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Elizabeth: A Cloth Doll for my Auntie Carole

Introducing Elizabeth, a cloth doll for my auntie, Carole (Pitt) and author of the DI Elizabeth Jewell  murder mystery series.  She is named after Carole’s main character and is the reason she is sat on a note pad!

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Elizabeth is based the Anastasia pattern by Jan Horrox, which I dressed and adorned in a completely different way to the original.  Elizabeth is an independent, professional  woman who likes to wear simple, but smart clothes and therefore is dressed in slim fitting jeans, a black polo top and a fitted tweed jacket.

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Layered hair and fringe, wrapped in a gingham scarf complete her smart, casual look.

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I adapted the jacket pattern from Patti Medaris Culea’s Helen doll in the Creative Cloth Doll Collection book.  This was by far the most fiddly item to make out of the whole project, even more so than turning the fingers.  It was awkward to attach the sleeves to the main part of the jacket.  The instructions suggested using the sewing machine, but lack of experience and not having the correct sewing machine foot meant that it was easier to sew it by hand.

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I really enjoyed the new challenges that Elizabeth created and have already started on the next project!

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My Cloth Doll Making History So Far

I first tried cloth doll making about three years ago when I made a friend a cat doll based on one of her favourite youtube animations Meow it was incredibly fiddly but I enjoyed the process none the less.  This initial success, was followed by a miniature dachshund for Steve’s parents one Christmas and a circus cat for a friend who was moving away.

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We therefore discussed the idea of designing and making dolls, which would have printed versions that could be applied to shirts etc as apart of the Vaudeville Hippie brand.

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I attempted the doll above about a year later, however I just felt frustrated that although I could make the dolls, it was a struggle and I felt that I was not quite doing it correctly so the idea was put on hold.

Gladly things have changed and as I mentioned in my previous post ‘2015 the Year of Transformations’ I bought a couple of  doll making books: ‘An Introduction to Making Cloth Dolls’ by Jan Horrox, ‘Creative Cloth Doll Collective’  by Patti Medaris Culea and ‘Designing the Doll: From Concept to Construction’ by Susanna Oroyan.

I have made two dolls from my Jan Horrox book.  The first doll shown below is based on the doll pattern called Miranda.  This is the most simple doll to make in her introductory book and teaches key methods in how to create and attach a basic head, body and limbs, with some ideas of dressing and adding detail.

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My version is very different to Jan’s, this is for two reasons: one; I did not have the colours that she used and two; I wanted to keep within a more vaudeville style.

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I also happened to have a lot of red, black and white striped and black fabric leftover from previous projects.

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Despite already having a little bit of experience, I was still really pleased with the outcome and now I completely hooked, once I realised that I was capable of creating a quality cloth doll.

The second doll, Anastasia, is much closer to the original by Jan Horrox.  I  wanted to try out some of the more advanced textile techniques used to create this doll. Plus really I loved the charming elf and fairy like character of this doll, which fits in with my other hippie theme.  She also reminds me of a Cirque Du Soleil character,

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By creating this doll, I was able to re-try some forgotten textile techniques; a simple cold wash dye for the body and clothing detail and free machine embroidery on the arms and leaf details.  I even managed to find some old curtain material that had a batik effect and fitted perfectly with the colour scheme for the legs.

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It was interesting to try out other methods of creating the hair, other than just making hair piece out of lengths of wool.

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Whilst making these dolls, it has allowed me to think about how I might go about developing my own designs and characters.  I already have some ideas and I am looking forward to revisiting drawings that can be transformed into three-dimensional cloth dolls.

Please feel free to share your love of cloth dolls below!

2015 The Year of Transformations

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January seemed to come and go without even noticing and as we are stepped well and truly into February I have taken an opportunity to reflect how the first month and a half of 2015 has gone compared to how I imagined it.

Now I am not one for massively making resolutions, however, at the turn of the new year Steve and I really got into yoga and started a 30 day challenge set by Adriene on YouTube. Sadly, once I returned to work after the Christmas period, life got in the way and I only managed a couple of weeks. But I will return to it, because I would be crazy not to.

Whilst practising yoga on daily basis, I noticed an increased level of motivation to return to my art and craft (as an art teacher I am normally so worn out nurturing other people’s creativity, that I have nothing left for myself!).  Yoga is beneficial for both mind and body and I think you have to maintain a regular practise to really feel the long term benefits because I could also feel changes happening on the inside.  On several occasions I envisaged myself transforming and therefore I decided that 2015 would be the year of personal transformation.  Yoga to transform the mind (and hopefully tone up the body) and a new lease of life when comes to creating my own work.

Despite easing off the yoga, which was definitely doing me good on so many levels.  I have maintained enthusiasm to work on my own creative projects.  For a long time, I thought that designing and making various bags was the one thing that I wanted to peruse and sell at craft stalls and online.  This notion has drastically changed since buying a couple of books about making cloth OOAK dolls with some Christmas money I had.

I plan to blog about the process I have gone through so far.  But I am addicted and have thoroughly enjoyed what I have created so far.  Making these dolls has already got me thinking about how I can develop them into my own style using drawings I have created over the last couple of years.

So thank you yoga and here’s to the year of transformation!

I would love to hear about any transformations you have experienced.

What’s in a name? The meaning of Vaudeville to me

Why ‘Vaudeville Hippie’?

When I was deciding upon a company name I wanted to choose something that naturally reflected our passion and inspiration from all things circusy. Not only is the ability to practise circus skills important to us as a hobby, but visually, the circus theme has limitless potential from the shapes, colours and patterns it provides. I have become particularly drawn to circus stripes and the colour combination of red, black and white.

Circus is also the starting point for product range and our choice to develop our own fabric poi.  As poi spinners we realised that the majority of poi on the market had very similar designs and wanted to explore other possibilities.IMG_2167

I had never heard of vaudeville until we went to an event in Bournemouth titled ‘Vaudeville Circus and Masquerade Ball’. The night had a range of acts ranging from circus, to burlesque to belly dance and we were lucky enough to see English pin-up and burlesque dancer Anna Fur Laxis and her axe throwing act.

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IMG_1380Since then, it has been a visual and creative reference point. I have particularly enjoyed exploring and collecting images using Pinterest and incorporating these ideas into my drawing and craft work. Whilst exploring images for my Pinterest boards I came across these gorgeous costumes by London based Prangsta Costumiers. I simply adore these costumes and feel that they totally sum up everything I love about the circus and cabaret style.

History of Vaudeville

Vaudeville is a style of entertainment first popularised in America in the early twentieth century. Acts would vary widely from belly dance, circus, burlesque, freak (bearded woman etc), novelty and comedy as characterised by Charlie Chaplin, all wrapped up with a strong vintage flavour.

Vaudeville Illustration

There are some great vaudeville finds on Etsy. These are a few of my favourites that capture the genre through either colour, style, costuming and Victorian aesthetic.  Each image take you directly back to the original pages on Etsy so you can explore these delights further.

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Sketch Book Journaling

I really enjoy looking at and searching for the many diverse examples of sketch book journal pages that are currently out there on the world wide web!  I love the freedom and self expression contained in each page, as if it had its own mini story to tell.  I admire the way each artist uses a combination of the basic elements of art including colour, shape, pattern and texture that have been carefully (and sometimes accidentally) arranged and created by layering and reworking to create a rich and dynamic surface to work upon.  These pieces have then been lovingly developed with additional imagery that has either been hand drawn or found combined with text, which has been handwritten or pre-printed fonts.


Sketch book journal page by Journal Girl

I particularly like the work of Samantha Kira Harding aka Journal Girl who I discovered on YouTube a couple of years ago.  What I admire the most about Samie is her openness about living with her chronic illness and how art is helping her to get through it.  Not only does Samie create beautifully vibrant journal pages, she has uploaded over one hundred detailed video tutorials that provide useful information about suppliers, techniques and processes.  I picked up a useful tip recently when I watched this video below and discovered that to achieve the depth of shadow around key images, Samie uses a black watercolour pencil.  This seems so obvious now, but it just had not occurred to me to do that.  So I am very much looking forward to using my newly gained knowledge.

Up until about four years ago I was not even really aware of the concept of journaling until I came across some books by accident through Amazon’s ‘frequently bought together’ option where I was presented with Cory Moorgat’s ‘Art of Personal Imgery’ and Lisa Sonora Beam‘s ‘The Creative Entrepreneur’.  I was intrigued and captivated by this new and freer way of working.  (Although admittedly it has taken me all this time to actually start to explore this process for myself).

The Creative Entrepreneur Lisa Sonora Beam
The Art of Personal Imagery Cory Moorgat

I mostly use Pinterest to discover new examples of journal art and it seems to be quite a popular topic for a pin board.  My favourite pin is this one below.  I love the use of stitched line, simplified dragon fly, magenta circles and textured surface on the left hand side.

Sketchbook journal example

My Own Work

These are still very much work in progress.  I have yet to achieve the level of depth and detail. I would like to develop my own visual style a little more but I am happy that I have a starting point to work with. I have been inspired by Steampunk, Masquerade Ball, Circus and Alice Wonderland (Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit).

Sketch book journal pages Vaudeville Hippie

The Journey of Discovery: From Hoop Dance to Rockabilly

This week I have been working our blog, tweaking the pages, links and about page. I was trying to summarise what it is that truly inspires us here at Vaudeville Hippie.

This got me thinking about how I have discovered different styles and genres by pursuing random tangents. I realised this is a little bit like the six degrees of separation (from a creative inspiration perspective) and thought it was worth while exploring in my next post.

Hoop Dance

Ok, so I have previously mentioned that the discovery of hoop dance became a massive turning point in my life. This image dates back to 2008 when I first discovered the joy and addiction of hula hooping.  It is also the first hoop I ever made.

From Hoop Dance to Rockabilly (The Journey of a Tangent!)

My first ever hoop

Hooping has led me to discover so many other sub genres and this post aims to track the meandering tangents I have followed over the last five years, which has now culminated into the creation of Vaudeville Hippie.

Hoop Dance Aesthetic

Like many newbie hoopers I became obsessed with all things hoop related from learning tricks, making hoops, visiting forums and the hoop dance style that seemed to be emerging. At the time I would not have known how to describe this style but now I would say that the hoopers fused styles from cyberpunk, tribal fusion belly dance and hippie faerie festival wear, amongst other influences. This is probably most notable in ‘The Good Vibe Hoop Tribe’s‘ video, which is the first hoop dance video I fell in love with, despite the low quality I still enjoy watching this from time to time.

I kept watching these hoop videos on YouTube, which left me desperately trying to find information about this style and in particular a style of trousers that many of the hoopers were wearing.

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Melodia style tribal fusion belly dance pants

After a lot of searching on google images, tribes.net and even eBay using terms like ‘hoop trousers’ or ‘split flared trousers’ I discovered that this style of trouser originated from tribal fusion belly dance and they are called Melodia Pants.  This style is also worn for yoga.

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance

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Belly dance performance at Play Festival 2013 wearing a more cabaret style costume

Up until this point I was only aware of Cabaret Belly Dance so the discovery of Tribal Fusion was really exciting. I became interested with this style of belly dance, not just for it’s aesthetic but also for new ways of moving with the hoop. There are differences in dance moves and technique too.  When compared with each other, visually they are very different.  Tribal Fusion and Gothic Belly Dance  are much darker in colour using heavier fabrics and embellishment.  Whilst reading up on the Tribal Fusion style the phrases ‘earthy’ and ‘grounded’ kept cropping up and it took me a while to fully understand what that actually meant.

During my quest for comprehensive belly dance instructional DVD I came across the World Dance New York series who specialise in all genres of belly dance, as well as other forms of dance. Here I discovered Sera Solstice and her East Coast Tribal Belly Dance DVD.

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Illustration inspired by the East Coast Tribal DVD cover

I must admit that for a time I became a little bit obsessed with belly dance and felt compelled to dig a little further, which led me to the discovery of Rachel Brice.  I love Rachel’s style, she has collected and combined a range of accessories from around the world, which has allowed her to achieve her unique tribal fusion costume style.  I later discovered that Rachel also dresses and dances in a vaudeville style.

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Portrait of Rachel Brice

Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Screen Printed Tote Bag

Vaudeville Hippie Tribal Fusion Belly Dance Screen Printed Tote Bag

Pin Up and Rockabilly

I loved the diverse selection that World Dance New York  had to offer, and as a subscriber to their YouTube channel I was instantly intrigued by the release of their ‘How to be a Pin Up Model’ DVD.

Although I was aware of the ‘vintage look’ it had never occurred to me to explore the style visually.  I love the elegance, but also the bright red hair and lips.  Whilst delving into the world of pin up I stumbled across rockabilly.

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A modern take on Pin Up/Rockabilly shoes

The styles are similar in terms of hair, make-up and choice of 1950s fashion, however pin up is more glamourous ad more focused on modelling whereas rockabilly grew out of a style of music and has a bit more attitude with the girls having tattoos and piercings.

So there you have it, my creative journey from hoop dance to rockabilly.

What interesting tangents have you recently followed?