Thursday, 14 July 2016

Scaling down - a 1/24th scale Modern Cottage

Do you remember the first time? That moment you discovered the world of miniatures, after which real life was never the same again.

Now people work in many different scales, but probably the majority of miniaturists cut their miniature teeth in 1/12th scale. When you first start out, everything seems tiny and oh-so-cute. As I always say, you can get used to anything. One day, you realise that 1/12th scale doesn't seem so small anymore. And that somehow your collection of one inch scale miniatures has filled all available space in your real-life house.

Faced with a choice between giving up or going smaller, most of us have decided to at least try a smaller scale. I am a real fan of 12th scale but was encouraged to try 1/24th scale by some of my miniature friends who now work in no other scale. 

At first, I liked it. The oh-so-smallness of it all after the relative enormity of 12th scale! I bought two cottages from Petite Properties and set to work. 

The first (shown on the left) was decorated and furnished in a country style and I bought everything to go in it. 

The second (shown on the right) was to be very modern and almost everything in it homemade.

One of the 1/24th scale rooms in my "Everything-Bought" cottage

The original cottage had just two rooms. I made and installed false walls to create two rooms on each of the ground and first floors. I installed a further floor and dividing wall to create two further rooms in the loft space. The walls were constructed from 5mm foamcore board and pinned in place through the back wall of the cottage. The floor I fitted was supported by using some wood moulding to form coving in the first floor rooms. The original two floors were already finished in a wooden planked effect by the maker. I replicated the effect on the top floor by painting and distressing a piece of cereal packet, cutting into strips and laying it in the same way using tacky glue.

Next, I decorated the walls and ceilings using emulsion tester pots from the local DIY store. I built the kitchen units from mountboard to my own design to exactly fit the space available. The doors are all non-opening and the handles are made from lengths of paper clip. I made a sink using pieces of thin stainless steel  and supported  it on scraps of wood inside the sink unit so that the top edges of each were exactly flush. When I fitted the worktop counter, the edges of the sink were concealed. I made a kitchen tap from the curved part of an extra large paper clip and two square silvered beads for taps. The worktop and splashback were both made from mountboard painted in black enamel paint for a high gloss modern finish.

The hob and oven front were purchased from ELF for a very reasonable price but it is possible to find perfectly acceptable printables to download and print out instead, like the microwave, which was printed onto photo paper, cut out, scored and folded.

The settee was a resin kit from Borcraft Miniatures that I covered in leopard-print fabric. The floor lamp was a kit from Jane Harrop. The little house ornaments and dolls house in the study are also kits from Jane Harrop. Otherwise, except as stated, I made all the furniture and accessories myself. 

The books were scraps of mountboard covered in paper, the clock was a cut out from the Argos catalogue mounted on a square sequin stuck onto scraps of wood and painted black. I cut out tiny images of my family from contact prints and framed them using scraps of mountboard.

The little drawer unit is three pieces of wood glued on top of each other, painted and then the join between each piece accentuated by sticking a piece of sewing cotton in the joint. The figure is an N-scale figure mounted on a tiny circle of mountboard.

I made the jewellery box in the same way. The bottles/jars are beads with no-hole beads for stoppers. The necklace is no-hole beads glued into an oval and the candles are nails, painted cream and set in silver coloured beads.

I made the lamp using the end of a ballpoint pen and scrap of cardboard. The radio alarm clock is a scrap of wood painted silver, with painted buttons and a cut-out bar code from a magazine to represent the speaker.

The bathroom is made from wood, purchased from eBay. I added a toilet roll, made from a small Hama bead with a scrap of quilling paper as the tissue. The bin is a large Hama bead with cardboard lid painted silver and scraps of card for the hinge and pedal. The soap dispenser is the rubber back from an earring with a tear-drop shaped jewellery finding as a pump.

The pictures were downloaded from the internet, sealed with Mod Podge and mounted on scraps of card.

The pot plant is made from poly fibre (available from railway modeller supplies) set in the cup of a birthday candle holder. The little wicker chair is by Chicken Little. The pencils are fine nails, painted and glued into tiny plastic pots.

All in all, I'm very pleased with the overall result. However, I really didn't enjoy this project. Having to use tweezers rather than fingers, having to make things in a scale that doesn't come easy to me....on balance I would rather have fewer 12th scale items than more items in 24th scale. Sadly, that didn't stop me trying 1/48th scale.....more on that next time .

Kathryn x

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Miniature Mouse House in one twelfth scale

What feels like hundreds of years ago -that's having three young kids for you - when I was a child myself, I remember seeing a story about a magical place called Brambly Hedge. I was entranced by the idea of little mice having fully furnished homes and little lives below ground, a theme which was also captured so beautifully in The Wind in the Willows. Fast forward thirty years and I found myself knitting - in full size for once - a selection of mice from a pattern by the wonderful Alan Dart. Cute, aren't they?

Of course as soon as I gave them faces they became, for me, little mouse people with personalities much larger than their diminutive size.They had feelings and needs like any of us. In short, they needed a home. I remembered those much-loved stories and immediately knew that the Mouse House had to appear to be underground and have a rustic higgledy piggledy charm where they could live cosily in their own mouse way.

Now I've seen envy-inducing pictures of miniature houses carved out of real tree stumps but due to my limited abilities with a chainsaw, I was starting out with a simple mdf box with zero character and a sterility that failed to inspire me for quite some time. How to turn it into an underground burrow was a question that kept me awake into the small hours on many a night.

Then, on a visit to a florists' wholesaler I came across some strips of Larch bark. Knobbly, wonky, rustic, it was perfect. I guesstimated how many packets I would need to cover the outside of my box and tried not to faint when the cashier rang up the total. I also bought some natural jute ribbon, pieces of natural cork bark and two different types of artificial ivy and felt even worse when VAT increased the final bill by 20%. This had better work!

I painted the whole exterior dark brown using emulsion to seal the mdf. Then I staple-gunned the jute ribbon all over the exterior, ensuring that I didn't make it too tidy around the front and side edges. Next, it was time to attach the bark strips. Simply nailing it on wasn't an option; the mdf would split. Glueing the foot -long lengths on as they were wouldn't work because they were bent and crooked. Eventually I decided to cut the strips into random shorter lengths so that the wrong side of each piece was as straight as possible. I used almost a pint of wood glue to glue the pieces all over the outside of the jute ribbon, staggering the joins. I had to work on one surface at a time, leaving it level for upto 48hrs to allow the great blobs of glue to dry where they were needed without running down the sides all over the dining table....I have learned that lesson the hard way.

Once covered, there were many gaps where the jute ribbon showed through. I used pieces of cork bark to fill these and soften the cut edges of the Larch bark. More glue and drying time!

Finally, I cut sprigs of the artificial ivy and glued them randomly between the two barks to further disguise any hard edges. I'm really quite pleased with the outside, which looks suitably hedge-like.

So, onto the interior. I had very fixed ideas about how the interior should look. I bought real slate (sadly at more great expense) cut into squares and rectangles and laid the tiles randomly using tacky glue. The walls were rendered using facial tissues stuck to the walls with pva glue and painted over using emulsion paint. I cut lengths of balsa wood to fit the ceiling and used a craft knife to distress them before painting them brown as beams.

I wanted an arched door for the false lobby that I constructed. The only one I could find on the internet was too wide for the false lobby I created. The solution was to cut the middle section out and butt the two remaining halves together. A cat (by Annie Willis) emerging from its cat flap added a bit of humour and irony to the scene.

I found pictures on the internet of mice dressed in clothes, so printed them off and framed them to hang on the walls to make the knitted mice appear more life-like.

I used whitewood furniture to furnish the Mouse House, painted green and slightly distressed. I wanted a cluttered effect, so filled shelves, dressers and plate racks with accessories. Glass jars, sold containing nail art materials, were emptied out and re-filled with herbs and spices out of my store-cupboard and topped with fabric covers and labels.

I knitted a baby mouse and wrapped it in a vintage crocheted doiley before placing it in a little wooden crib by Jane Harrop. Mice have large families, after all.

A rustic scene, this was a great project to cram all manner of miniatures into. Homemade and purchased miniatures merged seamlessly to create a busy, cluttered scene which I could really imagine my mouse people living in.

I'm pretty pleased with my little Mouse House. If only I could make like Alice and shrink small enough to visit.

Next time I will show you my 1/24th scale adventures...
Kathryn xx

Thursday, 18 February 2016

A Doll's House Shop - in 1/12th Scale

It's been a while since I posted; real life has, rather inconveniently, been getting in the way of my miniature one. Recently however, I have found the time to finish off some fairly major miniature projects. Knitting and stitching barely feature in them..... but I'm going to show them to you anyway.

Starting with my 12th scale version of a Dolls House Shop.

This project was born when I saw something similar that my good friend Margaret had built for a Club project. I fell in love and had to have one! But whereas hers was petite and a manageable size, I bought the biggest room box I could find - a huge 18 inches wide and 11 inches deep - and conceived a Grand Plan. What I didn't appreciate at the time was just how many 1/144th scale miniatures it would take to fill it. I now know the answer: A Lot. 

Some years ago, at great expense, I'd fallen in love with, and bought, three little 1/144th scale room boxes made by a Dutch lady called Ank Schaap (see below). I thought they were amazing and wanted to fill my Huge Enormous Dolls House Shop with tiny room boxes of similar quality. 

Unfortunately, given that I effectively wanted to live a champagne lifestyle but had only a lemonade budget (as the saying goes), I realised early on that simply buying all the contents was not an option; there was nothing for it but to make as much as I could myself. And not really knowing where to start, for a long time I simply didn't. And so the Huge Enormous Room Box in the corner of my dining room sat there reproachfully until I couldn't bear the guilt any longer. 

So I covered black and cream cardboard in clear sticky-backed plastic and cut one inch squares to make a quick, cheap and effective tiled floor. The walls and ceiling were painted green using an emulsion tester pot from the local DIY store. The effect - unintentionally -  was not unlike the 1930's bathroom that I rermember from childhood visits to my great-aunt's house!

I bought the large shelving unit on the back wall as a kit from The Dolls House Builder and painted it cream and black. I built the angled corner units from mountboard, to exactly fit the space available and painted them cream and black to blend them into the main unit. Cheap white-wood shelving units were transformed with black and cream paint for the side walls, while I built the central U-shaped display counter using mountboard and made the bookshelves on the front of it from leftover lengths of 1/12th scale coving. The books and magazines themselves were made using cut-outs from catalogues and magazines.

So far, so good. But it was still very empty. A visit to the local Railway Modelling shop procured some N-Gauge houses made of resin for a couple of pounds each and I used brick paper in the same scale to re-cover some nasty cheap dolls houses I'd bought at a dolls house fair. Some wonderful kits from Jane Harrop and Templewood Miniatures provided a better standard of house for the more prominent displays and I snaffled a lovely wooden house made by Jacqueline Crosby from my big dolls house. But there was still an awful lot of space left to fill.

I knew I wanted a DIY section in my shop and so 'The Creation Station' was born. I made rolls of wallpaper from magazine and catalogue cut-outs. Rolls of carpet were made using samples of velvet paper. I glued lengths of leftover stripwood into an empty plastic container and filled the lid of the container with cut-out pictures of carpets and rugs from various magazines and catalogues. I made fat quarters from scraps of fabric, arranged in wooden seed trays. The wall-mounted wallpaper display was made using a couple of cheap wooden plate racks, painted black and used vertically rather than horizontally. The wallpaper displayed on it was printed from the internet and the sandpaper in the display was made up using printables from a dolls house magazine.

I made the larger bottles of woodstain and varnish using beads and those plastic caps that cover the pins on the plug when you buy a new electrical appliance in the UK. The labels were cut-outs from craft catalogues. The smaller white bottles were made from my daughter's 'pop-a-point' pencil (don't think she's noticed that it has been appropriated for mummy's use) with the pencil points snapped off and the top of each segment painted black to represent a lid. I made tiny tubes of paint using thick metal foil wrapped around a cocktail stick, flattened at one end and with a seed bead stuck on the other end to represent a lid. Paintbrushes were made using the fancy end of turned cocktail sticks - rather hilariously sold in Marks & Spencer one memorable Christmas as 'Posh Pricks' - with the end painted black to represent bristles and the handle painted red, blue or green. 

To help fill the shelving on the left hand side of the shop I used some little N-gauge sheds from the Railway shop and made a display of dolls house dolls using some tiny figures from the same shop. Scrap wood wrapped in paper with a picture of a dolls house on served as flat-packed dollshouse kits. I made some little paper houses using cut outs from a dolls house magazine. 

Finally, it was time to tackle the huge (and still empty) central shelving unit. I painstakingly made twenty eight little room boxes from mountboard, measuring just 2" wide. I painted them brown on the outside to look like they were made of wood and painted most of them inside using emulsion tester pots, although I did wallpaper some using catalogue cut-outs. 

The furniture was a bit of a headache. I bought some lovely pieces from Barbara Moore of Pear Tree Miniatures and a few  bits of white-metal furniture from Tee Pee Crafts, but they were nowhere near enough to fill all those room boxes. I couldn't afford to buy more and began to think I would never get the thing finished. On one of my visits to the Railway shop I noticed some styrene tubing in all manner of different sizes and shapes. I experimented with some square and rectangular tubing and discovered that if I used small sections of it as a base or armature, I could create quite passable furniture by covering it in thin card, adding false drawer fronts with minute no-hole beads (or nail caviar) for handles and painting the whole thing. I made chests of drawers, cupboards, wardrobes and bedside tables this way, for mere pennies. 

Furniture by Barbara Moore. Homemade plant, pictures and accessories.

Furniture by Barbara Moore. Homemade Mirror and pictures.

Furniture by Barbara Moore. Homemade runner, plant, bowl & pictures.

Furniture by Barbara Moore. Homemade toybox and accessories.

I also found some styrene with the profile of a capital "H". When cut to size and covered with card in the same way I found that this made quite passable beds, to which quilts could be added using more magazine cuttings. I made passable settees and armchairs using tiny scraps of wood and painted an appropriate colour. They aren't strictly to scale but I think they look the part and I am really quite pleased with the result. Best of all, they were so cheap as to be almost free!

Homemade (and inspired by Cath Kidston).
Entirely homemade using styrene tubing covered in cardboard.

Carpets were made using scraps of velvet paper and cut-outs of rugs from dolls house catalogues were used as, well, rugs. I made tiny pictures using cut-outs from craft catalogues, framed on scraps of cardboard. Mirrors were made in the same way using silver sequins. Plants were made using tiny scraps of lycopodium and reindeer moss glued into seed beads. Cushions were made from tiny squares of velvet paper. I made bottles and jars using nail caviar and lamps from beads and jewellery findings. I found some little cupped sequins which served as bowls and made tiny books using the picture from an advert featuring a 12th scale book-making kit.

Metal Bed. Homemade chests of drawers and accessories.

Metal Dresser & Clock. Homemade settee, armchairs, cushions, pictures and coffee table.

Furniture by Barbara Moore.

Furniture by Barbara Moore, homemade accessories.

Furniture by Barbara Moore.

Entirely homemade.

Entirely homemade from styrene tubing and cardboard.

Wardrobe built from a kit, remainder of room homemade.

After a lot of very fiddly and frustrating work, not to mention endless hours of cutting up magazines and catalogues, I finally had enough furnished room boxes to fill my shop. I made some little signs using my computer to add realism and introduced the shop's first customer: Mrs Wallet (miss 'is wallet - get it?!) and her long suffering husband (both from Crumpled and Rumpled). 

I'm sure I shall add even more bits and pieces to the shop over time to make it truly cluttered and lived in.  I am currently recruiting a Shopkeeper to run it for me. Right now though I wouldn't care if I never made another thing in 1/144th scale - it's back to my beloved 1/12th scale for me. Who'd have thought that 1/12th scale could ever seem so big?!

Next time I will show you my Mouse House. And there's even some knitting in it!