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Grand Rapids, Michigan, United States
Hello doll lovers! This blog was created to tell you about dolls I have made and classes I teach on doll making at Attic Window Quilt Shop in Comstock Park, Michigan (a suburb of Grand Rapids). My goal in teaching is to pass on the love of making heirloom quality dolls. Most of the dolls I make (and hold classes for) are designed by Gail Wilson - visit her website at . Page down my blog for some fun doll links including antique doll sites and hard to find doll supplies.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New York Doll - turning fingers

New York Doll designed by Gail Wilson, made by me years ago in an online class.
Hello doll makers!  Today I am working on finishing up the NY doll bodies and turning them outside right.  Tomorrow will be the second class at Attic Window Quilt Shop for Gail Wilson's version of the doll that graces the front cover on the book by Wendy Lavitt.  For more information about the doll, please click on the title of the link and it will take you to Gail's website.  The New York Doll is in the historical section.  I have one kit left over  from a prior class that I would like to sell - if anyone would like more info - please email me.  Yes, it comes with a set of pre-sewn hands.
 I have found a short cut for the hands!  I scanned the hand pattern into my embroidery unit on my machine and I just let the machine sew the hands for me.  I also do this for all my students who ask for them.  I try and turn them outside right before I give them to the students as this is one of those tricky areas that takes a bit of practice.  Sorry about it being sideways!  I can't seem to find the way to turn it.

click on any picture for a closer look
Once the machine has sewn them, I start by doing a preliminary cut out that goes around the fingers as a whole. 

Then I clip between the fingers close to the stitching. This ensures that the hands will lay nicely after they are turned; no hitching up in the crux of the fingers.  Then I do another pass around with the scissors close to the stitiching, but not as close as the slips in the V's of the fingers.
  I  fray block the fingers, starting at the wrist, going around the fingers, and then ending at the other side of the wrist. You can do the fraycheck at any stage after you sew the fingers to just before turning.  I have done it both before and after the final pass of the scissors.  I have noticed that it is a bit easier to turn the fingers if they are not totally dry.  
Now comes the not so easy part: turning the fingers. This is where it really pays to have the tools. Years ago, I purchased tiny turning tubes on the recommendation of a fellow doll maker I met at a GW retreat, and boy I am so glad I did! They make turning tiny fingers a lot easier. If you don't have the brass turning tubes, you can also use the tube on a small paint brush and a tooth pick with a flat edge.   Any tube that will fit into the finger will work, even coffee stir straws.
brass turning tubes
tube from spotter brush
Finish the raw edge by turning over and basting.  How much to turn over will be in the instructions from Gail Wilson.
I like to turn up a cuff, to make it easier to hold the tube.   Slip the tube up inside one of the fingers or the thumb and then open the side seams and flatten them as flat as you can against the finger.  I have a video that shows how I turn the fingers, please excuse the background noise, I was listening to a movie at the time.   After you have the first tube in the finger, place the other tube or the flat end of a tooth pick on top of the finger over the fabric so it nestles in the first tube with the fabric between them. Think of a sandwich of inside tube, fabric, then flat toothpick.  Don't try to push the tooth pick down, but instead slip the fabric up over the toothpick. In the video it looks as if I am pushing down, but I am really mostly slipping the fabric up over the toothpick while holding the tubes against one another.  Hard to explain, but it works.  It's also important not to have too much of a seam allowance. 
The important thing is to take your time and to back up and start over if things are not moving along well.   

The pinky finger is the hardest because it is the smallest, so start with the thumb to get a feel for how it works.  Then move onto the smaller fingers. Also, if things are not going as well as you wanted, try getting just a tip of the finger turned and then try and pull it out the rest of the way after you have the others pulled. It only takes a bit of turned fabric for the hemostats to grab to be able to pull the rest outside right. Having said that,  BE CAREFUL not to put holes in your fingers unless you are going for that really antiqued/worn out look.   Holes in fingers are another accidently on purpose thing that happens in doll making. If it happens you can get a really sweet look by darning said hole and it makes the doll look well loved.

After they are turned, I like to use my hemostats as fingers and finger press the seams flat - not open, just flatten them out.

Here is my stash of doll body parts, ready for stuffing tomorrow.
Some of you probably noticed the open back seam in the body. Yup, I tweaked the pattern because I really like being able to stuff from a seam instead of from the bottom. To do this, make an extra body back pattern and cut in half down the center where the center back seam would be.  Then when drawing the pattern on the fabric add a seam allowance to the cut part (the center back seam).  Then sew the seam leaving a section of the back unsewn.  Press open the seams and voila, you now have your back piece with a center seam to stuff from. 
 If you want to, you can leave two areas in the center back seam open, one in the center top half where shoulder points are and one in the center bottom area, say where a tail bone would be.
Run a gather stitch around the butt section and pin to front bottom matching centers. Pin the important parts first: center head, sides of head, neck, center and side of bottom, waist, neck, shoulder points, and then some additional points halfway between what you already pinned. Easing where necessary, sew all around the body.   Where did I get this open area center back seam idea from?  Many of Gail's patterns use this technique - the cloth fashion doll for one.  I learn something new with every one of her patterns that I make.  This is why I like the try them all!    
  Have some doll fun today - Julie

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