Sunday, 15 December 2013

Merry Christmas to you all

Christmas Greetings from my house to yours

In my travels in Germany this year I visited a couple of Christmas (open all year round) shops and found this tiny miniature nativity scene. You'll realise just how small it is when I point out that it is housed in a walnut shell!

  Wishing you all a very happy and safe     Christmas and a year full of mini         making in 2014.

                           See you then!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

The Christmas Box is Finished

The Christmas Break Front Box

Remember a few blog posts ago when I showed you the photo of pieces of wood, ready to be made into a 'break front' box? Well, here it is, finished at last!
  So, take off the lid....
The box lid is covered in fabric and tied with ribbon
Then let down the front and there you have it - a Christmas market stall selling Santas!

A good way to display my collection of little Santas

The side that folds down gives extra display space

Showing the layout of the box interior

A close-up view of some of the miniatures
I am pleased with the way this has turned out. I think it will have pride of place under our Christmas tree this year!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Decorating the Christmas Box

Starting to paper the box interior
The first step in decorating the basic 'break front' box was to cover the interior with wood panel paper, specially made in 1:12 scale for dolls houses. 
  I did that at Minis Club day this month, although I seemed to do a lot more talking than gluing!
Adding the display boxes and counter

This week at home I made the counter to fit the width of the box & covered that in the wood paper too, and stuck in the two smaller display units.

Assembling the box lid

I had already glued the lid of the box together and painted it white, inside and out. Now I glued the wood paper inside the lid and stuck the red and white fabric to the top of the lid. It is easier to use the fabric larger than the lid and then cut it with a craft knife to size, after the glue has well and truly dried.

Adding fabric to the box exterior
  I left the fabric in one long piece so I could wrap it round the three sides of the box without having to cut pieces and match up corners. To make a neat edge at the top of the sides I folded under the fabric and carefully glued it on. I used a tacky glue suitable for material. Then I folded the bottom edges to the underside of the box so all looked trim and smooth. So far, so good.
  I'll soon be ready for the fun part - filling the 'market stall' with Santas!

Thursday, 7 November 2013

The 'Break Front Christmas Box - Preparing the Materials

Preparing to decorate the Christmas box
This week I've been gathering my supplies to make the 'break front' box I'll decorate as a Christmas market stall. I read that in Nuremberg, Germany, the famous Christmas market stalls have traditional red and white striped canopies, so I was off to the material shop to buy some fabric like that. I found in my 'stash' the wood panel paper and the cobblestone card, the strands of lycopodium to make wreaths, the two tiny Christmas trees and of course, my tin of mini Santas. Off to the shops again and I tracked down the strings of little Christmas lights that are actually scrapbooking decorations, and the Christmas stickers which have greetings in German, perfect for my theme.
  At minis club this weekend I hope to attach the side of the box that will break away, and decorate the inside with the wood paper and the outside with the red and white fabric.
  More photos and an update to come!

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

How to Make a 'Break Front' Box for Christmas

The start of the project
These bits of wood don't look very exciting, do they? Over the next few weeks I'll be transforming them into a 'break front' box with a Christmas theme. The finished box with lid will look like a wrapped Christmas present tied with ribbon. But when you lift off the lid, the front will 'break' away and fold down so you can see the scene inside. (That's the theory!)
  We started this project at Minis club this month. The pieces to make the 8 inch square boxes  had been cut out for us and we glued them together with wood glue to make the box with three sides, the arched insert and the lid. One side (the break away side) was left to be dealt with at our next meeting.
  Once the glue had dried and the joints were stable, we painted the box and lid with undercoat.
The box and lid are made, glued and painted
  I decided not to use an archway like this. I want to make my box look like a German Christmas market stall, so cut the insert piece up to make the counter and display area.
   From my 'stash' I took a piece of wallpaper that looks like wood panelling and will use that to paper the interior. I also found a couple of little boxes I covered in the wood effect paper to make display stands.

Using paper that looks like wooden boards
  My Christmas market stall will sell Santa Claus ornaments. I've been collecting them on my travels for several years so it will be great to have a place to display them.
Some of the Santa ornaments for the Christmas market stall
I'm looking forward to doing more work on the box at our next Minis club meeting. I'll keep you posted on how it's progressing.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

A Dream Cottage in Miniature

Pearl Cottage by Deb's Dream Cottages
Have a close look at this beautiful miniature scene. It's like something out of a fairy tale, isn't it? An historic weatherboard house surrounded by a cottage garden in full bloom. There's even a dovecot.
  I'm sure you'll be as surprised as I was to learn that everything you see is made of fabric, ribbons and threads!
  I'm always on the lookout for unusual miniatures that I can share with you. So when I saw an advertisement in an Australian home decorating magazine for Deb's dream cottages, I was intrigued. I contacted Debbie and asked her if I could write about them here.
  On her website, Deb has a range of cottages to make, all set in pretty landscaped grounds. She sells the patterns which give sketches and measurements with detailed instructions for the techniques and skills you'll use in making the houses and gardens.
   They are such lovely miniatures, certainly that bit different! 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

An Unusual Miniature from USA

An American First Lady miniature 
I was at a charity shop yesterday having a snoop around and came across this cardboard box that looked like a house. It intrigued me, even more so when I opened it.

Inside was this doll depicting Martha Washington, the wife of America's first president. The house portrayed on the box has characteristics of their home, Mount Vernon in Virginia.
  Hallmark Cards in USA produced this little commemorative doll for the Bicentennial celebrations held in 1976, 200 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Her body, 6 1/2 inches tall, is made of fabric with printed features and her dress is made of cotton and lace.
 I wonder where 'Martha' has been for the last 37 years! She is in perfect condition. I doubt if she has been played with by children. In fact, I doubt if she has been out of her box!

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Hallowe'en in Miniature

Gayle Davey's Haunted House for Hallowe'en
You can really let your imagination run riot at Hallowe'en! Spooky witches, giant spiders, rattling skeletons, crazy cobwebs, black bats and any other creepy thing you can think of!
  Gayle decided to make a haunted house and during October scoured craft shops and dollar stores to find suitably themed items that were small enough to use in this mini project.
  She had a lot of fun and, as you can see, created a house that is certainly spooky!

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Kit Sets or Build from Scratch?

A house built from a kit set
Here's a question for you. Do you like to make kit set dolls houses and furniture or do you build from scratch?
  People at our miniatures club were divided fairly evenly on this issue. Some who are proficient in the use of power tools, bandsaws etc like to build from scratch, using patterns they've found in magazines or books, or even designing their own. Some of our members create kit sets for mini furniture for us to make at club day workshops..
  Others, and I'm firmly in this group, would rather buy kit set houses or furniture and make them up. Although we may 'kit bash' them to put our own particular stamp on the project.
  For me, if I can't make an item with a craft knife out of matboard or foamcore, I'm prepared to buy a kit. I value my fingers too much to use saws and sanders!
  So, what do you do?

Saturday, 7 September 2013

How to Make a Leather Shopping Bag in 1:12 Scale

A little leather shopping bag
I thought I'd tell you about our workshop at miniatures club today. We made shopping bags out of very fine leather. The pattern we used was from Dolls House World magazine, Issue 161.

Starting the workshop - note the essential cup of coffee!
Our tutor, Joan, had adapted the pattern slightly, so the indented edges were not so deep. She brought along fine leather in several colours for us to choose from, and silver and gold jump rings for the handles and clasps. I used a piece of beautifully soft, extra fine leather from an old glove. 
   I traced the pattern onto the back of the leather with a sharp pencil and cut it out with very sharp, small scissors. I cut the thin shoulder straps and piece for the fastening with a craft knife against a steel ruler to keep these thin pieces as straight as I could. 
  Then all of us in the group seemed to ignore the instructions and attack the making of the bag in different ways! 
  I stuck silver jump rings onto the four points first. 

Gluing the jump rings on
  And then I folded up the sides and glued them so the curved edges made the gussets on each side of the bag.

Making the bag shape
Chris did hers a different way, gluing on the handles while everything was flat, which was probably more sensible!

 Then I attached the handles, then unattached them and reattached them because I'd stuck them from front to back instead of both ends of one strap on one side and the other strap on the other side - am I making sense here?!

This is how they turned out

We were pleased with them. Now I need to make some Fimo groceries to put in my bag.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

An Edwardian Doll's House Carousal Pop Up Book

I have this Edwardian Doll's House Carousal Pop Up Book in my library of books about minis and dolls houses. It's a bit of fun, something different and is actually quite informative. The book looks tall and skinny but then you undo the ribbon ties, stand it up and fold it round to make a circle and redo the ties to keep it together. 

The book folded into a carousal
And there you have it, an Edwardian era house of a middle class family decorated in the latest styles of the early 1900s. The colours, furniture, carpets and decorations portrayed make this book a good resource for anyone wanting to make their Edwardian dolls house authentic looking. 
   A family of cardboard figures comes with it and there's even a cat on the roof! What I especially like is that you can open the doors and drawers and see what's inside them, just like in a real dolls house.
  I have also seen others in the range of these pop up books -Victorian era and of Anne of Green Gables.
   Here are some more photos to give you a good idea of what the Edwardian book is like.

Peek in the wardrobes in the girl's bedroom
The well-decorated parlour
The 'modern' bathroom with boiler

Monday, 19 August 2013

Involving Children with Miniatures

Jurassic Park in Miniature
Children seem to be fascinated by small things. Some, boys in particular, love detail - look at the popularity of the 'Where's Wally?' and the Richard Scarry books. So our miniatures hobby is ideal for getting kids involved with planning and making mini projects.
   My husband made this Jurassic Park diorama. He rigged up the car so the headlights turned on and he had spotlights along the high wire fences. And what child doesn't like dinosaurs? This mini scene was a hit with primary school age children.
  Children from our local pre-school centre sometimes visit our house to look at my dolls houses and miniatures. Their mums and grandmas come too. Last time they visited I asked the children what they'd liked best. I was expecting them to say the Alice in Wonderland scene or perhaps the mini village.
  And their answer - "The dog."
  That 's our real dog. He's definitely not a mini!

Friday, 2 August 2013

Free Printables for Mini Projects

Accessories I've made from free printables for my dolls houses

Have you discovered the wonderful range of free printies for dolls houses yet? There are so many things you can make out of paper and card when you visit websites that have printables for miniatures. All you need to do is print what you want on your home printer, then glue them onto thin card, cut them out and construct them by folding and glueing. Easy peasy!

   Items range from boxes and bags; books, magazines and newspapers; packages of toiletries and food; signs and labels; games and toys, and wallpapers, flooring and maps. There are even dolls houses in 1:144 scale that can be found as free printables.
   Here are some of my favourite websites for printies:
Be prepared to spend an enjoyable time looking at these sites! You'll find so many ideas of extra accessories to add to your mini projects. And they're free!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

How to Make Items For the Dolls House Laundry

Hand- made items in 1:12 scale for a dolls house laundry
If you have room for a laundry in your dolls house, you can really get cracking on making lots of bits and pieces for it. This photo shows some of the items I made for my Edwardian dolls house laundry/scullery. All these things would suit dolls houses from the Victorian era right up to the 1950s. And the best part is that I made them from scraps of wood & lengths of wire so they didn't cost a cent!

  • Carpet beater: this is made from 1 length of wire. Starting at the centre of the wire, form the heart shape then twist the ends round and round each other. Pliers came in handy here for getting the wires tight. At the handle end, finish off the wires into a loop so the carpet beater can hang on a hook on the laundry wall.
  • Fly swat: another piece of wire, of a finer gauge this time. Start in the middle of the wire, at the handle with a loop, twist up the shaft then fan the ends out into a square. Bind the end with a piece of cotton then glue a square of fine tulle or mesh onto the square. If you make the material larger than the square, it is easier and you can trim the excess off when dry.
  • Laundry basket and pegs: the basket was a fridge magnet I adapted and filled with squares of cotton folded to look like linen. The pegs I made from the ends of toothpicks, the ones that have the fancy turnings.
  • Feather dusters: again, the fancy ends of toothpicks, with little feathers (donated by my bantam hens!) glued onto each toothpick and bound with black cotton thread.
  • Brush and shovel: the brush is a piece of balsa wood whittled into a brush shape, then stained brown, with black paint for the bristled edge. The shovel is made from a piece of cardboard folded and glued to shape then painted with chrome nail polish. I had my real size one in front of me when I made this so I could measure it and get the look and sizing right for 1:12 scale.
  • Scrubbing board: balsa wood for the 'body', fine square stripwood offcuts for the edges and corrugated cardboard, painted silver with the chrome nail polish, for the scrubbing insert.
  • Duckboard: this is what the poor washer woman would have stood on to keep her shoes off the wet floor. It's made from wood offcuts 2 1/2 inches long and 1 1/4 inches wide, glued onto 3 lengths of matchsticks on the underside to raise it from the floor.
  • Laundry tub: this is the thin metal surround that a tealight candle came in with the 'eyes' of hooks and eyes used in sewing as the handles.
  • Housemaid's box: more scraps of thin wood made into a box shape, the edges bound with black paper strips and a handle made of a toothpick painted black and glued between the 2 long sides. In it I've put a brush (made as the other brush was), dusting cloths, a tin of Brasso and a feather duster.
Even if you don't have a whole room for a laundry in your dolls house, you could make some of these things for your mini kitchen. 
Have fun!

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

How to Make a Screen for your Dolls House

A decorative screen in a dolls house
In real life, people used screens in their houses as decorative features, or as draught excluders in reception rooms, and as modesty screens in bedrooms for privacy when dressing or undressing. They also look great scaled down to 1:12 scale in a dolls house.
   I made the screen in the room above to match the chaise longue I had made for my Edwardian dolls house morning room.
  The fabric and edging trim are in shades of pale blue and I covered the back of the screen with a darker blue paper. As you can see, the tops of the three panels are curved: the tallest is 5 1/2 inches, the middle piece is 5 inches and the smallest is 4 inches tall. Each panel is the same width - 1 1/2 inches. 
Items needed to make a dolls house screen
You will need:

  • pattern for screen
  • matboard
  • fabric
  • fabric glue
  • thin cord or stranded embroidery cotton or fine bunka
  • paper for back 
What to do:
  1. Cut out the screen pieces in matboard, using a sharp craft knife.
  2. Cover the matboard pieces with a fine layer of glue.  
  3. DO NOT CUT THE FABRIC. Leaving the fabric in one piece and right side up, smooth it over the screen pieces. Cover with a sheet of plastic or baking paper and weigh all down with something heavy. I used cans of tomatoes! Leave to dry overnight. The weights will stop the matboard from warping as it dries.
  4. Now take very sharp scissors and cut out each fabric-covered screen piece, trimming the edges neatly.
  5. Glue decorative paper over the back of the pieces in the same way as you did the fabric. Trim when dry, again keeping the side edges neat.
  6. Doing one piece at a time, run a fine line of glue along 3 sides (not the bottom edge). This will stop the fabric fraying and will glue down the edging. Use a toothpick to position the edging. I use a fine cord but stranded embroidery thread and fine bunka work just as well.
  7. If you like you can make hinges with masking tape or ribbon. I didn't. I just glued the pieces into place, holding them at the angles I wanted till the glue dried. 
A screen for a 1:12 scale nursery
Here's another screen I made. Each piece has a rounded top and they are all the same height. I didn't use fabric, just black paper with 'scraps' glued on with a layer of mod-podge.
  I hope you will have a go at making a screen for your dolls house or miniature room setting. Play around with shapes and colours to custom make one just for you.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Finding Minis in Unexpected Places

Very cute!
I was visiting Pompei recently and saw this miniature scene in one of the shops that are clustered round the entrance to the ruins. I had wandered through the store, looking at the cameos and red coral jewellery, the carved statuettes and the art works when suddenly I spotted this unusual display. Of course I had to take a photo to share with you!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Germany is a Miniaturist's Paradise

A miniature scene in a picture frame
I arrived home last week after two months in Europe. Much of my time was spent in Bavaria, Germany, where my daughter lives. I went over there to meet a real life mini - my brand new granddaughter! But of course, as well as gazing adoringly at the baby, I was also on the hunt for miniatures.
   Germany, or at least Bavaria, is a treasure trove of miniatures. You can find them in all sorts of places. At souvenir shops you will see a range of Reuter Porzellen items, either singly or in little scenes such as kitchen tables with cakes on them or study sets with an ink well, quill pen, spectacles and folded newspaper, just ready to be popped straight into your dolls house.
   Souvenir shops also sell fridge magnets which can be used in 1:12 scale houses. I particularly admired the
cuckoo clock magnets and the ones like miniature houses where a man came out of one door if it was going to rain and a lady came out of the other door if it was going to be sunny. We had a real one of those when I was a child and it always fascinated me.
  Some areas of the country had miniatures specific to them such as handmade and hand-painted tin minis I wrote about elsewhere on this blog.

A variety of miniature scenes from Germany
  I was very interested to see these miniature scenes in picture frames. They sloped inwards towards the back to give a longer perspective view. Domestic interiors, workshops, stables and shops all featured in them. I thought they would be relatively easy to make and especially could be good for a club project.
   Germany is famous for wooden toys and in some specialty toy or souvenir shops you can see a range of wooden miniatures, and especially Christmas trees, ornaments, and nativity scenes in several scales. I bought the tiniest nativity scene in a walnut shell.
  And in some towns there are Christmas shops with a very varied range of ornaments which could be used for dolls house miniatures.
  If you are travelling to Bavaria or further afield in Germany, keep your eyes open for minis. I'm sure you'll be delighted with what you find.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Visiting Munich's Museum of Childhood

Munich's Museum of Childhood

At one end of the Marianplatz in central Munich, Germany, there is a building that looks like a tower straight out of a fairytale. As you climb the narrow, stone spiral staircase, you feel as if you might meet Rapunzel! In this tower is the Museum of Childhood and Toys.
  I went there to see some antique playthings and dolls houses. Part of the charm of older miniatures is that they rarely were made to a specific scale. This was well illustrated in the museum displays of 19th century miniatures.
Dolls house miniatures from 1875
There was a two-room house, a drawing room and bedroom, from 1875 that featured tin furniture and elaborate gold window pelmets. The furniture and furnishings were a mixture of scales, as were the dolls.
  Another display showed a haberdashery shop with bolts of material on the simple shelves and a little sewing machine nearby.
  The Nuremberg Kitchen caught my attention. There was so much to look at in this display that would have been used as a teaching aid for young girls, readying them for the time they grew up and had their own households to run.
A Nuremberg Kitchen
  The kitchen was bursting with rows of jelly moulds, pewter plates, woven baskets, porcelain canisters, scales, scoops and sieves. In the middle stood a doll wearing a red skirt and checked apron, a little kitten at her feet.
  I spent a happy hour browsing the other displays in the museum that ranged from Donald Duck and Barbie, to clockwork windup toys, singing mechanical birds and dancing bears.
Wind up tin toys

Friday, 17 May 2013

Accessories for a Tudor Dolls House Kitchen

A well-equipped Tudor dolls house kitchen
I tended to think that kitchens in Tudor times were pretty basically equipped. But after reading some inventories of the houses of real people of that time I changed my mind. Tudor cooks had lots of utensils to help them make their pottages and coffin pies!
  Many of the items found in a Tudor kitchen were made of wood, clay, pewter  or iron. These can be made in 1:12 scale using wood, or polymer modelling clay or air-drying clay that can then be painted to look like metal or pottery. Patterns for making them can be found in magazines and books devoted to miniatures. You can also buy kitchen accessories from specialist suppliers of dolls house miniatures.
   Here are some ideas for accessories for your Tudor dolls house kitchen:

  • buckets made of leather, or wooden staves hooped with iron
  • cooking pots and pans made of pottery and metal
  • iron fire dogs, roasting spits, griddles and cauldrons. Cauldrons were hung up over the kitchen fire on a hook attached to an arm that could be swung out and back
  • forget about forks, the cutlery used was knives, shaped like daggers, and spoons. Much of the food was eaten with the fingers.
  • plates, cups and tankards were made of pewter for the wealthy. The poor had cups made of wood or horn. For plates they used 'trenchers' - thick slices of stale bread. In later Tudor times, these were replaced with square wooden platters.
  • a wooden salt box hung on the wall
  • pottery jugs and platters
  • a mortar and pestle
  • flagons and barrels for beer and wine ( often kept in another room)
  • long-handled perforated spoons and paddles for stirring the meal in the cauldron
And I put one cheeky little accessory in my Tudor dolls house kitchen that you may or may not like to copy - a little grey mouse!

Friday, 10 May 2013

How to Landscape a Miniature Scene

Examples of  landscaping materials for miniature scenes
I really enjoy landscaping my miniature projects. Adding some greenery and flowers can enhance a dolls house. Creating a scene around it will add another layer to the miniature 'story'.
  Many landscaping supplies can be bought from model railway stores or you can make your own.
  Here are the instructions to make a garden around a dolls house:

  • Cut a baseboard larger than the building. This will be the garden. Mark on it where the building will go. Leave the space clear.
  • Paint the rest of the board green, not forgetting to paint around the sides. if you want a little path to the front door, paint this in now with brown paint, or use a strip of paving paper like the ones in the photograph.
  • Spread tacky glue over the green surface and sprinkle on a fine green railway scatter as grass. If you want to make your own 'grass', collect fine sawdust and dye it various shades of green.
  • You can make flowers using flocking or Flower Soft which comes in various colours. Use a toothpick to dot tacky glue onto places you want flowers to be, then dip another toothpick into the flocking and dab it onto the glue spots.
  • Other flowers and leaves can be made from paper using punches or you can buy flower-making kit sets to put together.
  • To make a climbing vine, run stranded green embroidery thread through tacky glue, then 'grass', then wind it round the building supports. When dry, add flowers as explained above.
  • You can buy ready-made trees and bushes or make them yourself. I collect little pieces of lichen from a tree in our garden, dry them, then use them as miniature bushes.
  • To make trees, take lengths of florist wire, hold in a bundle and wrap brown florist tape partway up the bundle for a trunk. Spread out the un-taped ends of wire for branches. Dip into tacky glue and then into railway scatter for the foliage.
Landscaping a miniature scene adds to the appeal

Have fun making a garden!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Miniatures in Munich

A Bavarian miniature made of tin
I had a fascinating afternoon yesterday, on the hunt for minis. I was especially wanting to find some German ones, typical of Bavaria. I wasn't disappointed.
  I'm in Munich and at Maxburgstrasse 4, in the centre of the city, I discovered a veritable treasure trove of dolls house furniture, miniature accessories and things I hadn't seen before.
 The shop is called Munchen Puppenstuben and this family-run business has been going for over 30 years.

As well as having a good look at everything you could ever need for dolls houses, I was particularly drawn to  their out-of-the-ordinary minis.
 The Bavarian scenes and figurines are all hand made of tin and hand painted, still by the family that first made them many years ago. Some of the minis are themed to the four seasons such as iceskating for winter and different wreaths of flowers for different times of the year; or to local events such as the horses pulling the wagons of barrels of beer for the Oktoberfest; or to Christmas and Easter as well as scenes from everyday life.
  Each is so detailed and coloured so beautifully that you expect the little figures to come to life!

Hand made and painted miniatures for Easter in Germany

If you are in Munich and want to spend time looking at, talking about and buying minis, the Munchen Puppenstuben is the place to go! You can also check out their website here.
  I bought my souvenir of Munich there - a traditional miniature maypole. See what I mean by all the detail! It's only 2 3/4 inches tall!