Thursday, 22 December 2011

Are You Dreaming of a Dolls House for Christmas?

Have you made a wish list for Christmas? Does it have 'dolls house' at the top? You have probably been dreaming about getting a new dolls house for ages. Reading miniatures books and magazines, going to dolls house shows, checking out other people's minis. In your mind, you will have built and decorated every inch inside and out. Will there be a dolls house under your Christmas tree?
   Choosing the perfect dolls house is not easy. I'm sure you will want one bigger than this tiny 1:160 scale one! But you do need to consider how much space you have in your real house to display a dolls house. Then there are the various scale measurements that determine a dolls house dimensions.
   Another thing to think about is whether you want to buy a ready built, decorated dolls house; a kitset one that you can put together and decorate; or if you will build a house completely from scratch. Will it be built of plywood, MDF or lightweight foam core?
  What style will your dream dolls house be? Tudor, Victorian, Georgian, Edwardian, Art Deco, or modern?
   Oh, it's fun, isn't it, planning your next miniature project! 
   I wish you all  a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful year of mini-making in 2012. See you next year!


Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas in the Dolls House: Mini Elf Decorations

Mini elves for Christmas decorations
These mini elves are cute enough to hang on your real size Christmas tree as well as decorate your dolls house. The kids can help make them as a fun holiday activity. You'll probably already have the materials in your craft stash for these 'Santa's Little Helpers'. 
You will need:
  • Small wooden bead
  • Red perle cotton or thin wool
  • Green perle cotton or thin wool
  • White felt
  • Cardboard
  • Red felt
  • PVA or UHU glue
    1.  Cut the white felt into a little triangle for the beard. Glue this to the lower part of the wooden bead that is the head.
    2. Cut a 4 cm length of the red cotton or wool and fold it in half. This will come out the top of the hat as a hanger.
    3. Cut the red felt into a cone shape and glue it on the top of the bead head, making sure the hanger comes out the top. This makes the hat. Leave the head to dry while you make the body.
    4. Cut a piece of cardboard 4 cm long and 3 cm wide. Wind the green cotton or wool round the card EIGHT times. Slide off the card. This makes the arms.
    5. Wind a short length of red cotton or wool round each of the arms near the end and tie a knot.
    6. Cut a piece of cardboard 8 cm long and 3 cm wide. Wind the red cotton or wool round the card TEN times. Slide off the card.
    7. Wind a short length of red cotton or wool round the legs near the ends and tie a knot.
    8. Take the green arms length and fold the red length over the middle of it so the ends hang down evenly.
    9. Take a piece of red cotton or wool and wind it several times round the middle and tie it. This makes the body and legs.
    10. Take the head and dot in the eyes and nose with a black felt-tip pen.
    11. Glue the head to the body and let dry.
    You can hang these individually on your Christmas tree or make a lot of them to string as a garland across your mantelpiece. They're sure to brighten your day and put you in a happy mood! You can't help smiling when you see these mini elf Christmas decorations.

    Wednesday, 14 December 2011

    Christmas in the Dolls House: the Christmas Tree in 1:12 Scale

    Make a miniature Christmas tree 
    I love this time of the year - the decorations, the carol singing, doing the Christmas baking, choosing presents and wrapping them. So yesterday, when we put up a real Christmas tree in our lounge, I put a miniature Christmas tree in the Edwardian dolls house too. This is the one time of the year that I change things around a little in the dolls house; usually I leave the rooms set out without altering any arrangements. But introducing a Christmas tree into the 1:12 scale lounge involves a bit of mini furniture removal and juggling of space.
       I embroidered a small carpet in a poinsettia design, perfect for the festive season, from a pattern in a dolls house magazine a couple of years ago and I brought this out to stand the Christmas tree on. The crackers and baubles and candy canes I made from bits and pieces in my craft stash - crêpe paper, beads, wire and Fimo. The little metal rocking horse charms are the perfect size for ornaments. I pinched toys from the nursery to place under the tree as presents. Also there is one of my favourite things; a fully printed 'Twas the Night Before Christmas' miniature book.
      Making the actual Christmas tree was time-consuming and as boring as pruning roses! It involved taking one large, bright green, fake 'bottlebrush' Christmas tree, a couple of handfuls of lycopodium, (a real dried plant also known as Princess Pine) and craft glue.
      All it took then was the time to dip the end of a piece of lycopodium in the glue and then push it into the fake tree. I started at the bottom and worked my way round and up and up, making sure there were no spaces uncovered, no bits of the 'bottlebrush' showing. Then a quick trim with the nail scissors to deal with any sticking out 'branches' and it was done. Easy but tedious.
      But I think it was well worth it. The tree looks so real. And the dolls house lounge looks very festive.    

    Thursday, 8 December 2011

    Christmas in the Dolls House: the Cake and the Pudding

    Christmas desserts in 1:12 scale
    Have you made your Christmas cake yet? I baked  my real one a couple of weeks ago. This miniature one in 1:12 scale I made a couple of years ago. 
       It was very easy, a block of polymer clay simply decorated with some loops of thin strands of Fimo. I put a thick edging around the base and made a pattern  indented with a needle. The creation is topped with Fimo holly leaves and berries.
       Making the Christmas pudding was a little bit more complicated. I baked very thin 'worms' of red and green Fimo, then chopped them into tiny pieces. This made them look like glace cherries in the mixture. I worked a dark brown and light brown mix of the polymer clay lightly together, chopped it into bits with a razor blade, mixed them together again (just a little, to keep the colours separate), then chopped again.
       To this I added some poppy seeds and the green and red 'cherries'. I then shaped all of this into a ball and baked it for 15 minutes at 100° C. It has a realistic look, doesn't it, a Christmas pudding with lots of fruit in it.
      When I was a child I didn't like Christmas pudding. But I ate it nevertheless - to get the sixpences that Mum hid in it!

    Tuesday, 6 December 2011

    Christmas in the Dolls House: the Christmas Dinner in 1:12 Scale

    A miniature Christmas dinner in 1:12 scale
    I started doing my Christmas baking on the weekend, which made me think about putting out some Christmas food in the Edwardian dolls house.   
       I looked through my stash of the dishes I have made using Fimo polymer clay to find some suitable for a roast dinner to display on the dining room sideboard. I chose goose as the main dish because the Edwardians were fond of a nice plump bird of that ilk for their festivities.
       I had a little plastic lobster (goodness knows where I got that from!) that I put on a platter lined with lettuce leaves and edged with lemon slices. I made the lemons after watching an Angie Scarr video about how to make Fimo canes.
       The lettuce was a bit different. I wanted the leaves to be very fine so mixed together green acrylic paint and PVA glue. With a paintbrush, I spread a layer onto a tile and let it dry.Then, using a razor blade, I peeled bits off. They looked very realistic when crumpled slightly and put on the plate.
       The roast potatoes were easy to make out of beige polymer clay, rolled into egg shapes then cut in half and dusted with powdered ochre pastel. A couple of sprigs of parsley brightened them up.
       I have to admit I didn't make the crudites on the blue plate. That is actually a magnet I bought in Singapore, one of my brilliant mini finds.
       The carrots and peas caused me a bit of grief. I took the sideboard with the food on it out of the dolls house to photograph, then promptly dropped it as I was putting it all back in. Everything stayed together except for the dish of those vegetables. I'm still finding tiny little green peas in the dolls house, under the dolls house and behind the dolls house!

    Friday, 2 December 2011

    Christmas in the Dolls House: How to Make a Bowl of Nuts

    A miniature bowl of nuts
    When I was a girl, we always had a wooden bowl of nuts in the shell and a nutcracker on the table at Christmas. I wanted to recreate some of my childhood traditions in dolls house scale.
       Here are the instructions to make a nut bowl for Christmas in the dolls house.
       You will need:
    • packet of coriander seeds
    • the cap off an acorn
    • emery board
    • PVA glue
    • varnish or clear nail polish
    • metal 1:12 scale nutcracker
    • paint or Vivid marker
    1. Use the emery board to sand the acorn cap smooth. If you like a more rustic look, leave the cap as it is.
    2. Varnish the cap inside and out.
    3. Glue some coriander seeds into the acorn cap. They are the right size for walnuts in 1:12 scale. Include a few empty half shells so it looks as if someone has started eating them!
    4. Wash the metal nutcracker in warm, soapy water. Paint the handles or colour them with a Vivid marker.
    5. Glue the nutcracker across the top of the 'bowl'.
    6. Place the bowl on a table in your dolls house living room or dining room, perhaps next to a glass of wine.

    Monday, 28 November 2011

    Making a Miniature Memory Trunk: Part Two

    A bridal memory trunk in 1:12 scale
    Now that you have made the miniature memory trunk the fun part begins - making all the little bits and pieces to go in it. I like to put things on the inner tray, glue some up onto the lid, have other things overflowing down the side of the trunk and also arrange pieces on the base board.
       For the base board I cut a square of MDF a little larger than the trunk, painted it, glued felt on the bottom and edged the board with a flat braid in a colour that toned in with the trunk's contents.
       Here are some ideas for miniatures to go in themed trunks:
    • Memories of Childhood: a book, a knitted gollywog, felt clown, pipecleaner teddy, toy soldier skittles (see my blog posts on 'how to make...' for instructions for the clown and skittles), metal tricycle, tiny doll and skipping rope.
    • Wedding Dreams: a wedding dress, bouquet, perfume bottles on a tray, a veil on a stand, love letters, presents, necklace, wedding cards, bottle of champagne, wine glasses.
    • Memories of Travel: luggage labels stuck on the trunk, a map on the inside of the lid, journal, postcards,a duffle bag, travel rug, flag, atlas, a souvenir-type charm, a miniature Eiffel Tower, money.
    • Kiwiana Icons: a plastic tiki, a paua shell kiwi, a New Zealand flag, a buzzy bee sticker, a hokey pokey ice cream and a pavlova and a plate of pikelets with jam and cream , all made from Fimo, a book about New Zealand, an All Black jersey made from felt and a pair of jandals.
    Have fun making a memory trunk. Use your imagination, think of a theme, and you'll find the ideas flow so you can create something that is unique and personal.

    Friday, 25 November 2011

    How to Make a Miniature Memory Trunk: Part One

    Childhood miniatures in 1:12 scale
    I love making miniature memory trunks. I like to work with a theme so have made trunks and filled them with bits and pieces to represent a wedding, or Christmas, or a special birthday, or for a baby, or about travel. Some have been commissioned by people as gifts: examples are for a 60th birthday, to welcome a friend home from overseas, for a university graduation, for a keen crafter and for a new baby.
      The first step is to make the trunk. You will need:
    • a pattern for a trunk in 1:12 scale ( my trunks are 3 inches wide and 1 1/2 inches tall and 1 3/4 inches deep)
    • matboard
    • fake leather or leather-look vinyl, very thin
    • thin leather for straps
    • gold jump rings or tiny buckles
    • patterned paper
    • flat braid 3mm wide
    Gather your scissors, craft knife, ruler and craft glue together and you'll be ready to start.
    1. Cut out the trunk sides, back, bottom, lid and inner tray from matboard.
    2. Cut out the patterned paper from the same pattern and glue it to one side of the matboard pieces. This will be the inner side of the trunk. Paper the inner surface of the lid the same way.
    3. Glue the sides and bottom of the trunk together. Make sure they are straight . Let dry.
    4. Glue the lid together. Glue the inner tray parts together.
    5. Use the fine leather or vinyl to cover the outside of the trunk. Make sure the edges are butted up together rather than overlapped.
    6. Cover the lid in the same way. 
    7. Stick the lid to the back of the trunk so the lid is open and leaning back. You may need to support this with a block of wood while it dries.
    8. Stick on the flat braid around the top of the trunk edges and the edges of the lid to tidy them up and give a nice finish.
    9. Assembling the memory trunk
    10. Take a thin strap of leather. Thread a buckle or two jump rings onto it. Starting at the front of the trunk, glue the strap down, underneath and up the back of the trunk then across the lid. Leave a short length hanging over the front of the trunk. Cut the end into a point.
    11. Repeat with a second strap.
    12. Cut a strip of leather one inch long. Glue it horizontally to one side of the trunk to make a handle. Repeat for the other side.
    13. Glue the inner tray into the trunk so it sits about 1/4 inch from the top.
    Put the trunk to one side now till you have made the things to fill it with. More on that next blog!

    Saturday, 19 November 2011

    Retro Caravan: Building the Cabinets

    Good progress on the 1:12 scale retro caravan
    The caravan seems to have come along in leaps and bounds over the last week or so. Putting the wheels on  was a milestone as it made the caravan seem so real. They are off a toy car from a charity shop. A friend bought it for $2 and I swapped some foam rubber for two of the wheels.
      This week I also decided to partly fill in the back wall of the caravan. Then I can fit the 'kitchen' in properly while still leaving most of the large opening for viewing the interior.
       I already had a cabinet with a door and three drawers. It was just a matter of sanding it off and cutting a hole in the top to fit in a bowl as the sink. The shelving unit beside it was a 'dolls house for a dolls house' that I'd cannibalised by cutting the roof and part of the sides off. That is where the gas cooker will go.
      The black cabinet is literally a black box that I cut into to use as a wheel guard. It fits perfectly beside the tall cupboard.
       The cabinets are all in a very rough state at the moment. Now I know how they will all fit in, I'll take them out, give them a good sand and paint them. 

    Thursday, 17 November 2011

    Edwardian Dolls House: the Ground Floor

    Edwardian kitchen and housekeepers room
    The ground floor of my Edwardian dolls house is my favourite part of the whole project. Apart from china and glass accessories, the coal range and the rocking chair, I made almost everything else in the scullery, pantry, kitchen and housekeeper's room.
       For three months, this was on display in the Whangarei Museum. I gave the museum staff the dimensions of the four rooms and they built them. Then I packed everything out of these rooms of my dolls house into shoe boxes, drove to the museum, unpacked all the bits and recreated the rooms. That was when I realised just exactly how many items there were! It took quite a while to set them up again!
       I used museum wax to stick all the accessories into place in case they got bumped when people were viewing them. The whole structure was encased in perspex and lit by spotlights. In front of the cabinet there was a little stool so children could stand up to look into the rooms.
       It was fascinating to stand back one day and watch people's reactions. Almost everyone approached the display case with a smile on their faces! Older visitors were quite nostalgic about some of the products in the scullery and kitchen, such as the copper to do the washing. The children were more interested in the baking on the kitchen table and finding the mouse by the pantry!

    Sunday, 13 November 2011

    Dolls for a Dolls House - Yes or No?

    Doll dressed in Edwardian clothes
    Do you like dolls in your dolls house? I think the miniatures world is about evenly divided on this question. Some people think having dolls in a dolls house brings it to life. It makes the house look busy and lived in. Others think that having dolls detracts from the overall effect. They like to give evidence of life, such as a cup of tea on the dining table, shoes kicked off beside the bed, or knitting on the couch - as if the dolls have just left the room.  
       Because I look at my dolls houses as interior decorating projects, albeit in miniature, I don't put dolls in. I think that when you look in a dolls house that has dolls, your eyes are repeatedly drawn to the dolls' faces, to the point that you miss seeing details in the surrounding rooms. Also, often the dolls sold in 1:12 scale look quite bulky when they are dressed.
      Having said that, when I made my Victorian emporium, I did, for a short time, include dolls. They were finely detailed resin ones. But I positioned them so that they were facing away from the viewer - looking at the shop counter or turned to examine some handbags or hats. That made them less obtrusive in the setting.
       I did dress this boy doll in Edwardian clothes for a magazine photo shoot. But once that was over, I didn't put him in the Edwardian dolls house. He was relegated to the back of the cupboard! 
      If you would like to dress your dolls in Edwardian style, this article I have written will give you some ideas.

    Tuesday, 8 November 2011

    Edwardian Dolls House: the Start of it All

    A sewing box in 1:12 scale
    It's funny, isn't it, how inspiration strikes in unexpected ways. And how little projects grow into big projects. The inspiration for my 13-room Edwardian dolls house came about because of a kit swap with fellow miniaturists.
       The theme for the swap was 'ladies accessories'. I sent off kit sets for everything a well-dressed lady needed in the kitchen - a fancy apron, fetching rubber gloves, designer dish mop and brush and shovel.  
      In return, I received lots of beads to make perfume bottles, a hat, a lingerie set and the kit to make this sewing box. 
      I started with the sewing box. It was very fiddly to make. The cardboard shapes had to be cut out then covered in material. All these pieces had to be sewn together with tiny little stitches, making sure they all fitted evenly. It was quite a task. The fun part was finding or making all the little bits and bobs to go inside. 
       While I was doing all this glueing and sewing and making, I idly wondered who would have a sewing box like this in real life.  The answer came to me in a flash. An Edwardian governess!
      I've been fascinated with the Edwardian era for several years now, and, at the time I was making the sewing box, I was about ready to start another dolls house. The idea took hold! The inspiration that this tiny little kit set gave me grew into a mammoth project. My Edwardian dolls house has kept me busy learning and creating and crafting, for quite some considerable time! I love it!

    Wednesday, 2 November 2011

    Tudor Dolls House: More on the Interior

    The Interior of my Tudor Dolls House
    Here is a view of the interior of my Tudor dolls house. Kitchen, screen passage and hall on the ground floor; parlour and bedroom on the middle storey; bedroom, storeroom and chapel on the top floor. 
       The flagstone floor is made of cut-out rectangles of a stone effect formica, tedious to do but it gives a very realistic result. (Look under the 'How to Make' section of my blog to get instructions on what to do to make your own flagstone floor.) The other floors are of wood strips cut wider than normal as Tudor floorboards were about 10 inches wide. Once stained, the strips were stuck onto a cardboard template for each room and slid into place, then pressed firmly down onto the double-sided cellotape I'd put onto the dolls house floors.
       Some of the walls are plastered and beamed. For the hall panelling I glued horizontal and vertical lengths of stained stripwood onto the plywood carcass of the dolls house. Other walls I covered with suitable scrapbooking papers to give a hand-painted effect. In the parlour I also stuck the paper along the sides of the ceiling beams after I had seen a photo of a real Tudor house with painted beams. In the top bedroom I cut strips of a scrapbooking paper to use as a frieze around the top of the walls.
       My husband made the 'cartwheel' light. He got a wooden wheel and glued on five candle holders, rigged up a chain to hang it with, sprayed painted everything black and hey presto! The candles I cut from longer, very thin, real birthday candles.
       The ceilings varied: whitewash and adzed, stained beams in the kitchen and middle floor bedroom; embossed wallpaper to look like decorative plasterwork in the hall; bamboo placemats under the lift-up roof to replicate the woven screens put up under tiled roofs in Tudor times.
       I hope you get some ideas for your own Tudor dolls house from this.

    Thursday, 27 October 2011

    One 'Dolls House for a Dolls House' - Three Different Looks

    One of the creative things about making minis that I really like is to customise and personalise store-bought miniatures. In this case I bought three of the common 'dolls house for a dolls house' model, the size that is right for a miniature nursery in 1:12 scale. They were a standard blue plastic with white roof and red door. You can find them in most miniatures catalogues and shops.
    Different ways of decorating a dolls house for a dolls house
       Then I set about 'tizzying' them up! I didn't want them for the nursery. I wanted them to go with other 1:144 scale dolls houses I had made from kitsets. The extra pleasure in doing that is that I could landscape them with grass and tiny flowers and N scale people. I find that a lot of fun.
       The internet is a great resource for miniaturists and Jim Collins' Printmini site is especially good. I went to the section for 1:144 scale and printed out brick, tile and stone papers. Then it was a matter of carefully cutting and pasting them onto the walls and roofs of the dolls houses.
       For the brick dolls house, I used the red brick paper because I liked its slightly faded look, a scalloped tile paper for the roof, then painted the front door.
       The middle dolls house I wanted to look like an unloved, unlived-in, abandoned building so did a rough, 'distressed' paint job on the walls and the roof and changed the colour of the front door. I made a tiny 'For Sale' sign and stuck it outside!
       The stone house underwent a bit of surgery! I sliced off the dormer windows with a craft knife, papered the roof with tile paper then stuck on a chimney left over from a mini house kitset. It gives quite a different look, doesn't it?

    Saturday, 22 October 2011

    N Scale Village Buildings

    Displaying N scale buildings
    Plans you have made often change, don't they? That's what's happened with my N scale village. I had planned it as a layout similar to a model railway with a village green, farm land, houses clustered round the Norman church, shops on the high street and so on. I made the model buildings and little trees, and bought lots of tiny N scale people figures, several vehicles, and landscaping material.
       Then I set it out. It was enormous! Although not very high, the footprint of the village was larger than my Tudor house, and that's big! Too big. There was no room for it in the studio.
       So I have displayed the buildings in a wall cabinet. You actually get a good view of them and can concentrate on really looking at the details in each house or shop, probably more so than if you looked over a whole layout.
      I really like N scale (1:160). Everything is so tiny yet has remarkable detail. It makes me feel as if I am Gulliver in the land of Lilliput.

    Saturday, 15 October 2011

    Which Glue Shall I Use?

    Glues suitable for making miniatures
    Those of you who read my column in The Dolls' House Magazine last year will know that I hate glue. The way it oozes and squelches and slides; the way it doesn't stick when it should and does stick when it shouldn't; the way you need one glue for this job and a different glue for that job. It all gets confusing and annoying.
       For the first dolls house I built, before I knew about such things as scale and minis in general, I used a hot glue gun. Worked fine, I thought. Until about a year later when I read that you shouldn't use a hot glue gun as whatever it has stuck might come unstuck if it gets warm. I promptly moved my dolls house out of the sunny lounge, scared I'd come in one morning and find it in pieces on the floor. Ten years and a bit later, it's still standing!
       Here's a list of the glues I use for different jobs:
    • Tacky glue for fabrics, matboard, foam core, cardboard
    • Glue stick for paper
    • UHU glue for balsa, leather or anything that needs to grip quickly (but not wood)
    • Wood glue for wood
    • Superglue for metals and sometimes a few drops added to wood glue for a faster set for things such as door frames and roof tiles
    • Poly cement glue for styrene and plastic models such as my N scale houses
    I haven't used a hot glue gun since that first time, although have been tempted when things slide around instead of sticking quickly.
      And I have learnt (the hard way) two important factors about using glue:
    1. Put the glue on, make sure everything is square, then walk away and let it dry. Don't keep fiddling with it!
    2. The Body Shop's Peppermint Foot Lotion dissolves the superglue that is sticking your fingers and a toothpick, three feathers and a bead together. Don't ask me how I know that one!

    Tuesday, 11 October 2011

    Retro Caravan: Starting the Interior

    Painting the mini caravan
    Well, my experiment with contact paper for the outside was not hugely successful. In some lights it looked fine; at other times you could see little air bubbles, so I ripped it all off. Then I had to sand the wood again and give it all another coat of white paint. Once that dried I painted the bottom half of the caravan's sides with red paint. I'm happy with it now.
    Starting on the retro caravan interior
      Then I could get cracking on the interior. For the floor I used Formica samples from a kitchen shop. These are stuck down with UHU glue. The samples had writing on them but that came off with a swipe of nail polish remover. I made a little floor mat with red and white tape glued to a piece of formica.
      The table I made from a kitset. It has a Formica top and metal strip around the sides to give that real 1950s look. 
       The long bench seat and the two smaller seats are made from balsa wood. For the cushioned parts I glued foam rubber onto the balsa and then stretched and glued fabric over it like wrapping up a parcel.
      Nothing that you see in the photo is glued into place yet. I still have to paint the sides of the seating. I'll get onto that soon. Then it will be ready to do the next stage at our November club meeting  

    Friday, 7 October 2011

    Edwardian Dolls House: Miniature Knitting

    Examples of miniature knitting
    Keeping the knitting theme going here! For my Edwardian dolls house I knitted a few things. The first piece of miniature knitting I ever did was the cream shawl. I certainly learnt a big lesson from that - you can't knit something this fine and watch T.V. at the same time!
       The second thing was the blue dressing gown that usually hangs from a hook in the bathroom. That was from a pattern in The Dolls House Magazine.
       Helen's knitted toys inspired me to make a golliwog, a toy that was all the rage in Edwardian times. For the golliwog I took a 'real size' toy pattern and scaled it down by knitting with sewing cotton instead of wool and using #22 (0.9mm) needles. The golly has ended up to be 1 1/2 inches tall. The little navy dress started as a knitted jumper then I had the bright idea of stitching on layers of a navy and white trim to make a skirt so the sweater morphed into a dress!
       In the housekeeper's room, hanging from the wardrobe door, is this black knitted jacket and a long black skirt. The jacket has leg of mutton sleeves with edges bound in 2mm black silk ribbon, a ribbon rosette and black beads as buttons.
       I haven't knitted anything in miniature for a while now. These days my knitting all seems to be 'real size' for the Knit-a-Square charity in South Africa - beanies and peggy squares. Those I can do while watching television!

    Tuesday, 4 October 2011

    More About Helen Palenski and her Miniature Knitting

    A mini topsy turvy doll
    The other side of the doll
    When I was a little girl I had a topsy turvy doll. Do you remember them? It looked like one doll wearing a long skirt but when you turned it upside down, another doll was revealed. Now I have one in miniature, thanks to Helen's creative knitting. It's one of my favourite miniatures!
       In 2007, Helen was awarded IGMA (International Guild of Miniature Artisans) status, a great honour. I asked her about that.
    W: How did your IGMA award come about?
    H: I had to submit five pieces of miniature knitting to the Guild for judging. I did a fairisle jumper, a kimono jacket, a black long-sleeved jumper in 1970s style, a Noddy figure and a Big Ears. The fairisle sweater is now on display in the Kansas Dollhouse Museum.
    W: That has opened up opportunities for you to exhibit at miniatures shows around the world, hasn't it?
    H: Yes, I travel a lot and do several overseas shows each year. The next one is the Philadelphia Miniaturia in the United States. I'll also be going to the Tom Bishop show in Chicago, one in St Louis and one in Dallas. New for next year is a miniatures show at Rheda in Germany.
    W: Have you had a stand at any English shows?
    H: I have done the Kensington Dolls House Festival in the past but won't be next year. The times don't work out unfortunately.
    W: How do you know how much stock to take to shows?
    H:  Luckily all my pieces are so small that I can take a lot of stock when I travel to shows. But I still often sell out of some things. My friend, Elaine Bailey, comes with me and I can be knitting while she deals with customers. Sometimes I'll have people waiting for me to finish a particular piece, or I'll tell them to come back the next day and it will be ready for them. Then at night, back in the hotel room, I'll keep knitting!
    W: What is an unusual piece of knitting you've been asked to do?
    H: I had to design and knit for a garden scene, in 1:48 scale, flower, bumblebee and ladybird people!
      Many thanks, Helen, for telling us about your miniature knitting. I've also seen some of Helen's dolls houses and other miniature projects. They are as detailed and beautifully finished as her knitting.

    Sunday, 2 October 2011

    Helen Palenski, Miniaturist: Knitting

    Helen's mini Winnie the Pooh knitted set
    Helen Palenski
    I first met Helen about ten years ago, not long after we both started making miniatures. I was in awe of her beautiful miniature knitting then and am even more so now! Helen knits day and night, but took time away from her needles to answer my questions.
    W: Do you have a favourite scale to make minis?
    H:  I work in all scales but lately have been making 1:48 scale projects. They are small enough to bring home when I'm travelling and don't take up much room in my house. In November when I'm at a show in America, I'm going to do a 1:48 scale beach house workshop. I usually try to do a class everywhere I go. That way I can learn new techniques and keep up with what's happening in the dolls house world.
    W: Do you belong to any miniatures clubs?
    H: I belong to the Papakura and City Central clubs and also an on-line group.
    W: What do you knit mostly in miniature?
    H:  Sweaters, teacosies in 1:12, 1:24 and 1:48 scales, and little figures. I do sets of Brambley Hedge characters, Noddy and Big Ears, Rupert Bear, Winnie the Pooh and fairy tales such as the three little pigs and the wolf.
    W: Which do you find are the most popular?
    H:  Peter Rabbit, I can't make enough of those, Winnie the Pooh sets and, in America, the latest craze is for Sock Monkeys. And the 1:48 scale teacosies are very popular as well.
    Here is a photo of Helen's Winnie the Pooh characters. Aren't they wonderful!
    In my next post I'll talk to Helen more about her travels with her knitting and her international artisan status.

    Wednesday, 28 September 2011

    How to Make a Miniature Clown

    Materials to make a 1:12 scale clown
    Just what every dolls house nursery or miniature toy shop needs! To make the mini clown in 1:12 scale assemble:
    • 1 wooden bead  (head)                  
    • 28 small felt circles (arms and legs)                           
    • 8 large felt circles  (body)                            
    • 4 small beads                                                 
    • 4 lengths of cotton thread (18 inches)
    • 1 piece of bunka
    • Coloured paper (hat)
    • Tiny pompom
    I use a beading needle as it's long and flexible and the right size to slip through the beads. I make the small felt circles with a stationery hole punch and cut the larger felt circles with curved nail scissors.

    1. To make one arm: take one length of cotton, thread the needle and run the needle through the centers of 6 small felt circles. Pull the cotton through and push the circles to the middle of the length of cotton. Thread through one bead then back through the centers of the circles. You should have a stack of circles with the bead at one end and the 2 ends of cotton coming out the same circle at the other end. Put aside.
    2. Make the other arm.
    3. To make the legs: do the same as for the arms but this time use 8 small felt circles.
    4. Thread both ends of cotton of one leg through 8 large felt circles (the body) and up through the wooden bead head. Repeat with the other leg.
    5. Thread both ends of cotton of one arm up through the top large felt circle and up through the head. Repeat with the other arm.
    A miniature felt clown
    6. Tie the 8 ends of cotton together in a knot close to the top of the head. Put a dab of glue on the knot to stick it to the bead. Leave to dry.
    7. To make the hair: take the colourful length of bunka, pull the threads at one end to unravel it so it goes all curly. Cut it into short lengths.
    8. Cover the sides and back of the head bead with UHU glue. Use a toothpick to help you push the short pieces of bunka onto the bead. Cut off the pieces of cotton close to the bead and stick bunka over the top. Leave to dry.
    9. To make the hat: roll a piece of coloured paper into a cone and glue to head. Glue a pompom on top.
    10. Mark eyes and mouth on the face with the felt tips.

    There you have it - a mini clown!

    Saturday, 24 September 2011

    Making a Shadow Box for a Baby: a Cute Present!

    A miniature shadow box
    Sometimes when you are in the middle of a big dolls house project, it's fun to take a break and make something that is quick to finish and is completely different. This little shadow box idea can be adapted for many occasions. The one I made was to celebrate the birth of a baby.
       I got the box frame from the $2 shop. It was almost 2 inches deep so I was able to fit several things in. The first step was to choose a suitable paper for the back wall. I took this stylised flower idea a step further by painting dotted flowers around the outside of the frame.
     The shawl didn't take long to knit using up scraps of a fine wool. I made the little book by pasting a cover on to a square of thin balsa wood. The duck is two yellow pompons glued together with a red felt triangle as a beak. The tiny windmill on a stick is just folded paper on a toothpick stained brown.
     The thing that took the longest time to make was the clown. In my 'stash' I have lots of pieces of felt in many colours, so I didn't have to look far to get all the bits I needed. Once I started punching out the circles of felt I got a bit carried away! I ended up with enough to make several clowns, so gave them to my friends for their dolls house nurseries.
       In my next post, I'll put the instructions for how to make the clown. 

    Wednesday, 21 September 2011

    Tudor Dolls House: Making the Furniture in 1:12 Scale

    1:12 scale Tudor bed
    Miniature Tudor furniture
    I don't have any power tools at home, doing most of my work using only a craft knife and a mitre box and razor saw. So if I can buy (or swap something for) good quality kitsets of wooden furniture, I jump at the chance. Most of the furniture in my Tudor dolls house is made from kitsets.  
       The pre-dieu stand and the bench were kitsets made for me by a friend at minis club from patterns I supplied. The impressive fourposter bed with the laser-cut carvings is one I made from a kitset supplied by another club member.
    Tudor furniture
       From a dolls house supplier I bought the kitsets for the settle (actually sold as a church pew, I put the panelling on the back), the bread dough trough and the cradle. That originally had a covered hood piece but I didn't put that on as in Tudor times the cradles were open. The simple two-level shelving unit in the kitchen is one I cobbled together from two little tables.
       I did make three pieces of the 1:12 scale furniture in my Tudor dolls house from scratch. The bed in the top storey bedroom is a concoction of verandah posts, a polystyrene block base and assorted pieces of wood for the top and head board. I also made the kitchen table and the refectory table in the Hall. Thankfully it's covered with a tablecloth and lots of food as the finish is not the best!
       Although I don't enjoy the building part of making dolls houses, I do like making kitset furniture. My biggest problem is having enough patience to walk away and let the glue dry!

    Saturday, 17 September 2011

    Edwardian Dolls House: the Gentleman's Study

    A dolls house gentleman's study
    I decided that in this room I would honour my Scottish heritage. To start with I reupholstered the chair in a red and green tartan fabric and stitched the rug in similar colours.
      Several things in the study are to do with my family's history. I inherited the Craig coat of arms and have it hanging in my real house. So I reduced it on a photocopier to 1:12 scale and hung it on the wall above the miniature desk.
    A photo album in 1:12 scale
       Before he died, my grandfather gave me the family photo albums. Dating from 1886, they are heavy, covered in embossed leather and closed with a brass clasp. Inside, the photographs are framed by watercolour painted scenes and floral designs. I miniaturised some of the photos, framed them with a pale-coloured wrapping paper, and stuck them into a tiny photo book. Now I have a little album of my ancestors!
       There are other special things in this study. My daughter made the Tiffany lamp out of Fimo and my husband made the brass telescope. You can actually look through it! The globe is a pencil sharpener; the bookcase contains real, readable books; the model ship represents my family's shipping interests in the nineteenth century. And yes, the decanter on the side table really does contain red wine! 

    Wednesday, 14 September 2011

    Retro Caravan: Experimenting With the Exterior

    Photo from Life and Leisure magazine
    I saw this photo in a Life and Leisure magazine, liked the colour scheme and decided I'd make my caravan look like that. First thing was to spraypaint the inside and outside in white. Then I dithered over whether to paint the bottom part of the exterior red or try something else.
       I was wandering round Mitre 10 and saw a roll of red contact paper, the type, with a paper backing that peels off, that you stick on kitchen shelves. That was an 'aha' moment!
    Starting the exterior of the miniature caravan
       At miniatures club on Sunday, I cut the contact paper to size and stuck it on, taking care to get the air bubbles out. It looked OK, but after a while, the paper started to lift up. So I peeled it all off, put a layer of tacky glue over the wood and repositioned the paper. It slipped around a bit then - I'd get one side lined up but by the time I'd smoothed it on, it would have slid out of position.
       However, I persevered and let it dry. I found some metal strips that I thought I'd do the edges with but they were too hard to bend and stick down on the curved parts. So I'm going to try this white braid up the sides and around the wheel arch.
       I'm still in experimental mode on this. By the time I go to minis club next month I might have ripped it all off and started again!