Partial Custom Doll: Lie Ren

You ever have a project you mean to do just for fun get really out of hand?

That was Ren here. I’m a massive RWBY fan and my favorite characters by a long shot are Ren and Nora (closely followed by Jaune and Pyrrha because I’m complete JNPR trash). I’ve been hoping for quite some time to get a custom Pullip of Nora made, either by myself or by another customizer, and I felt she would be incomplete without Ren. When I saw Maguna, something about him just seemed perfect for the character, so I snatched one up from Tuesday Morning via a fellow DollyMarket forum member for just that purpose. So Ren was initially supposed to just be a rewig and a rechip with a custom outfit, solely for my own gratification.

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Then I realized that I’d have to custom make him a wig because of his distinctive pink streak. And I realized that no matter which version of his costume I picked, it would be quite detailed and complicated. And I decided I didn’t particularly like how much eyeshadow Maguna had for Ren. And the timing was right that I was working on all my other PUDDLE dolls, and thus my partial customs contest entry was born.

A good deal of Maguna’s factory faceup is still intact. His lips and eyebrows were both left as-is, and his eyelids had nothing removed from them either (just added to them). Mainly I just sanded off his faceplate eye makeup and blush, and replaced both with my own work. I also added Ren’s lotus emblem to his left eyelid, because I thought it would look nice.

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Speaking of eyelids, that was another area where “this got way more complicated than I was expecting” ended up applying. Due to lack of a good storage system or work place at the time, I actually lost one of Ren’s eyelids between when I did his faceup and when his eyechips came in, causing me to have to get really creative. I pretty much tore the house apart looking for that darn thing to no avail, and I was glad at least that it was one of my personal dolls and not one I’d been making to sell. For a while, Ren had two layers of custom eyelashes glued into his eye sockets directly on the faceplate to try and disguise his lack of eyelids. I had him fully assembled like this for a while until my roommate discovered that our cat had hidden the eyelid inside our couch and it was successfully retrieved, at which point the lotus emblem was added to the left eyelid and Ren was disassembled to remove the faceplate lashes and give him proper lids. I decided to leave his stock eyelashes on the eyelids, in part because I wanted to include more of the original doll but also because it was fairly close to PUDDLE when the missing eyelid was rediscovered and eyelashes are fiddly so I didn’t want to mess with them.

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Ren’s wig was my first ever attempt at making a wefted wig, and if you were keeping up with my PUDDLE prep posts over the months preceding PUDDLE you saw some of the progress on that. Believe me, it wasn’t for lack of searching that I wasn’t able to find a wig I thought looked good– I was very nervous about making one and wanted to avoid it at all costs, but I couldn’t even find a solution I could simply add the pink portion to. If I wanted it to look the way I envisioned a handmade wig was my only option, so I ordered some wig wefts from CoolCat BJD.

The good news is that the process was not nearly as complicated as I’d been led to believe and it turned out more or less exactly how I was imagining it to look. There is a slight bit of poof right where the pink is sewn in, but it’s not too terribly noticeable. The cap itself is made out of white knit fabric and was sized using the glue lines on his head from his stock wig. ūüôā

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And then we had the clothes. Oh, goodness, the clothes. If you’re not familiar with RWBY, there was a short time jump between seasons three and four, complete with wardrobe changes for the characters, so I had two different options to choose from for Ren’s clothing (and wig) design. If it were Ren alone, I probably would have picked his season 1-3 design, because I like it better, but since the intention is to go for a matched set with Nora I picked the season 4 design. I like Nora’s updated design a lot, and I also like where the characters are in their development a little better in season 4 so that led me to make my decision. Both of Ren’s outfits are pretty detailed, but I think the season 4 one is just a tad more involved, so that was fun.

And because of the uniqueness of his clothing, as with the hair, I was kind of on my own. I heavily modified the EAH boys’ school uniform pants from DGRequiem for Ren’s pants (like, a lot) but pretty much everything else I designed from scratch. I’ll do a whole other post on my method on that shortly, so do keep an eye out for that in the near future, but suffice it to say I did almost everything on my own on this one. The result was that the jacket came out almost too tight, but I was determined to make it work!

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Ren’s outfit has a lot of detail work involved, from the two-colored jacket to all the silver trim and knotwork. The trim is all just silver fabric paint on my doll. It’s been a while since I’ve used puff paint the way it’s intended to be used, and I had trouble controlling the weight of the stream, so the details in it didn’t turn out quite as neat as I’d like, but they still look pretty good. The knotwork was fun to do. The parts hanging from his undershirt were pretty straightforward, just tying small bits of cord around a larger bit and fraying them, bu the for the back knot on his jacket I actually looked up a tutorial for Chinese decorative knotwork and followed it. It turned out a lot better than I could have expected, and while it’s probably bigger than it should be in scale it’s so pretty I couldn’t bear to make it smaller. If I’m honest with myself, it’s about my favorite detail I put on any outfit on any custom doll I’ve done to date.

Ren’s shoes and sleeves both involve craft foam details: the soles on the shoes and the “metal” cuffs around the top of the sleeves. Ren’s costume design calls for a black-to-pink ombre on the sleeves, and that wasn’t a fabric I could readily find, so I attempted to replicate it with black paint on pink fabric. It’s honestly probably the detail I’m least fond of in execution on this doll, but it’s not terrible I guess. The sleeves stay in place on the back of his hands using sewn-in clear hair elastics.

I have not yet made Ren his weapons, because as I’ve mentioned before I’m not great at sculpting and I kind of ran out of time. I do have some Apoxie putty now so I may try my hand at them with that at some point, but for now I think he’s done.

Ren was my entry for the partial custom contest at PUDDLE this year, a category I’d never participated in before. There were tons of great entries for this category this year and as a result Ren didn’t take home any prizes, but I’m still incredibly proud of the work I put into him and really am thoroughly happy with how he turned out! I can’t wait until I can get him a Nora to keep him company!

Non-Contest Full Customs: Deer Boy and Skunk Girl

Sometimes inspiration strikes and you run with it. I’m not sure if that was what happened with these two, but something struck and I ran with it!

The last time Isul MIO kits got restocked I bought two of them: one for Haruhi, who I already had planned, and one with no particular plan other than to make a custom doll to hopefully sell. This second one sat around with no particular plan until I also ended up with a very inexpensive Dal Charlotte from a Tuesday Morning that was going out of business. I decided I wanted to pair these two up in some way, and started looking around for ideas.

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I’m not sure exactly when the idea for the forest animals theme struck me, but I know that as soon as I saw examples of custom deer themed Pullips and Blythes, I knew I wanted to try that for the Isul. It took me a little longer to settle on the skunk idea for the Dal– she almost ended up being a snail fairy until I couldn’t come up with a good way to do that– but once I’d committed they were very fun to make!

I wasn’t brave enough to do any sort of body modification for their animal traits, so that’s why you don’t see any sculpted ears or furry legs or anything like that. I kind of liked the idea of having the ears and tails be detachable for varied photoshoot options anyway, so it worked out as it was. I did go ahead and commit for the full animal look on faceups, though– both the deer boy and the skunk girl got animal noses and facial markings (white freckles in his case, a skunk stripe up the nose in hers). I had some issues on the skunk girl with my dark pastel going all over the place and I don’t think I ever got that fully cleaned up, so that would be my biggest disappointment with her. She was definitely one of those dolls where the more work I put in on her, the more I liked her: I kind of hated her after I got the faceup done, but she started being a little cute to me once her eyes were in. The wig made me like her even more, and by the time she had her clothes and ears I pretty much loved her. The deer boy, on the other hand, I loved from the start and still really love.

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Both of the dolls’ eyechips are from, you guessed it, CoolCat. I debated whether or not to get the black ones for the skunk girl but I felt it fit her coloring and her character and I went with it. I’m really glad I did. They look much cuter in a head than I was anticipating, and they kind of have a pretty greenish undertone I didn’t notice until I was taking outdoor photos. Fun story: I ordered all the eyechips for the five PUDDLE dolls that needed them (excluding Stevonnie, who doesn’t take eyechips, and Josefin, whose eyechips came from last year’s PUDDLE) at the same time, and I thought I’d ordered a much darker brown for Haruhi than deer boy, with his being more of an orangey tan. When they got here I could barely tell them apart, and I’m not 100% certain I put them in the heads I meant to, but I still love how they turned out anyway. Deer boy’s wig is from Tata’s Paradise BJD (the same place I got Tamaki’s eyelashes and his and Haruhi’s roses) and is seriously the best thing ever. Skunk girl’s is from For My Doll.

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I wanted to go with a kind of mori-inspired clothing look for the two of them. Not sure how well I captured that effect but I do like how their clothes turned out, so that’s good enough for me. Deer boy’s pants used the same Blythe basics pattern as Haruhi’s, shortened as well (perhaps a little more than I should have!) They’re a nice suedey fabric to kind of emulate furry legs, and I gave him black boots as pseudo-hooves. I think his shirt was an EAH boys’ uniform shirt with lots of modifications to make it flowy and awesome, and I definitely put the v-neck on the wrong side of the shirt, which is why it snaps in the front. Oh, well. I do love the way the gauzey fabric looks on him!

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Skunk girl’s shirt is another variation on the Barbie princess pack bodice and sleeves, again made to be more flowy. I loved the tiny buttons I found for it, and I was also super happy I decided last minute to go with a black collar instead of one in a matching taupe. I think it really adds dimension to the shirt. ¬†Her vest was my first attempt crocheting with crochet thread instead of yarn, and I think it turned out pretty cute. Her skirt was the first thing I tried to make out of my Doll Coordinate Recipe book, before I’d figured out they tell you what size to print them at; I printed it at half the size I should have and figured out pretty quickly that something wasn’t going to work, so I used what I had printed and made something up. It still turned out pretty cute! It was another one of the fabrics that would have been a no-go without fray check; it’s a linen-look and frayed really badly as well.

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Both skunk girl’s and deer boy’s animal ears are made of simple craft felt. Hers are attached to a headband while his are on clips; I had intended to give her a bow on her headband as well out of the same fabric as her skirt, but these were a couple of the last dolls I finished sewing for and I skipped the fray check step on the bow, causing it to totally fall apart when I went to turn it inside out. (I actually ended up eliminating a couple other clothing items I had planned on each of these for the sake of time, a vest for deer boy and a pullover sweater for skunk girl. They would have been cute but I just couldn’t make it happen.) The tails are both attached using the same kind of clips as deer boy’s ears. His tail is felt as well, but Skunk girl’s is faux fur. It’s pretty bulky but I think it’s cuter than felt would have been! The clips and headband all also came from Tata’s Paradise (which I had never even discovered before working on all these dolls, but I can definitely see myself becoming a return customer).

The biggest nightmare on these two was the shoes. I followed the same method to make them each a pair of shoes as I had used for Haruhi’s and Tamaki’s, only really adding lacing. Even so, skunk girl’s turned out so bad I opted for some Barbie shoes for her instead, and while deer boy’s have stayed with him because I don’t have any sort of alternative, they somehow ended up way off-center and crooked as well as the fabric being too small for the foam soles. Trial and error, I guess.

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All in all, I’m quite happy with how these two turned out. They weren’t for any contest so I didn’t feel quite as much pressure on them to make them perfect, but they still turned out really cute! And the good news, as I mentioned in my PUDDLE post, is that they found a new home! I’m especially happy because they got to stick together; I’d have been happy no matter what but after working on two dolls together like these or like Haruhi and Tamaki I sometimes feel like it’d be sad to separate them. These two don’t have to worry about that, though!

Non-Contest Full Custom: Stevonnie

You may remember quite a while ago when I posted about my Hasbro Disney Princess custom doll I made, Connie Maheswaran from Steven Universe.¬†Even when I was making her I knew I’d really love to use the line’s Pocahontas doll to make Stevonnie, the fusion of Steven and Connie. ¬†So when Connie sold a while back, I used some of the sales money to pick up a Pocahontas for just that purpose.

And then, you’ll probably not be remotely surprised to hear, I procrastinated. It was only adding her to my PUDDLE list that got her done. But hey, at least I got her done!

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Customizing playline fashion dolls feels like a whole different ball game than Pullips and such, because you get to paint the eyes and everything’s smaller. I do really enjoy painting eyes. I can’t do those hyper-realistic watercolor pencil eyes you see some people do, but I’ve always liked a slightly more cartoony style in my hand-drawn art as well as in my doll art so I’m not bothered by that. Steven Universe is slightly more cartoony than my doll style (mainly in the fact that eye colors are not shown for most characters) so ¬†translating their characters effectively always seems like a bit of a challenge, but I’m pretty pleased with the face I gave her and I especially like how her lips turned out.

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Hair’s totally different in dolls like this too, where you’re usually going to be looking at a reroot rather than a rewig (or at least I do; I find rerooting relaxing and it’s one of my favorite parts of these sorts of customs). That being said, Pocahontas was a good choice for Stevonnie in that her hair didn’t even need to be cut, let alone rerooted. It just needed a good restyling. Sure, to be fair, the part is on the wrong side so if I was being really good I could have given her a new part, but I was going for something lower maintenance with her hair and face so I could go a little crazier on the clothes like I did with Connie too.

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One of the fun features of Stevonnie is her gem on her belly. I bought my first ever tub of Apoxie Sculpt to achieve that. Again, I’m not that great at sculpting, but a round smooth bump on a doll’s belly’s not that hard to pull off, and it gave me an excuse to do some repairs on a couple of my Groove dolls too (all three of my Byul’s were breaking, in an odd coincidence). I’ll definitely be glad to have the stuff around and look forward to experimenting with it more! I think with the paint on, Stevonnie’s gem looks pretty darn good!

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A couple things I really like about Stevonnie’s wardrobe in the series: First, no shoes, so I didn’t have to worry about making or buying any replicas there. Second, she’s always got the same base T-shirt, and usually the one pair of shorts as well, so it’s really easy to make her add-on items and make her entire wardrobe. I was actually able to replicate every outfit she’s worn up to the point when I made her.

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Her base crop top used the Blythe basics T-shirt pattern in a shortened form. She’s actually the reason I bought the pattern; I thought it would work well for what I was needing to make for her. The denim shorts are almost the Blythe basics pattern; they did need to be widened a bit to fit her properly (which meant Jace finally scored a pair of shorts!) Most of the other patterns were loosely based on this pattern as well with some very liberal tweaking applied (sleevelessness and neckline changes on the combat shirt, the same on the sky blue tank as well as some added body at the bottom, and the waistline measurement from the modified shorts pattern was stolen for the combat pants, which of course were widened significantly and received the addition of leg cuffs and waistband.

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The aviator jacket was made from a pattern in Doll Coordinate Recipe 1 (which you already know if you’ve been reading my pre-PUDDLE prep blogs). I think it turned out absolutely darling, and there’s plenty of fabric left over for me to make more for some of my Pullip crew! Definitely glad I bought that book; it’s going to come in handy!

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Stevonnie’s looking for a new home, so if you’re interested in adopting her, you can check out her etsy listing here!¬†Thanks for taking a look at her!

Non-Contest Full Custom: Josefin

So this would be the doll I’ve been working on more or less since last year’s PUDDLE.

As you may remember, last year my full custom entry, Star Butterfly, won her subcategory, with the prize being a Dal MIO kit. Josefin is that Dal MIO kit, finally completed. I’d actually planned her design in the couple of weeks immediately after last year’s event, and got her faceup done last summer as well as ordering in her wig, glasses, and shoes, but then I got to the part I always dread the most: clothing. This I even bought the supplies for last summer, but I kept putting it off until I was already making my push to get this year’s PUDDLE dolls done, when I finally decided to get her finished as well.

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Her faceup I’m pretty pleased with. I think it was one of my first with the higher quality watercolor pencils. I did accidentally get a thin line of blue paint underneath the end of one of her eyebrows, which got turned into a symmetrical feature. Kind of dumb, but it works!

She’s the only PUDDLE 2017 doll with non-CoolCat eyechips. They actually came from PUDDLE too, an advertisement for the now-defunct Dollchemy forums. I believe but am not certain they were made by KiraKira. They were actually the main inspiration for her color scheme too. I’ve got two more pairs of the Dollchemy eyechips at home. One is getting used for Vanellope when I make her, and the other I’m going to save until I get the right inspiration. Josefin’ wig is from For My Doll. Her glasses I ordered on eBay, so I’m not sure the maker of them.

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Her clothes were kind of a whole slew of different patterns from DGRequiem, and I actually entered her outfit into the May Franken-Fashion challenge as a result. The jacket is yet another use of the Barbie princess bodice and sleeves, with the Pullip kigurumi hood and a MH sailor senshi bow on it. The dress is the bodice and a shortened version of the skirt from the MH looking glass Lolita dress (the same pattern I used for Star last year), and the leggings are a modification of the MH super stretch tights. Her hat I didn’t have a pattern for; I traced Marty’s hat and went from there.

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Fun story about the shoes. I had ordered Josefin a pair of blue canvas sneaker-style shoes off of eBay at the same time I ordered her glasses. They were really cute and perfect for the character. Unfortunately, at some point in the recent past (as in, I know I saw them in April or May) I completely lost track of them. They’re not in any of the places I usually get lazy and tuck doll-related things, and I’m just not sure at all where they might have gone. I realized this approximately three weeks before PUDDLE, which meant it was too late to order another pair since they ship from overseas and usually take about a month to get here. So I took a gamble and went to see if I could find any good Barbie shoes. Incredibly, the first pack I checked had not only a pair of white high-tops that work pretty well in place of the blue shoes she had, but also a pair of orange heels that were cute with the color scheme. This is also the pack I snagged skunk girl’s replacement shoes from. I still would have liked to have given Josefin the canvas shoes if I could have, because they just feel slightly more quality to me, but sometimes you just have to make do with what you have!

I’m glad I was able to get her done in time for PUDDLE and she was able to come back with me, even if she wasn’t a contest doll! She really enjoyed all the attention she got while she was at PUDDLE!

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At this time, Josefin is still looking for a home! If you’d be interested in adopting her, please check out her etsy listing here!

Full Custom Dolls: Haruhi and Tamaki

I don’t think we had even left PUDDLE last year when I realized that Haruhi and Tamaki from Ouran High School Host Club were the perfect candidates for custom dolls for this year’s PUDDLE. After all, what better dolls for a tea party theme than characters who basically spend all their free time serving tea?

Besides which, I’ve been a huge fan of Ouran for years and just thought it would be pretty fun!

It was roughly PUDDLE time last year I got really into the idea of Isuls as girls, too, and with Haruhi’s androgynous nature I figured she would be a fun doll to experiment on. (Not long after that I bought Jayni, another custom Isul girl, and I recently turned my Souji Okita into a girl too, but I digress). Once Isul MIO kits came back in stock, I picked up a couple and got to work.

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Haruhi’s faceup honestly turned out pretty much exactly the way I wanted it to. It’s cute and feminine with the right clothes, with just the right amount of androgyny to pass as a boy in her male uniform. Her eyechips, as with all the eyechips I used for PUDDLE dolls this year, are from CoolCat. I also gave her eyelashes from a set of human falsies I bought on Amazon. After lots of looking around, I settled on a wig from Angell Studio that I thought looked pretty good for her. Her girl body was ordered from Mimiwoo. I went with a 25cm small bust obitsu because I felt it had the right amount of youthfulness and flatness to pull off the looks I needed for Haruhi.

My biggest challenge with her ended up being the rebody itself. I knew from experience with Marty (who’s on the same body as Haruhi) that the 25cm could be pretty floppy, but I didn’t anticipate the level of neck floppiness I was going to get with her. I luckily was able to work with one of the included neck pegs, but it wouldn’t screw in tightly enough to hold the neck hole on the head in place firmly, so after a great deal of trial and error I put several pieces of craft foam over the body’s screwhole before screwing in the peg and adding teflon tape. It’s not as sturdy as a stock body, but it’s holding up okay for now at least. I also added foam to her body to help stabilize it following this deflopping tutorial.

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I wasn’t as lucky with the MIO restock on Tamaki as I was on Haruhi. While Taeyang MIO’s did get a restock after I’d made the decision to make Tamaki, it came at about the same time I’d blown my dolly budget ordering things like wigs and eyechips and other supplies for all the dolls I was working on for PUDDLE and by the time I could stretch the budget to get my doll for Tamaki, they had gone out of stock again. Luckily, my local Tuesday Morning still had a Taeyang Alberic knocking around and I had already gotten a little bit of sanding expertise from removing the faceups of the two Dal Charlotte’s I had purchase, so I picked him up to become my Tamaki. Tamaki was actually the last faceup I completed out of the PUDDLE dolls due to my stalling on getting a base doll for him. I’m not quite as in love with his faceup as Haruhi’s– I went a little overboard on the painted eyelashes and all of it’s a bit paler than I had anticipated– but I do still think it turned out okay, and am especially fond of his lips.

As with Haruhi, Tamaki has CoolCat eyechips (in the perfect shade of violet), and his wig is likewise from Angell Studio. His eyelashes are from Tata’s Paradise BJD, which is also where I ended up getting the two paper roses that accompany the dolls. For anyone not familiar with Ouran, all of the members of the host club have an associated rose color, and roses are featured frequently throughout the series, so I felt it was only appropriate my two host dolls would come with their appropriately colored roses. In regards to his eyelashes, I do think they’re a bit pale for my liking and I might have gotten a better match for the character with a light brown instead of a blond, but they still look relatively decent. I think overall Tamaki ended up paler in a lot of ways than I would have liked (faceup, eyelashes, wig, etc.) but I’m still pleased with how he turned out.

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Tamaki obviously had to wear the iconic Ouran boys’ uniform for his outfit. I’ve had DGRequiem’s EAH boys’ school uniform pattern for quite a while now, and it worked like a charm for the pants, shirt, and attached tie, and only needed a few slight modifications to make a great blazer jacket as well (the most obvious modification being the creation of a blazer collar, which is the one piece I drafted myself for the jackets). The boys’ jackets are one of the things that only happened due to the magic of fray check; I knew I loved the sky blue linen-like fabric I had as the closest thing I could find to the appropriate color but there’s no way that would have held together without fray check.

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Haruhi’s most well-known recurring outfit in the series is her boys’ uniform as well, and I did, in fact make her one. She almost never wears the school’s girls’ uniform in reality, but I decided to make her one of those as well for several reasons: first, since she’s going as a pair with Tamaki, whose fantasies often feature girl-uniform-Haruhi, I felt she could use it for photoshoots and things. Second, since I was playing up the boy-vs-girl juxtaposition of the character with the male face sculpt on a female body, I thought having both outfits would be good to emphasize her different aspects. Third, and most practically, with both Haruhi and Tamaki entering into the full custom category at PUDDLE and effectively competing against each other, I didn’t want them to have identical outfits.

Haruhi’s clothes also heavily utilized DGRequiem patterns, especially the Barbie Princess Pack. A 25cm obitsu is quite a bit smaller than a barbie body in a lot of ways, so there was a good deal of tweaking involved in that, but the dress was made pretty much entirely from this pattern (with Barbie Renaissance sleeves thrown in and cuffs of my own design) and it actually formed the basis for her boys’ uniform shirt and jacket as well. I’m much better at modifying patterns than making them from scratch, so a starting point, however strange, was a good thing to have. The tights were directly from the MH sized super stretch pattern, and the pants were Blythe/Hasbro Princess basics pants, somewhat shortened to fit the body.

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Three pairs of shoes were required for these two dolls, and all three were handmade using pleather and craft foam. They’re probably the best shoes I made for any of the PUDDLE dolls, especially the two pairs of loafers for the boys’ uniform. Making shoes is fiddly and some of my other PUDDLE-related attempts proved I still have a long way to go, but at least I know I can make something halfway decent.

Both Haruhi and Tamaki competed in the full customs category at PUDDLE, under the male doll subcategory. It wasn’t ideal, maybe, to have two dolls in the same subcategory competing directly against each other, but I do know that there’s never that many boy dolls competing for full customs at PUDDLE so I figured at the least they’d have less competition all around. That proved to be slightly less true this year than others; there were tons of boy dolls in the full customs! Neither Haruhi nor Tamaki took home a prize, but they did receive plenty of compliments!

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At the time of this writing, Haruhi and Tamaki have not yet found new homes. If you’d be interested in adopting one or both of them, they are currently listed on my etsy here for your consideration!

PUDDLE 2017: The Big Post!

It’s only been a couple of days since PUDDLE ended and I haven’t quite convinced myself that it’s really over. I keep thinking soon I’ll see the people I got to meet and hang out with again, even though we’ve all gone home now. It’s all still surreal being back in the real world!

I’m not going to rehash all of PUDDLE for you for a couple reasons: first, the schedule is much the same each year, and I did a pretty thorough breakdown last year, so I don’t feel as if it’s strictly necessary to repeat that for this year’s. Second, I’m sure I won’t be the only one posting about it, so definitely take a look at some other dolly blogs while you’re browsing around!

As I mentioned previously in my prep posts, our PUDDLE journey began on Thursday as we made a seven hour drive from southwestern Missouri where we live to central Illinois where my parents live. I had thought that I would be working Thursday and then making the drive after my shift, getting us there incredibly late, but I was actually lucky enough to get the day off, which was wonderful because it meant we could travel during the day instead of at night. It was also nice because it meant we got to eat dinner with my parents and then go visit the camp I used to work at and say hello to some of my former coworkers. It was really nice!

Friday morning we got up relatively early and made the drive to Chicago (or Elk Grove, really). We’d done a bit of research in advance and had plans to get on the 11:26 bus from near the hotel and take public transit downtown to see the Bean. Katelynn (my roommate and tag-along friend who came to the convention with me to save me from social anxiety) has seen it a couple of times, but despite the fact I grew up in Illinois and have been to Chicago many times, it’s not something I’d ever done. Unfortunately, we got stuck in construction and instead of getting there in plenty of time, we reached the hotel at about 11:28. We then decided to take the next bus at about 12:15, but that one failed to show up on time, even though the bus system’s website claimed it had stopped at the stop when it was supposed to. We gave up at around 12:30 and decided to call it quits on the Bean. Funnily enough, the bus passed us as we were walking back to the hotel and I think she might have picked us up, but at that point we were pretty frustrated about it and I was worried that the buses would be late in the afternoon as well and we’d miss the Mitsuwa hangout, so we didn’t try it.

Instead, we ended up spending part of the afternoon at Mitsuwa as well. This was great for me as it meant I got some browsing time when there weren’t a bunch of people I wanted to chat with around, and I got bubble tea, which is one of my favorite things and was really great for calming down my frustration. I bought a couple of volumes of manga in Japanese during this time, as well as a cup girl miniature like the ones I was collecting while in Japan. (I ended up with the series’ special model, a silver bikini Fuchiko, but oddly mine was missing one of her legs entirely. It’s weird, but it kinda makes her unique!)

I’m glad Katelynn convinced me to bring Marty with me to PUDDLE this year; I think she’s the most recognizable of my dolls. It was great when, while sitting in the lobby during initial hangouts, somebody from the forums recognized her and we got to meet each other as a result! I knew that there were going to be several people from the forums here this year from long distances and I was really excited to meet them, but sometimes my shyness gets in the way, so it was really nice to have Marty as a bit of an icebreaker and to get to know them!

Despite my shyness, I feel like in general I did a much better job of socializing with people and stuff. I didn’t feel awkward and weird sitting in the lobby waiting for somebody to talk to me this year; instead I was talking with everybody and hanging out, meeting old friends and new ones! It was great and I didn’t feel out of place at all!

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A dolly group photo from Friday afternoon in the lobby.

It was also pretty nice to be able to be a driver to Mitsuwa this year instead of a rider. We had one other person in our car and we bonded over Yuri on Ice, which Katelynn and I only started watching that Wednesday and had only seen two episodes at that point but were already starting to fall in love with. I about made myself sick wolfing down katsudon; it’s not often I get to have real, delicious Japanese food and I love every chance I get but I just couldn’t eat the whole thing! I explored the grocery store in Mitsuwa in the evening, which was really great because I was able to get some things that I can’t get my hands on as easily at home. I also got a black sesame milkshake, because I love sesame, and that also didn’t get entirely eaten by me because I should not have considered eating. Our new friend who rode over with us got us all Yuri on Ice blind bags from the bookstore to commemorate our bonding over pork cutlet bowls; I came home with a Yuri Plisetsky pin, which made me really happy because so far he’s my favorite! (As I’m editing this post a few days after I wrote this paragraph, I can assure you that even after finishing season one and becoming probably even more obsessed with this show, Yurio is definitely always going to be my favorite!)

Last year, when we were in a different hotel, we didn’t stick around for a whole lot of the evening tea party on Friday. This year I stayed for pretty much all of it (Katelynn was there for some before taking off to go enjoy the pool). I brought down four of the six custom dolls I had made for the event to try and sell: Josefin (the “Blue Skater” Dal I’ve been working on off and on since last PUDDLE), Deer Boy and Skunk Girl, and Stevonnie. It was really amazing to show them off and to hear everybody’s kind words about them! I really enjoyed looking at all the things other people brought out to sell or trade, too! I held on to my money for the most part since I knew I was probably going to want to spend a lot of it on Saturday, and I’ll admit I regretted it after a couple of dolls I really liked got away from me, but it was still really neat to see everything. I did buy one dress from someone, a Licca dress in the pastel colors I have such a soft spot for, but other than that I did what I could to hold off until PUDDLE proper.

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Me with the custom dolls I was attempting to sell Friday night.

Much to my surprise and excitement, though, I did find homes for Deer Boy and Skunk Girl Friday night! And they ended up sticking together, which I had honestly been hoping for. It definitely was a boost in confidence for me and has really helped to encourage me to continue to customize!

I headed back to the room to sleep ¬†once things started to die down, because I wanted plenty of energy for Saturday. Apparently my body had other plans because I woke up for nearly an hour and a half in the middle of the night, but I guess you don’t get to decide when that happens, right?

I had made myself a shirt to wear at PUDDLE this year, with “Make Dolls Not War” on the front of it. I was already a little bit disappointed with it because my freezer paper stenciling doesn’t seem to ever want to work right for me anymore, but it was still super frustrating when I managed to spill coffee all over my right shoulder on it despite barely sloshing it at all! Luckily it was just the right size to cover with my PUDDLE name badge, so instead of using the lanyard I just commandeered one of the pins they had given us to pin it in place over the stain. Honestly, it gave me a lot more room to maneuver anyway.

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Oops.

One of the changes they made this year was the introduction of table hosts. Instead of putting all the pressure on TrueFan and her volunteers to get all the tables decorated, each table host decorated their own table to fit the tea party theme. We picked a table we liked for the decorations and it happened to be hosted by a forum member, which was really exciting. She really went all out with cutesy tea party themed items!

One of the things that was most fun for me this year was just being a little more comfortable with everything. I didn’t feel like I was guessing about what was happening when or anything like that, and I wasn’t quite as shy about putting myself out there, so I was able to be friendly and help out first-timers and things like that, plus there were people all over the room that I knew to some extent.

You may recall from my PUDDLE post last year that I brought my DSLR, but forgot my SD card, so all the photos I took on it the first half of the day before I realized my mistake were lost. The good news is I remembered to bring my SD card this year! The bad news is, I managed to bump the setting it was on so for the first couple hours the pictures I took were just black. Then, when I finally got it set properly, only about one in five photos was clear enough to even consider posting, so unfortunately, I still don’t have a whole lot of photos, but there’s a few more than last year!

I did not participate in the Dress Like Your Doll contest this year, because I was focusing on my customs and things. My favorite entry happened to be the one that won, a young lady who dyed her hair to match her Akemi’s and made the two of them matching shirts with each other’s faces on them. It was clever and made me smile!

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Dress Like Your Doll participants.

I’ll be interested to see how this year’s group photo turned out; there were so many of us that instead of taking one single photo the photographer took several of smaller groups which are going to be edited together. It’ll be interesting to see what comes of it!

Katelynn and I didn’t stray far for lunch. We had talked about going back to Mitsuwa just because I love it so much but we were worried we wouldn’t get back in time for some of the afternoon things, so we ate across the street from the hotel. I ended up heading back to the convention while Katelynn got some rest. I probably could have used it but I was having too much fun!

I did buy a couple things from the vendors this year. I had brought my two Isul girls, Jayni and Sophie, in hopes of finding them female bodies this year. In Sophie’s case, CornflowerBlue had been kind enough to bring along her 24cm new obitsus for us to see in person, and I decided I liked it enough to go with that one. (It helped that she had her Souji Okita on the 24cm too, which meant I got a really great idea of how Sophie would look!) I did buy Jayni a new body, though, from Sakura’s Blossoms. I got her a small bust 27cm soft bust type, which is what I kind of always figured I’d get her. It does have the magnets in the feet, but with her head’s weight they’re not really super useful. I also got Marty a new shirt-¬†Mota de Algodon¬†was selling a shirt with Marty McFly on the front of it, and since Marty is partially named after Marty McFly I just had to have it for her! There were tons of other cute things I would have loved to buy but I knew I wanted to buy a doll this year so I was trying hard to hold off. I got lots of business cards to find them later, though!

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Cornflower Blue’s Souji Okita on the 24cm Obitsu.

We also had a lot of fun at the “free” tables- the take it leave it table as well as the crafts table. I got a couple of more casual dresses for Nevada and a new wig for Jayni more along the lines of what I’d always wanted for her, and we had fun making tiny fascinator hats out of felt and feathers for our girls!

This year there was a PUDDLE cake, and it was delicious! It was a fun way to celebrate the 10th anniversary, and like I said, it was really good cake too!

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Yummy!

Last year, when I bough Marty her new body, I hadn’t planned ahead enough to pack supplies to rebody her. I had gotten lucky because my dad had most of what I needed at home, so we were able to get her fixed up Saturday night, but I had wished I could have gotten her on her new body quicker, so this year I came somewhat prepared, with my screwdrivers, glue, and teflon tape. Unfortunately, I didn’t think ahead enough to also bring a dremel to sand down the peg, so I wasn’t quite as equipped as I would have liked. Fortunately, one of the vendors,¬†Denise’s Dolls, had a dremel with them and was kind enough to help me out on Saturday evening, so Jayni did get her body during the trip after all. She did end up bald for the rest of PUDDLE though since I wanted to give her wig a fabric softener treatment before putting it on her. Plus, having my screwdriver and glue and things came in handy as I was able to share them with other people putting dolls together!

I entered several of the raffles this year; there were just so many things that were super cute! Lots of lovely doll clothes and other things. I was really hoping to win one of the dolls in the special raffle prizes (weren’t we all?!), specifically having put in tickets for the Omocha Crush custom and the KuddlePuss Kustoms¬†doll. I didn’t win either of those, but I did win something I didn’t expect to come home with: an outfit set from DarlingClover! I’ve been drooling over her stuff since I saw it last year and probably would have bought a skirt if I hadn’t won this raffle, but it’s super exciting to have a whole outfit! Seriously, her stuff is incredibly well-made and detailed, so I highly recommend you check her out! Katelynn also won a raffle for a doll dress, which was impressive because she only had one raffle ticket (her gift bag didn’t have one for some reason, so she only had an icebreaker ticket).

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Jayni rocking a completely new look, with female body, new wig, and a stunning Darling Clover outfit (that Sophie has now stolen).

And of course, the highlight of the afternoon: the customs contests! It’s no secret that I had three dolls made for the contests, but who they were has been a secret until now. My modified entry was Taeyang Lie Ren from RWBY, a Maguna with a modified faceup and completely original wig and clothes that I put a lot of work into and really love. (He’s also the only doll I made with the intention of keeping this year, and I hope to commission a Nora to go with him eventually!) My two full customs entries were chosen to go along with the tea party theme, and are characters from one of my favorite anime/manga series: Tamaki and Haruhi Fujioka from Ouran High School Host Club. Tamaki is a Taeyang Alberic who was completely sanded and repainted, and Haruhi is my third Isul girl, made from a MIO kit and rebodied onto a 25cm (female) obitsu. I’ll have more about my customization processes on each of them as well as my non-contest custom dolls in separate posts soon, so keep an eye out for when I link to those here!

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The full customs contest table

There were soooo many great customs this year, both in modified and in full customs, as well as a few cute mini’s entries and two really great custom outfits. (I think I’ll enter that contest next year; I’ve already got a great idea for it!) It was almost impossible for me to pick a favorite, so I know the judges had to have had a hard time too! In full customs, I was partial to Juniper, a doll with gorgeous sky blue yarn hair who I never got a non-blurry picture of, sadly. I also really loved the mime-inspired dolls, the multi-armed blue Dal, the Pullip with intricate drawings all over her body, and a sweet little pastel pink girl you’ll hear more about later. My favorite modified doll was the little rainbow girl.

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Modified dolls

I didn’t win any contests this year, but it was completely understandable with all the great entries, and I’m not at all disappointed! It just inspires me to try even harder next year, and I’ve already got some great ideas going for that! Congratulations again to all the winners! I didn’t do the greatest job remembering who won each contest, I’m sad to say, but I know they were all deserved!

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This little lady basically stole my heart!

Wrapping back to the pink custom girl I fell in love with. As I mentioned before, I had always planned to buy a doll this year, probably a custom. I’d had my eyes on some of Doll Angel’s¬†customs, but my favorites got snatched up Friday evening and early Saturday so I kind of missed out (which is okay, because I’m planning to commission her anyway soon!) Then I saw this lovely girl and knew that if her creator was selling her, she was the one I wanted. Timing was perfect, too- I was picking my dolls back up off the customs tables and walking by when I heard her customizer telling someone else she was hoping to sell her. I must admit I kind of swooped in because I just had to have her! She did end up coming home with me and I’m absolutely in love with her. I think I’m going to call her Circe. And by a lucky fluke, we figured out after the fact that the customizer and I are fellow forum members. I had been so excited that I hadn’t gotten her name at PUDDLE, but I knew all along that the doll reminded me of somebody’s work. As soon as I saw that ShortyBoo had been at PUDDLE, I knew whose work Circe reminded me of (and about that time she saw my picture of Circe at the dinner Saturday evening and made the same connection I did!) So that made me happy to be able to identify who made her after all and find out it was someone I’d talked to some online already.

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So glad to have her to tag along for dinner (and at home now!)

Since we were staying in the convention hotel this year and not trying to get back to my parents’ house on Saturday evening, we were able to stay for the dinner and lobby hangout Saturday evening. This ended up being a ton of fun, as we got to know even more people we hadn’t really interacted too much with yet. My new girl, Circe, came to dinner with me, and then it was mainly the dolls I was trying to sell and Jayni whose body was getting worked on in the lobby with me that evening. It was fun to hang out, relax a bit and just chat about doll stuff and other things. I’ll admit by this point, I was thoroughly exhausted; being introverted and spending an entire weekend socializing can be incredibly draining, but I was drained in a good way and didn’t want to stop hanging out!

I’ve mentioned several times that Katelynn comes along with me not because she’s a doll person, but for moral support for me. She actually did have two dolls, both EAH, and brought one of them with her this year because I convinced her she should (somewhat of a shameless plug on my part; she brought the Sailor Mercury custom I made her for her birthday a couple years ago). Well, Saturday night, she ended up with another doll, a Shibajuku Girls doll that somebody else was trying to get rid of. (I’ll admit these dolls really creep me out. I know it seems weird that I can be all about Pullips but the big vacant eyes on these give me the heebie jeebies, but there you go.) She also was admiring a Tomoe Mami someone was selling and I was trying hard to convince her to buy it (my not-so-secret ulterior motive in bringing her along is trying to get her hooked too) but the price was just a bit higher than she was willing to go, so no luck.

Saturday afternoon someone posted in the PUDDLE Facebook group who wasn’t able to come to PUDDLE, but lived nearby and was getting ready to move across the country, so was trying to get rid of some doll stuff/other things via a garage sale thing on Sunday morning. I’m a sucker for a good deal, so before we headed back south Sunday morning we stopped by. And here’s where I get to do my victory dance, because Katelynn is now a Pullip owner! She came away with two Pullips and a bait head. I also picked up a bait head I’m excited to work on. It’s kinda funny that Katelynn came out of PUDDLE with more new dolls than I did, but I’m not going to complain any, both because I’m beyond happy with what I did come home with, and because I love that I’ve “infected” Katelynn.

Our drive home was LOOOONG. I was beyond exhausted at this point because I’m super introverted and doing nothing but socializing with people I don’t know super well, no matter how fun, is super draining for me. The good news was that we were able to break it up some- We did the drive from Chicago to my parent’s house first, stopping there to eat lunch with them, then we did the longer drive home in three smaller chunks, with Katelynn taking over driving the middle chunk so I could get a much-needed nap. We finally got home at 9:15ish.

I still feel like I’m behind on sleep but I wouldn’t trade it for the world! I’m not 100% if I’ll be able to come to PUDDLE next year; I’m planning to go to Japan for a couple of weeks next year and depending on timing PUDDLE may just not be feasible. I do hope things will work out, though, and if I do come I’m toying with the idea of buying a vendor’s table. We’ll just have to see how things come along.

I haven’t posted all my pictures from PUDDLE here (or, you know, the ones that actually turned out) for sake of space and not spamming you, but feel free to see the rest of them here¬†if you’d like! Keep an eye out for the posts about my customization processes on the seven dolls I brought with me!

PUDDLE: Final Preview!

Pictures are all done! So here’s the sneak preview of the other three dolls:

PUDDLE 2017 Preview 2

Out of the seven dolls I made for PUDDLE, I think the little Deer Boy is my favorite; he turned out closest to what I envisioned from the start and I just stinking love Isuls. I’m excited to finally share a sneak peek with you!

Along with the custom dolls you’ve heard me talk so much about, I’ve settled on three “just for fun” dolls to tag along with me. Both my Isul girls, Jayni and Sophie, have been shoe-ins for a while because they’re my top priorities for rebodies (both are on their stock boy bodies at the moment). That was originally going to be it, but my roommate (who gives me trouble a lot for spoiling Marty) was shocked when she heard I wasn’t taking Marty with me, insisting she was my travel doll. I hadn’t ever really thought of her that way, but she is the only Pullip who’s been to Japan with me (because I bought her there) and she’s often my go-to, so Marty’s going to tag along again. The ladies felt they should dress appropriately for the tea party theme, although they all had different interpretations of what that means:

tea party kiddos

(Excuse the grainy phone photo; I’d already put my DSLR away for the day and was too lazy to get it back out.)

All the dolls, clothes, and stands have been packed away and are ready to travel. I’ve also last-minute made myself a T-shirt to wear at the convention, mainly because I’m a dork, and I’m waiting on some business cards I ordered to come in on Tuesday. I’ll do my actual human-sized packing on Wednesday. Our PUDDLE journey will start on Thursday as my parents live in central Illinois and we’ll be staying the night with them before heading to Chicago Friday. With less than a week left I’m so excited!!

PUDDLE Prep Update #3 (And Sneak Peek!)

12 MORE DAYS.

The time has seriously flown by. I can’t believe it.

The good news is that, as of today, 100% of my crafting on every single doll I’ve been working on for PUDDLE is done. Admittedly, there were like 3-4 items I had originally planned to make that I scrapped in that time, but still, it feels incredible to have everything actually together.

The bad news is that I’ve still got other prep to do for PUDDLE so my work isn’t over yet. I want to make write-ups for all the dolls I’m hoping to sell, as well as prep the contest entry slips for the three contest dolls in advance, I want nice pictures of all of them prior to the trip just in case I do sell them while I’m there, and there’s a couple other things I may or may not do such as business cards (is it even possible to get those on such short notice? I’m gonna find out!)

The other good news is that I got about half of the photography done today, which means today you get a sneak peek of four of the custom dolls I’ll be bringing with me!

PUDDLE 2017 Preview 1

Don’t want to reveal too much yet on the contest dolls themselves, which is why you don’t get to see faces on any of them, but this is probably enough for at least some to figure out who I’ve made! The top left image is my full custom Isul and Taeyang for the contests, bottom left is my partial custom Taeyang (with his wig looking much nicer now that it’s properly cut!), and bottom right is Josefin, the custom Dal of ultimate procrastination.

The rest of my pictures I’m planning on taking this upcoming Saturday, so expect preview images of Deer boy, Skunk girl, and Stevonnie soon! Everyone’s going to get their own posts eventually with all their pictures and descriptions of their customizations, etc., so don’t expect too much yet, but since none of them are contest dolls I probably won’t be quite as secretive as I have on some of these guys.

The bomber jacket I made for Stevonnie from the DCR book turned out great, ¬†in case anyone was wondering! There was some tweaking I could have done to make it TV perfect, but it still looks great and proves I can successfully follow a pattern from the book. I might have to make another one for my dolls when I have the time! I told my roommate/best friend/dolly enabler yesterday that the divide between the clothes I want my dolls to have (and am capable of making) and the clothes I have the time and/or patience to make is really wide sometimes, and I’ve already got a dolly to-do list going for after PUDDLE as well as lots of catching up to do on my other hobbies, but I do think the DCR book and all the new DGRequiem patterns I got as a result of PUDDLE sewing will become wonderful tools in my arsenal!

PUDDLE Prep Update #2

I can’t believe there’s just over a month left until PUDDLE time! I’m still rushing around to get everything done, and the closer it gets to time the more I feel like I’m running out of time! I think I’ll be able to get everything done, though!

The contest dolls are all 3 100% done now. There were a couple minor details I’d been putting off that I went ahead and got finished today almost entirely just so I could say they were done here ūüôā I do need to do some body de-flopping work on one of them but I’m putting that off until the last minute out of fear that if I do it too early the floppiness will return before contest time.

Deer boy and skunk girl are both almost done as well. Both have their ears and tail, although if I have extra time I may need to do some tweaking to deer boy’s to attach them more securely to the clips. Skunk girl has all her clothes, after I decided to forego a couple extras I had been considering giving her. Deer boy has a vest in the making right now, and both will get their shoes hopefully this weekend.

I did¬†sort of¬†use the pattern out of the Doll Coordinate Recipe book for Skunk Girl’s skirt. I say sort of, because I didn’t pay attention to the fact I was supposed to enlarge my scan of the copy and figured out on my own that it was way too small after printing, so I basically just hand drew a larger version that I ended up using for the skirt, but I do think I know what I’m doing with the book now so in the future I’m thinking I’ll have more luck. It also has a pattern I think will work really well for Stevonnie’s bomber jacket so I’ll be messing around with that later on.

I can’t decide if I’m going to work on clothes for Stevonnie or Josefin next, as I’m slightly worried I won’t have time to get both done. I had originally planned to do Stevonnie next, but I’m leaning more toward Josefin now for a couple reasons: First, there’s less outfit pieces involved, and second, since she’s actually an “on-topic” doll for PUDDLE I feel like she should get my last slot. Still, I’m really excited to finish Stevonnie and would love to take her with me; it just depends on timing I guess.

General things about the past couple months of crafting: I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how well shoes have turned out and I’m not nearly as scared of making them again. I’ve still got some work to do to get them to come out nice and delicate but chunky shoes aren’t terribly and they’ve worked perfectly for everything I’ve needed them for so far, so I won’t complain. I’ve also discovered how wonderful and helpful fray check is when sewing on this scale. It makes everything easier (which I’ve known DGRequiem, who I buy a lot of patterns from, has always said but I’ve been too cheap to buy any) and actually was the only reason I was able to use a couple of the fabrics I’ve utilized without them going to pieces. I’ve gone through a whole bottle with these projects already and I think it’s something I’m going to start stocking up on.

And some non-PUDDLE doll crafting stuff: I got my BJD, and even found time to make her a kimono! She’s lovely and as soon as I’m not swamped I owe her a post, as well as an update post on my Ladybug and DC Superhero Girls collections. I’m not done sewing for my BJD, though– a fellow forum member suggested I make her a junihitoe and I think that will suit her perfectly, and they were even kind enough to share measurements and progress images of their own MSD junihitoe project to help me figure out what I’m doing. That’s definitely post-PUDDLE work though. I’ve also finally made a decision in regards to an extra Dal I’ve had lying around to customize. I think I’m going to turn her into Vanellope Von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph. I love the movie, love the character, think a Dal version of her would be super cute and fun to make, and I figured out I have perfect eye chips for her already, so I’m excited to add that to my post-PUDDLE crafting list.

I’ll keep you updated as I continue to finish out my sewing in the next month, and hopefully next week sometime I can start taking some sneak peek photos and things! Stay tuned!