Thursday, 30 May 2013

It's curtains for me.......

The recent dearth of posts has been due to a sudden flurry of activity on the domestic front, plus a visit from my lovely daughter for a few days, so blogging has had to take a back seat for the duration.

However I'm now back in the saddle and have been moderately productive in the workroom today, despite the ongoing mess which is set to get exponentially worse over the next few weeks.

In the run up to emptying the room prior to redecorating and re-carpetting I'm trying to keep a small area of my desk clear so that I can continue to work, but other than that small oasis of relative calm, the rest of the room is descending into chaos.

However, today I have carefully measured for new curtains, which I'll be making myself, so I now need to clear a bigger space on the other side of the desk for my sewing machine.  It's been several years since I last made proper curtains (I'm not counting the deckchair stripey ones in our little beach hut style shed up the garden, which are threaded onto net curtain wire) with lining and proper heading tape so I'm hoping it all comes flooding back to me.

I also hope that my measurements and the subsequent complicated sums involving widths and drops and adding a bit on for hems and the like, are correct, and that I've ordered sufficient fabric.

Further developments in the Great Workroom Makeover include finally making a decision on the paint colour for the walls.

Who knew there were so many shades of pale blue?  

Having picked up a fistful of paint colour guides at the weekend I've been trying to find my perfect blue..... not a greeny or yellowy blue, or a grey blue, or even a lavender blue, but a very specific pale shade of blue which I've formulated in my head.  An exhaustive search of the house finally revealed an item of the approximate shade, which I was then able to match to a paler paint version.

So, Mineral Mist it is then.

I think.

I will have to try out a little matchpot just to be 100% sure.

I've also made a final decision on the paint and colour for my cupboard doors, which will entail a trip to the nearest stockist in Rye sometime in the next week or so.

Finally I've set myself a tentative deadline of the end of June for the completion of the makeover.  Quite how realistic that is remains to be seen......

Friday, 24 May 2013

Retail therapy......

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am partial to the odd flagon glass of wine and that my tipple of choice has to be a nicely chilled NZ Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.

Up till now we've stored our wine in this.....

Hardly a thing of beauty I'm sure you'll agree, but it was cheap and did the job, hidden away behind the door in the dining room.

However, this week, PP espied this on Facebook......

.... and it was love at first sight.  Which is why it it now takes pride of place at the end of the dining room, in an alcove that might have been made for it.

Geographically local blog readers might like to check out Secondhand Rose Ltd on Facebook.  They're based in Eastbourne and post all new stock on their FB page.  They find some lovely stuff and regularly sell old pine furniture and all manner of household items.

We're really rather chuffed with our new purchase which has just one teeny, weeny, niggly, naggly drawback...... it holds 30 bottles!  Which means it just might take some time to fill......


Wednesday, 22 May 2013

The Great Clearout continues......

My workroom is no stranger to untidyness.  I tend to work in what I like to call 'creative chaos' and what tidier minded mortals would call an unholy guddle.

However, even I have to admit that I've surpassed myself these past few days.

Having emptied every single cupboard, drawer and storage box in order to rationalise and reorganise the contents I've reached the point where I seriously doubt it will ever be tidy again.

Exhibit A.....

And before somebody pipes up and asserts it's not too bad, I should point out that the bit around the corner, most of the floor, and EVERY SINGLE SURFACE is piled high with stuff.

I did start off by trying to sort just one section at a time, but it rapidly became apparent that I would have to completely empty everything out so that I could move stuff from inappropriate storage areas.

For example, I have a lot of stripwood in various widths, thicknesses, woods etc.  For some obscure reason, lost in the mists of time, I'd been keeping them all in long cardboard tubes in a cupboard which was both too shallow and not wide enough so they all had to be stored diagonally, leaving loads of wasted and unusable space.


I know.

I don't know what I was thinking either.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I do have a perfectly proportioned cupboard into which all the tubes of stripwood fit exactly, but in my infinite wisdom I was using THAT one to store baskets of kits, which wouldn't stack and were shoe-horned into the space.

So I've switched all the stripwood into the kits cupboard and all the kits into the stripwood cupboard and hey presto.  Everything fits and I even have some space left over.

Quite why this hadn't occurred to me before is a mystery.  Perhaps the act of getting EVERYTHING out of all the cupboards freed me to see what a doofus I've been.

My only consolation at the moment is that it can't get any worse.



Monday, 20 May 2013

Hidden gems......

I started Phase 2 of the workroom makeover today by starting to clear out all the cupboards.  I'm going to have to completely empty the room in order to redecorate and re-carpet, so I'm going though everything with a view to further de-cluttering.

I started with the cupboards behind my chair, which held paints, glues, packaging supplies etc.  Right at the back I found a box which has been there for some time and for which I had no idea of the contents.   

I thought I had sold off all of the 1/12th porcelain doll kits which I used to make, but the box contained a selection of kits which I'd presumably kept in order to use for some specific projects.

For example, I discovered a few sets of kits to make a ventriloquist and his dummy/puppet.  Also some special kits I'd made for an Eastern Prince project a while back.  Not to mention some child kits including Snivelling Simon, a charming child who is literally crying out for the addition of trails of tears and snot.

All of the kits include body packs, instructions for assembly and wigging viscose.  I'm also including a costume pattern pack for the little Indian Prince.


They're now listed on the website under THD Specials.   As I no longer have any of the moulds these few remaining kits are the last of their kind.

Tomorrow I'm tackling the cupboard in the far corner which is currently inaccessible due to a pile of books.  I have no idea what I'm going to find in there....... #excitingtimes!

Friday, 17 May 2013

Plan B........

I really hate to admit defeat on anything, least of all an inanimate object, but I'm finally going to stop abjectly failing to remove the damned varnish from my cupboard doors and go with Plan B..... a shabby chic paint finish.

Having used almost an entire pot of Eco stripper, in increasingly thick layers, for longer and longer, I still have one blotchy door, with patches of varnish resolutely hanging on to the wood for grim death.

I have to admit it looks only marginally worse than the doors I haven't touched.  I never liked the wood colour but the units were part of a demo kitchen in a DIY store years ago when I was kitting out my former studio, and as they were going for a song I couldn't resist.

The studio was twice the size of  my current workroom though, and somehow the wood colour wasn't a problem.  I've put up with it since moving here but it just looks boring and dated, and I'm ready for a change.  There's nothing wrong with either the units or the doors, so I'm 'upcycling' them.

Despite the fact that painting them wasn't my first choice, if I'm honest it will be an easier option, doable in a day rather than several weeks, and since I'm going to use the marvellous chalk paint made by Annie Sloan, I don't even have to sand or rub down the wood at all, although I might give it a going over with sugar soap just to remove any surface film.

Let's hope I don't have to resort to Plan C.....   

*I don't have a Plan C*

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

To strip, or not to strip......

My workroom makeover is proceeding very s-l-o-w-l-y.

I had anticipated that Phase 1 - stripping the horrid orangey varnish from all the cupboard doors would take exactly 5 days.  There are 10 doors at 2 a day = 5 days. Simples.


Thus far I have achieved something less than 1/10th.  Which is to say, not even one door.
This is because polyurethane varnish appears to be second only to cockroaches in its indestructibility.

I naively assumed that any common or garden paint and varnish stripper would do the job in no time at all...... lickety split.

But no.  I don't know what I was thinking.

After 3 applications of the new Eco stripper (water-based, solvent-free, no harmful fumes etc etc etc) I am left with a blotchy finish on the one door I started with.  Yes, a tiny amount of the varnish has been removed, but around 95% is resolutely hanging in there.

And before anyone else suggests it, sanding the varnish off is a non-starter, partly because the doors have mouldings and rebates which would be a nightmare to sand, but primarily because our electric mouse sander has gone to the great power tool graveyard which exists at the back of our understairs cupboard.

I've seriously considered abandoning the whole stripping thing and going for a shabby chic painted finish instead.  But the doors are a lovely solid oak, and when I did a 2" square test patch on the inside of one of them, the Eco stripper did a sterling job and revealed a lovely pale wood which I intend to treat with a limed oak and wax finish.

Quite why the 2" square sample came up beautifully but the whole door hasn't is a mystery. Perhaps the Eco stuff only works on tiny bits at a time and gets exhausted if it has to tackle an entire cupboard door at once.

If this is the case I know exactly how it feels.


Having religiously followed the instructions on the tub, and on the helpful You Tube video in which a chap strips 15 layers of ancient paint from a dresser in record time and is still smiling at the end, I'm unconvinced I'm dealing with the same stuff.

I've left it on for the recommended time, which achieved nothing.  I've left it on for 30mins, then an hour longer, with only marginally improved results.

So today I'm going all out and will brush on a thicker layer and leave it overnight.  

What's the worst that can happen?  It's hardly likely to melt the door.  Hopefully, tomorrow morning, I can scrape off the stripper to reveal a fully stripped, non blotchy, varnish-free cupboard door.

If not then I will have to resort to Plan B. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Time flies......

Why is it that the working week, which nominally consists of 5 days seems to last twice as long, while the weekend, which nominally consists of 2 days seems to last half as long?

This trick of time is everywhere these days.  It feels like only a month or so since Christmas, but we'll be fully half way through the year next month.  

Every winter I look forward so much to the arrival of spring, but this year I feel cheated.  Whatever we've just experienced I wouldn't call it spring.  Our seasons, and therefore my perception of the passage of time are all out of kilter.

*deep sigh*

Anyway, despite the fact I should have doing any number of other things today,I managed to steal a little time for myself and made this for my little shop of dolls, just in case I manage to get the building finished any time soon. 

I had just a tiny bit of pale blue silk in exactly the right colour to complement the shop decor so I was able to make a bustled jacket with some lovely silk buds and bows trimming around the edge and on her little lacy bonnet.  It's been so long since I made any little dolls for my own projects...... it was really quite cathartic and most enjoyable on a cold and rainy Sunday afternoon.

*Note to self...... take more time out to make stuff just for me.... 


Friday, 10 May 2013

All strung out......

Aside from creating no end of upheaval in the workroom this week I've also been busy, meticulously stringing tiny arms and legs onto the latest batch of toy doll's dolls.

As you can see they're literally cock-a-hoop to be able to move around, thanks to their newly jointed limbs.....

I've just listed a few Pot Luck Doll Packs on the website, offering a selection of three different dolls, ranging from a truly diminutive 1" tall (or should that be short?) to an only slightly more statuesque 1  3/4".  My choice, but they will be selected from the range of different dolls shown playing around in the photo. Included with each pack is a micro doll dressing hints and tips sheet.

Offering savings of 17% on the cost of individual dolls, these packs are only available while stocks last......

Read all about it......!

This week has all about taking irrevocable steps.  

Some more irrevocable than others......

In the workroom, I've finally begun the long-awaited makeover, which at some point will necessitate completely emptying the room to facilitate re-decorating and re-carpeting.

While I know that everything currently fits in that one room, I am sure that emptying it will cause all the stuff to expand exponentially, so that it will never all fit back in it again.

That is how stuff works.

Expansion by stealth.

So I've been casting my eye over the contents with a view to further downsizing.  By far the things I have most of are magazines.

My magazine collection dates back to the mid 1970s up to the mid 2000s and contains many rare gems and now defunct publications.

In the past I have toyed with the notion of listing them individually, on Ebay, or on our website, but having counted them today, and discovering that I have around 500 (YES FIVE HUNDRED!) I've rather lost my enthusiasm for that idea.

For example, I have every issue of the late lamented Home Miniaturist magazine.  There is also a  quantity of the highly respected, excellent and now also defunct International Doll's House News magazine.

I have first and subsequent issues of Doll's House World, Doll's House & Miniature Scene and The Doll's House Magazine.  

My specialist miniature doll magazines include issues of Dolls in Miniature and Dainty Doll's Newsletter, both of which are replete with patterns and ideas for mini doll dressing.

Most are in mint condition, having been read once, then filed away in magazine storage boxes.
I want to sell them all as one lot.  Please don't email me asking for a specific copy of Doll's House World from 1993, or issues 23, 47 and 86 of DHMS.  I will have to bite you.

The entire collection is for sale for £250.  No offers.  No cherry picking.  At just 50p per copy that's an absolute bargain.  You can fill the gaps in your own collections or sell them on, or even, if you have oceans of time, energy and enthusiasm, list them one by one on Ebay and make a small fortune.

There is just one proviso..... they are for collection only from St Leonards on Sea, East Sussex.  On collection the lucky buyer can expect a cup of tea and a cake, not to mention the pleasure of having Small Dog sit on their lap.

Bargain or what........?!

A tiny sample of the titles on offer.......

Monday, 6 May 2013

May Day merriment......

Hastings doesn't do anything by halves.

Particularly with reference to May Day celebrations.

The origins of Jack-in-the-Green lie wreathed in the mists of time.  Which is exactly what we found when we arrived on the West Hill at midday to see the procession arrive at its destination.

Sea mist.

Lots of it, rolling up the hill from the sea like a miasma.

However, just a few minutes before the beat of drums heralded the arrival of the Jack, the mist melted away, the sun came out and the whole of Hastings was revealed.

To be honest, I have absolutely no idea what Jack-in-the-Green is all about.

There's a Jack.

Who's green.

So far so good.

Then there's giants.  

And a giant mermaid.

And Herne the Hunter.

And more Morris Dancers than you can shake a stick at.

Being Hastings there's lot of pagan bacchanalian revelry, and possibly some deflowering of virgins, although the latter is purely speculative.

Having watched the procession arrive, we fought our way through the crowds, down the West Hill steps to the Old Town, where we fell, exhausted, into a lovely little seafood restaurant in George Street, and subsequently ate our own bodyweight in mussels in a delicious white wine and cream sauce.

After lunch, we wandered along the seafront, admiring the many, many, MANY motorbikes which had descended on Hastings for the annual May Day bike run, and chanced upon an old fashioned sweet shop, where I espied proper Scottish tablet.  Having purchased a small bagfull, I reconnoitred with PP outside.

Me: Oh you're going to love this.  But the thing about tablet.  The thing you have to remember.  It's very, very rich.......

PP: snarf, scoff, slurp, mumble.....

Me:  ..... and you really can't eat much of it.

PP: Mmmmm.... more please. 

Anyway, after we'd eaten Small Dog's bodyweight in tablet, we waddled along a bit further till we came to Dom's Ice Cream Parlour on the seafront,  which PP fondly remembered from her childhood, back in the last century.  So naturally we had to stop for a proper '99'.

By then I was feeling a bit bilious so we walked a bit further along to wait for our pre-booked taxi, being mindful of the fact that the world and his brother were in Hastings for the day and therefore parking was always going to be a nightmare.

We stood by the side of the road, watching the bikers zoom past, close to two policemen who were observing proceedings by a set of pedestrian crossing traffic lights.

While the lights were red, a chap in a big shiny car engaged one of the policemen in conversation.

Man:  Excuse me my good man.  We've just motored down from London donchyaknow for this Jack-in-the-Green shindig and I'll be blowed if I can find somewhere to park.  Where might you suggest?

Policeman: (scratching his chin thoughtfully)  Well Surrr.  Somewhere to park?  In Hastings?  On our busiest day of the year?  Let me think.......I'd suggest Lunndunn.  Harrharrharr.

Man: Stony silence

Policeman: Sorrrry surrr.  Just my little joke as it were.  Well, as you can see, having circumavigated the town several times already, parking is at a bit of a premium.  But just you wait there surrr..... I'll arsk Sergeant Colin.      

(Beckons Sergeant Colin)

Policeman:  Sergeant Colin.  This here h'gentleman's come all the way down from that there Lunndunn for the day and wants to know where he can park.

Sergeant Colin:  Ho..... right.  Well let me think.  What about Ore.  No.  That'll be chockablock.  Maybe Northiam?  Beckley.......?

(Man drives off in disgust)

Policeman and Sergeant Colin remain on duty, waiting for it to be like that bit in Hot Fuzz where it all goes mental.

Our taxi duly arrives and we get back home where it's scorchio on the patio.

PP:  I think we should fire up the BBQ.

Me: We're having cheese souffle for dinner.

PP: Ah.




Sunday, 5 May 2013

What's the point......?

No, don't worry.  I'm not about to throw myself under the no. 21 bus, or stick my head in the oven.  

The 'point' to which I refer is this......

PP has been rather preoccupied with pointing for the past week.  The hard landscaping behind our house was really well done, but over the years the mortar between the patio paving stones has deteriorated and started to break down.  So last week PP set about hoiking out all the muck and decayed mortar in preparation for repointing the gaps. We bought a bag of building sand, and another of cement, plus a pointing trowel (see... the label is still on it in case we have to take it back)  and over the last few days she has been experimenting with the best way of persuading mixed cement into the deep cracks between the flagstones and bricks.

It obviously isn't easy.  Kneeling down, crouched over, painstakingly filling each crack wouldn't be many people's idea of a good way to spend a Bank Holiday weekend, but it has to be done.  We're not averse to having someone in to do stuff we can't do, like plumbing, or electrics, but for a merely manual task like painting and decorating, or repointing the patio, in these cash-strapped times it makes sense to do it ourselves.

Well that's the theory.

In practice it's taking much longer than we anticipated, and while PP's perfectionist approach is ensuring a perfect finish, it'll be a close run thing as to whether her cervical vertebrae will hold out long enough to complete it.

Small Dog has been helping in a supervisory capacity.  This mostly involves her lying on the lawn, in the sun, on her back, with her paws in the air, giving the occasional glance in the direction of the re-pointing to check it's all on track.

In other news, in anticipation of a lovely, clean, re-pointed patio, we set off to Eastbourne yesterday in search of a bog-standard basic white gazebo to provide an al fresco area for outdoor entertaining during the long hot summer of 2013.

We've had one before.  It lasted for a whole 2  1/2 years on our patio in all weathers (I remember PP brushing 2 feet of snow off it the year before last) before it finally gave up the ghost early last year.


It's like that thing where you go into a shop for a 49 pence widget and come out with a new Cadillac.

Honestly though.  It was an absolute BARGAIN.

Lovely metal gazebo.  Very posh.  Weighs a ton so it's not going to blow away any time soon.  

We reckon it's a "4 beer job" by which we mean it's probably going to take the time it takes to drink 4 beers to put it up.

Or to put it another way. 

It's a "two 'domestics' then a divorce job".

I've read the instructions and they recommend that it's a 4-person installation.

Pish, tush, phooey.

We are hard-core flat-pack veterans and we're determined to do-it-ourselves.  

Come hell or heart attack. 

I'm sure it will all be fine........

Friday, 3 May 2013

That Friday feeling.....

It's been a l-o-n-g week, what with one thing and another.  

That said, I have achieved quite a lot workwise, not to mention the whole house is gleaming like a new pin plus, on this gloriously sunny Friday, we're on the cusp of a long weekend so it's not all bad.

We're hopeful that we might be able to have our first BBQ of the season, but probably not tomorrow as the weather forecast is for showers of rain.  However Sunday and Monday are currently looking good so 'cautious' and 'optimism' are my watchwords.

I'm equally cautious and optimistic about my new little project, which is coming along nicely.  I'm currently at the 'technical' bit which seems to be working despite my Heath Robinson approach.  Perhaps later today I'll be able to move forward to the 'creative' bit, which should go rather more smoothly.

I've even been considering taking up where I left off with La Mignonette, although that would mean messing up my uncharacteristically neat and tidy workroom.  There are lots of little architectural bits and pieces still to do which, individually, would take no time at all.  However, taken in total, they require making a bit of a mess.  Perhaps tomorrow, if the weather IS rubbish, I might take a few hours out for a 'play'.

Today though I have a lot to do before I can down tools so I'd better go and get on......

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

May Day, Mayday........

It's been a lovely day today, hopefully a harbinger of the summer to come.  Hastings throws itself wholeheartedly into May Day celebrations, which will take place this coming Bank Holiday weekend.  

There's the famous Jack-in-the-Green festivities which kick off on Friday, and the almost equally famous May Day Bike Run when over 50,000 bikers from all over the UK descend on Hastings and showcase their gleaming motorbikes from the old and classic to the downright weird.

You'd think that two such different world's colliding would cause madness and mayhem, but it's all remarkably good humoured and everyone is united in simply enjoying the occasion.

In other news, I've had my own very different Mayday distress moments today, while working on  ideas for a new project.  I generally relish the 'research and development' side of producing new pieces, but there are invariably times when things don't go quite as anticipated and take an unexpected twist.  I'm going to have to wait till later to see whether I've rescued the situation or not and in the meantime I'm trying to avoid going into the workroom to see what's happening as there's nothing I can do now, one way or the other.

Sometimes the seemingly simplest things are the most complex to achieve.

If it's worked, I'll be able to post photos later this week.  If not, forget I ever mentioned it and I'll have to go back to the drawing board.