Works In (Various Stages of) Progress

This started out as an essay about Works In Progress, because of a post I saw on Tumblr this morning:

It got me thinking about what all is lying around here, visibly awaiting completion. There are sewing and knitting and crochet and drawing and writing projects scattered all over the place, numbering around a dozen.

Or so.

But because yesterday marked 9 years since Asa died, it put me in mind of something else.

About a week before his death, which was terrible - something else happened. On the evening of February 27th or the early morning hours of February 28th of 2014, a person or persons unknown picked the lock of our used book store and stole some stuff, most notably the entire contents of the Gift Cabinet – which was all my original beadwork.*

Each and every piece that was taken (and none of it was recovered) was like a knife to my soul, but one piece in particular was taken that came close to destroying me. I had worked on it, back in 2007, for hours and hours as I sat beside Asa, painstakingly sewing every bead into place as he read to me, or we watched some movie, or we just talked. When I beaded her face, Asa said I should give her freckles, and I did - though they don't show up very well in this photo.**

My Dragon Rider

Trust me, this all relates back to my initial theme - that of works in progress. Now, when the theft happened, I hadn't gotten very far on this project, a dragon for that rider:

I had made and stuffed all the pieces (except for the wings), and had managed to bead its forearms/claws, but that was it. The work was sooo time intense, and time had become a rather precious commodity. Then, when my doll was stolen, something in me just shattered. I boxed up the dragon and put it away. I couldn't bear to look at it. From time to time I'd come across the box, but I just couldn't make myself open it. Years passed.

Now we come to today, nine years later, and seeing that post on Tumblr, and remembering Asa's passing and everything all at once, I wondered. Where did I put my longest languishing WIP, that dragon? I checked in the basement, and there it was on a storage rack, in a clearly marked box. Without a moment's hesitation, I opened it.

I forgot how much I loved this silly thing. I could finally look at it, and remember, and smile. I think I'm ready to put it back on the WIP list now.

And I still want my dragon rider back.

Next time: More doll stuff. Probably.


*If you're curious about what all was taken, here's a link to the blog entry, What Was Stolen
**Also: here's a link to when I actually started the dragon, back in 2011, and a better photo of Valeria Gloria: The Dragon



Not sure what to be more chuffed about - finishing this project after three months of VERY sporadic work, or managing to take some pretty decent photos of said work. No matter. It's all a done deal now, and it's time to take a Little Detour. More on that at the end.

First, though, the Recap:

Work began in October '22 on this phase of the Grand Vogue Craft Pattern Extravaganza, and proceeded, as per normal, at a snail's pace. Now, since we are indeed rebels gone rogue around here, we started with View B. And we continued skipping around for the entire run of this chapter.

If you recall, we threatened this would be an all black and white collection, but there would naturally be the occasional pop of color. We're more than a little in love with gold at the moment, and our affection in that direction never wavered.

Before we start, we need to mention something. This particular pattern was clearly intended for the original Barbie body, with the tiny waist that made the chest seem so large by contrast. And none of the dresses had the kind of back closure we've grown accustomed to. On most of the more contemporary dolls, the back closure had to be adjusted. By a lot. 

Anyway. Here's the first completed outfit for the #9686 project, View B:

  • Construction notes: 100% cotton print fabric, and instead of lining the dress fully, bias binding was used on the neck and arm openings. It gave the bodice an interesting boxy effect. 
  • Styling notes: This is still our current favorite tiny hat style. The leather belt was made with a vintage doll-shoe buckle, and the gold ribbon rose was selected as the connecting element for this project. 
  • Doll notes: This is a hybrid doll - the head is a rescue from a "12 Dancing Princesses - Genevieve" doll, and the body is that of a Barbie 60th Anniversary doll (Model Muse). 
Next up, View A: The Coat:

  • Construction notes: Black microsuede for the outer shell, and black acetate for the full lining. It was a breeze to build. No issues with the sewing at all.
  • Styling notes: we added in a golden yellow cotton knit tube dress, worn with a purchased skinny black belt. The golden yellow felt cowboy hat and a faux snakeskin clutch, both accented with faceted brass beads add to the look, and the ubiquitous golden rose worked well to draw the eye to the soft, popped collar.
  • Doll notes: This is a tall Fashionista #44 with no modifications.
On to View C: 

  • Construction notes: 100% cotton print bodice and skirt, with an attached faux leather belt. The bodice is a tad roomy on the Model Muse, and that's even with being fully lined. But. The skirt fits like a dream. 
  • Styling notes: We still love that fun hat shape, and the golden rose was the perfect accent here.
  • Doll notes:  a Black Label Barbie, The Look Collection: City Shopper doll, 2012 edition. When she came to the Atelier, the hair had been butchered - but in addition to that, the doll was manufactured with what's been termed a "glue head," that the inside of the head had been filled with a gummy sort of glue that over time breaks down and leeches into the hair, making it gummy, stiff, and not to put too fine a point on it, hideous. It does not wash out. Ever. In our research, we learned about that, as well as the history of her face sculpt, "The Steffie." We just loved those eyelashes. Don't judge. This doll presented a serendipitous melding of several things.
    We wanted to try re-rooting doll hair. With actual doll hair. We'd practiced on a few doll heads with wool and acrylic yarns, and watched a LOT of videos on How To, and felt it was within our skill set to accomplish. And we did it!
We jumped around again, doing up that ski outfit, View H, next:

  • Construction notes: The hoodie is made from an old pair of cotton socks, and the ski pants are a knit fabric of unknown fiber content. The pattern directions for the hoodie were a little confusing and tricky, but we stuck with it - and were pleasantly surprised with the results. In contrast, the pants were absurdly simple to run up.
  • Styling notes: In the collage photo, you can see the model wearing moon boots and gloves, and the eye protection from the Barbie Robotics Engineer. For the final "beauty" shot, she's wearing mittens to match her pants, since we finally cracked the code for their construction. Also, she's got on Fashionista 148's boots and Fashionista 167's sunglasses. Sorry, no golden rose on this one. Just didn't make sense.
  • Doll notes: This is the Barbie 60th Anniversary Careers Astronaut Doll, a gift to the Atelier (thanks again, T.J.!!), with no modifications.
Moving on. The last of the October productions, View E:

  • Construction notes: A silky black & white print rayon; the bodice was self lined, and the overskirt was constructed of black rayon ribbon and netting. This was another easy-peasy build, clear instructions, no surprises.
  • Styling notes: There's that golden rose, pinned in the model's hair. The gown was kind of ho-hum and just cried out for A Little Something, so we threw together that shawl of black netting, and it really fit the bill.
  • Doll Notes: She is the 50th Anniversary Reproduction Doll that came in the "Sparkling Pink" gift set - a dead ringer for the Atelier's first Barbie, ca.1962. No modifications.
In mid-November, another frock was completed, this time View G:

  • Construction notes: 100% cotton black on white print fabric. There was some fiddling to get the self-lined bodice to fit, but it worked out with the addition of some super tiny buttons. Love that floofy skirt. We'll say it again - most of the patterns in this project were really easy to build; it's just that they were designed for that vintage figure. Didn't know that going in, but it's always easier to nip and tuck a creation than get it to expand.
  • Styling notes: Modified boater type hat of black felt, and the golden rose pinned at the waist gave the look just the right touch of sweetness, to our way of thinking.
  • Doll notes: This is the videographer half of the Barbie Careers' TV News Team doll set, with a petite fashionista body, flat feet, stiff legs, and articulated arms and wrists. No modifications.
There's a gap in time of over a month before work resumed, this time with View D:

  • Construction notes: Black crepe of unknown fiber content, with the bodice lining of black acetate. The capelet is made of faux snakeskin leather, lined with black felt. Both pieces came together in under two hours, if that gives you an indication of how simple it was to build.
  • Styling notes: We should have gone with sexier, strappier shoes, now that we see those 'working woman heels' in the photo. *sigh* The golden roses at the waist of the gown and pinned to the capelet's lapel work very nicely to elevate the simplicity of the gown.
  • Doll notes: This is a Barbie Basics doll, Collection 01, #09, with the Model Muse body and the Diva face sculpt - gifted to the Atelier in the long ago time (thanks again, Darcy!). No modifications.
And coming in last, but clearly not least, View F:

  • Construction notes: 100% cotton print, self-lined bodice. Tricky business with those skinny straps; couldn't follow the directions here - the neckline edge was machine sewn, but the arm edges had to be basted first, then top-stitched together. Just too narrow for turning. At least it was for us. And again, that back closure seemed awkward, even with this is being the right model for the pattern.
  • Styling notes: Just our favorite hat pattern, this time in golden yellow felt, and the golden rose at the neckline was all this needed. Well, maybe a ring and some earrings, but it had already been three months, so . . .
  • Doll notes: This is a vintage 1966 Holiday Barbie. She arrived with the City Shopper as part of a rescue group, donated to the atelier in September (thanks again, Gloriann!). The hair was something of a tangled, matted challenge, but one we've faced here before. Other than a bit of a doll hair salon effort, no modifications.
So that's it. Vogue Project #9686: A Fait Accompli. Now, to tackle a new doll challenge:

To design a mini-collection for an Extra Mini Barbie. You may recall we once made the vow to never acquire another doll unless it be white of hair and fully articulated? Welp:

(Image: amazon.com)
We call her River.

We're using our pattern for Dawn doll clothes as our starting point:
(Image: etsy.com)

Muslins have been cut. The Singer awaits. Here we go.

See you all on the other side.


Better Late Than Not At All

So we begin again. Behold the second chapter in our personal challenge to work up all the Vogue Craft doll clothes patterns in our library: Pattern #7536. This took a bit longer than we anticipated, but not for any technical reasons. Mostly.* We did all the prep work for this project over the course of several days. As we mentioned in the preceding post, we have some experience with this pattern already. We worked up View A, with some custom modifications, and ran up View C as well, for our Sundress 2022 extravaganza, but we've never tackled the other three outfits. Looking at all the pattern pieces, we expected it would be another challenge for our skills and test of our patience, but in the end this group turned out to be a good deal less complicated than the previous one – and a good thing, too. Which is not to say it didn't have its own challenges – just not as many of them. Here's a look at that prep work:


This is View A, all sewn up. Glad we started with the trickiest one first. Not that the pattern was all that problematic - just the fabric (of unknown fiber content). First, we just could NOT find a decent thread match. Second, the fabric was slippery AF. Pinning was an exercise in futility - we ended up having to hand-baste just about every seam and dart. We stuck with it, mainly because it is a drop-dead GORGEOUS material. Dreamy. Shimmering. And we love the detail of that Ultrasuede® faux belt with the tiny, tiny buckle. Still needs a few accessories, but that will come at the end. All other pieces in the #7536 project, except for the tote bag, is (happily) built from 100% cotton. Moving on!

Photo 1

Photo 2

After a brief hiatus*, we realized it was time to finish that second item. The top half of the dress was done with no issues, and all that was needed was to stitch up the skirt, then slap the two halves together and it would be WAH LAH Time. But. We only got so far, and no farther, as you can see in Photo 1, just before we hit a wall. The skirt was pinned to the bodice and the gathering stitch was drawn up, and somehow, someway, it all just went to hell. Nothing was working. Unpin it. Loosen the gather. Repeat ad nauseum. Sat back and stared at it for quite some time, and at last the clouds parted and the angels sang. A double line of gathering stitches was needed to get the right result. Frustrated and exhausted by our rookie mistake, we had to walk away. But. We are nothing if not dogged in our determination. Once a hot meal and a glass of wine were consumed, the project was tackled anew. After basting that skirt to the bodice no less than THREE SEPARATE TIMES, it finally came together. Then it was fitted onto an “original body” doll. The poor thing was absolutely swimming in it. It was then tried onto the "curvy" model, and the result was serendipitous bliss. A little snug about the hips, but bliss nonetheless. Absurdly pleased with this unintended happy result, which you can see for yourself in Photo 2. And here we'd been fretting about not being able to use Augusta Ryan for any of these Vogue Craft projects. Trust Fate, yeah?

Absolutely no notes on this one, View C. Easy peasy. Stitched up like a dream. Then again, this is the second time we've done this particular dress. There was a moment of indecision, though. Line it fully as before, or just seam-bind all the edges? Went with the full lining. Still needs some accessories and styling, but again – that's for the future, when all 5 views are done. Not too sure about those shoes, though . . .

We took a number of extended breaks* while working this phase of the Project. When we did get back to work, we decided to skip ahead and assemble the tote bag, View F. Fashioned from a lustrous upholstery fabric sample, lined with bleached cotton muslin, and fortified with the cardboard from a cracker box. Just for something fun. And it was! Gave us an excuse to break out the hot glue gun, at any rate. There was a (very small) bit of sewing involved as well. But after this? It's back to the Singer® and building those two sporty casual looks.

Not quite moving right along* with the Vogue 7536 Project, this is View D. Can't say we're all that thrilled with how it worked up. The capris have a front closure - and weirdly, there was no room for that blouse to get tucked in, JUST LIKE THE RED CAPRIS (from the previous project), only even more snug. The top is baggy across the chest, and the collar set in with some difficulty, with the end result not exactly resembling the pattern photo. The rose-on-a-ribbon at the throat went a long way toward concealing that awkward fit. The armholes were about the only thing we liked. We considered cropping the top length, but decided to leave it alone and worn untucked. With the addition of the wide belt, made of navy blue Ultrasuede ® with a buckle from a child's old wristwatch band, it looks more finished. In the end, we decided it's pretty okay. Still, it needed a hat, and we knew just which one to make.

At last overcoming our pumpkin spice chai induced lethargy, we put some (relative) speed on things, and were able to complete the final number (or letter if you want to get all literal about it) for #7536. View E, to be precise. We had some serious misgivings about doing set-in sleeves for a casual shirt, but the result was a more polished look than we honestly expected. The shorts were a simple construction, and came together quickly. Again, a snug fit about the waist, but a looser fit in the leg. 

We couldn't, in all good conscience, call this phase of the project done until there were hats.

A Quick Aside About the Accessories:  All hats were sewn primarily by hand. Not because we're all that super expert with our hand sewing – it's just ridiculously difficult to work those tiny interior seams by machine.


We spent half a day organizing the final phase of #7536 by digging through our extensive catalog of accessory patterns and sketches, and locating the most suitable fabrics to hand. The first item we rolled out was our take on the ubiquitous baseball cap (which bears an uncanny resemblance to an equestrian helmet, now that we think about it), fashioned from navy blue Ultrasuede® and accented with a powder blue satin rose, labeled as View E.

For the evening gown, we took our inspiration from the House of Dior and their Spring/Summer collection from 2019, reminiscent of early aviators' leather helmets. Labeled View A, the upper photo shows the inspo in a side-by-side, Photo #2 shows the hat and bag, a slim envelope clutch. If you think making a tiny, close-fitting cap from sequined fabric is an odd choice, you'd be right. But we've said it before and we'll say it again - we here in the Atelier LOVE a challenge.

We chose to make a backpack (in navy Ultrasuede® with leather straps) and a sou'wester/slouch hat (in cobalt blue felt) to go with View D. They really elevate the look, and they were a JOY to build – that hat is rapidly becoming our favorite, edging out our previous fave, the classic beret.

The penultimate addition to the project was only a little fiddly: a beaded and sequined oversized pillbox hat in light aqua felt with a beaded and sequined oversized asymmetric envelope clutch in pale pink felt, which paired up beautifully with the View B dress. Tech note: we used vintage matte finish sequins, and super tiny turquoise Japanese seed beads.

And finally, the *ahem* cap on the Vogue Craft Project #7536. It's a modified roll brim cloche in baby pink felt, teamed up with a pocketed shopping tote in light aqua felt. As a moral imperative, we had to tuck in a (hand-dyed) hankie. Everyone should carry one, you know. A hankie, that is. Not necessarily hand-dyed. 

There you have it. Two down, six to go for the overarching Grand Vogue Craft Project. That number is, of course, predicated on our not losing our damned minds and picking up those other two Vogue Craft patterns we've been eyeballing to add to the madness. Also, this is assuming we won't lose steam, or forget to come back to it after National Novel Writing Month (November).

Still not too sure about those shoes . . .

Harking back briefly to the #7108 project - all the outfits, hats, & accessories created for it (see previous post) were in fact a birthday gift for my daughter. And I know she's super busy these days, so I'm sure as soon as she has some time, she'll take a few photos of those outfits on her dolls. HINT HINT.


--------------- 30 ---------------

*Something about autumn days brings out the “Stop and Smell the Pumpkin Spice” in us – lazing in bed of a morning, reading tales of high adventure, sipping caramel lattes and munching crisp little apples, sitting on the back porch and watching the trees dance in the wind, shedding their leaves like The Seven Veils, sharing meals and spending time with family – no wonder we're two weeks late with writing this post. 


Recent Madness

Ya know, we're just not happy in the Atelier unless we've got a challenging project to tackle, so we set ourselves a fairly tricky one. We're determined to work up every Vogue Craft pattern in our library, no matter how unnecessarily complicated or over-wrought it might appear. There's eight of them at the moment, but we have our eye on another two or three. We're in the business of re-imagining (and simplifying) things around here. We thought to ease into this effort with what on the surface would seem to be one of the less intricate groups.   HA. 

We started with #7108: 

We usually cut everything before we begin. That way, if we get frustrated with working on one thing, we can set it aside while we work on another. Here's a breakdown of the plan:

We began with View A, the wrap coat. Spent a full day wrestling this one to the ground.

We thought this simple piece seemed a little too simple, so we added pockets at first.  They just looked All Wrong - threw off the silhouette. But we thought that as long as we had them in hand, we could turn them into a swag bag. Also, because it was such a simple shape with only a few steps involved, we opted for difficult fabrics. Because we're masochists. The dove gray microsuede has ZERO give, making it a struggle to manipulate. Also? In hindsight, we should have chosen a much softer cotton for the lining, but we loved the old gold color of the more sturdy weave we picked. And we do love the finished look. On to the next challenge.

Two days. View B took more intricate handwork than expected and had us busting out our box of tailoring techniques - some unused for decades.

We dealt with jigsaw-like pieces, set-in sleeves, tricky seaming, "finger pressing," understitching, and all of it times two, as it's fully lined. At least we had the sense to use a lovely soft cotton for both the outer shell and lining, and we love the details - metal finish buttons and buckle, Ultrasuede faux belt, kick pleat et al. We know we said we love a challenge. But really. Two days. Two Freaking Days.

Still and all? Worth it.
We have so many notes on View C, it could be a full blog post all on its own, but we'll try to condense things by simply saying - hostess pajamas just don't work today. We did a bit of re-imagining here. In the lovely red cotton we selected, the top was too bulky to fit under the skirt, and the skirt just looked silly worn over the capris.

So we added a couple of tube tops - a red jersey that went perfectly with the capris, and the original top adapted easily into an open jacket. A black knit velour went with that almost-a-circle skirt, which we decided looked best with the opening in back. We could have re-cut the skirt to be more generous at the waist, but we were out of that spectacular graphic rose print - hence the adaptation. We simplified the pattern by using bias tape for all the edges, instead of fully lining things.

Everything was coming up roses, kids.

Then we hit this one. View D, the formal gown. Working on this was an exercise in practicing patience. We were dropping things, breaking things, losing things, experiencing sudden bouts of fatigue, being easily distracted by shiny stuff (like The Sandman), swinging off on tangents, and generally moving at a snail's pace while trying not to be too frustrated with ourselves.

“Take a deep breath and do the difficult thing first.” – Mary Anne Radmacher

We ran into the Hard Nope. Sometimes you just have to keep going with a thing until you hit that wall before you can see all the problems clearly. And that happened. The fabric we chose, while lovely, was too thick. The lining as well. Combined, it produced a clownish effect with a bundle of pleats that formed a sort of unintended beer gut. In the end, after three different solutions were tried, the final gown wasn't the same fabric we started with - instead of the crepe with the satin lining, we ended up selecting a lovely lightweight pinstripe gabardine.

We opted for bias binding for the edges instead of lining, and we fiddled with a few of the construction details, too. After putting the final touches on it, we were well pleased. Less fairy tale princess, more evil queen, right?
Adapting a cocktail dress to a sundress isn't always a success, but we're calling this one, crafted from View E, a definite win.

No construction notes on this at all. It was a snap to build. And a great way to finish off the project as a whole. The belt in this picture isn't final - we had a much better idea, which you'll see in the final photos. We were absolutely ready to call the 7108 Project complete.

Here it is, the Vogue Craft Project #7108.

Couple things to note: We added a black jersey tube dress to go under the coat, and bonus: it can be worn as a long or short skirt, or scrunched up as a top. Versatility is key around here. Also, not only did we switch out the belt on the sundress, but on the coat as well. TA DA! And all that.

But wait. There's more. OF COURSE.

Can't seem to stop with this group, but to be fair, how could we call this done without more tiny hats? And now it's done.  This time for real.

The Atelier is taking a short break, during which time we'll catch up on our reading, watch-lists, and most importantly - our baking obligations. Family birthdays are coming up. Three of them. Now, once we get our bearings again, we'll kick back into production mode with our next project:

We have constructed View A, with some custom modifications, and we've done up View C as well - both of them for our Sundress 2022 project, but we've never tackled the other three outfits. Looking at all the pattern pieces, it's going to be another challenge of our skills and test of our patience, but we think we'll be up for it. 

But that's in the future, on the other side of The Sandman bonus 2-part episode, the final episodes of "Only Murders In The Building," all the Jodi Whittaker Dr Who episodes, and "She-Hulk: Attorney At Law."



Dolls For Donation, 2022 Edition

Eighteen dolls (seventeen Barbies, one Ken). Nineteen mini-wardrobes. Bonus: two doll wheelchairs with ramps, all ready to be donated to charity. 

The project actually began in the late fall of 2021 with the intention of having it finished by Christmas.

Clearly, that was beyond optimistic. In reviewing all the photo files, we noticed our picture-taking game is improving, thanks mainly to the inspiration of the many fashion doll photographers on Instagram.

Doll #1: Violet

Doll #2: Valentina

Doll #3: Deirdre

Doll #4: Emma

Doll #5: Jane

Doll #6: Lily

Doll #7: Greg

Doll #8: Fiona

Doll #9: Danika

Doll #10: Teagan

We probably have these listed in the wrong sequence, but they were definitely the first bunch completed, sometime in February. 

There was an extended break at this point. Kilts for Kens happened. Then sundresses. Then Endless Muppets. 

But we did get back to the task in June, setting an arbitrary deadline of Christmas in July, knowing it was totally achievable. Not only did we improve our photography game, we got better at documenting our progress, mainly on our Facebook page.

Doll #11: Kirsten

Doll #12: Farah

Doll #13: Laurel

Doll #14: Eric (This doll was removed from the Donation Box to be gifted to a Special Person)

Doll #15: Kiana

Doll #16: Daisy

Doll #17: Cassady

Doll #18: Pippa

Yesterday was the deadline we had set for ourselves. As it happens, we almost made it. Completed this afternoon, here's the final doll in this year's donation project.

Doll #19: Hunter

As mentioned earlier, if you'd like to see other photos or read more about the different dolls or their collections, check out our Facebook page. There's a handy link to it around here somewhere. 

We're now going to take a short break from the sewing of tiny things and attempt to finish a writing project - the second Camp NaNo of the year (we've got 6 days to draft 10 scenes, so wish us luck). This is in an effort to actually finish stuff. 

That's this year's Big Picture - tackling all those lingering projects in buckets and baskets all over the place. Everybody's got their "half-assed stash." Sometimes it feels like this stuff is mud you can't quite move through, or an unclimbable  mountain you can't see over to envision anything new. Next week we start The Big Purge, wherein we go through every project box and bag and decide what's still firing us up, and what needs to be broken down for parts, and what needs to Just Go. 

That should be fun. 

No, really.