Monday, November 17, 2008


Recently our fearless leader, Gabby, sent me a link for origami for fabric. While I thought it was interesting, I couldn't really see where it had anything to do with doll fashion designing, so I didn't pay much attention to it. However, our recent pleating challenge brought it all into focus. I then realized pleating is much like origami; after all they both require fabric folding.

I also figured out I had actually been looking at fabric folding all of my life - who among us has not picked up a folded cloth napkin at a restaurant? But I really had not explored it further, nor thought of it in terms of my designs. So I began to really read this website and discovered you can make all kinds of things - from boxes to stars, airplanes, pineapples - you name it! But how could I relate this to my doll ventures I I read on.

Interestingly enough I found that quilt makers use this folding technique to incorporate designs into their creations, much like the folding created in this picture:

Florals are also possible, as featured in the photos below:

But I did wonder if I could accomplish this in my desired small scale. Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Anyway, the point Gabby had been trying to relate to me was that incorporating different items into our designs, such as pleats, can make them more interesting. But, we don't have to be limited by just the standard items. Perhaps, in analyzing what others have accomplished, we can move into a whole new realm of designing ourselves.

Read more about fabric folding here:

and find additional information in these books:

Origami Quilts: 20 Folded Fabric Projects by Louise Mabbs and Wendy Lowes

Fantastic Fabric Folding by Rebecca Wat

But where had I been introduced to stretching my imagination, I pondered? Well, I thought, first I had explored "doing it different" when I discovered a wonderful quilt and doll maker named Susanna Oroyan. That short, chance meeting at the Houston Quilt Show many years ago had made me a continued supporter of this lady's talent. I have all of her books, and find much inspiration in them, and I think most doll makers who practice original thinking would also. Her books most inspiring to our type of doll design are:

Designing the Doll: From Concept to Construction

Finishing the Figure: Doll Costuming, Embellishments, Accessories

Her other books are equally fascinating, but these two really relate most to any kind of doll maker or doll fashion designer. In them she goes through a number of steps to help one put together their ideas for developing a doll which can easily relate to their outfit. Well, we don't need to make a doll, but we do need to know how to relate our outfit to our muse. In there she also discusses scale, and getting the look we hope to achieve. She puts us in the right frame of mind for choosing our materials accurately, also.

In the other book she goes past the making of our item and concentrates on how to embellish and the proper accessories. She doesn't want us to just create something that is ho-hum. She wants us to go further with our fashion (or doll) and give it that "wow" factor that means we have truly owned our design. I lost my hero to cancer, but not before she put me onto the book that relates to fiber manipulation in this story. Sorry if I got a little off the track, but her books are truly inspirational and worth the read for anyone serious about doll/doll fashion designing.

Fantasy Fabrics - Techniques for Layered Surface Design by Bonnie Lyn McCaffey is the book she introduced me to. Within its pages one will discover secrets quilt makers have long known and incorporated in their designs! She shows us simple techniques for making the most wonderful original fabrics; fabrics resplendent with texture and dimension appropriate for "...any fabric-based project you create." This book will teach us how using simple items - thread, ribbon, yarns, lace, etc - we can turn a mousey fabric into a one-of-a-kind. I never thought there could be over a hundred variations of manipulating fabric, but Ms. McCaffey explains it all succinctly with both words and multiple photographs. Just as she's stretched quilting to the limit, she can help us do so with our designs.

But my greatest adventure into fabric manipulation was an actual hands-on experience I had with one of our own OOAK fashion doll artists, Pamela Bachmayer. Many of you may know her or her work; and those of you who don't will be delighted in her introduction, I am sure! Pamela was one of the first OOAK artists I was lucky enough to meet on a Yahoo group, so when the opportunity came to visit her at her home for a workshop I couldn't say no. There, I was not only allowed to peek into her workshop and see her latest line being created, but I was also introduced to the techniques she used to create it. Here's one of her visions; take a minute and read her description, and view all her pictures and maybe you'll begin to understand what she taught me:

Okay, don't get too excited - I didn't make one of these dresses - and still haven't. But, what I did learn how to make were hats such as the one featured here:

In a nutshell, what I remember of my lesson was that we used a piece of merino wool that contained some silk blend fibers, ran it under warm water, and beat it till we got it to a malleable consistency. Then, using small round or square blocks of wood we actually molded our fibers to form a round or square hat!! Easy-peasey?? Well, not exactly - it really does take a lot of water, pounding, and manipulating to achieve finished results like Pamela Bachmayer's dress, but when you get it right the rewards are phenomenal. And, I'm testament that anyone can make one of these hats - if you set your mind to it! AND there is just something magically fun about a design you create all on your own. Wouldn't it be fun to create a little dog like Pamela has made to accompany Marta??

Reading and research is great; but it really is in the doing that we truly develop our originality. And I’ve only told you about a few things! Fabric can be beaded, embroidered, painted -- you name it -- IF we have the courage to try it. Let’s not let anything get in the way of becoming the kind of designer we want to be.

And share; always be willing to share your technique with others. The best of the best do it -- and I think they are further blessed with greater creativity for having done so. After all sharing IS really caring. AND learning; growing and developing are what will make US the best of the best! Let's do it!!

(Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the artists, authors, publishing companies, or book sellers referred to in this blog. But, Christmas is coming, and I thought these would be some good suggestions to put on our Wish List.)

Additional Notes, books, and sites from Pamela Bachmayer:

Felt Books:

The best -- New Directions for Felt, An Ancient Craft by Gunhill Pactau Sjoberg

Feltmaking by Deborah McGavock and Christine Lewis.

Most of the other feltmaking books are basically the same books with different projects on them. There are several Japanese felt books available that are a sheer delight to look through with very creative uses of the craft that are very inspirational. They are written in Japanese though there pictures to go with the instructions. If you have some knowledge of felting to start with, you can follow the pictures to make the projects.

I do suggest some working knowledge of felting first though. My best suggestion for prospective felters is to find someone who teaches classes and sign up for a day’s beginner class. …It really helps to have an instructor look at what you are doing and tell you when you are doing it right, to give you special tips, etc. not found in books to make it easier for you to succeed.

There are several around the US, best to look them up online and find one close to you. I used Jill Gully at Outback Fibers here in Texas: ( a real Aussie living amongst us who was raised on a sheep ranch so knows her stuff!):

Some other inspirational sites (You’ll know when you see these why I got so excited about felting): (Makes cool dreadlocks out of felt)

There are lots more, but these are some of my favorites. I think people will be very amazed at what can be done with felting.

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