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.