms), make note of them here so we can determine if any changes are needed for your cloak.
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Thursday, January 22, 2015

How to Make a Halfpenny Doll Family

There are a lot of dolls most of us remember from growing up. Barbies. American Girl Dolls. Polly Pockets. I had all of these, but the dolls that were my absolute favorite, that I played with until they were worn to pieces, were Halfpenny Dolls. (See what they looked like here)

Originally, halfpenny dolls (similar to Hispanic Worry Dolls) were so named because the bits and pieces that went into them were little scraps that cost half a penny or less. Which was slightly ironic because mine came from Hearthsong and cost $25 per family (not counting babies, grandparents ore teenagers, which could be purchased separately). However, considering the hours of enjoyment they gave me, it was probably the best money my parents spent on me until they gave me my own sewing machine. The dolls are the perfect scale for most miniatures, are tremendously portable, and very poseable. The only downside is that after much heavy play, they do wear out, and while the threads and fabrics can be mended, broken inner wires are pretty are to fix.

By the time I grew out of playing with them (which wasn't until I was about 14), I had about twenty of the dolls, and had only lost two of them over a decade of play. My sister had a similar collection.

Recently I thought I ought to look and see if the dolls had changed over the years... only to find to my dismay that Hearthsong no longer carried them. What? The closest equivalent I could find were Sally Mavor's Wee Felt Folk, but these are real works of art and not dolls I'd want to give to a 4-year-old. Time to test and see if I could make my own. I mean, I've only got a couple of years before my niece and nephew will need their own!

The results, which I posted on my Facebook and Instagram, turned out so well that people were asking me for a tutorial. So, here goes!

To make your own halfpenny doll, you will need:

  • Pipecleaners (1 for child, 2 for adult)
  • Cotton batting scraps
  • Fabric scraps for clothes (woven or felt)
  • Skin tone woven cotton scrap
  • Embroidery floss (skin tone and clothing colors)
  • Embroidery needle
  • Polyester sewing thread (clothing colors)
  • Regular sewing needle
  • Fine pens
  • Blush colored marker

Click any photo to see it full sized!

Although my halfpenny dolls growing up had stitched on faces, I opted for the ease and options of drawn on faces. I used a 005 Prismacolor pen to draw the basic face in black on a skin tone cotton. I wait to add cheek, eye and lip color (if necessary) after the head is assembled, in case anything needs to be tweaked.

For this tutorial, I made a little boy. The difference between adults and children is basically that kids are 50% smaller and require just one pipe cleaner rather than two. I folded the pipe cleaner into the body shape (see next photo) to mark out the hands and feet. Then I unfolded it, made sure the marks were even on both sides, and wrapped the hand sections with a skin tone embroidery floss and the feet sections with the shoe color embroidery floss. I was careful to keep the wrapping tight and even.

Next I folded the body back into shape.

Even with the pipecleaner doubled over, it would still make for a pretty skinny kid at this scale. So here I used the batting scraps to give the body a bit of 'meat.' You can see that I used a bit of light colored sewing thread to hold the batting in place on the arm until I could go over it with embroidery floss or clothing.

Now it's time to assemble the head! I made a little ball from the batting scraps and wrapped the face fabric around it, keeping the folds towards the back of the head where they would be covered by hair. I used regular thread to wrap the fabric tightly around at the neck, and sewed a few stitches through the center of the neck, being sure to pierce the little pipecleaner loop so that the head stays securely on and isn't pulled off by an over-enthusiastic child.

Time to wrap the body! I always started at the hand/food and moved in towards the center of the body, keeping the floss smooth and even. The batting compresses, but I was careful not to make it so tight that there wasn't still a bit of soft give to it.

Once the arms and legs are wrapped, you can wrap the neck. Here you can see I've wrapped nearly all the arms and legs, but not quite, since his clothes will cover up most of the center. For my little girl, baby and mom, I wrapped the entire body. For the dad, I only wrapped the feet, hands and neck, since his clothes covered all the rest.

(Not shown in this photo - the X-shaped wrapping over the torso. See the photo of the little girl below to get an idea of how this looks.)

I wanted to put fray check on the clothes, so I cut them out prior to doing the hair so that the glue could dry while I was working on the hair. You can skip this step entirely if you choose to use felt instead of woven fabric.

Putting on the hair is the most time consuming part of the process, and the hardest on your hands. It usually took me at least an hour to put on any of the hair, with the adults being the most laborious. Use an embroidery needle, pull the hair firm against the head, but not tight, and work from front to back, keeping the sides even and close together.

Tip: have a pliers on hand. Sometimes it is really hard to get the needle head through the layers of fabric/batting/accumulated floss and a little tug from the pliers will make it all go much quicker and safe your fingers much aching.

When sewing the clothes, be aware of how they will go on the doll. Some seams need to be stitched down after the doll is dressed, since there are no buttons/zippers/velcro small enough to work on these little people!

Here you can just barely see the little green I added to my little guy's eyes. There is also a bit of color in his cheeks, although it doesn't show up here. For the girls, I added some lip color as well.

I just used my prismacolor markers from my art kit. I'll have to see how well they hold up over the years and whether they need any touching up after much play.

And here is the full family!

Because I've been so sick recently, I had a lot of time to spend making these wee folk. I did mom/daughter in one day, dad another day, and little boy and baby yesterday.

I'm very proud of the detail in dad's tie.

Mom was the first doll to be completed. For future ladies, I'll probably experiment with more complex hairdos.

My little halfpenny girls growing up always had tiny braids. I couldn't resist making this little lass's a bit longer!

Here you can see how her skirt is attached. I used this technique for a lot of the clothing. I sewed the gathering seam, slipped the fabric on and tucked the raw edges and stitches under, then drew the gathers closed like a drawstring. The stitching is invisible from the outside.

This baby is so adorable it makes me want to squee.

Here you can see the face details a bit better.

And here you can see the backs of the heads, which aren't always quite as uniform as they could be... but eh. My hands were tired.

I hope this tutorial was helpful and easy to follow! If you enjoyed it, feel free to share and pin it!

Now, what should I make next? Teenagers? Grandparents? Or maybe some historical folk? What do YOU think?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

A Ruby Cloak could be coming soon - to you!

Do you want your own replica of Red/Ruby's Cloak, based on her costume in "Once Upon a Time"? Then make sure you're on this list because ordering is opening this week! Please get on this list even if you already sent me a cost query - all the cloaks will cost the same and I'll give the full details when I e-mail the list.

My independent contractors came over yesterday and we talked through all the steps of making the cloaks, including making a miniature version for practice.

No arm slits yet and the ribbon isn't sewn in, but isn't she cute?
All of the fabric will need to be ordered from the fabric warehouse, so it could be at least 3 months before we are shipping cloaks out, but if this goes well, we'll be able to turn out a lot more cloaks then I could on my own (and let's be honest, after 8 or 9 of these, I'm just plain burnt out).

Monday, January 12, 2015

Ruby/Red's Cloak from Once Upon a Time

Quite awhile ago a commentator on this blog left me a link to some red brocade they believed was quite close to Ruby's cloak on "Once Upon a Time." When I got a commission to replicate this cloak, my customer was willing to go with the $25 per yard price tag and when it arrived, lo and behold, I realized it was the exact same fabric used by the show's costumers! And wow, was it ever amazing! It's a damask velvet, polyester but very soft to the touch, and extremely thick and heavy. 

I am no longer taking commissions for this Cloak. HERE'S WHY

(You can find the fabric here for $27 per yard or search for "Neiman Marcus Red Jacquard" or "Red Velvet Damask." You can also sometimes find it here for $20 a yard.)

The fabric likes to fray (as anything velvety does) so I serge every single seam. Huzzah for sergers. In the picture above you can also see the interfacing we use for the hood brim and cloak border to give it the structure seen on the show's version.

Velvet is so interesting to work with, and velvet damask even more so!

It takes between 5 and 6 yards to make this cloak nice and full - and since it is a directional print, it requires some specific fussy laying out.

There is so much of this fabric, that it is way easier to use pattern weights (I use tuna cans) rather than pin it down.

I don't actually have my own replica of this cloak. However, I did make (finished with a friend's help!) a white version for my wedding:

(Why am I outside on a January night? Read more here if you want the story!)

Back to business. Both layers of the cloak have to have level hems before being sewn together. This can be easier to accomplish if I put the dressform up on one of my sewing tables.

A wise woman once gave me this tip: when gathering heavy fabric, don't use a basting stitch. Instead, zigzag over some dental floss, then pull the floss to gather as desired. This eliminates the high risk of thread breakage.

What was I gathering on this project? The hem of the cloak, so that it could be folded up and eased into the higher and thus shorter hem of the lining.

here you can see everything lined up, with the damask coming up on the inside to meet the lining.

Red has two cloaks on the show, and the damask cloak has two incarnations, one of them a repaired version. We decided to go with the undamaged version as it was simpler to work with. I didn't have to cut and rotate panels on the bottom, but I did still have to add borders along the front openings.

Her actual cloak also includes a ripple hem, which is a ton more work and which only took replicating once to realize I didn't want to do it again.

You can read more about the ruffle version here, but please don't ask me for a commission quote on making a second one!

As close inspection of pictures revealed, the show's version included slits in the side front seams for the wearer's hands to emerge. I did a couple different variations to figure out the best method for binding the slits.

This was okay, but difficult to keep smooth and very time consuming. So I decided to finish them in the same method that you would do a bound buttonhole. It worked a lot better. This required narrower seam allowances - too narrow for serging, so...

All that was left was to sew the hood and cape together, and cover that final seam with a lovely red ribbon!

Voila! Look at all that scarlet!

I am no longer taking commissions for this cloaks (or any cloaks). Here's why.