Sunday, 28 February 2016

Spring Cleaning in the Tudor Witch House.........

I was forced to stay in my real life house today and make an effort to be semi sociable so I took the opportunity to have a Spring clean and tidy up, in my Tudor Witch House!
I am great at starting projects but terrible at finishing them and this house needs so little done to it really but I have never quite got around to the last bits and pieces.
It is a huge house from Maple Street and is a beast to move so it has stayed in the garden room where it looks at me reproachfully most days.
Using a shaving brush I have carefully dusted each room and window removing the non-witchy grime and cobwebs. 
Having been moved a number of times I also replaced fallen items and picked up all the witchy mess.
 I have never fixed any of the furniture in place as I have never believed this project to be 'done' but there are some areas that I have now decided can be ticked off so glue and tacky wax were added to my spring clean bucket.
It was lovely to see all the items I had gathered from so many talented artisans, some who have now retired and others who are not with us any longer.
 I had forgotten just how many pieces this monster house had devoured and each shelf revealed many favourites.
 My wonderful dragon by Feyth Crafts has finally been fixed in place for all to see and admire.
The kitchen is still not finished. It looks much too tidy for a start and needs a bit more clutter. The oven range still needs dressing, there is a shelf to be fixed to the wall at the bottom of the stairs and a spillage definitely needs to be created but it does at least look presentable for visitors.
The home stall is also open for business and full of witchy goodness. Of course the planting is awaiting a return of the gardener and the herbs still need to be hung but I now know what needs doing and can make a list. Which everyone knows is the first step in every job!!
I have even made a note of how many crates need to be filled so I am ready when all the spring and summer fairs start and I can go shopping for all the fill ins.
 The window of the kitchen has never had any attention so I attacked my stash hoping to find all I needed and began with all sorts of witchy bits. 
This mix of food and odds and sods just didn't do it for me though, there was not any flow to the staging so off it all came.
I then decided that any witchy kitchen would have to have herbs and plants. This window could be filled with lots of natural remedy ingredients ready to be added to the brews and potions.
Back to my stash I found a few plants and a lovely candle display that I think will fit perfectly.
I have a lot of plants ready for a future project so I had to be sensible and not raid indiscriminately but now I have a plan I can make a couple up every now and again, from left over Alice plants, for the window sill......oh I must add plants to my list!!
There are so many artists to name for this project and I have highlighted them many times in this blog on various posts so you must forgive me for not going through them all over again but I am sure many of you will recognise all the usual suspects.
My Gamages doll shop is not forgotten but I have been painting, painting and painting this last week or so which is very unexciting and tedious but I will have some progress to share tomorrow hopefully.
Right time to make that list!!

Friday, 19 February 2016

A New Project Full of Nostalgia.....Gamages Doll Department.

Before I return to either Wonderland or Diagon Alley I have decided to delve into my childhood memories with a doll shop. Every Christmas when I was a young child my mother and grand mother would take me to Gamages Department Store in High Holborn, London and I would be allowed to choose a doll.
Then when I was about nine years old my father decided I was too old for dolls and my choice would have to be something more educational, so my dolly days were over. 
I am not one of those people who have numerous memories of their childhoods but I do have very fond memories of Gamages and its wondrous doll selection, many of which were housed in gleaming glass cabinets.
So I decided that I would have a very small dolls' shop amongst my collection.
My planning began with a small Sid Cooke shop that I bought from another collector who had decided to sell. Nice and small so perfect for a quick fix and compact enough that I will be able to find room for it in my real life house.
It has been a long time since I started a 'house' project from scratch so I did spend quite a lot of time on the first day working out the order of things to be done.
I have learnt from experience that giving an order to the jobs means less disasters as the build progresses.
 The first stage for me is always the sealing of the main carcass.....
 .........and any mouldings. I do this to avoid warping and to provide a good clean base for any gluing. I must have read about this step many years ago and it works for me. I removed the mouldings quite easily by placing the front piece in a warm oven, this softens up any glue and allows the pieces to be removed cleanly with a craft knife.
 Then I made up two kits I had in my stash by The Art of Mini, Janny's kits are brilliant with a whole range of counters perfect for the mini shop. They have a slightly European vintage feel, not very 1960's English department store, but why have a stash and not use it?
I decided on a dark green undercoat as I intended to distress all the mouldings and woodwork, as usual I needed two coats for the base.
The top coat is a chalky teal, which I think will fit in with my real life house. Like many of us I have lots of leftovers and cheap buys stashed away that I need to use or lose so a small project is perfect for using these up.
The flooring are my usual reclaimed oak floorboards from my favourite dolls house wood supplier, Wood Supplies, I always have some of these to hand and top up my supply at KDF.
The paving stones are a heavily textured fibre-glass paper that I bought years ago from Maple Street I think. I quite like it although I would probably only use it on smaller pieces.
 All of Janny's kits come with paper inserts for the backs and shelves, I decided to use this wallpaper as it matched the backing paper of the units. I have no idea when I bought this wallpaper it has been hidden away for many a year but it fits the bill.
I usually use ready made wallpaper paste but when I got out my tub it had gone very icky and horribly smelly so for the first time I used craft PVA glue for wallpapering. Although this method doesn't give you the slide of proper wallpaper paste it was fine for such a small area.
 I wanted to try something a little different for the outside of this shop. When I went to the SIMP show in Paris last summer I spent some time examining the brickwork of the buildings, the finish was very smooth and lightly textured. Then I came across the work of Handmade by Alma on FaceBook in which she used cork bricks to create a feature wall. These seemed to provide the type of finish I wanted so I bought a roll of cork in Hobbycraft and cut out three sizes of bricks. 
I always try and stick on my materials before attaching any moulding as I find the cutting and finishing much more difficult if the mouldings are already in place.
Certainly the cork was very easily cut around these windows and then gently sanded to match the shape. 
One of the problems though was the edges. It's always the edges. These will need some careful painting. I also decided not to grout as Alma had done. Mainly because the brick work I saw in Paris appeared to be grout free but also because I hate grouting and really wanted to avoid it if at all possible.
I have also finished the interior walls with cornice and skirtings which finish off the room edges perfectly and used up more leftovers!
 I will finish by sharing this little treasure I had made specially for my shop by Wickerville. It is in 1/24th scale which is perfect for a child's pram in a 1/12th scene.
The workmanship is amazing, especially when you think how small it actually is. I have yet to find a dolly for it yet. I think she will have to be equally gorgeous.
A busy weekend will probably keep me out of the workshop for a couple of days which I always find a nuisance when I am on a roll with a project but real life has to be rejoined every so often.

Monday, 8 February 2016

Faffing Around With the Hatter's Table.....

These last couple of days I have been playing around with the tea table. I have stuck two tables together and after removing the middle legs it has been possible to fit three chairs along two sides.
I am using vintage handkerchiefs for the tablecloths that I purchased off Ebay for 99p.
Vintage hankies are great for linens in dolls houses because the materials used are quite fine, especially the older ones, and they usually have some embroidery or lace.
I have used hankies before on beds and they work really well. Plus they are so cheap and come in all colours.
 No Victorian tea table would be perfect without something lacy so I have added two beautiful table runners by an Etsy seller from Canada who I recently came across after recommendations by a very talented miniaturist, Lyn Jowers.
I contacted Frieda after looking in her Etsy shop, Black Leopard Dollshouse Creation, to see if she would make me a few pieces in the size and colours I wanted. 
There are quite a few crochet artisans so it was nice to be able to deal with someone I knew had made items for a quality artisan.
Freida, who lives in Canada, was so helpful and friendly readily agreeing to both sizes and colours.
 These are the beautiful table runners Frieda made in an antique white,
 I also ordered three throws for other projects in white, lemon and
 a pale grey. I am so pleased with them, they are so fine and delicate. Freida went out of her way to get the right colours despite Canadian winter weather and a house move!! 
I looked at the sold items in her Etsy shop and then chose the items I wanted in the colours and sizes I wanted which meant I got exactly what I wanted.
The post between us was amazing too, each parcel took three days to arrive! My UK post takes longer at Christmas time.
After messing around with the handkerchiefs and cutting two to size as I can't decide which one to use yet I have a play with some water based wood dyes I bought off Amazon. They are all in a tester set by Littlefair, perfect sizes for miniaturists and really good value. The pots aren't huge, they sell them individually on Ebay, but it does mean you can have a play with the colours and choose before investing in a larger pot. 
I have stained some lollysticks for reference in both single and double coats and you can see the nice variety of colours.
 I used six different stains on the chairs for the tea table. These chairs are from a variety of sellers: Jane Harrop, Julie Warren and Rob Lucas and once fully stained I will paint and distress them.
Once I have done with the chairs I am putting Alice aside until I go to the Summer shows and finally make a decision regarding the china.
Thank you to everyone who offered advice about my mini dilemma.
I really think I might go the de-cal route, at the moment I am veering towards the sets from True2Scale. After all the main pieces on the table will be all the gorgeous food.
Anyway I have had enough of thinking about it now and ready to move on to my next project something I have been planning for over a year now.
Can't wait to get started, it been a long time since I tackled a kit!!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Flower Planting Finished....Phew!! Mad Hatter's Wood In Full Bloom....

Well it's been a bit of a marathon but the planting is finally finished. I must admit I am really pleased with it. This part of the project has come out exactly how I had envisaged it and its not often anyone can say that with this hobby.
 The mound for the caterpillar was made from aluminium foil covered with making tape. I then topped it with PVA glue and a tea leaf mixture. To plant the flowers I used a thick darning needle to make the holes before adding the wire stems.
 I used a lot of the make believe ground cover plants on the mound as I needed to keep the plants low in order to appreciate the mushroom.
 I then worked may round the side bed after firmly placing the larger trees in air drying clay and tea leaves mixed with PVA. I also added clematis flowers to one of the large tree trunks. I have stuck with the Bonnie Lavish and Templewood Miniatures kits as well as adding my own made up flowers.
 With about three inches left I ran out of the teeny plants for the front of the borders which led to another day of plant making. I can't believe how many I have had to make, I am sure they are all disappearing down the rabbit hole.
Finally the last flower was planted! 
 It was quite an amazing feeling standing back and seeing it all finished. Then I had a panic about the glass roof and front. I hadn't tested it at all to make sure my measurements were correct.
Thankfully they both slotted into place.
 The tall trees have blended into the main planting......
 ......on both sides although there is more sky on the right hand side than I had hoped for.
 Of course I had to have a play. I immediately realised the size of the table would have to be severely cut down. So I have settled for a square. 
 I am going to cut off the middle legs in order to add and extra chair on each side. This means eight places instead of ten which means less china to buy!! Hooray!! The chairs will be stained and then given a distressed wash I think. Final decision to be made once I dress the table and get a proper feel for the table as a whole.
 The Mad Hatter also has a new friend that I don't think I have shown before.
 This fabulous dormouse, asleep in his nest of Alice books was of course made by The Giddy Kipper, as were all the characters at the Tea Party.
I made the choice of having a see through ceiling for this room box as I knew there needed to be a way of seeing the planting as well as enjoying the characters.
So here I am with the china. These three teapots give an idea of size and general decoration. The larger one is a Ruetter and the two smaller ones are by A Woman's Touch. I had originally chosen this tea service as there is a whole range of tea pots and plates but they seem to have gone out of business even though their website is still up and running.
They don't respond to emails or send out orders. Does anyone know if they are still trading?
So that's why I am still hunting.
These cakes are by The English Kitchen and Linda Cummings and are perfect for the traditional afternoon tea theme. 
Tomorrow I hope to work on the table linens and chairs then I will be able to stand back and decide if I need a complete and matching tea set to off set the colour and business of the planting and the dominance of the characters.
Simple might be best after all my hand wringing.