Monday, September 8, 2014

Meet Horace

This is Horace. He is a mixed-media wall doll that I created out of ---are you ready for this?--- diaper wipes that I had used to dry up spills and wipe paint off my hands in my studio, cut into irregular shapes and collaged onto muslin.

Want to make your own? Here's a picture tutorial on how I put Horace together. Please don't hesitate to ask any questions in the comment section below.

First I cut out 2 muslin pieces, basically square but I didn't measure or use exacting tools. I ironed stabilizer (I think it was a Sulky tear-away) onto the back of both pieces. Then on the back/stabilizer side of one piece, I sketched the basic shape of the doll and went over the outline with black thread. This will be the outline I use to (1) fill with collage, and (2) sew the pieces together when I'm finished.

Next I took all the diaper wipes I had used previously to mop up paint spills or dab off extra bits of paint in previous projects. I had let them dry and set them aside and had actually just gotten them out to throw away when the inspiration for Horace came into my mind. In the white/empty spaces, I added more color and let them dry before using them. I cut all the pieces haphazardly and then filled up the reverse (right) sides of both pieces of muslin, attaching the pieces to the muslin with gel matte medium. I let them dry overnight.

I have this little bitty 4- or 5-inch fan that sits on my work table for HOT FLASHES (OMG somebody save me!!!) that is perfect for drying these little projects up. I usually weight them down with a little rock or pair of scissors and just leave them right in front of the fan overnight or while I go cook dinner or something.

Next I used a coordinating thread and a zig-zag stitch on my sewing machine to "quilt" all these pieces together. You MUST make sure everything is completely dry before this step or you'll ruin your sewing machine!!!! I only did this step on the piece that would make up Horace's back, but you could do it on the front and back if you like the effect. Since Horace is a "prototype" I tried different things on front and back to see what different effects I would get. On the front, I simply put the baby-wipe pieces down and adhered them to the muslin with gel matte medium, and then went over the entirety with a layer of medium once it had dried, then let it dry again.

Let me say here that I use steps like these to PRACTICE patience. People say, "I'm just not that patient." Well I don't think anyone is! But it's important to practice patience for times when you really need it. It helps you to be less irritated in line at the store, in traffic, etc. When I put a piece aside to dry and then come back to it a few hours later or even the next morning, it's a lovely surprise to see it again and gives me new inspiration.

Once the front and back pieces were completely dry, I placed them with the collaged sides IN, put the thread-sketched shape facing up on top, and went over this shape on my sewing machine again with a different colored thread, in this case red.

I went around the shape once and then cut the excess fabric around the shape, snipping corners and curves as I went. Because I used 2 different color threads, I knew the black (first) thread was only a guide and so if I accidentally snipped through a black thread it would not mess up the doll's actual seam, and was careful only to avoid snipping red thread.

I then cut a diagonal slit from ear to toe on the back side of the doll for turning and stuffing. This is another area requiring patience. As you work the material it becomes more pliable, but all those layers of fabric, adhesive, paint, and diaper wipe material are quite thick so turning and pushing all the little corners and curves into place takes some time. I used a crochet hook and even a tiny pair of tweezers to coax those little corners out, being careful not to poke holes into the doll itself.

Finally, I had Mr. Horace turned inside out. I did some detailing before stuffing and sewing up his backside.

Some of the things I did here include darkening some of the lines with a black Stabilo pencil and then blurring that with a bit of water. I also drew the right eye with Sakura gel pens and set this in front of the fan for awhile to really bring the colors out. The nose is a sewn-on piece of orange fabric. I started with a rather large triangle and then tucked much of it under as I worked, giving it some bulk. Because I was working through the large gap I had opened in the back this was quite easy, and again as I worked the material became more pliable and workable.

I then sewed 2 buttons, one atop the other, for the left eye. I gave them more strength by adding Alene's tacky glue between them and underneath the bottom one and laid something on top of this construct while it dried. I dabbed a little gesso between my thumb and forefinger and did a little "dry brushing" to highlight the nose and otherwise age the bird a little.

Finally it was time to stuff and close my colorful little friend. I do not particularly *like* working with Polyfil, although I will have to eventually to use up the many bags I purchased before deciding I don't like working with it. I really like the idea of using up all my scraps of fabric and thread so now when I'm sewing, embroidering, or trimming, all remnants go into 2 different little buckets, thread and fabric.  I used the fabric pile to stuff Horace.

Since he will be hanging on a wall I didn't feel it was necessary to seal him up any tighter than I did here, closing him up with embroidery thread and a very sharp upholstery needle. It was hard to get the needle through and a few times I had to use needle-nose pliers that have a toothy surface to complete the task. But complete it I did, and now Horace graces my daughter's wall along with some other owl art she has been collecting.

Happy creating!!!

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