Saturday, 12 October 2013

Miniature Needlepoint

Despite having been a miniaturist for more than 15 years, it is rare to meet a fellow enthusiast in the course of everyday life. Mostly, when I describe how I spend my spare time I am met with That Look. You know; the one which tells you that, despite your explanation, the recipient just Doesn't Get It and thinks you Might Be Slightly Mad. Meeting a fellow miniature stitcher is more rare still. Today, however, I was thrilled to meet a such a person and it inspired me to post a few pictures of the pieces I have stitched over the years.

This pattern was in Venus Dodge's Dollshouse Needlecrafts book which I discovered by chance when I was fresh out of University and which launched me on my miniature needlework journey. That sounds like I know where I'm going but couldn't be further from the truth! Until then I had never done any needlepoint in any scale, unless you count the tapestry kits which I did as a child and which were little more than painting by numbers but using a needle and thread in place of sticky oil paints. Being a complete novice, it came out somewhat on the chunky side but then, as they say, Art does have a tendency to imitate Life. Nonetheless, I am very proud of this carpet and to date it is still the only one I have had the patience to make. Anything larger than one square inch seems so daunting when you are short of time.

The two samplers below are from Janet Granger's lovely range of kits; ideal for those who are relatively new to stitching in miniature as they are inexpensive, straighforward and largely use 32-count linen which is easy on the eyes.

These were fun and simple to stitch. The kits include the frame so that you are ensured a result you can be proud of.  Inspired, I stitched some more of her kits:

Next, I discovered Nicola Mascall's wonderful needlepoint kits which introduced me to silk gauze; expensive but so much easier to stitch than I imagined. It is also wonderfully thin, so is a pleasure to make up into the finished item - as long as there are no curves involved (see below).

Having mastered 40-count silk gauze, I got smug and figured that stitching on 48-count couldn't be THAT much harder, so threw myself in at the deep-end with one of Annelle Ferguson's lovely sampler kits.

Lovely though the finished result is, this was a demon to stitch! It only got finished through sheer bloody-mindedness (the Rowlings have THAT in spades, at least) and I shall never stitch another one...not on 48-count, anyway. The fact it got done without the magnifier I now use is something that makes me think that perhaps my eyes are already on that slippery slope to middle age. Crikey, I never saw that coming. (No pun intended).

Honestly, this could have been the last thing I stitched. I shed blood, sweat and not a few tears over it. But then along came Bobbie Schoonmaker (God bless the internet, to quote a favourite film of mine) and her kits were just sufficiently different and exciting - not to mention stitched on 40-count gauze - to entice me to try again. Who says it can't be Christmas everyday?

These slippers are super-cute but very fiddly to make up. I'm not terribly good at executing curved seams, especially when you have to cut the gauze so so close to your precious stitching...but given that my feet resemble nothing so much as square trotters (saves me a fortune in a shoe habit and leaves me more to spend on handbags) the finished result is not inappropriate. Art imitating Life, once again. Bobbie also does a wonderful kit for a pair of children's slippers but they are even smaller. Maybe one day.

After that I got adventurous and started stitching cushion designs from some of the books in my collection. Whilst I was waiting for my daughter to arrive I did nothing but stitch to take my mind off what was to come, and, at one point, churned out a cushion a day - wonderful what fear can do to one's fingers!! Here are a selection of my favourites:

I discovered Blackwork through this lovely kit by Sandra Knight and can't wait to do more; it is strangely addictive and so much easier than trying to stitch a complex, coloured design. Simple, but extremely effective.

Finally, I recently found the time to stitch some little pictures and harbour ambitions to one day make a miniature Art Gallery in which all the pictures are stitched. Given that it took over a year (on and off, but mostly off) to stitch the swan design, that ambition might be some time in coming.

This is a simple picture that I designed myself. I have to say that designing needlepoint is not as easy as it might first appear. The teddies were supposed to be cute but ended up having a slightly satanic look about them. Enough to make your miniature babies cry!

This is a Nicola Mascall design which is sold as a firescreen kit, but which I chose to make into a picture. I made the frame myself, painted gold and distressed with an emery board.

This was a kit that I picked up at a dolls house fair for a mere £1. I made the frame myself..

I found this design in a cross stitch magazine; I picked up (with help) a whole pile of these magazines at a car boot sale for £3.00 and have piles of designs waiting to be stitched. One day.

Mostly I make my own frames out of scrap wood but the frame in the picture above was sold in a scrap-booking shop and was just the right size. Smaller ones are sold as ribbon charms and make lovely photograph frames.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing some of my work and hope that you might now be inspired to pick up your needle and do a little stitching of your own. We're a small bunch. But we are miniaturists, after all.

Until next time, happy stitching!
Kathryn x

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Miniatures shouldn't take up much space. So why do they?

I make miniatures. Miniatures, by definition, are small. That is why I like them. So why, and how, have they taken over my (real-life) house? Not to mention my life. Last month, we at Huddersfield Miniatures Club staged our annual exhibition for Kirklees Council as part of its Allotment Society Show. Quite how our dolls and houses came to be linked so closely with prize-winning vegetables is lost in the annals of time, but every year our members go round their houses blowing the dust off their miniatures and hauling them over to Huddersfield for our large - and by now legendary - display.

The Dolls House Room (may you Rest In Peace)

Every year we are amazed by how much Stuff we have between us. None more so than me. Now I am a tidy, organised person who likes a place for everything and everything in its place. Doesn't always happen, but then the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Once upon a time, before children, I had such a place. One room in the house that was All Mine and where I lived, worked and dreamed miniatures whenever I got the chance. Everything miniature, and everything I needed to make them, was in that room and, when I was through, I simply shut the door. Simple.

But then I discovered I was expecting my second baby and, small though he might be (at first, anyway, despite giving me a 50 inch waist for a short while) he would need somewhere to sleep. And so, with a bump in my stomach and a lump in my throat, I set about clearing my beloved Dolls House Room.

I reduced my stash of Things That Might One Day Be Useful from five boxes to one. I gave generous gifts of wood and fimo to like-minded friends who had done things the right way round and had finished Bringing Up Baby BEFORE embarking on the whole miniature debacle. I sold things and dismantled things and packed up the entire contents of my beloved dolls house before discovering that the house itself would not fit through the loft-hatch. So in came the builder to make the opening big enough to allow safe passage of my baby. (Distressing parallels with the delivery room there, in my experience). In doing so, half the landing ceiling fell down and was not put back up before I'd decided that if That Man and I were in the same house for a moment longer then I would be giving birth shackled to a prison guard. Luckily, before he left (shutting the door rather more firmly than necessary behind him), he had boarded out the loft so that once through the hole in the ceiling the whole thing didn't end up back on the first floor via a new hole in a different ceiling. The whole exercise ended up costing rather more than the dolls house did. And not a little of my sanity.

My baby. Before I had any real ones.

But, finally, everything was packed up and stored in the loft to await the day when the child I had not yet given birth to had left home.

So why, now, only 4 years later, do I find that somehow - despite having no time, no money and even less energy to pursue this most beloved hobby - my collection has grown? And, what is more, spread into almost every room in the house? It's like the most insidious of viruses. Far from going to one small room and selecting the pieces I wished to exhibit, I found myself trawling the house to FIND where they might have been cunningly concealed. Six roomboxes in the lounge. Eight in my bedroom. Another six in the dining room. Not that I am counting...And still, two huge crates in the loft, untouched since I put them there. Not to mention my tools, my stash (back up to 5 boxes and cunningly concealed in my wardrobe; who needs clothes anyway) and the three boxes of stock with which I will one day launch Little Threads Miniatures for real. How is this possible? Am I making things without my own knowledge? Am I in denial? Am I going (or, more likely, already gone) mad?

But I am not alone! Every year, without fail, I and my mini-friends are amazed at what we have discovered in our own homes.  There shall surely come a point when our homes simply cannot hold another thing. When we've moved down the scale from 1/12th to 1\24th, to 1\48th and 1/144th (cunning foxes, we miniaturists!) in an effort to satisfy the continuing need inside us to Carry On Crafting even after we know it is madness to continue. Happily for us, our homes continue to be somehow larger than the sum of all their parts and so there will always be room for Just One More Thing. And ours is not, as they say, to reason why.

Until next time
Kathryn x

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Making Peg Dolls

And now, as they say, for something completely different!

I'm a member of Huddersfield Miniatures Club and every August we exhibit at the Council-run produce and handicrafts show in the town. As a Club, we produce a new display piece every year - more on that in a later blog - but this year, as a means of encouraging more involvement by children, I was asked to prepare and teach a Peg Doll workshop to children visiting the Show.

Now it must be 30 years if it's a day since I last made a peg doll and I have to say that the patterns I found were rather less than inspiring. So I made my own and it was lots of fun! The only downside was having to limit myself to a simple design which was straightforward to make but which still gave a pleasing result.

In case any of you are in a similar position I will share my design with you. All you need is a small amount of cotton fabric (patterned fabric is a little more forgiving than plain when it comes to glueing etc), about 6" of narrow lace (1.5-2 cms wide is fine), a traditional 6" pipecleaner (not chenille), wooden dolly peg and a length of knitting yarn in a suitable hair colour. I used Tacky Glue throughout as it 'grabs' instantly and dries clear and flexible without marking your fabric.

From Peg to Peggy in 6 easy stages

1. Cut a bodice from cotton fabric measuring 2" x 1.5" and glue around the peg so that the seam is at the back (ie in line with the divide in the doll's "legs"). Concentrate on making the front neck edge as neat as you can as most of the rest will be hidden. See PICTURE 1.

2. Cut a scrap of lace measuring 1.5" and trim off the straight edge if your lace has one. Place between the doll's "legs" and glue the front and back in place. Cut a further length of lace measuring 2" and glue around the body with the seam at the back to simulate knickers. See PICTURE 2.

3. Cut a 3.25" diameter circle (I drew around a mug from my kitchen) from your fabric using pinking shears, if you have them, for a decorative edge without the bother of having to glue or stitch on a trim. If you want a really full skirt, fold the circle in half and then half again before snipping off the point to make a hole just big enough to ease onto your doll's body. I preferred a more conservative effect so, after snipping off the point as previously described, I also removed about a quarter of the circle. Fit around the waist of your doll and glue the overlap in place at the back. See PICTURE 3.


4. Cut a scrap of lace sufficient to fit around your doll and glue in place with the seam to the back, so as to hide the join between the bodice and the skirt and hold it all firmly in place.  See PICTURE 4.

5. Cut 2 sleeves from cotton fabric; they need to be a kind of cone shape: 1.75" long with one side measuring 1.75" wide (the cuff edge) and the other 0.75" wide (the shoulder edge). Again, cut the cuff edge with pinking shears, if you have them. Spread glue over the 1-1.5 cms nearest the shoulder edge and down one side (the latter only needs a thin line of glue). Take a 2" length of pipecleaner and fold over a small piece at one end to make a hand. Lay along the centre of the sleeve with the hand protruding from the cuff edge. Fold over the sleeve so that the two long edges meet neatly and press together. The other end of the pipecleaner should be held in place inside the sleeve by the glue you spread at the shoulder edge of the sleeve.  Bend the arms into a pleasing shape (with the sleeve seam facing downwards!) and then glue the shoulder edges of the sleeves to the back of the bodice, just below the head. Leave to dry for a few minutes before proceeding - I used a bulldog clip to hold them firmly. See PICTURE 5.


6. Cut about a dozen 4" lengths of yarn. Spread glue over the whole of the area you want the hair to cover. Starting at the front hairline, lay a length of yarn over the head, working from shoulder to shoulder. Continue, until you have reached the neckline. Allow to dry for a few minutes then draw the yarn gently back into a ponytail and secure with a length of matching yarn. Add a tiny silk ribbon bow and trim the ponytail to the desired length. I chose this hairstyle because the ponytail cleverly hides where you glued on the sleeves, but you could do bunches or plaits if you prefer. Add 2 tiny beads for earrings (if desired) and draw in the facial features using a fine tipped marker pen. See PICTURE 6.


I'm quite pleased with the results; not quite so pleased with the unbelievable amount of time it has taken to cut 50 of everything (or 100 in the case of arms and sleeves) and make up little packs to give to each child who takes part in the workshop. Am trying to remember exactly who thought that 50 was "a nice round number" when I agreed to do this 6 months ago.

I can think of lots of variations on the peg doll theme and particularly like the idea of making my own Christmas peg dolls to hang on my tree such as angels, elves, santa etc. Well it is only 4 and a half months until the big day, people! In fact I drove past a hotel only last week displaying a huge banner asking if I'd booked my Christmas party yet....No I haven't; and now I can add Party Pooper to the burgeoning list of my inadequacies, so thanks for that.

So until next time, when I must warn you that - despite the best efforts of my children, pets and garden hedgehog (that's a whole other story!) -  I have Finished Some More Projects. I have also started some more to take their place. But we'll gloss over that.

Bye for now

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Miniature Lingerie Shop: "Knicker-Knocker Glory"

Little Threads has been a bit quiet lately...real life has been getting in the way and miniature life has been on the back-burner. However, I've had a rather productive couple of weeks and - wait for it - I have actually Finished Some Projects!! Or one, anyway....

Looking back through previous posts, I was struck by the number of references to things I had started but not yet finished; things that I Meant To Do One Day but hadn't yet got around to. I resolved that something had to be done about this, otherwise the road to Hell would remain paved only with intentions.

Some time ago now my long-suffering other half bought me a shop box for my birthday (I'm not telling you which one). The shop was painted black and gold and it screamed out to be turned into a Lingerie Shop. I'm not talking M&S utility knickers and bras here; but rather tasteless combos suitable for those "romantic" occasions that affect us all from time to time. Or, maybe not. Anyway, with the interior of the shop painted red and the floor tiled with homemade black PVC (what else?!) tiles, I set to work to fill it with peep-hole push-ups and tiny tangos.

The first thing I needed was some willing participants. Busts (pardon the pun) were obtained from the United States via eBay. Bosoms, I found, were much cheaper over there. However, my busts fell foul of the import rules of Revenue & Customs and I found myself at the local Delivery Office arguing the toss with Damon, my friendly postman. The long and short of it was that he wouldn't release my bosoms until I paid the going rate. And the going rate was anything but cheap at the price. I shall buy local bosoms next time.

The next task was to dress the busts. For this I needed lace. My local haberdasher sells lace off-cuts for mere pennies, so I spent a happy half hour rummaging for suitably nasty nylon in the most garish colours I could find. The trim needed a bit of "give" in it so that it would accommodate the contours of my mannequins.

Then, armed with tacky glue and small sharp scissors, I set to work. It took an age but was lots of fun. I'd like to say that the lingerie sets were based on my own collection...but most are in fact are based on a particular ex-work colleague who had a penchant for animal print and neon colours and had apparently been born free of any qualms about dressing suitably for the office.

Next, I needed some further accessories to fill the shop. I came across a bag of plastic Sindy shoes at the local carboot sale for 10p. Some of them, even if not completely true to scale, could, with a little paint, be turned into quite acceptable stilletoes. Two pairs of them are shown below before the addition of trimmings. Most of the shoes were vibrant colours already, but for those that weren't, I painted them with ordinary acrylic paints. This works just fine if the shoes are simply to be placed into a display - the painted finish won't stand much handling, however, before it flakes off. Perhaps adding a little PVA glue to the paint would make the finish more durable but I didn't try this myself. I did experiment with enamel paints so as to get a glossy finish, but it didn't work at all and took ages to dry. The acrylics, on the other hand, dried within minutes.

Of course, every shop needs a keeper. The lady in my shop was sitting provocatively on the edge of a shelf in The Miniature Scene of York wearing no soon as I saw her I knew she was just perfect for my shop. She was (I think) a bargain at just £25. I don't know who made her but the shop stocks lots of unusual sculpted dolls by the same artist and would, I'm sure, be able to help with any queries.

The furniture was just cheap whitewood pieces painted in black acrylic and highlighted with painted gold accents. The display cabinet has its back wall papered in black and white patterned paper to add interest. I added some legs to the centre display unit using some old spindles, cut down as appropriate. The small display plinths are rectangular MDF quoin stones left over from my dollshouse and mounted on off-cuts of wood.

 I used a selection of beads to make the perfume/massage oil bottles in the display cabinet. I buy the Panduro catalogue from WH Smith every autumn and cut out any tiny pictures or patterns that would be useful for the projects I have in mind; this way I can get multiple identical labels for things like perfume bottles or tins of paint etc.

The wall-mounted displays on the back wall were purchased from York Dollshouse Fair; I think they came from Katty Korner. I made the one displaying the green basque myself using an old plastic picture frame painted gold. The basques themselves (and the hanging red & black negligee) came from Jan's Miniatures.

So there it is, finished at last. Now for the rest of the Unfinished Projects...

Bye for now
Kathryn x

Monday, 4 March 2013

Miniature Knitting: Which Thread to Use

I learnt to knit when I was 7 years old but only discovered miniature knitting some 15 years later. I came across a miniature knitting kit in a gift shop which consisted of what can only be described as hat pins to serve as needles and some thread of indeterminate type. Excited by the idea of knitting a tiny teddy, I set to work. Let's just say that although the teddy did get knitted in the end, the equipment/materials provided made the whole experience something of a struggle and I very nearly gave up in disgust on the whole concept of miniature knitting.

People who don't know me say I must be very patient to make miniatures. People who do know me know that patience is very far from being one of my virtues; stubborn, on the other hand, is a word that describes me very well. And it was my stubborn streak alone which saw that first teddy into existence.

I can still feel the points of those "needles" sticking into my finger ends and drawing blood with every stitch. A certain amount of pressure is required to effect a K2tog and I winced every time the pattern required this. Which it did. A lot. The horrid scratchy thread seemed to be made of several strands of fibre which had absolutely no give in it at all and kept splitting, making it difficult to knit even the simplest row of the pattern. The more I struggled, the stickier my hands got and the more difficult it became to get anywhere at all. But, eventually, Bear was finished. Scarred (literally!) by the whole experience, I was determined that he would be an Only Bear and that he would just have to get used to it.

But then I went to my very first Dolls House Fair and saw knitting needles for sale with points which didn't involve me knitting into the front and back of my index finger as well as every stitch. I resolved that perhaps Bear might like a sibling after all (he had such a sad and lonely expression on his little face...) and decided to have another go using acrylic thread, the "wool" that is widely available for sale at dolls house fairs.

This was better, in that I didn't bleed all over my work this time. But I still found the yarn difficult to work with. Stitches have a tendency to split and the overall effect is quite stiff and  "woolly". Which is fine if that is the effect you want, but I found a lot of the detail of my knitting was lost amongst the general wooliness. At my second dolls house fair I discovered cotton tatting thread and, in conjunction with the decent needles (from Meadowcroft Miniatures), everything fell into place....

I now use a selection of different threads, depending on the project. Some of these are pictured above.

My thread of choice for most of my work is DMC 80 tatting cotton (shown here in rose pink). It comes in fairly good range of colours, although most of the darker colours they used to manufacture have now been discontinued. It can also be obtained in a finer thread, DMC 100, but this is only available in ecru and white. It knits up smoothly and the stitches in a pattern are well-defined in the finished fabric, a bonus in lace patterns. The finished garment/item can be washed in a weak solution of biological washing powder if required and the nap doesn't rub up.

A good alternative to DMC is Anchor Mercer Crochet 80 (Fil a Dentelle). An example is shown in the photo in yellow. It comes in a good range of colours and I often mix DMC 80 with Anchor 80 in fair isle/intarsia patterns to good effect as its qualities are, to me, indistinguishable.

The green thread shown in the picture is sold at dolls house fairs as an equivalent to DMC and Anchor. It is a Turkish cotton and the label says "Oren Bayan Solmaz Dantel Ipligi 70". I have to say that, although I love the fabulous range of colours this thread comes in, I don't find it comparable to these threads at all. For a start, it is, to me, a finer thread, so it throws my guauges out when I am knitting things which need to be a certain size. It also has a tendency to knot while knitting and is far less easy to disentangle than DMC or Anchor; often it snaps while you're trying so you're left with yet another end to darn in when it comes to making up your work. Although it knits up finely and produces a nice soft fabric, I do find that it has a tendency to rub up a little if you're not careful. I tend to launder all my finished work but I try to avoid doing so if I have used this thread so that it doesn't rub up still more. That said, I do still work with this yarn simply because of the wonderful range of colours but find that it doesn't mix particularly well with DMC or Anchor in fair isle/intarsia designs.

The cream ball of yarn is another thread made by Anchor; Pearl Cotton or Coton Pearle. It is a much thicker yarn than those previously described and is sold in larger 10g balls (the finer threads come in 5g balls). It comes in a very good range of colours and knits up beautifully with a lovely lustre to the finished fabric (hence the pearl). It is widely available in needlework shops and not just at specialist fairs. Because of its relative thickness I would only really use this for blankets using size 18 needles - but it does then have the advantage of growing quickly.

Another Anchor thread is the skein of embroidery floss shown here in a salmon colour. It is 100% cotton and some patterns call for you to use two strands of it. I avoid this if possible. Not because the results aren't acceptable but I find it irksome having to first of all separate out and wind the strands onto a bobbin and secondly having to effectively knit two together with every stitch....Did I mention that I am impatient as well as stubborn?!

The large, partial, bobbin of thread shown in navy blue is actually machine sewing thread. I'm not sure whether it's pure cotton or a cotton/synthetic mix. It comes in huge bobbins in a massive range of colours and knits up quite nicely. It's equivalent to knitting with the Anchor 80 or DMC 80. I use it occasionally when I cannot source the correct colour in my preferred thread. It is expensive to buy full spools (generally I only use small amounts of yarn in a miniature project), but if you have a supply of it available to you (mine comes from a friend's mother in law when she has bobbin-ends left over from a project) it can be an economical option.

Some patterns call for the use of one ply cotton such as the small bundle shown in red. I buy mine from Jan's Minis at dolls house fairs; she can supply a wide range of lovely colours. It knits up nicely and produces a nice soft fabric, but I do find it somewhat thicker than the DMC 80/Anchor 80 yarns so it affects size-ings (unless a pattern specifically requires its use) and won't combine with the 80-guauge threads successfully. I keep mentioning this because, unless a yarn will combine sucessfully with another brand, you are left with no option in multi-coloured designs but to buy all the colours you need in that particular yarn. This can get rather expensive. And when you own as much thread as I do, storing your stash can also be a problem (basically if it won't fit in my wardrobe then I can't have it!).

Finally, the spool of purple thread is pure silk thread made by Gutermann. It is widely available in needlework shops in a wonderful range of colours. Although not as cheap as some of the alternatives given above, a single spool will last a long time. It is a finer thread which knits up beautifully into a lovely fabric which drapes and hangs well. It has a fine sheen to it and is particularly suited to lace knitting and 1/24 scale knitting. I use it a lot in miniature crochet.

At the end of the day, every knitter will have his/her own preference. For those new to or struggling with miniature knitting, I would say keep trying different thread and needle combinations until you find one that suits you. I have friends who can only knit on long needles which they can tuck under their arms; I on the other hand can only work with short needles. I know people who knit on cocktail sticks and some who can work perfectly well on those vicious hatpins. Some knit perfectly happily on size 24 needles whereas I find anything smaller than a 21 is way too flexible and slippery (especially when working with silk, which is slippery enough all by itself!). I prefer to knit using pure cotton and pure silk but others swear by acrylic yarn/pure wool. The key is to be comfortable and to enjoy what you are doing. I take the view that if you are happier using a slightly larger/smaller needle or a slightly thicker/finer thread, then just do it. Unless you are making clothes to fit a particular doll, the difference in the size of the finished product is often not worth worrying about.

I mentioned that some of the colour ranges are somewhat limited; orange was, for a time, the colour I could not find for love nor money when I was relatively new to miniature knitting. So I decided to dye my own. How hard could it be? I set to work with white cotton tatting thread, a large stew pan that had belonged to my grandma, a fabric dye and my mother's wooden jam-making spoon. Some time later I was the proud owner of several balls of lurid orange tatting cotton. And the only bright orange stew pan and jam-making spoon in the county.

Until next time, Happy Knitting!
Kathryn x

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Homely Touches

Some years ago I went through a period of designing and knitting miniature novelty tea cosies to fill a dresser I had left over from another project. Very few remain in my collection as they sold quickly at the fairs I used to do before my children were born. As any parents of young children will appreciate, I haven't quite found the time since then to replace them! The dresser is, as it ever was: empty.

Recently though, I discovered some wonderful tea cosy patterns designed by Jan's Minis. Inspired, I bought the lot and set to work. So far I've knitted them all but only had the time to make up and finish a few of them.

I bought the teapots from The Dolls House Emporium and, to be honest, they are a bit on the large side. Quite a lot on the large side actually. I had to knit the cosies up using bigger needles than those stated in the pattern to make them fit. One day I plan to re-knit them all as written and will make sure I purchase smaller pots this time! But it does mean that perhaps that dresser might at last get filled....Still to finish are a hedgehog, a snowman, a mouse, a penguin, a rabbit and an elephant. I also found a whole booklet of tea cosy patterns by Mini-Mad Mates of Australia. Again, I have knitted (adapting them also to fit those confounded teapots!) but not yet made up a wonderful pineapple and cupcake.

I don't know about you, but although I can knit things quite quickly, even in semi-darkness, I do find it irksome making them up. I have to be in the right frame of mind for a start. Which excludes most of my waking hours since becoming a parent! And it gets even more tricky after that Saturday night glass of red wine when it somehow becomes more difficult to focus....For a long time I struggled with just my eyes and daylight when I could grab it. Which was not very often. So the pile of Things To Make Up began to grow. And grow.  I progressed to magnifying glasses and a floor-lamp but wearing strong glasses I don't need made watching anything on TV at the same time an impossibility. So I kept knitting and not making up, to the point where I would look at the pile of randomly shaped tiny bits of knitting with all the long ends tangled up with each other in my knitting bag and wonder quite honestly what it was intended to be in the first place.

Then I discovered my wonderful MightyBrite floor lamp with LED lights and adjustable magnifying lens. Hallelujah! I can watch TV, drink wine and make up all night long if the fancy takes me. Now I just need the fancy to take me.

In between tea cosies, I have knitted and crocheted several bits and pieces for my dolls house. Some of my favourites were these draught excluders by Buttercup Miniatures:

Another of Frances Powell's patterns was this wonderful Poodle designed to conceal a toilet roll in your smallest miniature room in a tasteful way....

Cute she may be but oh! how I struggled to stitch, turn, stuff and stitch in place those teeny tiny paws, ears, snout and top-knot. Just as well there is only one bathroom in my dolls house.

I always think that a few homely touches add realism to any dolls house or scene; these are some blankets I crocheted for the dog baskets in my house:

They are crochet at its most basic but I am particularly proud of these as I am entirely self-taught when it comes to crochet. The first thing I ever crocheted was the afghan rug made up of tiny granny squares. It took me an absolute age to make using a size 0.6 crochet hook and tatting cotton. It is so stiff it literally stands up on its own, although it does fit nicely into the dog basket I made for it. I use silk for the dog blankets I make these days but back then I didn't know any better.

Another attempt at crochet was this doiley:

Again, not knowing any better, I used cotton thread so it's a little thicker and stiffer than I'd like it to be. But one day I will make a matching one and crochet them together to make a pretty cushion. Who was it that said the road to Hell is paved with good intentions?!

I think knitted doileys work and drape much better; this is a two-needle version designed by Margaret Sitch and knitted by me using the same cotton thread:

I'm not entirely happy with my attempts at blocking these two doileys but blocking is right up there with making up when it comes to choosing how to spend my Saturday evening!

Enjoy yours....until next time
Kathryn x

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Displaying Miniature Knitting

So far in my posts, I have shown you some of the stand-alone pieces that I have knitted. It's not always easy knowing what to do with them once they're finished. I like to be able to see the things I've made but, as they are made from silk and cotton, I need to protect them from dust and moths. Not to mention the attentions of my two cats who like to interfere with anything originating on two needles...preferably while it is still ON those needles! How many times have they swiped my tiny ball of yarn and scampered off with it, leaving a mess of unravelled work behind them?! Anyone who knits and has furry feline friends will have come across that one - and trust me when I say it's never the just-started or straightforward work that they take. Oh no. Frankie & Jess have exacting standards when it comes to entertainment; Knitted lace and Fair Isle work are particular favourites of theirs.

Neither do I want to fix my work permanently using glue. Grip wax is also a no-no as you can never satisfactorily remove the stuff once applied, even if items can be repositioned. But as I often take my work out and about to exhibitions held, or talks given, by the Dolls House & Miniatures Club of which I am the Secretary, I needed a way of both fixing and protecting my work.

This toy shop was a dolls house fair purchase some years ago. I made all the toys myself, some from patterns designed to be knitted up as miniatures, but most using full-size patterns that I scaled down (see my previous post). As you can see, they are behind glass so they stay clean and moth-free. The glass is removable so there is nothing permanent about the arrangement if I wake up one day and decide to change things around a little (I do that a lot). But all the toys are fixed in place using a method which I devised myself.

I buy one of those packs of jewellery findings which contain the blank posts and butterfly backs sold in craft shops for making earrings. I take one of the posts and insert it into the leg (or other appropriate place!) of my toy/critter. I then use grip-wax to fix the round disc attached to the earring post to the shelf in my shop (the posts come with small discs or larger ones attached; the small ones will be adequate in most cases). My work never comes into direct contact with the grip-wax, it can be repositioned endlessly or removed completely, leaving my work undamaged. This method holds everything firmly in place, even on car journeys.

Pleased as I was with this solution, it doesn't work for everything. Flat pieces such as items of clothing need a different approach.

These are three themed displays that I made using those cheap brown cardboard trunks you can buy at dolls house fairs. I lined each trunk with dolls house wallpaper and covered the outside with pieces of leather. The joins are covered with braid. The purpose of these trunks was to display a collection of things which I had made. Again, I needed to fix my things in place without damaging them.

 The solution here was simple: double-sided sticky tape. I find that it is not actually as sticky as you might think, so it holds things in place but - crucially - it will peel away from miniature knitting leaving no residue or staining. It tends to be either white or transparent so is discreet, and you can use pieces as big or small as you like. It can also be removed from hard surfaces by rubbing it with your finger until it goes "gummy" and comes off. Incidentally, I have a miniature teddy bear shop where all my bears are held in place with double-sided tape and they can be removed and repositioned without having their bottoms waxed smooth in the process (something we're both happy about).

This tree is around 12 inches tall and each decoration measures less than an inch .

This Christmas Tree is decorated with tiny toys knitted from Jean Greenhowe's full-size patterns. I put it on my mantelpiece every Christmas. Neither earring posts nor sticky tape was appropriate for this project so I used invisible sewing thread to attach each toy to its branch. It works pretty well and is completely reversible, leaving both surfaces undamaged.

You may have noticed that I tend to group similar items together so that they have maximum impact. It's just a preference of mine. I don't tend to build traditional room boxes; the scenes I build are chosen solely because they will display my work effectively. Below are some more "grouped" displays of my knitting.

The panelling in this scene is made from lolly sticks, stained using black wax boot-polish.

The knitted tea-cosy is another of my own original designs.

These two scenes were built inside glass-fronted shadow-boxes which used to be sold by IKEA. They're just a basic kitchen scene and potting shed scene, right? Well, yes; but what if I was to tell you that all the fruit and vegetables you can see, as well as all the cacti, are knitted using my own designs?

Truth is, I got a little tired of knitting all the sort of stuff people expect. Baby clothes, hats & scarves, blankets, that kind of thing. Sure, it sells, but I wanted to keep things interesting. These two scenes are displayed every year at the Dolls House Club's summer show and most people who see them don't even realise that they're looking at knitting. I kind of like that.

Until next time...
Kathryn x