Agosia Arts is about celebrating the natural world, fine craft and conscientious recycling. My main goals with this blog are to : 1) provide a peek behind the scenes at how my work is produced; 2) document my problem solving process; and 3) encourage others to try new things. If you have questions, email me at Thank you for visiting!

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September 30, 2015

Pinterest Inspirations: From Pin to Practice

I love Pinterst. My studio is much neater now that I don't have clippings taped up everywhere. I try to limit my pins to those related to work (art and sewing inspirations), but what good does it do to have a bunch of Pins & Boards that just sit there looking pretty? Not much good. So, let's put some of those Pins into Practice! One of my boards (shown at left) is a collection of items that I think could be used as embellishments for art dolls. My goal is to try a few of these per month and post the results.

This pin highlights the work of Dori Jenn (she has an Etsy shop; this bead is called "Tunnel Vision") and I liked the combination of wire and beads. As many beaders do, I have a jar of mixed beads and I thought this would be a good way to use some of them. After fumbling about for a long time, I ended up using two jump rings per end  because the wires sliped through the fine opening of the rings -they kept opening as I worked. My beads were various sizes which was probably not the best choice and I had a difficult time holding everything together while I worked.  My finished bead was crooked and everything seemed to shift around a lot. Conclusion: Although the result looks good, this beaded bead is not for me. I'm not good enough at wire work and it took too much time. There are other methods I prefer.

This pin/idea shot through Pinterest a while back and I can't track down the original pinner or source. Most pins were related to wedding or jewelry applications. I was intrigued with the use of nail polish and the lacquer look of the finished flower. In just a few minutes I twisted together flowers with 28 gauge wire and tried three types of nail polish: new frosted pale pink, old clumpy matte dark red and new shiny black. To my surprise it was super easy to get the polish onto the petals in a thin film. A narrower brush seemed to be a bit more difficult to use, but it was fine. I liked the look of the colored wire (the red flower), but I don't think I would buy special wire just for this technique. I used hemostats to hold the flowers upside down as they dried. I poked at the dry film with a needle and it is not hard or brittle; it is flexible like leather. I don't know how it would hold up long tern. You can definitely tear it, but for a display piece, I think these flowers would be fine. I will point out the my wire flower frames didn't look great to begin with, but the finished flowers were lovely. This is a very forgiving technique. Conclusion: this is a fantastic way to make flowers, and probably, leaves (green polish is easy to find). I use a lot of silk ribbon flowers, but these lacquered versions are going to be used often.

Every once in a while I make a tiny book for one of my figures. Usually I use old dictionary pages and create a leather cover with Japanese bound signatures. This pin (Leslie Shepherd, miniatures expert) shows a tiny spiral notebook and I thought it would be an excellent addition to my bibliophilic methods. To experiment I trimmed some dictionary pages, lined them up with a ruler, then prepunched holes every 1/8" with a tapestry needle. For this experiment I didn't use special covers, but I would punch them separately because they would likely be thicker. I used a wooden knitting needle instead of the metal skewer and threaded 28 gauge wire through the holes. The whole process took about five minutes and the result looks great. Conclusion: This is a fantastic way to make tiny books. Easier to work the spiral than the usual miniature bindings, much faster as well.

Stay tuned for more Pin to Practice next month...

September 21, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Turn Of The Cloth, Why Does It Matter?

This post is here to remind you (and me) of two things: 1) pay attention to the lessons of experienced sewers and 2) just pay attention! In two previous posts, I described the basic process by which I make clothing for my dolls (Part 1 and Part 2). It is fairly straightforward and is easy as long as I am using lightweight cloth. The weight is important because of an issue called turn of the cloth. The concept used to be taught (and I thought I learned it...) to impress upon the sewer than cloth in a seam takes up space. This becomes very important when you are sewing close seams, turning components right side out, and pressing items flat. Think about sewing a collar - denim is going to be more difficult than shirting fabric.

So, what can go wrong? When you are working with tiny garments, a lot can go wrong. I ran into all possible problems a while back when making a set of 10 small figures. I was in robo-sew mode, went into the studio, chose a bunch of fabrics and sewed everything together to make clothes.

I didn't discover my mistake until I started turning the garments right side out. I had chosen corduroy and wool as exterior fabrics and a loosely woven silk to line it. A deadly combo: thick plus delicate = disaster. I couldn't turn the garments and I was ripping the lining fabric. I was ticked, but didn't want to give up on all 10 garments. After wrestling with the tiny coats, I gave up and cut through everything at the shoulder. The next problem to solve was how to seam the shoulder area quickly and cleanly.

All the fabrics were fraying, so I was losing length. The pattern was not designed for overlap or a seam at the this place, so if I added a seam, the armholes would be too small.  I decided to butt the joins and whipstitch them front and back.

I couldn't leave the shoulder seam looking like that, so I decided to glue an epaulet-like segment over the seam, top and bottom. Well, that didn't look so great (raw edges) so I whipstitched the edges to the garment and added a seed bead with each stitch. Stronger and more attractive.You can see the final result at the top of he post.

BUT, if I had been paying attention to what I was doing and remembered my sewing lessons from years ago, I wouldn't have to have gone through the whole process with 10 little coats. Lesson to remember: when sewing tiny things, use lightweight fabrics. Maybe medium weight. Corduroy? Not a good idea...

September 10, 2015

Book Review: Babes In the Wool: How to Knit Beautiful Fashion Dolls, Clothes and Accessories

Babes in the Wool by Fiona McDonald takes knitted dolls into the fashion world using sophisticated facial features and interesting clothing designs.

There are nine patterns provided, the main differences among them being size and head shaping. These dolls are visually unique due to two features: needle-sculpted noses and painted felt appliqued eyes and lips. A few dolls have synthetic hairpieces are sewn onto their heads for very realistic looking hair. The affect is amazing.

The dolls come in two sizes and clear instructions are provided for various types of clothing, including bikinis and shoes. Some patterns include knit-in bathing suits or leggings, but this can be omitted. Some dolls have approximations of hands and feet, but other dolls lack these features. Both arms and legs are very slender to make the doll look "right" with the added layers of clothing

Overall, the body shape is similar to that in Knitted Dolls: Handmade Toys With a Designer Wardrobe by Arne and Carlos which I reviewed a few years ago. Those dolls (both male and female) have so much personality and quirkyness - they instantly make you smile. The young ladies featured in this book are elegant and stylish - a very different impression that is due mainly to the difference in head and facial features.

All the patterns require a doubled, folded toilet tissue roll inside the body and head, functioning as a pseudo-spine. I'm not a fan of stiffeners inside dolls and I suspect that the paperboard will eventually become soft and support will be lost. I realize that children can be rough with dolls, but there are few ways to prevent floppyness of a head and body after months of play - proper stuffing technique is key. Washability also becomes a concern with the paperboard insert. I admit I'm not a fan of this feature of these knitted dolls.

The patterns for the clothing are straightforward for an average knitter.  All the yarns used were of similar weight, and knitting gauge is only briefly discussed.  If a person is using scraps from his or her stash, there might have to be a bit of experimentation to obtain correct size of garments.

This book provides a few interesting features to the knitted/felt doll maker - the use of hairpieces was my favorite. I prefer the dolls and clothes in Arne and Carlos' book, but these dolls may be a better choice for an older girl more interested in the beginnings of fashion awareness.  

August 25, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Lining Doll Clothes, Part 2

In a previous post I discussed how I create patterns for clothing. Today, I'll cover how I actually make the clothes. This technique may or may not work for you. It depends on the size, purpose and complexity of your doll and its clothes. Over the years, I've used this technique because it is relatively easy, fast and creates a clean finish inside and out. It works well for costumes for small dolls (I use this for Barbie-sized clothes), but the clothes shown here are for my standard size figure - about 20 inches high.

 The first step is to layer your main fabric right sides together with your lining fabric. I tend to use medium weight fashion fabrics (linens) and thin linings (lightweight silks). You can use two light or medium weight fabrics ,but don't use two heavyweights; you will have a difficult time turning garment sections. Lay your pattern pieces onto the fabrics and trace around with a marking device of your choice. I usually use a Sharpie and choose to mark on the thicker fabric. Sew on the lines, leaving a small section unsewn. My patterns are designed to leave the shoulder area open.

Cut out your garment sections, leaving a 1/4 inch seam allowance. Trim corners and clip curves. I use a large crochet hook to gently push corners out. If you are a bit nervous about this method, and your sections are tiny, you may want to make duplicates .

Press each garment section, using the appropriate heat setting for your fabrics. I generally use a pretty hot iron with a good spritz of distilled water. In the photo, I've pressed all the pieces for a silk-lined wool jacket: one back, two fronts and a stand-up collar. Now, fetch your doll, pin the main pieces together and test the fit. My patterns are designed with extra fabric on the shoulders and some overlap at the sides to account for my seaming method. The test fit is very important because each doll has a slightly different body. The open shoulder seam is turned inward the amount indicated by the test fit and pressed firmly before hand sewing the front and back sections together at the shoulder. The side seams are easier. I usually just overlap and sew with an invisible fell stitch. This creates vents at the sides which helps ease movement of the hips.

If I'm attaching a collar, pockets or other embellishments, it is important to complete the garment before deciding placement of these additions. Always preview placement of extras with the garment on the doll. I pin into place, then hand sew the small sections. In the photo of the completed collar, you can see that the inside neckline of the jacket looks a bit odd. There is "extra" fabric around the neck. From the outside, you have a clean, elegant collar. The inside doesn't matter to me because most people won't see it, but everything is neatly finished if someone looked- no raw edges. A big plus is that this collar took less than five minutes to sew! Also, I don't have to create a new pattern for each garment/doll. I can adjust easily by adding small pieces.

The completed garment is shown at the top of this post. Looks great! Next time, what can go wrong sewing clothes...

August 13, 2015

The Difficulties of Editing an Art Fair Display

Last year I bought a new tent, and along with it, a set of white mesh sidewalls. I used to display the dolls hanging on bamboo matchstick blinds - which provided a lovely natural background - but this new setup is easier to carry on the road. The downside is the whiteness of it all, especially the lower three feet. So, what to do? Because part of my mission is to inform and educate about the Southwest, I decided people needed to see some natural habitats. I drew and painted a mural on muslin illustrating three life zones in the desert. It looked ok, but I thought it was a bit sloppy.

For this year's shows, I decided to make something nicer. I scanned and edited a variety of my watercolors with the intention of printing the Photoshopped collage onto fabric. I uploaded the image to Spoonflower, selected my fabric and ordered some yardage. I chose their performance knit, with the idea that it wouldn't fray, wrinkle in storage and would be easy to clean. When the fabric arrived, I fell in love! The quality was much better than I expected (I plan to make a dress out of this stuff) and the watercolors looked fantastic. I admit I am now hooked on the idea of printing fabric.

But, how would it look as part of the display? The fabric looks great. When the sun shines through the tent, the watercolors really come to life. I didn't work hard enough to make the images at the seams match, but otherwise it looks very nice. I'm still unhappy about the display, however. I've added and removed burlap frames behind the dolls (shown in the photo), added and removed many things, but I still can't get the look I want. Previously, I had a muted background with various natural materials. Now everything is so white!

You may be wondering what the big deal is. Two things. First, I bought the mesh walls, so I would be carrying less stuff. So hanging something on the walls defeats the purpose. Second, I do indoor shows and there are strict fire regulations for display items. Everything has to be certified fire retardant. As it is, I will have to treat my new fabric mural with a spray. So, the whole thing is still a work in progress.

Stay tuned for display changes in the next few months...

August 1, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Making Felt Heads Video.

Over the years, I've posted descriptions of my head creation technique. Recently, I posted a video showing the whole process.  It is a rather long video, but everything is there, start to finish. The video features rabbits, but an elk shows up at the end. Even I am amazed to see the face take shape at the end.

If you would like to see related blog posts, click on the links below:
A Bird's Eye View shows how I created a Swan head, from sketch to completed bird.
Who Needs A Hole In the Head? describes the process I went through to create a rabbit head with a jaw joint and a mouth that opens and closes.
A New Cast of Characters shows a variety of heads, unfinished and finished, and you can see what they look like inside and out.