Monday, 29 July 2013

Plastic sofa makeover

Among the many things I bought at the other, cheap flea market was this plastic sofa. I hate pink, and a combination of pink and plastic makes me sick. But I have already made something pretty from a pink plastic house so I bought the sofa to make something nice.

My first idea was to cover it with fabric. But it has all these complicated curves, and although I tried with an old piece of cloth I soon realised that I would never make it as neat as I want it. So I decided to paint it. I could always make another attempt with the fabric. You cannot see it well in the picture, but the paint brought out a subtle pattern on the surface, and see! - instead of the ugly pink plastic I have expensive-looking cream leather. And I painted the base a darker shade.

I have now put it in my retro house, instead of another sofa that I wasn't happy with and was going to replace anyway. I hadn't at all planned to use this sofa, but I think it looks great. I made two cushions to go with it. I have really enjoyed doing this, so I am looking forward to more plastic makeovers.


It is with nostalgic reluctance that I replace some of the furniture I made during the very first weeks of my miniature making almost six years ago with new objects. I realise that those first attempts were clumsy, that I didn't have proper tools and materials, hadn't done enough research. But I was eager and enthusiastic, and in a way it feels a betrayal to remove something that I once made with so much love and effort.

Nevertheless I have just made another replacement in the Victorian bathroom. The old wash stand was among the very first pieces I made, and it has served well.

 However, I bought a very elegant wash stand during my recent flea market binge, and it will now go into this space. At least I can proudly say that I made the wash set (and the two small pots underneath) in my pottery class.

Another firescreen

While I was at it, I made another firescreen, from the 1:24 kit. It was supposed to be a modesty screen but it made an excellent fire screen in 1:12 scale.

I painted and varnished it, and the "silk" is Japanese handmade paper. Here it is in its environment, the Georgian house. I am not quite sure it fits so it may move to the Victorian house that can be eclectic.

Sunday, 28 July 2013


This was a very small improvement, but I thought it was worth while. The firescreen from my flea market binge was nice as it was

 and yet I felt that it would be better in a darker frame, so I painted and varnished it. I think it looks more natural this way.

Here it is in its environment. I had to remove some objects in the front to have a better view.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Plastic discoveries

Tell me that the world of miniatures isn's full of the most amazing discoveries! If I had another life I would become a dollhouse scholar and win a Chair in Cultural Studies at a prestigious university. As it is, I am enjoying the ocean of knowledge revealed through my hobby. Not only have I learned that the cosmetics firm Avon manufactured miniatures, I have now learned something else, perhaps even more exciting, as the side effect of my flea market binge.

I bought this clock for 20p.

A clock is always good to have and can be put in almost any environment, and one of my current projects is a clockmaker's shop, so it came handy. I thought I'd paint and varnish it. Now I am glad I took a closer look before I did. This is what I found on the back:

You cannot see it very well in the picture, but it says © LOUIS MARX & CO, INC MCMLXIV.

It didn't tell me anything, which just shows my ignorance, but at least I am curious so I did a search. And I found  both a Wikipedia page and a webpage from Marx Toy Museum. And there are tons of Marx toys on ebay. 

I wonder whether the flea market seller knew what she was selling. But I will from now one look more carefully at plastic toys. And next time I am in West Virginia I'll visit the museum.

Finding the right place

As promised, I am going to show how the riches from the flea market either find their place in the existing environments or, perhaps, inspire new projects.

To place the pewter things was easy: they merge nicely into the Tudor great hall. They are slightly too big, but I don't think it matters. The rich master of the house wants to impress his guests.

In the solar, which is the upper floor of a Tudor house, I have put the lady, the baby in the cradle and the chest.

This is the first doll I have in the Tudor house. I was planning to have one, but it didn't happen until now, and I see how the presence of a doll makes a huge difference. I guess it means that there will be more.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Avon collectibles

Yet another thing I bought during my flea market spree was this set

I recognised it immediately because I have two similar sets that I bought some time ago in a charity shop.

I have built two room boxes around these, a study and a spa. I have tried to find out something about these miniatures, but there were few clues. This time, however, there was the original box, so here we are

From this, I went to ebay, and there were these miniatures, produced by the cosmetics company Avon, yet god knows when and why - I will make further investigations. I was not far from truth in my previous projects: the blue and wooden set is a library, and there is a bookshelf missing that I think I have made much better; and the white set is a conservatory. On ebay you can get a bedroom set, a kitchen set and some other stuff.

Now of course I am thinking whether it's worth the trouble to make a whole house with these sets. I must say that I didn't like them at first, but they are rather cute, and with proper environment they look nice. So this may become a new large project in the future.

Flea market luck

I usually go a round of charity shops whenever I am in town or go somewhere; they tend to be in the same street. It is very seldom that I actually buy a miniature, mostly I buy something that I can recycle. But I have found some fabulous stuff here and there. I have also bought some things in fancy antique shops. What I hadn't discovered until last week was a flea market, a place where you can buy anything and occasionally find a treasure. I had asked my friends, but apparently I was asking for the wrong thing. More anon.

Last week we went on a spontaneous vacation in Norfolk, and I was sure there must be a flea market on a Saturday in a town described as "market town", so I dragged Staffan there, with no result, except the usual charity shops that yielded nothing of note. However, while driving on small roads, I saw signs saying "Flea market on Sunday" although it wasn't quite clear whether Sunday was referring to the coming Sunday or Sunday three weeks ago. I asked the hotel reception, and they had no idea because who cares about a village three miles away. But they informed me that there was something flea-market-like in a market town five miles away, every Sunday beginning at eleven and therefore called Late Market.

We found the first flea market, that only takes place once a month in summer. I had very low expectations, so I got tremendously excited when the first thing I saw on entering the tent was this:

I told myself to be reasonable, but I think my pulse and blood pressure sky-rocketed. I just hoped I had enough cash since I had not expected such riches, but my noble husband went to the nearest cash machine in the next market town, while I drooled over the table deciding what was imperative, highly desirable or dispensable. I don't buy things that I can make myself, and I like things that are handmade and unusual. As I kept adding to my purchase the seller kept giving me discount, and we chatted about miniatures until I finally was ready to leave. This is what I bought:

Note the pretty cradle. When I came back to the hotel and unwrapped my treasures, I could not find the cradle which I knew was the very first object I had chosen as imperative. I searched and searched and went down to the car and searched again and was very upset. And guess what? - my noble husband drove me back to the village, and the seller was still there. First she denied that she had somehow mislaid the cradle, but eventually she found it so the story has a happy ending.

But before that, we went to the other flea market, and now I know why I never got any sensible answers to my questions: because I didn't ask sensible questions. It's not called flea market, but car boot sale. So now I know how to find them, and there are many dangerously close to Cambridge.

Anyway, we went there, and it was a real flea market, not a tidy tent. The prices were accordingly. This is what I bought, from different sellers, for 20-50p at the most:

Except for the lovely pewter things, it's all horrible plastic that I now know how to improve. In the coming posts I will show and tell where the different things have gone and what I have done with them, so watch this space.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Filling the shelves

Meanwhile, I filled the kitchen cupboard with some utensils.

The mugs or tankards on the upper shelf are pieces from a charm bracelet. The green jars on the next shelf are bits I retrived from a broken electronic device, possibly a printer. The blue and white pots are plastic beads. The yellow pot is a tiny bottle cap, and the frying pan comes from an ebay lot.

This is the most recent view of the kitchen, with the living room in the background. 

Sunday, 14 July 2013

More furniture improvements

Now that I have figured out how to make the kit furniture nicer it's just a matter of patience. I made a table for the drawing room

A bookshelf

with book rows cut from a magazine

An armchair


After which I gained so much confidence that I decided I could make something that was missing from the kit. I took the side pieces from another armchair and used the empty template to make the seat and the back. I used a cheesebox, and because I don't have any elaborate tools I simply cut it with scissors.

 I don't think my sofa is significantly inferior to the one mising from the kit.

 Of course it still looks more like a park bench than a sofa, but wait...

Here is the whole set. I stained and varnished the furniture, and unfortunately the stain didn't stick where there was some glue left on the sofa: there is an ugly patch that I will do something about. The ceiling lamp is a toy from a Christmas cracker, and the table lamp is a chess piece with a plastic tube cap. The carpet is paper, cut from a catalogue and fringed all round

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Improving kit furniture

While I was pleased with my bedroom furniture, I kept thinking that there must be a way of using the bits from the kit to make something less clumsy. I consulted my miniature group, and they confirmed: it was fully possible to get rid of the ugly tabs. I started with a chair because I had lots of them and could afford a failure. I glued the pieces together with the strongest glue I had and left it overnight. Then I cut off the tabs and sandpapered until the surface was smooth. It is still not as elegant as more expensive kits, but it looks much better.

I made the cupboard in the same way.

I found it quite remarkable that you could see the improvement so clearly. And when I painted it, the difference was still more striking.

 Last of all, I made the table. When I first assembled it, I thought it looked ok. But after I had improved the cupboard it didn't feel satisfactory at all:

Therefore I cut off the tabs (the frame broke in the process, but I managed to glue it back), and again the paint did the trick.

Here is the whole kitchen set:

And here it is in he room. Now I need to make some utensils.

Monday, 8 July 2013

More kit furniture

Here are some more things I have managed to salvage from the sheets. They are just tentatively assembled, not properly fitted, not sandpapered, not glued. It was sometimes hard to figure out which piece I was doing. I was simply trying to see what I had, since about half of the bits were missing.

Then I tried to make something nice. As I have already observed, sandpapering is everything. I worked very thoroughly on this piece. You can still see numbers penciled on the bits - that was very helpful to see how bits fit together. I almost forgot to take the before picture before I started painting.

And the chest joined the bedroom furniture set, and, amazingly, it went just right onto the funny half-circle, as if it had been specially made for it. I still think this furniture is clumsy, but it looks much better when painted.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

First attempts

Let me tell you something: this kit was of very poor quality. Not like the elaborate x-acto, and not like the Swedish Kotte-toys, laser-cut with great precision. Half the bits were not cut through properly and broke, or I had to use a craft knife. How they suppose a six-year-old can do this - I don't know. (Although I have no idea what six-year-olds can and cannot do. Will see next week when the grandchildren are visiting).

Like with all kits, as I have learned, sandpaper until you drop dead. Again, because the quality of wood is poor, the result was still not quite satisfactory. There are no proper instructions, just numbered parts, so it isn't even clear what piece you are assembling. Or maybe I am stupid. Anyway, I just started with the first sheet where some things were missing.

I cannot say that this furniture is particularly elegant. To be frank, it's clumsy. The bits do not fit well. But it was an interesting experience.

And after I painted the pieces and added some details it doesn't look all that bad. For a first sttempt.


The very same day I wrote my previous post I browsed an old dollhouse catalogue, looking for ideas. My attention was drawn to an item I had certainly seen before but never considered because it wasn't pertinent.

 After I have made all the fantastic Georgian furniture from kit I have more confidence in my ability, even though this is half-scale and still more demanding. On the other hand, this is not an x-acto quality of kit; in fact, it is recommended for children (although not below 3 years). However, on closer consideration I decided that I still wanted to try and make things myself. After which I went on ebay to see what was available in half-scale, and the first thing I saw was this very furniture kit. Now, there are certain things that are available in abundance, but this was the only one. I strongly believe in cerendipity. It did say "used", but I decided that 99p was a good investment. So here it is. Yes, very much "used" - about half of the pieces missing, but enough left to make a start. And because all templates are intact I may even be able to make the missing bits myself. Watch this space!