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.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Lena's Wicker Furniture

If there's one thing that gets me excited, it's discovering an unusual craft.

I was recently introduced to Lena, a Lithuanian dollhouse furniture and accessory maker who does wickerwork.

What makes her work exeptional, is that she recycles paper into the straws that are used to weave her beautiful pieces.

Like me, she has animal helpers in her studio.

Lena's work is available in scales suitable for various sizes of doll and dollhouse.  Visit her Etsy Shop and her Facebook Page if you would like to find out more about her work.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Winter is winter

We always say that there's no real winter in Pretoria.  Night temperatures might fall a few degrees below zero, but usually the days are sunny and warm enough to be in shirtsleeves.  Our gardens have a lot of evergreen plants so we don't really notice winter too much.  I grump about the dry and dusty conditions, and August is especially bad because of wind.  But spring is only a few weeks away now!

Today I tidied up files on  my computer, and found summer pictures of the garden.  Comparing it to the dreary view through my window, winter is winter!

Winter is winter, even if it doesn't snow.
  Picking grapes in February. 

 And of course, the dogs will tell you that it's much too cold to sleep outside!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017


It's the last week of Goal Setting with Julia.  I have learned a tremendous amount, and my business is benefitting beyond my expectations.
Today's lesson feels as though it is meant for me personally. 
I'm struggling with a commitment I made a number of months ago.  Physically, circumstances have changed.  I can live with that.  But emotionally there's been a shift that leaves me wishing I could just walk away.
I've been swinging like a pendulum between chuck it in or see it through.
After today, the choice is clear.
Only one carries the possibility of success.

Note to self:  Never make a decision when you are angry, and never make a promise when you are happy.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Small Joy

Little things make all the difference.  Three of the studio's sewing machines went for service.  They are back.  How lovely that every part is cleaned, oiled and working just so!

For many years I did only hand sewing on my teddy bears.  Mostly, I still do.  In time I have started making more little clothes and accessories.  For this a simple sewing machine that can work slow, tiny, straight stitches is invaluable.
My favourite machine is still the Singer 1928 hand operated model.  The black sewing machine in front.
All the sewing machines are older than me, and came to me after numerous owners and working very hard.    How I would love to hear the stories they could tell!

Jannie at JVN Sewing Machine Service patiently and meticulously looks after my machines.  He specializes in industrial and computerized embroidery machines, but he is a fount of wisdom when it comes to vintage machines, and shares my enthusiasm for them.  His workshop is in Lyttelton, Pretoria, and you can contact him at 012 664 3162 if your machine needs a service.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

happiness@nr4: Sew a Softie Tutorial: The Kids are in charge!

Hello Everyone
Please visit Liezel's blog to see what she and her girls are designing for Sew-A-Softie.

happiness@nr4: Sew a Softie Tutorial: The Kids are in charge!: Hi Everyone! How exciting it is to write this post on behalf of my girls. When I told them that I would like to challenge them to be respo...

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Random Favourite Things

Random favourite things in my studio.  The felt frog I made from a pattern by Cynthia Treen, The leaf plate and lily flower are available at Ceramix, crochet succulent plants made by Dawn at LiveCreatively365.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

I've been cursing lately when trying to do crafts or work at my computer.  Thought it was time for new glasses, but when I went to the optometrist, I discovered that it's much worse.  I'm developing a lazy eye.  Miniatures are indeed hazardous to one's health.  Apparently the muscles in my right eye are straining when focusing at close range, and have decided to give up.  So it's not that I can't see, it's just that as soon as I concentrate my focus on one area for a few minutes, I lose binocular vision because my right eye wanders off to look at something else.  It can be fixed with therapy, let's hope.  I received my colourful Brock String and new glasses on Monday.  With diligent exercise and not working on miniatures for more than a few minutes at a time, I should see (literally!) an improvement in about eight weeks. 

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Hobby Makes You Happy

I dragged my feet all the way to the computer.

You know. When you were little and shy, grownups came visiting and your parents dictated that you display good manners by coming out of hiding to greet them.  That kind of feeling.

I'm learning about goal setting, a la Julia Bickerstaff at The Business Bakery.   Set a goal, decide paths, do micro actions.  Ready, get set, go!  You have 100 days to the finish line.  One of the paths to my chosen goal is blog writing.  When I mapped out micro actions, blogging fell on day 50.    I've abandoned the habit of writing regularly, and coming back to it feels awkward.  Today is day 50, so here I am, hearing that little Julia voice calling to me.

My life has had some not-so-recent upheavals.  It happens to everyone, but for some reason it hit me hard and it's taking me the longest time to get back on my feet.  I used to be very sure of who I am and where I was going.  Often now I feel like Mary, Mary, quite contrary.  I only know what I don't want, then I change my mind.  I'm going through a period of intense self-doubt and I'm convinced no one is the least bit interested in me and my small life.  Drama queen.

What would a person like that blog about?  I used to blog about my work as a teddy bear maker, but that doesn't define me any longer.  I'm a dabbler without a specialty.  My life is mundane and much of what I start goes unfinished or ends up in the dustbin.

One of my daily pleasures is reading the blogs of other artists.   I've been following many of them for so long that they feel like friends.  While reading, and agonizing about my own lack of writing inspiration, I realized something.  They all write about the process of their work - failed, uncomplete, or masterpieces.  They also write about how they experience life, often hilariously, whether it's a bout of stomach flu, home renovations, or random phenomenon.  Artists don't only produce a body of work, they represent humanity in their creations and the way they preceive the world.  Knowing an artist's thoughts can help to develop a better understanding of their work, which means that their art is easier to relate to, which makes it popular.  In these days of blogging, how privileged we are to get glimpses into artists' daily lives, and what a powerful tool blogging is in the hands of artists.

I'm not going to call myself Artist .  I'm a dabbler in search of a specialty.  I choose to be a Hobbyist.  Borrowing from the wicked Jane Laverick, if you take hobby, put a stick on the O and turn the Bs upside down, it will make you happy.  I'm doing what I do, because it makes me happy.

Or am I a Happyist?

I came out of hiding and wrote a blog post.  I survived it.

Monday, May 8, 2017

To Sew, or Not To Sew

We don't always realize where the seeds we sow (sew?) take root.  Today I received a link to a wonderful post by Charlize Stone, a long time teddy bear maker at Tin Soldiers.  She just started an Etsy shop, started teaching, and is in turn spreading the love for teddy bear Making.
You can read about her love for sewing HERE.