Thursday, March 10, 2011


Sylvia grew up in the Motor City - Detroit, Michigan - during the Motown era. Today she calls Kansas her home; a home she shares with her husband, Oliver, kitties, Sprite and Cloud, and her daughter, Zoe, when she is not away at college. There is no lack of talent around her house as she and her hubby work drawing and writing for Hallmark. She was his inspiration for his The Ruffle Lady in the bathing suit – her hubby loves to do “not always flattering” cartoons of her and their friends – what a joker. Maybe you can find “her” on his website:

She has a BFA from the Cleveland Institute of Art. And, although she has always been interested in fashion and fashion design, the money just wasn’t available for her to go to New York, so she decided to study graphic design and photography there.

Sylvia has always loved dolls and fashion, too, and originally did hand sewing for her dolls. But her German aunt, who was a professional tailor, taught her how to sew when she was 16. She’s been sewing from then on – even a lot of her own clothes. Aunt Lillian always said, “Remember, don't sew with the idea of saving money. Sew for perfect fit.”
When Sylvia’s Aunt thought she was ready, she got to buy a pattern, and she chose a three piece suit by YSL because she didn’t know not to. Initially her Aunt’s eyebrows shot up, but then she said, “Not the easiest choice, but when you get stuck, don't think of it as too hard or too complicated. Just think of it as having a few more steps.” She would also say of the sewer’s common practice of building stashes, “If you never use it, it wasn't a bargain." "Yikes," says Sylvia, “If you saw my sewing room you'd know that comment never quite sunk in.”

Her sister, Phyllis and she both enjoy doll designing. In fact, they have plans to feature her designs and her sister’s fabulous miniature knits on a soon to be published website at:

It may be awhile, though, because she is just learning how to build a site.

A lot of things have been going on with Sylvia’s family right now, so she needed a diversion, and thought this competition would provide one – and it did. She has also found that it has made her”kick myself into gear to get motivated to draw and design again.”

She thinks she’ll do okay in this competition although she knows there are designers in this competition that can sew rings around her, and hopes they get the kudos they deserve for that. Getting better with each challenge is another of her goals.


“I’m an Iowa farm girl at heart now living across the border near Welcome, Minnesota on Fox Lake,” says Joan. But for 28 years she and her husband, Harlan, worked together full-time in their business, Fairmont Decorating She has two grown daughters and a son, and her fur-babies include Bandit, a pound kitty from San Francisco, and Wesley who was abandoned in her yard when just a tiny kitten.

Many a Barbie suffered a stab wound during her initial drape and stitch method. But at the age of 10, she started sewing with 4H – finally some much needed training. And by high school she was sewing clothing for both herself and family members. She started at ISU in Textiles & Clothing and then switched to an Interior Design/Drapery Specialist program. All totaled, she has constructed custom window treatments for 33 years while working as a designer in her own business. Every holiday meant new outfits for her kids, lovingly sewn into the night after working 60 hour work weeks.

She doesn't have a website, but shows her work online using:

Severe osteoarthritis and fibromyalgia forced her to close their business last fall. Now she continues to work part-time as an interior designer but also has time for her real love - sewing miniature doll costumes. Her intent was to make custom fabric dolls, but she wandered onto a doll website showing a Gene doll just over a year ago, and was hooked.

Since then, she has recreated a number of miniature wedding gowns, military uniforms, and many other one of a kind doll costumes. Recently she started sewing for Kurt Van Buskirk; a process that involved him sending a sketch and a box of fabric with the expectation she will be able to construct 4 outfits to his specifications. “What great practice for this competition.”

She entered this competition because she really wanted to be pushed into creating doll fashions. Previously she has never created he own designs, only copied pictures of ‘human’ scale clothing. Shewas a huge fan of the Project Dollway competition last year, and was amazed what the competitors were capable of, but was not aware of the at home competition until it was over. Therefore she is thrilled to have found out about this competition because she wanted to try competing with the ‘big dogs’ of dolly world.

Fascinated by the various character dolls available, she loves Lara Croft and Vasilisa as much for their stories as for their exotic looks. Working every day, creating clothing for fashion dolls is something she loves. And she never thinks of what we create as doll clothing.; rather she prefers to think of these outfits as clothing design in miniature. She is well aware many of the other competitors are true artists, but she feels that the truly awesome thing about the doll world is the friendships we share. “I spend far more time online with many of you than I do with my “real” world friends. Having to work at home has been a joy surrounded by my doll family, both miniature and online”.

Sharon lives in a small farming town about 30 miles from Lake Michigan; quite a major change from the big city, Grand Rapids, she had lived in for thirty years, but she’s never regretted it.
She is a librarian, and her husband is a musician, and they have three grown children, one grandson, and another grandbaby due in the Spring. Rounding our their cast is their little old rat terrier, a young corgi-bulldog mix, a lovely little Siamese kitty, a bunny and two geese – something they couldn’t have if they hadn’t moved to the country.

Self-taught in sewing and design, she has been sewing since she was a little girl, and gained her education by reading and paying attention. Being a librarian has provided many resources. She spent some years doing costuming for local theaters in Grand Rapids, which has very good community theaters; among the best in the country. She learned some nifty little theater tricks too, like how to get someone from a farm outfit into a full tuxedo in 60 seconds. Sewing for the opera was great, too, because she got to work on garments she would never have even seen in real life. She also did modern dress shows which are not as easy as you might think because everyone thinks they are experts. She has always been in tune with what people wear, and feels she mostly got it right.

She has also messed with various fiber arts; made and sold baskets at art shows for three years; was doing felting when no one even knew what it was; and knits, but she says she does it very badly. But she managed to make 13 sweaters when her son was doing theater because he was young enough to need a chaperone. She also spins, which she finds a lovely and relaxing thing to do. She feels “… these experiences made me more adventurous with my personal sewing.”

Fashion is a spectator sport for her nowadays, and she no longer sews many clothes for herself anymore, but has made many outfits for her children. They always had the idea that they could be whatever they wanted for Halloween, and they were right. Her grandson was a chef last Halloween, and she is already looking forward to next year's outfit, whatever that may be.

Her journey to this competition came five years ago when she reconnected with Sasha dolls and one thing led to another. She has made and sold Sasha clothes but is not doing anything right now, and does not have a website, but would like one. Along with her Sasha's she has Sylvia Natterer dolls, some Kish dolls, some misc. kinds, and Ellowyne. She hasn’t decided if she will collect any more, although she freely admits she would not turn down another Sasha if one came her way…or a Natterer for that matter…and she thinks she probably needs a Pru…and more shelves.

“The competition is kind of a whack on the side of the head for me. I needed to get sewing again - I spent all summer working in my garden and, of course, I can't do that in Michigan in the Winter, so how fortunate that this competition came along just as I needed a new direction. I need a little prodding to finish things (does that sound at all familiar?)” She also feels she was getting stale with all those little girl doll dresses. She thought she was way more creative when she was younger, and was happy to find that she can still do it. One comment she got was that her collection was "quirky," and that made her so happy because that is what she wants it to be. She likes to look at things from a different angles, and this competition is providing her that opportunity. She also wondered if she was totally derivative or had her own voice. We shall see.

Judging from her first two scores, she feels she is not in danger of winning, so she can relax and enjoy herself. “I'm pretty competitive but also realistic. I think all my theater work taught me that.

Sometimes you just fill a niche -there are way better designers than I in this contest but I will be happy to hold my own.” She is just pleased to be connecting with other people who design and sew. Project Runway was such a boost for people who do this kind of thing, she thinks - anyone who does this knows what a joy it is to find someone to talk to about it. People who don't sew are all 'Oh wow, you MADE that?' which is nice, but designers also like to get some real conversation going. Her work as a library director is creative in a different way; she is usually doing about 15 things at any given moment. To go into her sewing room and be in her own little world is wonderful; then to come out and show her stuff to all the experts in this group, well, that is fabulous.

"The only reason I'm in fashion is to destroy the word conformity." -Vivienne Westwood

We wouldn’t usually use the word conformity – doing and thinking as others – as a trait describing fashion designers, and there is no reason to believe this word has anything to do with doll fashion designers, either. No wonder we are so delighted when the designs are released every two weeks. What a pleasure to see such originality!

But what is our personal view of conformity; specifically how do we look at what is acceptable?

Shall we test it? Let's see if we feel the same about some of the choices a famous fashion magazine made for their list of the best and worst in fashion for 2008. Below are 15 looks. Look over each picture, jot down whether you think each item was judged as the best or the worst, and then check back next blog to view the answers!

Breaking NEWS!!

....On Project Dollway at Home:

News bulletin!!!

December 8, 2008 - Doll Reader Magazine is officially welcomed as our sponsor...

...representing them is editor, Jill Jackson!!

Details to follow.

...In fashion -Right after Michelle Obama left the podium after her husband's acceptance speech, fashion designers all over the world grabbed their sketchpads! They've all been on a mad dash to be the designer for the coveted Inaugural Ball Gown for the new First Lady ever since. Designers in the running include: Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Oscar de la Renta, and our own fashion doll designeer - Jason Wu - just to names a few! It will be interesting to see who wins this coveted assignment.

In the meantime, former Project Runway designers recently stepped up to the plate for a "Design an inauguration gown for the First Lady" challenge issued by The Daily Beast...with a twist, of course! They could only use an American flag, burlap potato sacks, ten dollars worth of trims, and Laura Bush's 2005 Inaugural Ball dress as inspiration. Here are a few of the sketches submitted. All I can say is, where is Christian??

Get the entire scoop here:


And..............on the heels of our #4 Layered Challenge, Gabby has announced our next one will be the #5 Zodiac Challenge. Here are some comments she has given to help us better understand:

"You truly do not have to chose your own birthdate... And really, it's not about the birthstone, either... It's what the Zodiac sign is all about... Cancer's color is really green... yet the birthstone is ruby... Do you see what I mean? ... You have to research the sign... Get the mood ... the personality... Basically, you are following your own colors... and labeling a sign to your doll... giving her a personality...Find the sign that fits your collection!!!

And I don't want to see symbols... stars, moons... no zodiac heavenly signs... You are to create a garment that depicts the sign of choice... Libras are very feminine... the girlie girl...
Aries are more like tomboys... bold... "

and she made reference to this webpage:

Sun Sign Characteristics

So, onward and upward, and good luck to everyone!