Sunday, 29 May 2011


This week I have been making some accessories for the girl's room, and painting some garden furniture including a table kit that I put together.

Metal accessorires

I had some metal miniatures that I think I bought from Tee-Pee Crafts:  a gothic frame, a figurine of a girl holding a hat, a baby crib and high chair, a four poster bed and a pair of shoes.  The furniture is the over-size so-called 144th scale, but I thought it would make good toys in 1/24th scale. The casting is quite crude, so after I gave them a scrub in some warm water with a drop of dish detergent to remove any grease or mold release agent, I scraped away some of the flash and mold lines with files and a sharp knife.

Then I undercoated them with some Citadel Foundation paint in a beige colour.  The undercoat gives a good base for the subsequent colour paint coats.

For the picture frame, I gave it two more coats of Games Workshop Bleached Bone, which is the colour I have used on a lot of the furniture in the house.  Then I washed over it with Games Workshop Brown Ink, which gave it a 'wood'-like appearance.

I added some mirror card, and hung it in the hallway where the homeowner can check their appearance before heading out the front door.

I painted the crib and highchair in pink and white, painted the fourposter bed with brown posts, and blue covers with a white ruffle, painted the crude figurine to make it look as human as possible (not easy) and gave it a coat of nail varnish to make it shiny, and painted the shoes white with pink trim and grey laces.

I decided to bite the bullet and fill some of the shelves in the little girl's room.  I needed some 'books' for the bookcase, and found this clipart from a Christmas card catalogue.

I found a piece of wood that was about the same height as the books (originally I thought I was making two shelves but later decided to go with just one) and painted the wood black.

Then I carefully cut out around one row of books, and glued it to the black piece of wood, and glued the whole thing onto the shelf.

I had also bought some nursery-themed packaging at Miniatura back in the autumn, and used that to help fill up some shelves.

Still haven't decided how I want to arrange this room, which made it hard to decide in which direction to angle the packaging.

Garden Furniture

I had another of the very reasonably priced kits from Model Village Miniatures, this one for a table.  I already had two bare wood garden chairs, so decided to make up the table to create a garden set.

As you can see, you get a colour picture, clear instructions, and well labelled pieces which are cleanly and accurately cut to size.  Not bad for £2.50!

First I glued together two end constructions, using a glue jig to keep them square.

The two side pieces go together with the stretchers to create the table's under-structure.

Then I glued on the table top.  So here is my garden set.

I decided that I wanted a weathered appearance, not quite shabby chic but looking like they had been around for a while.  So I started by painting them all grey.

Then I dry-brushed, fairly heavily, with white.  In this picture, I have dry-brushed the lefthand chair but the table and right hand chair are still grey.

And here is the finished set.  Perhaps I should make some cushions to make the chairs more comfortable.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Kitchen stools (but I've been cheating)

This week I finished off the dining set and converted the plant stands into stools. But I have to confess I've been cheating on the house build as I've been spending a lot of time converting a machine quilting frame, and I've just started quilting my first quilt on it.

I finished the other three chairs and then dressed the dining table with some of my purchases from Kensington Dollshouse Festival.  I used one of the placemats that came with the kit, as a centre mat, and added the pot plant I bought (after dry brushing white onto the pot to tone it better into the colour scheme) and the brass candlesticks.  I've put the other purchases into the china cabinet for now.

I had also purchased two plant stands at the fair, to turn into stools for the breakfast bar.  As you can see, they were too tall for the breakfast bar to start with, but about the right size otherwise to be stools.

I carefully pried off the top of the plant stand with a sharp scalpel and cut down the sides, then glued back the braces and the top.  I cut a piece of thin card to be slightly smaller  than the seat, and glued some polyester wadding onto it.  One stool came out quite well, the other came out a bit crooked so I will put it at the back where it isn't so obvious! I painted the stools to match the cupboards.

Then I covered the card/wadding with fabric, and glued them onto the stools.  I finished around the edge with a twist of embroidery thread the same as the dining chairs.

All's I need to do now is to glue down the kitchen island to the floor, and the kitchen is basically finished apart from adding any further accessories.

I was thinking about what I should do next.  I have that second Miss Lydia Pickett sofa kit for the living room, so I think I will build that.  There really isn't a lot left to do on the house, apart from I still haven't found furniture that I like for the boy's room.  Really I need to be making loads of accessories but I can already feel my procrastination growing.  I'm not very good at 'finishing' my houses, although I suppose you can say that dollshouses are never really finished as you can always add things.  But it's the house build that I really enjoy.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

London Kensington Dollshouse Festival, and insurance question

This week I have been working on the other three dining chairs, and have two of them done except for the twisted thread trim, and the third one underway.

But today, instead of working on the dollshouse, I went shopping instead!  I went up to London to the Kensington Dollshouse Festival, always a great show.  Apparently it has been running since 1985.  I think I first went in 1988, and I've been most years since either to the summer show or, more recently, the new Christmas show.

I was looking primarily for 1/24th accessories for the Fairfield.  This is a scale which is growing in popularity in the UK, but there still isn't a huge amount.  Typically a maker's stand will be 95% 1/12th scale, with perhaps one little display of 1/24th scale goods for sale.

So what did I get?
  • Cranberry glass bowl
  • glass candy dish
  • pair brass candlesticks
  • pair brass vases
  • bowl of fruit
  • three turned bowls of yew wood
  • two baskets
  • plate of four scones for a cream tea (DH and I love cream teas!)
  • two unpainted plant stands, which I am going to turn into kitchen stools
  • potted plant from Georgie at The Miniature Garden Centre (Hi Georgie!)
  • a 1/12th teapot shaped like a castle, for my teapot collection
  • a 1/12th chess set, chess board and booklet, from Reina Mab Miniaturas, all the way from Beunos Aires in Argentina!

This year, for the first time, they were screening films about miniatures using a laptop and projector, in one of the venue's meeting rooms.  I had my knitting with me, and was happily knitting as I watched some of these.  '1:12' was a 25 minute film about seven of the craftsmen who exhibit at the Festival, including very interesting shots of them at work in their garden sheds or workshops.  There were two absolutely charming short films about the dollshouse of Frances Winch, called Scrivelsby Folly.  She narrates the events of Christmas 1922 and Boxing Day 1928, like a childrens' story, in a quintessentially English voice as clever animation makes it seem like the occupants have just walked out of the room before the cameras got there.

As usual, there were loads of lovely things at the show to look at.  I wish I had won the £107 million Euromillions and then I would have bought a lot more! 

Insurance question

Thursday the insurance assessor came to evaluate what was stolen in our burglary and to start the claiming process.  He was surprisingly nice, and as he was admiring my houses, I took the opportunity to ask him for his advice about insuring them.

I have never tried to insure my miniatures collection because a) most of it is handmade and therefore unique and in many cases irreplaceable; b) I have been collecting for over 25 years so a lot of the earlier purchases are no longer available, the maker may even be dead, etc.; c) I have virtually no receipts as you don't normally get these when you buy at shows; d) I've built most of my houses and room boxes myself, so it wouldn't be possible to just buy a replacement.

However, the insurance man pointed out that if I lost everything due to, for example, fire; or smoke damage from a fire; or vandalism if we had a more violent burglar in future; I wouldn't just give up on miniatures.  I would want to buy new houses, and new contents to put in them.  It wouldn't be the same, but I would want to continue my hobby even if I had to start over again, because I love doing it.

His suggestion was to photograph every item (!) and every house, and make an itemised list to accompany the photographs, with an estimated value next to each item.  Even without receipts, these would a) prove to the insurance company that I possessed the items and b) help them to estimate a value for the claim. He also recommended talking to the insurance company as they may view the items as a 'collection' and want to specify it on the policy.

This seems like an unbelievably enormous job, as I have several houses, all full of stuff - much of which is stuck down in place - plus loads of room boxes and small scale vignettes.  Not to mention all the stash of furniture and accessories waiting for a home.

So my question is - have you insured your miniatures?  How have you gone about it?  Have you always kept detailed records, or did you have to do it afterwards like me?  Any advice gratefully received.


Sunday, 8 May 2011

Welcome 100 and Miss Lydia Pickett Dining Table/Chair kits

Woo hoo, we hit 100 followers!  I'm not sure who the 100th person is, as Rosamargarita is still showing as the first icon, but then maybe Blogger isn't showing them in chronological order?  Anyway, welcome to you, 100.

A lot of my free time and energy was spent dealing with all the post-burglary stuff, but I did get some work done on my Miss Lydia Pickett 1/24 Dining Table and Dining Chairs kits.

I had already put these together a year ago before I started the build, but they were only undercoated as I didn't know what colour my kitchen was going to be (or if I was even going to have a kitchen as there wasn't going to be an LP 1/24th house).  The kits went together fine, all the laser cutting was very precise as usual with the LP kits.  Most of the LP kits, despite being laser cut, achieve a fairly satisfactory 3-D look through layering of different thickness of wood, but I think the chair legs are one of the less successful designs.  They don't look terribly convincing, and nor do the table legs.

I wanted a look that wasn't too matchy-matchy with the kitchen cupboards so I decided to try out a bottle of DecoArt Weathered Wood crackling medium that I had in my stash.  First I painted over a thin coat of Anita's Dusty Green, which is the colour I used on the shutters.  When that was dry, I painted on a coat of the crackling medium.

You can see I am not bothering much with the seat or the back inside the oval, as these will be covered by upholstery.

Once the crackling medium was dry, I painted over a coat of Tapioca, the same colour I used on the kitchen cupboards.  I have to say that it didn't work incredibly well.  I guess crackling works better when the surfaces are flat. The chair/table legs are so fiddly to paint that the crackling medium made the paint go blobby rather than cracked.  It worked better on the table although not perfectly.  Once it was all dry, I sanded off the worst blobs, and dry-brushed to touch up a few bald areas, and it looks fair enough. 

One important piece of information that I can't see included in the instructions, is that the printed fabric that comes with the kit is on a paper backing that needs to be pulled away before you can use the fabric.  Each chair came with printed fabric upholstery, an extra placemat, and a piece of batting, as well as laser-cut cardboard ovals for the back and front of the chair, and a laser-cut cardboard seat. 

You need to glue the batting to the seat and one oval for each chair.  I found I could glue all four seats and four ovals to just one piece of batting.  I prefer to glue to the batting, weight it to dry flat, and then cut out the batting from around the card.

After cutting out the back fabric panel, I glued it over the card oval with no batting.  I found it surprisingly hard to get the script in the fabric to end up straight across the oval.  Then I glued the oval onto the back of the chair.

There is a little skirt provided to glue around the edge of the seat.  The instructions are silent on whether or not to continue the skirt across the back of the chair, although it is long enough.  And there is no picture of the back of the chair provided.  I tried it both ways and decided it would look funny if the skirt was only on three sides, so I took it across the back as well.  That meant that I had to notch the back piece so that I could fold in the top raw edge just on the back of the chair.

The front oval, and the seat, are made the same way by gluing the printed fabric pieces over the batting/cardboard pieces.  Then they are glued onto the chair.  I could see in the picture on the kit that the edge of the seat cushion had been finished with a twisted cord, although the instructions don't mention this.  I decided to do a cord for mine as well, made from one strand of embroidery floss twisted back on itself.  I like it!  Now just need to do the other three chairs.

The table comes with a thin printed paper to glue around the edges, which matches the printed fabric.  There is also an optional table runner included in the same script fabric.

You can see the LP Chicken Coop cabinet in the background.  I didn't use the chicken-wire effect plastic as I didn't like it.  I need to get some china and glass to put in it, it's looking a bit empty now that the kitchen is getting more finished.

Monday, 2 May 2011

I wonder what the burglar thought?

Our four-day weekend for the Royal Wedding wasn't quite the relaxing break with lots of dollshousing, that I had hoped for.  We went away for two nights camping, and when we came back Sunday afternoon, it was to find that our house had been broken into.  So the rest of Sunday was spent dealing with police and insurance companies, and getting the broken window boarded up.

Although the thief had thrown around a lot of our possessions in the bedrooms, searching for valuables, and there were signs of searching on the ground floor, none of my dollshouses seem to have been touched.  Not even the Fairfield which was under construction in my bedroom, even though it was blocking access to a cupboard (which only had quilts in it, but the thief wouldn't have known that).  So I am thankful for that.  I can't help wondering what they were thinking, hyped up on adrenaline, quickly grabbing valuables, but finding cupboard after cupboard of craft materials and surrounded by a dozen or more dolls houses.  Not to mention sewing machines, yarn etc.  Probably cursing us for not having 'proper' valuables - if only they knew how much all of this stuff is worth!  But then I suppose it wouldn't be easy to sell.  They stole my son's Wii, his handheld game consoles, most of his games, and his savings, and some of my jewellery and my husband's watch, and both our laptops.  We all feel a bit unsafe now I think, and it will be a long time before we get our son to come camping again...

Anyway.  I did do some work on the Fairfield kitchen in the week, and a bit more today, so I will blog about that.

Before I do, I would like to welcome Rosamargarita, who I think is the 99th follower.  One more and I will have 100 people who are interested in my little Greenleaf conversion.  I am really grateful for the interest and support that you are all showing, and it definitely motivates me to keep going.  There are weeks when I know I would procrastinate and not do anything, but then the thought of having nothing to blog makes me do something.  Which is good.


This week I was adding some accessories and finishing the final cupboard unit containing the refrigerator.  I have said before that I find this the hardest part.  If you spend three hours building a house, you generally have a lot to show for it.  Three hours painting kitchenware doesn't get you much at all!

I had a set of shiny silver kitchen pots and pans, and a set of kitchen tools.  I added a couple of tiny turnings to be salt & pepper shakers.  I started out by painting the 'plastic' tools in Citadel Foundation paint (available from Games workshop) in Astromicon Grey.  Then I painted the inside of all of the pots in Games Workshop Boltgun Metal which is a dark silver.

I like the Games Workshop paints which are acrylic and go on well over almost any surface.  They aren't cheap but I am lucky as my DH and DS both collect and paint models, so we have lots of pots of paint.  Although I have to be a bit sneaky about using them.

I painted the outside of the pots and pans, and the Tiny Turnings, and the handles of the tools, in Citadel Foundation Bleached Bone (which surprisingly is lighter in colour than normal Games Workshop Bleached Bone.  After I took this picture, I gave them all a coat of clear nail varnish to make them shiny.

I put some glue in a plastic lid, and placed in all the kitchen tools.  You can still see the wet glue in this picture but it dried clear.  See what I mean about hours of work disappearing - you can't see most of the tools now!  It looks fairly realistic though, just like my real utensils jar in my real kitchen.

Then I started gluing in groceries, cookbooks, and some jars I had bought earlier.  It was easier to fill the shelves of this cupboard before I glued the cupboard to the wall.  None of these groceries are terribly convincing in high resolution digital images, but they look ok in the kitchen to the naked eye.

I decided to put the pots and pans in the corner shelf, where they would be on view, and handy for the cook working at the island stove/hob, plus near the ovens.  I stuck the pots and pans in first with Tacky Wax, then painted and glued in the lasercut railing around each shelf.  The railing was the final bit of the original kitchen kit from Judith of In Some Small Way.  It's a nice touch, but I had trouble getting it to fit evenly around the shelves.

Bashing the fridge cupboard

You may remember I am using a refrigerator that is a fridge magnet, plus a cardboard cupboard from Petite Properties.  I started the conversion by gluing in some padding pieces of wood between the hinges of the refrigerator doors.

Then I glued on the cardboard cupboard.  First I trimmed off the front edge of the top and bottom pieces so they were more flush with the doors.  Then I glued it on flush with the front of the refrigerator.

Then I glued on some padding pieces of thin wood on either side of the cupboard, so the sides become flush with the top and bottom pieces, and with the sides of the refrigerator.

To complete the illusion of a fitted cabinet, I cut a piece of thin wood into a side piece, and top piece, and glued them on.

I added a thicker piece of wood in an 'L' shape along the top edge, and glued on some mitred cornice, in the same way that I completed the other kitchen cabinets.  You can see that it now looks like a cupboard, although it has come out slightly taller than the other units.

To finish, I gave it three or four coats of 'Tapioca' to match the other units, and glued in the acrylic panes that come with the cardboard cupboard kit.  I also painted and glued on the same handles that are on the rest of the kitchen.

I glued in the last of the groceries, onto the shelves of the cupboard, and then glued the finished unit into the corner of the kitchen.  Now I just need to fill in a few pieces of skirting, and the kitchen is more or less finished.  Just needs two stools for the breakfast bar and of course more accessories.