Saturday, 31 January 2015


This small project that took me about ten minutes turned out to be popular on Facebook, so I will share it in a more permanent form.

I have saved these chocolate boxes for a while, and I have already shown how I made door pediments from them. I have also made plates from biscuit boxes.


But this time I simply cut tiny pots and pans from the box: they were clearly visible.

I am very pleased with the result.


I first thought I would paint them either metalic or copper, but actually they look nice as they are, for a retro kitchen.


My Tudor dollhouse is featured in the Dolls House World magazine.

I have published twenty academic books, two novels, two picturebooks, a cookbook, a computer manual, some short stories, several translated books, a memoir, two hundred academic articles, two hundred other articles and reviews. I have been interviewed by major newspapers in Sweden, the UK and elsewhere, and by scores of less major and very obscure newspapers and magazines all over the world; by radio and TV and websites.

But I am tremendously excited about two pages in Dolls House World.

Someone from one of my dollhouse Facebook groups approached me some time ago saying that she liked the stuff I was making and would I be interested to let her write a feature.

Now again, I am used to people approaching me about Winnie-the-Pooh, or young adult dystopia, or Twilight, or strong female characters, or suitability of death in picturebooks, or translations of Alice in Wonderland into Russian, or the proper way to cook buckwheat. But I am not used to being asked about my humble hobby, least of all for a glossy magazine where famous miniaturists display their magnificent work. But I see the point of writing about ordinary people and their projects, because the majority of the magazine's readers aren't famous or brilliant.

Anyway, to be interviewed is not a problem, but taking good quality pictures is not as easy as you might imagine. Taking good pictures of dollhouse interiors is very difficult. It's ok for Facebook and even a blog, but for a magazine they should preferably be really good. Luckily, my youngest son is a film-maker and knows all about taking good pictures. I have always known that in order to get one decent shot you need to take at least fifty, and these days, with digital cameras, it is less tedious and costly than it used to be. But the biggest challenge with dollhouses is light. You need strong, but soft light, and no shadows. Two years ago I bought a light tent which has been indispensable for taking pictures of single objects. Highly recommended.

But you cannot put a whole dollhouse into a light tent. I had to create a light-tent effect and use some of the tricks professional photographers use, without professional equipment. What I eventually did was place the dollhouse facing a white wall and use several strong lamps from the sides so that the light reflected from the wall into the dollhouse. I didn't have a tripod, I and used my phone, holding it very steadily against a chair. I took about twenty pictures of each room, and I could pick a good shot in each series. Obviously, they were good enough to use in the magazine.

(I have had photos published in newspapers and magazines before. But not photos requiring special lighting).

Like all good stories, this one is not quite accurate. But only a few people will know.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Walls and ceilings

This weekend I have been working very hard, and yet have little to show. I have been painting ceilings, decorating walls and putting in windows. Most of my progress looks like this:


This is the right side wall. I am wallpapering walls, and as soon as I have finished a room, I add a window, including glazing. Window frames are stubborn because they have swollen with paint and don't fit. It takes a lot of sanding - again. It isn't a glamourous job, but has to be done, so I do it one window at a time. Wallpapering isn't much of a challenge either, because it is carefully planned. However, it needs some engineering, as you can see in the picture, because there is a partition at the back, and I need to adjust the wallpaper and panels to the partition. Of course I also need to match the pattern and make sure I don't put a bit of wallpaper upside down (which I do every now and then, as we all do).

All my wallpaper comes from Jennifer's printies. It's a wonderful site, warmly recommended.

I explained earlier how I made panels for the entrance hall and the dining room. For the study, with the green striped wallpaper, I simply painted the lower part of the wall. There will be white dado rails and white skirting.

Actually, I made the ceiling for this room, although you cannot even see it is a ceiling:

It is gift wrap that I used for wallpaper in my old Victorian house. I had some left and was going to throw it away because I was sure I'd have no use for it anymore. See how wrong you can be! It is exactly the same shade of green as the wall panel, and it will be a grand ceiling. Very easy to make.

But I have now also made another really elaborate ceiling for the main reception room.

I found this very old picture frame that I had been saving ever since we moved to England. It is a bit unusual.

I haven't taken step-by-step pictures because it was very straitforward, and here is the result: 

I used the same paper tablecloth that I had used for the walls. Then I glued on a white rectangle and decorated it with mitred kebab sticks, painted gold. I considered painting the whole frame gold, but it didn't make much difference when I tested on a small area. I used a similar cream-cheese lid as I used for the first ceiling. And obviously I used the same technique: drilling a hole and using an awl to centre the whole construction. Again, I cannot test it with a chandelier, but I am very pleased.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Ornate ceiling

Some people in my Facebook groups have wondered why I had to dismantle my house, so I can explain it again. There are two schools regarding the order of building from a kit. One says assemble and glue, then start decorating. The other says decorate as much as possible while it's flat. Having re-recorated several assembled houses, I know for sure I am in the second group.

However, to plan the decoration, the colour scheme. the floors, I needed to dry-assemble first, holding the shell in place with masking tape. Now I have arrived at a stage when I have to put it apart again, in order to finish decoration before I glue it together.

The first things to do was to decorate the ceilings. This is definitely best done when they are flat. I hadn't painted the ceilings at all after priming, and I had some ideas how I wanted to decorate, so I started with the ground floor, which has three rooms: entrance hall and two large reception rooms.

First of all, I painted the whole ceiling white. Very straightforward.


But I want all ceilings in my house to be different and unique. Naturally, the ceilings have to match the wallpaper and other decoration. I started testing something with a picture frame and was searching for lace or ribbon to put on it when I found this gorgeous ribbon.

The person who gave me a gift tied with this ribbon some years ago could probably not imagine that I would save it and that it would come handy one day. I am not even sure she would recognise it, but thanks anyway. So what I did was glue the ribbon along the edges on a piece of card. I chose coloured card because white card would show through the semitrasparent ribbon. As it is, it's just the colour I need.


I then inserted a piece of white card in the middle. Here I am testing the assembly on the actual ceiling.

The celing rose for this ceiling is a lid from a jar of cream cheese. I have only encountered two such jars since I started making miniatures. I used one in a tea shop roombox. It was originally green so I painted it white and decorated with some remaining bits of the ribbon. 

At this point I had to drill a hole in the ceiling for light fixing. The light will be fake, no wiring, but it will still be neater if the fixing goes through the ceiling to the floor above, to be covered by floor boards. When glueing on the decoration, I hold it in place with an awl, which looks like an upside-down light.

Here is the result. I cannot test the chandelier I will use, because it won't "hang" upside down. I cannot even test what the ceiling will look like in its room because I need to make the other ceilings on this floor first, as well as finish the outer walls. But with some imagination, I think it will be great.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

To the ground

I could not postpone it any longer. Sooner or later I must glue the house together, and it can just as well be sooner. We are not expecting any guests for a while, so I can occupy the dining room.

But before I can glue I must tear it down. To the ground. Or at least to the basement.

Have a good look now. It will probably be a couple of months before the house is back in this shape.

The back wall is already removed and so is the big staircase in the entrance hall.

This might have been a good time to make an inventory of all objects I have in the house, but I will probably do it as I bring them back. Right now they are all in a cabinet - that used to be the Victorian house. It doesn't look like a dollhouse. it looks like a very untidy dollhouse shop. Objects from fifteen rooms have been squeezed into two. Poor dolls! I should have made a temporary Bed & Breakfast for them. But I have given away the Georgian house, and these is no room in any of the two other houses I still have.

With every object removed, I was back to square one, five months ago. Not quite though. There are floors, there are fireplaces, some walls are painted, some have wallpapers, there are some doors.

But I will have to remove them all as well.


At this point I had to wake up my husband from his well-deserved afternoon nap and ask for assistance. I also wondered how I had managed to assemble it five months ago, without assistance. Maybe I would have managed now, but I didn't want to run a risk of the whole structure tumbling down.

What is left is this: 


And a pile of walls and floors. I was clever and marked all walls that hadn't already been painted or papered, and I marked all ceilings to know in which room they belonged.

It feels weird, and the room looks much bigger.

What I will do now before I start re-assembling and glueing is, firstly, paint and decorate all ceilings. I haven't yet decided exactly what decorations I will use, but I have some ideas, and all ceilings will be decorated, Secondly, I will finish as much as possible of all interior walls, because I had arrived at a point when everytning would be much easier on flat surfaces. When that is done, I will put in all windows and most of the doors, because it's also much easier.

Then I will re-assemble the house in correct order. Because I have finally received instructions.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Dollhouses galore

I had to go to London for a meeting so I took the opportunity to see this exhibition at the Museum of Childhood. Their permanemt dollhouse display is impressive enough, and I have seen it several times, studying details carefully, taking notes and sketching. For this exhibition they have selected from their hundred plus dollhouses from four centuries, and then a number of modern artists and designers created a roombox each (this was the least interesting part since anyone in my dollhouse groups can do it).

I took about fifty pictures which I will not share, for several reasons. Firstly, the images on the web are much better, and if you invest £14 in the accompanying catalogue it is full of great pictures. I took most of the pictures before I bought the book, and most of them turned out to be unnecessary after I browsed through it.

Secondly, I took pictures for a particular purpose, for instance, to see how the curtains are fixed, or how the edges are finished, or how the wallpaper is separated between floors on the inside of the front. These are details I wouldn't even think about last time I was there, but at the moment these are the problems I am grappling with.  I have made some valuable observations for my project.


What I instead want to share are some reflections. For instance, I noticed once again that many objects in the famous dollhouses are not in scale. The dolls are too small in relation to furniture; suddenly there is a little chair or a large vase, and it doesn't really matter. So I won't feel bad about putting smaller cupboards in my rear corridors.

I noticed that wallpaper often has very large patterns, and it works. The catalogue says that in some cases dollhouse makers used leftovers from 1:1 sise wallpaper. I guess this has to be tested, like everything else.

I noticed that fireplaces in most houses are on side walls. It will not work for my house because I have windows and doors on side walls, but I wonder what the aesthetic effect is. 

I noticed that the insides of fronts had the same wallpaper as the corresponding room. Many dollhouse books that I have read suggest that by making wallpapers or wall paint different you create a sense of additional space, fake space. I will consider both options.

I was able to confirm something that I could see a month ago when I visited Queen Mary's dollhouse in Windsor: realistic lights are less important than good illumination for display. Almost none of the houses had working lights, but the lighting, just as in Queen Mary's house, was cleverly hidden behind cornices. I have already bought equipment for this, but it will take some time before I will be installing it.

I noticed that very few houses showed wooden floors; mostly floors were covered with carpets or rugs. But I am working hard on my fancy parquets so I don't want to hide them with rugs.

I noticed - and the catalogue confirms -  that quite a few houses are very sparcely equipped. The catalogue mentions 1,900 objects altogether; I believe I have more in my current project, and I have just started. There is a point: you can see the displays better. But some rooms look bare.  

I noticed how great dolls peeping out through the windows look. I had not considered this option at all, but I will now. Maybe, for the front, I could make small shelves for some dolls to stand on by the windows. And some should be on the balcony.

I enjoyed the exhibition, and I have learned a lot from it and from reading the book, so I can warmly recommend both.

But MY dollhouses are unique and like no one else's.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Fireplace makeover

A small, quick project. I had this incredibly ugly plastic fireplace; I don't even remember where it came from.


It was hidden in the attic of a dollhouse that I have just given away, and I was going to throw the fireplace away, but then I thought maybe I could save it.

First, of course, I painted the frames gold and put in old-fashioned photographs, as well as a new clockface. Then I painted the fireplace, and to my surprise the paint on plastic created an interesting marble effect. I painted the back black, and added some "real" fire. Now I am glad I didn't throw it away.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Wardrobe makeover

I was in a cabinet-making mood today and decided to look at a wardrobe that came with the Tudor house several years ago. All this time it had been in my antique shop, adding to its chaos. It is a smaller scale than 1:12 so I haven't be able to use it, and it is also broken.

For Womble Hall, I need furniture for rear corridors. It doesn't have to be exquisite firniture, but it adds substantionally to the overall look, and I have already tested that scale is not important. In fact, smaller-scale furniture looks better in a rear corridor.

The wardrobe was, as I said, damaged. The back legs were missing, and the front legs were broken.

I know I cannot make turned legs (not yet!), so I decided to remove them altogether. I considered making a low base, but instread used wooden beads that I had used before for furniture legs. They aren't exactly the right style, but who cares! (Well, I do, but I'll have to cope).

I put in a mirror because mirrors always create interesting effects. And I made handles more interesting, attaching tiny metal beads with Very Small Craft Dots (that's what they are called). One or perhaps three drawers are missing, but I will pretend that it is part of the design and fill the holes with something.


Something like this. There will be lights in the corridor, but at the moment I had to take the picture with flash. 


Obviously, the room is not finished: the panel on  the right-hand wall is missing, as is the door frame, and there will of course be railings for the stairs. But I think the wardrobe looks good there, and the scale doesn't matter. Mind, I may move it around many times before I am happy.

Champagne chair

A very happy new year to you!

One of my Facebook groups has asked me to show how to make a chair from champagne wire. This is the right season! So here is a very simple tutorial. All you need is a pair of pliers. The person who taught me said she could do it with bare hands, but I cannot.

First, you need to release the "legs" from the wire. Then you can shape the "back" as you want it.

 Fix the back onto the legs. Here I think pliers are necessary.

Here is your chair. You may want to add a seat cushion. You can also remove the metal seat altogether and make a cushion from card or something else.

And finally, you can add something to the back, for instance, pieces of junk jewellery.

 It took me fifteen minutes to make. Enjoy!