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!

 

 


Sep 12 2013

Kitchen Reno Part 2

The decorating of my dollhouse kitchen is in homage to “grandma’s” kitchens, literally.  The wallpaper was chosen to match the kitchen of my grandmother, mother, and aunts.  The ceiling of the kitchen is designed in homage to the kitchen my mother-in-law had for over 30 years.  The beams are doing double duty, as there was a large crack in the floor above, and not only did they mimic the ceiling I was replicating, they worked perfectly to reinforce it without having to figure out a way to cut out and replace the old subfloor.

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I decided to try my hand at making tiny curtains for the window, and it’s really not difficult if you have a little bit of sewing experience, some wire, and eyelets used in scrapbooking.

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To create the fabric panels, simply cut two equal sized rectangles, adding extra size for the hem.  ”Fat quarters” used in quilting are an easy way to buy a small amount of fabric for this.  The size of the finished panels should be determined by the size of your window, and how long you wish them to be.  First I hemmed all four edges, turning it twice before stitching so as to have a clean finished edge on both sides.  Along the top edge of the panels I installed eyelets you can find in scrapbooking supplies.  I used 5 eyelets per panel, but again, adjust according to the size and look you want.  If you do not have eyelets, you can always simply turn over the top edge again, leaving room for the curtain rod to slide through.

The curtain rod is a wooden dowel, painted, and capped with tiny polymer clay finials.  Beads would work just as well.  Glue one finial in place, slide your curtains onto the rod, and then add the second finial.  The finials can be anything, but it’s helpful if they are large enough that the curtains can’t slide off.

Next, I used black “fun wire” to create the curtain rod hangers and tie backs.  Below is a photo of the wire “hardware”.  To attach the hardware I simply used glue, but you could alternatively use tiny brads or nails.  Once the glue is dry, simply hang the rod with curtains already installed on the hooks and gently position the panels in the tie-backs.

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Next up, the flooring.  I used small glass tiles in black and white, found at a craft store in their mosaic supplies.  One tip, measure the floor ahead of time to determine how many full tiles will fit and whether the space left will require cutting tiles.  The remaining space was small enough that I was able to avoid any tile cutting by leaving a small space on each border that can be covered once the baseboard and quarter round trim is installed.  This saved a lot of time and headache.

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Next up for the kitchen, finishing the tile floor, installing the baseboard and quarter-round trim, and installing the new and improved staircase.


Sep 9 2013

Kitchen Renovations

Thankfully dollhouse renovations are a bit simpler than functional kitchens… no water to shut off, no concerns about gas lines or where to cook in the meantime.  And good thing too, as this reno is taking much longer than expected.  It began with the repurposing of furniture my grandmother had built and finished from kits in the 80s.  First the pieces were sanded, primed, and painted white.  In order to update the pieces I added simple legs, and replaced the top with a “butcher block” counter created by laying strips of wood in varying colors side by side, gluing them in place, cutting them to fit, adding a simple miter cut edge, and then varnish to seal.  You can see the almost finished kichen cupboards below.

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In addition to the cupboards, the sink unit was also updated to match.  The sink was created from polymer clay, and both the faucet and towel rod on the side were made of aluminum tubing (you can find at most hardware stores).  In order to allow the faucet to swivel between the two sink halves first insert and glue a small piece of tubing into the cabinet, and then use the next smallest size of tubing for the fixture.  Aluminum tubing is extremely easy to bend with hand tools.  I recommend using rounded pliers in order to keep the aluminum from creasing.  Simply slip the faucet into the fixed tubing and it will move freely.  The towel bar on the side of the cabinet is also made from aluminum tubing, capped at each end with an earring finding, and hung from simple brackets made of wire.

Next up, the room itself (the beginning of which can be seen in the photo above).

 

 


Feb 6 2013

New Hobby

I have a terrible habit of acquiring hobbies, each of which becomes a bit of an obsession, and my latest is no exception.

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This dollhouse was a present to my grandmother in the late 1980s, and was met at first with grumpiness from my grandfather who thought it was too big, and it’s not like hobbies were in short supply for my grams either (yes, it’s a family trait)  However, in no time we found him spending hour after hour in their basement, the dollhouse becoming as much his hobby as hers, and eventually leading to a tripling in size of the original kit.  The arrival of the dollhouse coincided with his retirement, and the combination was a perfect fit.  The kit portion was the left hand side up to the tower.  The entire portion to the right of the tower was an addition designed and executed by my gramps.

The house was electrified and fully finished, with wood floors, working windows, and wallpaper in every room.  Unfortunately, the combination of time and a somewhat damp basement led to many repairs being needed. After a stay with my sister who began the process of removing damaged wood and starting the redo and update of the electrical, I have inherited the house and continued its rehab.

The first project I tackled was to reclaim as much of the oak flooring as possible and use it to redo the wraparound porch.  The porch was stripped, and oak planks were fitted and laid down one at a time, stained, varnished, and trimmed with quarter round and maple cap trim along the front edge.  The same stain was used on some of the exterior details, such as the shutters and railings, giving a bit more contrast to the exterior.

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As my wonderful sister has pointed out, this latest hobby is either perfect for me, or truly dangerous.  It feeds all of those perfectionist tendencies, takes countless hours of creating, and has no end in sight…  I’m going with “perfect” for me.