Sep 28 2015

AADL Fairy Housing

The fairy house at the Ann Arbor District Library has unfortunately suffered some structural issues, and as we all really want the fairies to stick around, I have begun building a new abode.  The first step was to take a trip to the always amazing King Books in Detroit.  As you can see, after wandering the aisles of their children’s books I was able to put together a wonderful collection of books to use.

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In order to prevent the same type of damage as happened to the original, I am constructing a wooden box to be used as the primary structure rather than simply using the books themselves.  The back panel will be removable to make repairs or additions possible, and I have run copper tape wiring throughout, with tiny outlets to be able to have table lamps and overhead lighting to read and work by.

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The floors were laid one plank at a time with thin strips of maple wood which will then be stained and varnished.  I plan to use dollhouse beadboard for the lower part of the walls, and illustrations from the books as wallpaper.  The windows holes are cut, and trim will be added later.  The early stages and planning are going well, but there is a lot more work to do!  Before I go any further, however, the whole home will be taken in the library to make sure that the existing door will line up with the new room.

 

 


Mar 3 2014

Small change, big impact

Here’s an example of how a fresh coat of paint can really change the feel of a piece.  It was a super fast project, even faster since it’s miniature

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I find it easier to remove the hardware before painting and then reinstall rather than trying to avoid painting on them.  A light sanding followed by several coats of black paint created the base, and using sandpaper or an exacto blade, you can lightly distress all of the edges until you get the look you want.  Finish it off with a coat or two of polyurethane, and done!


Mar 3 2014

Miniature Wall Sconce

 

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The dollhouse has been rewired using copper tape, and miniature scale outlets.  For most of the lighting I have done so far, this has been sufficient, however, in the hallway I did not want a cord hanging down the wall, and so decided to hardwire the fixture in.  I learned how to solder in order to install the overhead kitchen light,  but did not want to use that method, as it seemed that it would be much more difficult to do on a vertical surface.

Begin by determining the location of your sconce.  Drill a small hole, and run a vertical run of copper tape on the opposite side of the wall, just next to this hole.

Once the copper tape is in place, the next step was to create the sconce itself.  To recreate this you will need:

-a”candle” style bulb with wire attached (found in dollhouse stores)

-two short lengths of aluminum pipe (found in craft or hardware stores, they come in lengths of 2-3′, and varying diameters)

-watch gear or similar object to cap the pipe

-bead cap

To make the sconce, cut the two pieces of aluminum pipe to length.  Near the base of one of the pipes gently drill a hole using a dremel tool.  The trick is to drill the hole without squashing the pipe, as the aluminum is soft.  Line up the horizontal pipe with the hole in the vertical pipe and glue in place.  Next, insert the bulb through the vertical pipe and guide the wire through the horizontal, with plenty extra for wiring.  Glue the watch gear on the base of the vertical pipe to create a finished edge, and insert the horizontal pipe into the beadcap.

Once you know how much wire you need to reach your copper tape, cut to length.  Separate the two wires, and gently strip the insulation.  When stripping the insulation, expose a short length of wire before removing completely, and twist gently to keep the copper strands from separating.  Once the wire is exposed, use two of the brass tacks used installing the copper tape, and wrap each wire around a tack 3 times or so.  Guide the wires/tacks througth the hole in the wall and glue or putty the fixture in place.  The tacks can then be hammered into each run of the copper tape.  This should be sufficient to maintain the circuit.  Make sure not to cross the wires, or allow exposed wire to touch more than one strip.  To keep the wiring in place, adjust as needed and then use electrical tape to secure.

Voila!  You have a functioning wall sconce!

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Feb 28 2014

Miniature Baskets

The dollhouse library is complete, save filling the shelves.  I’ve had a pretty good start when it comes to books and magazines, but what the bottom shelves really needed were baskets.  Inspired by the IKEA cube baskets I use everywhere in my own home, I set out in search of something similar.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I haven’t been particularly successful in my search.  There are a lot of miniature baskets on the market, but none of the style and size I was searching for.  The solution was obvious- I needed to make my own.  I thought briefly of learning to weave baskets, but since I have no experience at weaving, but quite a bit of experience at crochet, I decided on the latter.

The baskets are crocheted using the tiniest hook I could find, and bamboo and/or hemp cord found in the jewelry department of most big craft stores.  The first several baskets I made were cubes, crocheted and then lined on the inside with bristol board cut to size and wrapped in muslin scraps.  Alternatively you could leave them unlined and use starch to stiffen them, but I really like the added finish of the lining, and it helps to disguise any loose threads left on the interior of the basket.

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The first few baskets I created are shown in the photo above.  After making several cube baskets, I decided to improvise some others as well.  The blue basket below was crocheted in the same manner as the others, but was done using colored raffia.  It requires much more weaving in of the ends, as each strand of raffia would only make it around the basket once or twice, and hooking the material is slightly more tricky as it isn’t consistent the way thread or cording is.  The results, though, are pretty wonderful.  There is a lot of depth in the color, and the finished texture feels just like you’d expect a raffia basket to feel.  The raffia is also much more stiff when crocheted tightly, and didn’t require any extra lining to keep its shape.  The white lining in this case is simply muslin fabric, again, helping to hide all the loose ends and giving the interior a nicely finished feel.

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My final basket “experiment” I decided to create one much smaller (equivalent to roughly 6″ in real life) with a lid.  The basket was crocheted in the round, and the lid is simply one round bigger than the base.

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For those interested, here is a general pattern to follow for the square baskets:

ch – chain stitch   sc- single crochet   blo- back loops only

You may need to play with the size of thread used, as I have a tendency to crochet very tightly.

-Begin with single chain stitch

-8sc in ch, pull tail to tighten loop,  ss in first sc

-ch 1, [sc, 3sc in next sc]x4, ss in first sc of row =16st

-ch 1, [2sc, 3sc in next sc]x4, ss in first sc of row = 24st

-ch 1, 24 blo sc around, ss in first blo sc =24 st

-ch 1, 24 sc around, ss in first sc = 24 st

-Continue sc around for as many rows are you’d like your basket to be tall.  For a cube basket, this would be 8 rows tall including the first blo row.

-To finish, ss across top row, or leave long tail and stitch through each sc for a finish detail.  Weave in all ends.

Variations for addtional detail- try a row of sc in front loops only for a raised detail, or work in a new color at any point to add stripes or a band along the top.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate t ask.  I’d love to see what other people come up with as well!

 

 


Oct 4 2013

Miniature Reading Nook

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The dollhouse reading nook is nearly finished, just waiting on its crown moulding and baseboards.  The window seat has a nice padded cushion and throw pillows, and the shelves are being filled with wonderful tiny books.  The pillows and cushion were sewn by hand; tiny beads were used to add tufting details to the seat, and contrast stitching added  detail along the edge of the red pillows.

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The window covering was also created by hand.  It was relatively simple to make, but is stationary (I’m going to try making functional roman shades in another room).  I cut a piece of grass paper to the width of the window opening, gave it an accordion fold, and then used thread to hold it in place.  Starting from the base of the shade, simply thread a needle, knot the end,  and draw it through the layers, making sure to end on the back side of the shade.  Once both sides are threaded you can play with it until they are hanging evenly, and then glue in place.  To install the shade, I cut a piece of balsa to  the width of the window opening, glued the shade to it, and then glued the whole thing in place.

This room is particularly special to me, as at least four women in my family have made the miniatures within it.  My grams, Irene Moon,  made the main furniture and inspired most of my choices in decor, my aunt, Alona Moon, created the stone fireplace on the far wall, and my great aunt, Oma Holbrook, painted the watercolors now framed on the wall over the stairs.  Not to sound overly sentimental, but having these small pieces reminds me every day of the amazing family I came from.

 


Oct 1 2013

Miniature Library

 

This room was in need of stripping, and redoing the electrical as with the rest of the house.  Most of this work was done by my sister before the dollhouse came to me.  I added outlets along the walls, and wired the lights on the ceiling of the kitchen below.

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The colors and feel of the room were based around two things; the stone fireplace created by my aunt circa 1988, and the burgundy furniture my grams built from kits.  The floors are cherry planks laid one at a time.  The beadboard panels were fit to the wall and window, and everything painted white.  The deep blue “wallpaper” is a lightweight cardstock I had amongst my stash.

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With the stairs facing the opposite way as my gramps had installed them, it creates a bit of a nook near the back window.  It seemed in need of a window seat and library.  Built in bookshelves line both side walls of the nook.  They and the window seat are made to a 1/12″ scale depth.  The seat lid lifts off to reveal storage inside.  I’m planning to add shelving above the window for display, and cap the entire built in with crown moulding.

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The books on the top shelves in the nook were part of the original dollhouse, and the other are mostly from shops on etsy.  Be warned that the miniature book selection is pretty awesome, and only search with the full understanding that you may become completely oblivious to time.

Obviously the nook needs a softer spot to read,  so cushions, pillows, and a window covering are up next!

 

 


Sep 27 2013

Frozen Assets Munny Mascot

The 2013/14 hockey season is upon us, and the Frozen Assets are ready!  This will be our 10th season in the MSWHL, (the Pig is proud), and with quite a few new opponents this year it looks to be a good one.  When the illustrious founder of the Assets had to leave for the warmth of Florida, I tried to capture the Pig in all her glory as a going away gift.  Here She is:

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She is based on the pig Munny body.  The ears, snout,and body are unchanged.  The teeth are still the original Munny head, and the lips are made of polymer clay.  The skates are polymer clay boots and laces, with a basswood holder and aluminum blade.    The jersey is sewn from an old scrap of jersey fabric, with handstitched edging and lettering.  The hockey stick is made of balsa, the blade of the stick carved with an exacto blade.  The remaining details are done using acrylic paint, and the entire figure has several coats of varnish to give it a durable finish.

To end with our (admittedly somewhat strange) chant,   Go Money!!!

 

 


Sep 13 2013

Unnecessary Detail

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Once the bed is made, the mattress doesn’t show.  So why make it detailed?  Well, because unnecessary level of detail is my specialty of course!  Seeing several beautifully done mattresses on Etsy, I was was inspired.

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For this project you will need:

  • foam piece cut to fit your bedframe
  • white muslin or other fabric as the mattress cover
  • scissors
  • fabric glue
  • needle & thread
  • five small buttons or beads for tufting.

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To begin, wrap the foam with fabric as you would gift wrap a box.  There’s not any one “right” method for this.  Use a small amount of fabric glue to help keep the fabric in place, but avoid putting glue on the edges, as it will make the edge stitching much more difficult.

Once the top and sides of the mattress are wrapped, it is time to add the tufting details.  To do this, simply thread your needle and push it through the bottom (uncovered at this point) of the mattress.  Reference the finished photo to see the placement of the tufts.  Thread a small bead or button onto the thread, and pass the needle back through to the backside of the mattress again, pulling just enough to create a small tufting effect.  Repeat for each of the tufts; 5 is a good number for a twin bed.

After the tufting looks as you want it to, cut a small rectangle of fabric to cover over the bottom of the mattress.  In the photo above you can see that I folded and glued the edges of the bottom piece so as to not have any unfinished edges.  Glue in place.

Lastly, stitch along each edge of the mattress, creating the illusion of trim.  Again, there’s not really one “right” way to do it.  I found that by pinching the edge gently and stitching perpendicular to the edge I created the look I was going for.

And that’s it!  A realistic looking mattress ready to be fitted with sheets and blankets.  This way, even on “laundry day” your dollhouse mattress will look wonderful!

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Sep 12 2013

Modern Miniature Chair

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I’ve found it is rather difficult to find modern affordable dollhouse furniture, so I decided to try my hand at making my own.  The chair is a relatively simple construction, using wood scraps, a small amount of polyfill, scrap leather, aluminum tubing for the legs, findings or other material to cap the bottom of the legs, wood glue, and fabric adhesive.  The only other tools needed are a cutting mat, exacto knife, scissors, and ruler.

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I did not use any particular pattern in creating the chair, but googled for some  basic standard chair dimensions (namely seat height and width).  The body of the chair was cut from basswood.  The arms and back were simply wrapped in leather and glued in place.  The seat cushion was first covered in a layer of polyfill, then wrapped in leather, and a small tube of leather was stuffed to serve as a back cushion.  Once the leather part of the chair was finished, the entire thing was set atop a wood base painted silver and four short aluminum tubes were added as legs.  The bottom of the tubes should be fitted with a cap of some sort to make it look more finished, and to keep the aluminum from scratching your wooden dollhouse floors.  I used earring stud “findings” for this purpose.

This was a pretty straightforward and simple furniture project.  With almost the entire chair covered in leather, there was no need for exact carpentry skills, and with legs attached last the height of the seat can be easily altered if needs be.  All in all, it fits pretty nicely in a modern dollhouse living room!

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Sep 12 2013

Kerbal Munny How To

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Begin with a DIY Munny figure.  The basic body shape works well for the Kerbal figure, and the munny head becomes the foundation for Kerbal’s helmet.  Simply use an exacto blade to cut the front half of the vinyl, as you see below.

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Polymer clay works fantastically to add details and modify your Munny.  In order to turn the Munny into a Kerbal suit, add polymer clay boots, a panel on the front of the suit to match Kerbal’s, and small bands around Kerbal’s wrists.  I use super sculpey and paint later, but most brands of polymer clay would work.  You could alternatively use colored clay if you want to avoid having to paint.  The vinyl body with polymer clay additions should be baked as the clay instructs.  There is just one trick to baking the vinyl- that is, it gets extremely soft while hot, and can warp if not supported properly during baking.  This is not a problem when simply adding polymer clay to the surface of the body, or anytime the vinyl shape remains “solid”.  It IS, however, very important during the baking of the helmet.

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Once the body details are added, you’re ready to move on to the helmet.  The former Munny “ears” are filled to become the speakers alongside the sides, and two ridges are added to the top of the helmet.  Baking during this stage is much more tricky.  The helmet needs to be laid on its back and supported with polyfill during baking.  If you bake the helmet standing up as you see in the photo above, it will collapse when the vinyl softens.  Speaking from experience, if and or when the vinyl shape becomes distorted, you will need to hold it in your hands (wearing oven mitts!) while hot, and gently reshape.  As the vinyl cools it will reharden.  As long as it’s in the shape you want as it cools, any distortion can be undone.  The vinyl becomes much softer and more easily distorted than the polymer clay does, so minimizing this is important to keep the clay and vinyl from separating and causing cracks or distortions.

With the body and helmet details created, the next step is to create the head of Kerbal himself.  Kerbals are essentially a cylinder with bulging eyes.  This is made of polymer clay as well, but it is much too thick to cure properly if solid.  First you will need to create the foundation of the shape from either wire mesh, or aluminum foil.  The wire mesh method is my preference.  You can shape the cylinder from mesh, adding a layer of polymer clay to the inside for strength.  Fit the head foundation inside the helmet, shaping it to the existing vinyl “neck”.  Remove the head from the helmet for baking.  Bake the foundation and two white half spheres to be used as eyes.  Once the foundation and eyes are baked and cooled, you can finish creating the head from polymer clay without the concern of being too thick to properly cure.  Insert the pre-baked eyes into the clay head, and bake.  I chose a somewhat more complex expression, with his mouth open and teeth showing.  If you are new to this, a closed mouth may be a better first choice.

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The next steps are painting and assembly.  First cover the entire figure (vinyl and clay alike) with one or two coats of gesso.  I prefer white gesso for any parts that will remain white or light colored, and gray gesso for any dark parts.  After gesso, sand lightly, paint any and all details with acrylic paint, and finish with a few thin coats of varnish.  For a little added detail, the “lights” in each of the top helmet protrusions were created from earring findings with rhinestones, a watch gear was added to the front suit panel, and small wire “buckles” were created for the boots.

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The final step was to create the Kerbal’s jet pack.  The pack itself is made of polymer clay, the “jets” are earring findings, and the straps are fabric trim.  Unfortunately the arm pieces Kerbal uses to control the pack in the game eluded me, as the angle at which Munny hands and arms bend didn’t line up as needed for this detail.

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And there you have it!- your very own Kerbal.  Any questions or tips, feel free to leave a comment.  I’d love to hear what others have done!