Sunday, 30 January 2011

Still fluttering by...

I finished the Flutterbye chair this week, but most of my time has been spent on the Flutterbye wardrobe which is really cute but was quite time-consuming to make.

Here is the finished chair with the artwork applied.  The chair in the picture also had artwork down the sides of the legs to finish them.  I thought my 1/24th chair, which didn't have the additional strips, looked a little unfinished.  So I cut some tiny slivers of leftover artwork and glued them down the sides of the chair legs.

I am not a big fan of words like 'cute' and 'precious' when it comes to dollshouses - but what I can say?  Have you ever seen anything so cute and precious as this little chair?  How come my bedroom never looked like this when I was a little girl?

Flutterbye Wardrobe

I struggled a bit with this wardrobe.  The basic structure is straightforward: a box with a glued-on front with door and drawer openings, a top, and a drawer.  The directions however are extremely opaque, with only measurements to identify the numerous pieces, and very unclear wording in some parts.  I'm assuming this line of kits was an early attempt, and that lessons were learned that helped to make the Miss Lydia Pickett kits so detailed and comprehensive later on. There is a quite a lot of artwork to apply after pre-painting the wardrobe pieces, as you assemble the piece.  One thing I really liked about this kit is that there is artwork inside the wardrobe and the drawer, where probably no-one will ever see it, but we know it's there.

The doors are hinged with small squares of fabric (not supplied) which are glued on the front of the construction and then covered up by the artwork, which surprisingly works quite well.  The drawer fits without much spare space, so I found that by painting it, it no longer fit into place and I had to sand it down a little then retouch the paint, to get it to slide in easily. A metal curtain rail is supplied.  The lasered components include four tiny wooden flowers to be the drawer and cupboard handles.  These are so tiny that I broke one just trying to free it from the surrounding wood, and promptly lost another so I had to carve a replacement.  The cupboard doors are held shut by a latch (supplied) pivoting on a pin (supplied).

Also in the wardrobe kit are two other pins, which aren't mentioned in the instructions, two incredibly tiny laser-cut clothes hangers, and a length of fine wire.  Neither the wire nor the clothes hangers are mentioned in the instructions but I'm assuming the wire is to make the hook for the hanger.  I also have artwork for a tiny hatbox (can't remember whether this artwork came with the chairs/table kit or with the wardrobe kit) which isn't mentioned in any of the instructions but I can probably assemble it without.  Once again the wardrobe instructions seem to be from a different scale: they recommend that you glue all the artwork onto the piece of card they say is supplied in the kit (it isn't) and cut it out on the card then  apply the card/artwork to the kit, which I don't think would work at all in this scale, particularly on the doors where the rose-in-pot artwork is applied on top of the background door artwork.

However, the end result is a gorgeous little wardrobe which I'm very pleased with.  I'm surprised at how lost the two weeks worth of Flutterbye kits seem to be in the Fairfield bedroom.  It doesn't look like a very big room, but it is about 6" x 7" which in real life would be 12' x 14' which here in the UK would be a master bedroom.  Definitely a good size for a kid's room.  Once I get my bed, that will fill it up a bit more, and I have kits for a night stand, bookshelf and chest of drawers which I will build and add.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Piano stool and Flutterbye for the little girl's bedroom

At the beginning of the week, I modified a cheap table kit that I bought from Model Village Miniatures when I was at Miniatura.  I cut down the legs, and trimmed the top into a rectangle, to turn it into a piano stool.  A few coats of paint, and another bit of the toile paper, and I had a matching stool.  I've put this on the mezzanine level, although it's hard to take a photo in there to show you. I like the idea that it is a bit like a musician's gallery where someone could tinkle the ivories while the audience listened downstairs.

Flutterbye Butterfly - kit reviews

The Miss Lydia Pickett children's room furniture isn't being made in 1/24th scale, so I wasn't sure what I was going to do for my little girl's room.  I wanted something a bit special.  Then I spotted several Flutterbye Butterfly kits in the Christmas sale at 'In Some Small Way'.  This is another Robin Betterley line, with lovely artwork featuring butterflies and patchwork in pastel colours, which may be discontinued as I can't find many other examples on the internet.  I bought the wagon, bench, push toy, child's table and chairs, and wardrobe kits in the sale.  Judith is going to order me the matching bed as she was out of stock.

Overview:  Like the MLP kits, the laser cutting is clean and crisp on these kits, with minimal charring.  The wood is fine grained and good quality.  Unlike the MLP kits, there is very little labelling lasered into the wood to identify components, meaning that multi-piece kits like the wardrobe can be somewhat confusing.  This is not helped by the instructions having no illustrations or photographs other than the somewhat fuzzy photograph on the packaging. Also, some of the kit photographs do not seem to exactly match the kit, presumably because the kits were offered in different scales and were not all identical. The artwork is charming, but I struggled with some of it because the very tiny pieces sometimes do not have a very clear outline to cut to.  The kits are charming in concept, with a real touch of whimsy and although the shapes are simple, the artwork makes them different and special.

Push Toy
I was disappointed to find that the 1/24th scale push toy, unlike the illustration on the kit, did not have separate wings slanting upwards from the butterfly body.  Instead, there was just a flat butterfly outline.  I decided to improve mine, and cut the wings from the body so that I could glue them on at an angle like the kit in the photo. The kit comes with thin brass wire to make cute antennae, and a silver wire to be the stick.  The kit suggests dipping the tip of the stick into paint to simulate a ball handle, which was disappointing as the photograph shows a crosspiece handle.  I glued on a bead from my stash to make a ball handle.

The wagon is straightforward.  The 'blocks' come as one piece with crosscut grooves lasered into the wood.  By gluing on the block artwork, then cutting it through the grooves, you get a realistic impression of blocks.  I made a handle from a piece of twisted embroidery floss.

The shelf is very simple to assemble, and again comes with wire to insert for antennae.  The instructions suggest drilling holes into the head for inserting the antennae, as an alternative to just gluing them on the back.  The butterfly is of thin wood, but I found that by using my finest drill (about the thickness of a sewing pin) I was able to drill two holes to accept the wires.  I inserted the wires with a bit of superglue.

The bench was curious as the bench in the kit looks significantly different from the bench in the picture.

I actually like the real bench a lot better, I like the fence detail behind the butterfly.  This was one of the kits where I felt an illustration would have helped to clarify the instructions, it took me a little while to work out where the braces were meant to go as I was looking at the incorrect picture and getting confused. Again, I used my fine drill to drill two holes to accept the wire antennae. I couldn't get the butterfly artwork to fit properly - if the body was aligned, then the wings weren't lining up with the 'V' between the wings, and vice versa.  I had to bodge it a bit by cutting down the wing borders and positioning the body slightly off centre.  It's not too noticeable.

Child's table and chairs
It took me a few minutes to work out that, although the picture shows two chairs and a table, and I had artwork for two chairs and a table, I only had wood components to make one chair and a table.  An oversight at the packaging stage I assume.  I have notified Judith and she is going to try to get me the additional chair.

The table is straightforward to assemble, apart from the legs unusually are glued in at an angle to the corner, instead of being aligned with the right angle.  I found the artwork for the table very challenging to cut out.  The 'tablecloth' doesn't have a very defined border, the lightly-coloured patchwork edge just kind of fades away, making it hard to see where to cut.  It might be better to leave excess, glue it on to the wood, let it dry, and cut away with a fine scalpel afterwards.  Also the artwork for the legs consists of tiny strips of art, four for each leg, which are challenging to cut out even with a good light and sharp scissors. The end result looks good though.

As you can see, I haven't finished my chair yet.  I've completed the back and seat assembly. Although in the kit illustration it looks like the 'fence back' and 'butterfly' are all one piece of artwork, in this scale you have to cut individual strips of art for each vertical fence panel, for the two horizontal braces, and for the separate butterfly which is glued on afterwards.The vertical fence art, again, I found hard to see the border for where to cut, and ended up having to trim some excess with a scalpel after it had dried.  It's very cute.

I've only painted components so far for the wardrobe, I haven't done any assembly.  Again there are no photographs or illustrations for assembly, and ominously the instructions warn that 'you might get [these three] pieces mixed up as they are all the same size'.  Hopefully I've painted the right things the right colour.

Other furniture
I don't think there are any other kits in the Flutterbye range.  I have cheap kits from other companies for a chest of drawers, bookcase and nightstand that I picked up at Miniatura, I may try to paint them to match the Flutterbye furniture so that the room is a little more furnished.

Welcome to my new followers - the more the merrier! It's like being a member of a virtual dollshouse club, only I am not having to physically drag the house in every week to show you how far I've got. I hope you are enjoying the build, and comments are always appreciated and answered where possible.  Remember, if your Blogger profile is set to not accept email, then I won't be able to reply to your comment.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

New verbs and pianos

This week has not been incredibly productive for two reasons.  My plan was to 'Lydia-Pick-ify' a cheap baby grand piano that I got for $7 on a trip to America (that's the new verb, in case you missed it... :)  I want to put this on the mezzanine floor, behind the balcony.

Step one, after unscrewing the hinge and removing the keyboard, was to start sanding down the high gloss black paint.  This is when I discovered that a) this is incredibly messy and gets black powder everywhere, and b) this is not a good thing to do when you have a gaping wound on your index finger.

Therefore I needed to wait until I could do the sanding outside, which needed daylight, which needed it to be the weekend.  Luckily by this weekend, my cut had almost healed and just needs a token bandage on it to keep the skin flap from catching on things (ok, sorry, not trying to be gross, but you know what I mean if you have ever cut your fingers).

As part of Step one, I resurrected a vertical belt sander that I bought about 15 years ago, which has been languishing in the attic.  As soon as I turned it on (outside on the patio) and held up the piano to the sanding belt, I remembered why it was no longer in use.  The sanding belt (only 180 grit) basically ate the piano.  In a split second, not only was the black gloss coating gone, but so was part of the piano.  After recoiling and recovering, I realised that I now had no option but to grind off the rest of the black coating to try for an even result.

Then I sprayed it with white primer, having previously covered up the 'strings' with some card and masking tape, and gave it a base coat of Games Workshop Bleached Bone acrylic paint.

After the first coat of Bleached Bone, I removed the protective card so I could paint carefully down the inside around the 'string' area.  It took about four coats to achieve an even result all over the piano.

I had previously photoshopped some toile paper to look a bit like the Lydia Pickett artwork.  I'm not great on Photoshop, but I copied an image of toile from the internet, shrunk it down to approximately 1/24th scale, tiled it to make a bigger area of toile using copy/paste, then used the Photoshop colour management to lighten the green and to lay over a beige screen.  I printed this on the colour printer at work, and then sealed it with some DecoArt multisealer.  I then tried to channel Robin Betterley to cut out pieces of toile to decorate the piano.

The above is a picture after applying the toile paper, but before applying gloss varnish.  I'm going to apply a few coats of gloss varnish to help it all blend together.  It's still a bit crude (the strings aren't going to convince anybody) but I think it will look nice on the mezzanine until such time as I spot something better at a show.  Not bad for $7 / £4 anyway.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Minimalist living room

This week I have been working on the living room, although the Lydia Pickett house really doesn't have much furniture for this room.  I will have to keep my eyes open for suitable additions.  I'd already previously built the sofa kit, coffee table kit, and terrarium, and had half-built the Cottage Clock kit.

So I finished the clock kit, experimenting a bit with distressing it by drybrushing very lightly with chocolate brown acrylic paint.

I used a carpet that was a free gift from Judith of In Some Small Way because it was a good colour match for the room.  The sofa kit makes up with four cushions, I have lightly secured them in place by pushing a very short applique pin down the back of each one and into the seat cushion.  The coffee table comes with a little suitcase which I have added to the shelf below the table.  The terrarium, although cute, is relatively large and I had trouble finding a place for it.  It can't go opposite the sofa as then there isn't room to walk past the coffee table.  It looked odd in the corner where the clock is now, so for the moment I have positioned it in the front corner of the room. 

I don't think that I am going to have curtains in this room.  The windows are such a pretty shape, and the wallpaper is such a statement, that curtains just seem like they would be too much.  The little hall table is going to go around the corner, behind the stairs.

I've been looking at the lovely Lydia Pickett kitchen, which isn't made in 1/24th scale, and comparing it with the substitute kitchen that I have bought from Judith.  I am going to have to do some considerable kit bashing to contort Judith's kitchen into an approximation of the LP kitchen.  Hers is designed to fit around three sides of a room, and I want mine to have an island in the centre like LP's.  I've made up the dining room table and chairs but haven't painted them yet.  I want to wait and see what the kitchen turns out like, before I choose the colour for the dining set.  But I have made up the chicken coop cupboard, and that will go in the dining room.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Happy new year and master bedroom

Happy 2011, let's hope this is a year full of minis and finishing outstanding projects and inspiration.  Having said that, I am feeling absolutely rubbish at the moment, full of a head cold that kept me up all night New Year's Eve with aches and pains and a general inability to breathe through my nose.  I was therefore working on my Fairfield at 3am last night, mainly just grip-waxing the master bedroom furniture in. So hopefully 2011 can only get better  :)

I finished the bathroom as far as I can, although it probably needs more accessories.  I've applied the skirting, added a chair, filled the toilet shelves with TP and books and a little painted pot, and finished off the sink.  I did the sink slightly differently than the kit suggests, as my added taps were in the way of gluing the small shelves where they were meant to go, just above the sink.  Instead I glued the shelves to the sides of the surround, and added the little soap to one of them.  For similar reasons, I cut down the door keyplate so that it fits just above the sink.  I thought it looked too high in the original in any case, if it were meant to be an ex-door, the handle wouldn't be so far up the door.  I've realised there is nowhere to hang a towel on this sink, I need to think about that, perhaps put a towel ring holder on the wall next to it. I've added a few toiletries made out of beads to the side of the bath.

The master bedroom

The master bedroom was a lot quicker to do as I had already built all the furniture.  These were the first kits I received when I founded and joined Judith's monthly Lydia Pickett club (In Some Small Way).  I flirted briefly with the idea of whitewashed floorboards but decided that I would really want to feel carpet under my feet when I got up in the morning.  Velvet scrapbooking paper is hard to find in my neck of the woods, I mailordered a few sheets in blue online, but they looked stodgy when they arrived.  Then I found this polkadot velvet paper in my stash, and decided it had the fresh look of whimsy I was going for.  I had already furnished the dresser with various perfume pots and I have now added the 'silver' dressing set which Judith sells (DH kindly painted the bristles for me).  It's still a bit bare in the room and could do with more accessories, but I'm pleased with the start I've made.

Looking at these pictures, I think I am going to have to do something more to finish off the join in the two roof pieces, it looks a bit rough where the two wallpapered edges are coming together.  I also need to kit out the desk with suitable paperwork.