Tuesday, July 14, 2020


Hi All,
Here's another "Gypsy Fortune Teller" for Halloween.

She is 18 inches tall, all cloth, and a "stump" doll (no legs).
I used "deer suede" fabric for the head and hands.

When making the costume for these Gypsy dolls, finding the right fabrics (in scale) can be a challenge. I find my local "Goodwill" thrift store has a lot of possibilities for unusual fabrics. There is only one fabric store (JoAnns), and a handful of quilt shops in my town, which is fine for the basics, but not great for finding everything I need. On this doll, the orange print skirt was a woman's jacket, and the magenta & black print chiffon turban was a lady's shirt -- both found at the thrift store.

The face is needle-sculpted, then colored with pastel chalks, colored pencils, acrylic paint, and marking pens.

The fingernails are made of drinking straws. I cut them down to size, paint them, and glue them on the fingers. After they are glued on, I give them a few coats of clear gel medium (both on top and underneath) to seal the paint and get all the edges glued down.

The "crystal ball" is an iridescent plastic Christmas ornament I sprayed with some silver glitter.

She might get a shawl to wear around her shoulders. I have an old red crochet sweater with fringe on the ends (thrift store!) that might work.

Here are some works-in-progress photos, showing how I put the doll together. (Sorry, not a lot of photos.)

Whenever I am working on one of these "old-lady gypsy" dolls, I always think of Maria Ouspenskaya. 

Maria Ouspenskaya (what a great name!) was a Russian character actress in the 1940's. She played the "old gypsy woman" in all the "Wolfman" movies. She was always saying to Lon Chaney, "beware the sign of the were wolf". --She always had lots of jewelry, but she never wore as much make-up as my gypsy dolls do!

Have Fun! -AB

Tuesday, July 7, 2020


Avast ye, me hearties! All hands on deck. Heave ho, weigh anchor, and hoist the mizzen! Any scallywag not pullin' with all ye might will be hanged from the yardarm and keelhauled in the briny deep to meet Davy Jones' locker!

Okay, that's all the "Pirate Speak" I know.

But, really -- when WAS the last time your "timbers" were "shivered"?

Okay, I'll quit.

I made 3 Pirate Captain Busts for my clients at Roger's Garden.

They are all cloth and about 17 inches tall (they have very tall hats!).

I don't usually do male dolls, as I don't have a lot of practice at it. But, I think these turned out pretty good. I really tried to focus on the differences between a female head and a male head -- (rugged) men have a stronger and lower brow bone, a longer nose, a square and stronger jaw, heavy eyebrows, and slightly smaller eyes.

I used "doe suede" fabric for the "skin". I did a more ruddy complexion on these, as I figure Pirates are outside on a ship, in the sun, all day. I even gave them freckles, age spots, and wrinkles. I also did facial hair.

For the hair, I used a fake fur on two of them, and a fur pelt for the dark one (I don't know if it's lamb or goat fur). For eyebrows, I needle-felted mohair onto the face.

I worked as a milliner (hat maker) for many years in costume shops, so making the pirate's felt hats was a lot of fun. (I LOVE putting feathers in all the hats!)

I designed these 3 following what most people believe pirates look like -- a basic "fantasy" pirate from the 18th century. I looked at lots of artwork, and of course, all those Disney "Pirates" movies.

There is not a lot of "body" on the busts - just shoulders and chest (about 3 inches tall), so there isn't a lot of costuming on these. In research, I found that Pirate Captain's wore close to the same as the navel military did in the same period. (I assume they stole their outfits from navy ships they captured, and added whatever they could find in the ports they stopped at.)

I "dirty down" all of the gold and silver braid, trim, and buttons with acrylic paint, alcohol ink, and matte gel. --I don't think of pirates as the "bright and shiny" types.

I hope you are all getting used to this "new normal" life we have right now. Be nice --Wear a mask! (it won't be forever.)

Have fun -- AB

Sunday, May 31, 2020


Hi All,
I hope everyone is doing well. In my state of NM, we will be starting the second phase of re-opening of stores, restaurants, and MOST important -- hair salons and barber shops! Yea!

Here is another Halloween stump doll, which is a glamorous "Lady Bat".

I'm not crazy about that name, so I looked it up in French: "Dame Chauve-Souris". Hmm, -- It looks better than English, but when you read it, it's not clear how to pronounce it. ---Any other ideas???

You might recognize this doll, (or, at least her face). This is the doll I made a few months ago for my art clubs' "Black & White" challenge: (see older post for more of this costume)

Since I'm so busy making Halloween dolls for the store in Calif, I didn't want to spend too much time making a doll JUST for the black & white challenge. So, I decided to make a doll that could serve for both. But, I got a little crazy with the zebra print fur!

Now, I've taken off the coat & hat, and finished the dress underneath (I had finished most of the dress before I made the zebra coat). Now, I had to make the "wing" cape and headdress.

On the dress of matte sequins, (it's SO hard to photograph black on black) I've added an antique beaded applique with fringe. I got the applique on Etsy, and there was no date on it, but I imagine it must be from around the turn-of-the-century (1890 - 1900). Much of the threads was rotting, and beads were popping off like crazy!

I had to cut off the fringe and re-string it back on (some of the original fringe had already broken off, so the whole piece wasn't symmetrical). I re-stitched most of the big beads in place. I spread white glue on the back of the applique to help hold the whole thing together, and stitched it down onto the dress & body.

I made the bat "cape" from several pieces of lace. I first started with a base of chiffon embroidered with tiny sequins. Onto that, I stitched a modern lace with a "crescent" design in sections to follow the shape. On the edge, I stitched some vintage lace trim (again, Etsy) that was in a "wavy" pattern. After all the stitching was done, I went back and embroidered sequins & beads over the lace, following the lace patterns, and made the "veins/fingers" of the bat wing. (This step covered the seaming of the lace.)

The back of the headdress (sorry, no photo) is a draped turban made of the same matte sequin fabric the dress is made of. In the front, to make the crown and "ears", I wired a piece of cardboard and covered it with more sequin fabric and added a piece of jewelry. Then, added a few feathers.

I hope you enjoy! -AB.

Saturday, May 16, 2020


Hi All,
I hope you are all well and safe.

This is the ghost of Marie Antionette after she lost her head in the Revolution.
I call her simply, "Marie's Ghost".

This is a new Halloween doll for Roger's Garden for their Halloween show in Sept.

She's an all cloth doll, about 17 inches tall (she would be 22 inches if her head were on her shoulders!)

She is a candlestick doll (her torso is glued to a candlestick base).

Instead of painting blood dripping from her neck, I chose to add beaded dangles ending with a teardrop glass bead. (There's also a ring of red beads at the bottom of her head, but you don't really see that.)

The dress is made of silver & white brocade, trimmed in lace and pearls. The underskirt is gray satin under embroidered lace with pearls.

Have Fun, and wash your hands! -AB

Wednesday, April 29, 2020


Hi All,
I took a little break from doll making a few months ago, and made this GYPSY/BOHO FIBER BOOK.

I never made a book before. (I've altered books, but never made one from "scratch"). A lot of my friends make books, some fabric, some paper. So, I decided to give it a try.

I made this over a coarse of several months, just working a few hours on the weekend. It was nice working on a project just for me, with no deadline, and no plans for it when it was done. I just wanted to see if I could do it.

I have a LOT of scraps of sari fabrics & trim from India (mostly gotten from my buddy Pamela of "Treasures of the Gypsy") and I wanted to do something with them.

I stared with a base of black cotton over felt. I didn't finish any edges -- just left everything raw. I hand-stitched rectangles of dupioni silk in bright colors.

Over the silk, I stitched patches of trims, appliques, and embroidered pieces of textiles. It's a small book -- 5 x 6 inches and 2 1/2 inches thick.

Here's the front cover: (I did bind the edges of the cover with silk fabrics)

Here's the front & back cover:

This is a view from the top:

Enjoy & be safe! -AB

Friday, April 24, 2020


 Hi All,
I made another "hag" in my series. This one is a "Voodoo Queen" hag.

I'm still tweaking this pattern, trying to find the right proportions. I almost have it figured out.

I did research on voodoo and the people who practice it. There are a lot of "symbols" used in this practice: potions, bones, candles, skulls, rooster/bird claws, feathers, pentagrams, and voodoo dolls. I tried to put in as many of these "props of the practice" as I could, but it began to overpower the doll, so I took most of them off.

I base this character in the Caribbean area,  (Jamaica/Cuba), as they tend to have the most colorful costumes. And, I put her in an earlier period.

Also, I didn't want her mean and ugly. Just old, (and a little sweet).

I don't make many brown skin dolls, but I love coloring the face on the darker fabric, as I can do much more highlights. I didn't want to add too much extra color in her face, so I kept it in natural colors. I did put a little purple/lilac eyeshadow on her, but it doesn't really show much.

She is holding a staff I made from wire, crumpled paper, twine, and masking tape. The cross-piece is  cardboard covered in some paperclay. The skull is a plastic Halloween party favor I altered a little. I kept darkening the skull, as it was the brightest thing in the piece, and your eye went right to the skull first (not what I wanted). I still might darken it a bit more....

I used mostly cotton for her costume, and had to dye down most of the fabric, as everything I had was much too bright.

She will go to Roger's Garden for their annual Halloween event in Sept.

Stay safe, and wash your hands! -A

Monday, March 30, 2020


Hi All,
I made a new "hag" witch: Baba Yaga. She is an all-cloth stump doll about 16 inches tall. I will be sending her to Roger's Garden at the end of summer for their Halloween show.

Baba Yaga is a character from very old Russian (and Romanian) folk stories. She dates back to the 12th century, (and is still popular today). ----She was the first "Halloween" witch!

In olden times, Russian parents would tell their children, "Don't stay out after dark, or Baba Yaga will catch you". She was the American version of our "Boogie Man".

As I'm American, and was never told these stories as a child, I didn't know about Baba Yaga until recently. It turns out, I had seen many images of her, but didn't know who she was. So, I did some research on her.

I made her standing over a steaming cauldron, making a potion. She is holding an eyeball (animal? human?) and is about to add it to the pot.

She is wearing a traditional babushka (Russian for "head scarf" ) on her head. Baba Yaga's babushka is usually tied in front, on her forehead, with the end of the ties pointing up -- like devil horns.

Her fingernails are made from a drinking straw. I cut the straw into a thin, long strip. I then painted the strip, cut them to size, and glued them to the tops of the fingers. I painted several coats of matte medium over (and under) the nails to make them as strong as possible.

Also traditional for Baba Yaga are her teeth/fangs. She usually is seen with one or two teeth sticking out from her bottom lip. I made these from a straw as well.

Her vest is made from a sleeve of an old sweater I got at the thrift store ($3). --I find lots of unusual and textured fabrics from clothing at the thrift store. (Very cheap, as well - give it a look.)

The "bones" on her necklace are made from 2-part Apoxie sculpt. After they dried, I strung them with some wooden beads.

I love making "witch belts" (my word for it). It's sort of a utility belt for all the things a witch might need to have at hand. Baba Yaga has a silver amulet (a textured bead with findings), keys (charms), potion bottles (filled with tiny beads), and a crystal ball (a Halloween finding) hanging from her yarn belt.

The "steam" coming off the cauldron is just stuffing (polyester fiber fill). I glued some to the surface of the potion (cotton fabric & stuffing, jammed into the plastic Halloween cauldron). I pulled it up & sprayed it with hair spray so it won't come apart too quickly. There are some more potion bottles next to the cauldron. And, that's a chicken bone (cut in half) she's using as a spoon, sticking out of the pot.

I put some pumpkins at her feet, even though I'm pretty sure that pumpkins, or Halloween, have nothing to do with the Baba Yaga legend. But, since most of my customers are American, I put them in.

I like how she turned out. This is my second "hag" witch, and I really like making them. I think she will be my next pattern.

My first "hag" witch from last year (she just a "hag", not a Baba Yaga):

Have fun, keep your distance, and wash your hands!