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