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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February 11, 2016

Art Doll OOAK 2.0: Recycling An Old Doll

Over the years, I have made hundreds of dolls. I keep a few favorites stored in bins and every once in a while I sort thru the collection. These dolls show my progress in skill and are useful teaching tools. A recent visit to the bin led me to decide to winnow the collection and reuse & sell what I could. One of the figures chosen is the Townsend's Solitare shown at left. This fellow was featured in 500 Handmade Dolls, but he is showing some wear and no longer reflects my artistic standards. This was one of the first bird dolls I made and has a stuffed cloth head into which a leather beak was sewn. The eyes were needle-sculpted and additional color was added with textile paint. I decided he needed a new head and clothes; his body and joints were fine.

All my figures have hanging loops, but now I attach them to the body of the doll and they can be tucked out of sight if not used. The old loop was snipped off and the rest of the clothes removed. I decided to make a new jacket, as this one was  bit shapeless and the mohair scarf looked sloppy. The new jacket features two wing-like slings, and each was beaded with pale pink and orange beads.

The boots/feet were sound, but needed a visual upgrade. I removed the stitches at the toe, removed the cardboard inside, then refinished the feet with a covered sole. (Watch a tutorial here.)

The old head was removed, and although it seems like a scary job, it was quite easy to do. Only two rows of hand-stitches hold the head onto the neck and the neck is undamaged by the process. I made a new, solid wool head with a new beak, in this case suede and foam (another video tutorial!), and sewed it into place.

This is Towsend's Solitare 2.0. Much better! The clothes are neat and trim and the expression is life-like and attentive. Its difficult to believe this is the same doll. Well, I guess it's not really, but reworking this fellow highlights the advantages of createing cloth dolls. If you don't like something, its easy to change it! After all, its only fabric.
Stay tuned...

January 29, 2016

Pinterest Picks: From Pin to Practice: Flying Geese Quilt

I have recently been overtaken by an obsession with Flying Geese or Goose Chase blocks. Even though I have started working on another quilt (a reconstruction of a vintage schoolhouse block), I am mentally hooked on Flying Geese. I have many quilting books, but for satiating the visual cravings, few things work better than Pinterest. Of course, there are plenty of Flying Geese quilts out there, but what struck me after a few scrolls was the description of a no-waste method to create the blocks. This post includes the math as well as the method.

I am a scrap quilter, but unlike most people today, I use recycled clothing made from linen or silk. It is more difficult to use common strip techniques because my fabrics are odd shapes. The method that caught my eye requires squares and is a variation of a half-square triangle method. Its quick and simple AND you don't have to deal with bias. I was so thrilled, I designed a modern-type quilt, cut out all my squares and started sewing right away. So far, I've only spent two hours on this quilt. So fast!

This will be a two-color quilt- blue and white. The blues are mostly in the navy range and from a variety of silk blouses and brocade neckties. The whites are closer to the beige range - with a bit of robin's egg blue tossed in - and come from a selection of linen shirts. As usual, I underlined my silks with cotton batiste, requiring some extra cutting. I've decided on a finished size of 1.5x3 inch blocks, but even at this fairly small size the added batiste does not add any bulk.

Stay tuned for progress reports...

January 20, 2016

Detachable Body Parts? Yeah!

I am currently working on a story about a family of AcornWoodpeckers (Melanerpes formicivorus). I decided that I wanted nine birds, but I didn't want the hassle of making nine complete figures. I also don't have that much storage space. I thought perhaps I could make one body and nine heads, popping each off and on as needed for photography. They would need different jackets to further distinguish each individual, but that's easy to do. Further thought led me to decide they needed physical distinctions as well. The result of the thinking was the following plan: Make three bodies with detachable arms and legs. Mixing up three sets of appendages, plus distinct heads and jackets should be enough.  So, how to do this?

My first thought was snaps. When I calculated how many I would need - about 30 sets - cost became an issue.  I would need to use large snaps to support the weight of the arms and legs and this type is priced at over a dollar each. After some research, I decided to try rare earth magnets. They are small, but can support a good bit of weight and are inexpensive at the hardware store. 

I wanted to have as much physical diversity as possible in the finished figures, and so decided that the lower legs (boots) would be interchangeable too. I tried small snaps for the knees- the type you would use in clothing - and they worked fine. Normally I use a bead or button joint here, as this is a low stress joint in my figures.

I wanted to have as much ... as possible, and so decided that the lower legs (boots) would be interchangable as well. I tried small snaps - the type you would use in clothing - and they worked fine. For .. I used silver on one side and black on the other.

After finishing the lower legs, I realized I had to be careful about how the snaps were attached. The left and right legs received different sides of the snap.This reduced the number of snaps required overall, since complements of the sets were used on each side.

Before installing the magnet joints, I had to constrict the shoulders and hips with lengths of thread pulled taut. You can see the shoulder magnet sitting deep in the inset. When I create button joints, these regions are pulled in by the waxed linen thread through the entire joint. With button joints, the thread forms the joint and creates a smaller width across the shoulders or hips. With magnet joints, if I didn't constrict the two body areas each would be too wide.

The magnets are donut shaped and after aligning polarities correctly on appendage and body, each was sewn on using a mattress (curved) needle. The resulting joint is quite strong, but allows free movement of the limb. The arms and legs sit farther out from the body than with button joints, but proportion of body shape can be altered with clothing later.

Stay tuned from progress on this set of interesting figures...

January 13, 2016

Creating New Fabric From Scraps

Finished body
Because I use recycled clothing as a source material, I often have odd shaped pieces and scraps. I value these scraps, not just because they are made from high-quality textiles, but also because they provide an opportunity to add texture and dimension to my work

I am currently in the process of creating a White-earredHummingbird (Hylocharis leucotis). These birds have greyish green bodies with various colors around the neck and head. I had a stash of medium weight green  linen scraps and decided to use them for the torso, arms and legs. The linen by itself is a nice color, but the fabric doesn't have much depth or character. In cases like this, I turn to a technique I learned in The Art of Fabric Collage.

The first step was to piece the scraps together, making sure the finished rectangle was big enough for all needed body parts. I didn't worry about bias seams or crooked edges. All seams were pressed to one side and topstitched. The final piece wasn't perfectly flat, but that doesn't matter, as you'll see in a minute. I prefer some heft to the fabric I use for my figures and wanted something thicker than the pieced linen. I'm also planning some surface beading and needed a firmer base to support the beads.

Because I wanted to increase the weight of the fabric, I basted a layer of muslin to the underside of the linen. I used scraps (this stuff will never show) and roughly fitted them together. You could use a single piece of fabric, but this is a good way to use up odd bits. I went over the entire front surface with lines of free-motion machine stitching. Handquilting would work too. In this case, I used an iridescent rayon thread in long zig-zag patterns.

The last step (not shown) is to toss the pieced and stitched fabric into the washer and dryer with a load of laundry. This process shrinks the fabrics, puffing the layers, creating more texture and heft than one would expect.  At this point, more stitching can be added, but I was satisfied with the fabric. I then cut out and sewed the body parts (see the image above) The difference in the fabric may seem subtle, but when you are holding a larger doll, you need to use heavier fabrics so that the artwork doens't seem fragile or cheap.This is the perfect method to make exactly the type of fabric you need.

Stay tuned to see how this fellow finishes up!

November 17, 2015

Technique Tuesday: Creating Bird Heads, Part 1

I've posted, both on the blog and YouTube, the basic steps to creating the heads of my dolls. For example, in this post from 2010, I describe the process from design to completion for a Tundra Swan. The simplest of bird heads, believe it or not, is a Vulture, and I gave a brief rundown on the steps about a year ago in this post.

Mammals are pretty easy, just layers and layers of felt to get the shape I want. Birds also have unique head conformations, but the main difficulty is due to the beak. Each species requires a unique shape and sculpting the beak takes a lot of time. But before I delve into that topic, I thought I would show you how each head begins with a layer of wool around a finished beak. My latest YouTube video covers the basics of the bird head, and this video, along with my previous video about animal heads gives you a good foundation for trying this technique yourself.

In the next two weeks I'll share videos describing how I make the beaks for my birds. Stay tuned...

November 9, 2015

Book Review: A Field Guide to Fabric Design

I am a fabric lover. I used to buy a lot of fabric, both for sewing clothes and for quilting. Something happened though. About 15 years ago, I became really tired of the fabrics out there. Quality declined and nothing looked or felt good. For quilting, I turned to my own hand-dyes and now focus entirely on recycled clothing. For sewing, I either recycle or only use solid colors. Lots of solids.

In these heady of days of online assisted DIY, fabriholics now have the option of designing their own fabrics. Why wait for what you want to become fashionable? No need to sift through websites or drive all over town. Just make what you want.

I touched my toe into the pool when I used Spoonflower to create my booth backdrops (see this post for more info). I was so pleased by the result (quality and appearance), that I am now designing fabrics that I want to wear.

For those who are curious, A Field Guide to Fabric Design by Kimberly Kight is a great place to start. She provides plenty of information for people doing things entirely by hand (pen&ink, screenprinting, etc) and those who work with computers. Also covered are good explanations of copyright issues, color theory and types of digital printing. In each chapter there are short interviews of fabric designers from all parts of the industry. The explanations of types of design repeats will give helpful insight to anyone who sews with prints.

My process is to have images (drawings, photos, watercolors) and collage and alter them in Photoshop. Once in that program, I can create files that are ready to upload right to the website. It really is pretty simple and straight-forward. Even if you are doing all your designing by hand, info from the book, plus that from your chosen online printing service will answer just about any question you might have with the technical aspects of the process.

The most difficult part of designing fabric is creating an image you like and that looks good. Design and color basics are explained with plenty of step-by-step tutorials and examples. The book does have a strong emphasis on computer skills and the author assumes that you know how to use Photoshop and Illustrator. Realistically, use of a scanner and photo-editing program is pretty much essential for proofing and editing designs and setting up correct file sizes and resolutions.

This book is recommended for anyone who sews and thinks about prints in fabrics or paper. If you are thinking about trying your hand at design, this is a good place to start. And don't be limited to the textile world. All of the principles discussed here apply to any 2-D design and most online printing bureaus offer paper products as well.