Letters to the Editor – What Goes on Behind the Scene?

Both Mimi and Jim are writing this post, Basically, Jim is the active voice (me) and I will indicate things Mimi has said.

We got a very small number of complaints about various aspects of our Needle Model a Pretty Face DVD. If you want to understand the complaints you’ve got to understand the players. So, here’s a quick rundown of the Entire cast of three characters:

Mimi’s a double genius! She’s a genius at designing and making dolls, and she’s a genius at teaching others to learn techniques they can apply to their own doll creations. Mimi’s an Artist. Mimi is also the originator of doll class conventions. Back in the 1990’s Mimi wanted to study with Lisa Lichtenfels (NIADA). Lisa was willing to teach a class to make the travel and time away from her work palatable, and Mimi was too broke to pay Liza’s fee and her own travel expenses, and so the first Master Artist Class at Dollmaker’s University took place in Mimi’s basement. Mimi found nine other dollmakers who wanted to take a class with Lisa. Mimi extended the idea to some of the NIADA (National Institute of American Doll Artists) artists trying to find a way to pay for their trip to the NIADA Conventions and helped set up the teaching programs at NIADA. She took the same idea to magazine editors, and store owners, and others, and soon there were dollmaking conventions open to the general public and advertised in major crafts magazines where you could go to take classes from other well-known doll artists.

Jim’s a computer nerd and a writer, and an illustrator, and a photographer, and anything else technical that you could think of. Jim’s currently available. Project Managers should visit JimWiner.Com to find out how to get good technology writing to the people who need it, when they need it, and how they need it.

So there is an Art Versus Technology “issue.”

Cassi’s the third person. Her job is to talk electronically to dollmakers and quilters in places where we don’t already know about them, and where they don’t know about us. We used to have 50,000 cloth doll makers a few years ago Maybe we still do, but most of them are not on the Internet? What will happen if we work together as a family? Can we get more people interested in the hobby of cloth dollmaking?

Mimi is an Artist. She has specific ways of working. She is not a Television Actress. She gets involved in what she’s doing and gets off her mark and you can’t see her for a while. I tried actually operating the camera when we started. She moves too fast! I can’t follow her fast with a close-up – she out runs the camera, and worse, it tries to autofocus because she’s moving. Shooting over her shoulder with a video monitor in front of her, we had two choices: 1) use a wide field of view which would let her move around more, but what she was doing would be very hard to see because it was too far away and small, 2) use a narrow field of view (that means we have to lock the autofocus because she gets her head in front of the camera) and she gets out of her spot where you can’t see her occasionally because she forget’s to look at the monitor. The compromise we got worked fairly well. It prevented Mimi from moving around too much and we got a pretty good DVD.

The sound could have used some improvement, but it’s the first time I actually edited the sound as well as the picture and the story.

So, basic technical and artistic issues aside, here are some of the comments we got and Mimi’s answers to them:

Q: I want the doll face to be of the same fabric as the rest of the doll.

MIMI: It takes a knit or quite stretchy fabric to stitch a face with lots of detail. However, until last year, I never used an overlay.

My dolls were mostly all muslin. If you put the face pattern on the bias of the woven fabric you will have a bit more stretch. You will be able to do a closed mouth but not an open one – it takes a great deal of stretch to  create an open mouth. Most folks do not like a seam down the front of the face, but that is not why I began using the overlay. The knit or spandex overlay allows me to get much more detail in the face.

Without an overlay you will need a center front seam on the head or you cannot have a profile or even a nose that actually look like a nose. That is why I have a “skull” under the overlay it has a seam so the face will have a
realistic nose. If the seam allowance is kept narrow , evenly trimmed and straight the seam will not be noticeable. To make the seam “disappear” be sure the seam allowance is even, notched and snipped so it follows the curve of the head. if the seam allowance becomes twisted it will cause a bump, usually on the forehead or at the tip of the nose and that is the first thing one sees when viewing the doll.

My patterns of Jazz and Victoria Rose are made from muslin and have faces of muslin, They are “stump” heads, which are part of the torso, the face is added after the torso is stuffed but the face is also muslin. needle modeling instructions are included.

You can use the DVD instructions on a doll face without an overlay but use the directions for a closed mouth. Use the nose on the skull and the eyes and mouth for the overlay. It is quite doable,

Q: I like movable joints, including the neck.

MIMI: I used joints on my early dolls, The Universal Toddler and Earth Angels. but for the past 20 or so years I have preferred head and arms stitched into the pose I want. Unless the dolls are to be toys for a child
who will constantly repose them, joints are not necessary. (In my opinion.)

Q: I want the naked bald doll to be as beautiful as the finished doll with clothes and hair.

So Do I, That’s why I like to do dancers with as little clothing as possible.

High Priestess

Mimi's High Priestess

Moon Dancer Side

Drawing Down the Moon

Michael Dances Spartacus

Michael Dances Spartacus

After working for many years to perfect my realistic human bodies I hate to cover them up. You can have a bald head, but you have to use the directions on the DVD for covering the back of the head. The needle modeling of the face usually distorts the back and top of the head. I simply cut an oval of knit or woven fabric (cut on the bias) and stitch it to the back of the head. Before I finish stitching the covering closed I stuff a bit of fiberfil inside to re-shape the back of  the head and the top if it needs it.  If you look a the photos of the heads on my DVD cover you will see that my hairless head looks just fine. It does not have to be lumpy and ugly. That’s why I shape the overlay pattern to fit the head not just use a circle or oval of fabric and glue the overage to the back of the head as some do.


Q: I would like more information on differences in the face for a male
face, a child face, a baby face and different emotions.

MIMI: A baby face has all the features in the lower half of the face, the lower the features the younger the face.

A male face has a square jaw, slightly longer chin, a wider mouth and a larger and often longer nose. Eventually I may do a DVD for where to put the dots for masculine and ethnic faces as well as children. The technique is exactly the same, the difference is where you put the dots and how you design the skull shape.

There are several sections in the DVD that show how to get emotion by moving the brows, cheeks, and corners of the mouth.

Incidentally, if you sign up for an email subscription using the button on the bottom right of the screen, we’ll tell you by email every time something new is posted.



7 thoughts on “Letters to the Editor – What Goes on Behind the Scene?

  1. I bought your DVD when you first released it and was happy with my very first head! I did notice that you were out of frame a few times, but the way you taught on video was as if you were in my studio teaching. You just talked to us and I loved it. Don’t worry about the nay sayers, you will always have them. I wish I could afford to attend a class on body sculpting with you, but I can’t afford the prices of the doll conventions. I am hoping that you will make a video on sculpting the male chest and (other parts) and sculpting a woman!!!

    Thank you, Mimi. I appreciate you as a fellow dollmaker and artist.

  2. Thank you so much. That makes me feel so good.

    We have a free instruction sheet on needle modeling a male chest for Stretch the Elf that appeared in Soft Dolls & Animals – I will send you a copy as it won’t be on the web site for a few more days.

    Our next video is Mimi’s Mermaid which includes a beautiful female body as well as a simpler needle modeled head. (You will have to add your own legs, but the ones from Victoria Rose can be adjusted to fit – You may have to make up a few to make them fit – you may like the Victoria Rose body too, but that one is not a video.) We hope to have Mimi’s Mermaid ready by the end of March or early April.

    Some of the next patterns scheduled are Stud Muffin (an outdoors man) and the High Priestess. We don’t know yet if they will be videos, because they may be too long to fit on two discs (more than that makes them too expensive), and we don’t know if there will be enough interest.

    Happy Dolling,

  3. Dear Mimi, I do have your video and just love it! It was just what I was looking for to improve my needle sculpting techniques I see an improvement in my current projects.I also want to thank you for introducing Lisa to me,her work is inspiring. I am signed up for your class at AFIC and look forward to meeting you there.Thanks for all your hard work! Vicki Petticord

  4. I met you one at we Folk, I was there 3 time. I loved those convention they were great fun.
    I still do cloth doll also clay doll
    and many quilts for the family.
    Thank you for all your tutorial.

  5. Dear Jim and Mimi,
    Although I haven’t tried making a face yet (you know how life gets in the way, like taking mice to the vet), but I’ve been watching the video while knitting. I’m on my second time through. You’ve done a great job. Thank you for sharing your expertise in an affordable manner!

  6. I’ve had my computer over 2 months and I can’t get anything done for looking at doll stuff on the computer. I got your dvd from dollmakersjourney. I love it, you know I love everything you ever designed. Please let me know when you have new patterns available.

    • I’m glad you enjoy my patterns. There will be a new free pattern announced here within the next few days, and the new Mimi’s Modular Mermaid Dollmaking Workshop on DVD will be out in early June. The best way to find out is to click the “Sign Me Up” button in the right hand column of any page. That will get you an email notice every time something new is posted here.

      Happy Dolling,

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