Sunday 28 March 2021

The Making of Baxter 2.0 - fully articulated dog art doll!

Four years ago I decided Max and Juno needed a dog, so I gathered up some materials and made Baxter.

I love him to bits, but the last few years have taken their toll on him and he's getting a little bit wonky. He's made from mostly wire, and I've been getting worried that they'll eventually snap, not to mention, his fur has got pretty matted and his jaw is getting loose. He's still super cute, but I knew he deserved an upgrade...

Thursday 25 March 2021

The Little Rider Doll-making Challenge and Copperfox tack!

  There's so many monthly challenges in the hobby right now, it's really good for my motivation!

March's one was The Little Rider Doll Making Challenge, held on Facebook. It isn't a competition, there are no prizes or anything, it's more mutual encouragement than anything else.

As you may have noticed, I do rather a lot with dolls, but I've never really done anything in Traditional scale, and thought now was about time. This isn't going to be much of a tutorial as I didn't take as many photos as I thought I had, lol.

I actually bought this body to use with my 1/6th scale dolls as a small child but when she arrived I realised she had great potential to use with my trads! I got her off Ali Express for under £3, and quality wise,it shows, with pretty lightweight hard ‘tinny’ plastic, but the articulation is really good considering.

The joints are tight and she holds a pose really well and can even do a very nice ‘heels down’ jumping position! I thought she’d make an excellent child/teenager with a bit of work!

Here she is with a Breyer trad rider for scale.

 This particular one came without a head (one of the options did have one but it was massively oversized) so I just stuck on a Breyer Classic head which fits rather nicely. I considered shrinking it but didn't want to risk damaging it as I didn't have any other heads the same size. I did end up altering the neck peg to give it better articulation which worked, but I accidentally broke it later on and had to improvise something else which wasn't ideal.

There's also a smaller version of the same kind of doll that I've used for 1/6th scale toddlers which would also work for 1/9th scale young children I think. I'm tempted to make a leadrein set now...


Forgive the background - horses aren't normally allowed in the house! :P

This one has a vintage Barbie 'Chris' head which I had to adapt the neck peg to accommodate.

The doll came with some pretty hideous plastic shoes and chunky feet and although they allowed her to stand unaided, they were just too wide for the boots I wanted to make for her. Sooo, I raided one of my doll body boxes and sawed off the feet of a barely articulated Barbie Fashionista. (let's face it, they're really only useful for heads and clothes and the occasional limb transplant these days) I drilled into them with my dremel, and inserted a couple of 'ball shape' joints I bought from HobbyLink Japan a while ago. They take a while to get here from Japan, but they're totally worth it when it comes to doll customising.

 This had the advantage of giving the feet a smaller and nicer shape I could build her boots over, as well as increasing the articulation so she could put her heels down properly. Her original feet were pretty well articulated so I've kept them in my stash to use on another doll at some point.

I had some spare Barbie shoes from the Curvy MTM dancer which fitted her new feet pretty well, so I carved off the raised details with a scalpel and took a little off the sole to create a separate heel. I then painted them black and set them aside until it was time to work on her boots. I did consider sculpting boots from scratch, but then I'd have had to make them match and that's way too much effort!

Next I wiped her factory face paint off with acetone, cleaned it with soap and water, then primed it with a couple of layers of Testor's Dullcote. Most doll customisers rave about Mr SuperClear sealant, but it's expensive to get and I've had good results with Dullcote in the past. Her face took two attempts to get right, using watercolour pencils for the most part, but I'm really pleased with how she turned out. I really struggle to get faces symmetrical, especially on sculpts without defined eye sockets like this one, but I took my time and that definitely paid off.

Once I was happy with her faceup, I gave her several layers of sealer to keep the finish safe, then moved onto her hair. I'm not a big fan of the kind of nylon hair fibre most fashion dolls and similar have, as it's awkward to style and never looks quite right, so I decided to go with viscose on this occasion. A hobby friend very generously gave me her stash a few months ago as she wasn't using it, so I had a lot of lovely colours to choose from! (thanks again Chloe! πŸ’—)

I cut the fibre into sections, carefully brushed it out and then glued it onto a poly pocket with Mod Podge/tacky glue to create wefts. Once dry, I peeled the hair off the plastic, trimmed the glued tabs down as short as I could, then started gluing them onto the head from the nape of the neck upwards, using Fabri-Tac glue.

The parting didn't want to cooperate with me, but as she'll be wearing a helmet most of the time, it wasn't much of a big deal.

I did away with her original static neck peg and made a new elasticated contraption based on BJD mechanics, which worked great, until I accidentally broke it later on. I couldn't be bothered starting over, so I hot glued a kebab skewer inside the body cavity and built up a rough ball on the top for the head to fit over. The flexibility isn't as good as it was, but her head doesn't fall off now so that's something.

Her jumper was made from an odd sock using this tried and tested method by the inimitable My Froggy Stuff, and her denim jodhpurs were a bit of a bodge job. I didn't have any stretchy fabric in more traditional colours for breeches, and after making the jumper I'd already decided she'd be a casual rider so she didn't need to look show-ready. I did try making a pair of white breeches but they ended up too loose and wonky looking, so I more or less made up the pattern as I went. The knee patches are just faux suede I glued into place, then stitched around for extra security.

I decided she looked like a Katie!

The boots took ages to get right. I've made plenty before, but none this size, so I had to create new patterns from scratch and seemingly everything went wrong before I finally gave up. I originally intended to make her short jodhpur boots but it just wasn't happening, so she ended up with long boots instead. They ended up a little too tight around her calves but I can't be bothered to make them again so we'll just say she's had a growth spurt and really needs to get the next size up. πŸ˜‰

The helmet also went though several iterations - but eventually I wrapped her in several layers of cling film to protect her, then glued on a few torn strips of fabric over her head to make a base. My thinking here was that it would allow for a little flexibility but I'm not really sure it made much of a difference. I then covered that in a thin layer of Apoxie Sculpt which was carved and sanded to shape afterwards. It did crack in one area, so I had to go back in afterwards to shore it up. In an ideal world I'd have liked to make a mould and cast it in resin but it was a lot of faff for one doll so this made more sense.
Once fully cured I carefully removed it from her head and the clingfilm, then popped it on her head so I could mark out any areas that needed extra work and sand accordingly.

Rather than sculpt the brim onto the helmet like most modern styles, I went for the slightly vintage look of the removable velvet cover I remember from my youth. I traced the front of the helmet onto cereal box card so it would fit snugly, then drew and cut out the brim. This was then glued onto stretchy synthetic velvet on one side, then folded over and glued to the other side. The helmet part got the same treatment, though I glued it in stages so I could pull the fabric taut and avoid any wrinkling.

I folded the excess fabric underneath and glued it in place, making sure to trim off as much as I could so the doll's head could still fit inside easily. The harness part is just thin black elastic with a decorative Rio Rondo buckle. Oh and I added a little button at the top which was just a little circle of card with the velvet glued around it. I accidentally smeared some glue on the velvet in a few places so it isn't as polished as I'd have liked, but as she's kitted out for hacking rather than showing, I think we can just pretend it's damage from cantering under low hanging branches or something!

Now all she needed was a pony!

Oh! That was lucky, here's one!

This is Thistle, my limited edition Exmoor by Copperfox, from their original Kickstarter. I absolutely adore the mould, for all its flaws, as it looks like the typical generic riding school pony everyone grew up around. Despite my affection for her, she'd never managed to acquire anything tack-wise other than a headcollar, and now with a pony mad girl in need of a pony, now seemed like the perfect time to give her some!

I generally don't like making tack, which seems a bit hypocritical given that I've made tack for nearly half of my 73 Julip Originals at this point. (although the quality of said tack varies tremendously!) Weirdly, I quite enjoy the construction of saddles, but absolutely loathe strapwork, so bridles frustrate me. Every time I make a saddle, I always end up making a new pattern from scratch, which takes ages, so this time around I decided to try and make a decent pattern that I could use again and, if I could make it good enough, potentially sell or make available for a one off donation. (I'm perpetually unemployed, so anything hobby related I could do to earn a little money I'm going to try!πŸ˜…)

Anyway, I was really pleased with the tack I'd made for my NaMoPony, so I used that as a basis, and after a lot of faffing around, finally made this!

The patterned suede on the seat came from an old purse I recycled, as did the majority of the leather. The softer stretchier kind on the knee roll and the panels came from a leather glove. Recycling ftw!

The bridle took longer to make than the saddle I think - I kept accidentally slicing through the leather lace and had to start from scratch, and I made four different browbands before I was finally satisfied! I really wanted one of those traditional woven ribbon ones, but no matter how hard I tried I just couldn't wrap my head around how to make them, so I gave up and used a simple strip of fancy ribbon instead. πŸ˜‚ The reins were supposed to be plain leather but by this point I never wanted to look at leather ever again, so I just plaited some embroidery thread for that comfy cotton look. They hang quite nicely too so that's a bonus.

I also made her a super comfy quilted numnah, using thin fleece and some fabric I'd found in a remnants box at my local fabric shop a while ago. I do actually have a sewing machine, and use it often, but for some reason I decided to sew the entire thing by hand which took ages. It's lovely and squishy though, and I added in some ribbon...things, to keep the girth in place. It's perhaps a little too thick for this particular saddle however, as it sits on the pony much better without it, but meh, it's COMFY!

So, here we are, Katie has her own pony and tack set now, so hopefully at some point I'll be able to take them somewhere nice for a photoshoot!

I've been working on finalising the saddle pattern, and resizing it for different scales, so if that's something you'd be interested in using (and potentially buying!) please let me know! 

I was thinking of just linking to my Ko-Fi (which you can find up on the top left hand side of my blog πŸ˜‰) so if anyone wanted to pop in a wee donation as a thank you they can. The last thing I want to do is put tutorials and the like behind a paywall, as I wholeheartedly believe that hobby knowledge should be free to access but at the same time, I kinda need to make some money somehow and I've worked really hard on this, so it feels like an acceptable compromise! πŸ˜… I'm planning on resizing it for Classics, Julips, Collecta and Schleich as there's already a very good pattern and tutorial for Stablemates available from Anna Helt of Dreamflite Design.

I still need to do a bit more testing so I can be sure it's easy to follow though. On that note...
We're *finally* getting fibre broadband installed next week (after months and months and months of me pestering my decidedly non techy parents who were totally fine with abominably slow upload speeds until Mum tried to upload 28GB at once and it pretty much killed our wifi, and a week later it's still going >.<) so hopefully that means that I can finally look into doing some video tutorials! I shot and edited most of my NaMoPaiMo project from 2019 but then the file got corrupted so I'd need to start over, but once I've done that I have several projects I'd really like to film and stick on youtube, including a guide to assembling the saddle!

So yeah, I went off on a bit of a tangent there, but here's my finished pair, ready for a hack!

This was a really fun challenge, and definitely pushed me to try something a little out of my comfort zone.

Monday 1 March 2021

Max and Juno's Craft Room - A step by step guide

As you'll have seen in my last post, Max and Juno gained a new favourite room this month.

 Considering the complexity, it actually didn't take all that long to put together!

...and now you'll find out why!