Tuesday, February 21, 2023

 Hi All,

Been working hard. Want to see what I've been up to? WITCHES! Yes, I'm getting ready for Roger's Garden Halloween event for September.

I've made some Cauldron Witches. I made 3 witches (1 cauldron). They are all "sisters" (I'm referencing the "3 weird sisters" from Shakespear's "Hamlet".)

Here's how I made them. (I only took photos of one of them in progress, but you get the idea.)

Started with my "Witch Hag/Baba Yaga" pattern of a basic stump doll hunched over. (I didn't bother making the breasts, as I knew they weren't going to really be seen under the costume, so I just glued on some 1.5" black pom-poms)

Before attaching the arms, I got the basic dress done. I made the dress out of cotton knit, so I could cut the edges ragged and leave them raw. I built the skirt in layers, using 3 different colors of knit.

Once the dress was done, I could work on the arms & hands. I used cut pieces of plastic straws for the fingernails. I painted them and glued them to the fingers. I also put small pom-poms in the knuckles for arthritic fingers. I just made gloves for the arms, as I knew only the lower arm would be visible. I wrapped 2 different yarns around the glove mitts to make them more "raggedy".

Now I could stitch the arms to the body, and then start on the shawl.

I wanted the outer layer of the costume to look like tattered rags. I made a pattern of what the shawl would look like draped over the arms. I made the basic shape from layering 2 pieces of blue lace, with a metallic "confetti-dot" fabric underneath. (I thought a little of the lace & metallic might show through the rags, giving the shawl a "magical" look.) Then, I cut pieces of lace, yarns, gauze, muslin, & cheesecloth (all hand dyed on my stove!). I layered all the rags, in rows, to cover the whole shawl.

 On the back, I stitched all the rags to hang down toward the bottom. I stitched rags on the two front pieces to hang down the front. All the rag ends met at the shoulder seam, where I stitched rags in the center across the shoulders so they would hang both front & back.

Fitted it on the body. I also made some jewelry for her, including some necklaces (those are coyote toe bones on the middle necklace) and a sort of "witch chatelaine" that had some charms & amulets hanging from it. 

If you know your costume history, Victorian housekeepers & wives would hang small sewing & cleaning tools from chains to hang from a belt. 

A large & complex chatelaine from Victorian times:

I figured, Witches don't have pockets, so they got to keep their magical items on them somehow, right?


Okay, now to make the head. Here's the basic head with needle sculpting to make the eyes, nose, and mouth stand out.

And now I've added some color with acrylic paints, pastel chalk, and colored pencils. 

Oh yes, and some eyelashes!  I also gave her some age spots & freckles to age her down.

Putting it all together, I stitch the head to the neck. Then, I start on the wig. I use goat mohair in a grey/brown color. I stitch the mohair locks into "wefts" (fringe). 

I pin the wefts of mohair to the head. First, I glue the edges of the wefts in place, then go back and, using a felting needle, felt the wefts down.

I pull back the front wefts, do some more felting, and style the hair. (Sorry, forgot to take a picture of the finished wig.)

The hat is a simple witch's hat, made from the fabrics left over from the "rags". I stitch the pointed crown onto the head, then the brim over that. I trimmed the hat with more "rag" yarns, lace, and gauze. 

The broom is simple (if you ever made a broom before). Just a dowel, carved some "nicks" into it, and stained it brown. I took some orange raffia (from the Craft store), stitched it into a fringe and glue/tied it on with some wire. I drilled a small hole in the end of the dowel handle (where the raffia is) and glued a wire in it. I left a little of the wire stick out the end of the broom, so it could fit in a hole I drilled into the base. That way, the broom won't fall out of her hand.

And, she's done!

Have Fun! AB

Friday, December 2, 2022


 Hi All,

I made a Witch House. (Haven't made the witch yet, but I will.) This is Baba Yaga's hut. Baba Yaga is a very old, evil witch hag from Slavic/Russian folk lore. She lives in a magic house in the woods that has chicken legs! The house's legs are used to move the house about, and to always have it's back to intruders looking for her house. You can make the house turn to you, but you have to know the secret command.

It's small -- the house measures 7 inches wide & 8 inches deep. With the wood stand & chicken legs, it's 12 inches tall. It's made mostly of cardboard.

First, I started with the basic shape, cut from heavy duty corrugated cardboard that I hot-glues & taped together. The roof is thinner cardboard (from a pizza box) so I could curve it. I didn't measure much, or use a ruler, as I wanted it to look crooked.

The shingles on the roof are made of thin board (from a cereal box). I glued pieces of thin corrugated cardboard to make the wood pieces on the sides, front & back. I took a pen & drew lines in the cardboard to look like wood grain.

The "stones" on the chimney are just blobs of hot glue.

I didn't glue a floor to the base of the house, as I knew that had to be attached to the chicken feet.

The hardest part were the chicken feet. They had to be strong and support the whole house. And, they had to attach to the wood base & the base of the house. 

I started with a wire armature. I used a heavy wire that was the main legs that went down into the wood base, and also up into the floor of the house. Thinner wire was used to make the toes and support the front & back of the legs to the floor of the house. I wrapped the armature with tie-wire to hold it all together. (Since it had to rest on the floor of the house, I had to make the feet while they were upside-down!)

I glued two round wooden bases together and added a little clay to rough it up a bit. I drilled holes into the wood base that the leg armature would go into.

After I got the wire armature together and attached to the floor of the house, I went to work sculpting the feet. I used "Apoxie" clay (2-part epoxy putty). I needed something that would stick to the wire armature and "weld" it all together. "Apoxie" sticks to anything you put next to it. It's challenging to use, as it's very sticky. I wet my fingers with water to smooth it out. It takes a good 6 hours for it to harden, and a full 24 hours to cure solid.

Back to painting the house. I spray-painted the whole thing matt black to start. Then, I layered on acrylic paint as a top coat. I wasn't too neat about painting it, as I wanted it destressed looking. After all the pieces were painted with a layer of acrylic, I started paint-distressing it with thinned down black and brown glaze. Here you can see the left side of the house is the paint, and a glaze of distressing brown paint added to the right side. Because the stain is thinned, it will go into all the cracks & crevices to darken them. I built up several layers of the glaze to distress the whole house.

I have a big collection of small trinkets I use for my dolls, so I decorated the house with little charms, skulls, & anything else I could throw on it. The 4 corners of the house looked real sharp, so I soften them by gluing plastic twigs on the edges. (Got the twigs from a bouquet of artificial flowers) On 2 of the corners, I continued the twigs up to the roof and created small branches growing out of the house.

I painted the wood base & glued moss all over it. Baba Yaga is known for eating lost children. In her stories, she has a fence built around her house made of bones & skulls as a warning. I hammered some nails into the wood base & glued some plastic skulls on them.

Putting the whole thing together -- Glued the chicken feet (and house floor) into the wooden base. (Lots of moss glued to everything!) Then, glued the house to the floor. And more moss glued on! (That moss gets everywhere! Spent so much time sweeping & vacuuming it up.)

Since the back of the house was rather plain, I strung up a clothesline and hung some fabric on it to dry (hey, even witches have to do laundry!)
Have Fun! -AB

Tuesday, October 4, 2022


 Hi All,

It's Halloween time! I already got started on a new doll for my Halloween porch collection. I've written about these before. I get a "porcelain" doll from the thrift store and turn it into a zombie/goth doll. 

So far, I have 4 "zombie/goth" dolls, and one baby demon doll.

(I keep the baby demon in a cage with some rats)

Here's the doll when I bought it ($5) at Goodwill Thrift store. Isn't' she sweet looking?? I got her because of the BONNET! --Love that bonnet!

First, I strip off the clothing and the wig. (Good Lord, look how BIG that head is!)

Next, I give it a few coats of white and grey Gesso. (Gesso is a good first layer, as it sticks to the clay doll paint, and helps additional coats of acrylics stick.) Instead of adding acrylics, I kept going with the grey gesso. Then, added black gesso around the eyes and shadows. I was going to paint her horrific, with wild eyes and lots of cracks, -- but I liked how sad she looked, so I stopped. I even went back and added a little blush to her cheeks.

I took all her clothes and dipped them in a bath of black RIT dye. I was surprised how much of the clothing took the dye, as these costumes are usually made of cheap polyester cloth (polyester doesn't dye too well.) Even the lace dyed black! (I had to color the vinyl shoes with a black marker pen, as vinyl doesn't dye.)

Usually, I ruin the wig and give it a bad haircut, But I kept this wig the way it was. I trimmed the bangs to show more of the face. But I wanted to keep those sweet "sausage curls" the way they are.

Happy Halloween!


Saturday, May 28, 2022


 Hi All,

I was commissioned to make a "Jack Skellington" and "Sally" doll from Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas" movie. These dolls needed to be large -- about 3 feet tall. 

Because these characters were already designed, I needed to be as accurate as possible when making the dolls. I decided to make a quick sculpt of each character to take a pattern from in order to make the cloth bodies. To make the sculpt look just like the figures, I used images of the figures as a model.

First, I found photos of the characters. I needed a photo of each, from head to toe, looking as straight forward as possible. I took these photos to a copy place and blew them up to the size I wanted. Now I had a photo of the characters in the exact size. I traced each body to make a simple line drawing. I drew a profile of the figures by hand next to the new photos. I now had a front and side outline of each body. Here's "Jack" next to his line drawings:

I cut out the bodies from the paper and traced the pieces onto cardboard. By cutting the cardboard in half, and gluing everything back together, I got a dimensional model of the figures. Adding newspaper and masking tape filled out the bodies. Here are some of "Sally's" body pieces:

Next, I used a technique I learned long ago in college when "draping" an outfit/costume on a dress form. I took muslin and pinned it to my cardboard & newspaper model. I pinned pieces of the muslin together where I wanted to put the seams. (This same technique is explained in Robert McKinley's books "Dollmaking, One Artist's Approach" and "Sculpting Dolls in Paperclay") This is half of the "Sally" torso:

I transferred the rough muslin patterns to paper and straightened everything out. With the new paper patterns of the dolls, I was able to make the basic dolls in "deerskin" fabric. (Fabric available at "Dollmaker's Journey" or on some Etsy sites) Here are some "Sally" body pieces stitched in muslin to check if the pieces match the scale drawing. You can see the (hand-dyed) light blue deer suede fabric for the finished body.

These dolls needed to stand by themselves, so the legs needed heavy wire armatures (9-gauge steel fencing wire found at a hardware store) that goes from outside the bottom of the feet all the way up to the neck of the body. I taped the armature wire to wood dowels in the legs for extra strength. You see the taped wood dowels sticking out of the tops of the legs (for some reason I used black tape on one, and white tape on the other!). I try to finish the legs as much as possible before attaching them to the body.

I joined the 2 leg armature wires in the torso, (with the back seam open) so both wires were taped together and went into the neck. I stitched the stuffed legs to the (unstuffed) body, so I could join the wires together to form a "spine". After the legs were attached to the body, I stuffed the body and neck as tightly as I could. The wire in the feet goes down into holes I drilled in the wooden bases.

I made the head, arms, and hands separated and stitched them to the body. "Sally" is meant to look like her body was hand-stitched together. I drew the "seam lines" onto the fabric body with a blue ink pen, then stitched over the seam lines with black thread.

Next came the costume. "Jack" has a very distinctive black & white striped suit. I tried to find stripe fabric in scale with the body and couldn't find anything. Also, I noticed the stripes are not straight up & down but looked more "sketchy" & wavy -- like a wood-grain pattern. So, I painted the stripes onto black satin, using a dimensional paint (Tulip brand) from a squeeze bottle. It went faster than I thought.


I sculpted the head of the "bat-bowtie" from paper clay. The bat wings that make the bowtie were made from thick black felt.

Sally wears a patchwork dress, made of specific colors, shapes, and patterns. I used craft-felt for the dress. I was able to find a close match to all the colors. I drew the patterns on the felt with a magic-marker. Some of the stripes and polka dots were made by appliqueing pieces on top of the main dress. All the felt pieces were fused to black interfacing and hand stitched together.

Sally has yarn hair, so that was easy. I needle-sculpted Sally's features into her face. Her eyes are painted on, coated with several layers of gloss gel. Her eyelashes were tricky. They are meant to look like pieces of black yarn tied into the eyelids. I used small pieces of cardstock heavily painted and coated, so they would stand in the right direction and (hopefully) not break.

And, back views:

Have Fun!