Sunday, January 23, 2022


Hi All,

I've just finish making another Raven Witch for a commission. This was a fun doll to make, and I enjoyed making it again. This time, I took some work-in-progress photos.

The fabric of the dress was cut from a wall hanging made in India. It's a patchwork of metallic embroidered pieces of sari fabric. After the piece was made, it was over-dyed with black dye. This effect toned down all the bright colors, making it have an overall bronze color. 

The Raven Witch is a stump doll, about 20 inches tall. Her lower body is the same shape as the skirt. The doll is mounted on a wood plaque (bought at the craft store). After all the body parts are made, I pinned her together to have an idea of her finished look.

The underskirt is made from a black satin fabric that has black satin ribbons stitched on it in a wave pattern (found this in a fabric store 10 years ago!). 

The skirt is square/diamond shape to match the basic rectangle patches of the collaged wall hanging. I embellished the skirt with some copper & black beads and vintage glass "nail head" gems. Then, I glued black iridescent coque feathers (rooster tail feathers) along the underside of the skirt hem. 

The skirt and top stitched to the body.

I made the hands to look like Raven claws. I made 3 fingers and a thumb, as that's what a bird has. To make the talon nails, I dripped hot-glue on the tip of the finger (shaping the glue with WET fingers while it was still hot). 

The head is made of fabric that I needle-sculpted with thread, then painted with acrylics, chalk, and colored pencils. I glued & stitched a chicken skull to the forehead.

The winged headdress is made of thin cardboard, covered in the same Indian fabric. More coque feathers glued on, for the wing feathers. To finish the back of the headdress, I cut another headdress of cardboard with black fabric glued to it. The fabric covered cardboard was glued to the back of the headdress.

All finished, with some more feathers decorating the neck & shoulders, and more bronze and black beads strung to make multiple swags! (I love the look of beaded swags)

Have fun! -AB

Tuesday, December 21, 2021


 Hi All,

Sorry, I haven't posted in a few months. Not working that much. But I did get a commission to make a Gypsy Witch Hag. The customer wanted it to look like my original Hag Witch, but with more "sparkle". So, we decided to make her a Gypsie to add some glitz to her.

She is about 18 inches tall and based on my "Baba Yaga" Witch pattern. I don't know why I'm attracted to these old hags or why I like to make them. I am fascinated by the aging process, and very interested in creating wrinkles in a cloth doll.

She starts as all my hags do -- with several layers of skirts. There's a burgundy petticoat (under her skirt you can't see). Her underskirt is made of olive & brown paisley upholstery fabric with an olive skirt ruffle. Then, there's an overskirt of dark red with a tan lace overlay. I gathered this skirt up in the front. I distressed and dirty-ed the skirts with some brown stamping ink by rubbing it into the fabric with a sponge.

Later, I embellished the trim on the ruffle with some green beads and added some coins along the hem of the overskirt.

On the top, she sports a camel "crunchy" knit peasant blouse and a red & brown print corset vest with a green waist sash.

The head and hands are made of deer suede knit fabric (bought from DollmakersJourney.com). I've needle sculpted the face to make the features. The main wrinkles are stitched into the face, but many wrinkles are drawn on the face with colored pencils or pastel chalk. The eyes are painted with acrylic paint coated with a glossy finish. Age spots and freckles were made with colored pencils.

After taking the photo of the panted face, I thought she didn't have an interesting expression, so I widened the mouth and made it "smile".

The hands are made with craft chenille wires (pipe cleaner) in the fingers. I've inserted tiny little pom-poms into the fingers to look like arthritic knuckles. Plastic drinking straws were cut up to make each of her fingernails. Rags of green brocade are wrapped around her hands to make her "mitts". Bracelets were made by stitching beads to the wrists.

To give the head wrap some height, I stuffed a small pad and stitched it to the top of the head. Her grey hair is made of crepe wool. Gold coin earrings are stitched to the head. (Notice I didn't bother to make ears -- just the earrings!)

The head wrap is made of orange & black print with a sash of green, and trimmed with gold braid and coins.

She carries a "wood" staff made of twisted wire, wrapped in several layers of paper tape and cording. It's textured with sand and stained several colors. I sculpted a crescent shape "bone" made of paper clay and cardboard, topped with a metal raven skull (a jewelry piece) painted with acrylics. Chicken bones and lots of beads hang at the top.

And, again with all my hag witches, she carries a belt with many of her witchy supplies hanging from it. There's a crystal ball (Halloween charm), a gold pine-cone (charm), an amber crystal, her all-seeing eyeball (bead), a ring of keys, some vials & bottles of herbs and potions, and her witch pentagram (charm).

Her cape is made of 3 layers of fabric: thick black lace in a spider web weave, heavy grey lace, and black sequin fabric (you can't really see the sequins in the photos, but when the light catches it, her cape sparkles like "magic".)

Happy Holidays!

Friday, September 17, 2021


Hi All,

Well, it's that time of year again -- HALLOWEEN SEASON! My favorite holiday. All the stores have their Halloween merchandise in, and it's beautiful!

I try to make at least one new prop for my front yard & porch each year. So, this year I've made a Man-Eating Plant (from "Little Shop of Horrors") out of a foam pumpkin.

(*Full disclosure - this is not an original concept. There are many tutorials on YouTube that explain how to do this.) 

I bought a large, 12" oval foam pumpkin (that happened to be cream colored, not orange). I marked the cut lines, and cut out the mouth shape.

After cutting the mouth, I went ahead and cut the whole pumpkin in half (along the seams) to make working on the inside easier.

Next - sculpting the LIPS. This is important, because the lips make it NOT LOOK LIKE A PUMPKIN. I used Crayola brand, air-drying clay (because it was the cheapest in the craft store). All air-drying clays shrink a bit when they dry. This clay shrank a LOT, and pulled away from the foam. When it was dry, the edges broke into pieces and I had glued it back onto the foam edge.

Now, I worked on the INSIDE OF THE MOUTH pieces. I used expanding insulation spray foam ("Great Stuff" from the hardware store.) I made sure to put an "edge" of foam on the inside of the lips -- this will become the "gums" to attach the teeth. Then, I just sprayed lots of noodles of foam in the back of the mouths to fill it up. (Sort-of looks like intestines, doesn't it?)

I was using an old can of spray foam, so it wasn't expanding as much as it should.

I added some HOT GLUE "veins" and blobs on the outside of the 2 pieces. 

I wanted to unify all the TEXTURES -- the foam pumpkin, the hot glue, and the clay lips. So, I sprayed it all over with "Stone Finish" spray. This spray has tiny bits of cork (?) in the paint to make the surface bumpy -- like stone. 

Then, I PAINTED the whole outside with a layer of yellow acrylic paint. More paint was blended in so the surface goes from yellow to lime to dark green. Orange paint was used at the edge of the lips to blend into the red lips.

The INSIDE of the pieces are painted with RED LIPS, blending into magenta "gums", then purple and dark blue at the very back. I wanted the inside of the mouth to be dark in the back to help hide the wood dowel I needed to put in to make it stand up.

I added a "TONGUE" to the bottom piece, made of 2 layers of "Fun Foam" with a small strip of foam weather stripping and wire sandwiched inside the foam. "Fun Foam" is a sheet of very thin (1/16") foam rubber in bright colors (found in the children's craft aisle). I chose a lavender color. 

I researched the "original" man-eating plant/puppet creature from the movie. The designer had mentioned they decided the inside would look something like an orchid. So, that was my inspiration for the tongue. After painting the tongue, I glued it to the inside of the lower mouth piece. I added several coats of clear gloss to the inside of the mouth pieces.

 Now, I could glue the two mouth pieces back together, using contact cement.

I bought some artificial plant leaves at the craft store, and glued them to the back of the piece. 

Now, the TEETH. I glued plastic "pumpkin teeth" (sold to put in jack-o-lanterns) into the "gums". I bought these teeth on-line, as I couldn't find anything to make teeth from, and the stores didn't have a lot of Halloween items in yet. (It was the end of August when I started this project).

Okay, now for the STAND. I already had a plastic urn that would work. I filled the urn up with green floral foam. I got a wooden dowel and put it in the foam, all the way to the bottom of the urn. I cut a small hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, & worked the dowel up inside the mouth to the top of the pumpkin. I realized that the dowel couldn't go straight into the pumpkin, as it would have to go through the wire in the tongue. So, I had to put the dowel into the pumpkin at a slight angle, to miss hitting the wire. I painted the top of the dowel dark blue to match the inside of the mouth, and the bottom green.

Now, "realistically", (if there are such things as giant, man-eating plants) the STEM would grow out of the back of the plant mouth -- not out of the bottom, where the dowel is. So, I got some 2" foam pipe insulation for the stem. I put a length of wire inside the foam pipe and bent it into an "S" shape, going around the wood dowel. I covered the pipe insulation with masking tape, (as acrylic paint won't stick to the "skin" of the foam). 

(I took this photo before the "teeth" came in the mail)

Then, I painted everything a dark green. I bought a leaf vine from the craft store and wrapped it around the foam pipe, to help hide the wooden dowel.

The whole plant (with urn planter) stands 40 inches tall.

Here's to a spooky Halloween! -AB

Thursday, September 2, 2021


 Hi all,

Wow, it's been a few months since my last post. I got really busy with my Halloween order this year. I took 2 months off this summer to travel to Santa Fe where I worked in the SF Opera costume shop, making hats for this season.

And, here are the last Halloween dolls I made for this year -- More Ghosts! 

(I'm thinking of making this doll into a pattern)

I made 3 new "Dearly Departed" dolls to sell at Roger's Garden this year. Their Halloween event has just opened, so if you're near Corona Del Mar in California, go check it out.

I make a few of these dolls every year, and somehow, they always end up getting finished after everything else is done.

The dresses for these Ghosts are mostly "improvisational". I make them up as I go. I don't use patterns (I do have some basic sleeve patterns, though). Mostly, I just start pinning fabric to the doll and start sewing.

I have a large bag of bits of white lace, trim, and beaded pieces I attach here and there -- again, no plan.

Okay, I'm off to make something new for my Halloween Yard!

Have fun! AB