Sunday, September 27, 2020

Second Floor Walls Are Up

Happy autumn, everyone!  Another season changes without much change, but we carry on.  The good news for us is that the fires are largely under control, and the outside air is once again breathable.

I have put up the walls on the second floor of the art deco house.  The process for the curved wall was identical to the one I used on the first floor, so I won’t bore you with the details.  The only difference was that, on the first floor, both ends of the curved wall butted up against a perpendicular wall.  On the second floor, the back wall flows into the curved wall, and there is nothing on the front end of the wall.  It simply ends where the removable panel will be.  To make it more stable, I drilled a hole in my roof and sank a 1/8” x 1/8” post to give the mat board something to attach to.  Here you can see things being glued into place.  Not everything is being glued down in this photo (obviously), but all the pieces are there to make sure everything lines up correctly.  I used some foam core half circles glued to a paper cup to help shape the top of the curved wall as things dried.  

The interior of what will be the bedroom and hall has been papered.  I discovered a very odd thing when printing the wallpaper this time.  Generally, I use high-quality matte presentation paper when printing my wallpaper, because it usually gives a sharper and richer print quality.  To my surprise this time, the print-out was decidedly grayer and more muted than the test piece I had printed on plain paper.  No matter how I fiddled with the settings, the only way to get the color I wanted was to print on plain paper.  Odd, but a good reminder to test things and remember that the paper you use, as well as your print settings, can affect the outcome of home printing.

Before adding the left wall, I made another door, very similar to and using the same process I used for the front door.  For this door, I put in only one diamond pane.  Since it looks into the bedroom/bathroom area, I thought the door should provide a bit more privacy.  ๐Ÿ˜Š 

You probably noticed that the desk is still there.  In accordance with many of your recommendations, I have been letting it sit to decide if I can live with it.  I think I can, actually.  The only thing is, I will have to make the chair for it myself.  Standard 1:24 chairs will make the extra height a little too obvious.

I have been making some accessories for it.  

The non-working lamp is made from wire, a bit of wood dowel, and a couple of beads.  The larger bead is metal, and I was unable to cut it down, so I filed it (and filed it and filed it) to get a less rounded shape.  

The cover of the journal is made from mulberry paper with a coat of Mod Podge.  I really do like the leather-like look that it gives; I used it years ago on the steam punk books I made for the tower room of the Fairfield.  The small Ephraim-Faience-style vase is a squat bead painted and decorated with some paper flowers, all given a coat of satin varnish.  The little leather books were a gift in a swap a few years ago, and are small enough to fit the shelf.  (Yay!)

Speaking of swaps, I blogged about the swap items I sent back in August.  A couple of weeks ago, I received my own swap gifts.  They are from the very talented Melissa of My Dollhouse Passion.  She is a polymer clay artist (and has a store on Etsy), and you can imagine how excited I was to be her recipient, since my own skills with polymer clay are sadly lacking.  She sent a turkey, a gourd, an incredible little salad, and a yummy traditional fry-up.  

The gourd and fry-up are already in the Fairfield, and the salad is making that mac-and-cheese lunch in the Merrimack a bit healthier.  

She also sent a goblet (which will get painted), a canning jar (which will get filled before going into the pantry of the Fairfield), and a lovely picture frame.  I love how delicate it is; many frames are so thick they don’t look quite right in half scale.  A week or so ago, my better half returned from a trip to the local Daiso with several packets of nail art stickers, one set of which reminded me instantly of pressed flowers.  

had to make them into a little bit of art work for that frame, and it’s now hanging happily in the bedroom of the bungalow.  

Last but not least, Melissa sent me a plant stand and a vintage chair.  

The chair is absolutely perfect in the living room of the Fairfield.  

You may not be able to tell from this picture, but the trim of the chair exactly matches the burgundy thread used in the rug.  All together, a wonderful swap gift. 

On the non-miniature but still crafting front, we realized that October 31 falls on a Saturday this year, so decided to turn our regular game day into a Halloween party.  Back at the start of shelter-in-place, my company was still using WebEx, which has no virtual background feature.  Since my office and craft room share space, I bought a room divider very similar to this to hide the messy craft desk.  I loved it because it was easy to set up, and I got to dress it up a bit with books and fake plants.  I don’t really need to use it for work anymore (we’ve switched to Teams, which does have virtual backgrounds), but it can still come in handy on occasion.  Our meetings with friends and family are on Zoom, and Zoom doesn’t do well with virtual backgrounds when there are two people in frame.  (One or the other of us has a tendency to disappear.)  My plan is to decorate it like crazy for the party, but my challenge is to make all the decorations myself, using only things from my stash and free patterns and directions I can find online.  I’ve been crocheting, knitting and crafting for, well, decades now, so I have a pretty substantial stash, and the beauty of this project is that it also reduces that stash some.  Since friends read this blog, I’ll have to wait until after Halloween to show you how I did.  ๐ŸŽƒ  Stay tuned.  

Take care and stay safe!



Thursday, September 3, 2020

A Floor and More

Hard to believe we are into September now.  The days do pass quickly when they are all so alike.  On the one hand, fall seems to have come too quickly.  On the other hand, I am more than ready for this year to be over.  

Now that the second floor of the art deco house is on, it was time to lay the flooring.  For the bedroom floor, I had decided on parquet.  It was common in art deco homes, and it would mirror the tilework on the first floor, while the wood would be a bit warmer than the marble.  I was originally going to order wood tiles from the same vendor where I got the “mar-like” tiles, but his Etsy site is currently down due to supplier problems (probably related to Covid-19).  His half-scale page on his main site shows “Under Construction,” so even figuring out what I wanted to order would be difficult.  Also, it would have cost around $25.00 plus shipping from the UK to get the tiles I needed, so I decided to make my own. 

I still have lots of the lovely wood veneer Carrie sent me.  I selected two sheets (I think they are pine; they are very light with a nice, close grain), and stained one Minwax Fruitwood and one Minwax Special Walnut.  The Fruitwood was a shade lighter than the Golden Oak I have, and one coat was sufficient for the depth of color I wanted.  The Special Walnut took two coats to get a nice, rich color.  I used 0000 steel wool on both to make them as smooth as possible.

Then I went into my Silhouette Studio.  I just have the basic software, but that is good enough for me.  I started by inserting a square shape.  I had trouble getting it to exactly .5 x .5 inches.  It wanted to stay just slightly under that, but I decided that slightly smaller is better for half scale anyway.  Silhouette Studio has the same copy, paste, snap-to-grid, and group features that I am used to in Office, so it was easy to create a row of duplicate squares, group them, and copy the row down until I had a nice block of squares ready to cut. 

I used my deep cut blade and two passes.  It took around 20 minutes to cut each block of squares, and it didn’t completely cut through the veneer.  However, it was easy to finish the job with my utility knife.  I ended up with two colors of beautifully even tiles, quite similar in thickness to the Mar-like tiles I used on the first floor.

 With my piles of tiles, I got started laying my floor.  

This floor was much easier to lay than the first floor.  For one thing, I will only have one open edge, so there was no need to calculate how best to align the tiles for two clean edges.  Second, it was, of course, a much smaller space to cover. And third, special cuts were a breeze with my utility knife.  There was no scoring/hacking/chipping/cursing this time. ๐Ÿ˜Š To my surprise, I got the whole floor laid in one afternoon!  

After it was laid, I went over it again with steel wool, then gave it three coats of shellac, with more steel wool after each coat had dried.  I will not be cross-stitching a rug for this room.  I never do for bedrooms, because the bed just covers up most of it anyway.  I have picked this rug, printed on velvet paper, because I wanted a burgundy to go with the little throw pillows on the bed.  I wish I could invert the design and have the background beige and the design in dark burgundy, so that it would really pop, but I don’t have the software to do that.

I had also started the bedroom desk a while ago.  This was my inspiration desk. 

I loved the beautiful, simple art deco design, and the curved footprint would fit so nicely in the curved alcove.  I got some real cherry strip wood for the shelves and desktop. I knew that curved drawers were probably out of the question with half scale, so my intention was to use cherry veneer over a framework of whatever I could make work.  Unfortunately, the left-over cherry veneer from the Sagamore Hill Library roombox was just a bit too thick.  I really liked the wood scrapbook paper I had purchased on Amazon several years ago, but it’s no longer available and didn’t come in cherry anyway.  After hunting on the Internet, I found this site:  I ordered two sample packs, one in .010 thickness and one in .016 thickness.   The paper is absolutely wonderful—just what I needed!  To my surprise, the slightly thicker paper is what I ended up using on the project.

This was my first try. 

I say “first” because, although I think it’s a fairly good match for the original, its scale and proportions are not quite right.  Here you can see it next to the vanity. 

It’s a bit too tall.  When I was designing it, I wanted a decent shelf height.  The shelves, the way they are, are already too low for my half-scale books.  If the desk were any shorter, I thought the shelves would be too cramped.  When I compare it to the original now, though, I see that the original shelves are not very high.  I am pondering my options.  I do love this version, but I can also see where I could improve.  And you know me and do-overs! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Stay tuned.  (Fabulous art deco frame from a kit by Jane Harrop.)

Hope everyone is able to staying safe and enjoying a chance to work on your minis (or your hobby of choice).  Take care and thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

First Floor Finished!

In my last blog entry about the art deco house, I was having electrical issues and was trying to create a chandelier for the dining room.  It turned out that my electrical strip had a short in it.  I purchased a new one, and my lights are working!

For the chandelier, I was really trying to create one that looked something like this:  However, the beads I had bought, which I thought were bugle beads, were not.  They were some weird double-barreled beads.  While waiting for my new bugle beads to get here, I experimented with them anyway, just to get a sense of how my idea would work.  This was my first try:

No.  Just . . . no.  When the bugle beads arrived, I tried again.  I was using super glue to attach them to the Woodsie circle and the small plastic washer I was using for the second tier.  No matter how careful I tried to be, the super glue made the beads all cloudy.  Plus, the unevenness of the beads made for a very funky outcome.  Here is try number two:

Again, no.

For my third try, I borrowed a tip from Emily Morganti of the Den of Slack, who had made wind chimes with bugle beads and eye pins.  I reasoned that if I could set up a series of cut-off pins around the outside edge of my Woodsie, I had a much better chance of getting a nice, even ring of beads.  I am no good at all at figuring out how to do the math to divide up the circle evenly, so I let Excel do it for me.  I counted the number of beads on try two, then I set up an Excel data set, with the first column being letters of the alphabet (a through dd, to make up the thirty rows I needed), and the second column all being the exact same number (I chose ten; it doesn’t matter, as long as every “amount” is equal).  Then I inserted a Pie Chart based on that data set.  Excel gave me a nice circle with thirty wedges of the exact same size.  

I took a screen capture of the chart, sized it to fit my Woodsie, and printed it out.  I used this little chart on top my Woodsie to mark where each pin needed to go. 

Drilling the holes and clipping and inserting the pins was a ridiculously fussy process, but I did end up with a much nicer perimeter of beads.  I wasn’t able to do that on my plastic ring washer, but I was less concerned about that set than the outside ring.  It’s a smaller ring with many fewer beads.  For all, I just used Ailene’s tacky glue, and it seemed to work fine, without the hazing.  I covered the top and the upper edge with some adhesive metal left over from making the tin ceilings in the Orient Express.   Here is try number three:

Not perfect, but much, much better.  And it lights!

Now I had lights for the dining room and kitchen (the standard half-scale globe ceiling light).  


I had intended to make a similar chandelier for over the piano, but 1) it was a lot of work and 2) most of it would be hidden anyway.  So I used a bead cage and a short piece of metal tubing to make a light similar to the light I had made for the Merrimack foyer.  I also had the floor lamp I had made, but I was concerned there would not be enough light in the living room, so I added a ceiling fixture I had originally purchased for the bedroom.  I figure I have enough time to get a replacement (which I’ve already ordered), given how slowly I’ve been working.  The ceiling fixture is by LightingBug.  Their lights are a little more expensive, but I love them.  They are not the same old fixtures you see in every half-scale build.   (They make 1:12, too.)  The little ceiling fixture I bought it so pretty and delicate-looking!  I think it just fits this house.

Here you can see where I mapped out the centers of each room, drilled the holes for the lights, and dug the channels for the wires.  I glued the roof/ceiling down, and the lights still worked!

Next, I glued down my mat board layer. (Yes, I decided to go with the mat board.  I liked its thickness the best.)

I then put some spackle around the edges, sanded and painted.

The second floor base is now glued down, and I am ready to start working on the floor.  And the lights still work.  Whew!

While working on the ceiling and electrical, I received a lovely gift from Sherrill.  I had commented on how pretty her pillows are and how interesting it was that she filled them with pellets.  She sent me four half-scale pillows, each stuffed with a different method—pellets, pellets and fiber, seed beads, and seed beads and fiber.  I learned two things.  The first is that I think I have been overstuffing my pillows.  I had stopped sewing my pillows because the stitching always really showed, but if you don’t overstuff your pillows, there is not as much strain on the seams, and the stitching doesn’t show as much.  The other thing is that seed beads and fiber make a really nice stuffing for half-scale pillows.  They were definitely the best of the four, although all were nice.  One set of pillows was done in a light-gray-and-white geometric pattern.  I think they are perfect in the living room of the Merrimack.  The gray in the pillows is a lighter version of the gray in the rug.  The other set of pillows, which are the same pattern in gold and white, are going in the art deco house.

Another wonderful addition was, oddly, the result of Covid-19.  This year’s Kensington Dollshouse Festival was canceled as a live show, but there was a kind of online show.  I would never be able to get across the pond to the show in person, but I could “attend” the online show.  I clicked on the various links for half scale and learned that one of my favorite Etsy artists has her own site now.  Life of Riley does some of the best half-scale food I’ve ever seen.   (She also does 1:12.)  I have purchased from her on Etsy, but she has a much larger selection in her own shop.  I ordered four items, which arrived quite quickly.  They are all absolutely wonderful, and I never would have known if not for Covid-19.

And there you have it.  I’m ready to start on the second floor.  I have already started cutting floor tile using my Silhouette Cameo.

Hope everyone has a wonderful, safe week!  Thanks for stopping by! 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

A Swap and a Garden Hat Pattern

You may remember, many months ago, I said I was working on a swap for an Instagram group.  Before I had a chance to send, shelter-in-place happened.  The swap for everyone was put on hold.  Now that things are loosening up a bit, some people are starting to send, so I sent my swap-ee’s gifts last Saturday.  They had to make it all the way to the Netherlands, and I figured the package would take weeks to reach her.  They made it in less than a week.  (Seriously.  I think it would have taken longer to get to New York.)  Now that she has received her items, I can reveal what I made. 

My swap recipient was Alexandra of Alexandra’s Bears.  I was so excited when I got her wish list.  She wanted something for her garden and/or bathroom in 1:24 scale!  She likes pale pink and white, roses, and romantic style. You may remember that a few years ago I made some garden accessories for a swap on the half-scale Yahoo group.  It is a fun set of items to make, and I knew I had to make some for Alexandra. 

Believe it or not, I keep a stash of unpainted watering cans, rose clippers and trowels on hand. I buy them in bulk from a place called Metal Miniatures in Wilmette, Illinois. The items always need a bit of filing before they can be painted, but they are decent quality cast-metal miniatures and are not expensive. The trowel and a set of rose clippers were given pink handles (of course) with Testor’s paint, but I decided to up my game a bit for the watering can. 

I have always just painted my watering cans, then painted the (slightly) raised flower detail that's included on either side.  That's fine, but a bit simplistic, and I'm not the best painter.  For this swap, I wanted to try a "shabby chic" look.  I used my mini files to clean up the can and file off the raised flower detail.  I then gave it three coats of Testor's flat white paint and let it cure for 48 hours.  I "shabbied" it up a bit with some Testor's rust and some Barnwood acrylic paint, thinned with matte extender.  Next, I found an image of painted roses, scaled it down and printed out two copies on white tissue paper.  (I tape the tissue to a regular sheet of paper before sending it through the printer.)  After giving them a coat of ModPodge for paper and letting them dry, I carefully cut them out as closely as possible to the design and decoupaged them onto the sides of the watering can. I was really happy with the way the edges of the tissue paper almost disappeared. 

The book is a half-scale version of Onward and Upward in the Garden, by Katharine S. White, wife of E. B. White.  The little gloves and seed packets are also made from paper.

Finally, I crocheted a little gardening hat for the set.  You can find my pattern at the end of this post.  (Please note that I use U.S. terminology in my pattern.  If you're used to British crochet terms, you can click here for a translation guide.)  The hat is trimmed with two pink flowers and a bit of 2mm green ribbon. 

Then, because Alexandra likes roses (and I like making them), I decided to make her a climbing rose bush.  I had bought a half-scale planter box with trellis from Alpha Stamps a while ago because I liked it, but I really had no place for it, so it was sitting in my stash.  Aha!  The perfect use.  I knew I would need it one day.  ๐Ÿ˜‰  I put it together and painted it white, then made several pale pink roses.  This is my favorite rose tutorial:  I used standard white printer paper, colored on both sides with watercolor pencils in pink, red, and a bit of yellow.  You use water to blend and soften the pencil, and this also gives the paper a bit of texture.  The instructions call for using quarter-inch hearts for 1:12 flowers; they would be 1/8 inch in half scale, but a tad smaller is even better.  I've been unable to find an affordable punch in stock that will cut hearts that small, but several years ago I picked up a shamrock punch at my local Daiso.  [Note:  I checked out my Daiso in early March, and they still had them in stock!  They are $1.50 apiece so definitely affordable.  I picked up a couple more.]  

I use the small shamrocks for geranium leaves.  The large shamrocks, cut into quarters, make hearts of just the right size for half-scale roses.  Cutting the shamrocks apart is a nice, Zen activity when binge-watching TV.  ๐Ÿ˜Š  It doesn't matter if the hearts you cut aren't perfectly identical. I think the variation makes a more realistic rose.

I used my Martha Stewart stars punch for the calyxes.  However, I only put them on the buds, not on fully-opened roses.  The leaves are dark green paper with a coat of satin varnish, punched with my PunchBunch mini tri-leaf punch (bottom two leaves only).  I made a few sets of five leaves attached to green thread that had been coated in hairspray and wrapped around a pencil to make a coil.  Snipping off 1/3" pieces of the coil gave me nice, curved "branches" for the leaves.

The planter box is deep, so I filled in the lower half with some scrap wood, then put in a layer of florist's clay.  It holds miniature flowers securely, but you can still change things out if you'd like to.  I finished that off with a bit of brown paint and a layer of dried coffee grounds for dirt.

I made an armature of floral wire threaded through the trellis, then added my roses and leaves.  I was going to fill in the rest of the planter box as well, but decided to leave that for Alexandra to make her own choices on what flowers she wanted, if any.

Finally, for the bathroom, I cross-stitched a little bathmat with rose detail, and added a small basket with towels, bath brush and some little pink bottles and jars.

Of course, the two bears I've bought from Alexandra wanted to get in on the fun and asked to pose with some of the items before I sent them off to her.  ๐Ÿ˜‰

I'll be doing another post on the art deco house soon.  I have all the ground floor lights working and am just finishing up the roof, so that I can start on the second floor.  Plus, I have some lovely pillows that were a gift from Sherrill that I want to show off.  ๐Ÿ˜Š

Hope you are all staying safe and healthy.  Here is my pattern for the half-scale garden hat.

Garden Hat Pattern

I use a .60 mm steel crochet hook and size 80 natural crochet thread.  Using a larger hook and thicker thread will, of course, make a larger hat.

Sc = single crochet

Sl st = slip stitch

Ch = chain

Dc = double crochet

Round 1: Make a magic ring, ch. 1, 5 sc into ring, sl st in beginning ch-1 to join: 6 sc.

Round 2:  Ch 1, sc into first st, 2 sc in remaining sc around, sl st in beginning ch-1 to join: 12 sc.

Round 3: Ch 1, sc into first st, sc in next sc, *2 sc in next sc, sc in next sc, repeat from * around, sl st in beginning ch-1 to join: 18 sc

Rounds 4-7: Ch 1, skip first sc, working only in back loops, sc in each sc around, sl st in beginning ch-1 to join: 18 sc.  Work fairly loosely on this part; if your stitches are too tight, you will have a very narrow crown.

Round 8: Ch 1, working only in front loops, sc in first sc, 2 sc in remaining sc around, sl st in beginning ch-1 to join: 36 sc.

Round 9: Ch 1, skip first sc, working only in back loops, sc in each sc around, sl st in beginning ch-1 to join: 36 sc.

Round 10: Ch 1, working only in back loops, sc into first st, sc in next sc, *2 sc in next sc, sc in next sc, repeat from * around, sl st in beginning ch-1 to join: 54 sc.

Round 12: Ch 1, skip first sc, working only in back loops, sc in each sc around, sl st in beginning ch-1 to join: 54 sc.  Fasten off and weave in ends.

Add hat band as desired.  I have used 2mm ribbon as well as perle cotton for hat bands.  Larger hats could take ¼" ribbon. 

Flowers (make 2):  Make a magic ring, *ch. 1, 1 dc, ch 1, sl st. into ring; repeat from * 4 more times.  Pull ring tight, tie off ends and weave into back of flower.  I glue the flowers onto the hat, then come up through their centers with yellow thread and make French knots to help secure them in place.  For my flowers, I use a .60 mm steel crochet hook and one strand of DMC embroidery floss.