Sunday 7 July 2024

I Can Change My Mind After All

So, I really haven't been all that happy with the way these leaves looked on my grape vine, and have just ignored it for now, but I would very much like to finish this vignette. As a step towards this, I roamed my garden and found some wild grape vines at the bottom of the property, and I picked one of the leaves.

The grape leaves definitely look more like maple leaves rather than the vine-looking leaves I cut for this vine (except for the tiniest ones, which are fig leaves!) Therefore, I will now carefully pick off all the leaves heretofore applied to the vine trunk, and replace them with maple leaves in a variety of sizes. And I hope I'll like those better, and feel like finishing the vignette sooner rather than later.

Most of the activities I engage in outside of my home are currently in hiatus for the summer, and will start up again after Labour Day, in September. And I will be away for a few days later this month, as well. But I am still working away on the rugs, with the blue and white Chinese rug ready for the background stitching, another rug having the diagonal chequers laid in, and a third one ready to be put onto canvas. These I can take with me while I'm away, to keep my hands busy. With 3 days "off" from those other activities, I hope to do the denuding of the tree this week, and begin the process of cutting and shaping new leaves.

It was a nice day today, and I spent much of it knitting on my lower patio, where we recently installed a new table and chairs; I hope to spend more time working on my hobbies out there on nice days. As the patio is on the north side of our house, much of the day it is in shade, perfect for my skin type - I tend to resemble boiled lobsters after too much unprotected time in the sun....

Friday 28 June 2024

A Friend Gave Me a Book....

 ....and it is a book on miniatures that I had never come across in my decades of working with minis. The friend was, once upon a time, thinking of getting into making minis (she's a fantastic Real Life furniture maker!), but never did. As she, like me, is down-sizing wherever possible, a week ago at my volunteer job she passed a bag of mini things on to me, including a number of books. Three or four of those I already own, and will be passed on to friends in turn. But one was new to me: Building Miniature Houses and Furniture, by Dorie Krusz, published in the US in 1977, about 20 years before I got immersed in miniatures. The book features a modular method of house building, with the example being a Georgian/Colonial multi-story house and lots of appropriate furnishings for it. 

And there were half a dozen or more charts for making miniature rugs! Well, I'm currently working on 3 miniature rugs at the same time, and have begun finding appropriate embroidery thread colours for several more. That's why it's been quiet....

Also, of course, at this time of year most organizations and groups wind down for the summer, and that has been keeping me busy also. I did, however, finish the blue and white runner - which is coming up the wrong way around, and I can't find the edit button. Hmm, the Carpenter-in-Chief did some scans for me last night, so I'll have to figure out how to get my edit button back!

I will have to redo one of the fringe rows, as I did it  upside down. That's for another day.

I also made a tiny cushion cover, on 22ct hardanger, and at some point will make a few more, as my stock of cushions and rugs/mats/carpets is getting low. This one took quite a while, as it has lots of colour changes.

Here are the works in progress, on top of a number of sheets of scrap booking paper I found on the secondary market, which will work very nicely indeed for quick vignette settings; two types of script, one of which is medieval, some nice tile flooring, and some plank flooring. The Chinese rug and the diagonal tile rug are from the newly acquired book, while the dragon rug is from a very old pamphlet; I am not entirely happy with the colours, but it is very near finishing. Currently, I'm working the diagonal basket-weave stitch for the background on this one. The tile rug is getting its diagonals done, and the Chinese rug is ready for background and borders. These I can do without having to carry books etc. around with me, and will give my hands something to occupy them as we (hopefully) get in a few short trips this summer. Each piece in a ziplock baggie with its needle and floss, and only a tiny pair of scissors needed!

Also in the bag of things my friend passed on to me were some beautiful cedar shingles, lots of plumbing-type hardware in brass, and many types of hinges, as well as some minis, tiny ceramic tiles, and a package of MagicSton. I've never tried the latter, and this may be a good opportunity to do so.

I'm still leafing out the grape vine for the vignette, as well as researching how to make convincing grapes without having to do a lot of polymer clay work, but that may be too much to hope for....

Wednesday 12 June 2024

A Bird House and Painted Paper for Grape Leaves

The apple basket has been aged and given a handle; the "wooden grip" is rolled paper, with some 20 gauge galvanized wire for the handle. My stash turned up a nice rusty watering can, which should also feel at home in this setting. The strawberry jar may get strawberries, just have to see if I can make polymer clay into convincing strawberries of the ever-bearing variety, the only ones that would still be around in the autumn. Otherwise, it may just have strawberry leaves starting to go red at their edges, and perhaps some runners.

The wood and burlap wall pocket might work for a door ornament, I'll have to see. Made in 2020 at the height of Covid, it does seem a good fit for the scene, and would look nice with a couple of leafy branches, berry branches and sunflowers. And finally, a bird house that is more in scale with the scene; it's a 1/2" (13 mm) square section of dowel, trimmed to make the roof peak, with a piece of moss ribbon for the roofing, and an end of painted wire for the perch. I aged the moss a little with some dry brushing in orange, as it was very summery green.

I've painted some paper for the autumnal  grape vine leaves; this is a nice variety, and I can add some red to some of the punched leaves, or some green for deep veining, using a sharp colouring pencils. The "fancy" leaves will, naturally, be the more visible ones at the front of the scene. I'll start punching this evening, while watching TV, and begin with 25 of each size and colour....

Now I'm going to attempt a bushel basket made of card stock for the potatoes, complete with little wire handles. And I'd also like to try plant pots made of cardboard, as my stock of resin and wooden pots is getting more than a little low. It's coming along!

Friday 7 June 2024

Just Can't Seem to Get the Best Bird Shelter

There have been two attempts at a suitable birdhouse for this little vignette, but both seem out of scale with the size of the setting. I'm still working on it, but other work is going on nevertheless. One birdhouse was made of wood scraps, the other, smaller one of cardboard, but they both still appear too big when placed in the setting.

The vine is ready for painting; it is made of a framework of brown, cloth-covered floral wire, which is then wrapped around with brown floral tape. The tape was also used to give the appearance of branches getting thinner near their ends. In the original, the vine is against the wall of the shed, but I prefer to have it framing the scene, while not extending outside of the eventual frame. Grass grows in the corners, moss is dotted on the roof shingles, along with some orange and yellow lichen blotches (dots of paint dry-brushed out for effect), and there is moss and weeds along the foundation.

 In the corner of the step is one of my treasured Bonnie Lavish dandelions; I bought a kit for these years ago, and am using them rather sparingly in various settings. Another one appears at the front of the Provencal scent shop, elsewhere on the blog, next to the blue fence.

The vine will likely hold grapes. The bottle cap basket has its first coat of paint, and will be aged and given a bail handle with a wooden grip, and will hold apples harvested outside the boundaries of this vignette. I think a chrysanthemum plant in a pot will look good, so that may appear soon. The gardening tools are very new-looking, and need dirtying and aging, to better match the somewhat dilapidated look of the shed.

I think the little grapevine wreath would look better on the shed door, with a sunflower and some autumn leaves tucked into it. Yes, the scene has decided it wants to be autumnal! Now I have to make grapes and apples, potatoes and orange, yellow and green vine leaves, and I can't forget the tendrils for the vine; these will be made by wrapping fuse wire over a darning needle....

Yes, miniaturists are crazy!

Wednesday 29 May 2024

The Set Is Ready for Dressing


I will admit that a certain amount of bad language was involved, but it has been a somewhat frustrating day! We are being invaded by warring factions of very large and smaller carpenter ants, and we can't figure out where they're getting in. I must have stepped on a couple of dozen today, and found a number that had been decapitated by, I presume, other warring ants. This seems to happen every Spring! There is currently a pile of dust, cat fur and dead ant parts to dispose of, as I have broken my downstairs dust pan....

Yesterday, I created a roof out of a strip of heavy cardboard and broken-apart dolls' house cedar shingles. There was a pile of pre-dyed shingles in my stash, so no paint was needed to age them. I will have to place small tufts of  "moss" and "lichen" on them, and see if the folded cardboard brace under the shingled strip needs painting.

At any rate, I pin-hinged the door and then reinforced that with cardboard strips on the inside, as my pin hinging leaves something to be desired; I really don't like doing it, as I always seems to go crooked, and I was working with less than 1 cm (3/8"?) thick foam core. I also had to carve a door handle, as my small wooden beads, my go-to's for inexpensive door knobs, have been put away "safely" and can't be found at this point.

The doorstep is a chunk of pink builder's foam, carved to look worn and cracked, and then painted. The front of the shed is now glued into the frame, and the next step is to dress this little "stage set", once the drywall compound on the floor dries up. Then comes a vine, a bench, birdhouse, garden tools which all have to be dirtied to look used (I had some in my stash), gravel, grass, weeds, flowers and empty pots, etc., etc. And of course, a bird or animal....

The dressing of the "set" is what I enjoy doing most; the season for this scene has not been decided yet, which gives me lots of choice depending on what I have on hand in supplies. The original was Fall, but that means grape vines and making lots of grapes. Maybe it will be summer, and I can do morning glories and clematis vines. We'll see!

Saturday 25 May 2024

Didn't Have a Lot of Time Yesterday or Today

 However, I did manage to paint the front and the door to the shed vignette. I managed to put on the base coat Friday. I see this shed as once having been a lovely blue, but the sun, rain and winter have all taken their toll. Blue fades very typically on houses here, and I'm pleased with how the base coat turned out.

I used a mix of white, Cape Cod Blue, a touch of Prussian Blue, and some Jade to get this particular shade. For the aging, I used burnt umber, white and Seminole green. Some careful sanding is also still needed for extra wear.

The door, door frame and window frame were painted with aging chalk paint (I added water) in a shade of beige called Primitive, again to get that impression of an old building badly in need of a fresh coat of paint.The foundation strip is faux-painted in a dirty cement colour. I was purposefully careless with the paint work, as this shed has been around and has been repainted before, and not by professionals!

Saturday morning was the annual plant sale of our local botanical society, so that took up part of my morning. I picked up a variety of flowering plants to add to my garden. I also spend two hours every Saturday at our local multi-cultural facility, in a learn-to-knit and practice conversation in English at the same time. Great fun with ladies and girls from all over the world. I used various shades and a very dry brush to further age the building, but I think it still needs a  bit of antiquing gel to bring out the board and batten of the siding. 

Next up will be carving a handle for the door, and making a two-over two window to go into the currently empty space, as well as adding a doorstep. Once that is done and the door is hinged in place, I can glue the false back into place and begin on the roof overhang and the dirt patch in front. Then comes the fun of "set dressing"; I hope to add a wild grape vine (they grow all over our area), a potted plant or two, tools and a bench for a well-earned rest, and landscaping etc.

And I'm still enjoying the project....

Wednesday 22 May 2024

Gave Myself a Mini Day (Photo-Heavy)

 It is very warm and humid out again, we've gone from sort-of-spring to right into summer. The temperature today was 30C, which is rather more than we usually get here in May! So it seemed a good idea to work indoors, in our downstairs room, which is nice and cool.

This is a small project, designed by Cat Wingler, for which the instructions are in the March 2003 issue of Miniature Collector. I bought the magazine second-hand at a show, years ago, because this little scene really appealed to me. Now I've challenged myself to make my version of it, using cardboard as much as possible, and making just about everything myself. We'll see how well I do at that challenge! I do like faux finishes, and this one could have a lot of those.

The instructions were for making the box out of foam core, and then painting the base of the simple box black. There was some black foam core left over from my younger daughter's time at Art College, so that meant I didn't have to paint! The box is held together with sewing pins and Weld Bond glue.

There is a shallow false wall, with my guide lines all over it (I am straight-line challenged, after all!). It is held away from the back of the box by strips of foam core (mine is 1 cm thick, about 3/8"), and for greater thickness I glued two strips back-to-back for the spacers. In this photo, the interior of the window opening has been lined in pieces of skinny coffee stir sticks. The inside of the doorway will have the same finish.

Instead of wood, I'm using cardboard strips in a board and batten design; this seemed the best way to do the walls in lieu of using the recommended stuff. I was testing an existing doorstep, but it is too low and the other piece I thought would work is too high, which means making a doorstep to size for the project.

Testing, testing, testing....

So far, all I've used is the foam core (scraps of which are in the photo), two kinds of cardboard which we get in our boxes of tinned cat food, skinny stir stick and rough piece of wood cut down from an old mandarin orange crate, along with straight pins and so far, 3 kinds of glue.

Before I go to sleep tonight, I'll give the cardboard board-and-batten walls and door surface a coat of sealer, and tomorrow or Friday, I can start painting it to look like wood. So far, this is fun!