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March 29, 2012

I finished!  I'm sure I'll be doing lots of tweaking to the bits I didn't like before the due date rolls around, but otherwise, it's done!  Since I had done so much prep work, when the time came to do the camera work, it only took about an hour.  I ended up with a 45 second video, which includes opening and  closing credits.

The program I ended up using is called Frames.  It didn't crash on me every step of the way, like Windows Movie Maker or MonkeyJam, and it didn't force me to lay every single picture on a different track, like Wax.  Plus I had options to control exactly how long every frame was, and could easily apply them to each frame.  The only thing this program was missing was a fade-to-black option for the transitions and an option for fading audio.  They had a large range of options for exporting to video, which got me all kinds of varying results.  I finally just kept playing with the expert mode until I produced a clear video with decent audio.  Fortunately they offer a full feature 30 day trial, and my project is due April 10.

I think this is the most exciting thing I've ever done in college.
March 28, 2012

With the doll finished, I'm now ready to attempt to make an animation of her.  This involves quite a bit of experimenting and learning new things!

The first thing, of course, was to build a 'stage.'  I ended up pulling out a lightbox kit my dad had given me ages ago and discovered it was plenty big enough to use with my Obitsu.  I've got a fairly good setup, if a bit plain, although I'm learning how best to use it for this project with the good old-fashioned 'make changes til it works' approach.  lighting is SO difficult, yet so important with photography.  I know natural sunlight is best but have no interest in adding natural elements to the chaos.  Of course, it's set up in front of a big window so who knows what kind of effect that's having on it?  Now that I've gotten most of the shadows out of the way I may add some props.  

I also have to become a choreographer.  I'm not very good at that, but I'll do my best.  I need to know where I'm going to move her, and how many positions to have her in.  At this point I don't really know how long it will take for her to accomplish each pose, but I'm aiming for 30 seconds to a minute of animation.   I've plotted out a little dance for her to do.  If it's too short I can lengthen it.  I suppose, since she's a 'clockwork doll,'  I can just rerun the sequence again if I need to.

I did a test run earlier, a simple spin, to see how much I need to actually move her in order to get a smooth animation.  The doll has magnets in her feet and has a circular piece of metal that serves as a stand.  In that stand is a small hole.  I'm really not sure why, but it gives me an excellent point of reference.  I drew on the 'stage' (a disused melamine bookshelf) a circle the size of the stand so that I will always know where to put the doll back to keep her in position.  Around that circle I made marks, (hopefully) evenly spaced, so I could line up the hole in the stand with each mark for turns.  I suppose I ought to figure out a way to keep the stand in place so I can rotate her, but this will work for now.  The pencil marks are not visible on the stage.  The full spin appears to take 2 seconds at 24 frames per second.  

I have got SO many photos on my hard drive right now, and I haven't started on the main project yet!
March 21, 2012

I think I've got everything on her that I wanted, except maybe the key.  It's really not that important.

I need to get lots of lighting lighting, find the tripod, and make a checklist of things I need to look at before taking a photo, like the tendency of her skirt to poof up on the one side, or of her corset to slide down.  Overall I'm pleased with how she looks.  It was not at ALL what I envisioned when I bought my Obitsu, but she definitely has charm.

March 13, 2012

Getting down to finishing touches.  You should always use a mirror and/or take a photo so you can see where you need to make corrections.  Fortunately you can barely see all the brush strokes.  I'm always in too much of a hurry to thin down the paint.  Even if I do, as with the cheek coloring, I spend ages reworking it to get it right.
March 8, 2012

This is my second attempt at hair, there may be a third.  The first time I thought, "I should make her hair look carved to make it look more like a doll."  So I made an attempt with air-drying clay.  I used the Crayola brand, but found it frustrating because it was very puffy.  It was like trying to flatten and carve a marshmallow.  I did manage a reasonable attempt, but it tore in a few places as it dried and shrunk.  So I decided to stick with what I know and pulled out the viscose.  I sewed in beads all throughout the bun, but you can only see three in the photo.  Frustrating.  I've also got the usual amount of wisps everywhere and will eventually work up the courage to water those down.  I don't think I can get away with hair spray.  I just hope I used enough glue!  With the previous incarnations of my Obitsu I made wigs on top of cling wrap so it would be removable, but decided not to bother here.

On her arms are some stickers I obtained from the scrapbooking section of Michaels a while back for mini book-making.  I wanted to see if they showed up properly in the photo without being overly shiny, for a decorative effect.  It sort of works, but I'm not sure if I like it yet.  I also used teeny round stickers on the other arm to make it look like hinges or screws.  There are round depressions in the doll's arm at those places anyway, I thought I'd highlight them using stickers rather than my gold pen.  It feels a little weird to be attempting to make a doll appear LESS lifelike!  
March 7, 2012

Here is the latest update.

It will take me hours to fiddle with the gathers on the overskirt, so I'm leaving that til last.

I made a slight change to the corset, namely the fastening in the back.  I gave up on the corset lacing as I found it too frustrating to adjust and readjust.  Instead, I scavenged the velcro from a Barbie dress, and sewed them on the corset.  One half I put facing out, half on the  fabric, half sticking out.  The other I put facing in, totally underneath the fabric with a slight fabric overhang.  it fits together cleanly so that the corset edges meet, although I have to do some fussing at the top still.  I could fake corset lacing on ribbon or a piece of the corset fabric and then glue that over top if I change my mind.  Because it's a plastic, articulated doll, I really want to be sure the clothing is removable.

I also made her slippers.  I used a pinkish doll skin cut in a thick U shape and some lace pieces. I cut out a piece of paper to the size of her foot and glued the fabric to that.  I didn't put a sole on as I was concerned too many layers of fabric would interfere with the magnet strength.

I learned some time ago that unless you're a REALLY good dancer, you shouldn't wear brightly colored shoes, as it will attract attention to the feet.  I did not want this particular doll to have any foot attention.  She has small, bland feet whose only worth is the awesomely strong magnets that hold her upright.  She also can't really stand on her toes or bend her foot anywhere but at the ankle, something I don't want people to notice in the animation.  I'll have to wait for daylight to try to get a good photo - the flash keeps washing them out.
March 4, 2012

Following a bizarre chain of events, I find myself completely remaking my 1/6 scale Obitsu doll into a clockwork dancer for a stop-motion animation project for school.

I've had a terrible time dressing my Obitsu because I never really liked the premade clothes for her (that I could find), and Barbie clothes rarely fit properly.  Patterns are minimal.  Plus, having mainly only worked in 1/12 scale, I was reluctant to take on a sewing project for a 'bigger' doll!  

Corset in progress
The clockwork doll project has totally taken off in a wild 'must finish' ride that has me struggling to keep up and to STOP and do something useful once in a while.  I'm now on version 2 of each part of her outfit and kept thinking 'I should record this so I can post a tutorial online!'  So here it is.  This post details the most complicated piece - the corset.  The skirts are basically circles with an X in the center.

My instructions aren't exact, as every doll is different, and your mental ideas for corsets will vary.  I am detailing what I did, and a few techniques to simplify the process.  You should be able to apply these to any doll.

What you'll need:
Fabric and matching thread
fabric glue (I use Aleene's tacky glue)
needle and pins
pencil/fabric pen
Iron and ironing board
paper and measuring tape (optional)
lightweight iron-on fabric interfacing

1.  Step one, of course, is to determine what style of corset you want for your doll, and create the pattern.  I designed mine to stop just below the bust and to fall to a center point.  I also curved it high enough so that it went up and around the doll's hips, so as not to hinder leg movement.  The corset turned out to be 4" wide and roughly 2" high for my 27cm Obitsu.  To get a symmetrical pattern, I folded the paper in half before cutting along the lines.  

2.  Next is determining dart placement.  Don't fear the dart.  They will work wonders in getting the fabric to hit the curves nicely.  Your central darts should fall in line with the nipple, princess style, so line everything up and draw equivalent lines on your pattern.  I also draw a small horizontal slash across the center so I know where the center is and roughly how far away to sew.  After you have these first two lines established, add more, evenly spaced around the corset.  I had four total, but now I think six would be better.  I left a quarter inch space between the edge and the end of the dart.  

3. Next, I transferred my pattern onto a lightweight piece of interfacing and cut it out.  I simply cut out my paper pattern and traced around it directly on the interfacing.  (Make sure you know which side has the glue and draw on the OTHER side.)  The important part here is getting the darts right, as you'll use these lines to sew them in.

P.S.  if you are using leather you can skip these interfacing directions.  But you're kind of on your own for how well your darts come out, as I haven't tried to make them with leather.  

4. Next, iron your piece of corset fabric and then iron on the interfacing, according to package directions.  I find it easier to cut the fabric to shape after ironing it on. 

5. Once the interfacing is ironed on, carefully cut out your fabric, adding a quarter inch seam allowance or slightly less around the interfacing.  Here you want to fold the fabric over along the edges of the interfacing, and you can glue or sew the edges down.  Carefully ironing the fold down can help before gluing/sewing.

-- A helpful tip - start with the corners first, folding at a 45 degree angle, and tack those down.  You can sort of see I've already done the top line in the picture.  then you can fold each edge down carefully, and you end up with a neat, mitred corner.   Here's a simple tutorial if you want a better explanation.  --

For the bottom, make straight cuts in the curved areas, up to the edge of the interfacing.  This will help ease the fabric neatly into the curves.  For the point, cut fabric away from it.  You may have to go ahead and glue part of it down first and then cut away the excess.  

Now, if you've been gluing, let it dry.  

6.  Next, sewing darts!    

Take your corset piece and fold it in half along one of the dart lines.  Starting at one end, sew small stitches, slowly getting farther away from the folded edge, until you get to the center, and then head back to the edge for the other end of the line, and tie off. My dart shouldn't be quite so curved, but it still works.  Repeat for each dart.  Your corset will start curving in on itself, but that's good.

Once you've finished the darts, it's time to decorate your corset!  I glued Bunka trim along the bottom edge.   It's a nice little bit of detail.  You may be most familiar with Bunka as the corded material tassels are made of.  It's rare to find yards of it in typical craft shops, I have better luck shopping online.  However, buying a premade tassel of the right color will probably provide plenty of material for a small project like this.     Other fun things you can do is add lace or beads or ribbon.

To make my bodice, I layered a strip of brown tulle and the orange fabric, sewed a tube long enough to go around her body, and then gathered it in the center.  To attach it the corset, I simply tacked it along the edge of the top of the corset.

Use a slightly heavier weight interfacing to reduce
sagging.  My fabric choice was really delicate,
but I didn't have a heavier interfacing handy.

Your corset is ready to wear!  Next we get to lacing.  

7.  For this part, I used heavy duty button thread by Coats and Clark.  It's thicker than normal thread, but still easy to sew with.  I used black because it was what I had on hand, I'm not actually sure if it comes in other colors.

This will feel a bit awkward, but it works.  Use TWO needles, one at each end of your thread.  Determine the middle of your thread, and then, moving from the inside out, draw one end through one side of the fabric, and the other end through the other.  Pull to make sure the center of the thread is in the center of the two corset ends.  Use your Obitsu's arms to help hold the corset still while you're working.

Next, you'll switch sides, going from the outside in, in an X.  Take care that your thread ends stay untangled and you're threading in a downward motion.  You'll figure this out pretty quick as you're doing it.  Repeat all the way down.

What you also need to be careful of is that your holes are spaced evenly, in line on each side. Otherwise your corset will end up crooked.  Fortunately it's easy to redo, as I had to do after taking this photo.  

Once at the bottom, you can tie in a bow.  Don't cut the excess thread until you're certain you won't need to take the corset off again!  Otherwise leave the threads long so you can loose the corset enough to take it off the doll without having to unthread the entire thing.  

I hope you found this quick tutorial useful!  Contact me if you have any questions.