Monday, 29 June 2015

Exterior progress

My impulsive work on the fronts had unexpected consequences. I liked the colour scheme on the left-hand front so without any further considerations I painted and papered the inside.


I am very happy with this, although I still need to add fake mouldings. I will need to visit the DIY store and pinch some 1:1 embossed wallpaper.

But you may have noticed something. The windows are in. And the doors!

Yes, that's right. But it sounds far too simple, and it wasn't. I had completely forgotten what an ordeal it was to put in windows. Just to put me off guard, the first window went in nicely, but the remaining seven were a pain. I realised that I must measure and cut the opening in the paper before I put in the window, but paper after I have put in the window. With one window I forgot, and it was a lot of extra work. Sand, scratch, sand, sand, sand... But when I finally turned the front over to glue on the surrounds I felt that the time had come! Honestly, I hadn't planned to do this until much, much later. But I just couldn't help it.

Everything had been prepared: primed, sanded, painted and sanded again. But as with all steps in this project, the actual work implies much more than the instruction "Glue in place...". The pillars wouldn't go into the pillar caps, and in fact the pillars were 3mm too long and I had to saw it off. The supports didn't fit the openings. The quoins were either 5mm too long or too short, depending on how you view it. I didn't take step-by-step pictures because there wasn't really much to show, but I swore all the way. There were new edges to paint (I had thought I had painted them all), mouldings to cut ("Cut mouldings to size", says the instruction, child's play), yards of masking tape to hold things together.

But my biggest problem, that I had been supressing all the time, was the front door. My beautiful front door that I stained and painted more than six months ago! I said then that it would be months before I got that far, and I was right. Six and a half months later I must eventually face the problem I knew was there all along. The door is bigger than the opening. This is because I bought this door separately - the door provided with the kit wasn't nearly as beautiful.

Now, the kit has been cut with precision laser, and I had to make the opening 1 cm larger. I don't have a laser, and I don't have a proper tool to perform this operation. I won't tell you how I did it because you would view me as a barbarian, but it doesn't matter: after many hours of toil it's done, and whatever didn't look proper is now forever hidden behind the surround.

The French door wasn't much of a trouble except the very last detail that freaked me out: peeling off the protective plastic from the glass. I was clever and put in the door before I glued on the balcony rail, but I didn't want to take off the plastic in case I spilled glue or paint.

I am aware you are getting impatient and don't want any more words, you want a picture! And here it is:

I wish I could say: It's finished, but of course it isn't. The right-hand front isn't even started - you can see one window is crooked because it is just white-tacked. So six more windows, mouldings, quoins, and many, many tiny details that need attention. And of course there is the whole front staircase to build. Now the exterior feels odd without it.

And yet I am glad I have taken this important step. The house is not finished and won't be for a long time. But it looks more finished than a week ago, and an untrained eye won't even notice all the missing details. However, I do. Still a long, long way to go.

Thursday, 25 June 2015

Adding space

I know I am nowhere near, but suddenly I felt I would like to test the inside of the fronts. Most dollhouses with opening fronts do not have anything on the inside, possiby apart from curtains. At the very best, the fronts are wallpapered to match the rooms.

In my cabinet dollhouse, that does not exist any more, I had fake windows, semi-flat bookshelves, paintings and wall sconces on the inside.

In my retro house, I have all kinds of semi-flat stuff on the removable walls

When I was making my Georgian house, I read some clever books that used the inside surface of the fronts to add the sense of space and also some further decoration and ornaments. I tried it and was very happy with the results. I never really finished that house, and now I have given it away. But before that, I had mirrors, pictures and other decorations on the inside, and when you opened the fronts, it gave a sense of additional rooms.

Besides, if the fronts are closed nobody can see that you have matching wallpaper on the fourth wall.

Or it may perhaps work in a smaller house. But mine is so big that if I have matching wallpaper on the inside, it will be too much.

So here I am, with two large surfaces. I mean, very large surfaces. My task is to create an optical illusion so that when the fronts are open it looks as if there were more rooms. Up to nine more rooms.

There are several challenges. Firstly, the colour scheme on each side has to be carefully thought through. It is still more important than within the house, because the walls are not separated by a real floor, they will be only separated by a fake rail. Secondly, the colour scheme has to be compatible with the walls inside the house. Not too bright, not too contrasting.

It is easier with the right side, because it will just be three rooms. Something like this:


The green sheet is just to mark the colour - I will paint this section, and I will frame the panels, which by the way are genuine Japanese hand-made paper. The rails that separate floors have to be higher or lower than the floors inside the house, because otherwise the fronts will not close. But it doesn't matter. The bookshelf comes from another house and is too large so I will trim it to fit between the windows. I believe this might work: larger pattern at the bottom, small on the top, mono-colour in between, with pretty panels. And the whole scheme, pale green, goes well with the adjacent rooms.

It was more complicated on the other side. To begin with, I tried this:


The two papers go well together and with the reception room on the right. But then I imagined two more colours or patterns above, and then two more, and that felt far too much. It would distract attention from the main rooms. So instead I tried this:


The colours still go well together, but this way there will be three patterns rather than six. Let's pretend it is three very large halls. I will then paint the top floor light blue and either make another framed panel or just hang mirrors or paintings between the two sets of windows. I will add rails and cornices. I may add fake or semi-flat pillars around the doors. I may also make window sills for flowers and other ornaments.

So preliminarily, this is what it will look like:

I think it may work. I will let it stay like this for a while, and maybe I will move the papers around, and maybe it will end up completely different.

By the way, all papers come from Jennifer's Printables, which is a great site.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Dining room floor

I have finished yet another floor which feels good because I've had too many unfinished projects recently. This is the dining room floor the beginning of which I showed when I started using my mitre tool. It was six weeks ago. I have been distracted by other things, including two other floors, reception room and entrance hall. But now I am finished, and of course I would have never been able to do it without mitre shears.

It was quite straightforward, just patience and more patience. Or was it? Can you notice anything peculiar about this floor? If you cannot, I have succeeded.

The thing is that the rear door won't open with the hardwood floor that is perhaps one millimetre thick. I tried sanding it down, but it didn't work. There is no way I can re-position the door without tearing down the whole wall. So instead I created an optical illusion. You need to look very, very closely to discover that the four squares on far right are partially made of paper, just to allow the door to open.

Since there will be a dining table obscuring the view nobody will ever notice it.

Now this room is also almost finished, just mouldings left. There will of course be a mirror over the mantelpiece, other ornaments, pictures, curtains and lights. 

This is what it looks like in the evening:

Friday, 19 June 2015

Reception room floor

I can now finally display the reception room floor bits of which I have been showing in various posts. I am very proud of this floor, not only because it was so much work, but also because I have figured out how to modify the design I have copied. In terms of time, it took me about a month, but it says nothing because of course I also did other things. But it takes 10-15 minutes to make one square, and it is probably a better indication of the effort involved. Plus endless sanding to make it smooth.


I would have never even imagined making anything like this before I got my mitre tool. Or maybe it is the other way round: I got the tool because I wanted to make this floor. In any case, when I am looking back at the very first hardwood floor I made, almost seven years ago, firstly, I wish I had invested in mitre shears then, and secondly, I have become bolder since then. I have even become bolder since I thought I would be satisfied with paper floor, which was quite recently. I guess once you have put real floors in one room you can never be happy witt anything else.

Here is the finished floor:

And with furniture, including the day bed I made earlier this week:

Remaining to do in this room is moulding and door, which I cannot do before I finish the floor in the adjacent room, which will hopefully be soon as well.

I also need to finish floors in the dining room and the upper hall. But I am very pleased with the progress I am making.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Chippendale day bed

I have made two more pieces from my incredible Chippendale bargain. One is called a day bed, which I think is an unglamorous name for this beautiful piece, but if this is the correct term, then that's it. There isn't a lot to show because it was just like making chairs. The only tricky part was aligning the back.

As with the sofa, the fabric provided was incredibly ugly. I cannot imagine how someone making these wonderful kits has so poor taste in fabric. Luckily, I had a bit that matched the chairs.

This piece fits well with the chairs and the whole reception room.

(The floor is still not finished, but progressing).

I am less satisfied with this mirror. For some reason, it comes upside down on this page, and I cannot do anything about it. Turn your device 180 degrees.

It was very difficult to mitre, and half of the trim was broken so I have just glued on what still looked like trim. This is the only x-acto piece so far where the kit was damaged. But then I got what I paid for. Incidentally, the manual says that original Chippendale frames were asymmetrical so I can pretend it's intentional.

Anyway, I now know the difference between a mirror and a looking glass. I had always thought they were synonyms, but apparently not. A mirror is anything reflective (for instance, a bronze mirror) while a looking glass must have glass. So many useful things you learn from miniature-making.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Passing on the miniature gene

I have frequently contemplated the lack of miniature interest in my grandchildren. Out of the ten, only one was once genuiely fascinated and adequately rewarded, while the others at best ask to see and say "How nice".

This past week, a ten-year-old came to visit. Almost the first thing she did was produce a shoe box full of dollhouse furniture, some of which I recognised. "Granny, she said solemnly, you once gave me a dollhouse, but I was too young and silly. My little sister and I drew on the wallpaper with crayons, pasted stickers on doors and broke furniture. I now want to make a really nice dollhouse, like yours. Can you help me mend the furniture?" If I didn't burst into tears it was not to scare her.

The dollhouse I gave her when she was young and silly had belonged to my daughter who never showed any interest, although I made furniture, curtains and bedding for it when she was of relevant age. It is a Lundby, 1:18 scale, the most popular children's dollhouse in Sweden (although also favoured by many collectors), and since it was bought in the early 1980s it may be of some value - or maybe not at all. During one of my recent visits in Stockholm, I asked whether the dollhouse still existed, and my son dutifully fetched it from the cellar, but it never went beyond that.

And here I was, with a shoe box full of broken furniture and a grandchild eager to become a miniaturist.

I don't post pictures of my grandchildren on the web, but I do have some fabulous pictures of her engrossed in work. We mended everything, even things that at the first glance seemed beyond redemption. We also rummaged through my treasure chests. I don't do Lundby scale, but I have some collectibles, including several Arne Jacobsen pieces. However, I will wait a few years and see whether the granddaughter is really into it. But I have lots of odd stuff from various bargain buys: beds, tables, cupboards. I let her choose whatever she liked. I saw she thought it was Christmas. I told her that everything may not fit into her bag and that I could bring it in Augurst when I would travel to Stockholm, but she assured me that she had plenty of space and would take it all now. In a way, I understand. August is far away in the future when you are ten. And of course she wanted to put all the new things into the dollhouse.

 I showed her how to cut out pots and pans from chocolate boxes. We made plates and vases from clay. We made a mirror from a tiny photo frame. I made bedding because she adnitted she wasn't very good at sewing. She repainted some items, asking me for advice in colour choice. I told her she could choose whatever she liked because she was the artist. This was a new idea for her. "I am not an artist", she protested. I explained that being an artist means being creative, and that's what she was. I think she liked it.

I brought in from the garage a hugely neglected dollhouse, waiting to be collected by its new owner. I explained to my granddaughter that the house was for another little girl, but that we could repair it a bit. "We must make it as pretty as we can, she said, so that the little girl likes it". 

She painted the front, and I showed her how to make a floor. We discussed wallpaper options. Not for a second did she show any grudge, making a dollhouse for somebody else. Moreover, she kept referring to her little sister - two years younger - and how happy she would be that the broken furniture was mended and some new furniture added.

On her last morning, when it fortuitously rained, I asked whether there was anything she would like to make from scratch. She had been observing the numerous items in my large dollhouse, inquiring how I had made them. Of all the objects, she chose a broom and a rug.

I think for the very first attempt at miniature-making, it's brilliant.

I am profoundly happy. As I have said repeatedly, I am a recycler, and I am very much anti-consumerist, so she won't be getting sets of Lundby stuff for Christmas and birthdays. Instead, next time I go to Stockholm, I will bring something for us to make together.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Doll makeover

After endless floor cutting I felt I wanted to do something else for a change. I was rummaging through my retro house to see if there was anything that should be moved into the new house (quite a lot), when two dolls caught my attention. I bought them a couple of years ago at a car boot sale for next to nothing, and they have been sitting stupidly in the drawing room looking very much out of place. I suddenly realised that I could make them new clothes and invite them to Womble Hall.

Here is the uncredibly ugly girl doll. Actually, when I stripped off her clothes she turned out to have breasts, so apparently she wasn't a girl doll at all, but a female doll in a smaller scale.

But she will be a girl doll, and for underwear, a Victorian girl would wear pantalets. I made those when I made clothes for Tilly the Dutch doll, so it was easy. I discovered afterwards that I had used the same piece of lace.

With Tilly, I was careful not to damage the doll, but with this one I used a drop of glue to hold the garment.

It took me some time to find a suitable fabric, and finally I found a skirt left over from another makeover, when I turned a souvenir doll into a Victorian lady. Since it was a full-length skirt it was enough to made both a short skirt and a bodice. I won't describe how I made the dress because it was straightforward.

My original idea was to make a pinafore to put over the dress. Victorian girls, even in affluent families, frequently had just one dress, and to protect it, they would wear a pinafore, which is something else than an apron, and I know all this because I recently attended a very interesting talk. However, I thought the dress was so pretty it was a shame to cover it, so we will pretend that this young lady has just arrived for a party, wearing her best.

What left me deeply dissatisfied was her hair. Most of my dolls are souvenir dolls wth "real" hair. I have never made hair, but I know people do it. I searched ebay and found lots of wigs (quite pricy) and a DIY kit that I added to my watch list, and then I went to Youtube. You can find anything on Youtube. For instance, this tutorial. It didn't look unsurmountably difficult, and anyway, it was worth a try. The tutorial suggested cotton thread, and I tried it, and it may be fine for a Barbie, but not for a Victorian girl. So I found a ball of yarn in my basket for mini-knitting. I didn't find anything in a suitable colour, so I had to cut bits from a multicolour ball. And then you need to split it into as many single threads as possible.

Next, you tie it in the middle and comb out as much as you can, literally "unspinning" it. You can see the difference on the right side here.

I forgot to take a picture of the rubber cap so watch the tutorial to see how to make it. The tutorial suggested a balloon, but I didn't have a balloon so I used the tip of an old rubber glove. (Must remember to buy balloons!). I assume that the reason for using a cap is that you cannot glue the wig direct onto the doll's head. I didn't try.

In this picture, the left-hand side is still not properly combed. By the way, I used a miniature comb from a Christmas cracker. For the very first attempt making a wig I think it is not bad at all. I know what mistakes I made, and will avoid them next time, but rather than doing it all over again I covered the faults with a hat.

Of course, a young Victorian lady would wear a bonnet rather than a hat, but I happened to have this hat that matches the dress. I will make a bonnet with the tiny bits of fabric left from the dress.

By now you have forgotten what the doll looked like to begin with, so here is for you to compare. I would never guess it was the same doll.

So here is the young lady, arriving for a party. I also think she adds a welcome colour spot to the interior.

Come back soon for the boy makeover. 

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Entrance hall floor

I wasn't satisfied with the shelf-lining floor in the great entrance hall because it looked like shelf lining, but I liked the pattern, so I decided to make a real floor in this pattern.

Since it would be in the same colour, I could cheat a bit and not lay the parquet bit by bit, as I have done with other floors. I glued four coffee stirrers onto a piece of paper and cut squares:

This picture shows three stages of the process: coffee stirrers glued onto paper, unstained squares and stained squares. With stain, the wood effect was highlighted.

I sanded both before and after stain, and then varnished. It took several evenings.


The border has to be finished yet, and it takes longer than the main pattern. But I like the result.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Attaching dormers

Yesterday I decided to glue on dormers. I am far from finished with my previous tasks, but I like some variation, and with the dormers attached there will be a bit more finished look to the house.

It turned out to be consideraboy less straightforward than I had anticipated and than the instuction says, which is "glue and fut dormers". I left dormer assembly at the stage when sides were glued to fronts. When I started glueing roofs I realised that I had painted them grey on both sides, but of course the part of the roof on the inside had to be white.


This wasn't a big deal, but still took some time. I considered putting in some wallpaper to match each room. But then of course the roof itself is white on the inside (so far - I may add roof beams) so it didn't work. I am now glad it didn't because it would have made the whole project a disaster. Sometimes it's good not to be too ambitious.

Then I had to decide whether to take off the roof from its hinges and work on a table or try to do it balancing on kitchen steps. After a brief attempt with the latter I decided on the former. It has been a while since I occupied the dining-room table.

Let me remind you that I made the roof slates myself. What I hadn't thought about then was that I would have to glue on the dormers, and they would have to be glued on the roof itself rather than on card slates. Therefore I had to cut about 0.5 cm around the openings, and that wasn't easy because I had used very good glue!

For glueing on the dormers I should have been an octopus because it was hopeless to get them straight. Lots of patience and masking tape. Then it turned out that there was a triangular opening at the bottom of the dormer, where logically a window sill should be. Luckily, I can make window sills, but this is clearly a manufacturing fault.


There were also gaps at seams, but there always are. That's when I was glad I hadn't tried wallpaper because it would have been ruined anyway. I covered the seams with filler and sanded it smooth.

Then I made the window sills. Once again, I think they should have been included in the kit.

I made a mistake with the first one: I glued it to the edge of the opening, but of course it had to be 90 degree to the wall. Lesson learned (long ago): with repeated actions, try one first.

Then finally, I could put then roof back onto its hinges. I was a bit nervous, but it went well.

So this whole process, described in the instruction as "glue and fut dormers" took me about twelve hours. I just cannot imagine how I would have done all this if I had assembled the house before decorating.

On the window sills, I can put flower pots or ornaments, not too heavy and unbreakable, because even if I use super-superglue I wouldn't trust it to hold. Something like this, for the nursery:


And in the evening, it will look like this:


I was right: it does look more finished. But far, far from finished yet.