Check Under The Hood, Please…

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Not Offred

I know what you’re thinking: “I thought Alice in Wonderland was your thing?” Well…it was when I still had a doll collection; but honestly, I’m into just about any kind of fairytale heroine as long as she’s wearing couture.

When I received The Modsdoll’s Eileen in late 2015, I fell in love. The sculpt, styling and painted details so captured me, that I honestly felt she was one of the finest examples of fashion doll art I’ve been honored to own thus far. It should come as no surprise how much I cherish the work of Yian and her Team at Modsdoll. But as I sat snowed-in, photographing Eileen, something seemed to be missing with her. The more I studied her…the more it became apparent my Eileen was actually Red Riding Hood, or a grown-up version of her. My ‘Red’ hunted werewolves in the Scottish Highlands, though (a fantasy deepened by my love for the Outlander series on Starz – the werewolves to appease those who would cringe at the thought of just hunting wolves for their fur).

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Yes, thank you…

In 2016, I finished up my final projects for Kinsman Doll (we have parted ways permanently for reasons that are none of your business – but suffice it to say it involved ugliness on both our sides). While completing a kilt project for them, which was to be done in leather, they sent direction to change course to a new project based on a pair of Balmain men’s leather jeans instead. And much like Earring Magic Ken being researched and designed by women, yet another ignorant styling choice for their ‘man’ (come on – a black leather kilt…Balmain red leather jeans? Really? Sexy for you, Dears…gay as all get out to everyone else). What’s so gay about red leather jeans, you ask? Well…it’s these jeans, to be exact:

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Oh dear…Chicks and their man fantasies…how gay.

Yup. Gay, Gay, Gay…Gay as a June Bride, Puddings…not that there’s anything wrong with that, though.

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I digress

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Practicing on vinyl helps build confidence for the ass-whipping to come…

I had never worked with leather, but was curious about it when envisioning the kilt – I was finishing the first exploratory sample in black double knit to get approval from KD when they tossed the replacement jeans job my way.

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Gay.

As you may recall, the Navy Pea Coat, Trousers and Silk jersey knit top I designed for them was masterful, if I do say so myself – not because I’m patting myself on the back, mind you –but because I had never done menswear either – and I nearly shit myself when it turned out so beautifully (we sewers do that when we have success – and collapse into a sobbing fetal position when we fail – especially if it involves a vulgarly expensive fabric – so suffer us gladly when we celebrate doing a good job). I never did get one of the production pieces as promised by KD, so I have no idea how it reproduced; but that sample they showed at their 2015 MetroDolls event was truly inspired.

The leather jean project was a nightmare, though. Particularly because home machines at not well designed for sewing leather – even if you use the softest lambskin (I ordered two shades of burgundy from from Canada, the lighter shade suited this better – the darker shade? Well…we’ll see…).

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Kinsman Auditions

Yes, many home machines can – but this type of sewing is best accomplished on commercial equipment. Despite using a variety of heavy duty needles and specially designed leather needles – the project dropped my machine into the repair shop twice. In a need to get the patterns finished, I switched to sateen before my machine gave up the second time – I had to send the sample to KD incomplete (though they did get a complete pattern and instructions)…and my sewing machine’s future was left with the repair folks. (sigh)

After the second repair, I started my contribution to the Barbie National Convention Live Auction. I had just completed primary construction of the outfit, when the machine’s timing problem returned a third time – it just wasn’t catching the bobbin thread for some reason – and it left me to hand-finish the Barbie donation.

I am grateful that I am no longer unemployed…but that leaves me at a loss for a new sewing machine – especially one of such quality that I need to do the work I do. I earn a nice salary…but not that nice. Was I to throw out the old machine and buy a cheap model to continue sewing? Would I be able to resume commission work? Will Ivanka Trump ever use adult labor for her clothing line? Questions, despair and drama…

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Luckily, that didn’t happen. An engineer friend intervened and discovered what the previous repair folks suspected regarding the machine’s timing – and a solution was derived. I worked on a sample dress using fairly ordinary-weight fabrics to make an extraordinary ‘test’ for one of my commission customers. And even though the dress is still in need of significant beadwork – the machine worked beautifully.

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Don’t get too excited…beading still isn’t done, yet…

With the need to push the machine this time to make sure I was ready to press forward with more demanding projects (my commissions folks have been patiently waiting for 1.5+ years – some dropping out, but none in an unsavory or unsympathetic manner – I thank them and those who still are waiting!!!) Few can ever understand what the past two years has been for me…and I don’t expect anyone to try. All I know is I’ve survived it, and it’s wonderful to be in a place of glowing confidence once again (remember what I say about glowing brightly, and sometimes needing others’ light when yours dims?). Yes Puddings, it was time to conjure up Red’s Riding Hood as the ultimate test…and yes, I was going to use that fucking leftover leather

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Well, why not?

While fabric shopping with a dear friend during Superdoll’s May 2017 New Orleans Event (I was only a proxy, Dear – people barely knew I was even there), I was in creative heaven! I just adore experiencing fine textile establishments and the inspiration they can invoke. Chatting with the owner (yes, they sell by mail – and you should look at their sumptuous vintage ribbon here), I was communicating my desire to locate a delicious red cashmere for my Red Riding Hood project – the color had to be a true cool red without any hint of warm orange/yellow notes. As if by magic, her son produced a bolt of luxury that I couldn’t resist – and the game was on (HUGE thank you to Promenade Fine Fabrics in New Orleans – and thank you to Sandra for backing me up during the purchase!)

Tommydoll is back in the game, bitches…

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Now, hooded capes are not particularly challenging. But what I was envisioning was something rugged, possibly vintage looking, luxurious – and possessing a distinct Ralph Lauren touch. I never did sketch this one out…but I did study a number of runway capes to get a feel for the style.

Draping the muslin drew observations from my Instagram followers wondering if I was working on a Handmaid’s Tale project. LOL…no, Offred didn’t wear cashmere, dear…

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Offred? Bitch, please…

I knew I wanted an oversized hood…and draping the cotton brought the perfect shape, albeit a bit large – so I had to reduce the size when transferring to the paper pattern.

The opening edges at neck and sides would be trimmed in leather –and the pièce de résistance would be a circular leather inset completely around the cape. Don’t you just love opposing curves? Yeah, kind of like loving a STD

As another exercise in punishment, I decided to do welted pocketsdetails matter, and if I’m putting all this into Red’s accouterments, you can damn well expect her pockets are going to work. I don’t always go that extra mile – working pockets are really unnecessary frippery for doll clothes – all in an attempt to give the doll something extra to do with her hands, I suppose…

Extra? Really, dear…you’ll need those hands to operate that crossbow…yeah, you heard me

Making the crossbow from sculpey was an added touch. She already had a sporran by Modsdoll, but then how is she ever going to carry her arrows? Voilà…a craft pendant at Michael’s shaped like a vintage purse served the quiver role nicely (well, after I added an organza lining – you can’t have those arrows falling out, now can you?).

For the lining, a crisp and decadent satin-faced silk organza would provide some body to the weighty cashmere, and enveloping Red in ambient panache as well. Look, just because she’s in the Highlands doesn’t mean everything is made of felted wool. And if you’re wondering what those paperclips are for – well, you can’t use pins on leather – because this is what happens when you have to pull out stitches:

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Lovely, right? You also have to press the seam with a hammer, then a warm iron separated by a pressing cloth. That leather will easily mark up with even the slightest of mistakes.

But what really makes the beautiful marriage of cashmere and lambskin work so nicely is the top-stitching…it’s a labor of love (and hair pulling) I mastered with the Balmain jeans…so the skill wasn’t lost on this project.

The hardware touches do invoke a somewhat ‘steampunk’ feeling…but they were more inspired by medieval war gear than the Victorian speculative fiction genre.

So Eileen is now ready for the big lens…you’ll need to be patient for that one, as a 9-5 Monday through Friday job plays priority, Puddings…and I need to make those arrows look more like arrows and less like toothpicks.

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Real Pirates don’t use toothpicks…

In the end…it’s a tragedy turned positive (at least on my end anyway). With my machine back in its prime, and me the wiser…you can look forward to watching the new creations bloom from my clients’ imaginations with a little help from my sewing machine and my always improving skills. Follow the progress in between posts via my Instagram Feed – the Tommydoll Blog sidebar is always showing the Instagram latest. And remember, friends…always glow…brightly.

UPDATE: SEE THE BIG LENS IMAGES OF ‘DARK RED’ HERE)

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Now about those wolves, Dear…

16 thoughts on “Check Under The Hood, Please…

  1. OMG, Tom, that cape sounds absolutely stunning! Thanks for so much word description which helped this one who can’t see the pics. The thought of a cape in luxurious red cashmere and butter soft red lambskin makes my mouth water! I’m sorry it’s been a tough two years, but glad you’re in a good place once more. Just so you know, to me you always glow brightly. I know it every time I touch my beautiful Tyler’s beaded and brocaded gown. Love you.

    • My Dear…I do those descriptions for you. I wish you could feel them…in fact, let me make sure I have your address in my laptop…I’ll send you swatches to you can feel in person!

  2. Gorgeous, love the sci-fi fantasy element, and your crossbow is particularly nice (not that I’m an authority on crossbows, more of a Japanese sword type of person). I must get to my Outlander project, you have no idea how hard it is to get the fabric for that yellow dress! I sometimes work in leather, but usually with no thread. I use a long stitch and have the leather on a plain piece of paper underneath (not tissue, that disintegrates), that way the leather doesn’t drag. The paper just falls away. I then sew it by hand in the holes (two needles or back stitch). Mind you, that wouldn’t work on your Kinsman jeans. I digress, thank you for the link to the Fine Fabrics shop.

      • I should have know that :). I have three sewing machines, my mother’s Elna (still working perfectly), a later Elna which is a piece of shit, and my cheapo Brother – which is fine. Are you going to the IT convention in Orlando? Hope to see you at one of those again.

      • Not this time…I’m not sure I’ll go again…but never say never. They may not have me back…LOL. Know what you mean about Elna…a friend has a very nice one, but I’ve also heard of mixed reviews. I have a medium-low end Viking. It’s mostly good…but I’ve worked with better. I LIVE for a Bernina…going to start looking for a used one…

      • I learned to sew on one in school…worth the investment…but I can only afford the used ones. They sew smoothly and cleanly…a real dream!

  3. Amazing work as usual! Hey, you managed quite a few projects outside of your 9-to-5 job, that’s great! I’m making a simple wooden bench for my dolls and it’s taking me way longer than I’m comfortable to admit. Too bad your Kinsman collaboration ended (too bad for them), but at least his first outfit looks awesome and you got some sick leather sewing skills out of it. The Hood is amazingly detailed! It looks like the doll is fairly big, but still! I can’t wait to see the outfit photoshoot. Oh, and thanks for reminding me of one of my favourite Seinfeld quotes: “I was outed, I wasn’t even in!”

  4. God your work is gorgeous! I’m especially drooling over the pea coat and the jacket red is wearing but everything is stunning. Love your blog. I am seriously interested in a Modsdoll too, they are lovely.

  5. This is exactly the kind of effing detail I drool over in your work. Thank you for presenting this and caring so much. I just love what you accomplish…I’m 58 and my eyesight is wearing out. I know you have rounded the corner on 50…you have said so in earlier blog entries…how is yours holding up?? Floaters and flashers are my life. I miss being able to have my proofreaders eyes! I used to be so sharp! But I pet cats, dream of knitting socks again on tiny needles, and glance past the dust. And I keep editing…it’s money, after all. And you please just keep making fabulous art, painstaking stitch after painstaking stitch!

My blog is satire, but your thoughts are welcome!

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