Monday, 22 February 2010

A challenge

This is a rare type of blog - my second in one day! But there won't be many like that. I did the sewing blog today but I have been making the quilt for over a week and it is nowhere near finished as it has been interupted by illness and boredom, and I really don't want the blogs to be in the wrong order. You see, I made three items of furniture last night - insommnia strikes again! and to be able to write this blog I had to sneak the sewing one in before!

I mentioned before wanting the bedroom done but do not have the right stain. I do have the right stain (indian rosewood) for the craft room so thought I would get started on furniture for that. I have been reading the books that Gil very kindly lent me and one features an art room. I really liked the work table and chair and I knew I wanted a bookcase in the room...


I got greedy I am afraid and decided that while I am cutting out one piece of furniture why not cut out two?...why not do three?

I found some banister rods that would make perfect chair legs, had some toothpicks and some wood to cut out. I cut out all the parts for the table and then designed a bookcase based on a store display cabinet in the book. I am getting more confident at manipulating the designs I am finding. Knowing that the basic shape is 1/12 gives my imagination the freedom to create what I want. I would be too unsure of sizes to design from scratch....I saw a cabinet in the film "The devil wears prada" which I loved and want for the sitting room...I know I can take the basic shape design of the kitchen dresser and by adding on cupboard doors instead of shelves I can have that cabinet featured in the film.

So all cut out and ready to go....


Staining is soooo messy and as yet I haven't found a clean and tidy way to do it. All I can do is just make sure I don't ruin our dining table with it!


All stained and drying...


I think I might leave it till tomorrow...but I find I am still unable to sleep so am getting on with the seat padding while watiting for the furniture to dry.

I find a lovely dusky rose material in the material is perfect for the craft room that has cream wallpaper with tiny rose coloured flowers. I cut out two pieces of card for the back and one for the seat. Cut some wadding for one of the back pieces and for the seat and glue the material to all of the pieces of card, securing with pegs.


I plan to join the two back pieces together and glue them and the seat to the chair. When I did stick the two chair cushion parts together there was a very large gap along the seam despite the edges having been held togther by pegs. Once the glue had dried I sewed the edges togther and was very impressed at the final finish - I think you can barely see that it was originally in two parts.


I also did some very tiny stitches in the seat padding to emphasise the padding in the chair..although you can't see it very well from this picture


I decided to make the seat backing mainly because after I had cut out the back of the seat, I decided I didn't like it very much and I couldn't be bothered to cut out another!


Making the chair - very very difficult. Getting the toothpicks stuck on is a nightmare.


Making the table - again very hard to do. The legs were determined to be wonky!


Making the bookcase - slightly easier


All done!


WOW! so much furniture! I just had to do some room layout pictures. This is not how the room will be...I just put most of the finished items in there so I could see what a room might look like. What it will actually be like in the end is very much surface covered and paper on the floor, lots of books around and generally representing how I total mess! But until that is done have a sneak peek at what a room in my dolls house could look like.....








Sew simple?

Would like the dolls house to have a bedroom now and I have some ideas....A bed, cabinets, drawers, table, chair, linen box....I possibly have planned too much and there won't be room!

Only problem is that I don't have the wood stain that I want (mahogany) or the fixtures I need. Can't decide what fixtures I want at the moment so furniture is on hold. However I have lots of material and thread and I can sew...ish!

I want the bed to have a patchwork quilt cover....I have made a patchwork quilt before when I was expecting my daughter. I made it the old fashioned way by wrapping squares of material around squares of card and tacking them with thread, then joining all the squares together at the edges with tiny stitches and then removing the card. Very tedious work. I have a sewing machine and although I did a patchwork course years ago I am still not brave enough to tackle the sewing machine. So stitching by hand it is...and anyway I can't possibly stich 1/12 squares by machine!!!!

Hunting through the material scraps I was looking for shades of green and perhaps some red and I came across the leftover material I used for the patchwork course - How great to make a quilt out of something that was a lovely consisted of red tartan, beige tartan, plain red and beige with tiny flowers...also found a lovely green and the leftover cream material from my daughters baby quilt.


I did find a lovely quilt pattern of diamond shapes that when sewed together formed a flower pattern, but after cutting the card I knew I couldn't sew something that small, it was way too fiddly. Instead I did squares...boring maybe but I had to keep it within my capabilities here. I chose the material I wanted and designed a simple pattern (took me three or four attempts to get it right) - drawing it on paper and colouring it in to show me which squares were what and where. Then sew sew sew....very boring and as of yet not completed! It might be the last thing I do complete!



Getting bored with the quilt I needed something new but wanted it to be for the bedroom....a cushion for the bed or chair? I collected some colours from my embroidery cotton box and checked that they would go with the quilt - they did (sort of) well it was the best I could do without shopping for new cotton.


I found a pattern for a carpet in a book and based the cushion design on that, first placing the material in a hoop


Drawing the square cushion outline


Sewing the outline


Filling in detail


Looks ok at the moment



YUK!!!! don't like that now! All the lines are wonky and I don't like the colours after all....


So I made a cushion for the living room which will be cream and blue. This is based on a cushion I used to own.


....and now back to the quilt..unless of course I can find something else to do!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

A lovely evening

Kids were tucked up in bed and husband out for the evening, I settled down to watch T.V. After finding that nothing was on I picked up the dolls house book that I am getting lots of ideas evening of planning what to make....sounds good!

.....what to make???? Need something that is easy, nice, isn't going to cause problems with room plan layouts in future (not really got any definite plans yet) and doesn't need hinges/doorknobs or any other extras.

I had made a bookcase for the craft room a few days ago. Its based on the pattern for the dresser and it was easy to make....but stupid me messed it up as I normally do. I had planned to have it stained dark wood and I knew I had to stain it after the wood had been cut as stain won't cover glue. It wasn't until all the parts had been put together that I realised my it has to be painted but as yet I haven't decided what colour to paint it - here it is anyway.......


Back to tonight's project ......A settle! I had never heard of a settle before (excuse my ignorance) but it looked lovely in the book and I thought that it could go in the hallway.

First I cut out all the pieces.....

Sadly due to a lapse of concentration and a mix up with already cut items and wood waiting to be cut, the bench is a couple of inches shorter than it is meant to you think anyone will notice?

                                 This time I did manage to remember to stain the wood!

                                         All the pieces laid out ready to put together.

                                                            Wiping away blobs of glue

                                                                 Taking shape now.

                                                   All done! Looks too bare though....

How about a cushion? I rummaged through my bag of scraps and found a perfect tapestry style material. Cut out a rectangle of cardboard slightly smaller than the seat and stuck foam on top with glue....

 I wrapped the material around it tightly and glued the seam holding it together with pegs while it dried.

Then I sewed the ends and hey presto a cushion!

 Not too bad.....and all done in about 2 hours!!!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Start at the very beginning...a very good place to start

This will be a long blog entry I am afraid - I have over a year of catching up to do!

All my life I wanted a dolls house....I think that creative urge was there early. I knew what wallpaper would be just right and that there had to be paintings on the walls, many comfy seats and definitely plenty of flower arrangements scattered around (carefully of course!) The people who lived there would just love the homely atmosphere that I had created.....but all those plans went unfulfilled, as no dolls house arrived. Even as a teenager that dream didn't go away. My best friend and I shared the same dolls house ambition and would spend ages reading dolls house catalogues and discussing the merits of choosing one cooker rather than another and which sofa was the best.

I was amazed to then see that my mother-in-law was even more of a fan than I was...and had many houses that she had created. I was in heaven....oh, how I wanted one! Yep... the dolls house bug was still there despite the fact that I had forced myself to accept that I would never own one.

I occasionally peeked at dolls houses on eBay, usually when they were pointed out by my mother-in-law (I hope she won't mind me calling her by her name to save typing!) Gil would send me links of ones she knew I would like and I always did love them - It never failed to start me off daydreaming about furniture and fixtures....I would watch the bidding and then she and I winced at the final prices. I have two small children and our budget doesn't allow for the extras that creating a dolls house requires. I don't mean to come across as whinging about that. I don't resent it at children are the best people to have ever come into my life.....but I couldn't justify spending that amount of money...and wouldn't for many years to come. I put that dream away again...occasionally sneaking images/ideas away from ebay sales when they caught my eye! 

 Such as this lovely hallway...I have already tracked down that exact wallpaper and flooring and I will get it for my dolls house! day I saw an advert for a dolls house on a selling site I belong to. Hmmmmm....should I ask about it? An email was sent asking for pictures and a price....Pictures came back with details of room dimensions and my heart skipped a beat I think! It was PERFECT!! Just what I had wanted - 3 floors with a loft.

I wanted non symmetrical rooms and this lovely house had a variety of room sizes....and they were good size rooms too , not little box shapes. Only one room was painted (teenager had given up very quickly) so no wallpaper to was a beautiful blank canvas.....and to top this off the price was good!

I wanted an expert opinion so wrote an email to Gil...she had often pointed out the pros and cons to certain houses - things that I had not noticed and I was thinking maybe this house was too good to be true - was I overlooking a problem? She really liked it and in fact she offered to buy it for me for Christmas....I was so grateful and thrilled that I was on the first step of my dolls house journey at last. On Christmas day I had totally forgotten about the dolls house gift (I have that kind of brain I am afraid) and was bewildered when handed a strand of wool and told to follow it led my up the stairs to one of the bedrooms and inside was my dolls house....although technically it wasn't a surprise I must admit there were tears in my eyes...and I could have hugged Gil forever.

I decorated the house very quickly...

I needed to do this without spending much money so I would grab a few feet of several wallpapers from a DIY shop under the pretence of needing a sample....pots of tester emulsion are cheap and searching a DIY store online I found some samples of parquet and laminate flooring I liked. I copied the image and then put it onto a word document and printed it up on card....hey presto - I had a really good floor for the art room and the nursery. 

I did a similar thing with tiles...finding tiles I liked online and then printing them onto photo of yet I haven't found the right tiles for my bathroom but I will find them sometime! Decorating the rooms was fun but I did go through a slight hiccup in my plans though. I had decided very quickly what rooms were what and I knew that the woman who lived there was a art and craft lady and would have her own craft I set aside the small hallway outside the main bedroom for that use. I chose the perfect wallpaper and although there wasn't much of it, the paper would cover the room but it wouldn't allow for many errors. Very carefully I pasted, cut and papered....stepped back and admired the work....allowing for a moment of smugness - I had done a very good , neat job.

However, hold on a minute - something is wrong, this definitely doesn't look right....oh blooming heck! (I am ashamed to admit my actual words were much stronger) I papered the flipping living room instead! - carefully I unpeeled the freshly hung and expertly cut paper that I had no more of....took a deep breath, Well, the art room is smaller thank goodness. I'll just try and use it in there. Of course it fitted and the mistake wasn't too horrendous. It taught me to be far more careful in future. I am a rusher by nature, wanting everything done yesterday and I have learnt the hard way that dolls house creation takes a long is a journey best taken enjoying the view, not hurried along ignoring everything that passes.

Time was passing however - with no money for furniture, the house stayed empty and even sadder was the fact that it had become a handy place to store letters and general bric-a-brac out of kids reach. This wasn’t what I had intended - I didn’t want a dolls house shaped storage cupboard. I wanted a beautiful house full of lovely daughter was upset at this too and would ask “when is it going to be ready to play with Mummy?” I wasn't forgetting my dolls house plans though. I was collecting many ideas and items from the internet. Every time I saw a thing I liked, flooring, wallpaper, furniture, pictures etc I put them into files on my computer, all tucked away until they could be used.

I knew that although the ideal "easy quick" solution was to have enough money to go out and buy all brand new furniture - there was very little fun to be had doing that for a person who likes crafts as much as me. Of course, there is the 'retail therapy' point of view but that is a very short lived thrill. I began to look for second hand furniture on eBay with the view to renovating it - but prices are still very high and many of the mixed lots on there would have only one or two items I liked and the others I wouldn't use. So that idea bit the dust. Gil suggested that I make my own furniture. she certainly has more faith in my abilities than I do. "I CAN’T make furniture!" I would reply. "I can’t even do flat pack full sized furniture". My husband refuses to let me help with furniture building as I have no understanding for the need of instructions and surge on ahead guessing what piece goes where. I would never have the patience to sit and cut out wood and then horror of horrors….follow instructions!!!

Last week Gil visited me while my husband Adam was away. She carried with her a bag of the dolls house magazines that I love reading. While Anya was out and Jakob was asleep I began to flick through the pages when I found a “make your own Victorian kitchen” magazine. That looks nice I thought, again dismissing the possibility that I could even understand how to make anything. A dresser caught my eye….it was too big for what I wanted but I could see that the plans were very simple yet the finished item looked fantastic..something people would pay £15-20 for…suddenly I was tempted. What could go wrong? I just buy some balsa wood (the item was actually made from cardboard but it said wood could be used and I wanted something sturdy) If it went wrong I would just know for sure that I couldn’t make furniture. I glanced at other pages…ooohhh a nice coffee grinder, shelf unit, aga cooker, gas lamp, bucket, saucepans….all made from cardboard, balsa wood, beads and gilt findings…...I wanted all of them and to get them I had to try to make them.

Something small to begin with…the shelf unit. A back, two sides and two shelves and a base. Easy shapes to cut out. My long suffering husband responded favourably to my request to buy balsa wood and glue etc and I got to work. 

I cut out the templates and then the wood. Hmmm.....instructions - PAH! Don’t need those! I know where the bits go…but as you could probably guess I did it wrong because as with so many of these things, bits have to be done in a certain order otherwise they don’t fit. 
“You mean I have to sit and hold the items together while to glue bonds?” Oh for heavens sake! that doesn’t fit in with my total lack of patience.

Anyway I held the shelves onto the back of the unit, impatiently waiting for minutes to pass, let go......."yes they have stuck!" only to then watch the shelves slowly collapse....with sticky fingers I would apply more messy glue and I would try to construct it again....... the whole lot a soppy mess of glue and fingerprints. I have a 'bit' of a perfectionist streak in me and if something isn't absolutely perfect then it is wrong! I glared at the gaps where the knife had cut at an angle instead of straight and realised that to make things 'perfect' I would have to take more time and sand down the edges....such a small detail but taking that extra time all adds up to making them look more like professionally made items. 

 If I was going to continue with my rushing "make it in ten minutes" plan I was going to end up with shabby crooked wonky furniture - something I had hoped to avoid by buying things new. However before this realisation hit me I growled and cursed and then announced “Oh this is hopeless…I CAN’T do it and it looks awful”

Adam, as always was there with the patient calm words of encouragement along the lines of 'practice' makes perfect….try and try again…don’t give up….The ambitious, tenacious side of my character took over and announced “OK…I’ll do the dresser tomorrow”

This time I looked at the instructions…even crossing out what I had done so that I didn’t get confused with all the “attach A to side B then attach two G’s to corner C” etc etc…. I also labelled the cut wood so that I knew what bit was - very unlike me! I took it slowly, even sitting holding bits together till it had set. I was amazed as the dresser too shape…it looked great. I even managed to divide the pattern in half as the original was too big for what I had wanted…. The dresser went so well I have plans to adapt it into a bookcase and also maybe a sink and unit for the bathroom. I hope it will work... the plans for the dresser are very simple and I think very easily adapted.

Now I needed beads and gilt findings for the other items. Gil to the rescue. She let me raid all the dolls house bits she has collected and it was great to find everything I needed, even old party poppers which apparently I can make into saucepans. 

Now with all the metal bits and pieces perhaps I could make an aga cooker? First just to get some more practise maybe something simple...a clock? Probably the easiest thing to make and cost pennies to do. 

Two bits of wood, a bit of metal, a button and a printed clock face....easy peasy!

The cooker was tougher. I wanted to reduce the size and height by about a third and my maths wasn’t up to the precision needed. So it didn’t go together as accurately as the dresser did. But I was very happy with the result and although I don't mean to brag I actually prefer it to the original one in the magazine.

I also like the fact that it is now an original rather than just a copy. I was pleased to find the perfect door hinges (links from an old bracelet) in the items Gil donated. The magazine recommended brass nails but I think the links work better. Rummaging through the items I found other appropriate metal bits including perfect handles and a dolls house door handle made a perfect ash drawer handle.......Adam really liked it and added his recommendation that I paint the hob plates a silvery metal so they show up which I will do at some point............. I finally have a cooker!!!

What will I make next?