Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Curiouser and curiouser.....

I've blogged recently about taking a new direction workwise next year, and although I'm still uncertain about which path to take, thoughts and ideas are swirling around and gradually coalescing into a nebulous plan.

The problem is, I have loads of ideas for 'stuff to do' all the time... it's sorting the wheat from the chaff which is the hard part.  Nevertheless, the more I think about things, the more certain I am that it's all worth a go.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and all that.

So.

For the foreseeable future I'm going to have plans for two 'projects' running side by side, while I engage in one of my favourite work-related tasks.... research and development.

Or Pinterest as it is sometimes known.

I'm also toying with the idea of forsaking my beloved 1/12th scale, and taking the plunge into 1/24th.  Yes I know it's no longer the new best thing.... the even smaller, and frankly impossible 1/48th scale has stolen that crown, but I've never been an early adopter.

As a result I'm in the market for a very specific half scale house.  There are lots around but none which tick all my specification boxes.  So whichever one I decide upon I'm going to have to do some serious kit-bashing.

That's my autumn/winter free time taken care of then........


Friday, 14 July 2017

Sewing bee.....

So.

I've been playing this week.... first with the creation of a new little book



Book comes complete with three separate colour plates
Written instructions and patterns for all of the illustrated costumes


And as these things are wont to do, one thing led to another....

Children's Sewing Set

I've again signed up as a dealer for the August Mini Miniature Show, and have been trying to come up with a new, exclusive kit to offer as a workshop at the show.  It was while I was making the Dolly's Dressmaking book that I remembered I had a few half scale sewing machines which would be just perfect for a child's boxed sewing kit.

Et voila!  Over the weekend I'll be refining the kit, adding some other sewing accoutrements and designing a bespoke box for the entire set.

With luck and a following wind my new Doll's Dressmaking Set workshop will be advertised on the Mini Miniature Show website next week 😊


Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Vintage doll's sewing books.....

Buoyed by my success with the sewing machine kit for my L'atelier de Poupée workshop pack, I've been busy again today making two very special miniature book kits, also destined for inclusion.

Both are facsimiles of original books written specially for children, to help them make clothing for their dolls. Like doll's houses, which were originally used as a teaching aid for girls to help them gain skills in domestic housekeeping, these books instilled the basics of needlework, at a time when most clothing was handmade, before the age of mass production.




The text is rather patronising....

..... but I have no doubt that if the instructions were followed to the letter, young girls would have been able to create beautiful costumes for their dolls.

I do wonder though how present-day children would react to being given a non-digital book (with precious few illustrations) some fabric and sewing equipment and left to get on with it.



The instructions for the Mantle, in particular, combine elements of arithmetic and geometry in a form which don't even make much sense to me and I do this stuff every day! 😲




Monday, 10 July 2017

A stitch in time......

A few weeks ago I blogged about the preparations for my swansong workshop pack, which are going rather well, if I do say so myself.

I have 10 boxes, each gradually filling with all manner of mini kits which together will make up my L'atelier de la Poupée Vignette..

This morning I've just finished this.....


..... which will also be included.


It's all coming together very nicely 😊

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Box of Delights.....!

Regular readers will know that I absolutely love tiny things in boxes.  There is something about a boxed miniature - whether it's a little porcelain toy doll, or a vintage litho board game - that makes my heart sing.

In pursuit of my workroom downsizing exercise I've come across several boxes of full size vintage boxed games, some dating from the 1890s.  All have been serendipitous finds on Ebay over the years, and most are in a parlous state.... creased, marked and dog-eared, with busted boxes and some playing pieces missing etc.  

However, using the miracle of Photoshop, it is possible to painstakingly restore them to their original glory, at least in 1/12th scale.  The process is extremely time-consuming, nit-picking work but I think it's worth it to recreate a much-loved vintage game in miniature.

I've already miniaturised several vintage litho toys and games over the years, some of which were also available as kits, so I've set up a new category on the website titled 'Box of Delights' in which I will list each new vintage game as I complete it.... hopefully one a month.... although they do take a very long time to restore.

First in the series is a rather lovely version of one of my favourite childhood card games, Old Maid.  It was produced by the famous McLoughlin Brothers in 1892 and includes 44 cards featuring illustrations of well-loved nursery rhymes.  

Boxed Set of Old Maid Game Cards


The game is available either as a completed set, or as a limited number of kits HERE

Future games and toys include my version of a vintage Peter Rabbit board game, a rather lovely toy doll's house, and a boxed set of gorgeous vintage paper dolls... to name but a few! 

For anyone who wants to display their collection, either in a miniature toy shop or nursery setting, I am also designing a special piece of furniture, which will be available as a kit around Christmas time.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

14 day deadline....!

As part of my last full year of trading, I've been conducting a thorough stock check of dressed dolls, ready to dress dolls, and kits, all of which are getting low.

I'm currently working on a megabatch of casting in order to restock porcelain toys and dolls, which will take several months.  After that's completed, early next year, I will be selling off my molds and kiln, along with all of my dollmaking tools and equipment, so all the dolls and toys I cast over the next few months will then have to last me for the remainder of my miniature making career, whichever form that takes.

Prices of my dressed and ready to dress dolls have remained static for over 12 years and during that I've absorbed all the rising costs of raw materials.  However, at the end of this month (that's 14 days time) we will be updating our prices across the website.

For my range of ready to dress dolls that means a 25% increase.

Sounds a lot doesn't it?  But it takes the cost of a handmade, jointed, china-painted, four-times fired, porcelain doll from just £12 to £15.  Prices of kits and dressed dolls will also rise accordingly.

The price changes across the website will take effect on 1 July.  So there is a two week window of opportunity to take advantage of the current ridiculously low prices!

See our ready to dress dolls HERE

A selection of jointed, ready to dress, porcelain dolls.... from 1" to 1  3/4" tall!

Thursday, 1 June 2017

End of an era.....

Although I'm feeling eleventy million times better than I did on Tuesday, I'm still a bit 'meh' so today the limit of my ambition has been pottering about, ostensibly tidying up, as the house is a complete tip.

We're still trying to sort through no end of 'stuff' which came downstairs prior to the shower room refurb and most of it has ended up in the dining room, pending sale, recycling or charity donation.  The dining room also performed as my temporary sewing room last week so my machine and all the gubbins are still set up in there.  

Not so much dining room as warehouse holding facility.

My depleted energy levels haven't permitted me to do much in the way of sorting through the mess today, although I did drag out our old fair stand sign, which had been carefully bubble-wrapped and stored in what is now Gigglefidget's new room.


We made it specially for the 50th  Miniatura doll's house fair back in 2009, and used it subsequently at various Kensington Dollshouse Festival fairs, as well as many others at which we exhibited during the past 8 years, replacing a motley collection of display equipment which had graced my stand at fairs during the previous 22 years.

As it was for Miniatura's Golden Anniversary we decided on a black and gold colour scheme. It's difficult to see from the photo but all around the sides are little golden fairy lights, embellished with sprays of little iridescent gold beads.  PP cut the lettering for the sign and the whole thing bolted onto the back of a horizontal display shelf.  We used gold lame fabric over a black tablecloth to cover the stand and all of the modular display units were either gold or black.


Those were the days.....

I do have photos of it at that Miniatura show but they're saved somewhere in the bowels of our old portable hard drive, so here's a more recent one from the Thame Fair a few years ago.

Anyways.... as we're not going to be exhibiting at any more fairs, there's no need to keep it so earlier on I dismantled it. The lights will be used somewhere in the house and we'll cut up the wood to use for a garden project.

While I was taking it apart in the garden, Small Dog decided to take on a supervisory role....



As I've been under the weather the past few days, I've had some downtime to ponder on what direction I'll be taking next year.  Tentative ideas and plans have gradually been coalescing and taking shape so I've got a lot to think about.

However, in the meantime I'm going to have some fun and work on projects for miniatures which I've always had in mind to make, but have simply never got round to doing.
Also, over the coming months I'll be listing loads of minis, kits, tools and materials for sale from my workroom, as I systematically clear through all the cupboards, shelves and boxes.

Onwards and upwards.....


Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Decorum.... I has it

The peelie-walliness I referred to in my last post was in relation to a lingering lurgy which has been afflicting both PP and I for the past 7 days.

Similar to norovirus in its explosive symptoms I first came down with it in the early hours of Thursday morning last week.  In the interests of decorum, I will refrain from a blow by blow account but when I mentioned it on FB, one of my friends commented:



Andy Houstoun Oh no... I'm picturing you sitting on the loo with your head in a bucket. Hope you feel better soon. Xx

Reply
1
25 May at 12:25

Sandra Morris Andy... that was EXACTLY the picture at 1.30am this morning. Still feeling fragile but at least I can be more than 5 feet away from the bathroom for longer than 10 minutes 

Reply
1
25 May at 12:51
By Saturday I was feeling better, although still under par and expected, quite reasonably I thought, that the worst was behind me *no pun intended*

However, around 2am yesterday morning I woke with a sense of urgency, which propelled me at speed into our gleaming new shower room, where I took up residence for the next few hours. Again, decorum prevents me from describing the scene.  Suffice to say it wasn't pretty.

I did try going back to bed at several points in the wee, small hours, but sleep was impossible as every 10-15 minutes I relentlessly ploughed a lonely furrow from bed to loo, mostly at a brisk trot *again, no pun intended*    At the risk of breaching my self-imposed decorum law, I have to say that not all of these dashes were timely... and as the hours of darkness gradually morphed into the faint light of dawn, a pile of bagged-up PJs formed on the shower room floor.

By 7am, I was reduced to wearing the abandoned PJ bottoms from the depths of my sleepwear drawer. The really, REALLY baggy ones, which end above my ankles, have no elastic in the waist and make me look like a clown.  Although, to be fair, sartorial elegance wasn't high on my list of priorities by that time.

PP helpfully suggested that she could attempt to fashion me a giant nappy, using some of the old towels we've retired from service since the new shower room was installed but I declined.  Loss of dignity is one thing, becoming a laughing stock is quite another.

Throughout the night, as I rocked and moaned, occasionally a small, furry head appeared round the door to assess the situation, then quickly withdrew, beating a hasty retreat to her bed.

I don't blame her.  At one point, deciding that going back to bed between 'episodes' was pointless, I rolled up a big, new, fluffy bath towel into a pillow and tried to sleep 'in situ' in the shower room, resting my head on the washbasin, sick bucket suspended between my knees in an improvised towel hammock.

It didn't work.

In the morning I called our GP's surgery.

Receptionist: *brightly* Good morning... this is ******** speaking, how may I help you?
Me: *exhausted* I'll keep this brief as I'm going to have to go at any minute, but I need some advice.

I quickly described my predicament, again forgoing many of the details for sake of the aforementioned decorum, and asked if I could speak to someone as it was going to be impossible for me to leave the house to attend the surgery.

Receptionist: *clearly grossed out by my symptoms, despite the heavy layers of decorum* We have no doctor's appointments available to yourself today.
Me: *exasperated* I don't WANT an appointment!  I want to talk to someone there... maybe one of the nurses for some advice on what I can take.
R: I, myself, am not clinically trained, so I cannot offer advice to yourself.
Me: I appreciate that.  Can I speak to someone, ANYONE, who IS clinically trained then.
R: Computer says no.  Unfortunately I have no triage calls remaining for today.  Is it urgent?
Me: *conscious of an increasing lower abdominal urgency* You could say that.  Please, I just want some advice.
R: *slowly, as though talking to a child* As I have already told yourself, I am not clinical....
Me:*interrupting, through gritted teeth* I. Need. Advice.  
R: If I may, can I suggest to yourself that you ring your pharmacist and describe your *shudder* symptoms.  If they think that you should see a GP then you may call back and I will see if there is any possibility of an emergency phone call to yourself.
Me:  That's it, is it?  Ring the pharmacy.
R: Is there anything else I can help yourself with....?
Me:*with heavy sarcasm*  Help?  Oh no... you've been INCREDIBLY helpful.
R: *chirpily* Thank you... have a nice day.

Thankfully, our regular pharmacist was more helpful, initially suggesting Loperamide (generic Immodium) which I had already tried during the night, to no avail.  Then she mentioned Enterosgel, which she claimed binds to toxins and pathogens in the gut and removes them.  Having ascertained that it was available over the counter, PP set off to get some (HOW MUCH?!?) along with industrial quantities of disinfectant and Lucozade.

While PP was on her mercy mission, I Googled Enterosgel, and sure enough, it is described as "an innovative intestinal adsorbent, developed for binding toxins, allergens, pathogens and other harmful substances in the GE tract, and removing them from the body"  It is an organosilicon compound-polymethylsiloxane polyhydrate with a porous structure and gel-like consistency.

Wow.

It's a bit like transparent toothpaste in a tube which is mixed with water then drunk.  It's colourless, odourless and tasteless but has an odd chalky texture.  I suppose the best I can say is that it's not actively unpleasant.

Whether it was the Enterosgel, or the fact that after 9 straight hours of 'forced evacuation' I was effectively empty, gradually over the course of the day I was able to spend more time out of the shower room than in it.  I even managed a few hours sleep in the afternoon, albeit subliminally alert to every grumble and gurgle in my beleaguered digestive system which might herald another toilet dash.

Exhausted, I mostly slept through last night, with only a few nocturnal excursions and this morning I'm wobbily vertical, feeling as though I'm waking up from a bad dream.
It's tempting to think that the lurgy is finally going, but having had two bouts in the space of one week I'm not counting any chickens just yet.

So there you have it.  And in the words of the invariably late, undoubtedly great, Australian cultural attache, Sir Les Patterson:

" Decorum?  I've got decorum coming out my arse!"

In my case, quite literally.....


















Sunday, 28 May 2017

Forget Iron Man...meet Iron Woman!

First off I have an admission to make.  Actually, come to think of it.... NOT an admission, as that suggests an element of guilt.

I'll rephrase.

I have a declaration to make.

I. Hate. Ironing.

There. I've said it.  

It's dull
It's boring
It's repetitive
It's ultimately pointless

HOWEVER.

I do seem to do a lot of it... for work purposes.  And as a result my workroom iron has a lot to contend with.  I last changed it in January 2010....that's over 7 years ago.  I blogged about it HERE, if you're interested in irons.  Although why you should be defies all sense and logic.

Anyway, I have spent a large chunk of this afternoon attempting to clean my workroom iron.

It was never going to end well.

As I said, my workroom iron has to cope with a lot..... glue, iron-on Vilene, Bondaweb, and a bewildering array of fabrics, from pure silks through to organdie ribbon.  Most materials I use are extremely fine and delicate, and therefore require a very low temperature.  However, occasionally I have to whack up the heat in order to smooth out a particularly obstinate piece of fabric, and it was while I was doing just that earlier, that the non-stick pad which is wrapped around my square ironing board, melted completely onto the non-stick surface of my iron.

Now.

I'm no expert on non-stick surfaces.  I don't know what they're made of or what complicated molecular polymer chains are needed to give them the requisite properties.  However, I do know that I expect them to be non-stick.  

Just to clarify.....my definition of 'non-stick' is something that doesn't stick to anything and nothing sticks to it.

I'm tending to give the benefit of the doubt to the iron.  Despite the fact that it was instrumental in causing the initial gooey, sticky mess which the non-stick ironing pad  transformed into, with just one light touch.  It's an iron.  It's meant to get hot.

The full force of my wrath was reserved for the ironing pad.  It surely should be capable of withstanding the heat of a hot iron.  Nowhere on the original packaging did it say "Only suitable for extremely low temperature ironing".  

It's an ironing board cover. It's meant to be ironed on!

Not only did it melt onto the soleplate of my iron, it also stuck thoroughly onto the board, necessitating me going at it with a screwdriver and Stanley knife to get the rock-hard stuff off.

After that I couldn't face tackling the iron, so left it to cool down completely before assessing the damage.  At first, some of the melted pad did peel off quite easily, but my initial delight soon turned to frustration as most of it seemed to have transmogrified into a completely new-to-science material which had apparently melded itself INTO the metal. 

I started off gently, with a non-scratch sponge scourer and a minuscule amount of non-scratch cream cleaner which made not a jot of difference.  I then graduated to a wire scourer and a more generous application of cream cleaner.  Finally I took to hacking at the hardened, blackened gunge with a selection of tools which were most definitely NOT non-scratch.... scalpel blades, pokey needle tool thing, screwdrivers, even coarse sandpaper.

After over an hour I have eventually managed to chip off the worst of it, but the iron will never be the same again.

*sigh*

I've accepted that I may have to replace the iron, depending on how it performs with some fine silk ribbon tomorrow.  However I most definitely need to replace the ironing pad, preferably one made with a non-melting, properly non-stick, fit for purpose fabric. 

Have I mentioned that I don't like ironing.......? 


Saturday, 27 May 2017

Mistress of all she surveys......

We've all felt a bit peely-wally this week after succuming to a bout of spring norovirus.  Even Small Dog has been pale and wan, eschewing several of her breakfast and dinners and taking herself off to bed early.

So a bit of impetus on the house stuff has been lost, although I have been sewing stuff other than bunting.

Inevitably though, we've all been feeling a bit meh.  So in an odd 10 minutes the other day I clicked through to do an online survey.

One Poll surveys are usually quite quick and quirky, and this one was no exception.

It was about pets, and having discovered that we have a dog the first few questions followed a well-trodden path, asking her age, what breed she is and so on, but by Q9 things took an unexpected turn




I sensed a small, furry presence beside me, and looked down to find Small Dog, looking at me appraisingly.

Me:  Ah.  You're here.
SD:*enigmatically*  Yes


SD:  (having managed to jump onto my lap, all the better to see it with)  So.... ai kude have a twittur and instergram paij too?
Me: Well... yes.  But FB is the best platform for you.

SD regards me sceptically, eyebrows raised.


SD *triumphantly* Do yue remembur the dai that mai paij gott moar lieks than Towr Hows Dols?
Me: Yes.  Yes I do.  
SD: We hadd a manijmint meeten abowt itt.  Yue wudent lett me hav a selfy stik.
Me: No.  No we wouldn't.  And let that be an end to the matter.




SD:Thai do liek to rubb it in...doant thay?
Me: It's only a survey SD.
SD: Ah yess... butt itts orl abowt the zytgiste tho.... 
Me: *non-commitally* Hmmmm....


SD: *incredulously*  Ai kannot evin bileev itt!  
Me:*defensively* Yes... well... I don't always have the time to post on your page.  
SD *accusingly*  Harrumph



SD: Ai shude thinc so too



SD: *mollified* Ah yes.... rumpstake.  Mai faivorit.  Ai must addmitt... birthdais ar kwite gude.



SD: *glances up to the right of my chair* 





SD: *incredulously*  In a HANDBAG?!
Me: *laughing* SD... you sound just like Lady Bracknell!
SD: *witheringly* Ai due KNOTT sownd liek Laidee Barknell.



Me:*warningly* This is all hypothetical SD.  
SD:*ecstatically* O. Mai. Dogg!!!!  Ai kude be yure brydsmayd AND Besst Dog.  Plus ai kude karry the rings in mai fathefull jaws.
Me: *brusquely* Not going to happen SD.  As I said.  Hypothetical.



SD: *emphatically*  Ai am glad yue sed that.  As yue kno I konsider marrij to be a patriarkl konstrukt deesined for the subjewgashun of women.
Me: Absolutely SD! 



SD:*disdainfully* Ai do, of korse, kneed a kote for bad wethur.  The tootoo was a stepp to farr thoe.....



Me:*placatingly* It was an embellishment to your WASPI costume.  You looked lovely in it on the Day of Action.  Everyone said so.  Plus you were helping to raise awareness of the foul calumny perpetrated on your mothers in respect of the appalling injustice surrounding moving the state pension goalposts for women born in the 1950s.
SD: Ah.  Well.  Yes.  In that kais.  Kno problemo.



SD: *emphatically* Well yes... off korse! 
Me*sigh*



SD: *nodding*  Kwite rite too.  I hait shoppen.  Plus thay poot barbykew twice.



SD: *sniffily*  Ai am SHURE ai hav moar than 11-15 tois.  Yue keap hyden them in my akkewtriments baskit.  Espeshallie the skweekie wuns.
Me: You would get bored with the same toys all the time.  Anyway... you mostly just run and hide them up the garden then forget about them.



SD: *accusingly*  Whie did yue knott tik orl of them?
Me: SMALL DOG!!!  You hate water, I hate bungalows, you DO have a personal heater as nobody can get near the woodburner when you lie in front of it AND you had a dog flap and refused point blank to use it.  End. Of.
SD: *moodily* Suppoas so.......



SD: *scornfully*  THATT is a stewpid kweshtun!  
Me: We are in complete agreement on that, SD.
SD: Ai am mutsch moar lieklie to byte yue if ai DOANT hav enuff attenshun.
Me: *lovingly*  SD.... that will NEVER happen.

FIN

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Sneak preview.....

I'm sure some of you are thinking....

"Well, Sandra... it's all very well and good all this DIY and house stuff, but when are you actually going to do some REAL work?!?!?!"

Good question.
Very perceptive.
Gets right to the nub of the matter.

And my response would be ...

"WTF?  I only have one pair of hands and can only be in one place at any given time.  
Bunting don't make themselves you know!
Sheesh!"

However, in my defence, although I haven't been able to spend an entire day in the workroom since the whole shower room/bedrooms mallarkey makeover began, I have been sneaking in there for the odd hour or so in an attempt to hang on to what remains of my sanity.

I've been working on my swansong workshop pack.  Yes, you heard it here first folks.  I'm using the next 11 months to completely re-organise and gradually wind down Tower House Dolls. Thereafter it will cease to exist.

I will continue my creative life in some other form but next year THD will be 30 years old.

THIRTY YEARS!

And next year I will be 60 years old.

SIXTY YEARS!

And yes, there is a pleasing synchronicity to having lived half my life doing something I love so much.  But I feel it is time to move on.

So, over the coming year there will be a variety of swansong projects, all leading towards a grand finale, around the time of my birthday.

Anyways, this last ever workshop pack will be a doozer.  It will be ready for release this autumn and will be limited to just TEN packs.   I posted in February last year about my plans and my Rule of Ten for kits and I've stuck to it since.

So, just ten it shall be.

I can't reveal the whole thing, as it is still a work in progress, but here is a sneaky, sneak preview.....

L'atelier de la Poupée Vignette
Some time ago now, I commissioned this 1/12th vignette kit from Nick Day of Treacle Lane
(he also supplied kits for my Parisian Kiosk workshop at CMW last October, and the      
wonderful Travelling Toy Theatre Cart kits which I've used for Little Red Riding Hood)

It's been a l-o-n-g while in the planning, as I want it to be very special, but over time I've been 
gradually working on all the many, many elements which will will be included with it.

The laser cut wooden vignette can be decorated as you wish (lots of options will be available) 
and will be filled to overflowing with all manner of miniature delights to create a miniature 
dollmaker's workroom, including all furnishings and accessories... and dolls.  Lots of different 
tiny dolls.



I'm really quite excited about it, and will reveal more information as it develops so watch this
space!