Monday, December 7, 2015


Another new magical creature to add to the magical menagerie.

These are doxies, or at least our interpretation of what one should look like, since they haven't made an appearance in the Harry Potter movies, yet.  They are described in "Fantastic Beast & Where to Find Them" as:

"...often mistaken for a fairy though it is a quite separate species.  Like the fairy, it has a minute human form, though in the Doxy's case this is covered in thick black hair and has an extra pair of arms and legs.  The Doxy's wings are thick, curved, and shiny, much like a beetle's..."

We made two attempts so far.  The first is more human-like in the face.  With the 2nd one we played on the Doxy name, which is what dachshund dogs have been nicknamed.  The more dog-headed version is our favorite.  We think it is the cutest.

They are about 7" tall with four arms and four legs.  This is smaller than the pixies, which made it really tough to get all those arms and legs to fit on!

The wings are cut from plastic root beer bottle painted underneath with nail polish.  I want to add another transparent set of wings under these in the future.  We've since found some hairier fabric we want to try, too.  So, you may see a new attempt at these at some point.  Not sure how that will go at this size, but we'll give it a try.

These are based off of a fairy pattern we've been working on.   I'll post the tiny fairies once we finish some details and maybe put some clothes on them.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Cornish Pixie Tutorial is Available

Just listed the tutorial/pattern for the Cornish Pixies.  Whew!  It's a long one!  I didn't realize how much my mom and I put into these little guys!  But, I wanted to offer this to those who have expressed the desire to make their own.  The instruction include everything we do on ours, and all the things we have learned in the process.

At 22 pages long, I'm still kinda leery of how complicated it might seem with all the steps.  I'll admit it is a lot to remember.  I'm thinking of offering a simplified version without joints, wired antennae, some point if necessary.  So, I'd really like to hear how those who try the pattern and tutorial find it to be at different skill levels.

The supply list is even pretty long because I included explanations on each item, and a good portion of it is optional.

I've started a tutorial for gnomes.  I don't think it will be near as long with their simpler construction.  Also plan to work on one for the house elves, but we are still working on a few changes to the pattern.  One of these changes is the size.  We want to work out a life-sized version.  We're up to an 18" one at this point.  I hope to post about him in the near future.  Got a few other projects to post before then.

NOTE:  If anyone has interest in a kit including all fabric/supplies for one of my tutorials, please message me. I'm curious if this would be of use to anyone, especially in doll making. I can buy eyes/joints in bulk that could save you money and time hunting down supplies. I also have surplus supplies for my other crafting projects.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Let's Give This Dementor a Hand

We just recently hosted our daughter's 3rd Harry Potter themed birthday party.  She's now a teenager?!  :O  How time flies!  We had lots of fun with the party.  Even after two previous years of Harry Potter parties, we still managed to create a few new things for year number three's Prisoner of Azkaban theme.

The first one I'll share is for our WIP dementor, Pete (His name is inspired by the Moosebutter song.  We love all the clever Wizard Rock songs out there).  Our dementor never quite got fully assembled, but we may get him finished before year Five when dementors show up near Privet Drive and the Ministry.  But, I managed a pair of hands and a quick mask.  Here is a brief tutorial of how I made the hands:

This process is very similar to how I made my dragon wings.  I started with a wire hanger, some wooden beads (from a Christmas cranberry garland I found on the clearance table years ago.  I've used these beads in many projects.) and lots of masking tape.  I like the masking tape because it was already the color I wanted, it stays flexible and easy to use.

I straightened the hanger and cut the wire to lengths and placed the beads where I wanted them for the joints in the fingers and taped them in place.

Then, I taped the fingers from tip to bottom leaving extra tape off both ends to make a pointy tip.

Next, I taped the fingers together one at a time adding them to the hand.  Then wrapped more tape around to secure them in place.  Some tape was wrapped between the fingers until they wouldn't move around too much.  At this point I bent the fingers to resemble a more natural hand shape.  This isn't really necessary, yet.  They will still be posable once finished.

I painted the taped covered wire with lots of fabric paint.  The mixture of translucent Glow-In-The-Dark and Black slick paint makes a good slimy gray flesh of the dementor.  One good squirt of black directly into the GITD paint bottle should be enough.  (The applicator tip should pop off to make it easier to squirt the black in.)  Shake it really well, and then shake it some more.  You can test it and clear the tip of unmixed paint.  Let it dry to determine the actual color.

Once the whole hand is covered, I added more paint as a webbing between the fingers.  I found the fabric paint bottles were convenient to spread the fingers.

Once completely dry you can pose the hand however you like.  Be sure to not lay it on anything it will stick to.  If it is tacky, rub it with a little corn starch to prevent it from sticking.

This is what I ended up with.  They were fun to pose around the house.  I want to make a second pair with attached arm to hang them on Pete easier.

Here is Pete's face.  I used a plastic skull with it's mouth open to mold a piece of foil over before taping the foil and painting it the same way I did the hands.  It looks lighter, but it is the same color as the hands.  I'm still on the lookout for a suitable fabric for the dementor's robes.  I see that the cheaper decorations this year are using black interfacing-like fabric.  It may be too stiff for my purposes, though.

Our hands ended up guarding the entertainment system cabinet, so older students wouldn't try to skip class and watch football.  :/

But, I think they look just as creepy hanging out in the quidditch trunk my sister made for us.  :)  Next, I hope to post about some shrunken heads my mom and I made and the inexpensive upcycled bell jars we put them into.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Gilded Cage Corset

If you follow my craft page on Facebook, you might have seen that I recently entered a corset decorating contest held by Orchard Corset.  The challenge was to embellish one of their corset styles using whatever material we wanted to.  Well, the results are in, and though I didn't place I consider my results a win for me.  I'm happy with my new corset, which probably wouldn't have been finished without the motivation of the contest.  There were some really nice entries you can see in OC's Pinterest board.

It was slightly frustrating and labor intensive, but also an enjoyable learning experience that I managed to squeeze in between my other projects.  (...and the main reason I didn't get a new witch BOO't available for this year.)

For my concept I wanted to do something with spooky trees similar to some of my witch boo'ts, but I stumbled across a raven in an image on Pinterest called "The Doorman" by Katya Horner that sparked my creativity.  I liked the idea of an illusion of a gilded cage where it looks as if you are looking in at a raven in a cage or out from behind a gate/cage at the raven in the woods.

I chose to use their 345 corset.  I purchased one that was slightly uneven at the bottom edge, so I wanted to try my hand removing the binding to correct it, anyway.  I figured the single boning channels would work well as part of the cage bars.  While I had it apart to trim the lower edge I removed the boning and labeling the pieces to put them back in order.  Removing the boning would prevent it from rusting when I dyed the beige/tan color with RIT's Aquamarine and Denim liquid fabric dye. I diluted just a little before applying it with a sponge brush.  I avoided dying the boning channels only because I was going to paint them anyway, and they are thick and would take longer to dry.  It is hard to see the two-tone color variation in the pics, but I was sorta going for a blurry shadow look for depth behind my imagery.

Once I had it dried, I wanted to try a few different mediums on my wearable cotton twill art canvas.  ;)  I drew the raven and branches in place with pencil before going over it with permanent marker.  I know marker isn't the best choice, but I really didn't want to make the panels on the corset too stiff with paint.  This corset has not been broken in, and I imagine it still needs to do a bit of stretching to conform to me.  Once I had the design on I started painting the boning channels black with craft paint.

Next, I brushed a thin coat of bronze craft paint over the black channels.  I also traced over the spiral designs with a mix of slick fabric paint in black and metallic gold that made a darker antique gold before adding some painted faux rivets to the channels.  In hind sight I find it just a little too dark to contrast with the black silhouette branches in some lighting.  I would like add a little more gold and go back over them.

After I was done decorating the corset, I found some brown bias tape to replace the bulkier double-layer tan twill binding that came on the corset.  The brown actually matches with the bronze paint pretty well.  Originally, I was thinking about using black binding and painting it like the boning channels, but opted not to thinking it would make the binding stiff and rough at the edges.

That's pretty much everything.  You can see more of the progress pics and supplies in the Pinterest board created for the contest here:

Though I really love painting my witch boo'ts and other decorative projects, it's kinda cool to be able to wear your creations.  I had a lot of fun on this.  I really want to try another.  I found an irregular 426 long line Orchard Corset in tan, but it will need way more correction before I can decorate it.  Should have some costuming and props to show in the meantime.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Hogwart's Birthday 2nd Year - The Food and Classes

It's been taking me forever to post all the things we did for our 2nd year Harry Potter themed party.  I think I'll wrap it up with this post about the food.

Since our 2nd year party was first and foremost a birthday party, we served a cake for dessert, of course.  This year's cake was inspired by Aunt Petunia's Pudding.  We used a packaged cake mix for a two layer chocolate cake.  Since the pudding looked like it would end up being a lot of frosting, which we're not too fond of, we experimented with ways to make it lighter.  So, I added whipped cream to the frosting.  I may have gotten carried away and used too much whipped cream.  It began to get soft really fast, but there were no complaints about the taste.  :)

We served students the feast dinner of Turkey and all the trimming, including Pumpkin Pasties.

We used the same recipe for pumpkin pasties from last year.  But, we opted for leftover green frosting stems instead of green gumdrops pictured below.  Though, the spearmint ones weren't too bad.

As I have mentioned in last years party planning, the pasty is made with packaged biscuit dough.  We pulled the biscuit layers apart in the middle.  Set one half in our mini bundt cake pan for the shape and filled them with pumpkin pie filling that was strained for the juice.  We placed the top half on and punched the sides a little to seal.  Once bakes and cooled, we added the frosting stems.  I didn't have a tip large enough for the stem, but found that a sport bottle top pulled off and cut worked quite well.  (This is our whipped cream frosting, so that is why it looks rather runny.)

After dinner and games it was late, so we dismissed the students.  We held a showing of the Chamber of Secrets movie in our makeshift home theatre with popcorn, last years pumpkin juice recipe and butter beer.  This year we acquired a projector and surround sound speakers from family members, so we had a really neat setup in our DADA classroom (aka: living room).

The next morning the plan was breakfast and start classes at 9am.  There was a surprise waiting for our Slytherins (that I failed to get a pic of before they were gone.)  It was in the form of two floating cupcakes suspended in front of their door when the came out of their common room.  They were suspicious but ate them anyway.  ("How thick can you get?!")  They were yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and sprinkles just like Hermione made in the movie.  We used large flat buttons tied to fishing line that was poked up through the cupcake to suspend.  We used an "S" hooks to hang them from the door frame.

We had a busy schedule this year, so were light on the classes.  Besides DADA and Potions, which I've already mentioned, we also had Herbology - Re-potting Mandrakes.

We wanted to make mandrakes that were edible.  We decided on some graham cracker bears and artificial leaf stems glued in the center with homemade cookie icing (this stuff is super easy to make and holds extremely well when set).  I cut apart and washed the artificial stems.  (I think it might have been nice to use mint or other edible greens.)  We potted them in mini ice cream cone pots.  Then, students would repot them into larger cones with some crumbled chocolate cake and then some Oreo cookie crumbs mixed with graham cracker crumbs to resemble dirt. While no one was looking, we thought about replacing the repotted cookie bears with larger mandrake cookies.  These could be part of another game where students would have to revive their classmates with mandrake restorative drafts when they lost our Basilisk game in the evening.

Charms - We came up with charmed pancakes for breakfast.  If you've seen the Youtube video where the guy draws with pancake batter, then you get the idea.  Basically we'd let each student charm the batter into a recognizable image in our magical, or electric, skillet  This is actually really simple and fun.  Just need a squirt bottle, like those used for ketchup or other condiments.  The daughter and I made a Hogwart's crest and some other simpler things like bats and faces.

We had some other ideas for classes that didn't end up happening.

Potions - We want to up the difficulty of the potions class by changing the ingredient game from last year by making students identify the ingredients in a mixture instead of individual ingredients.  For example:  Kool-aid, Sugar and Water could be one potion.

Transfiguration - We thought about making a puzzle game using shapes.  Students would transfigure a rat into a water goblet or teacup by reordering the pieces.

If you've noticed, we've been busy working on pixies, house elves and gnomes and the tutorial for each of them.  I think we've got the pixies and gnomes perfected, and there are some pixies listed in my Etsy store with gnomes to follow.  But, there are still some changes we'd like to make the the house elves.  Hope to have them available soon.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Pixies have infested Etsy

Cornish Pixies have infested my Etsy store! We've rounded them up into two listing options.

One listing is for the newer pixies like these with the option for purchasing one of choice or a set of three.

There is also another listing for a set of three of the older version with the blue eyes.  Once these guys are gone, it will only be the newer solid blacked ones available, unless otherwise requested.

We're hoping to keep these in the Etsy store at least until the end of the year.  The tutorial will also be available shortly.  And, due to the popularity of the idea of using them on a nursery mobile, we are working on adding some simpler ones more suitable for younger children with loops on their backs for hanging on mobiles.  Look for those to be available in around a month.

UPDATE:  Now you can make your own pixies using our Cornish Pixie Pattern/Tutorial available in my Etsy store (mieljolie).

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

It's a Pixie Evolution!

I know I've been promising for some time to have pixies, elves and gnomes finished for this fall.  Don't fear.  We've got four pixies ready to go, a few more at various stages, and possibly some of the older experimental ones.  Should have some listed by September along with the tutorial.  But, before I get them finished up I thought I'd share some comparisons of all the things we've changed since we made our first pixies over the years.  Though I'm finally working up an actual pattern/tutorial for these that includes all the revised pattern pieces at the correct size with tips and solutions we discovered for various problems we faced, I wanted to take this time to go through our experience for those who would rather alter Ghillie's Poppet pattern/tutorial to make their own.  Hopefully some useful information can be gleamed from all this.  I'd love to hear any opinions on them, too.

We tried to make them as close to the CoS movie version as possible, at first.  However, we wanted to go with the books description over anything else.  If you've read my previous posted on pixies (1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th, more, and more) you can see the learning process at work.  Though her tutorial and pattern are wonderful, no pattern piece in Ghillie's original pattern, nor even instructions, were safe from our tweaking.  Every part was adjusted or completely changed for some reason or another.  I won't even go into the wing experiments we went through again, which in her book "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" Rowling decided they don't even have (This explains why they are removable.).  She, or should I say Newt describes:

"The pixie is...Electric blue in colour, up to eight inches in height and very mischievous...Although wingless, it can fly and has been known to seize unwary humans by the ears and deposit them at the top of tall trees and buildings..."

So, our versions have been a mashup of the different sources into an ever morphing creature as we learn new skills.  In the beginning, we experimented most with was the fabric choice. We've tried a few different fabrics but really prefer the Alova Suede Cloth, which can be difficult to find in the right colors, especially in the wrong season.  There are similar faux suedes, velours and other fabrics, but again, to make the two tone version, it is tough to find a good combo.  Steer clear of anything woven that can fray!  As an inexpensive choice I'd say Polar Fleece (Georgie and Lewdvig in the center of the above pic) was okay, and it comes in all sorts of colors.  Only problem with it is that it tends to stretch out and loses the sculpted details.  We've also tried some vinyl fabric on the house elves, but don't recommend it at a small size.  The suede cloth is easy to work with and doesn't rip or fray too easily and is thin enough to work well for tiny parts.  We had our best luck finding it in the fall.  The main portion of the body is a bright almost royal blue while the tummy and ears are a lighter shade of blue or dark lavender leaning toward the violet side.

As you can see above, we've also tried different face and eye treatments.  We tried some eyelids on a couple (Lewdvig and Marvin above) and even a nose from the gnomes.  The doll eyes have varied in size, too.  At the moment, we are preferring the solid black over the blue irises which tends to make them look a little spaced out.

The size was something we were back and forth on.  We shrank the original poppet pattern down, guessing at the size and proportions in the movies, but it was too large based on the description in the Rowling's books, which is "up to eight inches".  The originals we made ended up about 11-12" tall from antenna tip to toe.  As our skills improved, we were able to work with smaller parts.  But, when resizing the pattern, we couldn't just shrink it.  The seam allowances also shrinks and isn't wide enough to be adequate.  We had to widen each seam at the smaller size.  The tiny 7" size on the far right was WAY too frustrating.  The legs and arms get skinnier and harder to turn, so you loose the fingers and toes and wind up with clubs for hands and feet.  We didn't even want to try the covered antennae.  We used wire covered in metallic blue fabric paint, instead.  After various attempts, we settled on an 8-9.5" range.

The joints have always given us grief at the smaller size.  It was hard to find affordable shank buttons and in a size that fit in the arm without showing a bulge.  We tried a few different solutions that each had good and bad effects.  We even tried removing the buttons all together as in the 1st pixie on the left, but I don't think this is practical if the dolls will be played with much or posed frequently.  Next, we tried just sewing the arms and legs into the body seams like the gnomes.  This is easier and sturdier, but eliminates the ability to pose them, which we liked.  Then, we got the idea to try small snap on doll eyes as joints with washers.  This works good, but is more costly and still a wee bulky...not to mention hard to find around here in tiny sizes.  We reluctantly went back to shank buttons, but have now found a way of making common inexpensive flat buttons work by changing the way we put them in.

Here are two later phase pixie side by side.  For the new and improved pixies we found a way to make the antennae slightly narrower and finally added the tail nub in back.  We overlooked the tail in the first ones due to the lack of good reference photos of the back of the pixie.  We've also arched the back, widened the ears and head, and cleaned up the toes.  Not pictured, we also came up with a wired ear that can be posed that you may notice on a couple when I post them on Etsy.  We plan to use this new wired ear feature in some house elves.

This is where we are at this point.  There are so many other things we've learned.  I'd say we've come a long way since the beginning.  With all the changes, I'd decided it is probably kinda confusing to just keep sending people to Ghillie's Poppet pattern with a long list of changes to make.  So, as I've mentioned, I have spent a good deal of time lately working on an indepth tutorial, which is coming together pretty well.  Hope to have it up with the pixies this fall.  Thank you for the patience.  And, big THANK YOU to all who have left comments and contacted me about these.  As much as we have enjoyed making them and having them around our house, it is nice to know others appreciate them, too.  The daughter has even told me she thinks these new ones are way cuter and more like the movies.  She even likes them more than the licensed ones we've seen for sale with the creepy grins.  I think I have to agree that grin is creepy!  But, I don't know if ours is in the same league.  It was sweet of her to say that, though.

UPDATE:  Now you can own one of our pixies or make your own using our Cornish Pixie Pattern/Tutorial available in my Etsy store (mieljolie).

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Lockhart's DADA Pop Quiz and Pixie Hunt

This post is a continuation of the projects we attempted for the 2nd Annual Harry Potter themed birthday party we held back in November.  To keep student busy while we prepared the House Cup Award Ceremony and End of Term Feast, we sent them to the DADA classroom where they took a 54 question Gilderoy Lockhart pop quiz and helped return escape pixies to their cage.

Pop Quiz
The quiz was, of course, essay questions all about the professor with all facts taken from the books, movies and even the Pottermore website.  It was pretty tough coming up with 54 questions about this supporting character.  I printed the 3 page quiz on longer legal-size paper, which I planned to stain like parchment with watercolor as pictured.  We expected students to fail miserably in answering most of the obscure questions, but we were surprised by their knowledge of everything Lockhart.  Two student just about had full marks and there were many humorously clever answers that we read aloud.  Students all got a signed glossy photo for their effort.

- Would you like a copy of the quiz?  Find a PDF here.  And, you can find the answer key here.
- Or, why not try taking the playbuzz version to see how well can you do?

We wanted to give the DADA classroom some elements specific to 2nd year.  So we came up with the following simple projects:

Framed Pictures
In the Chamber of Secrets movie, Lockhart's office was littered with framed pictures and paintings of himself, so I scoured the internet to print as many pics of Lockhart that I could find.  I trimmed the printouts and covered all the framed photos we had in our house gathering them into our DADA room.  (We must look like obsessed fans of the actor, Kevin Branagh.  Hahaha)  I tried my darnedest to find a decent pic of the large oil painting of him painting himself, but alas, I did not succeed on that one.

Signed Photos and Simple Peacock Quill 
The desk in the classroom was littered with some of the professor's things.  Some of the images I found of Lockhart were actually signed already.  So, I printed up some of these in 5x7 glossies to pass out to students.  ( you may notice the one on the right is actually signed as Branagh.  Oops.  Hehe) And, of course we had to have a peacock quill to sign them with.  We made one at the last minute by floral taping a tail feather to a pen with the barrel removed.  Then, I wrapped the stem with green string.

Textbook Covers
I didn't managed to find many decent pics online to use as book covers for the 1st and 2nd year textbooks used in the Harry Potter movies.  I did find a few lower resolution ones, even a couple from the obnoxiously long list required by Lockhart.  Some needed a little photoshopping to clean them up, but they looked convincing enough wrapped around random books.  I made one complete set off of the textbooks reworking the tiny thumbnail images on Pottermore to fill in the missing covers I couldn't find.

  • Magical Theory
  • Standard Book of Spells - Grade 1 and 2
  • History of Magic
  • The Dark Forces
  • Magical Drafts and Potions
  • A Beginner's Guide to Transfiguration
  • 1000 Magical Herbs and Fungi
  • (We already had "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them")

I only managed to find three of Lockhart's books.  I'm amazed at the attention to detail on these books used in the movie.  They are:
  • Guide to Household Pests
  • Break with a Banshee
  • Year with the Yetti

So, the Pottermore images had to due to complete the Lockhart set, as well.

Pixie Hunt
We've sewn quite a few pixies in the past.  And, now my mom is making smaller ones to infest our house.  We decided to make another game with them.  We created a cover for our pixie cage like the red one in the movie (Sorry, not pictured).  Then when we lifted off the cover, the cage was wide open and empty.  We asked the students to perform a quick hunt to round them up in the class room.  House points were award to those who found them.  (You may have notice Harry hanging out in the back of this photo.  Daughter made me my very own Potter Pal Puppet for Christmas!  She's getting so crafty on her own.  Best present ever!  )

With the quiz, framed pictures, signed photos and book covers, there was a great deal of printing in this portion of our party decoration.  But, we lucked out when our local friendly printer, Minuteman Press (who were super friendly and helpful), was having a special on color copies for half price!  Perfect timing!  Yay!  It ended up costing well under the $20 I had budgeted for all the book covers and photos.  I was even able to print some more candy boxes and labels (not pictured).  I tried a couple new versions that I made changes to.  Also, worked on some designs for wizard cards, but they are far from usable, yet.  Maybe this year.

After classes we tallied the house points and met in the Great Hall for the Awards Ceremony.  The daughter says the Lockhart Quiz and the Degnoming were her favorite things.    The winners of the house cup, Slytherin (boo, I think they cheated.), received boxes of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans and a bottle of Butter Beer.  Some high scoring students also got gobstones marble sets in their house colors.  I still have a few random things left to share like our birthday cake.  Stay tuned!