Building a Character – How To Make Your Dolls Come Alive

Here are pages 109 – 116 of Mimi’s Earth Angels Storyboard Workshop.  This section begins with how to build a character and ends with picture-by-picture instructions for fitting the clothing to your particular doll.

Building a Character

A doll becomes alive when it is “somebody” instead of “something.” To a child, with a free imagination, a handkerchief doll, a clothespin doll, a pipe cleaner doll or a Raggedy Ann doll is “somebody.” Each doll has a name and a life of its own. The child invests its own emotion into the doll to make it live.

To an adult, a doll must invoke an emotion, or the memory of an emotion to seem alive. If the doll invokes a memory of times past, or of childhood dreams unfulfilled, it will live only in a collection on a shelf with the faded memories of childhood. If the doll’s life is strong enough to bring out the child within the adult, it can lead to fulfillment of those lost dreams. But if the doll creates an emotion and life in the present tense, through a sense of empathy and wonder, by recalling and recreating the human condition, then It becomes sculpture or Art. Then has the doll’s creator gained immortality by communicating beyond the bounds of time.

Let the Doll Come Alive

She was a dollmaker.
She made what she could of the doll,
until it came alive in her hands
and made what it could
of itself.

Creating a living doll is like creating anything else: at some point, the doll will take over and shape itself. The wise dollmaker knows that there is a time for discipline to enforce the basic shape of humanity, and a time to let go and let what will be, be.

Planning a Character

As an artist, you have a certain idea of what you would like to create — what it looks like, what it feels like, what it says to others. It is easiest to control the appearance of your work, for that you shape directly with your hands. You can plan the appearance of your doll by selecting the skin, eye, and hair colors, the racial features of the face, and the cut, colors, and style of the costume. This book has tried to show you how to make your doll dreams into reality.

A living character is more than appearance. You plan a character by giving it a name, a biography, a pose, and a costume. If the sum of these things forms a whole and evokes an emotion in the viewers, your work has life

If you are sensitive to it, your work will tell you its name and biography as you shape its body. Then you need only add pose and costume to help it express itself.

Naming Your Character

Like a person, a character has a name. For our children, we look through books for the meanings of names in the hopes that our children will live up to the name we give them. More primitive peoples wait until the child is older (to be sure it will survive), and base the name on the character the child has already shown.

You may name your doll before you begin, or you may wait until your doll tells you who she is. If you choose the name first, your doll will try to live up to her name. If you let your doll choose her own name, you will learn something from her.

Biography Builds Character

A biography expands on your doll’s name by giving her a past and a future. A student of psychology will recognize that the past controls the body language of the present and the expectations of the future. The past shows in our pose, expression, costume, and image. It dictates both how we perceive and treat ourselves, and how others perceive and treat us. By giving your doll a past, you determine her future.

A biography need only be a sentence or two. Where does she come from? Who were her parents? What are her aspirations? Then pose her and dress her accordingly.

Posing and Expression

We recognize expression by the shape of the eyes and the mouth, by the tilt of the head, by the bend of the elbow or knee, by the curl of a finger — by all those things which reflect our inner state of mind upon our body. You must sculpt the shape of Earth Angel’s face when first you make her. It is one of the things that will tell you who she is, To make her body match, you need only put the same expression on your own face and allow your own body to flow Into the matching position. Then copy the body language Into Earth Angel’s pose. Her head will twist and tilt. Her elbows and knees can be ladder stitched in any position. Her wrists will twist and turn. Her fingers will curl and close.

Costume and Image

A costume and its accessories merely refines the image of the character and makes it more obvious to the viewer. The right costume accentuates the character, even when the character is hiding behind the costume.

Princess Askara looks regal without her costume. “Princess” is built into her face and her posture. The costume merely tells you why she is regal.

Similarly, an Angel of Punk Rock tells you that she is hiding and afraid to let the world see who she really is, because the world might see her as nobody. Her costume says: “Look at me!” but her body language says: “I am just like all the others — you can’t tell I’m not really here.”

Earthbound Angel

Titania,
born not of the Families,
must abandon her wings,
bid freedom to Pegasus,
and become an Earthbound Angel
In whose life
the Seeds of the Wheel are sewn.

Diana de Los Angeles

Diana de Los Angeles was born with a golden spoon in her mouth and a silver chalice at her side. She lives in Marina Del Mar on-board a 48 foot Choy Lee trawler. She can tell you to the last monel screw why she thinks the Choy Lee is better than the Grand Banks trawler, and why none of the other trawlers are worthy of the name. She also owns a 51 foot Morgan Out Island ketch that she charters in the Caribbean. It is rigged for single-handing from the cockpit. She has participated in the Around-The-World Solo Sailboat Races. She is at home with a LORAN or a computer, or doing a major engine overhaul at sea. She has survived a hurricane at sea by lying awash. She has been knocked down and rolled over, but never defeated.

Betty Mae Bearcat

Betty Mae Bearcat was born and raised in Florida. She discovered at an early age that she couldn’t compete with the Golden Girls and didn’t want to spend her life as a supermarket checker or live in a ticky-tack town. During her adolescence, her best friends were alligators, and she learned more about poachers and swamps than it was safe to know. Now she holds the Unofficial Women’s Title in Unlimited Class Air Boat Racing and works for the Drug Enforcement Administration. She still knows more about swamps than it’s safe to know, but she’s awfully fast.

Rusty Rhinestone

Neither Rusty nor Rhinestone are her real names. When she grew up in a small town in Texas, her flaming red hair earned her the name of Rusty. She moved to the East Coast to find her fortune, working for a time as a dealer in an Atlantic City casino where she added Rhinestone to her name and two children to her responsibilities. Cursed with both beauty and taste, she never thought of herself as intelligent because nobody valued her for those qualities. She moved to The City to try her luck as a model, but neither Ford nor Elite found her exotic enough. She survived as a pattern model, furnishing her wardrobe from the samples that were pinned on her. When attending the Fashion Institute of Technology, she became fascinated with electronic design machines and computer graphics. She now has a degree in Computer Science and a new career selling Digital Video Effects machines to the television industry. She hopes to join the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers soon. And she still wears her West Texas cowboy boots.

Princess Askara

Princess Askara is a real princess from a tribe in West Africa. She came to the United States to study Political Science at George Washington University in the District of Columbia. Her beauty and regal poise soon attracted attention and she became a top cover model earning valuable foreign exchange for her country. She will be returning home soon, and hopes that the symbology of the spear and the flowers will help her people understand that there is more to the world than a small, proud, but impoverished country.

Costume and Accessory Notes

The sunglasses and earrings for Diana de Los Angeles are children’s toys found in a local pharmacy. The straw hats for Diana de Los Angeles and Betty Mae Bearcat were found in a local craft shop where they are usually used with flowers and ribbons.

The costume pieces for Rusty Rhinestone are completely described in this book.

Princess Askara’s spear is a 1/4 Inch wooden dowel rod cut about 30 inches long. The end has been partially pointed in a pencil sharpener and then sanded smooth. It has been stained with a mixture of Burnt Umber and Raw Sienna artists colors (in tubes) diluted with water and rubbed in with a paper towel. Her earrings are real wooden earrings with the ear wires removed and are sewn in place. Her necklace, bracelet, and anklet are assorted beads found at craft shops. The flower is selected from the artificial flowers at the craft shop. Her copper snake arm band is made from a piece of the same copper wire used for a neck support with the plastic insulation removed. It is fitted to her arm before cutting the ends, and the ends are filed smooth to prevent snags in the fabric before it is put into place.

If you are sensitive to it, your work will tell you its name and biography as you shape its body. Then you need only add pose and costume to help it express itself.

Altering Clothing Patterns to Fit

One of the beauties of cloth dolls is that no two dolls are exactly alike. Your doll may be thinner or fatter than mine. It is easy to adjust the clothing patterns to fit your doll exactly.

  1. Begin by tracing the pattern pieces on a paper towel or pellon. Mark the stitching line, not the cutting line. Cut out the traced pattern leaving lots of extra space around the stitching lines. On a pattern piece with a fold line, don’t leave extra where the fold will go.
  2. Pin the traced pattern to the doll. In the case of the tank top shown here, the fold line goes down the middle of the doll’s back.
  3. Now pin the pattern on the doll so that it fits properly. Tear or cut the edge, or make darts as necessary. Add extra by using transparent tape on both sides of the pattern piece (so that it sticks to itself, not to something else). Using a soft pencil, mark the new stitching line. On a chubby doll such as this, the new stitching line will be outside the original stitching line.
  4. Flatten the pattern piece back out. You will see both the old and new stitching lines (left). Trace the new stitching lines onto a piece of tracing paper (right).
  5. EA-Sample_html_236fc323If you place the new pattern piece on top of (left) or next to (right) the old one, you can see how different they are.
  6. If the pattern piece you are adjusting has a dart, make the dart in the paper or pellon pattern and adjust it also as needed.

Hints:

  • Make a test garment from inexpensive fabric to check fit before using your fashion fabric.
  • You may have to make multiple pattern fittings and possibly multiple test garments.

Mimi’s Earth Angels
On Sale Until 12/31/13 – $25.00 (Reg $30.00)

Download Electronic PDF files

The electronic files are approximately 105 MB. Most high-speed Internet connections in the United States or Canada download the files in 5 minutes or less. We haven’t heard of any problems with downloading time.

When you order Mimi’s Earth Angels by download, you will receive a return email with download links as soon as we can send it out. Please be sure that your email address listed with PayPal is correct.

Please be patient. It’s just Mimi and Jim and we have to process each order by hand.

Download Files Anywhere in the World $25
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Earth Angels is Back! — The Story Behind the Story

Mimi’s Earth Angels is finally back! It has taken almost a year to rework Earth Angels into a new and better book.

Earth Angels was originally written in 1986 – before we had computers that can do a whole book at a time. The original pictures were taken with a film camera and individually “screened” in the darkroom to make halftones that are used for offset printing. There was no easy way to get the original pictures into the computer. We had to scan the printed pictures from a copy of the book and then re-optimize them, one-by-one, for the computer.

The original text was created on the computer, printed out, and then pasted around the pictures to make the book. The original text was not available. We had to scan the text and use Optical Character Recognition (OCR) to recreate it. OCR has an accuracy of 99%. That means that one of every 100 characters was wrong. That’s why we had to do major proof reading. (A thank you to the five proof readers is on page 13.)

The original patterns were made to be printed on 22″ by 38″ paper for easy printing. We had to redo all the pattern sheets to fit on 8½” by 11″ paper.

But those were the small problems. The big problem was the 1990 update. When you are dealing with a paper book, you can put notes here and there to tell the reader to read the pages in different order. That doesn’t work on a computer. Because the 1990 update introduced a separate head, the entire sequence had to be changed. Do the head first, so you can try again if you don’t like it. Then do the body. The original Earth Angels had an attached head and was stuffed from an opening in the crotch. The revised Earth Angels had a separate head and was stuffed through the neck. The new Earth Angel was much easier to make, but we had to shuffle the whole book (and write new instructions).

The other big problem was that the original Earth Angels was meant to be read in portrait mode (short edge at the top, binding on the left) but modern screen sizes on computers work much better in landscape mode (short edge on the sides, binding at the top). We changed every page and every picture to make the book work in landscape mode.

We think the result is amazing! We had a great book when we started, now we have an amazing book! Here’s the description:

Princess Kalayla

Princess Kalayla
24″ cloth doll
Displayed by invitation at the Louvre, Paris.

Rusty

Mimi’s Earth Angels is the double-knit fashion doll statement for all cloth dollmakers.

  • Beginers — Over 1000 step-by-step photos in a storyboard format. Each picture is side-by-side with the instructions for the step. No skipped steps.
  • Intermediates — You are learning techniques, that apply to all your dollmaking.
  • Advanced cloth dollmakers — Explanation of how to change different features when you design your own variations or your own dolls.
  • Costumers — a wonderful doll to design and sew clothes for. Includes a section on how to design characters.”
  • Includes patterns for both 24-inch and 17-inch fashion dolls and basic contemporary clothing.
  • Includes instructions for fitting clothes to your particular doll (which may be a much different size than my doll).

Over 1000 step-by-step pictures guide you through every facet of making Mimi’s Earth Angels. Beautiful, full-figured 17″ and 24″ fashion dolls with basic contemporary clothing including: underwear, swimwear, sarong, tank top, designer jeans, slacks, shorts, man-tailored shirt with variations, sandals, boots, crocheted jacket and vest.

  • Full-sized, cut-out patterns.
  • You are licensed to sell dolls made from this pattern.
  • Mimi’s Earth Angels includes 168-page instruction book, certificate, hang tag, easy new head and foot patterns, and 17″ and 24″ pattern sheets.
Contents

  • Introduction to the 3rd Edition – 2013
  • Introduction to the 2nd Edition – 1990

What’s New

  • The New Pattern Pieces
  • Assembling Pattern Pieces

About the Designer

Contents – Subject Finder

Mimi’s Page

  • Thank You

Some Comments on Perfection

  • What to Expect

Tools, Tips and Techniques

  • Making and Using Mimi’s Stuffing Tool
  • Preserving Your Patterns
  • Finding the Right Side of Double Knit Stretch Fabric
  • How to Tie a Square knot
  • Choosing & Using Electric Glue Guns

Mimi’s Hints for Dollmakers

  • Marking Patterns
  • Gutting the Fabric
  • Sewing the Dollskin
  • Stuffing Techniques
  • Sculpting Techniques
  • Sealing Techniques
  • Joints
  • Hair
  • Eyes
  • Dolls for Children
  • Miscellaneous
  • Signing your work
  • Photographing Your Work
  • Cleaning Your Doll

License to Reproduce Dolls For Sale by Artisan

Special Notes (1990 Update)

Materials and Sources

Tools for Earth Angel & Dollmaking

Considerations for Beginners

Ethnic Variations

Getting Things in Order

Cutting Layout

Making Earth Angel

The Head

  • Tracing the Face Features
  • Eye Options
  • Shaping the Eyes
  • Iron-on Eyes (Optional)
  • Sew-on Eyes (Optional)
  • Embroidered Eyes (Optional)
  • Painting the Eyes (Optional)
  • Marking or Painting the Eyebrows (Optional)
  • Marking or Painting the Eyelashes (Optional)
  • Sewing the Head
  • Stuffing the Head
  • Sculpting the Eyes (Optional)
  • Sculpting the Nose (Optional)
    • Sculpting the Bridge of the Nose (Original Method)
    • Sculpting the Base of the Nose (Original Method)
    • Sculpting the Middle Nose (Original Method)
  • Sculpting the Lips (Optional)
  • Making the Ears (Optional)
    • Attaching the Ears

The Arms

  • Sewing the Arm and Hand
  • Interfacing the Palms (Optional)
  • Stitch the Arm and Hand
  • Turning the Fingers
  • Finishing the Hand
  • Wiring the Fingers (Alternate Option)
  • Making Knuckles & Forming Thumbs (Optional)
  • Stuffing the Forearms
  • Adding the Wrist Bone (Optional)
  • Stuffing the Upper Arm & Adding Arm Joint
  • Closing the Arm – Ladder Stitching
  • Sculpting the Elbow (Optional)
  • Sculpting the Wrist (Optional)

Assembling Torso

  • Assembling Torso Front
  • Assembling Torso
  • Preparing Torso Sides
  • Assembling Legs and Feet
  • Attaching Legs to Body

Stuffing & Sculpting the Doll

  • Foot Plate (Optional)
  • Stuffing the Foot
  • Sculpting Toes (Optional)
  • Adding Ankle Bones & Sculpting Ankle (Optional)
  • Stuffing the Legs
  • Sculpting the Knee (Optional)
  • Stuffing Lower Torso and Waist
  • Sculpting the Bottom (Optional)
  • Sculpting Buttocks Dimples (Optional)
Attaching the Arms

  • Stuffing the Upper Torso
  • Stuffing the Bust
  • Making the Neck Support (Optional)
  • Sculpting the Bust

Attaching the Head

Finishing Touches

  • Adding Eye Shadow (Optional)
  • Adding Lip Color (Optional)
  • Finishing Face Color (Optional)
  • Sculpting the Belly Button (Optional)
  • Sculpting the Nipples (Optional)

Hair, Character and Costume

  • And Finally

Selecting the Hair Style

Making Doll Hair (Optional)

  • Wefting the Yarn for Hair
  • Preparing Gluing Tools
  • Marking Hair Lines
  • Starting the Hair
  • Putting Hair on the Front of Head
  • Putting Hair on the Back of Head
  • Fluffing Short Hair
  • Trimming Short Hair
  • Fluffing Long Hair
  • Trimming Long Hair

Finishing Your Doll (Optional)

  • Toenails (Optional)
  • Fingernails (Optional)
  • Blush (Optional)
  • Finished Doll

Building a Character

  • Let the Doll Come Alive
  • Planning a Character
  • Naming Your Character
  • Biography Builds Character
  • Posing and Expression
  • Costume and Image
  • Earthbound Angel
  • Diana de Los Angeles
  • Betty Mae Bearcat
  • Rusty Rhinestone
  • Princess Askara
  • Costume and Accessory Notes

Altering Clothing Patterns to Fit

Underwear / Swimwear

  • Cutting
  • Panty / Bikini Bottom
  • Bra / Bikini Top
  • Beach Towel and Accessories

Askara’s Sarong

  • Cutting
  • Sarong Body
  • Sarong Tie

Tank Top

  • Cutting
  • Tank Top

Designer Jeans / Slacks / Shorts

  • Cutting
  • Legs
  • Pockets
  • Assembling
  • Waistband

Man-Tailored Shirt with Variations

  • Cutting
  • Making the Shirt Body
  • Adding the Tie Collar
  • Adding the Business Collar
  • Adding and Finishing Short Sleeves
  • Adding and Finishing Long Sleeves
  • Finishing the Hem

Sandals

  • Cutting
  • Assembling the Sandals

Rusty’s Boots

  • Heels and Soles
  • Protecting the Doll – Glue Barrier
  • Making Fabric Substrate
  • Plasticizing the Fabric
  • Filling and Painting
  • Removing the Boots
  • Finishing the Boots

Crocheted Jacket / Vest

  • Jacket / Vest Body
  • Ribbing
  • Body
  • Shape Neck
  • Back
  • Collar
  • Sleeves (Jacket Only)
  • Cuff
  • Sleeve
  • Sleeve Cap
  • Assemble Vest
  • Install Zipper
  • Add Sleeves
  • How to Loop Stitch

Mimi’s Earth Angels
On Sale Until 12/31/13 – $25.00 (Reg $30.00)

Download Electronic PDF files

The electronic files are approximately 105 MB. Most high-speed Internet connections in the United States or Canada download the files in 5 minutes or less. We haven’t heard of any problems with downloading time.

When you order Mimi’s Earth Angels by download, you will receive a return email with download links as soon as we can send it out. Please be sure that your email address listed with PayPal is correct.

Please be patient. It’s just Mimi and Jim and we have to process each order by hand.

Download Files Anywhere in the World $25
Please Use this Button (opens a new tab):

To order a CD instead of a download, please visit http://Mimidolls.Com

Mimi is Okay!

Mimi has No Evidence of Disease (NED) which is what they call remission now-a-days. She still has the peripheral neuropathy problems from the chemotherapy, but can drive again and is working, but slowly. I’ll try to get a more complete report out in the next few days.

We got a lot of good input from the proofreaders for Earth Angels. Each person found a different type of stuff, and everybody found some things that no one else did. I have another day or two to put the corrections in, and then I should have a status report on Earth Angels also. (The patterns are all bitmaps, and they print too slowly – I’m working on that.)

Happy Dolling,
Jim

General Update: Screaming Mimis, Work-in-Progress, Cancer Report, Next Project, Earth Angels, Help Wanted

Hi Everybody.

I have a bunch of stuff today and the first item is related to the Screaming Mimis, I originally posted this to the Screaming Mimi’s, but the new Yahoo interface is poorly designed. It took me a long time to figure out how to post. I’m posting here, in case you didn’t get it there.

 Thank you Sandra for doing a thorough job of finding us alternatives. You’re doing exactly the right thing by looking for the simplest, easy-to-use, format. I had a great deal of trouble just figuring out how to post, now that Yahoo is still messed up. We both really appreciate your work! Without you it wouldn’t have happened.

Mimi is working on refurbishing some of her class-sample dolls. She has some good gallery opportunities through the Southwest Florida Fine Craft Guild. Her next series will be elves and fairies. She needs a doll that is simple and fast to make because the chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) won’t let her hands work for long periods of time at the same thing. The elves are simpler to sew, simpler to stuff, simpler to pose, and simpler to dress. The trick is to make them sophisticated while simple.

Mimi has had 6-weeks of intensive therapy for her hands and feet, and is doing almost everything again, including driving, but in smaller doses. Over the next  three or four weeks, we should have the results back from the scans, and know what’s happened to the cancer.

I have completely rewritten Mimi’s Earth Angels. This was our second book. Earth Angels is for a 24″ fashion doll. The patterns include both 17″ and 24″ dolls and 160, 8-1/2 by 11″ pages of storyboard, picture-by-picture, photos. There are slightly over 1,000 photos. The costumes include bikini/underwear, tank top, man-tailored shirt with variations, shorts/slacks/jeans, shoes, and a crocheted jacket. The instructions show you how to adjust costume patterns to fit your dolls.

It should be ready to go out near the beginning of November. It is too big to fit on a CD, so we have put it on a DVD-ROM (which most computers can read – it is NOT for TV viewing).

We need some help. We need 2 more proof-readers. Since a lot of the text was read in from a printed copy of the book, our 99% accurate optical character reader program has one character wrong every 100 characters. It’s a big book. If you like proof-reading, and are good at it, you may be able to help us. Here’s what’s involved:

You do NOT have to make a doll.

1. Download the draft copy of the patterns and book. It is 1.2 Gigabytes long. It takes an hour to download here on Comcast cable. It took 6 hours in Berkley, CA on an independent Internet service provider. It may also seriously eat into your data-cap as it will take as much data as a two hour movie.

2. Read it over and make notes on anything you find wrong. put the notes in an email to me so I can make corrections. I need to know by page and location, exactly where the problem is, and what is wrong. We’re using email because markup and return files takes too much time and data.

3. Please get it done in the next week so we can get it out in early November. I’ll be working on the packaging and web page while you are reading.

The time or data cost for downloading may be a problem. The need to read rapidly may be a problem.

You’ll get a copy of the published Storyboard Workshop DVD-ROM.

The final price is expected to be about $25 for the download with shipping added for DVD-ROM. I expect there to be some kind of price break for Christmas for both  Mimi’s Earth Angels, and also on a single DVD-ROM containing all three of the knit-fabric storyboard books, Mimi’s Adam and Eva, Mimi’s Earth Angels, and Mimi’s Universal Toddler.

Anyway, if you’re interested in helping by proof-reading, please drop me an email at: Jim (at) JimWiner (dot) Com. I’m sorry, I have to limit this to 2 proof-readers.

Happy Dolling,

Jim