Saturday, 31 January 2015

Day 30 - Ta Dah......!

Finally.... here we are.

Day 30 of my 30 Day Blogging Challenge.

A post every single day for 30 days.... that's almost half as many as the whole of last year! Not only that, I've been multitasking like a productivity ninja all month too.

I know.

I can't quite believe it either.

It feels like a long time since the beginning of January, and my first challenge post.  I can't claim to have succeeded in my quest to write 'shimmering prose' but I've enjoyed the journey, and have even managed to rekindle affection for my blog, which had been languishing in neglect for far too long.

So, what now?

Well, since I signed up for this, (and if you're a fellow blogger and fancy having a go yourself, simply visit Sarah Arrow's 30 Day Blogging Challenge ) I've received an email from Sarah every day, with helpful hints, tips, suggestions, tools and resources.  Many of the emails also contained tasks designed to improve your blogging prowess.

I must admit I've mostly 'free-styled' over the course of the last 30 days, so I'm going to go systematically through every email and carefully implement all of the suggestions which are relevant to me.

I'm also determined to post more consistently this year, although I will most certainly be taking tomorrow off.

However, to round off this challenge, it has been brought to my attention that in my first post I wrote...

"There will be action, adventure, elephants, intrigue, exposés, and exclusive insights."


Friday, 30 January 2015

Day 29 - Penultimate day....

I seriously doubted whether I would have time to post at all today.

Since this morning I've been cleaning all the things, prepping all the food and chilling all the wine.... anyone would think we had guests coming later.

Tomorrow is the last day of this 30 day blogging challenge, so I'll write a rip-roaring, barnstorming, call-to-arms post which will both amazing and great.

However, today, I'm taking the easy option so here is my mood in a picture......

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Day 28 - Ending Sunday......

As well as my 30 day blog challenge ending on Sunday, my latest Ebay auction will finish then too.  At 4.00 pm, GMT.

I made this little half scale doll and wicker pram set specially for the auction and full details are on my Ebay listing HERE.  

As always, if you decide to bid, good luck!

I'm still putting the finishing touches to my last listing of January, which will start straight after the current auction ends.  

Can't post photos yet but here's a clue...... "You SHALL go to the ball!"

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Day 27 - The end is in sight.....

This daily blogging mallarkey has had some unforeseen consequences.

When I started, 27 days ago, I really didn't know if I'd be able to do it.  I'm not known for consistent perseverance and the prospect of compulsion, of having to post, whether I felt like it or not, was not an attractive one.

I'm also not known for being excessively well organised and I worried about where I'd find the time to commit to the task.  I thought, wrongly as it turns out, that I wouldn't be able to get anything else done, and that my creativity and productivity would suffer.

But I needn't have worried.

I haven't fallen behind in anything.  As well as managing to post every day, I've been turning into a real productivity ninja, spending quality time in the workroom, actually creating rather than staring out of the window and looking for stuff.  

I've cleared no end of commission work this month, and fulfilled orders, as well as designing and producing several new miniatures.  

I've made a return to Ebay and I've kept up with my business Facebook page, as well as completing the 5-Day Art Challenge.

And that's on top of all the other domestic stuff including de-Christmassing the house and tackling the porch makeover.

All in all I'm gobsmacked!

However, it does beg the question of what will happen when I'm no longer blogging daily. Will I return to my slothful, procrastinating ways, regressing from ninja to dormouse in one swell foop...?

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Day 26 - With a little help from my friend......

Scene - Sandra's desk in the office.  Her laptop is unattended while she's in the workroom.
Enter Small Dog, at a trot.  Breaking stride she leaps up onto the empty chair, and sits, looking at the computer screen, the germ of an idea forming in her furry little head.

A few minutes later, a tapping noise can be heard, which Sandra eventually decides to investigate.....

SD: (typing)  Helo.  This is Small Dog. Aparentlie mai mumm mukked up hur blogg challinj  yestirdai and sumwun sujestid that ai help hur owt so heer ai... 

Me: (from the doorway) Excuse me!  

SD:(turning slowly) O..... Hai

Me: What ARE you doing?

SD:  Helpen.

Me:  ?

SD:  Yue kno.... with yure bloggurs blok.  Shimmrin pros and stuff.  Ai am rytin it.

Me:  Down.

SD:  O but muurrrmmmm....... this is kawld showen inishyativ.....

Me:  DOWN! Now.

SD: (jumping down sulkily) *muttr, grumbul* wel thats the larst tym aym helpen yue, so DOANT wurri *skowl* emploiyea of the munth * mone, winj* kno gratitewd......

I sit down and stare at the screen......

Stuk with bloggurs blok
Kno problemo sais Small Dog
Ai am heer to hellp....

Noises off :  *muttr, sie* this is orl the thancs ai gett...... bluddie hai kews....doant kno what orl the fus is abowt.  Sum peepul have kno imajinashun *grumbl, snuffel*

Monday, 26 January 2015

Day 25 - Errrmmmm.....

It had to happen eventually.

I've hit the 'blog wall'

Having just spent 20 minutes starting at my laptop screen, getting nowhere, I have to admit defeat.

So here's a haiku.....

It seems a lost hope
Thoughts and words escape me now.
Buggrit, oh buggrit.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Day 24 - Little boxes.....

I have a guilty secret.

I'm a sucker for little things in boxes.  The smaller the better.

All of my little toy dolls come in special boxes, many of my toys come in boxes, I've just started a range of Mignonette dolls in boxes...... I'm a little bit obsessed with boxes.

So for Day 3 of my Art Challenge, I present a selection of little toy dolls in boxes.  Or, to be more precise, tiny wooden trunks.

 Illustrated vintage-style wooden doll trunk

Which opens to reveal.......

Inside, the trunks are decorated in tiny print papers.  The little toy doll is on a removable stand and is dressed in shades of silk to complement the trunk.  She carries a tiny leather handbag.

On the other side of the box is a silk dress on a hanger.  Under the shelf is a matching silk and lace bonnet and a tiny posy of silk roses.

Doll trunk in pink

These little vintage doll trunks are very popular, and often sell out as soon as they're listed on the website, so I'm always happy to make them to order, in specific colours to match or contrast with customers' doll's house decor.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Day 23 - Art Challenge 2

I somehow now seem to be doing one challenge within another.

I'm on Day 23 of the 30 day Blogging Challenge, and Day 2 of the FB Art Challenge. 
Which leaves.....

*mutter, mumble, errm, carry the one, minus the first number......*

.... 7 days for the blog challenge and 3 days for the art challenge.

How potentially confusing is this?  Plus I'm not convinced that combining them in order to kill two birds with one stone is, strictly speaking, permissible, but it's my blog so I'm allowed some cheating artistic licence.


Today,the theme for my three photos for the FB Art Challenge is one of my great passions..... toy theatres.  As a child I had quite a collection of toy theatres, most of which were of the 'colour in, cut out, assemble and ACTION!' variety.  I also had a larger wooden theatre, which was just the right size for plays enacted by my Pelham Puppets.  I had the Witch, a Princess, a Prince and a Dragon with which I played out many tales of unrequited love, endless quests, valour, magic and derring-do.

As a miniature toymaker then, I just had to make some tiny toy theatres.....

Illuminated Victorian Christmas Toy Theatre

My theatres are made of wood, with printed graphics.  Many of them are illuminated with a tiny 12V grain of rice bulb, which can be plugged into any doll's house lighting circuit. Other theatres in this range include Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood.

Illuminated Alice In Wonderland Toy Theatre

My new Alice in Wonderland theatre has a little drawer in the base which holds a whole cast of characters.  The characters are double sided and have magnetic bases so that they easily be moved around the stage but won't fall over.  How amazing is that?

Punch & Judy Toy Theatre

Another favourite is my traditional Punch & Judy toy theatre, which comes complete with two porcelain puppets, the eponymous and pugnacious Mr Punch, and his long-suffering wife Judy.  These theatres are decorated with Union Jack flags and bunting and have vintage Punch & Judy posters on the sides.  This one is shown in situ in my day nursery room setting.  Young Algernon, is rehearsing the play for his sisters, and is reading the script from his Mr Punch book.

I'm currently working on a new theatre which will feature the fairy tale favourite, Cinderella, which should be ready in time for the next Mini Miniature Show in March.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Day 22 - Facebook Art Challenge.....

There's a thing doing the rounds on Facebook at the moment, called the 5-Day Art Challenge.  Artisans are nominated to present three photos of their work for 5 consecutive days, nominating another artisan on each day.

A fellow dollmaker, Mary Williams, nominated me yesterday, so here goes.......

I'm starting off with a whole project, which has been ongoing for a few years now, and is tantalisingly close to being completed.  As a micro dollmaker I decided that I should really have a miniature doll shop, to showcase my work.  

The whole story of the project to date is detailed HERE, but in a nutshell, I kit-bashed a very basic DHE kit and transformed it into a Parisian shop at the end of the 19th century.  

On the ground floor is the doll showroom, being filled with all manner of doll's accessories, clothing, wigs and, of course, dressed dolls.

Upstairs is the workroom of the proprietress, Mademoiselle Emilie, fully equipped with all the tools of her trade.  She is aided and abetted by smallest Small Dog, and her great friend Archimedes, the rat.

So here are the first three of my photos for the challenge.....

 Mlle Emilie in her workroom

A selection of tiny dolls in the showroom

Thursday, 22 January 2015

Day 21 - Surprise find........

My current workroom reorganisation is throwing up all sorts of things I never knew I had.

One such was a box which at first glance contained an assortment of silk ribbons and trimmings in shades of green and jade, which I set about sorting in order to return them to their correct colour-coded boxes.  However, in the bottom of the box I discovered a little partly dressed toy doll.  She had her underwear and socks, as well as her silk shoes, which were in a shade of olive green.  Also in the box was a length of pleated silk ribbon in the same shade as her shoes, so I had obviously intending dressing her at some point in the dim and distant past but hadn't got very far.

Poor neglected wee soul...... I have no idea how long she'd been shivering, all alone in that box.  Quite some time I suspect as I haven't been through any of those boxes since my workroom makeover almost two year ago.   

All of my little dolls start off as a puddle of liquid porcelain slip, and over the course of a few weeks undergo a magical metamorphosis to emerge as dainty miniature dolls ready for costuming, and they each develop their own personality during their creation.

As you can see, they're always up for bit of larking about with their friends, so I felt particularly bad for the little one I found all on her own, without any of her doll compatriots for company.

So, to make amends, today I set about completing her costume and here she is...

I've named her Olive, for obvious reasons.

Her olive-green pleated silk and lace costume is completed by a stylish silk toque hat which I think particularly suits her.

She is now listed on the Tower House Dolls website and you can find full details HERE.

Hmmm....I wonder what other forgotten projects surprises I will come across during my long-overdue re-organisation.

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Day 20 - Squirrel Appreciation Day.....!

It is an undeniable fact that January doesn't have much going for it.  Only this week we had Blue Monday, statistically the most depressing day in the year.

However, every action has an opposite and equal reaction, so to balance Blue Monday, today, Wednesday 21 January is....... *drum roll*...... Squirrel Appreciation Day!


And before you start, it IS a real thing.  Google it if you don't believe me.  The interweb is awash with stuff about Squirrel Appreciation Day, including this little gem featuring the James Bond of the squirrel world.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Day 19 - Work or displacement activity....?

I'm a great fan of the late, great, Martin Marty Mouse

And yes, I know he's a rat, not a mouse, but as he so succinctly puts it, "It's my name.  Like Michael J. Fox is not a fox....."

He opened my eyes to a whole world of ratty wonders... the fact that Mondays can be cancelled, and that yogies are an essential part of internashunal bizness.

He is also something of a life coach, and his calls to action are the stuff of legend.  I am particularly drawn to the one above.

Yayyy Marty!  Procrastinators of the world unite....... sometime soon.

I had Marty's advice firmly in mind when I'd spent a whole morning packaging orders and getting my paperwork up to date.  All the while I was thinking about what to do this afternoon. I currently have various projects clamouring for my attention, supplies to order, commissions to complete.  So what to do first.....?

The correct answer is, of course, none of them.

No, I decided instead to start going through my cupboards with a view to having a sort out, clear out and reorganisation.

To be fair it's long overdue.  I've got to that point where I can't find anything and spend no end of time just moving stuff from one area to another in a vain attempt to locate something I had just a minute ago.  I'm also having to brace myself every time I open a cupboard door, against the onslaught of stuff tumbling out.

If I had PLANNED to start sorting through the cupboards today you can be sure that something completely different would have claimed my attention, but I seem to have managed to fool my rampant procrastination/displacement activity tendencies into believing that I'm doing it in order to avoid doing anything else.

Clever eh?

So, several hours of sorting have produced just one tidy, organised cupboard.  Actually it's half of a cupboard but it's behind one door so I can sort of legitimately claim that it's one cupboard.

Actually, if I'm going to strictly accurate, it's not quite half of the whole cupboard.  Let's be generous and call it a third.

I have tidied and reorganised one third of one whole two door cupboard.


Actually, now that I look at it, it's not much to show for two hours work but trust me, there was a lot of miscellaneous stuff in there that had to be sorted through and relocated.  I had to make labels for boxes and everything.

Incidentally, for the uninitiated,  guddle is very useful old Scots word

Messy, shit hole (Scottish slang term)
"This room is a right guddle. Get it tidied"
Still..... progress is progress.  One down, nine to go.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Day 18 - Blue Monday......

The sun is shining fit to bust this morning, gradually creeping across the garden, banishing shade and melting the hard frost.

However, despite appearances to the contrary, apparently today is statistically the most depressing day of the year.  Some academic with way too much time on their hands has calculated that the third Monday in January is the worst day in the calendar, due to a combination of factors - festive anti-climax, Christmas bills landing on the doormat with a weighty thud, miserable grey damp weather, long dark evenings and a seemingly endless wait for spring.

And in case you think I'm making all this up.....

Blue Monday was first identified by Cliff Arnall, formerly of Cardiff University, marking the symbolic time in January when people suffer from a series of combined depressive effects.

Blue Monday was devised using the following mathematical formula:
The model was broken down using six immediately identifiable factors; weather (W), debt (d), time since Christmas (T), time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low motivational levels (M) and the feeling of a need to take action (Na).
The formula calculates that Monday 19 January 2015 is the worst day of the year, when the Christmas glow has faded away, New Year’s resolutions have been broken, cold Winter weather has set in and credit card bills will be landing on doormats across the land – whilst the January pay-cheque is still some way away.
Incidentally, if any of you can explain in simple, layman's terms, how that formula = 3rd Monday in January do let me know.  I'm severely algebraically challenged.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Day 17 - Porch makeover..... tick!

My multitasking skills have been stretched to the limits this week.

What with working on commission orders, developing the new Alice theatres, and starting on the porch makeover, it's been a busy, busy week.

But what a sense of satisfaction to get to the end of it and being able to tick off ALL the tasks on my To Do List (volume 3, chapter 10, subsection VIII, para IV)

The porch plans were rather derailed by discovering a leak, which meant taking up the floor etc, but I'm delighted to report that it's all now completely done and dusted.

Lovely new blue carpet (don't you just LOVE new carpet smell?) shoe tidy, additional storage, decorative touches......  No piles of shoes and boots and all the detritus of the outdoors on display for all to see.  Now it is a little oasis of order and calm on the way into and out of the house.

The bespoke shoe tidy was made by PP's son-in-law from an old wooden pallet.  It fits perfectly in the space and provides shelved storage for ALL the boots, wellies, shoes, sandals etc.  I made the nautical curtains from a metre of fabric bought in the Dunelm Mill sale.  It's decorative AND functional, hiding all the shoe clutter from sight and protecting them from the fading effects of sunshine.

On top are three storage baskets (also half price in the Dunelm Mill sale) which fit exactly!

How serendipitous is that?!  

They will hold all the extraneous 'stuff' which is needed on outings..... gloves, hats,  Small Dog's paraphernalia... poo bags, lead, harness, coat etc.  All neatly organised and basketted.

After making the shoe tidy curtains I had some fabric scraps left over, so I made these......

And these....

I'm really rather pleased with the whole thing.... it's such an improvement on the shabby mess which was there before.  And the entire makeover was accomplished for less than £30!

Go us.....!

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Day 16 - Everything Alice.......

I've been down the rabbit hole all this week, making teeny, tiny, wee Alice dolls, and finalising the new design of my Alice in Wonderland miniature toy theatres.

I also received a lovely surprise gift from one of my best customers..... a miniature Alice in Wonderland book.

My Alice themed shop window project is gradually coming together..... not much actual work on it so far but the ideas are flowing and I'm gathering together all the bits and pieces I'll need to complete it.

However, my most exciting purchase this week is a simply WONDERFUL Alice in Wonderland tea set, which I commissioned from the very talented miniature artisan  Julie Lawton.   

Isn't it just AMAZING?!  It's all completely handmade and it's so perfectly small.  See the 5 pence coin on the left?  That's to reference the scale.

The magic pouring teapot is inspired..... how clever is that?

 The sugar bowl is presided over by the Mad March Hare!

A grinning Cheshire Cat adorns the milk jug....

'Eat Me' cookies and a snoozing dormouse on the teacups.

I am beyond delighted, and eagerly await their arrival next week.  You can see more of Julie's work on her Ebay page HERE.

So my box of Alice goodies is filling fast...... curiouser and curiouser 

Friday, 16 January 2015

Day 15 - Retail therapy.....

We had to do some errands today, and ended up in Norman Road.

Ten years ago, Norman Road in St. Leonards on Sea was one of the most un-salubrious roads in the area.  Down at heel, shabby and unloved, it wasn't a place to linger.  However, in recent years it has undergone a renaissance and has emerged as a butterfly, with quirky shops, eateries and galleries and is now a creative hub.

One relative newcomer to the road is Craft Box, a veritable Aladdin's cave of art and craft supplies, haberdashery and modelmaking.  I only discovered it recently and whenever I'm in the area I can't resist popping in for a browse.

Well, I say browse, I haven't yet come out without a bag of goodies.  Here's my haul from today.....

From the top, left to right......

  • 5 spools of metallic craft wire in assorted colours.  I'm not quite sure what I'll use these for but I'm absolutely convinced they'll come in very handy.
  • Box of pins with pincushion.  I have NO IDEA what happens to all my pins.  Perhaps there is a pin fairy who steals them for her hoard.  Although more likely they're all woven into the carpet.
  • Reel of something amazing which I'll come to later.
  • Inside the reel, two pots of enamel paint in lovely new colours
  • Bottom row, air vanishing marker.  This is made of magic and I've no idea how it works but you draw a bright purple line on fabric and a few hours later it's gone.  Wizards may be involved.
  • Fraycheck..... I should buy this in gallon containers.  Aside from sealing the raw edges of silk and ribbons I also use it when I'm stringing microdolls.  
  • Pack of tiny silver bells.... I use these all over the show, menagerie pullalong toys, wicker sleighs, marottes.  You can NEVER have too many silver bells.
  • Pack of filigree findings in antique bronze finish.  Loads of uses for these and since I'm a findings junkie I couldn't resist.
The reel of something amazing is this......

No I didn't know what it was either, but (and I'm so excited about this I can hardly breathe) it's a reel of double sided tape just 3mm WIDE!  How amazing is that?!

OK, so if you're not a miniaturist that's maybe not so amazing, but trust me, this is going to prove indispensable. If you've never tried to cut down a piece of normal sized tape to just 3mm wide, without tearing the tape and rendering it useless you will have NO IDEA of just how amazing this is.  It was all I could do not to fall to my knees to thank the Gods of Craft right there in the shop.

As well as being a treasure trove of all things crafty (you could spend hours in there and not discover everything) the owners are lovely and incredibly helpful.

So whether you're a crafty local, or from out of town and happen to find yourself in this neck of the woods, just one road back from the seafront you will find Craft Box.


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Day 14 - Sew and sew.........

The other day I posted a vintage photo on my Tower House Dolls Facebook page, which got a great response, going by the number of people it reached.

The ability to sew (and knit) was commonplace when I was growing up.  A completely unremarkable skill.  But I'm constantly surprised at the number of people these days, who are happy to admit that they've never, ever used a needle.

Rarely a day goes by when I don't sew.  Using a needle and thread feels as normal to me as using paper and pen.

Although that's probably not a good analogy, as pen users are possibly as rare as hand-sewers these days.

Back in the day, when I was at primary school, we did sewing every week.  I still remember my very first school sewing project..... a simple needlework sampler, which I still have.

One of my most prized possessions as a child was a little toy sewing machine which really worked so I made clothes for my dolls and soft furnishings for my doll's house.

As a teenager I started making my own clothes, using my grandmother's old hand cranked Singer sewing machine and when my children were little I knitted and sewed for them too.

I regularly use my sewing machine, for making full-size curtains, cushions and other soft furnishings but workwise, since I've moved down a scale from 1/12th to 1/24th, for tiny doll's dressmaking I have no option but to hand sew.  

Normal sized sewing needles would make overly large holes in my delicate silks, looking unsightly and leading to unstable seams, so I use very small, very fine needles (size 12 betweens) which are a challenge to thread, and even more of a challenge to find if they're dropped on the floor.  I even use an especially fine thread.

My deluxe Jumeau-style toy dolls measure a smidgen under 1  3/4" tall, so their bustled jackets are tiny.  They have six separate pattern pieces which must be painstakingly hand sewn.... the seam allowance is 1/16" and the stitches themselves must be practically microscopic.

Perhaps surprisingly, I find this exacting micro-sewing relaxing, although most 'normal' people express horror at even attempting such small costumes.  

Nevertheless, it's some comfort to know that years ago I would have been in good company, as evidenced by these wonderful vintage images of girls and young women across the decades learning to sew. 

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Day 13 - Best laid plans.......

I knew it.

I just knew it.......

I wrote yesterday about tackling a minor DIY project by way of limbering up for the challenge of redecorating our bedroom.  

I expected it to take half a day.  Max.


You'd think that by now I'd know better.

The project in question is our entrance porch which measures a diminutive 2 metres long by 1 metre wide.  It's home to a motley collection of shoes, boots, wellies, coats, hats, gloves, dog walking requisites etc, which till recently have mostly been piled down the end.  The carpet is threadbare and the whole thing has been looking increasingly scruffy and neglected.  

It is most definitely NOT an edifying entrance.

However, for Christmas, PP's son-in-law made her a bespoke shoe rack, which will neatly hold ALL the footwear, tidying and organising the space in one fell swoop.  So it seemed like a good idea to replace the worn carpet, and add a few finishing touches.  A nice, easy, and above all QUICK makeover.

On Monday we found a good quality carpet remnant, in the perfect colour, enough to do the floor twice over (so we even have a piece in reserve) for a laughably small sum, so yesterday we were good to go.

This is where it all went Pete Tong.

We emptied the porch and lifted the old carpet to discover that we had sprung a leak.  One corner of the floor, nearest the door was absolutely saturated with rainwater.


So, we not only had to lift the carpet, but take up the whole floor, in order to try to trace the leak, which we suspect is at the bottom of the window frame.  We lugged the floor sections indoors to dry them out and set off to buy some sealant.  

This is the current scene in the porch.

Once the leaky area has been properly sealed and dried out, and the floor sections are thoroughly dry, we can relay the floor, hopefully later today and be back at our initial starting point from yesterday.

A whole day's effort and we've ended up with more of a mess than we started with.


Hopefully, by the end of today we will at least have a fully functioning floor.  One which means we don't have to take a flying leap over the chasm. If it is newly carpeted that will be a bonus.

This may not bode well for the much trickier bedroom makeover......