Wednesday, 30 July 2014


I have once again fallen for some antiques, in the same shop in Stockholm as last year. I stood in front of a cabinet that the shop assistant had opened for me, fondling some nice pieces, when a lady next to me said: "If you are interested, I have a whole shop of dollhouse furniture just around the corner". I was surprised because I was sure I didn't know about any dollhouse shop around the corner, or I would have already spent all my money there. I had already made up my mind, and this is what I bought:

I typically buy things I cannot make myself. The dining table is exquisite (and signed, S.R. -97, in case someone can identify the maker), endlessly more elegant than a similar one I have, "made in China". Unfortunately, it has marks after plates that had been glued to it (barbarian!), but I hope I can remove them gently. The white round table is of a kind that always comes handy. I have already put it in my Victorian bedroom. I bought the corner dresser because I once had exacly the same in 1:1 scale. This one is Lundby scale and will probably not go with any of my existing projects, but maybe some time... The rocking chair is sweet, and I may leave it as it is or paint and refurbish. The stove is 1:24 and I may put it in my half-scale kitchen, although what shall I do with the one I made?

The stove created alarm in the airport security check.

Happy with my purchases, I went to the other shop. How could I have missed this shop?

Now, in this magical cave, how can one choose? It's different from shopping from ebay, and it's different from finding one or two nice pieces in a charity shop. I spent at least half an hour there, drooling, to my companion's irritation, and I could have stayed there much longer. I believe the owner of the shop was a bit impressed when I identified some rare (and horrendously expensive) pieces. My companion hadn't a clue.

This is what I bought:

The chair is a genuine, signed Carin Backlund. I have read a lot about her furniture in dollhouse books, but I have never held one in my hand. I couldn't resist it. There were several of them, but one felt extravagant enough. The table is also Carin Backlund. It wasn't as expensive as the chair, but expensive enough. The long-case clock isn't remarkable, but it fits well into my clockmaker's shop. The fancy wardrobe was broken so I got it cheap. But the two mirrors were pricy. My companion wondered whether I would be able to clean the glass. I explained that the whole point was that the glass looked old. I believe both mirrors are old. Really old.

I got a reasonable discount, but I think I must stop buying miniatures for a while. And I should probably increase my home insurance.

Monday, 14 July 2014

Armchair makeover

One of my recent expeditions to charity shops yielded some old - "vintage" as the price tag claimed - dollhouse furniture. (The pieces in the background are Poundland, several of which I have already transformed).

They were sold as a bundle, although the bed, nightstand, wardrobe and stool are more or less half-scale, while the sofa and armchair are full scale. The half-scale furniture went into my half-scale house, although I think I will repaint it some time.

I have renovated the sofa. Now it is the armchair's turn. As with the sofa, I think the pattern of the fabric is too large for the scale. And too dull. Off with it!

You can see that it is a nice piece, but it does look like a very old, worn-out chair. I am now an experiences unholsterer, and making the Chippendale wing chair in particular was an excellent lesson. The old upholstery wasn't done properly, but I now know the secret. First the seat, then the back, and cut the edges to fit neatly. I make a mistake and used all-purpose glue on the seat, which stained. For the back I used ordinary glue stick.

Then I made the back cushion and the seat cushion. That's the secret: they are made separately, not just glued onto the back and seat. This makes a neat finish, and you don't need to hide the seams with cord. I don't know what other people use for padding, but I use pantyliners. They are just the right thickness, and self-adhesive. One was enough for two cushions.

The result: 

And, to make it clear, before and after. I admit that the angle of the before picture is unfavourable. 

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Table makeover

You can tell that it is a rainy weekend because I am finishing several miniature projects that have been waiting for a while. Among the Poundland furniture I have bought several tables. They aren't pretty, but I have temporarily put the white ones into various room boxes.

The red one is particularly ugly because you can see all the crude edges:

The answer is, as usual, sandpaper. Although I didn't have the patience to sand the legs into a round shape, still less cabriole, after an hour of hard work all edges became smooth and nice. I painted the table dark brown, stained and varnished.

I have not decided whether I will use it as a half-scale dinner table or a full-scale coffee table. It is slightly too large for half-scale, but if it is on its own in a room perhaps it wouldn't matter. Hmmmm...

For a coffee table, at least a Victorian coffee table, it has the wrong shape. In any case, I have decorated it with the omnipresent stencils. I am not sure I will keep them. I may go for egg-shell mosaic.

You can never have too many tables, and I am sure it will eventually find its place, in my antique shop if not elsewhere.


Next transformation of a wooden thing (see the previous posts 12 and  3). This is a demijohn, also known as carboy. I didn't know it until two weeks ago, although I had seen the word in historical and fantasy novels. 

First, I painted it dark green. I didn't have the right colour among my acryllic paints so I painted it with watercolour. I have recently learned that you can paint almost anything with watercolour if you rub your paintbrush with soap first. I then varnished it to make it shiny.

Demijohns were made of glass and therefore had to be protected with a net. I used a net that garlic comes in, painting it to resemble straw.

The word demijohn comes from French damejeanne, which probably comes from Dame Jeanne, pointing at the similarity of the vessel with a female body. Etymological dictionaries are great.

Further wooden stuff

I continue painting the small wooden things I have shown here and here. I have added some details to those I showed before, for instance, bead caps on the tankard and the "glass" bottle.

Of the new things, I have painted the coffee pot pewter. I am not sure this is right. I have spent some time browsing the web for Victorian kitchen utensils. There are about three hundred different pots and pans, most of them cast iron, copper or pewter. I will have to do more research. The milk jug (is it?) is not quite right either. I first painted the lid blue, but it didn't look natural at all. I also initially painted the sugar bowl (?) white with a blue lid, but then changed it to match the teapot. The vase and the jug are decorated with gold paper stencils.

I have a number of pots that I haven't yet decided what to do with. It does seem that most of the Victorian kitchen pots were black cast iron. I have a set of copper pots in my Victorian kitchen. Perhaps the copper pots were for show and the iron for use. I have also seen some pots that are white with black handles. Apparently, large pots were used to store bread, so it says "Bread" on the pot. That's an option for the largest pot.

Finally, there are some objects I have not yet identified.

The container to the left, with a massive lid, may be a flour jar. The next is perhaps something oriental? Then two fancy bottles? Two Tudor goblets? Or are they fancy planters? Or is the one to the right a lamp? If you have an idea, please leave a comment!

Saturday, 5 July 2014

More lucky pieces

It it harder than you might believe to make interesting things with my wooden treasures. Of course I could just paint everything copper, but that would be profoundly unimaginative. I am not in a hurry, and each project is unique.

I went to the hobby shop and, I swear, ran in, bought a jar of pewter paint and ran out to where my husband was waiting in the car. I closed my eyes as I went past all those wonderful things I want to buy.

Thus, pewter jug and tankard, as promised. Very straightforward, just painted with two coats. They will go into the Tudor house. There are some more things potentially pewter, but I will wait and see what else I can think of.

A chamber pot is obviously white (or is it so obvious? I need to check). I decorated it with gold stencils. I have several chamber pots in various materials so I am not sure yet where it will go.

A watering can. I painted it with enamel which I usually avoid because it smells and takes ages to dry. But it made a nice, shiny surface.

A teapot. It is out of scale and probably won't fit anywhere. I could have painted it copper or black and make it a kettle, but it would have been too simple. I am sure I will find somewhere to use it.

Another oil lamp. You can never have too many of these. I first painted it copper, but it didn't look matural, so I gave it a coat of gold, making it look more like brass. Note to oneself: copper + gold = brass. I used bead caps for decoration.

The next two things were unintentional. When I started painting, the wood grain came forward, with a wonderful effect. On the fruit bowl, I enhanced it with gold paint. I gave both a coat of varnish to make them shiny. I pretend it is glass. 

Finally, I repainted the oil-and-vinegar stand and added some interesting details. Isn't it remarkable how a tiny detail makes a miniature look less a miniature and more real!


To be continued.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Incredible luck and what to do with it

As I have mentioned before, whenever I go to town for a haircut I browse the charity shops on the street where my hairdresser is. Sometimes they have tiny things that can go into one of my projects, sometimes there are things I can use to make something else. Occasionally there is dollhouse furniture. But yesterday I found something I had never seen before.

All these things were in a basket with a price tag of £2.99. It turned out that the price was for the basket, which I didn't want, but there was no price for the things I wanted. Since it is a charity shop they can set their own prices, so I got the whole lot for £2.99.

Of course I could put these things into various houses and roomboxes as they are. But the temptation was too great to paint them.

The most obvious was to paint some things pewter, such as the pitcher and the tankard, but to my dismay I discoverd that I was out of pewter paint. So they will have to wait. (This means a visit to a hobby shop, and these are always dangerous).

I started with oil-and-vinegar, and it was straightforward: gold paint for the holder, although it is very hard to make wood transparent.

The cauldron must of course be black, and I "aged" it through a common technique: after the black paint had dried, I rubbed the cauldron with a candle, painted copper and very quickly wiped off the paint. It made the surface shiny and more like iron. I did the same with a pan. They will both go into the Tudor kitchen.

The candlestick and the mortar are brass (although it looks more like copper). I made the candle in the way I described just the other day:

The rolling pin and the basket will stay as they are. They will fit into the Victorian kitchen.

Finally, at least for today, I made two ceramic vessels which I first painted ochre, then added darker brown on the upper part and covered with a coat of varnish to make it look glazed.

To be continued.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

More tiny details that matter

I have made a slight improvement to my dressing table by adding fancy metal handles (bead caps). Spot the difference: