Saturday, 3 March 2018

Skating in the snow

Inspired by the Winter Olympics and Dancing on Ice, the toddlers Edmund and Louisa have been practising their skating at a local rink.  However snowfall on the first 3 days of spring meant winter returned to the garden and with the pond frozen, they were keen to try skating outdoors.

Miranda and Timothy tested the ice first as Edmund and Louisa watched
"It seems strong enough" said Timothy
The pond was too small for much moving about but they could do a spin together
Gingerly the toddlers ventured onto the ice
The bigger children encouraged them as they started to slide across the ice
"You're doing fine Louisa" said Florence as Edmund watched
Soon they had more confidence that the ice wouldn't crack and the bank wasn't far away if they slipped over
The other children cheered them on as they skated about
Florence and Timothy joined the toddlers on the ice, though it was crowded on the small pond
Nicolas James fetched the sleigh
"Does anyone want a ride?" Nicholas James and Trendon Elliott called to the busy skaters
Louisa's legs were tired and she was keen to have a ride in the sleigh

The boys dragged the sleigh with Laura walking alongside as they went to explore the snowy wastes
The intrepid explorers set off with tired Louisa enjoying the ride
Louisa waved as the boys pulled hard through the deep snow and Laura trudged beside the sleigh
It was hard work and the boys were feeling warm despite the cold air so they didn't make the journey very long before they were pulling the sleigh back to the pond

Edmund continued practising his skating for a little longer before they all went indoors for hot chocolate and biscuits

We planned this photo story as soon as we knew there was snow on the way.  We don't have a pond but that didn't stop us from inventing one from something which was normally quite hot!

The pond was actually a cast iron barbeque plate from a portable unit - it is a large round hotplate to go above the gas flames.  I laid it on the patio, made sure it was level and poured water on it which froze.  When it snowed we had to sweep the snow off it (about 2.5 inches overnight this morning after previous snowfall of about 2 inches) then watered it carefully again which froze quickly (the thaw hadn't quite started).  The doll skates did make marks on it though I didn't take close up photos to show this.

The 'pond' during the thaw later in the day
As anyone who has a Sasha toddler knows, they are notoriously hard to pose and with skates on in the snow there was an added difficulty, especially as we didn't want to spoil the snow close to where they were standing for the various parts of the story - we had to reach over untouched snow as far as possible without falling on our noses!

My younger girl was a willing helper, getting the dolls in position, moving them and attempting to get them standing and brushing the snow off when they fell over.

Setting up a sleigh shot

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Shweshwe for Emmalee Rose

After visiting Dorisanne in August 2017 during our USA adventures and seeing some of her wonderful Sasha dolls, I thought about what I could make for one of them as a thank you for 3 hours of happy and memorable doll discussions. 

Dorisanne with Emmalee Rose, August 2017
Dorisanne's favourite Sasha studio doll in her collection is a dark hard plastic girl whom she has called Emmalee Rose and it occurred to me that my stash of South African shweshwe fabric would look really good on this particular doll.  I had bought several fat quarters when visiting Cape Town in March 2017 from a super little shop (which doesn't have a website) in Observatory, Cape Town which specialises in African print fabrics.  My new collection of fabrics included some colour combinations I wouldn't have considered before when making clothes for dolls, the traditional original colours (indigo blue, brown & red) for shweshwe prints have branched out into some wonderful, vibrant prints.  On a doll, it is important to be careful about scale of pattern and colours, so I had picked out prints which were small enough to not overwhelm a doll.

Emily and Annie (Heather Maciak dolls) inspecting my pile of shweshwe in the Cape Town fabric shop, the pieces I used for this Studio doll project are at the bottom of this pile.
I didn't have a pattern for a studio doll dress, as I don't own any Sasha Studio dolls, so I needed accurate measurements and a doll willing to model for me, even from a distance.  I wanted the dress to be a surprise, so couldn't ask Dorisanne to send me the measurements.  Suzanne Lewis in the USA was very helpful and measured her hard plastic studio doll for me instead, then Laura Horner in the UK agreed that her studio doll of a similar size could try on the prototype dress before I cut the shweshwe.

I decided to use the sundress with brettels pattern in the Sasha dolls clothing and patterns book.  This pattern had the advantage of no sleeves which meant that if I got the sizing slightly wrong, the dress would be more forgiving than if the sleeve setting didn't allow enough space across the shoulders or the arms and arm holes.  Also, the origin of the fabric implied sunshine summer days, so a sundress was appropriate.

I scaled the pattern up using the scale and copy function on our printer (16" doll size to 20" doll size) then cut out all the pieces using some other patterned cotton fabric in my collection (tiny brown leaves on an off white background).  I made a reversible sunhat and underpants as well in the same fabric.  I trimmed the brettels with pink ribbon and made the tassels from pink embroidery thread.  I made careful measurements of the finished dress then put the outfit in the post to Laura for Sela.

The prototype Sasha Studio doll sized sundress and hat ready to send for Sela to try on

Close up showing the brettels and tassels in pink

Susie, my 18" Palitoy doll, modelling the hat for Sela (her head is bigger than a 16" Sasha doll head)
Laura and I had fun with a skype conversation as she showed me the dress on Sela and we discussed adjustments.  It turned out that Sela was a later doll than Emmalee Rose which meant she was slimmer around the chest, so the bodice was a little wide, however Laura solved this problem by taking in the dress under the arms by adding a dart on each side, as Sela keeps the outfit as thanks for helping with the sizing.

Sela wearing the prototype hat and dress for testing the pattern sizing (Laura's photo)

Sela has lovely eyes.  She is vinyl rather than hard plastic and is a few years younger than Emmalee Rose (Laura's photo)

Sela with the hat brim up at the front and down at the back (Laura's photo)
After looking at doll size comparison photos in the Sasha books (including Dorisanne's book) which clearly showed the difference in chest and waist size for these dolls which were 10 years apart in age, I decided not to adjust the pattern for Emmalee Rose's dress, if it did need adjustment then darts could be added as Laura had done for Sela.

Then it was Christmas time and there was no time until after Christmas day to get started on the shweshwe dress as I was finishing off two other projects and just before Christmas I made a toddler sized version of the dress in some Christmas colours for Louisa

Louisa, my toddler, wearing her version of the dress for Christmas
I was soon sewing again before the holidays were over.  I had decided to make the identical dress for my 16" Sasha Cora (Melanie) as well as for Dorisanne's doll.  Because I only had one fat quarter of each piece of fabric, I had to be careful how I used the fabric. So with all the pattern pieces to hand for both sizes, I plotted out the fabric to use for each element of the outfit.  I had bought some plain fabric in two of the colours - fuchsia pink and a darker lime green to act as a base and foil for the designs.  I had chosen 2 different shweshwe designs (swirls and spots) in two colour combinations - lime green, pumpkin orange and fuchsia pink, which meant there were 4 different patterns of shweshwe in each outfit.

For the sunhat I used plain fabric for one side of the brim and the orange based swirl design shweshwe for the other side of the brim.  Each hat crown was made up of 4 pieces, different combinations on each side, so the hat is completely reversible.  The brim can be worn up or down.

I made the two outfits in tandem as this meant that changing thread colours and presser feet for different stitch types on the sewing machine was kept to the minimum.  I decided to make the tassels in all three colours as their background would be the plain green skirt at the bottom of patterned brettels and this worked well.

Front view of the dress showing the tassels on the brettels.  The underpants elastic was tied and left exposed so that it could be adjusted to fit Emmalee Rose's waist.

Back view of the dress with the other side of the hat (the colour of the green is not correct in this photo)

Melanie wearing the 16" doll sized outfit and her shoes from Dorisanne alongside the 20" doll sized outfit for Emmalee Rose.  Her hat brim is shown with the orange pattern turned up.

Melanie wearing the 16" doll sized outfit and her shoes from Dorisanne alongside the 20" doll sized outfit for Emmalee Rose.  Her hat brim is shown with the plain fuchsia pink turned up.

Close up of the tassels at the end of the brettels

After I'd photographed the completed outfits, the Studio Doll sized outfit for Dorisanne went in the post to the USA.  By this time I had alerted Dorisanne that a small package was on its way to her.  We both waited, Dorisanne was snowed in and the lake frozen so the mail was slow and I wondered if the package had gone astray (I regretted not sending it tracked).  She tried emailing me to let me know it had arrived but the email went astray!  When she resent it a week later I got the message.  Dorisanne was delighted with the outfit.  The bonus was that the sizing was fine (my hunch that adjusting the bodice would not be the right thing to do was correct). Dorisanne explained what she did next:
"The fabric colors look so lovely on Emmalee Rose. Two years ago when I was in rehab after my knee replacement, we were in a class where we learned to use our walkers. We each picked some beads to string on a long pipe cleaner which we attached to our walkers to identify them. I chose pink, orange and green and had put the marker on my doorknob but now they have been made into a choker-necklace for Emmalee Rose and it matches the dress perfectly."
Photos of Emmalee Rose wearing her shweshwe outfit will follow when Dorisanne is able to take some pictures.

I had a lot of fun making this outfit and now have more confidence about resizing other Sasha patterns in the book to Sasha Studio doll size.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Toddlers on ice

Dancing on Ice has been on TV in the UK for a few weeks with Miranda and Timothy having their photos taken some weeks and featuring on the Sasha group on Facebook. 

Miranda and Timothy during Week 2 of Dancing on Ice

Harriet, Miranda and Timothy during Week 3 (Disco week) of Dancing on Ice

However our Gotz Sasha toddlers Edmund and Louisa started asking for skating lessons.  On the principle that the sooner you start children on the ice (once they can walk and run) the better, their big siblings decided they needed to find some skates to fit the toddlers little feet.

Lisa Hartley made the boots and after looking up a few methods online, my girl and I decided that making the blades with wood was probably the best solution when we don't have all the tools or materials needed to make metal blades.

So out came my stock of lolly sticks, we also ate had some ice creams of a certain brand which have shaped wooden lolly sticks for the blade mounts on the bottom of the boots.

I used the bigger Gotz / American Girl doll ice skate blades as a guide for the shape of the blades and drew onto a lolly stick to fit the size of the smaller boots.  Cutting individual lolly sticks with the slightly complicated shape was not easy if done individually (I split a couple when trying) so the portable bench vice was brought into the house and I set to work with a razer saw, fine carving chisels and sandpaper.
Four lolly sticks side by side in the bench vice were cut and carved to shape while clamped together to make the ice skate blades

The blades glued to the base plates to make the skates

Once the glue was dry, I sprayed many layers (over several hours to allow drying time) of chrome coloured paint to try and get the wooden blades to look like metal blades.
The spray painted skate blades

This morning, with the paint dry, I glued the finished blades onto the base of the boots.

The Toddler Ice Skates
At Christmas time I knitted Louisa the long tunic sweater with front pocket (number 18 in the book by Jane Woodbridge and Patricia Evans), I used 4 ply wool but smaller needles to scale it down to suit a toddler rather than a Sasha.  Today, on the car drive to and from a birthday celebration walk and meal with family, I knitted a hat to match.  Edmund is wearing the hat and cardigan I made for him when he arrived a couple of years ago.
Toddlers Edmund and Louisa take to the ice in their new skates
Now they need to have fun on the ice getting their balance and learning some basic moves.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

Pram day

Three of us have been planning pram day since before the Chat 'n Snap - Alice H asked for some help and advice with her pram (a Red) which she had purchased from someone in the USA and I suggested she some to visit us, then we invited Jane S and Teddy who were interested to see the pram work in action and it became doll and pram day.

Alice's pram had been delivered to her via a friend with the hood detached from the body of the pram and with some loose stitching on the hood, so the inner lining was coming off the frame. Alice wasn't sure how to attach it.  Thankfully all the nuts and bolts were present and the pram was in very good condition, with only a few minor scrapes to the paintwork.  These could be touched up using a fine paint brush, or left alone.  We inspected the hood to see if it was aligned correctly, it was a bit stiff to make the hood clip up so my husband gently but firmly manipulated the hood wires a little so the hood fabric wouldn't catch on the inside of the straps which hold the hood up.  I stitched the lining back in place then my husband fitted the hood back onto the chassis and Alice's pram was complete once more.  This happened while we talked non stop about the various dolls which Teddy, Jane and Alice had brought with them.
Alice's reassembled 'Red' pram, with a miniature Baby Born resting on the cushions
Both Teddy and I have Heather Maciak's wonderful Jenny and Lexie 8 inch dolls (and I have Annie and Emily as well) so he had brought his Jenny and Lexie as well as his two 7 inch Helen Kish dolls (Riley and Tulah). He also brought a Sasha girl and boy.  I brought out my four Maciak dolls plus the three Patsi dolls by Heidi Pluszcok.

Alice brought her new 10 inch Boneka doll Valetta (similar to the Little Darling dolls) which she had redressed.  At one point during pram day this little girl tried on the sundress I had made for 8.5 inch Annie and it fitted her fine.

Jane brought along three Sasha dolls, the long haired blond had frizzy hair ends.  She had been treating the lovely two tone blond hair with conditioner and argon oil but the ends were dry.  Teddy asked for a spray bottle with water in it, the iron and ironing board and proceeded to demonstrate the technique for improving dry frizzy nylon hair.  He combed out a section of hair flat onto the ironing board, sprayed it with water then ironed it firmly with the iron on a nylon setting.  It was amazing what a difference this made as he slowly worked through all the hair on her head.  Jane was delighted.

Combing out some hair before spraying it with water

Ironing the hair!

We cleared the dining room table for lunch and plenty more doll talk. Some of our 19.5 inch Gotz dolls came downstairs to join Louisa and Florence who were hosting the visitors.

L-R: Teddy's new boy, Teddy's girl, Claire with her newly ironed hair, Florence in her 2017 Sasha Festival outfit and Jane's boy in his new striped sweater

Toddler Louisa with her new bobbed haired friend Lucy (Jane's girl)

L-R: Harriet in her purple skating outfit, Jayne in the background, Louisa and Lucy

After lunch we went upstairs to the doll/sewing room as Jane was keen to see Belle and Matilda, the Australian Girl dolls and decided they were a nice combination of cuddly and attractive to look at (the lower half of their torsos are cloth, while the top part is vinyl which means they can wear summer clothes without showing the cloth bodies).  Mrs Harvey's toy and cake shop was shown off, the other Sasha dolls who hadn't already come downstairs to greet the visitors were admired as was the modified Our Generation doll kitchen and the Gotz Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley dolls.  Then we looked at my unfinished Greenleaf dolls house, my doll cabinet, Susie (Palitoy), Anna (Gotz), Jakob (Kids n Kats) and Betsy (Schoenhut) as well as the teddy bears Bruin and Panda with Poodle.

Downstairs I held a doll photo session of the visiting dolls along with their host dolls, my pram and Alice's pram, which temporarily held one of our miniature Baby Born dolls.

L-R: Teddy's blond Kish (Riley), my Emily, Teddy's Lexie, my Lexie, Alice's new Boneka doll Valetta, my Jenny, Teddy's Jenny, my Annie, Teddy's blond Kish (Tulah)

My Lexie and Jenny with Valetta, the Boneka girl

Jenny, Jenny, Annie and Tulah (Kish)

Riley (Kish), Emily, Lexie and Lexie

L-R: Jane's boy, Teddy's boy, Louisa, Lucy, Teddy's girl, Florence, Claire with her newly ironed hair

L-R: Jane's boy, Teddy's boy, Louisa, Lucy, Teddy's girl, Florence, Claire with her newly ironed hair

Teddy's girl, Florence and Claire

Jane's boy, Teddy's boy, Louisa, Lucy and Teddy's girl

Teddy's boy, Louisa, Lucy, Teddy's girl and Florence

Our full size pram chassis holding our little street organ also became part of pram day when my husband played some music on the organ for Alice, Jane and Teddy.

While we continued to talk dolls everyone reluctantly packed their dolls and Alice's pram away for their journeys home.

We had fun hosting pram day.