Thursday, 31 December 2015

End-of-year reflections

I marked the last day of miniature-making year by sorting my rubbish supplies.You know, those zillions of boxes and jars in which you save all will-come-handy-one-day things that you then forget about and never find when you need them. Boxes into which you sweep all current projects from the desk when guest are expected. Bits of wire, buttons, plastic cogs, golf pegs, broken pens, pretty ribbons. I do have well-organised Very Useful Boxes for all these things, but sometimes you are in a hurry or simply too lazy to put things in the right place. However, at least once a year...

Whether there is a symbolic significance in this action I don't know.

I have also thrown away a good deal of saved materials of the kind that are easily replaced, like champagne wire or tea lights. I have once again stated that there is a lot of stuff I haven't used so far, but maybe one day. It has happened that I found a thing useful five years after I had saved it.

For the first time in weeks and weeks I can see the surface of my workbench. For how long?

In the middle of the afternoon there is a knock on the door. It is amazing that in the UK, New Year Eve is a working day, and post is delivered. My long-awaited order from the USA.


It will keep me busy for a good deal of 2016.

When I re-read my blog posts from last December, two things strike me: how much I have done since then and how slow I have moved on. This time last year, the house wasn't assembled yet. I was decorating walls. I  was making the roof.

But to an untrained eye I am sure the house looks just as it did then, held together by tack and masking tape.  

I have spent 553 hours working on the house during this year.  (This does not include other miniature projects, such as furniture or dolls).

And I can see the result. I am proud of the work I have done: floors, ceilings, doors, mouldings - details that outsiders may not reflect upon but that take hours of patience and frequently hours of frustration. Most of all I am proud of the lights.

I am looking forward to another happy miniature year. Together with gardening, miniature-making gives me the energy to work and live. It gives me peace of mind. It gives me the joy of creation.

I wish a very happy new year to all friends, real and virtual, who have assisted and encouraged me, to all my unknown blog readers, to all miniature lovers. See you in 2016!

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Further fun with curtains

You are probably tired of my curtains, but there are some new techniques I want to share. I tested the yellow curtain on the inside of the fronts and thought it looks great. So I decided to make two more yellow curtains. However, I wanted to improve them, and first I tried to make a valance after a pattern I found on pinterest. This is an excellent tutorial which I have saved for the future, but at the moment I felt it was a bit too sophisticated. But I utilised the idea by cutting a pattern from card, intending to cover it with fabric.

While I was rummaging through my big bag of lace and trim I found something that gave me a better idea. I had used this trim in my retro house, just as it is, but I saw immediately that it would go well with the yellow curtain.

While the assembly was drying, I went back to the green curtain. Nobody corrected me last time when I wrote that I made tassels. I didn't mean tassels, I meant tie-backs. But I wanted to have tassels for such grand curtains, and it was easy to add. I guess everyone knows how to make tassels, but if by chance you don't, here is how you do it.


And here is the green curtain, with tie-backs and tassels. I will now insert it back into the room, probably fixing permanently with strong velcro.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Roll up curtain

After working with elaborate curtains I felt I wanted to make something simple, and I made a roll up curtain. In the attic, ceilings are low and windows smaller, so roll up curtains would be just right. In fact, I have one already, in the nursery, that came with some bundle.

It isn't neat, as I see now, probably needs ironing, even starching.

I have another commercial roll up, with a fabric that doesn't fit into my period, but it shows how easy it is to made.


Point of departure. The fabric is the same as the bedding.


As compared to hours spent on fancy curtains, this took about fifteen minutes. I am pleased. Here it is in the room:

Friday, 25 December 2015

More curtains

When you repeat a design, it goes faster, and you improve all the time and may want to re-make the first attempt. But it still takes a couple of hours to make curtains with this technique

This is how the purple curtain turned out:

I have also tested it in the reception room:

Because, as I noted yesterday, I am suddenly not at all sure that the yellow curtain goes well with the reception room decoration. So I moved it tentatively to the dining room:

I think it looks much better here. I am not fixing any of the curtains permanently yet; I will be moving them around for a while, until I am fully satisfied.

However, I am sure that this curtain is in the right place:

Just as in 1:1 environment, once you have hung up a curtain you cannot imagine how it could ever not have been there. The room has a cosier and more natural look.

Now I have made three curtains with exactly the same technique - except that the green one has a fringed pelmet - and I guess I could go on and make fifteen more for the remaining windows, but I may also try a different approach. There is scope for imagination, as Anne of Green Gables says.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Curtain attempt

Now that most of the interior decoration is done (I just have five more Adam ceilings to make, but there is no rush), I can start adding small objects.  I have three shoe boxes of objects from the old house: toys, vases, ornaments, paintings, mirrors, flowers, rugs, books. Plus all small things that I have bought or found in the past year, waiting to find their place. In  principle, I want everything to be movable, and I also want to see how things look before fixing them permanently. However, if you white-tack paintings they will start falling down soon, and the wallpaper will be damaged. And so on.

Anyway, today I made curtains. My issue with curtains is this:


This does not look natural, and I have always wondered why even professional dollhouse makers, like here (V&A Museum of Childhood, London), don't see how unnatural it looks.

I have read about making curtains with corrugated cardboard, and I have been saving some for this purpose.

Here is my point of departure:


Corrugated cardboard, a 30p silk scarf from a charity shop, lace, ribbon, a piece of L-shaped moulding, grill sticks. Patience.

As it turned out, the glue I used was wrong so I had to start over again and got distracted by another scarf, but to begin with, I glued lace onto the moulding:

This assembly is with different lace, which was originally a curtain that came with some joblot, but it wasn't neat. I had to cut it to suit my purpose.


Then, using a more appropriate glue, I glued the fabric onto corrugated cardboard and pressed in with grill sticks. I am sure there is an easier and smarter way of doing it, but this is how I did it.


After a while, when it had dried, it looked like this:


And this is what I wanted it to look like, since I was all the time consulting a picture I got from the net, but it just showed the result, not the process.

Next, I had to glue fabric on the other side of the cardboard piece because otherwise cardboard would be what you see through the window. The picture from the net withheld this information, but I figured it out myself. It also gave a neat side of the curtain.


Now the right-hand curtain is glued onto the lace assembly.




Now the pelmet. I did try to make a wavy one, by stitching in two places in the middle, but this particular fabric didn't look good. So I had to go halfway.

And finally tassels. That's what often make miniature curtains look unnatural. Don't tie tassels too tight. I am not quite sure that this ribbon is right, but I can change it later.


I think that for the very first complicated curtain ever I've done well.

It is not attached permanently yet so I can trim everything that needs trimming. (As you see, the white-tacked paintings are falling off). It also strikes me that this curtain is perhaps too yellow for the room so I may move it elsewhere. But here is what it looks like through the window:

With trial and error, it took me four hours to make this curtain. It was a good way of spending Christmas Eve.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Adam ceiling, dining room

My next Adam ceiling project is the dining room.

If you haven't yet seen my ceilings, here is the grand hall, the upper hall and the smoking room.

To make the dining room ceiling, I had to remove the floor in the room above it, which is the smoking room. (By the way, I did add a filigree ceiling rose to the smoking room ceiling, which was easy). Luckily, for whatever reason, one of the skirting boards in the smoking room had not been properly glued, so it was easy to lift up the floor. Of course I had to remove all the objects first. I also had to remove all objects from the dining room.

The old ceiling in the dining room is one that I was very proud of when I made it, almost a year ago. When the decoration - a plastic placemat -  fell off, I glued it back with very strong glue. Now I had to remove the decoration which still left me with a thick layer of glue. There is only one effective way of removing old glue, with a hair dryer. So that's what I did. It took longer time than I wanted to spend on such a trifle.  

Since there was already a drilled hole in the ceiling, I had to centre the paper around this hole and arrange the pattern accordingly. I glued on the filigree ceiling rose, which, unintentionally, made it much easier to test the paper. There is a chimney breast in this room so that I had to cut the paper around the chimney breast. All this should have been done a year ago, but then a year ago I didn't have the Adam paper. So I felt like a poor architect hired by a mad customer to put in new Adam ceilings in a house. 

Here is the result:

There will be coving of course, to cover the edges. Also, while I was messing about, one string in the crystal chandelier broke so I will have to mend it. Good that it broke before I put it up again.

I think it is a magnificent ceiling, and the whole house is starting to have a completely new look. I feel a bit bad about the old plastic placemat that has been so helpful for many projects, but it's time to move on. Come back soon.

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Adam ceiling, upper hall

I left off yesterday having made some preparations for the ceiling in the upper hall that I resumed today. The problem with upper hall ceiling (as with some other ceilings I will yet have to consider) is that it is already decorated, and, firstly, I like the decoration, and secondly, it would be a huge trouble to remove it. Hence, I need to decorate the ceiling with Adam paper around the existing ceiling panel.


It is interesting how bare the ceiling looks now that I have started making Adam ceilings. Half a year ago when I first made it I was perfectly satisfied.

As with the Great hall ceiling, the paper is far too large. I thought I would use the same technique I used when I made the great hall: by cutting the details and pasting on a sheet of lining paper that I would then paste on the ceiling. However, when I cut the pattern and tested, I realised that with the existing panel I would never manage to make it neat. So I decided to paste the cut-outs direct on the ceiling.

First of all, I had to drill a hole for the chandelier. It wasn't possible to remove the floor upstairs, and there is a partition in the middle anyway, so I drilled as close as possible to the partition (and will later hide it behind skirting). Then I assembled chandelier - filigree ceiling rose - circular ceiling pattern.


At the very last moment I realised that it made sense to glue the metal rose before hanging up the assembly - one step less to think about. Then I led a metal wire through the drilled hole and fixed with tape. Then I glued the paper circle onto the ceiling.


As I said, the original pattern was far too large, but I cut various details and arranged them in a somewhat symmetrical pattern. I like the result.

I may add some more details, but probably it will be too much. I will leave it like this for a while. I guarantee that there is no other ceiling like this in the world, in any scale.

This room is now very eclectic with Adam ceiling and Victorian tiles, but Victorian houses were eclectic so I won't worry about it.

Saturday, 19 December 2015

"Immaculate attention to detail"

Every time I wonder why I bother to make all the tiny details of my project as perfect as possible, I keep reminding myself about that newspaper article that made me so angry a year ago. Attention to detail is precisely what those decorators haven't done. But I won't repeat myself - read the post.

This weekend I have been working with details. Some of them I indicated in yesterday's post. When I started making the ceiling in the upper hall, including the ceiling rose for the chandelier, I realised that it would make sense to add the coving first, because the chandelier would be in the way. And before I moved on at all, I should probably fix the candles in the large chandelier. They were just attached with tack, and I removed them when I was working on the railing because they kept falling off. (I cannot take out the chandelier because it is attached in the sealed-off back corridor above). I knew the candles would go on falling off, and I needed to come up with a good idea about how to fix them. Unlike most of my candles, these are real birthday candles - not that I will ever light real candles in a dollhouse, but I had these rather ugly silver ones, so I painted them off-white. I had bought the candles in a charity shop for 30p because of the candle holders: miniature people make cups, goblets and other stuff with them. But after repeated attempts to fix candles upright with sticky dots, I took the holders, cut off the tip and put candles in them, as you normally do with candle holders.


My idea was that a holder would stay put better than a candle. But after a while it didn't look all that good.

Since I was multitasking I took down a sconce from a room box that I am dismantling. It goes together with a ceiling lamp I now have in the master bedroom. Let me tell you: it is worth while going through your own creations every now and then. The sconce was very clever, and I saw immediately that it was a solution for my chandelier problem.

Hopefully, gluing metal to metal will do it.

As I said, I was multitasking, and one of the tasks was door pediments. This is what I had in mind.


While I was rummaging through my numerous Very Useful Boxes I found another thing from the same shop. Another lesson to self: before embarking on any project, go through all your supplies. I had been saving these filigrees for ages, to make ceiling roses!

Just in time for the small chandelier in the upper hall, but I had completely forgotten them when I made the Adam ceiling in the smoking room! Shall I do it all over again, just to insert the rose? I think I shall. It will look so good.

Meanwhile, the coving I had painted was dry, and it was time to put it into the upper hall (before starting on the ceiling). It isn't proper miniature coving, but a 2 meter rail from B&Q for £1. In most of my rooms so far I have paper mouldings made from 1:1 embossed wallpaper. But for the front hall I wanted wooden coving for better effect.

I had to remove my pretty Victorian tiles because they sat just a couple of millimeters too high. It didn't really matter because I had to rearrange them anyway.

As you could have expected, while I was working on the back wall I happened to ruin a part of the railing. I should have made the mouldings before I made the railings. But then... and so on.

Anyway, here is the result of my immaculate attention to detail today, and I will continue tomorrow, so please come back. 

Friday, 18 December 2015

Upper hall

I am meticulously showing the slow progress of decorating because it needs to be emphasised that behind each detail there may be hours of work. After the previous stage in the upper hall, when I glued the railing, I had to do the following.  First, I put in the two side doors, which in the previous pictures I tried to avoid showing. These are the absolutely last doors in this house, and they took just as much effort as all other doors. I don't know whether it is just me or whether doors are evil by nature, but they don't fit the openings. The simple explanation is that the openings have swollen from paint, and no, I didn't paint the inside edges because some merciful person warned me not to. Still, the doors don't fit, and a lot of scratching and sanding is required. There may be an easier way of doing this if you have the right tools, but I am just saying that the uninitiated who think that putting in doors is child's play - like Lego or Playmobil - don't know anything about dollhouses. Anyway, after some hours of huffing and puffing and swearing the doors were in and the surrounds glued. Did it make a difference! It's amazing how you forget what a difference it makes. It has been a very long time since the previous painful door-inserting, but now it feels really finished... almost.

For next, I had to do the skirting which I probably should have done before the railing - but whatever you do, there will always be something you should have done before. The skirting was straightforward, but still laborious, and after gluing, the skirting boards had to be held in place with masking tape. Oh masking tape, dollhouse builder's best friend!

Now, to an uninitiated eye, this picture may seem perfect:

True, it is a huge improvement. Especially compared to what it looked like fifteen months ago. But it isn't quite finished yet. The ceiling will be decorated with Adam paper, which I will have to cut and assemble to match the existing panel. There will be another chandelier in the front of the room.  To hang it, I will have to drill a hole in the ceiling, for which I will have to remove the floor upstairs. I could perhaps attach the chandelier without drilling a hole, but I will need to figure out how to do it neatly. I will add the cornices, for which I probably will need to remove the Victorian tiles because they sit too high. When I attached them I had forgotten about the cornices. I will also add door pediments, and I think I know how I will make them, but I am not sure whether it will work.

Not least, I will need to trim all small faults here and there, round thresholds, in corners. It will most probably take me 10-15 hours to complete this room - but then, a room is never completed, is it?

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Stairs and railing

I could not postpone it any longer and felt I really needed to finish this decisive stage. It is eight months since I started working on the great stairs. I am glad that I wasn't satisfied with half-measures and actually made the steps one by one. The way the house is developing in its grandeur, it would have looked horrible without this improvement. Possibly, I regret that I haven't also made the railing with individual spindles as some people do. This is something I can do some time in the future when everything else is perfect.

I have been reluctant to glue the stairs and railings because - as my miniature friends have warned me - it is next to impossible to decorate around them. But sooner or later it has to be done, and now it is already later than late. I found the booklet of assembly instructions that I last used almost a year ago and looked up how to fix the stairs. I have had them temporarily fixed with tack on several occasions, but it is only when you start the actual gluing that all the issues emerge. As always, the instructions say cheerfully: "Glue and..." They do not say: "Let the glue set before your glue the next newel post". And they do not mention miles of masking tape to hold the pieces together. The thing is, it would be pointless to ask anyone to help because there is hardly space for my two hands inside the room. Thus: let the glue set and wait and do something else meanwhile ( which is exactly what I did).

Here I am not even halfway:

You can say that you have seen this picture before, and you have, but at that time it was just held together by tape and white tack. Now the main stairs are glued on, the side stairs are glued on, one straight railing is glued on, and everything is setting, held together by tape. The large chandelier is taped to the ceiling to give me space to work. I am just praying that under the tape it all sits correct. But it is beginning to look good. 

Here I have added the other side railing and glued newel posts to the front railing.

Three hours later, it looks like this, still with tack and tape:

I think it is important to remind everybody that when the instructions simply say "Glue" it can take many, many hours. And when people admire finished dollhouses they have no idea how much work there is behind the beautiful stairs and railings.

Come back soon to see how it turns out.

Adam ceiling, smoking room

While the glue is setting on my grand stairs, I decided to continue my project of making new ceilings using Adam paper. It is not without trepidation I approached this task because, unlike the Grand Hall that didn't have any ceiling decoration (and was hard enough), in order to insert new ceilings in existing, assembled rooms I will need to perform the following operations:
1) remove all objects from the room I will be working on
2) remove coving (in this situation, I am glad that I use paper rather than wood)
3) remove existing ceiling paper or decoration
4) remove flooring in the room above (which may involve removing skirting) to access fixture for ceiling light
5) remove ceiling light
6) glue new ceiling paper onto a piece of lining, making sure that the new ceiling rose is aligned with the existing hole for the ceiling light (this may also involve cutting and pasting, to assemble a new pattern, as I had to do with the ceiling in Grand Hall)
7) glue new ceiling assembly onto the ceiling - working upside down in a small room. For this step you should preferably be an octopus
8) fix the ceiling light, feeding the wire through the hole up to the room above
9) replace flooring in the room above, including skirting
10) insert new coving in the room I am working on
11) put all objects back into the room

If you wonder why I bother it's because I am a perfectionist. Now that I have this magnificent paper I am no longer satisfied with my old ceilings.

I started with the smoking room for no particular reason; probably because the old ceiling was slightly damaged when we did the lights. 

I will not show step-by-step pictures because, apart from being tremendously difficult, it was straightforward (except that it was painful to see the room stripped down again). The only unforeseen trouble was that in a corner there was a wire connector that my son-in-law would have been able to remove and re-connect, but I didn't dare, so I had to cut a little square. Unless you look closely you won't notice. Here is the result:

It took me three hours, but luckily I didn't have to tear up the room above because I still have paper floors there which could be carefully lifted.

With objects put back:

Having lights inside the room was a huge advantage, although otherwise it would have made sense to fix the ceiling before the lights. But I didn't have much choice.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Last floor

I have been postponing this floor as long as I could, but the time has come: I need to build the stairs and railing, and generally it's time to finish major work now that I have lights and all. The reason I have been postponing this project is that it is a lot of work, but it is good when you need a calm day with yourself. It is precision work that needs concentration.

When I started planning Womble Hall I knew that the floor in the upper hall would be the floor from my former art gallery. Most objects from the art gallery are now in Womble Hall, not just pictures and statues, but also fireplace. So the floor would be moved to upper hall. Obviously, it wouldn't be enough because in the art gallery it was a small surface. At that time, I wasn't sure I had the patience to make a whole floor like this. Now I am sure. For the hall, I needed to add quite a few squares.

This picture was taken a year ago - this is how long it took me to finish this floor. It soon became clear that I didn't have enough cheese boxes, but on the other hand, I had plenty of coffee stirrers that are much easier to work with, and reluctantly, I discarded the old floor and started anew.

Some time ago when I shared the project on Facebook someone asked me about the size of the squares. So here is for size. These squares are smaller than in the art gallery because I use coffee stirrers. 

I will not show step-by-step pictures because technically there is nothing special about it: just measure, cut, assemble the pattern, glue, repeat... again and again. It didn't literally take me a year, because I made many other things at the same time, but I estimate that it took me about 50 hours. I would make a row every now and then. But today I finished it!

Please agree that it was worth the trouble. There are still some small tasks I need to do before I glue together the railing, but I have assembled it temporarily, just to see what it looks like. I like what I see.

I will now be able to insert the side doors (if you have followed my blog you now how much I hate it), finish the walls and ceiling decoration, attach the chandelier, and so on. The lights make it much easier to work inside the rooms than with a lamp. And easier to take pictures.

I have almost run out of coffee stirrers - I bought a pack of thousand when I started with new floors in the house. This sets everything in perspective.