Friday, April 30, 2010

Janet Granger needlepoint cushion

A few days ago I received my first order from UK artist Janet Granger, who designs and sells an amazing range of 1:12 scale needlepoint kits for everything from firescreens to rugs to bell pulls.  I had been looking for suitable cushion patterns for the little Queen Anne settee that Kris Compas made for me, and decided to pay for a kit, partly for the convenience, but mostly because I really liked the design.

I ordered "Sophie", a Georgian patterned cushion that I hoped would go well with the pretty fabric that Kris supplied.  It came beautifully packaged with everything required and stitched up quite quickly on 22 count canvas (in spite of my inevitable mistakes).  I think it's even prettier in person than it was on line -- thanks for such a lovely design, Janet :)

I also ordered a Willow patterned bell pull for the new house.  I doubt if bell pulls just like this one were in common use in the early 1700s, and I know for sure that the Willow pattern is later than my period, but I want to have a room dedicated to blue and white export ceramics, and just couldn't resist it! (To hell with rigorous historical accuracy!) It's on 32 count silk gauze, and comes with a cast metal bellpull end.  I'll do this one sometime later, when my eyes are feeling brighter!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

New followers -- welcome!

I'd like to welcome our latest followers:

Anama, an Argentinian blogger at Anama Vesi.

Ana Maria is a visual artist and published miniaturist who blogs at A journey through arts and miniatures.  Ana lives in Portugal and collects all kinds of dolls.

Thea lives in Texas in the United States and blogs at 17 Days in December.  She's a mystery novel addict! (I love mysteries, too -- they're my favourite genre).

Karin Corbin, a well-known model maker and miniaturist in Seattle in the USA.

There's Eva from Barcelona whose blog is Mini Escenas y Manualidades.  She's making some amazing things with polymer clay!

Margaret from New South Wales in Australia blogs at My Petit Parterre.  She's working on a flower/plant shop with a French theme.

Michelle lives in Antwerp, Belgium, and blogs about miniatures at poppenhuis en miniaturen.

Hannah is a university student in Coventry, UK and she blogs about her four dolls' houses at Spare Time Ramblings :)

De is from Indiana in the United States, and she blogs at De-Lightful Minis.

There's also Naomi, about whom I don't know anything more.  But I'm glad you're following, anyway!

Welcome, everyone!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hydrangeas out of season :)

I made up the Bonnie Lavish hydrangea kit last night.  (You were right, Janice, it was fun!)  Of course I clearly picked one of the most fiddly flowers in creation with which to begin my adventures in 1:12 scale flower-making -- gluing tiny little flowers onto tiny little stems was making me a bit batty by the end of an hour, but it's very satisfying and I can recommend the kits.  The instructions were a teeny bit sketchy (I'm a Virgo and I like things to be clear :)  but it all worked out okay and, like Janice, I got six blooms, enough for two small plants. 

They will eventually go in two planters I've ordered, but for now they're living in the kitchen.  I don't know if people in the early sixteenth century picked flowers for pleasure rather than medicine or herbs, but I love flowers in my own home, and I like the detail they add to a scene.

You can buy the kits directly from Bonnie Lavish's web site, or from other retailers.  I happened to buy this kit at a discount from eBay seller littleplaceminis.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Painted egg carton stones and tiny purchases for kitchen

I ended up painting the egg carton stones: here's the charcoal burner with its new, improved (?) stone work:

I'm also trying to design the lighting that will go under the charcoal burner -- I'm playing with bits of lighting gels, trying to paint them to resemble glowing coals and position them so the light coming out of the burners themselves doesn't look ridiculous.  I realized after some trial and error that I really need to have gels both in front of the lighting unit and on top.  This is the best I've done so far, but I'm still working it all out:

And I got a couple of little packages in the mail today. I've got a hydrangea flower kit (by Bonnie Lavish) that I'll work on in the evenings while watching dvds.  I also got a few little bits and pieces for the kitchen:

On the kitchen table here you can see a pair of pliers on the left, near the sugar cone.  They look as much like sugar nippers as anything I can find, ready made.  There's also a large iron strainer for the fireplace and a set of copper frying pans.  I'll probably keep the big one for this kitchen, painting it black for iron, and the other two will move into the William and Mary kitchen when it's built!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Kitchen at night

I took these photos last night:

Yay, lights!

Egg carton stones

Yesterday I decided to finish off the fireplaces with the edging I'd been planning: egg carton stones.

I link to some great tutorials from This Post, if you want to see people do this really, really well, and paint them, and give you directions and stuff :)

This isn't really a tutorial, because there's not much more that I can say about this topic than:
  1. Get a paper egg carton (preferably with a flat top)
  2. Cut out shapes
  3. Glue them in place
  4. Have a gin and tonic (or refreshing beverage of choice
The process of cutting out shapes to fit around these fireplaces was a bit like being given a jigsaw with missing pieces and then cutting replacement pieces out of egg cartons.  I'm sure there's a better, more methodical way to do this than the way I did it, which was to eyeball it, cut out shapes, and keep paring them down until the pieces either fit or I totally ruined them.

Actually it was kind of fun!

Here's what the kitchen looks like with the new stone edging around the three hearths.  (Actually this photo drove me insane, because the edging around the bake ovens was concave on the left side, and I trimmed it down with an exacto knife until it looked less wonky :)  I don't actually like the job I did on the charcoal burner unit very much, so I'm not going to take any close ups of it!

The rest looks okay.  I even like the colour at the moment, although I may mess with it later.  This stuff is amazing -- the texture is absolutely perfect for stone.  I'm sure most of you know Cynthia, of Cynthia's Minilife, who has transformed a Beacon Hill kit into a stunning Second Empire mansion.  One of the things that makes it so gorgeous are the egg carton stones she's used on the exterior.  Check it out, if you don't already know her lovely blog!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Lights in the Kitchen!

I love lights.

I love well-done lighting in the real world (whether on stage or in a living room), and miniature lighting has always captivated me in inverse proportion to its scale.  The instant I see little lights go on, my brain switches immediately to "child".  In a good way :)

I have learned, in my brief time doing dolls' house scale lighting, that sometimes it goes ridiculously smoothly, and other times it's a pain in the arse.

For some reason, the little fires in the kitchen decided to be the latter.

The fires themselves are fabulous.  I'd like to learn to make my own, but until then, these are my favourites.  I bought two identical ones from this eBay seller, Kerby Lane Miniatures -- of all the commercially-available dolls house flames/fires I've ever seen, these are the nicest.  (When they have them for sale, you can usually find them by searching eBay for "dollhouse flames").

They don't come with a plug, which is fine by me.  I'd just have to take it off and put it back on again, and the little plugs are my least favourite part of wiring.

For good reason :)

I got all my holes drilled, I moved my circuit board and transformer to the table on which I'm working on the kitchen.  I got the little wires pushed through the holes.  And I started to put the little plugs on the little wires.

Both units put up a struggle.  I couldn't get brass pins out of the plugs.  Then, when I could get them out, I dropped them and couldn't find them and used bad language and had to find another.  Then I had trouble stripping the wires without cutting them, then I had trouble getting the brass pins back into the plugs, and then the damned things wouldn't light up :)

But, finally, both units were correctly wired, plugged in, turned on and everything was magical!

I really like the effect of the flame unit in the enclosed bake oven -- I'm so glad I actually made separate little boxes for each oven!

And this photo shows all three of my new arrivals:  the flame unit casts a nice glow on the fireback.  The little cauldron is hanging from the chimney crane.  The chimney crane doesn't swing, which was a bit of a disappointment, (because we all like moving things, eh? :) I was also at a loss how to install it so that it both looked somewhat believable and held the cauldron roughly over the centre of the fire.  Finally I cut a tiny triangular section of basswood, glued the crane to it, painted it black, and then glued it in the upper back corner of the cob irons.  It looks quite convincing, even close up, so I can live with it :)

I can't wait until tonight to take night photos!

Spiral stairs painted

It's so good to have the spiral stairs done!

I painted them yesterday and this morning.  Here's a photo showing why it was very convenient to have constructed the stairs independently of a base :)

Painting was so much easier this way!  If they had been glued in place, I suspect a great deal of bad language would have been used ...

And here's what they look like now, after some extra coats of paint:

I received some lovely goodies in the mail yesterday -- my fireplace crane, a little cauldron and the two fires I need for the kitchen.  I'm all ready to build the final wall, install some lighting and finish up the ground floor of the kitchen wing!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spiral stairs and other delights :)

Thursdays are always busy days here, because that's the day the KnitWits (the four girls I play with) come over. We did accomplish a few things, in between several hands of Happy Families (Evangelista won them all -- well done!) and celebrations of Fred's birthday (she's officially a tween now, a label she cordially detests).  Well, she's twelve, she's entitled :)

Tiddles and I worked on the spiral staircase.  I had cut a 1/4" dowel roughly to length, and I made a temporary base it could be stuck into so that we could construct the staircase out of the castle, and then move it when we'd worked everything else out.

I was using the rather thin suggestions for construction from Geoffrey West's book  Tudor dolls' houses.

This is a close up of it after I put it in the castle this morning, but it gives an idea of the basic construction.  We cut 1 3/4" lengths of dimensional balsa (the balsa was 3/4" x 1"), shallowly sliced off one corner, used a rounded file on it to make it fit better against the curve of the dowel, and glued these lengths on top of each other.  (If I had been clever, I would have sanded every piece perfectly before assembly -- now I have to sand it afterwards ...)

It was very hard to start the build, because the darned thing kept toppling over!  Finally Tiddles and I decided to just glue up the bottom five or six steps and leave it alone for a while, while we had a snack and played cards.

When we came back to it, I got the bright idea of using Quick Grip glue (our unofficial sponsor -- someone from the company, Karen, actually left a comment on my earlier post about the bake oven construction -- it was like a visit from a celebrity :)  which worked a treat.  I still just glued stairs on in groups of six or so, but it was certainly stickier!

This morning I drilled a hole in the base of the kitchen floor where the stairs will go, and tried them out for size:

Looks pretty good!  It's got to be sanded and then painted to look like stone, then I have to figure out the cut out for the upper floor, which may tax all my spatial abilities.

Note:  it would be more in scale if the lengths of the steps were longer, but I was building this to fit in a very small space.  I've been up some pretty small spiral staircases in cathedrals and so forth in England, but I suspect there aren't any quite as small in diameter as this one!

In other news ...

I made one door for the bake oven -- this one didn't have to be removeable, because I intend it to be closed for display, but what the heck?  It is!

And Tiddles sewed on some lengths of trim to her tapestry, made a hanging rod with bead finials, and hung it up, proudly, in the Great Hall for all to admire:

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Mats from Glenda!

I had a lovely (very flat) package arrive in the mail yesterday from New Zealand.  It contained the rush mats I ordered from Glenda Howell's shop at Etsy!  (Glenda is the blogger behind Peppercorn Minis).  I think they're stunning -- the workmanship on these has to be seen to be believed.

They're suitable for modern settings, of course, but also great for the chambers of the well-to-do of the Medieval or Tudor era (which is why the top one will live in the bedchamber in the tower) and the spaces of the working class in the Georgian era or later (so one will be in the servant's room in the Queen Anne house.

Glenda is away taking care of her Mum right now -- I hope it's going as well as it can, Glenda, and thank you for sending me these beauties :)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Welcome to our new followers!

First up, hello to Rosy from Brazil who writes a blog, rosyminiaturas, with lots of pictures about her dolls and projects :)

There's Kiva from Hawaii, who is one of the world's finest food miniaturists, and whose blog I've been reading for a very long time now with the greatest enjoyment.  Not only is a she a great artist, she writes in a really fresh and personal way that makes her posts convey her personality as well as her artistry.

There Dale of Dale's Dreams, who is a prominent miniature maker on Etsy.  (She's having a giveaway right now to celebrate reaching 200 followers :)  She's also one of the founding members of the Miniatures in Dollhouse Scale team, and has a great shop at Etsy.

There's Susan of Susan's Houses, who says that she "recently acquired a couple of dollhouses at my local thrift shop.  It started an avalanche of miniatures", which has to be the best summation of how I feel, at least about this hobby -- it whacked me, and all of a sudden things have all got very, very small :)

And there's Nuri, from Spain who blogs at Las Minis de Nuri.  She's a new blogger who is working on quite a few small houses and roomboxes with plenty of colour!

Welcome to you all!

Tudor bake ovens

Well, yesterday I started and (largely) finished the bake ovens in the kitchen :) (The design is based almost entirely on Brian Long's excellent instructions in his Tudor dolls' house book, by the way. )

Here's what I learned while researching Tudor baking.  A bake oven of this period has two levels.  The baker lights a fire in the upper level and when the masonry is hot, he uses first a rake to pull out the ash and coals (which drop through a gap into the lower ash pit), then cleans the oven with a mop and puts the bread or pie in the now empty and clean but still-hot oven.  A wooden oven door seals everything up until it's baked.

Here's the basic construction of the interior, showing the three spaces for the ovens and the single ash pit, beneath.  You can see the cut outs for the gaps through which the ashes would drop, although I don't suppose anyone else will ever notice them :)

I miraculously remembered to drill the hole in the back of the middle oven for running the wiring :)  I painted the interior of the ovens and ash pit black, and cut out the facings of the unit, upper and lower, from heavy, acid free illustration board.  I think I had a drink at this point, I'm not sure ...

I covered the facings with Poly Filla and let them dry (well, more or less).   Then I glued them in place with my current favourite glue, Quick Grip. (Do you think they'll sponsor me?)

Then I aged the plaster and tried to blend it in with the rest of the kitchen. 

I want to have a fire going in the middle oven, the left hand oven will just have been swabbed out with the mop and the right hand oven will be sealed with its wooden door.  So, I have to make the three wooden doors (two of which will not be in place), I have to make the bundle of faggots and the fire for the middle oven and I have to make the bread peel, mop and rake.  Oh, and a bucket of dirty water!

And I also have to edge both the main fireplace and the bake ovens in egg carton stones :)  But I feel a huge sense of relief, knowing that the ovens are actually built.

If I can get Tiddles to build the spiral staircase on Thursday, then I can start planning the upper level.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Logs in the kitchen fireplace

I didn't get much done yesterday because I was busy with real work.  But I did go out into our garden and snip some twigs into logs :)

I have to dull down the sheen of the bricks -- maybe it's time to put on the soot and grime!

Monday, April 19, 2010

More pots by Suramics!

David came back from the post office with a lovely little parcel for me:  more goodies from Sue Dix of Suramics Pottery!  Aren't these pretty?  I love the blue and brown glaze on these so much.  Thanks, Sue -- you do great work!

I took this photo of the kitchen last night.  I'm really pleased with how it's all coming together.  Now I need to start on the bake oven!

Cob irons, part 2

Cob irons, part 1

My next task was to make the "iron" part of the cob irons, the part that holds the spit.  I'd already decided to make a black polymer clay facing, but I wasn't entirely sure what I was going to use to make the actual supports for the spit.

I thought about using more clay or heavy wire, but then I found some little brass right angle screw hooks in the kitchen hardware drawer that seemed as if they might work.

After I glued the trimmed brick facings to the plywood, I rolled out some black polymer clay for the front.  After it was baked I trimmed the clay to fit, and glued it on.  I then marked and drilled five holes in each piece, starting with the lowest hole 1 inch from the bottom and the others at 1/2" intervals above it.

(At the bottom of the next photo you can see a sample of the original brass hook.  I had to trim the hook part because it was too long and out of scale when I tried it as is.)  I'm really glad I went with the hooks and that they were comparatively easy to trim.  They're nice and secure and sturdy.   I painted them black with acrylic paint.

And here are the cob irons in place!   I know the suckling pig looks rather odd roasting over an invisible fire, but the kitchen flames are on order from eBay :)

Welcome to all our new followers!

Wow!  So many new followers -- thank you all so much :)

There's miniaturist Heather Cutting-Rayl from New Mexico in the United States. Her blog is This Little Doll House, and she has a special interest in witch and wizard minis.

There's Susan from Istanbul in Turkey, whose blog is Kankadolls and Miniatures.  She makes incredible papier-maché dolls that have to be seen to be believed!  She also very generously offers all kinds of tutorial on how to make them.

There's Jeanette from Germany whose blog is Garden of Miniatures.  She doesn't just make flowers, she makes whole gardens (and graveyards ...)!

There's Ingrid from Belguim, whose blog is mijn droomwereldje.   Her aesthetic is soft, slightly shabby, turn of the last century (what the English might call Edwardian) interiors. 

There's Daydreamer who has a brand new blog with some wonderful photos and musings about the connection between her dolls' houses and her childhood.  Very evocative.

There's Flora from Italy, whose blog is la casa delle bambole di flora. Her header image is an Ingres portrait that I've always loved, which sets the tone for the pretty, slightly shabby mini objects and scenes she photographs. 

There's My Small Obsession, run by MiniMaker, who also runs the video site Creating Dollhouse Miniatures.  Her blog has tons of helpful advice and how-tos.

There's bogna from Poland, who has a number of blogs and interests, including I Love That Doll.

There's Cheryl from Hawaii, whose blog is A Miniature Place.  She shares lots of photos of beautiful, tasteful mini objects and decorating, and, in addition to work in 1:12 scale, shares pieces in quarter scale, too.

There's also Peggy Fowler, KLC,  Susanne and Mary, whose profiles didn't seem to be linked to a blog of their own.  If you do have a blog, please let me know and I'll correct this :)

Welcome, all!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

And the winners of the giveaway are ...

I decided that since there were 36 entrants in the draw to celebrate the blog reaching 50 followers, there would be three prizes :) (That made sense to me at the time ...)

According to, the winners are ...

Thank you all so much for entering!  Would Cynthia, Julia and Old Maid please email me their mailing addresses, and I'll start putting together their prizes :)

My email address is nina [at]  Just replace the [at] with the symbol @ :)

Cob irons and more clay stuff

In an effort to avoid working on the bake ovens, I decided to work on the main roasting fireplace :)  Yesterday I cut some 3/8" plywood to the correct shape for the cob iron supports.  (Cob irons hold the spit at different heights from the fire to help control the roasting of meat. ) 

 Here's a photo showing a huge fireplace with cob irons at Hampton Court:

The cob irons for my little fireplace are about 4 inches high and 1 3/4 inches deep, angled from front bottom to back top.  Again, I took all this from Brian Long's Tudor book. 

These are the plywood forms in place.  The spaces to the outside of each cob iron will be for the wood stores.

Then I rolled out some grey polymer clay (see, I'm getting smarter -- grey means I won't have to paint them grey for grout!) for the brick impress.  Again, learning from my mistakes, I made the clay sheets thicker, this time :)  I cut them out to the shape of the supports.

Then I impressed the clay with the molds I bought from Malcolm's Miniatures.  Again, I used the Tudor brick.

The thicker clay took the impress so much better, as you can see.  Then I baked and painted them and trimmed the clay appliques to more precise size (using the impress molds, of course, distorts the size a wee bit).

And here's what they looked like this morning:

I also made a few bits and bobs last night while we were watching dvds --  mostly knives, another pheasant (this time designed to drape over the chopping block) and an "iron" hanging rack for all the game storage.

I'll be back to do the draw for the books a little later :)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kitchen storeroom

Yesterday I built a little platform in the storeroom and framed in the door to the kitchen.  I shaped each of the boards that make up the platform (they're just offcuts of pine I stole from my husband's workshop) and I really like the effect.  Now I want to build a new table with a top actually constructed from boards!

There's going to be a little ladder up to the platform and then another ladder up to the room above.  See the little stool I made?  Katie Cat has curled up on it, to keep an eye on the pheasants.  Or perhaps she caught them.  We may never know.


Thursday evening, while David and I watched a dvd (New Tricks -- do you know it?  A great police procedural from the UK) I made my first attempt at making dead pheasants out of polymer clay :)  Then last night, while David and watched a dvd (State of Play, a thrilling BBC series -- I know, there's a theme developing here :) I made my first attempt at painting dead pheasants made of polymer clay :)

They're a little garish, but I'm quite pleased for my first attempt.  Not as hard as I thought they'd be, although I felt very sorry for them, making them dead and all.  Next time I'll actually go back upstairs and get a small brush for the markings, instead of being lazy and using the brush I happened to have in my hand!

The blue embroidery floss is temporary.  I doubt even wealthy Tudors used blue cord to hang up their pheasants.  But I had to hang them up right away, and shove them in David's face.  "Look!"  I said.  "Dead pheasants!"  "Yes, I see" he said, politely (he's English).  "How fascinating."

He's really very patient with me and my enthusiasms :)

Finally, here's a view from the storeroom door into the kitchen itself.

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