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Sunday, 28 December 2014

Miniature Foxglove Plants - The First of Many....

This was a kit from The Miniature Garden in the UK, bought at least two plus years ago in Birmingham. It took me this long to get up the courage to make these plants, and it has taken me three whole days!

Each blossom head consists of 40 tiny tubular flowers in 3 sizes, laboriously glued into a tiny tube around a pointed tweezer; then each flower head was dipped in paint for the sepal (my own addition); and then the "lip" of the blossoms had to be teased out with tweezers. Then there are 50 leaves on each plant, in 4 sizes. Except for the smallest leaves, they had to be hand cut. The tiniest blossom  "tube" was formed from a rolled, 1/8" (3 mm?) heart shape, while the largest was 1/4" or approx. 6 mm in size....

And I have to make at least 5 more for the foxglove patch in the Apothecary Garden to look good! However, I will have to punch my own blossoms for these, and I think I will make my teeny components just a little bit larger. The effect is very good, but the amount of work involved is crazy.

The Miniature Garden's kits use scrapbooking card for the leaves, personally I prefer paper that has been hand painted to add some colour variation. And I think the leaves are a little too large, really, except for the very top ones.

Along with 5 more foxglove plants, I also have to make at least 2 more velvet-leaf mullein plants; that kit (Verbascum in the UK) also  made 2 plants, but there was enough material for me to make one more. The mullein plants also require hand-cut leaves; I will check the provided card against what my local Michael's has in the scrapbooking section, before I paint my own paper.

The instructions for at least 3 more medicinal plants are available on the internet, two of them in French, and very complicated; belladonna, deadly nightshade, and St. John's Wort. However, they are essential. An idea has come to me how to make the garden, so I will sketch that out and run the specifics by my carpenter-in-chief; after all, it was his idea to add an herb garden!

In my stash is a white metal dolphin wall fountain; painted like verdigris copper, this would be a wonderful addition, next to the garden gate. I also like the idea of a turf seat under a rose arbour, and 4 to 6 raised beds with wattle edgings, for the smaller plants, with gravelled walkways in between. The large plants will go against the walls, and I hope to add two or three espaliered fruit trees along those walls as well.

This wall was photographed in Arnhem, The Netherlands while I was on mini tour there; it is in the old part of the city, and struck me then as the perfect outside wall for my Apothecary Garden; I just love the diamond-shaped windows with their metal fretwork! Behind this lovely old wall was a bricked terrace area, with potted plants around the edges, like something out of a gardening magazine....

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Santa Did Bring Some Minis

Santa decided my Apothecary Shop needed a jar of medicinal leeches; I really don't like the idea of these things, having been threatened with them as a child, but I do agree they are required in a proper apothecary shop. This jar of the creepy crawlies came with a very fine wooden bowl containing bloodied bandages and an apparently dead leech. Wonder what happened to the patient!

This will look gruesomely great in the shop, eventually!

There are actually four of these pattern envelopes; obviously someone took note of the fact that there are a couple of plastic dress forms among my supplies! I see a dressmaking vignette in my future....

These gifts came from my younger daughter; my older daughter supplied larger, doll-size props appropriate for my Sasha Morgenthaler doll collection. My son and his wife gifted me with another year of Doll House and Miniature Scene magazine, while my Carpenter-in-Chief is giving me a year's subscription to the Dutch dollhouse magazine of my choice; there are two, but one is easier to subscribe to from overseas than the other.

Thanks to all the Santas! A miniaturist friend from Camp MiniHaHa, Maureen H., sent me a pair of Aitken's Pewter coat of arms plates, for my lamp vignette. This was a very good Christmas for miniatures for me....

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Merry Christmas, Everyone

Well, I found the instructions for the other poppy kit, but I put the kit components in a "safe" place, and three days later I still have not been able to find them. And here I thought I was sorting things out quite nicely!

Things outside are not as Christmas-card pretty as last year; it is foggy, and we are promised rain for Christmas day. However, there is a good load of snow down, so it is sort of a White Christmas.

I hope you will all enjoy visits with friends and family, enjoy good food, and excellent company. Merry Christmas, Joyeux Noel, Frohe Weinachten, Gelukkig Kerstfeest, and Feliz Navidad. Hopefully, Santa Claus will bring  a mini or two!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Poppy Cultivation in Miniature

These Oriental Poppies are from a Ruth Hanke (Hanky Panky Crafts) kit I purchased many years ago. The kit called for White-Out Fluid which is not exactly easily available these days, but I decided to try using a gel pen instead, on a scrap of the tissue paper, and it worked quite well. So I decided that tonight, I would finish these opium poppies, which will go into the Tudor Apothecary Garden when it is built.

The kit, like most of them, was a multi-step one; and I used dinner to dry out the gel pen enough that I could go over it with a .005 black Pigma pen. The effect is quite dramatic; two petals of each flower had the black and white treatment, and I am now tempted to try it in deep rose for a white poppy, or purple for a rose one. I tend to make these flowers assembly-line style; first all the tops, then the petals, then the leaves, with lots of drying time in between to avoid tissue paper petals sticking to me and everything else on my work surface.

The buds are cheats; I was supposed to paint mustard seeds, but as I had seed beads in the right colour, I used those for the buds instead. As they sort of lurk among the blooming poppies, they should pass nicely.

Drawing on tiny tissue paper petals is a bit nerve-wracking, especially when your black pen seems to be running dry! But there was an excellent tip in the kit; tack each petal to be painted to the adhesive strip of a post-it note, to keep it from moving while working on it (and to keep from sneezing them away, or the cat from just plain batting them away). It worked a treat. These tissue flowers will need to be sprayed to prevent fading, which tissue is very prone to.

And since I had started these flowers about a year ago, I can now mark another unfinished (small) project off my list! There are, however, some more poppies barely started that I have to find the instructions for; I hope they are in one of my magazines. This second group uses a bead as the centre of the poppy; it will be interesting to see what the final product looks like.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

My Wall of Shame: UFO Number 1, December 2014

This is one big beast of a project: a fishing shack on a pier on a beach. It was the Camp MiniHaHa 2008 project, based on a Joann Swanson design (we got permission from her), from the larger format NN. The shack sits on the pier, which is fixed to the beach base. The pilings are real Bay of Fundy driftwood, aged and darkened to look like the sea comes in regularly.

The shack itself is barn red board and batten siding, and a cedar shingle roof, battered by years of Atlantic Ocean storms, with white trim. My original plan was to have a woman tugboat captain, in retirement, now writing her memoirs and living in the shack she inherited from her father. However, the shack turned out to be too small to make it living quarters for anyone, so the project has sat for 6 years....

The captain's bed will go, although the bookshelf will stay. The dog will also stay, he'd look quite nice lying on the deck of the pier. The wonderful writing table was purchased from an Australian miniaturist, during an on-line miniature show, several years ago, and will be the main take-off for the "story" of the shack.

Did I mention that I collect "stuff" in shoeboxes for my projects? This project has 2 boxes, the stuff above is the landscaping stuff; driftwood "logs", shells, seaweed, sand, gravel, rocks, you name it, it is there. Funnily enough, none of it stinks any more, but perhaps I am smelling selectively! The beach already has a coat of sand, but as you can see the front of the beach needs more, the coverage on the built-up area wasn't great. This is something I can probably do indoors; however, pouring the resin for the seawater will have to wait until I can do it outdoors, in five months or so!

And then there is the shoebox of "stuff" to go inside the project! A dory, lobster pots, fish barrel and creels, food, pots, pans, chair, slicker, 2 sou'wester hats, 2 pairs of rubber boots, lobster buoys, more shells, starfish galore, pictures, cushions and paintings, enough gulls to clear out a garbage dump, even a pelican, it just goes on and on. There is also a tiny, 3-prong fishhook, less than 1 cm (3/8") long. There's a can for worms and a fishing rod, two rope mats and one braided one, as well as nautical brass minis. And a lot of it will probably not fit; the scene is massive, the base measuring 50 cm (19.5") by 43 cm (17"), while with the shack on top, it is 50 cm (19.5") high. The shack itself has a footprint of 25 x 20 cm (10 x 8").

What will likely happen with this scene is a complete change of story; it will be a writer's retreat, rather than a place to live in, a sort of weekend cottage, with minimal facilities for making meals and hot drinks.  There will be lots of nautical and maritime stuff on the deck and beach areas, and perhaps a sleeping bag in the loft for long nights. I have a lovely Shaker stove kit, nice and compact, which will go into the scene, and I'll likely add a small sink area for washing up, along with a small table and chair for eating at. The outside will have lobster floats, glass floats, fishing gear, and as much beach stuff as I can get in without overcrowding the scene, with the boat on the beach, of course.

It may yet change as I get back to work on it; certainly the shack could be done indoors over the winter, and some of the basic landscaping. Only the water has to wait for spring. That should empty one box nearly completely, while the decorative indoor and shack stuff can be pared down to what will fit and look good, and the remainder re-purposed.

There were 25 of us at Camp the year we made this, but at the moment I can only recall 2 or 3 which have been finished; a couple at least were antique/junk shops, with so much stuff you never really see everything, it is new every time. It was a rather big project....

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

The Tudor House Revisited, Part 4 - The Final One!

The street level of the Tudor House is the home owners' embroidery shop. It is sparsely furnished, with just the bare necessities. The trestle table at the centre is a display surface for large embroidery pieces, and is piled pretty high currently. The chest has an embroidered pad on it, as well as a cushion in the corner. The box contains samples of black work offered by the shop, and with the lid down it doubles as an additional seat. The lady of the house is hard a work at another commissioned project; from the looks of it, it is intended to be another seat cushion or pad.

The majority of the furnishings here are from DHMS projects; however, the chest was a kit purchased at Camp MiniHaHa, put together by Shelley A. of mini_addiction. The embroidery designs are from books and magazines; all 3 of the UK publications, and Pamela Warner's and Sandra Whitehead's books on dollhouse embroidery.

The designs are a little more visible in this photo; the peacock table carpet needs fringing, but is otherwise done. Early carpets were too valuable for floors, so they were used as table and bed covers. Dutch people still tend to put carpets on their tables; I do! Those are specifically made for tables, though, and I inherited a narrow Bokhara runner from my parents and a larger carpet from my maternal grandparents. The latter has a small hole, and I am trying to find someone to repair that Real Life carpet for me, difficult indeed in our small province of Canada.
 The small black work squares are "samples", while the larger ones and the rectangles are "for sale". Black work is fun to do, these were done on 22 ct hardanger fabric using a single strand of floss.
Black work was introduced to England by Henry VIII's first wife, Katherine of Aragon, and if you look at paintings and drawings of the period, you will see this type of embroidery widely used in the clothing of the very wealthy, often with the addition of gold thread detailing. 
The small cushion has a bird on it, while the hanging on the left of the photo is of a rabbit. The other hanging is a very old type of sailing ship, with Moorish roots from the looks of it. I just loved the colour combinations in this little hanging.  I really should put a rail on the wall to display these hangings, you can't see them all covered up on the table.... (Oh no, I just created myself yet another project!)
I wonder if I should start blogging photos of UnFinished Objects; maybe that will be the kick in the backside I need to get these projects done. Once they are done, I will not have to have all those shoebox-size boxes, full of things to eventually go into these projects, sitting on my overburdened storage shelves!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

The Tudor House Revisited, Part 3

The kitchen/living area is the most crowded in the Tudor House. The table, benches and dresser shelf were all made from instructions in Making Dolls' House Interiors, mentioned in the previous post, as were the salt box (seen on the fireplace mantel in the kitchen picture) and the three-legged stool. The green box is a dough box; you mixed the bread dough in the inverted lid, then put the bread to proof in the box, out of drafts. I believe this design came from a magazine, likely a UK one! A decorative, carved wooden box on the dresser holds valuable spices.

Pottery in this setting comes from a wide variety of sources, some of them on the secondary market, and a couple of pieces imported from Mexico and Portugal. The dead bunny was a purchase at Birmingham Miniatura a couple of years ago, while the superb tripod kettles came from Earth & Tree in New Hampshire (Old Mountain Miniatures). The buckets are hardware store finds, stained and with rope handles. There are also some small Mexican copper bowls with handles on the shelf.

There are also food items made by me, some of them for the Christmas season, although in Tudor times ordinary people didn't make a great fuss over the holiday, except as a religious one. The setting also has tiny turned wooden bowls, gorgeous baskets from the UK, pewter, glassware, and a tiny, hammered silver bowl I made at Camp MiniHaHa some years ago, under the tutelage of John Meacham, an IGMA artisan.

There is also a tiny hedgehog in the kitchen; these were kept to help keep down flies and vermin and this practice continued into the 19th century in parts of Europe. This hedgehog also came from Miniatura, one of the items on my long list that I was able to fill during that trip. And a broken egg lies in front of a tiny basket of eggs in the bottom section of the dresser shelf. Also on the bottom shelf is a small barrel with a spigot, sitting in a barrel cradle; I believe it contains Madeira....

Among the food items are a Stilton cheese, pears in wine sauce, gilded gingerbread Tudor rose, Christmas pudding, bread loaf, garlic string, and onions in the basket. There is also a dead chicken, made by me many years ago; it is somewhat primitive; the cleaver next to it is a British find, and it is sharp as the real thing.

The next visit will be to the shop area of the Tudor House.

Friday, 12 December 2014

The Tudor House Revisited, Part 2

To the best of my ability, I will try to remember just where I got the instructions for the contents of this house. This will be a floor-by-floor visit, as I took all the furnishings out before replacing them in the house,  and photographed them using my daughter's home-made photo booth, so no paintings or views out the window in these!

The upper level bedroom and working space is sparsely furnished, as it would be in that time, with the basics. The curtained bed and the trundle bed that go under it were designed by Brian Long and found in Dolls House and Miniature Scene magazine. The linens were made from linen handkerchiefs, while the red covers are fleece; red was believed to be extra warm, which is why long underwear was made in red versions, as well as flannel petticoats. The cradle is also a Brian Long design, again from DHMS, and swings. The strange structure in the centre is a baby walker; the baby stood in a circular opening in a flat table-like panel, which moved within the structure. This kept the child out of the open fires and away from the staircase, while still allowing for movement. My friend Debbie P. from Nova Scotia made this for me some years ago, from a DHMS Quarterly Special or a magazine insert, I'm not quite sure. A black and white kitten sits on top of the walker, while the ginger kitten on the floor toys with a mouse.
The bedspread on the tall bed is actually a woven rug, bought years ago at Upstairs, Downstairs in Victoria, B.C. Too nice to go on the floor, but great for an extra bed cover. The small bench was a Camp MiniHaHa gift, while the flower arrangement was home-made, again from a DHMS article. The larger bench is from DHMS, with a bedroom set of bowl, jug and chamber pot from JoAnn Shaw, who also made the blue candlestick. In front of this bench is a foot warmer, another CMHH gift from years ago. In case you have never encountered these, they were in use until about 100 years ago. Easily portable, they moved with the owner to friends' parlours, church, and so on. A foot warmer consists of a box with a pierced top, inside the box would be a metal brazier with glowing coals. You set your poor cold feet on top of this box, and draped your skirts around; lovely and warm!

The two baskets need a close-up. The ladies in the house weave, of course, so there is a shuttle wound with wool yarn, a drop spindle, and a pair of wool carders. I based these on a pair of very old Viking carders found in York, UK some years ago, and made them of sequin pins stuck through thin wood, with lightly shaped handles. The shuttle and spindle are also my own design. In the large basket is alpaca wool (begged from a vendor at a craft fair), heritage sheep's wool from Kings Landing Historical Settlement, and some fur from our late cat, RumTum. I had hoped to add a weaving loom, but there isn't space; however, I have a spinning wheel partly assembled, just have to find the right size of small wooden wheel for it. And there is also a Tudor commode to go into this room, it just needs its hinges put on. You wouldn't want to have to run outside to the privy in the middle of the cold night, would you?

If you look at the photo of the bare room, (previous post), you will note a small, blue cupboard on the wall near the staircase; this was made from one of my favourite books, Making Dolls' House Interiors, by Carol and Nigel Lodder, published by David & Charles. This little cupboard has leather hinges, and would hold jewelry, a prayer book, and the like, out of reach of the little ones. A small wooden cross,  a CMHH gift, sits on top of  this small cupboard.

That's all for now, the next visit will be to the kitchen and living level.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The Tudor House Revisited, Part 1

Not the best photo in the world, with a painting on one side and a view into the garden on the other; please just look at the house! Can you see the brackets under the main and second level eaves? That was one of the fixes prior to last weekend's show. The brackets are attached to the removable panels, so I have to be careful taking those off. It does add to the house, though.

Another fix was the new fires for the two fireplaces; as the computer is balking at posting long photos, I had to do each level separately.

This is the bedroom cum sitting room level. The chandelier has 4 candles, and there is a fire in the fireplace. As it is near Christmas, a kissing ball is hung from the chandelier. With the back roof now fitted around the newly bricked chimney, no daylight is coming through around the chimney-piece any more, thank heavens!

The kitchen and living level has two candle sconces and a fire, and now there is also a swinging fireplace crane in place. However, one of the fire dogs has fallen over! These dogs have brackets on them to hold a spit in place, but I am fighting the fire's wiring a little (that wire also needs painting to hide it). If I pull too hard, I might break something... One of these days I must add a chicken roasting on the spit in front of the fire, with a drip tray underneath, of course. It is possible to work cardboard to look like old iron cooking equipment, something to experiment with over this winter.

The lower, or shop level, has a single candle sconce. You can see the beams on the ceiling quite nicely here, all three levels are fully beamed, just like the real thing, and if you were 6 inches tall, you could walk up the flights of stairs. The floor here has some tiles "liberated" from religious houses pillaged by Henry VIII's soldiers, set into a beaten earth floor. Once this area was an open market, but it was enclosed when glass became easier to make and install. That large area of glass panes means the merchant who owns this house is quite, quite well off.

These lights are all home-made by me, using grain of rice bulbs and hollow cotton swab sticks for the candles. The ground level wire comes out the back with a plug; the second level has the hidden area for the wiring between the fireplace and the stair-case; and the upper level chandelier has the wires led down through drilled holes in the chandelier frame, and then along a channel in the bottom of the central beam. This channel is hidden behind iron-on wood veneer tape. The three levels come apart to take to shows, which means the upper and lower lights have to be unplugged while travelling.

That's it for now; tomorrow, I will do the furnishings for the rooms, and will note where I found the instructions to make them if you want to try Tudor too.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Show Report

This is the right end of our 3-table display at the local high school, along with the Model Railroaders Club. We had a bit of a problem getting them to understand what we were all about, but one of the members had been to miniature shows in the US and said the stuff on display there was wonderful.

This is a view from the left, while we were setting up. Three of the Camp MiniHaHa lamps (one was finished as a box only) were on display. The project under construction is a joint project of an Irish Cottage, being made by 2 F.A.M.E. members.

And this is the middle view, with our wonderful banner. A new member joined us today, she has been selling Christmas items via Etsy to the US and Europe, and her stuff in incredible. For some reason, she has not had any Canadian buyers yet.

Well, we kind of blew the railroaders away; the model car club has asked us to display at their show the end of May, and the railroaders would like us back next year. They photographed and video'd us and chatted and commented; all in all a very worthwhile event, despite the rotten weather which cut the crowds in half, apparently. But we may have found a new member....


Friday, 5 December 2014

CMHH '14 Lamp Vignette Finished for the Show

There is a wee bit of glare in the centre of the photo, but this is how the lamp vignette from CMHH '14 will appear at the show tomorrow. I still need to build a half fire (no depth to the hearth, you see!) and put some foodstuffs around.

Most of the pewter in the vignette is Philip Aitken's work, bought on the secondary market. Some of it came from shows in Canada, the US and Europe. This insert is removable, which gives me the option of making other inserts for this lamp base. I am very pleased with the look so far, although I would like better stools than these commercial ones, the varnish is too shiny.

The table is a House of Miniatures tavern table kit I've had for years, finally made up and used in something. The rug is OK, but I think a braided rug might be more in tone with a pioneer kitchen.

My story for this miniature vignette is that the table and pewter were brought to their cabin by the pioneers, while the other furnishings etc. are local or handmade. A braided rug in autumn shades would be better, and there should be a cat sleeping on it....

The pewter works well in this setting, and allows my modest collection to be showcased. Now I have to find just the right spot for this lamp, likely in the family room, which has always been far too dark for my tastes. Somewhere I put a black "iron" teakettle, that will go on the fireplace crane; this crane broke while being installed, but some contact (impact) cement and a wooden brace soon fixed that little problem. One more thing more or less off my list.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

The Provencal Scent Shop Ready for the Show

Well, it is not permanently finished, but this is what it will look like for the show on Saturday. The shelves are now full of merchandise, bottles and packages I've been finishing the last couple of days. There has been another power outage, as well as today's nasty mix of sleet, freezing rain, snow, fog and plain rain, but it has made it a good time to do work, at least during the short days. At this time of year, that means from 7 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m., and the days are only going to get shorter for a while yet. (Funny, the blue check sections of shelf are going off in all directions; in actuality, they are a tiny blue gingham print. Must be pixilated!)
The low, middle shelf unit is currently holding purple floral dishes, which are there only temporarily; they will eventually be replaced by bins of soap, still to be made. I am cheating somewhat, using some flat roundelle beads from a kid's craft department; wrapped in tissue and with a little sticker on them, they should look pretty good. Along with those, I'm going to try to make "artisanal" soap from polymer clay with interesting inclusions to represent spices and herbs.
Each of the shelf displays comes out as a whole; they are stuck to a piece of transparent plastic, fitted to the shelf, with glue dots (Zots). This keeps the contents securely in place, and allows me to re-arrange the shelves as I want, much easier than working within the tiny confines of each shelving section.
The wrought iron furniture is temporary; the shop will get a shabby chic display shelf eventually. Somewhere in my pile of magazines is the exact design I need, but there isn't time right now to go through hundreds of dollhouse magazines - these are what I get many of my ideas and instructions out of, along with my nice collection of books on miniatures.
The hanging bar below the purple centre unit will eventually get bunches of dried lavender hanging from it; for now, we are making do with pots of lavender. And I think the floor needs a shabby chic rug, something light with roses or something....