Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays

I won't be posting for a few days. I'll be back after Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Repost: Making an Advent Calendar Tutorial

This is a post I wrote last year. It was such a fun, easy project that I should dig it out of the blog archives!

My workspace is in the dining room. That means that whenever there's a holiday, I have to do some major tidying, so that my supplies are much out of sight as possible. While I was cleaning up today, I came across this great Christmas card which I'd stashed away last year. I thought it would make great advent calendars. You just need an exacto knife, card stock, glue, and an old Christmas card with a small scene.

I cut my calendar out of the bottom left corner of the card. I made it about an inch across, trying not to cut any of the people in half.
I cut the windows next. I cut the windows from the front, so that the windows could follow the shapes of images in the calendar. I also made the windows open from all different sides. I then scored the fold of the window from the back of the card. The back of the exacto blade worked well for this.
Then I used the tip of the knife to gently open all the windows, and smeared the back of the card with glue. I used Tacky since it was nearby, but a glue stick would probably be better.
Gently press the calendar on to a piece of plain white paper, keeping all the windows open so that they aren't accidentally glued shut. I think it's easier to trim the backing to size after the glue dries. Finally, I ran a gold paint pen around the edge. You could add tiny paintings behind each window now if you want, or just leave it plain the way I did. White glitter on the snow, or gold on the lamps looks nice too.

Here's another photo of the finished project:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A New Project

A number of years ago, Mom purchased a shop kit, intending to make it into a toy store. But she abandoned the project after realizing that the deep depth of the box made it hard to see tiny toys. Ever since then, I've wanted to create a shop facade which would allow me to display some smaller toys.

I looked in to purchasing various kits, but couldn't find exactly what I wanted, especially since my budget for this project was "as cheap as possible." The idea went on the back burner. It wasn't until I was making some foamcore displays for the Philadelphia show that I started thinking how easily I could use it to build a little shop facade. So far, I haven't needed to spend a penny on this project: I've been able to make everything from supplies I already had.

The facade was built on a foam core base. I used strip wood and cardboard to build up the molding and door, then embellished with metal jewelry findings. The body of the shop is painted Antique White, the interior Baby Blue, and the door Dove Grey (all folk-art acrylics).

I wanted the door of my shop to be a weathered French blue. The baby blue I'd used inside was too fresh and clean. To make my 'French blue" door, I used Folk Art's Dove Grey paint. Then, to add texture and age, I streaked the door with watercolor pencils. I used every shade of blue in my set, as well as black, grey and brown. I like to dip each pencil in water before I color with it, then go back and soften/blend the colors further with a soft brush. I also used the pencils more lightly on the rest of the facade at this time.

I still have quite a bit of work left to do. Though it doesn't show in the photos, the interior of the box is completely warped. I think it may be easier to remake than to repair it. I plan to cover the outer back and sides of the shop with bricks cut from sandpaper (an idea I'm borrowing from Josje.) I need to add glass to the front window, a copper roof to the top, a (nonworking) lantern, and possibly gutters. I'm also toying with the idea of landscaping the shop. I'd love to cover it in climbing roses, but I'm a bit worried about how delicate paper flowers will hold up when I need to remove the front panel to change out my window display.

P.S. For the first time, Mom and I decided to list a few of our miniatures on Ebay. The auctions include one of my favorite dolls, and one of my beaded handbags and all the auctions started at $10. Please take a look here.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A Birthday Gift

 Mom's birthday has fallen on the same weekend as the Philadelphia show for the last two years. Last year, I was so behind that  I ended up shopping at the show for Mom's birthday present. I was determined to be better prepared this year. On a side note, I love wrapping minature presents because the small packages are the perfect way to use up scraps of nice ribbon.

I made this sheep following the now-defunct tutorial from Paizley Pawz. Basically, it started out as a plastic sheep, which I first painted, then covered in combed-out chunks of undyed yarn. I left the sheep clean, but Mom has given me the green light to add a bit of dirt to it's coat.
Mom liked the sheep so much that I'm now working on a little lamb to stand alongside!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Back from the Dead, and Philadelphia Miniaturia

This is just a bit of a teaser post after my (3 months, yikes!) absence from blog land. Mom and I will be traveling to the Philadelphia show tomorrow night, so we won't be around to see the trick-or-treaters. We'll be carrying a bit of Halloween spirit with us though, in the form of this witch Mom dressed.
 I made her magazine (Harpy Bizarre)  and had lots of fun coming up with appropriate titles for the articles. Inside, there are advertisements for witchy supplies, a quiz "Is your warlock right for you?" and a book review for Warts and All by Prince Charming. I think I got a bit carried away...

The moment Mom saw this fabric, she knew the witch needed polka dot pantaloons. The potion bottles are made from glass beads. It's difficult to see, but her toenails are covered in green nail polish, and there is a tiny bottle of polish next to her foot.
Finding the witch's chair may have taken the longest! It's a retired Bespaq piece. We bought one of these chairs a few years ago and thought it was perfect for this witch. Unfortunately, that first chair got broken by a marauding puppy.
I'll be back, posting more regularly (probably once a week or so) after Philadelphia. Hope you have a Happy Halloween!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

How to Make Bamboo Furniture: Part One

I have a real soft spot for bamboo furniture, and I've always wanted the parlor to have a few pieces. As it turns out, miniature bamboo furniture is incredibly difficult to find! I've been searching for over a decade, and only found a couple pieces, none of which were quite right for my house. In fact, the only piece of bamboo furniture I have is this chair that Mom made. It was one of the first pieces of furniture Mom made, and it's become quite rickety as the glue is letting go. I finally had to pack it away for safekeeping until it can be fixed or remade.
 This illustration of a bamboo "overdoor" caught my eye in a library book a while ago. I am completely addicted to dollhouse porcelain, so anything that lets me cram in a few more plates/vases/figurines is a good thing in my book! I had to make it.
I reworked the design to fit over the parlor door. I eliminated all the curved pieces, which would have made the project more difficult. I was also completely out of narrow dowels, so I used toothpicks to make the bamboo. Using toothpicks meant I had to break the long bottom piece into three sections, which I think made the whole thing a bit more fragile.
I used my chopper to cut the toothpick pieces to size. If anyone wants exact measurements, I can add them to the next post. The bamboo rings were made with DMC floss, covered in tacky glue and then wrapped twice around the toothpicks. I added the rings randomly, though I did try to keep the spacing fairly consistent.
My gluing jig was helpful keeping the bottom and vertical bars square.
I used my drawing to add the top and middle bars.
This is the assembled back portion of the overdoor. It still needs a shelf, decorative panel, and paint job. I had to pause here for a while, since this was as far as I had planned. I took a moment to check the fit over the parlor door.
Not bad, but it still has a ways to go!

The shelf was made from more toothpick and thread "bamboo", and a scrap of thin wood from a sandalwood fan. I tucked a piece of cardstock where the painted panel will eventually go. I'm thinking about adding panels behind the four bottom squares as well, but will wait until the I've painted the bamboo to decide.
Here's a better view of the shelf.

I'm also toying with the idea of adding a pair of little shelves for teacups or small vases on either side of the main shelf, approximately where you see them in the picture above. Next up, I'll be faux-finishing the bamboo, and painting that back panel.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another Tiny Beaded Handbag

Whoops! It's been a lot longer than I expected it to be since my last post. I've had a surge of non-miniature related energy, and the dollhouse projects went on the back burner. The good thing is that I got a lot done in real life. In the past week I've planted flowers, hauled rocks, re-organized cupboards, cooked enough to fill the freezer, and even got a head start on Christmas presents.

 When I left off, I mentioned that I was working on a black and gold beaded evening clutch. I did manage to finish the clutch during my mini-break. I freehanded the design (as usual), and  somehow managed to miss the fact that I'd drawn a big "M" until I was almost done with the beading.
I did experiment with a different style of clasp for this particular bag. I usually use a tiny Swarovski crystal and brass finding, but I couldn't decide what color crystal to use with the black and gold. I substituted a larger brass finding instead, and really like the result! I still plan to use the crystal clasps for most of my beaded handbags, but I love having another option when the crystals don't look right.

Monday, July 1, 2013

A New Beaded Handbag

 I mentioned this morning that I had finished a beaded handbag. Well, after making several handbags with straps, I wanted a little change of pace. I decided to try making a clutch. It turned out better than I was hoping!
 Since the clutch is slightly smaller than the other handbags I've made, the beading went a bit faster. The one thing I regret is not adding a gold border around the blue diamond in the center of the bag to highlight the diamond shape. I guess it's true that blue and green should never be seen, at least when they are micro beads right next to each other!
 Since I wasn't planning to add a chain strap, I only needed two thicknesses of cardboard (rather than the usual three) to fit the hardware on top.

 I'm tempted to make some sort of shadow box to display some of the bags, but I have so many unfinished projects, I'm wary of starting yet another one.
I've started working on a second clutch- black with gold swirls. Pictures of that next!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

A Painted Bookcase for the Nursery

There are several pieces that have never had a good home in the nursery. The silver cup and porringer, along with the bent spoon I made over, have been moved countless times. It occurred to me that an unfinished wooden bookcase I'd purchased from Bed Miniatures was just about the perfect size for the long and narrow room. 

I added feet made from Tiny Turnings, then got to work on the painting.  I based the  flowers for the bookcase loosely off the flowers from the curtain fabric (below). I didn't want to copy the fabric exactly, but wanted it to have that same delicate feel.
The post describing how I made the nursery's balloon shade can be found here
You can see in this photo how the cheap metal of the bent spoon looks different from the silver pieces. I'm thinking that a little silver rub'n'buff may help the spoon blend a little better.  The walls of the nursery are hung with fashion plates, which you can just see in the photo above. I got really interested in the full size versions when I was around twelve, so of course my dollhouse had to have them too! 
I filled the lower shelf of the bookcase with readable books. I've had a little box of books just waiting to fill a bookcase. I went through and picked out the most youthful titles for the nursery.  The Teddy bear had been hanging out in the playroom, but I like him much better down here. He's one of my favorites, and he was getting lost in the crowd of bears in the playroom. For some reason, I've never been a huge fan of teddy bears in real life, but I have a hard time saying no to the miniature ones!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Small Before and After

Last night I did a quick makeover.
I've had this little bent baby spoon in my nursery forever. I don't even remember purchasing it! It's not an expensive one. It's made of cast metal, and not particularly well done either. If it were on it's own that wouldn't be a problem, but  I have it sitting next to a delicate sterling porringer and cup from Peter Aquisto. The craftsmanship of the sterling pieces just highlighted the chunkiness of the spoon. It's always bothered me that it
 I used a small set of metal files to reshape the spoon. The bowl of the spoon is quite shallow, and I didn't have any tools to deepen it.  However, I was able to reshape the outside of the bowl, so that the edges are thinner, giving the illusion of a deeper bowl. The biggest difference came from getting rid of the excess metal on the handle. The files left some scratches and rough surfaces, which I scrubbed off with steel wool.
Last of all, I buffed the spoon with a silver-polishing cloth, which brought up a bit more shine than the photo shows. The cheap metal is still a slightly different tone than the silver pieces, but at least it won't look as out of place. I have a few more little updates in mind for the nursery, so I'll take prettier photos once I've made a bit more progress!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Surprise Gift

Life has taken a few crazy turns lately, and it all came to a head over the last week. I think the chaos is nearly at an end, but posts may be a bit inconsistent for the next few days. The other day, Mom surprised me with a tiny present...
Mom is a bit obsessed with David Edwards' tiny miniatures. Her kitchen has a bunch of his wooden pieces, if you look closely. She was lucky enough to buy one toothbrush for her cottage years ago, before David Edwards' work became so difficult to purchase in the U.S. While he is still making miniatures, only a tiny bit of surplus stock is for sale online.  Unfortunately, Mom's toothbrush disappeared several years ago, during a spring cleaning, and was never seen again.  She's been searching for a replacement ever since.
(I took a million photos of this scene, and could not get the toothbrush in focus. Sorry!)

A few weeks ago, Mom found a woman who was selling three of the toothbrushes. Two are going back into her cottage, but she surprised me with the third. I've placed it on Pheobe's dresser, for maximum visibility. The only other options were the vanity or washstand in the master bedroom, and the vanity was too crowded, and the washstand too hidden.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A Painted Dresser Quandry

I bought this little chest of drawers unfinished. I'm still messing about with the decorative painting, but I'm starting to get an idea of the finished look. I never quite know how any of my painted furniture will turn out until it's done, since I tend to just jump in with paint and start doodling. One thing that won't be on the finished piece are the rose-painted knobs. I couldn't decide what to do with the drawer pulls, so I just hurriedly dabbed on some pink and green, thinking I'd paint the inside a soft green (similar this desk I painted last year) But, thinking back to other projects, I realized I have a tendancy to pair blue and white with various shades of green (my first painted piece of furniture used this color scheme). I impulsively decided to  paint the drawer interiors bright red instead.
I'm also still trying to decide whether I like the "aged" look of this chest or not. I used a little drybrushed paint to dirty up the white, but now I'm wondering whether I went too far. The blue and white swirls (and the red!) are bolder than my usual look, and it's really throwing me off. I keep trying to tone the flourishes down, then deciding I like them better darker, then second guessing that again! I'll probably end up sanding down and repainting this thing five times over before I make up my mind!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tutorial: A Georgian Miniature Portrait in 1/12th Scale

 As a lover of tiny things, I've always been fascinated by antique miniature portraits. Back in January, when I posted the love letter vignette above, I used a 1/144th scale cast metal frame to create a miniature portrait in 1/12th scale. But though the metal frame was effective, it didn't capture the delicacy of the full sized frames. After experimenting with some bits of chain in my supplies, I was able to come up with a more historically accurate version. The first few steps of this project are very simple, and will make an effective frame.  The last steps -adding the loop to the top- are MUCH trickier, but really give the miniature an authentic look.
gold chain with oval links (links should be approximately 1/4" long)
gold chain with tiniest links possible
printout of a portrait approximately 1/4" tall (I used an image from a real antique miniature, found through a Google search. Remember that these will be tiny, so portraits with a strong contrast between the figure and background will be most effective.)
double sided tape
tacky glue
super glue
gloss medium (mod podge or similar)

small scissors
wire cutters

 1.Use the wire cutters to separate one link from the larger chain. This will become your frame.
 2.Spread a thin layer of glue (tacky or similar) over the picture, and place the frame on top. The glue should be thin enough that you can still see the portrait. Allow glue to dry.
 3.Fill the frame with gloss medium (mod podge or similar) and allow to dry. This bonds the picture and frame together, and creates a "glass" cover for the picture.
4.When gloss medium is dry, cut away the excess paper from around the frame. You can easily call the project done at this point, but to add a tiny hanging loop, keep reading!
5.This is where the project gets tricky, simply because of the size of the loop you need to make. You will need to cut a piece of chain 1 and 1/2 links long. *
6. To glue the loop onto the frame, arrange both the framed picture and the tiny metal loop on a piece of double sided tape. I stuck the tape to a small box, for ease of handling. Use a toothpick to add a dot of super glue and bond the pieces together. Allow to dry thoroughly before easing the miniature off the tape.