Thursday, 31 March 2016

Window boxes

Now that I have roses on a trellis and ivy up the pillars, I also want window boxes. I would very much like to have iron-wrought boxes, but I haven't yet figured out how to make them. Preferably, I find some rubbish I can use.

While I am waiting for this particular rubbish to come my way, I have unearthed another piece of rubbish, or rather two. I have no idea what they are. Someone gave them to me a few years ago, and I have saved them to use as planters.


So first of all I put some air-drying clay into each. White tack would work too. Then I put a drop of glue into each planter and covered with coffee-grounds, for compost. It was just as messy as real planting.


Then I planted the flowers. I don't remember where these come from, most likely a job lot because I wouldn't have bought them for their own sake. I am not good at flowers, so maybe they are wrong for window boxes. Maybe they are climbers or whatever. But it's too late.


Now to the box itself. I considered various models (until I have wrought-iron ones), and I found some bits of angle moulding. Putting two bits together made a perfect window box. I glued on craft sticks on the sides, and for consoles I used bits of fancy coving.


I am not absolutely sure yet which windows will have these boxes. I only have two sets of planters, but then all boxes don't have to be exactly the same, do they? Tentatively, they are on the ground floor.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016


I want some ivy on the front of my house. I have a bunch of plastic ivy for Christmas decoration that I have inherited and used occasionally.

Many years ago I tried to make a plant out of it by cutting leaves into smaller shapes. It wasn't very convincing, but I was less demanding then. What I have now noticed with my trained eye was that the leaves were assembled individually and very easy to take apart.

I cut off a branch and stripped it of all large leaves. Then I took all small leaves from other branches and stuck them onto my branch. There are tiny pegs, and each pair of leaves has a hole.

I now had four branches with small leaves. Commercial dollhouse ivy you can get from ebay has leaves 1cm broad. So I am not too far off the mark. I also had to twist the leaves to make them all face in the same direction (which I guess is the opposite of the original).

To make it look natural, I attached every second or third leaf to the surface with sticky dots. In real life it is of course the stem that sticks, but it was easier so. I used two branches on top of each other. They are of course deliberately asymmetrical.

I think the house exterior is getting more interesting with each step. I will now try to make some hanging plants to put on the upper balcony. Come back soon. 

PS I have conscientiously put all large leaves back on the remaining branches so that I can still use them for their initial purpose.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016


I want a trellis for my climbing roses. I made it from coffee stirrers and two balsa strips. The balsa bits will be attached to the wall.

In the last picture, I aged the wood with light oak stain.

I have made roses from Fimo before, it's easy:

But I had a bunch of roses that came in some job lot, and I could just as well use them, only they had white stems. Why would anyone make roses with white stems? However, these roses had white stems which I had to paint - which felt a bit Alice in Wonderland.

By the way, I always use dry oasis when I paint small things.

I am pleased with the result:

Of course you can ask: where does this rose actually grow from. The answer is: I don't know. Yet.

Monday, 28 March 2016


I want two topiary shrubs in front of the main entrance. I made topiary plants before, so I knew exactly how to do it. You use a large bead or, as in this case, a felt ball, paint it green, cover with glue and roll in grass powder, the kind model railway people use. Except now, as then, I didn't have grass powder. I first tried knitting wool, and it didn't work at all because it looked fluffy and unnatural. So I tried embroidery yarn, and that looked much better, and the colour was better too.

This time I also wanted to do it properly, so I used a bit of real dry oasis (sorry, the picture turned out too dark, but it's too late) and then covered it with tiny decorative pebbles. I had to select the smallest.


I am really pleased with the result.

Sunday, 27 March 2016


Once upon a time, more precisely three years ago, I bought some buckles at a carboot sale.

I was confident then that they would be useful for something - mirror frames maybe? - but they turned out to be one of those things that you save for years and never use. However, as I was going through some missing bits in the house, I needed a fireguard. I have a few, made from different things, and this time I remembered the buckles. This is a typical fireguard, don't you think?

But it needs some improvement. I believe of all rubbish I bought at flea markets ten years ago, when I had just started making miniatures, lacy plastic placemats were among the most useful. It's easier to say what I have not used them for.

Then paint gold, to fit the environment.

 And here it is!

Saturday, 26 March 2016

More recycling tips for miniature makers

My most popular blog post by far is one of the very first, in which I shared some ideas about recycling. I don't know whether people hit it because they are looking for something else or whether they find it helpful - I'd like to know. If you read this and have visited that post, please leave a comment.

Since then I have been recycling more and more, and I am always looking for new materials. I thought I would collect some pictures and links here, hoping that people might find them useful. It will come in no particular order, but organised around a particular material or object.  For instance, look what you can do with buttons.

Here is what you can do with corrugated plastic from a candy box:

Here is some other things you can do with candy boxes:

Kitchen pots and pans
Door pediments 

With single eye-drop containers you can do wine and milk bottles.

And with eyedrop bottle caps you can make lamps (this is a scene from Alice in Wonderland):

The bottle itself becomes a milk canister.

 With large wooden beads you can make jam jars.

From fans you can make all kinds of things. A pedestal. A cradle. Or a modesty screen.

Spice bottle caps make showers:

Broken clock hands make fireplace tools:

Jewellery box lids make TV and computer screens. Here is a whole room full of computers.

Toothpicks have a variety of potential. For instance, knitting needles.

Hard foam (the kind electronic appliances are packed in) are excellent to make chimneys.

If you are throwing away an old printer or other device, there are all kinds of wheels and cogs and small bits that can be useful.  Resistors make excellent food jars (this is a half-scale dresser):

  From a metal toothpaste or tomato paste tube, you can make a lamp:


Envelope clips become door knobs (the door is, by the way, made from thin card).

Plastic lids make great modernist tables and stools, with legs made from paper clips.

Champagne wire can be used for many things, including bar chairs. My best invention is kitchen hooks, but as you see I have also used it for handles.

Pen caps can be used to make wall sconces.

A fish hook becomes a chandelier. And the ceiling rose is a lid from a yogurt jar.

From beer bottle caps you can make pie forms, but also clocks. 

And talking pie forms, trays from eye shadows are indispensable.


I think I will stop here. It was fun going through my old posts and pictures. Of course I haven't even mentioned things such as junk jewellery that can be used in scores of projects. I never buy card, but use old binders, and for window panes I use transparent plastic binders. I use chess pieces for lamp posts, table legs and ornaments. I use various bottle caps for almost anything, from fruit bowls to birthday cakes. Paper clips, cable clips, pen caps, medicine containers - everything comes handy.

But I also have a huge collection of rubbish that I have been saving for years and not figured out what to do with. It will be another post.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Reflections on a completed project

Yes, yes, I know: there is no such thing as a completed project. Even with my room boxes (except those I have given away of course) I keep adding, changing, moving around and sometimes dismantling altogether.

And yet I suddenly feel, with a touch of sadness, that Womble Hall - as a structure - is now finished. Almost two years since I bought it and a year and a half since I actually received it. Over a thousand hours of work. Something to celebrate.

There are still small things here and there, a roof tile that is coming off and needs gluing, a tiny spot that perhaps needs repainting. But on the whole, the exterior is done. The fronts close (I will add magnetic locks). And inside, all fancy ceilings are done, all mouldings are finished, all lights work - all big things are done. I can now focus on details.

It's not that I have ignored details. All rooms have furniture, pictures, lamps, rugs, dozens upon dozens of objects. Half of the windows have curtains.

But it is now I will seriously think about what paintings should be where. So far, most of them are white-tacked, but I will attach them more permanently with velcro. I will decide where more mirrors are needed - mirrors are good to add a sense of space. I will place all the remaining objects - a large box of them - where they belong. I may replace things, and I will certainly move things around.

On the outside, I will add ivy, wisteria, climbing roses, decorative plants. 

I still have the inside of the fronts to play with. So far, I only have a book shelf, a couple of mirrors and some fake lamps. These surfaces will create an illusion of additional rooms. They will have semi-flat furniture, flower pots, painting - lots of paintings! - and all kinds of trompe l'oeil.

I will also try to create a sense of a house being lived in, for instance, spilled tea, torn letters and newspapers, maybe a broken cup. Not chaos, but not a perfect order either. I will use scenic water in kitchens and bathrooms. Generally, I will need to age things, both inside and outside. I will make more food. I will certainly make more kitchen stuff.

I will probably make new clothes for some of the dolls. (Indeed, poor dolls, some of them haven't had a new dress for nine years!). In other words, the fun is just beginning! Come back soon.

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Mini jars

A couple of weeks ago someone in one of my miniature groups showed a set of tiny glass jars filled with glitter, from The Works (a hobby chain in the UK). I have been hunting these jars forever, but I won't pay a fortune for them on ebay. I happened to be near The Works last week, and bought a set for £1.


I want the jars, not glitter, but the first rule of miniature making is never throw away anything, so I started thinking where I can keep the glitter, and just some days later I happened to be in another hobby shop and bought this very useful mini storage box.


At the moment I cannot think of any use for glitter, because I don't do glitter-themed environments, but who knows. If it had been red it would have been useful to make fire.

Anyway, this left me with eight empty jars that I wanted to fill with something interesting for my larder. I have some jars made from plastic bottle caps, filled with salt, couscous, seeds and stuff. But jars invited preserves.

I posted in my miniature group, and the responses puzzled me. Friend after friend said: Candles. Ignorant as I am, I couldn't see any connections between glass jars and candles, but apparently there is something called Yankee candles, and if you make a candle shop, glass jars is exactly what you need.  Always something new to learn from miniature-making.

However, I wasn't making a candle shop, and a Victorian house would probably not have Yankee candles, and what I wanted was preserves or pickles. So this is what I made:

Left to right:

Coriander seed.
White pepper.
Snowdrop fruit (will probably dry up).
Air-drying clay, painted.
Eucalyptus seeds.
Unidentified seeds I had before.
Green lentils.

Apart from clay gherkins and snowdrop seeds that maybe also look like cucumbers or green peppers, I am not sure exactly what the things are supposed to represent. I may add glue to yellow lentils and pretend it's orange marmalade. White pepper may be green tomatoes? I will probably paint eucalyptus seeds dark red for beets. In fact, I had these fake beets before, but I made a big mistake. Of course there must be liquid in preserves if they are to look natural, and one of these days I will get scenic water to add features to my kitchens and bathrooms. But at the moment I haven't got scenic water, so I thought: what could I use instead? Antibacterial gel maybe? Bad idea. It all got murky within a day. So for the time being there is no liquid. There is room for improvement.

By the way, painting cucumbers was harder than you think. I tried and tried and tried and never got the right shade of green.

Here are the jars on their shelves:

Actually, you cannot see them well. I will have to re-arrange the shelves for better display.