Sunday, 11 August 2019

Re-calibrating

I have moved again. (If you wonder why I keep moving and downsizing, it's a sad story, and you don't want to know the details, but it wasn't by choice). I am now renting a furnished flat, which means that I have to adapt to the available furniture and arrange my workspace to the best of my abilities. It also means that still more of my stuff had to go to storage, and I only brought one box of supplies. I packed in haste, and it's funny to discover how randomly I chose what to bring and what to store. I have the most essential tools, but my cutting mat is elsewhere. I have paint, glue, fabric, paper - enough to do some projects. And I have a hobby shop close by.

When you live in somebody else's space it takes time before you can, first mentally, then physically, re-arrange it to your liking and your needs. Obviously, a folding table makes a perfect workbench, and if I ever have guests who require a coffee table, I can quickly put everything away. But the best thing about this place is that I don't have to clear it away every night.


My landlady has kindly given me one and a half book shelf, in a corner closest to the floor, but as I haven't brought any of my books - you see where my priorities are! - most of my Really Useful Boxes can just about be squeezed in. And I start by going through them to see what I actually have brought.



Maybe this is the time when I will choose projects based on supplies. All those saved posts from Facebook, when I thought: Yes, I can make it some time. Now is the time.

I have brought a small selection of kits that will keep me busy for a while.

And I have also brought a few pieces that I bought at a car boot sale just before I moved.




The broken dressing table begged for my attention. Apologies for poor picture quality - I haven't yet adjusted to the light in this place.

 

It is one of those pieces that are sort of ok, but crude, and the finish is dull. To do it properly you need to remove the varnish, for which I have neither space nor equipment, so I just sanded it and then painted. I haven't taken step-by-step pictures because it was quite straightforward. I painted with brown paint first and then antique white, with golden details. I distressed it a bit.



The only problem was painting around the drawer pulls. They seem to be glued on rather than attached with nails so I didn't risk removing them.

I also lined the drawers with Japanese paper.

 

This piece wouldn't win a prize at a miniature fair, but it was fun to upcycle a boring piece into something more exciting, and it was a good way of getting back into the making mode.

In a kitchen drawer I found some string - an opportunity too good to miss.



 

I am thoroughly thrilled with my first day back miniature making. I wasn't aware that I had missed it so much these past weeks. I am looking forward to many great projects even before I eventually get a place of my own with a HUGE hobby room.




Sunday, 23 June 2019

A weird chair

A friend of mine posted a photo on Facebook from a local museum. Another friend commented that they had had a chair exactly like that when they were a child.

 

The opportunity was too good to miss. I said I would replicate it in miniature.

It was supposed to be a quick and inexpensive project so I didn't bother to build the chair myself and bought something that was close enough.


 


I posted this on my friend's timeline saying that I accepted the challenge. Yet another friend commented that the point of the chair was the missing part. Well, yes, exactly.

I have most of my tools temporarily in storage, so I didn't even have a little saw. I did it with a scalpel which took some time, but I wasn't in a hurry. A lot of sanding too.


 


Then I stained it with dark oak stain.

 

Then I rubbed it with a candle here and there. Painted with green and wiped off immediately. Paint does not stick to wax which produces the right effect.

It was fun to make. Not sure what I will do with it, other than post the picture on my friend's FB.






Saturday, 8 June 2019

Library room box, final

The library room box is going to the people is has been made for next week, the wonderful librarians in my department library. It is the least I can do to thank them for eleven years of fantastic support. Of course it is a surprise, and I hope they will be surprised and like it. You never know.

So this is the last chance for me to take a picture and reflect on what I have done and what I should have done differently.




I started this project three months ago, confident that I had plenty of time. This week I suddenly realised that vacation season is approaching, and I may never find a moment when all librarians are in. I was right. I asked yesterday, and already next week some of them will be away, and more the week after. So now is the time! And of course nobody will know what I had intended to do and didn't.

To begin with, I am pleased with the idea of making a library inside an old book and quite proud of the way the overall design worked. You can see it step by step here and here . I am glad that I took the time to make interesting floors, wallpaper and ceiling.

I compromised on bookshelves. Mostly because I didn't have all my supplies and tools. I considered several options for DYI, but finally decided that I would buy unfinished shelves and make them unique. At the very least, I made this fake open drawer!

I compromised on library steps. I tried various options, but again, without supplies and proper tools it didn't look right. One day I will make library steps from scratch. 

I am really glad that I didn't compromise on books. If you compare my first post in which I used printed book spines with the final result featuring 150 individual books, I hope you agree it was worth the trouble. Many hours of work, but highly satisfactory.

Of course I did compromise on books in the sense that most of them are still fake, that is, do not open. My ambition was to replace them with real books, but I ran out of time. A few can be opened and have real stories and pictures, and they will do the trick.

I have also put in a book by me. I wonder whether the recipients will spot it.

I added more items, framed maps on walls, stacks of manuscripts, pencils, index cards. I stuffed the desk drawers with all kinds of things, including miniature diaries.

I considered and dismissed a grandfather clock. It dominated the room too much and obscured other items. 

I was planning to add display lights, and I bought a LED strip, but I couldn't make it work (maybe the battery was wrong) so again, I ran out of time. Nobody will ever know that there was supposed to be light. I have fake ceiling lamps. I also wanted to make a typical library lamp with a green lampshade and a chain pull. Maybe it would have been too much. There is enough clutter already.

On the whole, I am happy with this project, and I am looking forward to giving it away to people who will hopefully appreciate it.



Saturday, 18 May 2019

Library room box, part 7

In my previous post about the library project I mentioned that I needed more books and other details to make the library look like a living workspace rather than a display room. While the shelves are full, there must be books on the desk, on the floor and everywhere.


I am sure many of you recognise these because we all use the same free printies.

I also noticed, in pictures of real libraries, that there are piles of manuscripts. I made some from pages of the Webster dictionary, and also an authentic handwritten letter I found on the web and resized. It's the same letter, but I printed out several copies.



I put some "leather"-bound notebooks in the desk drawers, as well as piles of teeny tiny index cards. Then I made some pencils. Yellow Faber pencils and red pencils. It's easy and fun, but takes some times and patience.  As always, I am not in a hurry.


First, I painted two ends of toothpicks, leaving some unpainted bits where the pencil has been sharpened. Then for lead pencils, I painted the tips black and for red pencils obviously red. Then I cut each toothpick in two and dipped the ends in gold for the Faber pencils and in black for the red pencils. Dipping rather than painting with a brush gave an even edge.


Many, many pencils for the library. Some in desk drawers, other will be just lying here and there. But I also wanted a pencil holder on the desk and made one from those plastic thingies that protects prongs on electric plugs (if you live in the UK). Very helpful material for various projects.


I glued three together and onto a piece of card, then painted bright red on the inside and shiny black on the outside, sort of Chinese lacquer look, with golden edges. I will add scissors, a letter opener and other office stuff. Unfortunately, my huge box of watch parts is stored away; watch parts make great pens, knives and even rulers. 

I will also add more maps and/or portraits of famous librarians. 

I have definitely decided against the clock. There must be space on the floor for the books.

 

It is getting closer to what I want it to be. A librarian friend saw this project several weeks ago, even before I started making individual books, and thought it was perfect. But I know that each tiny detail adds to the full impression, and even though the people for whom I am making this room might never find the tiny erasers and pen sharpeners in the desk drawers, it's a matter of honour to have them hidden there.

Come back soon.


Sunday, 12 May 2019

Library room box, part 6

If you have followed my library project, you must be wondering whether I have totally abandoned it, but I haven't. All this time I have been making books. In the previous post I estimated that I would need 120 to fill the shelves, and that was correct.



120 individual books of various shapes and models that look as authentic as they can be, without being real books that can be opened and read. But I will make some real books to spread strategically to create the effect.

As you see, I have added library steps.




I wish I could say I made them from scratch, bit I didn't - I have neither skills nor tools. I bought a kit and put all my efforts into finish, and I am pleased with the result. It is a beautiful piece that adds much to the scene.

I have, as I planned, made some extra books that will be on the floor and on tables.



In most pictures of libraries, there are books and manuscripts everywhere, so there is still a lot of work for me to do. There must be piles of books on top of the book cases as well (fire hazard!). And I will put all kinds of stuff in the desk drawers.

I have considered adding a tall case clock.



It takes space and perhaps eclipses the library steps, but I think it adds a good balance to the left side of the room. I will let it stay in for a while, then remove, then put back again and see what feels right.

It is now time to make ceiling lights. This is what I am using:



The lamp shades are cut from a chocolate box. I think it is just the right sort of lamp for a library. Of course somewhere among my stored-away supplies I have a perfect chandelier (Christmas decoration).

I have used the strongest glue I have. If it doesn't work, I am in trouble.


But fortunately it does. So here we are.



Not finished by any means, but I just want to share the progress. And here is a version without the clock, for you, dear reader, to judge which you find best. Please leave a comment and come back soon.


Sunday, 5 May 2019

Triang house: Inspecting the furniture

When I bought the Triang, I hadn't even looked properly at what came with it. The imaginary former owner Lily didn't have much choice of furniture. I suspect that what I found inside was exactly what Lily had to play with, and it was an array of styles and manufacturers.

This is a Kleeware set. I don't like it because of its shiny plastic look.


 


I once repainted a plastic sofa, and thinking back I hope it wasn't a valuable vintage piece (it is in storage so I cannot check). These are undeniably valuable vintage pieces, but I don't think I will ever use them in any project. They are also slightly larger than the rest, so as you see, if I put them in the room, there is almost no space for anything else. I have a lovely Barton three-piece which will fit in nicely.

Most of the other furniture is Barton. I am not tremendously fond of Barton or early Lundby, because they are crude and clumsy, made of far too thick wood, and the finish is not nice. But they are period-correct for 1950s so I will keep them and add details that will make them look prettier. I need to remind myself that both the house and the furniture were once playthings, not collectibles.

Some of the furniture was broken, and I repaired it carefully.



 


The sideboard was easy to mend, although it is still a bit lopsided. I will not repair it further. The dollhouse family probably got their possessions second-hand in the years just after the war. Or it simply got worn out, and the family cannot afford a new one. (The family, I imagine, is the father, a war veteran who makes a living at a toy factory, former ammunition factory; the mother who drove ambulance during the war and is now a homemaker, and two children, a boy and a girl. Oh no, bother, there is no space in the house for children's bedroom).

I don't know yet where the sideboard will be. If I decide to have a dining room, that would be the obvious place. I can make a mirror or a period-correct painting to hang above and put various ornaments on it. See how cleverly I have covered the damaged floor!



The table and chairs are the way the are - valuable cultural artifacts. I have many suitable plastic plates and cups, as well as food. The tall-case clock has no face, but it's easy to glue on. I have upcycled many wooden clocks; perhaps I shouldn't have, but they are not very rare.

There was one drawer missing in the dressing table.



Once again, I haven't got all my supplies so I couldn't make a nice drawer, but at least there is no gaping hole. I will make a better one in due time. Guardians of cultural value probably say I shouldn't. But I am not gluing it in so it's easy to remove.

The dressing table is accompanied by a wardrobe, which has no defects at all. I will make hangers to put on the rack and maybe some shoe boxes and hat boxes. The rug hides the damaged floor, but it is wrong scale, so I will make a better one. I will also make a little bench or stool to put in front of the dressing table. Or maybe I have one somewhere.




The bed had no bedding - I suppose it was lost sometime in the past fifty years.



I made the mattress from a sponge cloth and sheets from fabrics I had at hand. I also made three pillows.



The bed will be in the alcove, only partially visible unless you look closely inside.



The mysterious object by the bed is an electric heater. I had never seen one like this, neither in real life nor in a dollhouse, but a friend who grew up in the UK in the '50s recognised it immediately and said that they were enormous hazard.

I will put some period-correct pictures and photos on the wall, make a bedside lamp, and there is space by the window, for instance, for a sewing table and a chair. They won't be visible at all. In that corner, I will also put an electric tea light. It will create a fantastic effect through the window.

The drawing room, minus two of the three plastic monsters, has a fireplace, a book shelf and a radiogram.


The fireplace had been broken and mended, and at the moment I haven't got supplies to mend it properly, with a filler to cover the cracks.


What Lily's adults didn't bother about and Lily probably didn't notice is that a fireplace needs a back, as a minimum. Ideally, a fireplace needs a chimney breast, and I have seen one in older Triang models, but I won't make one for this room. However, you definitely cannot see the wallpaper through the fireplace, so the first thing I did was glue a piece of black card to the back. I will add some glitter to make the fire more realistic. The fireplace is too small to insert a flickering tealight, as I did in my Victorian house. But I will make a fireguard.

The book shelf is straightforward, although it's tempting to glue on a variety of spines - that would certainly be sacrilege. But I had some books from a different project that are just the right scale. The book shelf neatly conceals the damaged floor.

 

The cuckoo clock is modern, but I think it fits, at least for the time being. The rug is from another project and wrong scale, but the cats are right scale - in my large dollhouse, I pretended they were kittens.

Now, I didn't even know what a radiogram was, but my friend assured me that her family had one exactly like this in the '50s. It was broken, and so far I only added a turntable with a vinyl disc. It is supposed to have a lid, and I will make one in due time.

 

This brings me to the kitchen, which usually is the most interesting feature in a dollhouse. The appliances that came with the house were tin Brimtoy. This is a new brand for me - I have never seen them before.


Both are in poor condition. The sink bowl is missing, and both are bent and falling apart, held together with a fifty-year-old tape. They are part of a set, and other pieces are available on ebay, but I am not sure I am keeping these. I have a lovely Kleeware kitchen set with table and chairs, sink, hob, washing machine and zillions of small stuff so they will all fit in very well. I have another Barton fridge - I bought this one recently at a car boot sale for 30p. It is full of food.

Two details to draw your attention to. I have made huge progress cleaning the floor. When I took the picture it was still wet so hopefully when it dries you almost won't see the marks. I will then use the technique I have read about: chalk pastels - to smooth it over. I am still not sure that a kitchen would have parquet floors, but at least I have more or less restored it to the original state.

The second element is the stair carpet. It is only attached with white tack, and if I decide to keep it I will use glue stick that is easy to remove. The pattern is from the web, and I resized it, replicated, printed out and glued onto a long strip of paper. It's a bit too glossy coming from a laser printer, but I think it looks good. It is not sacrilege because I have seen Triang interiors with stair carpets. If I keep it, I will add carpet rods.

What about the bathroom, you might ask. I will have to choose between a bathroom and a dining room. I could have the dining room table and chairs in the drawing room. Poor maid will have to carry food upstairs. And the room will be crammed. Maybe they were in the 1950s.

I have a lovely Barton bathroom set, much better than this. The toilet seat is missing, and there is no matching sink.


I am still not sure that a bathroom should have wallpaper and parquet floor. I have just seen a picture of Triang 64 on the web with white floor tiles in the bathroom. I need to do more research.

There were also two small plastic bathtubs. Perhaps Lily had twin baby dolls.



I have not shown the garage at all. Here it is.



The brick floor is water-damaged. I have brick paper that I could use to replace, but in a garage it doesn't really bother me. It's spilled oil. The walls are bare. Well, maybe that's appropriate. I don't have a car for this garage and don't want to buy one. So the garage will be used as a shed. These are just some things I happen to have around.They are not right scale.



Anyway, a lot to do and not much I can do now because I need my other furniture to decide exactly which rooms will be used it what way (although except for the bathroom/dining room I think it's pretty clear). Not least, I need to decide what to do with floors and wallpaper, which is a big decision, so I think I will put this project aside for a while and focus on something else. But I will be back soon, I promise!



Saturday, 4 May 2019

Triang house: let's step inside!

There was some furniture that came with the Triang, and in my first picture, I simply put it upright so it didn't look like an aftermath of an earthquake.




I recognise some of the furniture, most of which is Barton - not my favourite; I find it rather crude, but then it reflects the time when it was manufactured, and if it is true, as the antique dealer claimed, that the house has only had one owner, that's what this little girl in the '50s - I'd like to imagine her name was Lily - would be getting for Christmas and her birthdays. There are a couple of other brands, and I will return to furniture in due time. Some is in need of repair.

But first, let's inspect the walls and floors.


When I first opened it and before looking carefully, I was disappointed: how unimaginative, same floors and wallpaper in every room. Then of course I noticed that it wasn't the same wallpaper, even though similar, but floors were indeed the same.

Shall we start in the bottom left room - this is where the front door leads (how very English: no entrance hall). The floor, which is a nice herringbone parquet, has been damaged by a young barbarian who scribbled on it with a purple crayon.

 

This will be very hard to clean. I have tried very, VERY carefully with nail polish remover, and it does get slightly better and will probably take me weeks. (On the other hand, as I always say, I am not in a hurry).

I have several other options. I can cover it with a rug. I can try to mend it by scanning the pattern, printing it out and very, very carefully patching the damaged parts. Or even copy and paste and make one whole new sheet (I have found several amazing people on the web who do this). I can also replace it. Logically, and from what I have seen on the web, this room should be a kitchen. Would a 1950s kitchen have wooden parquet floor? I doubt it. It would have lino. Or tiles. Either will be easy to reproduce.

The wallpaper is totally damaged. I can put some furniture against the wall to conceal the damage. I can probably get a sheet of replicated wallpaper from a site I have discovered. But again, would a kitchen have wallpaper rather than paint? I need to do more research and also consult people who remember the 1950s. The right-hand wall, with a door, has no wallpaper. I can see why - it's a h-ll of a job to cut and hang wallpaper on a wall with a door and a staircase. But it doesn't look neat. And there is wallpaper on the other side of the wall, although admittedly there is no staircase there.

Let us climb the stairs - very typical British stairs, steep and narrow. Painted in the same pale yellow as the exterior walls. How plausible is it? If the railing is solid at least it would have a wooden top rail. And maybe a carpet? Or actually proper wooden steps... oh no, that's sacrilege. Ruining a cultural artifact.

The top left room's floor is damaged, but here I can definitely conceal it by a piece of furniture and/or a rug.



The wallpaper is torn, water-damaged and faded in some places, but again, I can put some furniture in front of it. Logically, this will be a living room. The right-hand wall has no wallpaper. Just as in web pictures. Why? Were manufacturers lazy? Such a minor detail makes a huge difference. So in this case I will probably try to scan the wallpaper and make a sheet. This will be a challenge. It took me five attempts just to take a decent picture. I wonder how people scan inside a dollhouse. Maybe they take it apart first, but I am not doing it.

The two rooms on the right had a 1:1 scale carpet.


Now, if anything is barbarian in miniature-making, this is the worst, and I have seen it before. It doesn't look natural, and the doors don't open! So these hideous things went straight to the garbage bin. They didn't even conceal the damaged floors.

In the bottom right room, the wallpaper is damaged to the left of the door, and the floor is torn and water-damaged.


Logically, and in the houses I have seen on the web, this should be a bathroom. Why on earth would a bathroom have parquet floors? Not to mention wallpaper. And it's far too large for a bathroom. A '50s family would not have a huge bathroom like this. I am considering not having a bathroom at all, instead using this room as a dining room - naturally, off the kitchen. But it will depend on how I arrange the other rooms. If I decide to keep the parquet I may try to mend it by scanning the pattern. I may try to patch the wallpaper in the same way. It feels unnecessary to buy an A3 sheet of wallpaper for three square centimeters of wall.

Top right room is an interesting one because it has an alcove which is largely invisible. If I put a light in there, it will create a fantastic effect through the window.



The floor - the same parquet I am by now really fed up with -  is torn in several strategic places and also water-damaged. The wallpaper is whole and very pretty. This will be a bedroom, with the bed in the alcove.

The door between the two upstairs rooms had no knobs. The knobs in the door downstairs are lovely, rusty nails, and I am sure I will be able to find something suitable.

The insides of the fronts are bare, painted with the same paint as the exterior. I could so far not find any images showing the front insides, but I know that most people just leave them bare, which is a shame. There are also these lovely bay windows where interesting things can be done. Flowerpots, ornaments, a bird cage, a few cats.

So here we are. Some serious decisions to make, and after that, a lot of exciting work.

But before that, I will also have an inspection of the current furniture, so come back soon.

By the way, I did find the site that had the spare hook. You can see that the hook is sold. That's because I bought it.