Saturday, January 7, 2012

The Santa Chronicles: Part Two

Unfortunately when I started the design and assembly of my very own Santa with his sculpted clay head (see Part One), I didn't think to take a "Before" photo as well as many of the process steps that I now wish I had. Midway through Santa's design and assembly, I decided I should blog about Santa, if for no other reason than to document the process--in case I might want to do it again.
Therefore, what you see here is a photo of the Santa head/breastplate unit after painting his face and adding his eyebrows and mustache (which I didn't do until the body was attached; see below).

I do have a shot of the back of the head, where I wrote my name and date in the clay before the sculpted clay head went into the oven to cure.

The next step was figuring out how to make a body of the right proportions. Using the standard of 8 head lengths, my finished Santa would be 36" tall. (My Santa head measured about 4-1/2" from top of head to bottom of chin.) But, when I did a "mock-up" of that height with his head, it seemed too tall for the proportions of the finished head. And I wanted a shorter Santa anyway.

Not long after returning from Montana, I had purchased three muslin "doll skins" for 32" dolls. I found those in one of my two tubs of Santa "accoutrement's," along with a set of sturdy cardboard tubes designed as leg inserts for the skins so the finished doll would stand. I started with one of the doll skins, and cut off most of the muslin head, leaving a few inches so I could use that to glue the muslin body to the interior of the neck/breastplate portion of the Santa head.

How to adhere the heavy clay head and support the body which would be filled with polyfil fiber was the next challenge. Since I had already decided my Santa would sit rather than stand, I commandeered one of the cardboard tubes and reshaped one end so it would fit snugly inside the breastplate cavity. My husband got out the Gorilla Glue for the task of attaching the tube. I put glue into the cavity, then snugged the tube inside and set Santa on his head to dry, propped in a wastebasket. The tube was too long, but I left it that way, to be shortened later. While the glue dried, I tackled the design of the body using the muslin skin.

First I removed the muslin legs and set them aside. They were too long so I knew I would need to cut them down and attach them later. Then I reshaped the muslin skin front and back, giving the front a bit of a belly. ( I used a Santa Elf pattern by Nancy Brenan Daniels as a guide for the tummy and back reshaping.) I also shortened the body a bit after comparing it to head and body proportions of other Santas in my collection, leaving an extra 1/2" allowance at the lower edge for the finishing seam around the bottom of the body, which would sit on a small platform.

Once the tube was dry and secure, I tucked the muslin body with the doll-head section that I had left attached inside the breastplate (but no glue yet). With the head in my lap, I stuffed the muslin body, keeping the tube as centered as possible, but not obsessing about that. I also temporarily stuffed the upper portion of each arm (not shown though in the photo). Once I was happy with the body shape and firmness, I slipped it down the tube, swabbed glue inside the breastplate and smoothed the muslin into the glue, making sure the shoulders of the arms would come up to the edge of the breastplate.  Drying time again! Patience was a virtue with this project but it gave me time to think about the next steps and experiment with ideas. I was determined to use what I had in my stash of fabrics and findings rather than buy anything and I succeeded--for the most part. This project truly was an exercise in problem solving and stash searching! I found things I forgot I had!

Throughout the project, I used Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue. It was the perfect adhesive.

Next, I re-stuffed the arms after checking the proportion of the arms to the body. They seemed to be the right length so I stuffed the hands and arms completely, only to discover they stuck out from the body—far too rigid. To fix that problem, I removed stuffing so that the hand was nicely filled but not too firm. I left only a little stuffing in the wrist area so they would bend a bit. I also stuffed the upper arm and stitched through the muslin to create a bend at the elbow so I could bend the arms into a more natural position. After stuffing the section from elbow to wrist, I whipstitched the arm opening closed. Note: The hands of the muslin doll skin had stitching for the fingers--I took it all out before stuffing the hands as the fingers wouldn't show inside Santa's mittenss--and they were very difficult to stuff!

To glue the upper section of the arms in place, I put more glue inside the shoulder area of the breastplate, pushed the stuffed section into the glue and "tied" the unstuffed arms on top of Santa's head. I sure wish I had a photo of that! Again, Santa went into the wastebasket, upside down, to dry.

To make Santa's mittens, I traced around the stuffed hand to make a pattern, then cut four pieces from a fuzzy black knit. I basted two together to check the fit, refined it as needed and then stitched permanently  the pair before tucking Santa's hands inside. To secure the gloves, I stitched them to the arms through the wrist area.
At this point, I couldn't wait to add Santa's eyebrows, mustache, and eyelashes. I purchased a set of fake eyelashes and cut them down before applying them. Getting them in place without getting glue everywhere was a real trick! The eyebrows and the mustache are tufts of curly mohair that I glued in place. I had purchased several packages of this for future Santa-making projects from Kris Crawford at Fireside Basics Doll Hair Co., 7847 Double Tree Lane, Missoula, MT 59804; 406-549-9665. Our class visited her and shopped for supplies one afternoon during our time at the workshop with Judith. I was happy to find the mohair in my "Santa" supply box, since I had forgotten all about it! At this point, I also cut off the excess tube using an X-acto Knife.

To be continued....

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