Monday, 13 October 2014

Finding Findings - discovering miniature supplies on a High Street near you

So, 9 months have passed since my last posting and it has, literally, been a "pregnant pause"! In April Ian and I welcomed our much longed-for third child, Harry, into the world. Life as a family of five has taken some getting used to; there is, as they say, Never A Dull Moment....and life was far from dull before! Here he is, my last real-life miniature (and I mean it this time):

Now that I can get out and about again I have been trundling up and down the High Street with the pram and I have discovered that miniature supplies can be found in the most surprising of places.

Now I have never had false nails and have never felt the urge to glue fake diamonds either to them, or any other part of my anatomy (THAT is a whole subject in itself, only to be discussed late at night with close friends in the local wine bar...) but it seems that plenty of people do. Which is why recently I have discovered a whole world of things to add to my stash of Things That Might One Day Be Useful.

So we start with Primark - where for just £1.00 you can buy a nail gem wheel containing hundreds of tiny jewellery findings. Mine contained no-hole silver and gold beads in the size that can no longer be obtained at dolls house fairs, tiny metal discs, stars and hearts that are perfect for use as buttons or for trimming shoes and handbags etc, plus a variety of gems that would make wonderful jewellery.

At the moment they also stock false nails which have been ready-painted with a cute penguin design - they would make fabulous Christmas ornaments if mounted onto a bead or scrap of dowel. Again, these are just £1.00.

Next comes B&M and Poundworld, where I discovered tiny no-hole beads in a plethora of colours being sold as nail art kits for just £1.00. For an outlay of only £2.00, look at what I got:

Even better, look at the empty bead containers I was left with after decanting the contents into these beading storage trays:

These tiny glass jars will be filled with various seeds and herbs and given a gingham lid for display on the country dresser in my current Mouse House project - they would also look fabulous filled with fimo sweeties for your sweet shop or with coloured solid water in your chemist shop. A friend of mine filled some with miniature eyeballs for her witchy house. I have some strange friends.

There was no stopping me now. Onwards I marched, this time to Poundworld. Here I discovered another phenomenon that is completely new to - and lost on - me: Hair Gems. Apparently, you can bond jewels to your hair with your straighteners (like I have time to straighten my hair!!) and they - boasted the instructions proudly - will "naturally fall out over a period of 3-14 days". Not sure that that is entirely a good thing when leaning over the baby's cot or pureeing his food. Anyway. These tiny findings come in gold and silver coloured hearts, stars, hexagons, squares and circles and although presented on an adhesive sheet, they can be easily picked off for use. Having picked all mine off,  I discovered that the textured paper they were stuck onto is itself unusual and it, too, found its way into my ever-growing stash. Here is the packaging in case you are inspired to sprint to your local branch of Poundworld:

The mirror card in the picture above was part of the packaging in one of the nail art sets I bought and will also find reincarnation in some scene or other.

Across the way was Claire's, an accessories shop popular with teenagers. Here I found nail art kits containing fimo shapes - fruits, animal faces etc - that could be used to decorate miniature gingerbread houses for the Christmas scene. Amongst the earring display I found tiny silver-coloured articulated robots that would look lovely under the Christmas tree, in a toy shop or on a shelf in the Nursery. These were rather more than a pound so I didn't buy them, although I was sorely tempted. Around Halloween there are earrings with tiny skeletons attached which would look fabulous in my strange friend's witchy house. They also sell packs of no-hole beads for decorating nails, although again they can be purchased more cheaply elsewhere. 

Back to Poundland. In the children's toys section I found cheap dolls house furniture in 1/12th scale. Painted white and badly finished it is less than inspiring. But with a bit of work involving emery boards (also available in pound shops) and a couple of coats of acrylic paint (ditto) the side table/sideboard came up nicely and doesn't look any different to the more expensive whitewood furniture I bought at a dolls house fair and subjected to the same treatment.

Also worth considering in Poundland are the various decals sold for nails - they currently stock Santa faces for £1.00 which, stuck onto cheap white plates would make wonderful Christmas crockery for your festive table.

Just around the corner, in the stationery aisle, I discovered these packs of sequins:

Each weighing 84g- that is a LOT of sequins - the packs come in gold, silver, white and multi-coloured. I bought 3 of them for £1.00 each and am thrilled with the variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colours they contain. The photo doesn't do them justice. Mostly really tiny, there are sequins shaped like cogwheels (I'm thinking steampunk), flowers, fans and domes and the gold and silver embossed ones look like metal findings rather than the sequins that they are. Many of the square and round ones don't have holes in so would make perfect tiny mirrors etc. I have never seen sequins like these before and my mind is awash with ideas for ways in which I could use them - particularly in my 1/48th and 1/144th scale projects. I'm so easily pleased!

All in all I spent £10 on what is pretty much a lifetime's supply of findings. I also ended up with several bottles of nail polish from the nail art kits that can be used to varnish or seal things. Given that I cannot make it to dolls house fairs for the moment, I have nevertheless managed to satisfy the miniature itch whilst at the same time walking off my baby weight. What's not to like? The only mystery is why, when you go into a pound shop, you come out having spent rather more than £1.00 on things you didn't know you needed.

Happy shopping!
Kathryn x

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Happy Miniature Christmas!

So I've finally got around to writing my Christmas-themed blog in mid-January...fashionably late as always! Truth is, December was so busy that it was only afterwards that I had time to start putting together a Christmas-themed bookend that I am making for our annual competition at the Dolls House Club. At least it will be ready in good time for Christmas 2014...if only I can by then remember where I have put it! We miniaturists tend to be adept at concealment, so as to hide the true extent of our miniature collection from those we share our lives's a 'need to know' thing. And they don't really need to know, do they?

This is the book-end I am making, well on its way to completion. It is supposed to be a gift-shop type scene so that anything goes...well that's my explanation for a bed being in the same room as a kitchen dresser, and I'm sticking to it! 

The only rule of the Club competition is that members should try to make as many of the contents as possible, so almost everything you can see is either entirely home-made or built from a kit. The only exception is the bear in the stocking which I couldn't resist and bought from Shoebutton Bears. The trunk at the end of the bed is a 1/24 scale kit by Petite Properties. The cushions you can see were all needle-pointed by me using patterns published in the various dolls house magazines over the last few years; I particularly like the Christmas Tree one (middle shelf, centre) which was designed by Shelley Hawley-Yen.Behind the cushions are Christmas plates made using commercially bought paper plates trimmed with fine braid and embellished with paper shapes such as gold stars and punched snowflakes etc. They aren't, of course, terribly realistic up close but, from a distance, and as part of a cluttered scene like this, they add to the overall effect. The little wooden Christmas trees are from the card-making department of my local haberdashers (Samuel Taylor's in Leeds) and I fitted them into little square beads sold for jewellery making. The wooden silver-painted reindeer on the bottom shelf are also sold for cardmaking at Samuel Taylors and I mounted them on plinths made from miniature wooden quoin stones. The two taller Christmas angels on the dresser are made from raffia, folded over and tied with a length of silk ribbon, with a small wooden bead for the head. The smaller Christmas angel with the gold hair next to the Christmas Tree teapot is knitted, using a few repeats of a lace pattern and a tiny wooden bead for the head. The Christmas Tree tea-cosy was knitted using a pattern designed by Jan's Minis and the Santa and Mrs Santa on the top shelf are knitted up from full size patterns designed by Alan Dart and Jean Greenhowe, two of my favourite knitting designers. Hanging from the drawer knobs on the dresser are three of the Christmas Stockings I needle-pointed using Bobbie Schoonmaker's lovely patterns. Here are all the stockings that I have stitched over the years:

The bed cover and pillow were stitched very simply using a red floral fabric - not strictly Christmas but the right colour palette - and the lace coverlet was a lucky find in a charity shop. The knitted Santa on the bed was made using a pattern designed by Anneliese de Korts. You will also see a selection of gift boxes which I made from cut-outs in magazines but the green and blue gift boxes were scratch-made by me and have a tiny Christmas motif embroidered onto 40-count silk gauze in their centre; the motifs came from a cross stitch magazine. I made the wreath by covering a white acrylic curtain ring with evergreen pipecleaners and adding narrow tartan ribbon and some gold no-hole beads.

Here is a close-up of the Santa Weebly toy; he's made based on a pattern that appeared recently in a dolls house magazine; I think it was one of Marianne Colijn's designs -  but I did adapt it quite a lot to get the look I wanted. The 'fur' and beard are simply short lengths of white chenille knitting yarn, glued on rather than stitched as it is rather difficult to work with due to its tendency to fray away to nothing. The bobble on Santa's hat is actually a tiny polystyrene ball that I appropriated from my daughter's toy vaccuum cleaner - miniatures really can be found in the most mysterious places! Although he is merely stuffed, rather than filled with a bead, he does actually 'weeble' in a very satisfactory way and I am quite pleased with him. I can see a range of weebly toys on my stall one this space!

Still to add is some miseltoe, based on a project that appeared in the AIM imag a few months ago: I made this by twisting short lengths of green florists wire together and adding punched miseltoe leaves (Pinflair do a great multi-punch tool which includes a tiny miseltoe die) and pearly seed beads for the berries. I bound the stalks together with narrow braid and made a hanging loop so that the miseltoe can be hung up to encourage those miniature kisses...

Here also are two little knitted characters made using full size patterns from Sandra Polley's 'Knitted Toys' and scaled down to a suitable size:

The reindeer in the book has wonderful antlers made from fuzzy brown chenille pipecleaners, but this just didn't translate into twelfth scale, so I used tiny brown pompoms instead. The eyes and nose are made using the tiniest little paper fasteners that I, again, found in the scrapbooking section of the haberdashers. I also used them as buttons for the weebly Santa (above). The legs are thread-jointed so Rudolph can be posed if required. I intend to knit a selection of these using the full-size pattern one day - I can see them prancing along my mantelpiece at Christmas....

So there you have it, a little scene that won't take up much room but was lots of fun and inexpensive to make. In case my husband is reading this....

Until next time...happy knitting!