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Updated February 2008
Welcome to the Magic Threads on line Newsletter!

Starting August 20th, I will have a new Blog site! I had to wait until my son came to visit so he could set it up for me. I just can't keep up with all the possibilities! So go to my new site to read the lastest news and updates. I plan to keep you updated on my travels, moves  (Oh, I hope not!!) and upcoming plans and projects. I'll to pass along tips, tricks, techniques and interesting facts and fancy that I run across while teaching or traveling. I promise to add and subtract information on a regular (more or less) schedule.

2008 Newsletter
      Lot's of interesting projects this year.  The Iowa State Capitol has a display of dolls showing all the former First Ladies in their inagural gowns.  I was asked to make one of Mari Culver, the wife of Gov. Chet Culvor. It was an interesting challenge as the gown was anything but traditional. All of the dolls are identical porcelain and were made many years ago. Not my choice of style at all but since the  Culvers have a young daughter, I decided to make a cloth doll for her as well.  It turned out really fun, and was much more my style!!


    I am sorry to report the untimely demise of my Fairy House. A couple of neighborhood 13 year old boys felt a surge of whatever brain numbing stupidity that 13 year old boys  get, and decided to knock it over. Then for some bizarro reason they knocked on my door to ask me what happened to the fairy house. I am slowly poisoning them with kindness and have enlisted their help in rebuilding it and signed them up as guardians to protect it from mean little kids who might do it harm. I see the guilt in their eyes every time I wave cheerfully at them from my yard. Don't mess with Crones!!!

    Again the Playhouse fundraiser was Hollywood Halloween.  I made an Enchanted April doll for auction. I love challenges.april


My childrens' classes last year at the Des Moines Art Center went so well that I'm determined to write a book about all the fun techniques  that I(and the girls) thought up. Now I just need the time to actually DO it! Anyone have any extra???
     I just had a group of 9 year olds in my studio for a birthda-dollmaking party. Guess who was the godmotherFairy Godmother!!??
    I'm going to start a new page on my web site for different ways to use my patterns.  Once I design a pattern, I seldom use the actual pattern again.  I may use parts of one  and parts of another.  I bet you do too. What I want to do is have a page that shows what I have done with patterns and what you have done. So send me pictures of ways you have tweaked a pattern into something else.  It will encourage everyone to see  new possibilites  and learn to think out side the box.  You don't always HAVE to follow instructions!!!!!!!!!

   I just finished making 8 puppets for the Des Moines Playhouse production of "Peter and the Wolf". No, I'm not a puppeteer.  I made the dolls and turned them over to the experts to bring to life.  Such fun!puppet

    In October the Playhouse had their annual Hollywood Halloween fund raiser and I made 3 dolls from Cats as table centerpieces.  These were auctioned off for $2100. The Playhouse will be doing CATS in September and I will have a display of my dolls at the theatre. Doubt if I can get those kind of prices!!

catsThere is a nice new product on the marked called Mokubu free lace. It is a sticky sheet of rinse away stabilizer that you can place your fabrics, yarns, etc on and a second sheet that lays over the top.  This keeps everything from sliding around. It's wonderful if you need precision in your work.  www.joggles will be carrying it soon.

    A big Congratulations to Michele Beschen from Des Moines!!!  When we first moved here 2 years ago I was on her local craft show, Courage to Create.  She has now gone NATIONAL on both DIY and HGTV with a daily show called B.Original!  I am SO not surprised!! She is a Fantastic ball of energy and enthusiasm! Watch for her in your area.  My episode has been on and may be repeated soon.  Way to go girl!!!!

In September we went to New York City and Pennsylvania.  Our son was directing his first off-off-Broadway play in NY so of course we went out to see it.They got great review in the New York Times, Variety and several other New York magazines, which is a big deal for an off-off show.The play is called "I (heart) Kant" and has been getting lots of notice.  Cross your fingers, this may be his big break!! We went to lots of theatre, the garment district and visited Lancaster, where we used to live.(My old "Painted Lady" has been Pottery Barned and the garden has gone to seed. SOB!)  I taught one day in Hershey and had a great time. Been eating chocolate ever since.

     I'm a big fan of Bravo's Project Runway, so I was thrilled that we were going to be in the city during Fashion Week!!!!  It was raining the day of the runway show but I did go wander around Bryant Park and did see a lots of the activity surrounding the show.The press was everywhere!  Actually talked to Marla from season 2 but didn't recognize her!!  Kept thinking "this woman looks sooo familiar" but didn't want to ask her who she was!!!! How weird is that??? Sunday night we grabbed a quick hot dog at a food court on 8th Ave and Uli and her whole family were sitting next to us! It's really a very small town.  Macy's windows had all the winning gowns on display so you could see them up close.  That was fun too. Amazing to see how badly made they really are! It was all such fun. I was very happy that Jeffrey won!!

    We're added several new Fairie kits recently so if you haven't checked recently, do take a look.  Have you seen the great Fairie magazine called, what else..."Faerie Magazine"??? It comes out 4 times a year and is really beautiful. The Winter  issue just came out and has an article about Fairie Houses.  One of mine is features along with some truly spectacular ones from around the country.  It's a
wonderful magazine!! When we lived in Pennsylvania I participated in the Spoutwood Farm Fairie Festival and really miss it.I decided to build a slightly larger  house in my back yard.  It's a work in progress but is great fun!! Don't Know know what the neighbors think!!
    I will be teaching two children's classes this summer at the Des Moines Art Center, Creative Dollmaking and Fairies and Fairie Houses.  These are for children 8-12. Last summer's classes were a big hit and I learned soooo much from the kids!

    I'm very pleased to announce that my dolls are now being sold at both STICKS galleries here in Des Moines.  If you aren't familiar with the wonderful STICKS line of furnishings, please visit their website.www.sticks.com  They sell their whimsical products to about 200 stores across the country and I have been a big fan of theirs since I first saw their work over 15 years  go.  I think its a wonderful fit!

  I've been a bit lazy lately but I am now working on new patterns and new on-line classes.  I just finished teaching my first children's doll class for the Des Moines's Art Center and it was an amazing learning experience.....for me! It was a huge challenge to design 5 2 hour classes that did not use machine sewing. I had no idea what 9-12 years old could do in that time frame.  Wow, how exciting and creative. The things they came up with really knocked me out. I decided that the basics of this class will be turned into an on-line class for Mothers and Daughters or any combination of child and adult as some of the techniques require a bit of help.I wanted to challenge them with thing that they probably hadn't been exposed to in school, so we used Angelina fibers, heat guns, vinyl, fantasy film and did a lot of fiber embellishments with glue instead of a sewing machine. Watch for this class on Joggles after the first of the year.
vinly group
    Have you ever wanted to do something or go somewhere and when you finally accomplish it, it doesn't live up to your expectations?????   Well, that wasn't the case when my family and I went to England last October. We had been to London before but my dream has always been to go out into the English countryside and see standing stones and stone circles. Our son and his finance were given the use of a time share in the Lake District and asked us to join them.  It was beyond wonderful.  We rented a car and drove around the back roads of Cumbria. These roads have high stone walls on either side of the road and they are simple beautiful.  We went to Castlerigg and Long Meg circles and I got to touch all the stones I wanted. Simply breathtaking. We saw some great theatre in London but hanging out with old rocks is my idea of heaven. Just me and the cows and the fairies!!! Now I can't wait to go again.
    While in London I  visited The Knitting and Stitching show.  Several American dollmakers were vending there and it was an awe inspiring show. Maybe next year!!!!!
NEW in September 2005
   The new Fairy kits are selling so well.  They make great Christmas presents for your dollmaking buddies! I'm also now selling yardage of the beautiful Venise lace I use in the kits.

    New patterns are available. Flower Girls are 17" tall cloth dolls that are gessoed, painted and varnished so they can withstand sun, rain and pesky critters. They are so adorable sitting in a flower pot in the garden!  This is an terrific gift idea for your favorite gardener.
    Jack Flash was a recent challenge at Joggles, but without his embellishments!  Now you get to make your own with all the bells and whistles added. The box would be stunning using stamping or quilting techniques. There's lots of room to play with this pattern.
    Next is  Thisbee. I'm going back to simpler lines and I really love this doll!  She is an easy pattern but has a silly  hat and fun swing coat!   For the expanded version of this doll....consider my on-line class at Cloth Doll Connection.Thisbee

        Beginning September 9 at The Cloth Doll Connection, I will be teaching Thisbee, a brand new pattern.  You’ll be able to buy the pattern this fall, but you might want to consider this special class because it will include techniques to create her clothing 3 different ways. In addition to the cotton pattern version, I’ll teach wool and needle felting embellishments. In the third, you’ll learn machine collage.  One pattern - 3 very different looks. More information is available at www.clothdollconnection.com  This is an ongoing class so you can sign up anytime.



In October 2004, after 4 years in Pennsylvania we packed up and moved to Urbandale, Iowa (barely a blink outside of the city limits of Des Moines.) Another trip across the country with cats!!  The 3 cats that made the West-to-East journey came to the end of their 9 (or is that 27?) lives, so we have 2 feisty new ones to introduce to the joys of travel!! This was a whirlwind move with my husband finding a new job (he's now Managing Director/Director of Development at The Des Moines Playhouse), buying a house, selling a house, packing 12 tons of stuff (really) and moving - all in 6 weeks. I barely remember the process but my muscles still hurt. I’m getting too old for this.

This time around, we bought a ranch house with a walkout basement (all mine!). We’ve never lived in a house this new and modern, with skylights, Jacuzzi tub, and lots of angles.  Our quirky things fit into this space even better than the old Victorian. We have remodeled the basement into my studio, classroom, office, workshop and pattern storeroom.  Soooo much better than having everything spread out over 4 floors. My knees are much happier.

The new studio is painted all my ”normal” colors so I feel right at home. The best part about the house is it backs up to a wooded area with a stream, bike trail, deer, fox, owls, hawks, and more yet to be discovered.  We have 3 decks with lots of great views of the woods.  I am in heaven. My bowling balls and rusty junk have found a perfect setting. All my newest dolls have bark skin. Spring brought all the planting I can imagine...maybe! I'm still imagining. I miss being close to New York but since our son still lives there, we will get back often. Can’t stay away from the great fabric stores for too long!! Des Moines is a great size town; easy to get around and very supportive of the arts. You can’t beat Midwest friendliness!! My classroom is huge and we are right in the center of the country so we are easy to find!! Plan a road trip!!

The Carol Duvall Show

            In September, of 2004 I filmed an episode of The Carol Duvall show for HGTV. They sent a crew to my Lancaster studio to film me rather than have me go to Los Angeles.  It was a fascinating day.    The episode number is 1902 so you can check your local listings for information.  It has been on 3 times already and will continue to run occasionally.I demonstrated my Smoke doll with all the fabric embellishing I use to create the fabrics. Watch for it!!

Courage to Create

            When we moved to Iowa, I was lucky enough to be introduced to Michele Beschen who hosts a local show about artists. (Her husband was our loan officer!) She asked me to be on her show as soon as my studio was put together. The show aired on January 30 and is simply wonderful. Watch for Michele – she’s getting national attention and  soon will be on the DIY network. She is energetic and enthusiastic and is a ball to work with. She definitely makes you comfortable before the camera. Even my cat Ozzie got into the act.

I demonstrated my Muse dolls and talked about all the other things you can do with hand made fabrics. These techniques can be used in quilts, clothing, pillows, altered books and lots more dolls. I’ll be doing classes that include these techniques plus needle felting and working with Tyvek. Want to come play, too??? Most products used in this program can be purchased from www.joggles.com.

 For the very best, up to date information on cloth doll events and activities I heartily recommend the following sites, which will give you enough links to other doll sites to keep you happily surfing for days.

A few words given during on line classes regarding:

    There have been lots of heated discussions on the on line doll digests and doll clubs about copyrights. I think it’s important to address that issue in every class that I teach so that there can be no misunderstandings. All classes are copyrighted: pattern and class. I ask that you not share the printouts with your friends or doll club members. Since the class contains many things that are not in the pattern, I want to keep this for the on line students and live classes only. If you have friends who wish to take the class, tell them to get on the information list on Doll Street. We may be offering this class again. I consider the dolls that you make from this class to still be my copyrighted designs even if you add some of your own features.

     I give permission for you to SELL up to 20 dolls a year made from this and other classes but I do ask that you label the doll as having been made in a class by Julie McCullough. If you chose to enter your doll in a doll competition or State fair, please don’t label it as an original; it’s not. This has become a very difficult issue for all of us who design patterns and teach classes. Just remember that we are the ones who conceive the ideas for the dolls, do the trial and error, come up with the shapes, proportions and assembly directions. We create the soul, you make the body for it to inhabit. If you buy a pattern and make a few changes to the pattern, it is still not your original doll. If you START with someone else’s work, it will never be yours. In order to claim it as your original work you have to do ALL the work!

     Buying a pattern or taking a class enables you to skip right to the fun stuff instead of sweating out all those annoying details that the designer must cope with. I’ve had numerous people call me and say “now if I start with your pattern and change this and this and this, is it mine yet?” No, it’s not! I guess I feel pretty territorial about my designs because I do this for a living. It’s not just a hobby! I hope this makes sense to all of you. It is an issue that is becoming more complicated with all the different teachers and patterns that have some overlapping elements. No one can copyright a technique, but styles are very recognizable as "belonging” to certain artists.

     When in doubt, go to the drawing board and do your OWN pattern. I know it is still possible to design your own doll and have it come out looking very much like someone else’s. This then gets into the blurry area of ethics! You’re on your own there!!!! If other peoples' first reaction is that it looks like someone else's doll, you need to do more work. People who say, "Oh, but there are only a few ways to make a doll" obviously haven't looked at any of Susanna Oroyan's books!!!!!!

    Dolls can, and should be, as individual as all of us.

Stop by again soon for another issue of
The Magic Threads Newsletter

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