Tuesday, November 28, 2017

David and Rebecca

David and Rebecca are having an excited chat about all the cousins that will be born soon.  This week, I dispatched a large box of kits for a workshop.

They did not travel with the box, but they supervised till the last minute, checking every little detail to ensure that the box would arrive safely at its destination.  

You can make David and Rebecca too, the pattern is available to download in my Etsy shop:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Wooden floor for the Del Prado House


It's starting to look like a house!

I've installed a wooden floor in the bedroom of the Del Prado house.  The kit came supplied with printed paper for the floors.  Not bad, but I wanted something more realistic.

Paper vs. hand made floor.

It started with a quest.  One day, long, long ago, an interior decorator gave me a load of discarded sample books.  Some I gave away, others I stored in my stash in the store room for 'some day'. I recalled there being a book or two of  wooden window blind samples and I thought there might be something that would make a floor for a dollhouse. 
Out came the ladder, and up went Megan to haul the boxes down.  Finding something in the store room is akin to slaying a dragon.  The space between shelves is so narrow one needs to go in sideways, and there are always a few dogs underfoot to make it more hazardous.  After numerous up and downs, lots of dust and sneezing, there was no sign of the books and I was about to give up.
Then my eye caught a box.  Dolls House, Raw Materials, Wood.  Meticulously labelled and I knew there were some Popsicle sticks in there.  Oh well, that would work too.
When I opened the box, I found the sample books, standing on end!

 Dino says "Duh, you could've just asked me.' 

I took them indoors, and dismantled the books.  Quite a job, they used some kind of glue protected by a wizard's spell. The loot was inspiring though.

Choices, choices. I can use these for many things!

I selected some straight narrow slats, and proceeded to snip the threads to free the floor planks.  Then I cut them into shorter lengths, and ended up with a pile of lovely straight, thin floor planks.  There were  not enough planks of one colour to make an entire floor, so I mixed some teak with mahogany.  Actually these 'planks' are made of stained bamboo, and I knew I would need to sand the floor, so I wasn't too worried about the colour.

Planks glued directly on to the dollhouse floor.

The end result was pretty, but quite uneven.

Pretty, but pretty uneven.

After the glue was completely dry, I used an electric sander to level out the uneven planks.  As I thought, most of the colour came off.

Whoa, that looks way too patchy! 

Some more rummaging in the store room, and I found Imbuia wood stain.  I would have preferred Oak, but I'm adhering to my plan of using what I've got.  

First layer of wood stain.

From previous experience, I know that one needs to be careful when using wood stain.  As a precaution against making the planks too dark, I decided to thin the stain with thinners.   Why do they put such nasty stuff in a bottle that can't pour without dripping?  Oh well, they said to make a test patch.  Mine is on the dining room table. 

Colour evened out.

After five layers, I was very happy with the colour.  My only complaint, it looked too new.  I recently read on Liberty Bibberty's blog how Mercedes rescued a floor that came out too dark, by painting over with grey acrylic paint.  I want warm tones for my dollhouse, so I selected French Vanilla acrylic paint instead.

Using acrylic paint to tone down the colour.

I diluted the paint with water, then used a rag to dab it on to the planks, and wiped away excess.  On the left you can see how this tones down the colour, giving the floor a more worn look.

Painted over with polyurethane sealer.

After the acrylic paint dried, the last thing that remained to be done, was to seal the floor with polyurethane.  Unfortunately, I only had gloss.  Shiny surfaces in a dollhouse can be disturbing, they create reflections, and will give the setting an unnatural look.  But once again, using what I've got, I let it dry, then wiped over with fine grit sand paper.  

Test fit in the dollhouse.

I can't tell you how pleased I am with the way this floor turned out.   It was also much easier to do than I thought. I chatted with Elga, and told her about my wooden floor.  She makes antique reproduction furniture for dollhouses, and is very knowledgeable about dollhouses, and the decorating and furnishing of homes during the ages.  My concern was that I would have to make all the wooden floors in the dollhouse the same, or risk ending up with a fruit salad of styles.  Elga says that the entrance hall of houses often had more ornate floors than the rest of the house, first impressions, ha ha.  So when I tackle the entrance hall floor, I might try one of the traditional parquet patterns, such as herringbone or Versailles parquet.  Nothing with mitred corners though.  Mitre is a swear word.

Meanwhile, I'm not making as much progress on the Del Prado house, or in real life, as I would like.  I did take some rather lovely pictures of the garden yesterday after the rain.  If time permits, I will share them later this week.  

Friday, November 3, 2017

Website Updates

This week I added new fabrics to the website.  I always start out thinking I'm just quickly going to... do this or that.  The end result is a studio that looks like a tornado.  Before every piece of fabric finds its place in the web shop, it needs to be cut, brushed, photographed, measured, and held between my fingers while I try to write an enticing and accurate description.  Once the touchy feely work is done, it's writing the strings of code that make the picture appear in the right place, and the links take you places when you click on them. 
Compared to my studio, the website looks so neat and tidy.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I love to shop on my own website!  I often think of the internet as a rabbit warren.  Alice in Cyberland style.  One tunnel will take you to another, and before you know it, you've been in there wandering around for hours.  Not that it's not fun.  If you feel like a little adventure this weekend, jump down the rabbit hole starting at the Creative Me website.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Sunday morning visitor

I opened the door this morning to find Clyde standing there with a very grassy, muddy ball in her mouth.  My dogs don't have a ball.  They destroy balls on sight.  Living in an area where dog poisonings by criminals are a daily occurrence, I immediately panic when I see a dog chewing on something I can't identify.
My shout of alarm elicited the right response.  She put it down gently and retreated a few steps.  Which is when I realized what it was.  A HEDGEHOG!!!
I know that Atelerix frontalis is supposed to live in this part of the country, but in fifteen years here, I've never seen one.  I suppose most people haven't, and don't really think about it, but it has long been my dream to come across one.
I scooped it up in my bare hands and carried it inside.  Maybe not the wisest move, it was a hefty ball of spines.  I put it down on a towel, and rolled it over to see whether it was alive, or injured.  It was breathing, and there were no puncture marks or blood.  So far so good.
I placed it under a towel in a plastic crate, with a dish of water, and left it to calm down.
After a while it unrolled itself and started sniffing around.  Then it emerged from under the towel, tried to climb the sides of the crate, lapped some water, and curled up again in a corner.  It seemed to be fine.
I invited the dogs to have a nap in the studio, locked them in, and set off with the crate to the composting corner.  It's far from the house, with lots of hiding places.  I know that hedgehogs eat bugs and snails.  To my mind, the composting area should be heaven for hedgehogs.
I put the towel down in the grass and waited.  After a minute, it uncurled itself and ran off.  The area that it disappeared into is wild, with lots of hiding places.  The orange plastic mesh over the opening in the wall was originally put up to keep the dogs in, but I havent' checked it in a long time.  Now it's back in place.
I brought the crate back to the house and put it down outside for cleaning.  When I let the dogs out, they inspected the crate from all sides. They're lying on the lawn guarding it now.  I've decided to leave it there as a decoy.  Great Danes are not known for intelligence.
Henning called the hedgehog a Hitchcock, ha ha. In German a hedgehog is an Igel.
Speculation: African hedgehogs are supposed to weigh around 350g.  This one weighed more than 1kg.  A pregnant female maybe?  It was very fat.  They have babies between October and March, and can have as many as a dozen at a time.
Downer facts:  It was bigger than I thought hedgehogs were, and the spines were sharp!  It pooed all over the crate, and it was stinky.  It had fleas.  Definitely not suitable as a pet.
Nevertheless, I was enchanted with it.  Meeting a real live hedgehog was a dream come true.  I'm regarding the encounter as an early birthday gift.

This sweet hedgie kit popped up in my FB newsfeed this morning.  Available at www.gonk.co.za  Hedgehogs Everywhere today!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Del Prado House, bay windows

As a child, there were things that I dreamt of owning when I grew up. 
A bay window, a rocking chair, a conservatory, a very large dog, a mosquito net, wooden floors, a house with a gable, a chandelier. 
Although I have learned that material things have nothing to do with happiness, I do gain lots of joy from the wish list items I added to my real life.  Especially the bay window.  You will see photos of it in a post soon.   
The things that I don't have, I can give to the people living in my dollhouse!
The plywood box is the foundation for a conservatory add-on to the Del Prado house.  I'm keeping it for much later, many other things to do first.
From the box of salvaged pieces, I selected three bay windows to add to the sides of my house.   These windows were meant to be the type with a deep window ledge, suitable for displaying pot plants, I think.  I wanted them to reach all the way to the floor, to regain some of the floor space I lost when making the hallway wider, and because I think it makes a room more interesting when the floor is not a square.
I carefully cut out the window ledges, and used scrap plywood to build a box around each window that would reach to the floor of the dollhouse.  Note left over wallpaper from kitchen and hallway rear walls that I discarded.  Still not wasting anything, and not buying anything.  The smaller bay window will have a window seat, with a bookshelf underneath.
This is what they look like from the outside.
Next, I cut thin strips from a piece of pine veneer, and painted them white to make cottage pane windows.  The plastic window frames supplied in the kit of the Del Prado dollhouse has cottage panes, I want everything to fit together.
Two windows installed.  I really like them.
Of course, any of you who have an eye for architecture will see that I made some mistakes that would cause a real life house to fall over.  I really lack the ability to envision things in 3D.  If I had to build a house for myself to live in, without help, it would be a grass shelter!  Fortunately, in miniature anything is possible and I will tweak the top window a little.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Del Prado house, extra dormer windows

In my previous post about the Del Prado house, I mentioned that I was not happy with the boxy layout of the floor plan.  I spent a few days poking the inner walls, rummaging in boxes, and muttering indecisively before attacking the house with a jigsaw and cutting new windows and doors all over.
The first small change I made, was to move the right hand interior walls slightly, to make the passage wider.  Then I decided to turn the walls around so that the doorways in these two rooms are at the back of the house, not the front.  You will see later why this is important.  My master plan ha ha, which keeps changing all the time.
Ken Blake once sold me a box full of parts that were salvaged from a dollhouse someone never finished.  It's been languishing in the store room, I'd nearly forgotten about it.  Some of the pieces were brand new, others were broken and missing parts.  Note, three bay windows, I'm rich!  I selected these salvaged parts to add to the Del Prado house.
After some careful measuring, I took the plunge, and cut lots of windows and doors in the outer walls of the house.  I forgot to take a picture of the back roof, which originally had no windows.  I added two.
I cut the bottom off the two broken sash windows, and took the windows apart for repairs and painting.
This is what they became.  The beautiful net curtain is plastic tape on a roll.  I bought it at a scrap booking shop ages ago, for 'some day'.  Using all these bits and pieces from my stash makes me so happy!
Next, I built a box around each window, so that they could become dormers in the two attic rooms of the house.  Lots of cursing and swearing before I got the angles right, I'm no mathematician.  Note, the boxes were built from the discarded plywood of the original kitchen outer wall, I'm not wasting anything.  I did not bother to remove the wallpaper, since the roof will be tiled and painted.
Dormer windows installed.  I'm much happier with the house already!

Thursday, October 12, 2017

It's a miniature button day

This is what I'm doing today.  Miniature buttons made of polymer clay, sewn on to vintage button cards.
If you are a maker, HERE's a link to a tutorial a posted a while ago:
Looking for miniature button cards to print, and miniature sewing inspiration?  I saved several to this PINTEREST BOARD.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Back where I began

Hooray!  The house is together again.
Quite an improvement from a few weeks ago.
I managed to salvage the interior walls and floors, although I cursed a lot, and was often tempted to throw them out and cut new straight pieces.  I keep telling myself to stick to my plan of retaining as much of the original house as possible.
I'm proud of what I managed to do.  But does it make my heart sing?  Sadly, no.  It's square, and boxy, and dark and boring. 
This house is supposed to grip my imagination, and be a joy to work on.  I will be spending many more months on it.  I know I wanted to keep it original, but I've outgrown it already. 
I want light, I want interesting angles and hidden corners.  I want bay windows and useful attic space and wider hallways and I WANT a conservatory!

The dollhouse architect is back at the drawing board.  Watch this space. 



Friday, September 22, 2017

Del Prado House - Making a sturdy shell

I have a deadline on 10 December.  Far away, you say?  It's only 78 days! If you only knew how much I need to achieve.  For meeting my daily targets, and to keep myself sane, I'm working on the Del Prado dollhouse in my spare moments.
It looks a bit like an oversized tool caddy, doesn't it?  Since I showed it to you a few weeks ago, I made a lot of progress on the house, then made it undone as I changed my plans.
The first thing to do, was to make the structure sturdy.  I also wanted to preserve and use as much of the original kit as possible.  After going around in circles for a while, I realized that I would have to replace the outer walls.  I messed them up badly during my first attempt many years ago, and trying to straighten things out was near impossible.
I cut a new rear wall, and two side walls, using plywood from an old packing case I found in the barn.  You will notice that the walls are slightly longer.  I'm installing a 'basement' with a storage drawer.  I've already built the drawer.  Paint cans are standing in it. 
I was torn between keeping the original wall and floor papers, or replacing them.  This house must be simple and inexpensive, using materials I already have on hand.  The pink bathroom haunted me, it had to go.  I decided to follow my heart, and start with a blank page.  I soaked the original papers by covering them with a damp cloth until they could be peeled back.  Then I sanded and painted all the interior walls and floors in plain cream.  Now they can become anything!
At this point, I did a 'dry fit' of the interior walls and floors.  To my horror, without proper support at the front, the side walls kept leaning in all directions.  So the whole thing came apart again. 
I installed a beam across the top of the house, and another across the front above the drawer. Finally I'm happy.  Now I can give the interior walls and floors a go, again. 

Monday is a public holiday here in South Africa. We have a lovely long weekend.  I will be working, but I will also take time out to play with the dollhouse.  Interior walls, here we go again!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Delight Yourself


I worked a little on the dollhouse this weekend.  After I did the important stuff I was supposed to do.  I also did a bunch of other stuff that needed doing, and routine work stuff and routine life stuff.  Our lives are filled with so much stuff activities, there never seems to be enough time.  To make it worse, there's always a guilty voice at the back of my mind that tells me to stop playing and get a real job.
Denise's blog post this morning fell on that little voice like Dorothy's house fell on the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.
If you doubt the validity of doing things that bring you joy, read what Denise has to say.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Picking up the pieces

If it wasn't sad, it would be funny.  Actually, my wonky attempt at a dollhouse is funny!  I started building this dollhouse more than twenty years ago.  At the time, I didn't have any skills, tools, or a proper space to work.
The dollhouse was delivered in instalments every week.  It came with beautiful pictures and lots of promises like 'In any corner of the house, without the need of a workshop or special equipment...' and '...without the need for plans: a simple click, a spot of glue and it's done.'
In reality, the plywood panels arrived warped because they had been shrink wrapped and sent in the post.  None of the pieces 'clicked'.  A spot of glue was never going to hold the house together.

After months of trying, I gave up in disgust.  With a big dent in my pocket and my ego, I dismantled the house and packed it away in boxes.  Those boxes have been moving from one home to the next with me for the last twenty years.

Lately, I've been thinking about giving it another go.  I now do have the perfect spot to put a dollhouse, a workshop with tools, and hopefully, a few more skills than I did back then.  Yesterday I dragged the boxes from the store room, unpacked it, and taped the house together to make sure that all the pieces are still there.

My thoughts while I worked:  
Problems that were insurmountable back then, are no problem now.  Assembling the house will be like building a puzzle for three-year-olds.  Wow, I've learnt some things!
My taste has changed.  What was I thinking with that pink mottled paint in the bathroom??? Yuck!
The house comes with all its furniture in kit form.  It's very basic and not the nicest stuff around.  Is it worth the bother?

The answer is a resounding YES.
  1. Because I can.
  2. Rummaging through the boxes, I still feel the same overwhelming enthusiasm for the house I had years ago.  
  3. It will be relaxing. There are hardly any decisions to make.  Every room comes with a plan and its furniture.  Like paint by numbers.
  4. It's not going to cost anything.  I have all the supplies I need to finish the house.
  5. It would make a stunning photography prop.
  6. I started the house before there was internet.  Now I can go online and search out other people's houses and gather inspiration.  Working on the dollhouse will give me a sense of community.
  7. It's a carrot.
On the 1st September I'm starting a three-month work project.  I'm not looking forward to that at all.  To reward myself for staying on schedule and meeting my targets, I will build the dollhouse in  my free time.  When you see a post about the house, you will know that I've been a good girl!

Saturday, August 12, 2017

How to start a creative business


This week, Fig&Me published a blog post about starting your own doll making business.  The same principles apply to any craft business.  The article is in complete agreement with what I always tell people, and it's written in Fabiola's typical gentle and encouraging style.

If you are thinking about starting a creative business, do yourself a favour, go read!


Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The dog's breakfast

Sometimes the things I make look like a dog's breakfast.

 Um, it is a dog's breakfast.  Several of them.

Attila is not impressed.

I cater for cats too.

Making miniature Whiskas has been a challenge.  The scale is not quite right, but I'm at my limit of patience with very tiny things.

It's that time of year again.  We are preparing for the annual Miniature Festival.  This is the 25th annual show and I've been to every one.  Where has the last quarter century gone??? Note the new venue.