Wednesday, May 27, 2020

I Can Work Anywhere

       As long as it's not windy or precipitating, I can pretty much work on dolls anywhere. I think this started because Liesl Dalpe and I used to have a studio day together about once a week for awhile, years ago. I would put my doll projects in the car and drive down to her studio and we would visit and work and it was great. I have worked in a lot of places. I work in my house of course, sometimes sitting at the kitchen table, but too much of that hurts my back. So I mostly work sitting on my bed and working on the flipped over box top, using it as a lap table. I have worked outside at my picnic table, at my mom's house, at my friend Angelique's house, at Maire's house and at the laundromat. I have done a lot of work at the laundromat. But these days we are taking extra precautions and I don't hang around at the laundromat. I put the stuff in, set a timer on my phone and usually go and do errands or just go for a drive. But Monday I decided to work on dolls. I know, Monday is NOT laundry day. But the weather was crap for house work, laundry needed to happen, and it seemed the adult thing to do would be to go and do the laundry. So I packed up all the clothes and my doll supplies and went to the laundromat. 
       A box top-tray full of my current project (and random crap that always lives on the tray) is not unusual to see in my photos. But the steering wheel is. I put the seat back a bit, put on some music and got into finishing the hunt seat doll I was working on. 
     I have a few plastic storage drawers full of doll bodies and doll making supplies, but the most used items, and some other random things, are stored in the doll box. I almost never put the cover on it properly since it acts as a tray. Stuff to make boots, crystals, leather and a variety of other things are in the pink handled tote bag. As long as I have clothes sewn and prepped doll bodies, the doll box and the pink tote bag have everything I need to make a doll. It's pretty convenient. I would love to have a studio where I can leave my mess out and just close the door, but having it this way makes my doll making extremely mobile. 
       I had a lot already prepped, and laundry takes a while, so I got a good amount done sitting in my car at the laundromat. I had a variety of music on but the majority was Disney songs. So I worked on the doll and sang. In my car. In a public parking lot. Once in awhile I would remember I was singing in my car, with the window open, and I would wonder if anyone was watching me. But I was in the zone most of the time and really didn't care. It was an excellent use of my time and I was really happy about it. 
      I got home and folded laundry mountain, which took an incredibly long time, and I put everything away. Near the end of what felt like endless folding I was thinking that would be all I would do for the day. But I have a schedule to keep and this hunt seat doll was so close to being finished. I baked up some helmets, got her gloves painted, her boots finished and put buttons on her coat. It felt really good to have her done.
     I could have finished right there and been satisfied, I think, but I wanted to get some clothes cut out and sewn so I would have things I could work on while Travis is doing some school stuff. I don't know when we need to get back into the house work, probably tomorrow, but I don't know what time, how long, etc. And I have a schedule to keep. So I cut out 4 doll outfits and I cut out a bunch of mask parts too. After supper I got out the sewing machine, watched YouTube videos and got the sewing done. I was feeling pretty accomplished. And one of the 3 dolls I need to do for the week is done! I just need to get 2 more finished and 8 sets of saddlebags. I wonder if it will happen. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A Rainbow of Bags

     There are a lot of accessories I work on where I like to do the work in batches. Cross country kits, saddle pads, boots, and saddlebags for sure. I have made a color wheel or rainbow with the variety of cross country vests I have made. I love how they look all laid out together. Now I am having some fun with the saddlebags. The cut out sets look pretty good as a rainbow (even though the rainbow is out of order...)
     I still have not finished the sets of bags from last week, Sunday I just jumped into some new sets. We still have a bunch of home repairs to do so I am a bit worried about keeping to my schedule. I should have finished the bags from last week but instead I cut out 8 new sets (so, this week and next week's bags). I got 4 of the sets ironed and glued and then decided that was enough. We had worked a lot on the house. And I pretty much felt like we had done a lot of work on the house. Anyway, I have not finished the first 4 bags but I have made it to the partially bag shaped stage on the second 4 bags and cut out the pieces for the 3rd group of bags. Because I sometimes make no sense at all I am working on week 1, 2 and 3 all at the same time (during week two of the plan, in case you are curious). I have more work on all of these obviously, but it feels like some progress. I am sort of thinking the next thing I will do on all these bags is cut out, and glue in, all the linings for the second set of bags that is starting to be bag shaped. Then they WILL be bag shaped! After that I might move in to ironing the 3rd set of bags and gluing them. I have not fully decided on anything yet. I try to do the different things when I feel like it so I don't get all twitchy and frustrated about doing the work. 
      So doll work continues. House work continues. Homeschool continues. And distance learning continues. I'm in a pretty good routine these days, even though I am sort of all over the place with things. I feel like I am on schedule or ahead of schedule at times. I don't think I am behind just yet but I am always afraid I will get to that point. And really, I don't NEED to have 30 dolls for my live sale, that is just my goal. I don't NEED to have 16 sets of saddlebags, but I only make them a few times a year and I know people like them, so I want to get them done. Maybe if I continue to stay on schedule, or even find I actually am ahead of schedule, I might start to take more time off. Not that I have any idea what to do. Everything is still mostly closed and I don't know what I want to do. I need more books. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

All the Wrong Fabric

      COVID 19, and the variety of shutdowns because of it, have caused issues for a lot of people. My issues are somewhat minor in comparison to a lot of people. I did not lose my job, as a lot of people have, and while my school job is tricky to do from a distance, it can be done. I can also still make dolls, though this is actually where I have run into some issues. While I do buy some doll making supplies online, I buy fabrics mostly in person. It is hard to know is something is going to work in miniature unless you can touch it and see how it drapes, stretches, doesn't stretch, and so on. When Massachusetts shut down, Joann's closed. And I started to run out of things. Sometimes I can find a way to work around it. And sometimes I end up with all the wrong fabric. 
     I found out very quickly that while I LOVE shopping IN Joann's, I hate Joann.com. The site is user friendly but they will not allow you to buy less than 2 yards of fabric. 2 yards of any fabric I use for doll making is likely to last me for years. Literally. Plus it is $7.99 for shipping. On every order. Even if they were out of something and you had to get it the next day. They have no free shipping threshold like most websites have these days. You do what you have to do when you don't have a lot of good choices. I was pretty much out of the fabric I use for breeches. The fabric that Joann's has had on the shelf easily for the last 10 years. I could not find it on the website (not that I was totally sure what it was anyway) so I found what looked like it might be a good color and a reasonable substitute. 
     Eventually the fabric arrived and it was awful! It was a weird flesh color, though not a flesh color that any healthy person would ever actually have. It also was a 4 ways stretch, which I despise for doll making. You always end up with a weird sort of scalloped looking seam with that type of fabric. I figured I was stuck with it and I was kind of mad. I had 2 yards of useless fabric. 
     Not only did I have useless fabric, I didn't think about returning it (I NEVER return fabric) for awhile and when I did think of it I realized I didn't have a packing slip. It was either not included or stuck in the bag that I threw out. I emailed Joann's customer service and eventually found out I could return it to a store, when they reopened, with the packing slip or the confirmation email with the order number. I could not find the order in my order history on Joann.com. This was some really frustrating, ugly fabric. So while I love Joann stores, I really don't like their website. 
     I still needed fabric for breeches so I went to ebay next. I ordered from a couple of different places, pretty convinced that I would finally have the fabric I need, in a usable color. This first one was a cotton beige knit interlock fabric. Knit! That is what I need, I know it! And beige seems right. Plus the fabric probably would arrive quickly, which was important. And it did arrive fairly quickly... but it is also sort of the wrong fabric. It is a bit thicker than I like and not particularly stretchy. But the color is good and it stretches enough that I can use it for breeches until I find something that is exactly right. 

     At the same time I ordered the knit interlock I ordered several colors of this anti pill jersey knit technical fabric. It was coming from the UK, so I knew it would be awhile, which is why I ordered the knit interlock. I was excited with the color options and was pretty positive this would be perfect and I would have plenty of stuff for breeches and polo shirts. Just what I needed. 
     I was right, it took awhile for the fabrics to get here from the UK. And they are awful. Also barely any stretch. And they are weirdly thin. I have not tried them out for anything yet so I don't know if they are completely useless or just sort of useless. I'll find out eventually. But jersey knit should mean stretch, shouldn't it?
     I was so ridiculously frustrated with fabric buying, and striking out over and over, I decided to go to Spoonflower and put in a custom order. Now Spoonflower is an amazing website for custom fabric. Be careful if you go there and make sure you have a lot of time, you will need it. The search format is not awesome. If you have a design you have made and you wanted it printed on fabric, they would be the ones to go to. When you find the designs you want (save them!) they are very easy to order. But to search generically for designs that would work in model horse scale will take a lot of time. And be careful to check the measurement pictures of each design you like. A lot of the artists will shrink (or enlarge) their designs if you message them. I have not had that done. I should look into it. 
     Anyway, I decided my need for breech fabric was great enough that I would spend a chunk of money on custom printed fabric to make sure I got what I wanted. I knew the material I liked for breeches and I figured that ordering solid beige and light khaki would work out well. They were expensive but the colors looked right (at the time...) and I would finally have the fabric I so desperately needed. 
     But that idea doesn't really fit in this post. 
     My order arrived and solid beige was actually pretty much cream and light khaki was yellow. Maybe a slightly dirty yellow, but yellow. I had just spent way too much money on fabric that was not usable (the khaki) only sort of usable (the beige) and non-returnable. My frustration was real. I do still love Spoonflower. You just really need to have a ton of time to search through all the stuff. 




      My Joann's is open again though they are only allowed to sell mask making supplies. Elecktra's friend Sam (my inside source) tells me that on the current reopening plan our state is on, we will not be allowed access to all of the store for probably another 6 weeks. At least. They also are still out of stock on the knit fabric that I super need for breeches (but they are allowed to sell even though it's knit...) though they have had that fabric, in that color, for at least a decade. Anyway, no matter any way you look at it, I was not going to be allowed to buy any sort of mesh fabric, which is what I need for the front pockets on my saddle bags. I have had the piece I used for years, and now I am out. Of course I am, now is the worst time to run out of things, which means it must be time to run out of everything! So since mesh of any type was not going to be sold to me in person for weeks I moved the party online. Again. 
      My first choice of where to look was Field's Fabrics. I don't order much of a variety from them, mostly just ultrasuede, but I know they are much more reasonable than Joann.com and will sell me smaller increments of fabric. So even if I screw up choose the wrong thing, I probably won't waste too much money. I ordered some mask making supplies from them probably about a month ago. They had elastic (though they did not the last I checked) no interfacing, but some cute fabrics and, of course, ultrasuede. So I ordered a bunch of stuff. This time though I was on a different mission. Still looking for fabric for breeches, but also the mesh. I can't just leave the pockets off the bags, that's not what I do. And they do have what looks like the perfect mesh fabric. I can get 1/4 of a yard and it will cost me about $1.50. But they didn't have any knit in the correct color and shipping on just that one piece of fabric would be silly. 
       Here's the part of the post where I tell you the idea to compare the websites was my sister Cathy's idea. Though I think she had in mind more of a nice guide to which websites are easy to use and which are harder. This is more of a list of small disasters in relation to buying fabric online. But I guess I can talk about the websites. 
      Cathy asked if I had tried Fabric.com. I didn't even think I had ever heard of fabric.com, though it came right up in the search bar on my phone when I started typing it in. I must have gone there in my journeys already. I can not tell you a whole ton about Fabric.com because I haven't done much with the site. I can say it is super easy to use. You can shop by type of fabric, color family, both. I did find a bunch of stuff very easily. Nothing looked like what I needed though, so I moved on. 
      So I was searching for mesh and sort of searching for fabric for breeches (again. Still). I put stretch knit tan in the search bar and found Califabrics.com. And I found warm tan lightweight stretch rayon jersey knit. It says stretch right in the title! It may also be a better color for breeches than what I have been using. So hopefully it works out. I also ordered some black tulle, which should make perfectly good mesh pockets on the saddlebags. 

     So here's a rundown of some fabric websites.
Joann.com has lots of stuff, not just fabric, though if you are ordering fabric for shipping you have to order between 2 and 5 yards of it, depending on what it is. I will have black, white, navy and denim fabric for dolls for years. I so wish I was kidding about that. 
Spoonflower.com is an amazing website and you can get a very large variety of fabrics (if you don't know what you need you can order a sample set which has every type of fabric they carry and it like $3.50 but worth it to know what your fabric will feel like). You can get anything custom printed on it. There is a huge library of designs, which most can be resized by the artist. You can also upload your own designs. If you just need a small piece you can get an 8'X8" tests swatch for $5, which is enough for most model horse projects. But it is pricey. And if you are looking for designs it might take a long time. The search feature is not particularly user friendly. 
Fieldsfabrics.com is a wonderful site. They don't have the variety of stuff that Joann's has, but you can order smaller pieces of fabric. I have ordered as little as 1/8 yard of ultrasuede. When I ordered some cute mask fabrics I got 1/4 of a yard of those and several colors of ultrasuede. Definitely a great website. They also ship very quickly. 
Fabric.com looks user friendly, but I have not actually purchased anything from there that I can remember. Doesn't mean it didn't happen. 
Califabrics.com was easy to use but I don't know yet if what I ordered is what I need. Not that me ordering the wrong thing (or trying to figure out from internet photos and description if it's what I need) is an issue with the website. I did have to order a full yard and wasn't given the option to get smaller amounts. But 1 yard is not too overly ridiculous. And the prices were excellent. They do not seem to carry a huge variety of things other than fabric, and not all sorts of fabric. 

     For the most part I like to buy my fabrics in person. I want to be able to feel them and make sure they are what I need. I need to see the stretch, or the thickness, sheerness and everything else that makes up a piece of fabric. While things are closed I am glad I have the option of shopping online. But it sure is frustrating and I wish I didn't have to do it. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

The Beginning of a Plan

      For years I would make dolls when I felt like it and list them for sale as they were finished. The exception to that was when I was working on dolls for my TRXC (The Region X Championships) sale. People didn't often buy dolls at smaller shows, so I never really planned to have dolls then. But the TRXC weekend, people were shopping so I tried to have things available for sale. It was a good plan and worked pretty well for me for years. Every year for the past 7-10 years (I have lost track) I have held some variety of Black Friday sale. As in on-sale sale. I have offered discounted orders, discounts on dolls that I have left from TRXC and a mix of that sort of idea. Last Black Friday I decided I wanted to do something different, and that was my first live sale. 
     I loved it. 
     I love being able to interact with people. I love not having to take hundreds of photos. I actually also really love the crazy-fast pace. I actually work pretty well under pressure. My goal was to make the sales entertaining and as quick as possible. I have seen live sales that drag on and on and it seems not much is even happening. I didn't want mine to be like that. I think I accomplished what I meant to. And I learned a ton from my first live sale. I wanted to have another. 
     So then I had the vague idea that I wanted to hold another live sale but I didn't know when. I needed at least a few months to make things to sell, and I needed to buy some more stuff for prizes. Because I REALLY love offering prizes! I decided that my birthday would be a good day to do a live sale, but not ON my birthday. So I had it the day before. 
     My birthday live sale was about 2 weeks into the shutdown and I had no idea if people would even be into it for retail prices. I knew there was every possibility that it would go badly, for any number of reasons. But my birthday live sale went really well too. I took what I learned from my Black Friday live sale and tried to make the Birthday live sale as seamless and efficient as possible. The organization and use of paper bags with everyone's name on them was key to keeping things running quickly and smoothly. It also helped with invoicing and shipping. I was incredibly pleased with how everything turned out. 
     So the next plan was to start making things to send to Breyerfest. I had a really cool offer from a friend and I was definitely into sending stuff down with her. But the world didn't reopen and Breyerfest was canceled as an in-person event. But I quickly decided I would have another live sale. I was already working on the inventory, adjusting the plan a bit to hold a live sale is not too different. Though I need prizes, have to work on trivia and some other details. But I really do enjoy live sales. 
     I had the very beginnings of a plan. I knew I wanted to hold the live sale near Breyerfest but not on Breyerfest weekend. So that landed me the weekend before. Saturday of that weekend is July 4th. I am not going to assume things will still be closed and we will still all be social distancing (though maybe, we just don't know) so I didn't want to plan my sale for July 4th. So I went with the 5th. 
     Then I kept on working. I made dolls as I thought of what to make, worked on ordered dolls in between and started working on cross country kits. Someone recently made the comment that the variety makes them want more (something along those lines). This time around I will have more colors and more sets than at my previous sales. I started out working on 22 sets, but I seem to have misplaced a vest and I am donating one so I have 20 finished vests. And I finally got all the watches and medbands finished, everything got packaged up... which means I went from feeling sort of behind and out of control all the time to feeling like I am finally making some progress towards my goals. I don't have totally concrete goals though. 
    Last year I sent 32 dolls to Breyerfest and I thought it would be nice to have at least 30 again this year. So I had a doll goal from the beginning but no other goals. Once I finished the 20 cross country kits I started working out some other goals. This past week I started working on saddlebags. I have 4 sets in the works, and working on 4 sets all at once is not horrible. So I am thinking I can try to get 4 sets of bags done a week, for the next 3 weeks. 16 finished sets of saddlebags seems like a good amount, and not out of the realm of what I should be able to do. Then once those are finished I can move on to chaps. I was thinking 5 pairs of chaps a week is a good goal. That would give me 15 pairs of chaps at the end. I also need to make 2-3 dolls a week, for the next 6 weeks, to get to my goal of 30 dolls total. I think it's a reasonable plan. 
     I may be able to get more finished in a week than what is in the plan, but I am trying not to overextend myself too much. We are still doing repairs and I might not have a lot of time to work on doll stuff on a lot of days. I think with the plan I have in place that I should be able to finish the weekly plans, even if I am helping fix things. I hope so. But at least I am working out more of a plan. It makes me a little calmer about prepping for my sale. 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Bags and Fancy Hats

       I am not a huge fan of making saddlebags. But they are a very popular item and I try to offer some for sale every now and then. I can't stand the thought of doing them as an order anymore. When people ask I get really anxious. But I will try to offer up some finished bags at least several times a year. If you have a color you have been wanting please let me know, I don't have everything already planned out for the sale. I know it is not as good as being guaranteed to get what you want, but I just can't do it anymore. Not with saddlebags anyway.
      They really do take a lot of work and a lot of time. First I have to cut out all the pieces. And saddlebags have some really strangely shaped pieces. Next comes all of the ironing. All the tiny pieces are ironed using different cardstock guides to make sure lines are crisp. I end up burning myself a lot (nothing serious) because the tiny pieces get surprisingly hot. And sometimes I bump the iron.
     After I do all the cutting and ironing I need to start on the gluing. This is the stage where they start to look sort of bag shaped, but not really enough to feel like I am making decent progress. This would probably be a good place to call the ugly stage of saddlebags. They have a lot of them. 

      Of course I am not just working on saddlebags, I am still working on dolls. The other day I finished up another casual English doll, this time with some fun purple breeches. And I finished up a fancy hat driving doll! While I was cleaning my fabric drawer I found this green print, which is a custom piece from Spoonflower. When I first got it I put it aside, discounting it as too large a print to be useful for dolls.When I looked at it again I thought it would be perfect and I made this coat for the driving doll. I had no idea what I wanted to do for her hat, and then I came up with this fancy thing. 
     At first I was not sure if I would like all of those big ribbon curls. But I have seen hats with elaborate ribbons like this. In the end it came together and I liked it. And I liked her large jewels. This is definitely a fancy driving doll. I don't have all of the dolls planned out yet, but I think I may do at least one more driving doll. 
     Dolls are in the works, cross country kits are well underway and I have saddlebags started. I only have 6 weeks left until my NOT Breyerfest live sale. I hope I have enough time. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Edible Math

       There are some days where I am a hot mess and can barely seem to function. Then there are days when things seem to fall into place nicely and things work out and flow together almost seamlessly. On Wednesdays Travis and I always bake and this time around we were very prepared! Not only did he get up early and go through his schooling very efficiently, but for math he did a lesson on equivalent fractions. Coincidentally we were making scones, which you need to cut into equal pieces.   
       So his math lesson flowed seamlessly into his baking and we got through a ton of school work much earlier in the day than we normally do. He had a video class with his teacher and they read a story about caves. And then Travis and I shared photos with her from our trip to Howes Cavern last fall. Travis already knew tons about caves! For anyone interested in the scones, they are low carb cinnamon roll scones and they were amazing!
      Ethan and I still have some house work to get to but we were too sore to get around to it so I worked on some other bits and pieces of things instead. I got into the watches and medbands for the cross country kits. I did a lot but I also still have a lot to go. 
      I finished up this casual western lady and did some bits and pieces on a couple of other dolls. Wednesday was a really productive day! I am hoping for some more days like that for sure. 
     The weather has finally been much more Spring like which is both good and bad. Good because I am glad to finally not be cold and I can open the windows, but bad because I am so insanely busy I don't have a lot of time to spend outside. And the state is still basically closed so there is not a ton of stuff to do. With so much closed and good weather people are flocking (like, huge crowds!) to the few open hiking/outdoor areas. So basically it seems like a good idea to not go there. And when the weather changes I get tired and unmotivated. Maybe I will snap out of it soon and be able to get out and enjoy the nice weather. Before the mosquitos and ticks ruin it. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

House Work

     I wonder if anyone will even read a post with the title House Work? I thought about other things to call this post, but House Work won. That was most of Tuesday after all. In the morning Travis and I did our school work, I worked on finishing pinnies and then Ethan and I went outside to do some home repairs. You know, house work. I was happy to finish up all the pinnies before it was time for the repairs. Just med bands and watches and all of these sets will be finished! I feel like they have been in the works for a long time. 
      We have a long list of home repairs and home improvement projects that need to be done. Sometimes Ethan does them himself. Sometimes he just needs a bit of help, or things just go faster with help. The stuff we have going on this week really just need two people. Even if one of them (me) is often hanging around waiting to see what is needed. I have gotten quite a workout carrying, holding and moving things. Not a fun workout, but a workout. And the repairs are happening. More are to come, but at least I am managing all of the things. For now. 
      After we finished housework and had supper I got some sewing done. I had 5 outfits cut out but I pooped out after sewing 4. That will give me plenty of things I can work on. I may only be able to get bits and pieces done in the morning or in the evening, but sooner or later I will finish this next batch of dolls. And the cross country kits. Even small steps will get you to your goal eventually. 
     It is looking like this week I may not have all that much time for doll work. Or rest. But I have been getting more dolls finished than strictly necessary, so I will be OK. As long as not all of the next 6 weeks are like this, I can still make my goals. The cross country kits are nearly finished and I have some saddlebags started. I should be OK. I just need to keep pecking away at all of the projects.