Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Merry Christmas to You

A Miniature Father Christmas
Here's a tiny Santa Claus I made from a kit set one Miniatures Club Day. He's a 'shelf sitter' and very cute!
   Thank you so much for following my blog this year and for the encouraging comments and emails I've had. It has been a pleasure writing about our wonderful, creative miniatures and dolls house hobby.

  I wish you all
            a very Merry Christmas 

and I sincerely hope that 2013 will be a great year for you! See you in the New Year!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

How to ... Tips for Miniature Embroidery

Sue Bakker's Bargello Embroidery in Progress
Throughout her career in needlework, both 'real size' and miniature, Sue Bakker has been committed to raising the standard of embroidery. So she was happy to share with us her tips and hints for our miniature stitching.

  1. Frame up your work before you start embroidering. For smaller pieces use a hoop. A wooden frame with the canvas or cotton fixed along the edges with drawing pins is good for larger items. For silk gauze use a cardboard frame. Using a frame keeps your hands off the work so it is cleaner and it also helps to keep the material from pulling out of shape.
  2. Start the embroidery in the middle of the pattern. By beginning there and working outwards, the material will not distort as it could if you began stitching on one edge.
  3. For the design details, use half cross stitch. To save trailing threads across the back of the work between the designs, work every alternate stitch outwards, then fill in the gaps as you work back to where you began.
  4. For the backgrounds, use basketweave stitch. This fills in the spaces nicely and keeps the material lying flat. By stitching carefully, the back of your mini embroidery can be as neat as the front.
The back of Sue Bakker's embroidery is as neat as the front
      5. Before you get to the edges of a carpet, work the last row of the outside border, then fold the material over to the underside along this last row of stitching. Do overcast stitch to wrap the edge, then go back to complete the border in basketweave stitch and half cross stitch, working through both layers of the fabric. 
      6. For a fringe, use Surrey stitch as it is neat and not bulky.

The embroidery in the frame is done on 60 count gauze!
  Many thanks to Sue for showing us these tips. We're all inspired to get stitching now!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sue Bakker, Miniaturist: Embroidery

Sue Bakker 
We were very fortunate at our miniatures club yesterday to have as our guest, Sue Bakker from Scotland. Sue's speciality is miniature embroidery and her work is of such a high standard that pieces are displayed in museums and galleries in the United Kingdom and United States.
  She is a member of GMNA (the Guild of Miniature Needle Arts) and a founder member of the Miniature Needlework Society International.
  Sue kindly agreed to answer my questions.
Wendy: Did you do 'full size' needlework before you started stitching in miniature?
Sue:  Yes, I did my training at the London City and Guilds specialising in creative embroidery.
W: How did you get involved with miniatures?
S:  My sister-in-law had a big dolls house and one day I offered to stitch a carpet for it. That was in the 1980s and I could find only one book, a Dover Publication, that had embroidery charts for a carpet. So I decided I would design my own pattern and since then I always have. That carpet for my sister-in-law started me doing embroidery in the dolls house 1:12 scale.
W: And how did your career in miniature embroidery grow from there?
S: I was invited to exhibit at the 1989 Kensington Dolls House Show and did so every second year until 2001. As well as carpets I had stitched I produced small items such as cushions, fire screens, and footstools for sale. I developed a range of embroidery kit sets and charts, with new patterns available for each fair. I also attended some of the dolls houses and miniature shows in the United States.

Examples of Sue Bakker's embroidery in 1:12 scale
(It was interesting to see Sue's blue and white oriental carpet (above) as that is the one I did in green for my Edwardian dolls house and another member of our club has stitched it in brown tones.)

S: As I became more well-known I began to get commissions from clients in the United Kingdom and America. I also collaborated with (miniature) furniture designers to incorporate embroidery into some of their pieces.
  For about 12 years I wrote for and designed charts for the International Dolls House News magazine.
W: Do you have a dolls house?
S:  No, but I do have a glass fronted display cabinet that I have made miniature room settings in. My favourite is the Georgian room - I love that era's embroidery and china so I have been able to display many miniature pieces in it.

Sue's favourite miniature room, as shown in the International Dolls House News magazine.
W: Many thanks, Sue, for an interesting chat, and for donating patterns to our club. 

We were all in awe of Sue's embroidery, some of it done on 60 count silk gauze (that's 60 stitches to the inch!) We were also so impressed that the back of Sue's needlework is as beautiful as the front!
In my next blog post, (How to ...Tips for Miniature Embroidery) I'll share the hints and techniques Sue gave us to improve our miniature stitching projects.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Miniature Christmas Village on Display

The Christmas Village made of paper
Here it is, the miniature Christmas Village that started out as a paper kit set. Today I placed some white material over a small table and set out the buildings and trees. Inside each building is a LED candle.
  Then I disembowelled a cushion! The fibrefill stuffing is the snow on the ground.
  At nightfall I turned on the candles and took these photos.

Now I'm really in a Christmassy mood!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

How to Make Snow in Miniature

Making Snow for Miniatures
You would have laughed this afternoon if you could have seen me making my miniature Christmas village look cold and wintery. It involved a lot of glue, a teaspoon, glitter and baking soda, of all things!
  Firstly I sat each mini house and the church in a plastic container. Then I dribbled glue quite thickly in the places I wanted the snow to sit on the roofs. The next step was to spoon baking soda over the gluey patches. I used several teaspoonfuls on each house so the snow looked as if it had piled up around the chimneys and along the roof edges. Because the houses were in the containers it wasn't too messy a job; the excess baking soda just fell into them. And I shook the houses just before the glue dried so the extra 'snow' dropped off too.
  The piece de resistance was squirting white sparkly glitter over the snow. I'm pretty pleased with the result.
A Snowy Miniature Scene

Saturday, 24 November 2012

More on the Christmas Village in Miniature

All Made From Paper for the Christmas Village
I've been folding paper and glueing paper this morning and these are the results - the church for my Christmas village and two types of trees. I must say that the bare branches ones were extremely fiddly to do. I lost count of the number of times they fell apart! But now, as you can see, they are standing at last.
  When I have decorated the church with the snowy stuff and glitter I'll be able to put in the vellum paper windows. I'm wondering if I used coloured highlighter pens on the vellum, would I get a stained glass effect?  There is a generous amount of that paper supplied so I think I'll give it a try. I'll let you know the results.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Mini House for the Christmas Village

All the house parts are pre-punched - no need for scissors!
What a dream it is putting the miniature houses together! They are made of heavy paper which is pre-punched so you just need to push the pieces out of the background paper. And the lines to fold are all pre-scored as well so you know exactly where to bend the edges to make the tabs for gluing, and where to bend the wall lines.
Assembling the house parts
Once the pieces are all folded properly you can glue them together. The glue that is supplied with the kit is VERY sticky and, in my usual battle with adhesives, I managed to get more on my fingers than on the house walls! I needed to stop every now and again and wash my hands with hot soapy water.
The house ready for decorating
Here is the house, all stuck together and ready for decorating. The instruction book suggests putting the 'glass' in the windows after you've finished using the glitter and fake snow so the panes stay clear.
  I'll make the other houses now and get out the glue, glitter and snowy stuff when they're done. Then I can make one big mess instead of several little ones!! I must remember not to breathe in when I'm squirting glitter around!

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Making a Christmas Village

A Christmas Village Kit Set
Well, I got quite a surprise when this arrived in the mail. I had ordered it from an on-line store, thinking I was getting a book with patterns and instructions for the little houses. The photo they'd put up had the bottom of the picture cut off so I didn't see the 'includes' part.
Inside the Christmas Village Kit
  What I got was this box with everything you need to build the Christmas village: the instruction book, the glue, the glitter, the heavy paper house patterns, even a ready-made Christmas tree.
An Example of a Paper House
What I really like about the kit is that the paper parts are pre-punched and scored - you don't even need scissors.
  The kit makes 3 houses, 1 church, several green Christmas trees, 2 trees with bare branches, a dog kennel, a snowman and a picket fence. And in the book are more of the patterns so you can photocopy them off if you want to make more buildings.
  It is not dolls house scale - it's more railway OO scale, I think. I'm planning to put it on my (real house) mantelpiece at Christmas.
  I'll keep you up-dated as I build it!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

More Photos of the Mini Mice

I've been asked for more photos of my miniature mice so here they are. Enjoy!
Bless This Mouse
Swinging round the bird feeder
Tree Climbing
Playing in the petunia patch

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Photographing the Miniature Mice

Miniature Mice and Real Chicken!
Often when photographing miniatures, it is best to work in natural light as much as possible. I was having a serious session taking photos of several minis outside for a magazine article when a mad mood overtook me!!
  I got the miniature mice I had made (see my blog post about them under 'Small Projects') and a handful of breadcrumbs, scattered the bread on the grass and posed the mice around it. Then I hid behind a bush with my camera and waited.
  It wasn't long before my bantam hen appeared. She approached cautiously, had a good look at the mice then ignored them and started in on the breadcrumbs.  I got this great picture!
Mini Mice and Real Mushrooms
I got carried away then. I photographed the mice climbing trees, carrying their little suitcases across the drive, peeping out of the tops of my gumboots and playing ring-a-rosey round these mushrooms. 
  Sometimes you just have to release your inner child and be playful! 

Saturday, 27 October 2012

How to Change a Resin Doll Figure in 1:12 Scale

Upgrade a Resin Doll in 1:12 Scale to Make it Unique
If you're a dolls house fan, I'm sure you've seen the resin dolls that are available in 1:12 and 1:24 scale. They are a relatively cheap way of populating a dolls house or miniature scene. They come in such a wide variety of poses: from a housemaid kneeling with a brush and dust pan; to a portly gentleman holding a brandy glass; to a child cuddling a teddy bear, and just about everything you can think of in between!
  And they may be styled as Victorian or Georgian or Edwardian or Art Deco or Modern Day. There are so many to choose from.
  But once you have a resin doll you might want to customise it to make it unique to your project. And there are a couple of ways of doing just that.

  • With fabric and glue. I use UHU glue because it 'grabs' quickly and seems to stick cloth to resin very well.  This started out as a Victorian resin figure in a brown dress with a bustle down the back. Transformed into an Edwardian lady, the only things sewn are the ribbon roses. All the cream fabric and lace was glued straight onto the resin doll. (And yes, she is headless - I wanted her to look like a mannequin in my miniature museum rather than a person.)

Lace is Glued to a Resin Doll to Change the Style of Dress
  • The tricky bits. Some of the resin figurines might have their hands or arms in places that are awkward to stick the fabric around. I found it best to cut and tuck the material so it looked as if it was falling in natural folds. You really just need to play around with it until you're happy with the draped effect. This figurine (ignore the hair, I haven't finished trimming it!) was a lady in a very posh frock but some black fabric, white apron and lace downgraded her status to one of parlour maid.
  • With paint. Those test pots of acrylic paints or tubes of artists' paints come in such a range of colours and brush onto the resin so smoothly that in a few minutes, you can change the colour of your doll's clothing or hair or accessories very cheaply and easily.
It's fun to take a mass-produced object and customise it in your own, unique way. Give it a try!

Monday, 15 October 2012

How to Stock Your Dolls House Pantry

A Well-stocked Edwardian Pantry in 1:12 Scale
Part of the enormous pleasure I get from the dolls house hobby is making all the little bits and pieces to fill the cupboards, drawers and shelves. So stocking a dolls house pantry is right up my alley!
  Because this is the pantry in my Edwardian dolls house, I wanted to make sure that the tins and drinks were accurate for the era. I was lucky enough to find a book with pictures of real Edwardian products and that's when the photocopier was put to good use. I shrank down the photos of the labels and used them. 
Use Real Labels in Miniature
 You could do the same for a modern dolls house, or even a Victorian one if you can find a suitable reference book. It all adds to the authentic details.
  I bought a couple of glass bottles to stick drink labels on. I made square boxes out of card to make the biscuit tins and the tea tin. The ginger beer bottles I made out of Fimo. For the tinned goods, dowelling cut to size, with the labels stuck on and the tops and bottoms painted with chrome nail polish made realistic looking cans.
  I hope you'll use some of these ideas to stock your own mini pantry. Have fun!

Glass Jars Filled with Fimo Fruit and Vegetables

These little glass containers are filled with a variety of fruit and vege I made from Fimo. To get the labels looking as if the cook wrote them, I used a tiny handwriting font on the computer.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Dolls for an Edwardian Dolls House

Kewpie Dolls, Porcelain Dolls and Paper Dolls as Toys for an Edwardian Dolls House
If, like me, you are the proud owner of an Edwardian dolls house, you'll be keen to stock the nursery with toys suitable for that era. I talked about teddy bears in another post and now here are some ideas for toy dolls.
   In the early years of the 20th century, porcelain headed dolls were replacing wax and wooden ones. They were dressed in miniature versions of children's clothes. Boy dolls were often dressed in sailor suits; girl dolls wore the full outfit from the pantaloons and petticoats to the pretty dresses and white pinafores. Many of the best dolls came from Germany and looked particularly lifelike. My one in the photo was made by Barbara Blowes from Christchurch. 
   A totally different looking doll, not in the least bit realistic, was invented in 1909. The kewpie doll was drawn by Rose O'Neill to illustrate stories in the Ladies Home Journal magazine. With its large eyes, cute hairdo and rounded belly, it couldn't be more different from the traditional dolls.
Scale down paper dolls to 1:12 size
   Paper dolls were popular too. Some were advertisements for products where children could collect a set of dolls and their clothes, as long as their parents kept buying!
   I bought a book called 'Antique Paper Dolls of the Edwardian Era'. It has reproductions in full colour of original paper dolls from France in 1908. I photocopied some of the pages down to 1:12 scale, cut out the teeny tiny dresses and paper dolls and made a little box to put them in. Fiddly, but fun!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Design and Build Your Own Doll's Houses

A book for the more experienced miniaturist

Design and Build Your Own Dolls' Houses by Beryl Armstrong is an inspiring book for miniaturists who are not satisfied with kitset dolls houses and want to build their own. Beryl is a very experienced miniaturist who has published several books on the subject.
   The dolls house pictured on the cover of this book is an appealing style reminiscent of American houses. But you don't need to be confined to that - full instructions are given for the concepts used in designing a dolls house to your own unique plan.
Chapters in 'Design and Build Your Own Doll's House'
As you can see from the chapter headings, this book is comprehensive. Each step in the building process is illustrated with very clear photographs and full instructions. Even if you are not designing your own dolls house, the ideas in this book are very useful for finishing, lighting and decorating kitset houses as well.
  All in all, this book is a great addition to your library of dolls house and miniatures books. I have found it to be very useful.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Miniature Teddy Bears for the Dolls House

A selection of miniature teddies
If you are a purist miniaturist who loves authenticity, and if you have a Victorian dolls house, then sorry, you shouldn't have teddy bears in it! You see, they weren't invented until 1902, just after Queen Victoria died. That was when a cartoon showing Teddy Roosevelt with a real bear was published. The Steiff Company started producing teddy bears as toys in 1904.
  The photo shows some examples of the teddies I have in my Edwardian dolls house.
  I made the pull-along bear from a kitset I got in a swap with other miniaturists. The wheels on the little platform are half of the domes used in sewing. The bear itself is made of micro-suede which was easy to work with as it didn't fray.
  The little soft bear has movable arms and legs. I bought that at a dolls house fair.
  The teddy bear plate is a miniature work of art made by an English miniaturist who specialises in ceramics.
  Because the Edwardians were very fond of nautically-themed clothes when dressing their children, I pounced on this tiny resin bear dressed in a sailor suit, with a little yacht. Just the thing for the Edwardian nursery.
  If you really love teddy bears and really want to have them in your dolls house, I'd say, forget the 1902 date and put them wherever you like! Have fun!

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Photos From the Miniatures Open Day

A traditional N.Z. villa in 1:24 scale by Laurie and Gayle Davey
Yesterday we had a very successful Open Day at our Hibiscus Miniatures Club. We were amazed at how many people turned up to see our displays and our club members working on their projects. Everyone seemed very interested in our tiny things, asking lots of questions and spending a long time looking at the exhibits. It was great!
 I thought I'd post some photos to show you what you missed if you didn't make it to Orewa.
The Gingerbread House by Flo Schubert was very popular with the children.
Smithy by Laurie Davey. The blacksmith pulls a lever to pump the bellows, the fire lights up and smoke puffs out the chimney
A tiny three-storey house, complete with furniture, made from a Pringles potato chips tin by Joan Murray.

Bruce Davey combined his interests in hot rod cars and miniatures to make this display.
A scale model of a sawmill at Henderson by Des Bellette
What every gardener needs - a potting shed like this miniature by Chris Davey
A spooky Hallowe'en house by Gayle Davey
Steve Naish worked on his model of the 'Titanic'.
A very small log cabin in 1:144 scale by Wendy Craig
These photos show only a small sampling of the miniatures we had on display. Pamela showed her N scale scene in a bookcase that I have written about on this blog. I took along my N scale village and the retro caravan too. Nancy had a very detailed Kiwiana souvenir shop there as one of her exhibits but unfortunately it didn't photograph well - too many reflections bouncing off the perspex frontage. Louise kept working away at her French-styled doll shop and Heather was making some modern miniatures.
  All in all it was a busy, interesting happy day - all our visitors left with smiles on their faces!

Monday, 3 September 2012

Miniatures Open Day

If you are out and about on Auckland's North Shore this Sunday, call in to our club Open Day. There will be some interesting miniatures to look at.
Hope to see you there!

Monday, 27 August 2012

The Village Centre

In the centre of my mini village I put a row of shops and a corner pub.They are kit sets by Kestrel Designs I made up. I think, when painted up, they look very realistic. Positioning the tiny people was fun, making them appear as if they were chatting or admiring goods in the shop windows or sitting on a bench outside the pub or waiting to cross the road.
The N Scale Village Shops

The Newer Part of the N Scale Village
Beside the pub is the old Norman church. I made the gravestones by painting the offcuts of plastic from the kits. Can you see the gravediggers with their shovel and pick?!
   Behind the shops is the bus stop and the newer part of the village. These kit set houses are a mix of brick Kestrel Design bungalows and American kits for weatherboard houses.
   One of the things I really like about this layout is that every time I look at it, I see something different. It has been a project that has given me an immense amount of satisfaction!