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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.