Friday, 7 December 2018

Dry cleaning......

It cannot have escaped eagle-eyed readers that I haven't yet mentioned the C-word.

You know..... that thing.

I'll give you a clue.....

Yes Christmas.  Here we are a full week into December and I haven't referenced the impending season.

Well, buckle up buttercups as I'm about to go full on festive.  I'll gloss over the fact that I put our tree and decorations up on 1st December, purely for health reasons, as I suffer from SAD and need as much light at this gloomy, light-starved time of year as is humanly possible. 

I'm now fully immersed in Christmas preparations, aided by volumes of lists (including the grandiosely named 'December Master List'.

Looming large on my list(s) is preparing a doll's house for our little granddaughter (aka Gigglefidget).   She's two and a half and the time has come for her to have a doll's house here, at Nanny and RaRa's house.  So I'm doing a makeover on a children's Chad Valley house, which we picked up for a song on FB Marketplace.  I'm completely redecorating it, and customising wooden furniture sets.

I've decided to populate it with Sylvanian animals, rather than people, who will be engaged in a variety of different comedic scenarios each time Gigglefidget visits.  So I bought a job lot of them from Ebay, complete with loads of costumes etc.  However as they've been pre-loved they need a good spruce up to clean and disinfect them.

Now I have to hold my hands up here and admit I'm a Sylvanian virgin.  I don't think my daughter ever had any, so I'm not au fait with their foibles.

Obviously I've Googled how to clean the little buggers but advice is mixed.  Some sites say they should be dry-cleaned (ie carefully brushed and wiped with a dry cloth).....other suggest the Sylvanian equivalent of a wire brush and dettol, immersing them in hot water for 30 minutes and giving a gentle scrub with an old toothbrush.

Having ascertained that the dry-cleaning route wasn't going to remove some over-enthusiastic 'colouring-in', I decided I had no choice but to resort to a more 'invasive' method.

And right there was a dilemma.  I had to choose one of the many animals to 'volunteer' as a guinea pig, to undergo experimental cleaning.

I won't go into detail about the selection process..... I'm still traumatised by it.  But in the end a daredevil pup with fanciful green and purple 'tattoos' was chosen for the trial.


First try..... baby shampoo in lukewarm water.  Soaked for 10 minutes.  Wiped with soft cloth.  Rinsed.

Result - No effect.

Second go..... mild detergent in hand-hot water.  Soaked for 30 minutes.  Gentle scrub with sponge. Rinsed.

Result - No effect.

Third go..... biological clothes washing liquid in HOT water.  Soaked for 1 hour.  Good going over with an old toothbrush.  Rinsed.

Result - Small improvement.


The pup is still soaking in the last solution (4 hours and counting) but I'm not hopeful that the remaining felt tip marker/crayon will ever surrender.

On the plus side, all the flocking is still there, so they're obviously more resilient than I was led to believe.  Thankfully, I have a lot to choose from, so the merely grubby ones should brush up just fine and the tattooed ones will just have to be 'modified' in some way.

Obviously, if any of you have experience in deep cleaning Sylvanians then step up and share your wisdom.  I really don't want to have to subject any more of them to spurious experimentation.

And NO.... I won't be replicating any of the above scenarios in Gigglefidget's doll's house but the 'forest fr1ends' Twitter account is VERY funny, if completely unsuitable for children (and possibly some adults!) 

Forest Fr1ends on Twitter

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Happy Birthday Blog...!

12 years ago today, I wrote my very first blog post.  It was brief and to the point (you can read it here) and I thought it would last for the duration of the project I intended to document.

However, several major miniature projects later, it's still going.  Honestly, nobody's more surprised than me!

It's seen me though a multitude of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, high points and successes.  I've enjoyed writing every single one of the 1600+ posts and responding to comments by my lovely followers.

My stats reveal that there have been over 260,000 page views which is nothing short of unbelievable, considering that a very high proportion of posts involve Small Dog's ramblings insightful prose, interspersed with flights of fancy and feats of procrastination.  

So Happy Birthday Blog..... I hope we enjoy many more years together! 

Predictably, Small Dog is entering into the spirit of the thing and has suggested that we have a cake to celebrate.  She has even been Googling what she considers to be the most suitable cake design although she did express some reservations that my cake-baking skills might not be up to the mark.

Hmmmm..... definitely not SD! My efforts would probably result in something more akin to this.....


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Let there be LIGHT!!!

My marathon dining room makeover is finally coming to an end.  There are still some bits and pieces to finish off, followed by putting everything back in place, but all the heavy duty 'up-the-ladder' stuff is complete.

I can't do a reveal for the whole room yet, but I can show off the result of almost 4 weeks of hard work, transforming the chandelier.

Before I started it looked like this....

I had to strip all of the strings of crystals off, along with the only other bits which I could remove.

Candle cup holders, washed and drying.

Which left this.... horribly reminiscent of a large, black spider, especially when viewed from below! 

I had to carefully clean every part of it with a solution of Isopropyl Alcohol to remove 12 years of dust and grime, before giving it two coats of Gesso.

It took three weeks to string each individual crystal and prism onto silver connector rings....

.... a finger-numbing task which I only completed this week.

In the meantime I'd been painting the chandelier, with 2 coats of 9 different colours of pearlised paint.

If you ever feel the yen to do something similar, I have some really good advice for you.

Just. Don't.

Trust me, it's a nightmare.  There are close to 800 crystals, each of which has had two connecting rings painstakingly threaded through the holes to make individual strings.  The initial novelty of working with the lovely coloured glass crystals quickly wore off, as each jump ring connector had to be prised open with a blunt knife, to allow the end to slip into the holes.  This was, as our little Gigglefidget would say "a little bit tricky" and I endured many puncture wounds on various fingers in the process.

Of course, the inevitable mistakes of occasionally getting a colour out of sequence meant unstringing the incorrect crystals, which was even more difficult than stringing them.

Between spells of crystal stringing, painting the chandelier in situ entailed hours up a ladder, wielding a tiny paintbrush to pick out details.

So, take my advice and shell out for a new one.  You'll thank me in the long run.

Except of course, an off-the-shelf chandelier, at a cost of several hundred pounds, would not be completely unique.  So I can confidently assert that we have the only one in the world which looks like this.....

So despite all the blood, sweat and tears, I'm deliriously pleased with it and our previously bland, boring, uninspiring dining room is becoming a space which makes my heart sing.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

I've got a little list.....

Once again I fall foul of an otherwise damn fine plan.

For some insane reason, I seem to think that I can do all the stuff I used to be able to do, pre-MS, in the same amount of time.

Back in my heyday I could tackle re-decorating a room completely on my own, and have it done and dusted in a few days, working 8 hours at a stretch with little or no ill effects other than the odd achey muscles.

These days it's a completely different story.  I'm allowing a full 10 days to redecorate our small dining room and even then it will be a close run thing.  However deadlines are there for a reason, and without a looming one I may possibly procrastinate (perish the thought!) and the job will spread out like a miasma.

Mind you, it already has.  I've had to empty loads of stuff out of the room and because I can't put much in the workroom, a lot of it is currently cluttering up the sitting room instead.

This is A Bad Thing, inasmuch as it is no longer possible to relax in a room which looks like one of the worse episodes of The Hoarder Next Door.

However, it is also A Good Thing, in that I'm motivated to get on with the job in hand with absolutely no not much shilly-shallying.

The chandelier makeover I posted about recently is well in hand, and just needs a few sessions of paint touch ups.  I've spent many, many hours over recent weeks, painstakingly stringing over 600 individual crystals onto silver connecting rings with the aid of a blunt knife.  I have the blisters to prove it.  Suffice to say, I won't ever be doing THAT again!

Inevitably, plans for the makeover have morphed from a simple paint job, with a series of simple wallpaper panels, to a rather more complex project, thanks to PP finding 3 rolls of a really lovely wallpaper on FB marketplace, just a 10 minute drive away.  From them appearing on FB to us going to collect them was around 30 minutes.. possibly the quickest completed Marketplace transaction in the history of ever.

So now we're doing a feature wall.  

But.  The wall in question has a slightly textured finish, so I'm having to use lining paper first, to provide a smooth surface for the lovely wallpaper, which will add another two full days to the task.... one to hang the paper, and a further 24 hours to allow it to dry thoroughly.

I've written myself a little schedule for the coming week.  Try not to laugh.

Sunday (tomorrow - Hang lining paper.  A professional could probably do it in a few hours, but I'll need frequent rest breaks.  The good news is it doesn't need matched up, and I can patch in the tricky bits (radiator, pipes, electric sockets etc)

Monday - While the lining paper is drying out, first coat of paint on three walls.  This shouldn't be too bad, one wall is mostly window, another is mostly double doors, and the third is mostly door/window.

Tuesday -  Hang lovely wallpaper.  This will take time as it has to be carefully matched, carefully handled, and I will have to take extra time to negotiate the aforementioned tricky bits.  I don't anticipate completing the wall in one day.

Wednesday - Complete hanging lovely wallpaper.  

Thursday - Second paint coat on three walls

Thereafter, it's finishing off the chandelier and installing the 24 strings of crystals, then replacing the furniture, hanging curtains, and adding the final decorative touches.

I'm tentatively hopeful that by the end of next weekend it will be finished and I can do the big reveal.

Anyway... here's the current state of play

What could possibly go wrong...?

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Mignonette Presentation Box - Complete Kit

Further rummaging in my workroom today has revealed a few wooden boxes and assorted elements remaining from this workshop pack, back in 2015.  I have enough to make up just 4 kits in shades of pink.

The workshop pack contains all the materials to make a Mignonette Doll Presentation Box, fully decorated and complete with contents.  This box harks back to the heyday of French dollmaking in the 1890s when beautifully decorated presentation boxes filled with a doll, costumes and accessories, were on the wish list of every little girl.

The box is wooden and will be finished with specially printed papers both inside and out, along with precision cut decorative paper strips. It also has decorative 'vintage angel' feet and box clasps.

Use small scale vintage-style papers and embellishments to decorate the box inside and out

Inside the box are two silk covered pads, which can easily be removed
 The jointed porcelain doll measures 1  3/4" tall and is dressed in an elaborately trimmed fitted silk costume in the Jumeau style.

Dressed in fine hairstripe silk, she has silk and lace underwear, and dainty silk shoes with leather soles.

Attached to her sleeve, a vintage Parisian doll label

Ringlet curls wig and silk toque bonnet

She also looks pretty from the back!

Her costumes and accessories include:
  • 3 different styles of silk dresses on hangers, each with matching bonnet
  • Set of tiny laser cut metal accessories in either gold or silver - jewellery (necklace, bracelet, brooch, tiny tiara, brush, comb, mirror, decorative hair combs, picture frame, all designed and created specially for this pack.
  • Tiny posy of silk flowers
  • Beautiful printed fan
  • Eiffel Tower silver charm

This heirloom box would make a wonderful gift (or self-gift!) for any miniaturist or small doll collector.

Everything is provided to complete the box and contents as shown, plus comprehensive illustrated step-by-step instructions supplied as a PDF file to cut down the cost of shipping. 

The cost of this Home Workshop Pack is £95 and includes the box and ALL the materials you need to complete this project as shown. Shipping is extra.

As I will be making the packs to order, a deposit of £25 is required, with the balance payable prior to dispatch of the pack.

Alternatively, I can offer a layaway option, with the balance split into two further monthly payments (deposit, plus two payments to include shipping)

To reserve your workshop pack, please visit the website HERE!

As always, if you have any questions, do please contact me and I'll do my best to help. 

Monday, 5 November 2018

Inspirational Toy Dolls - Rose

Way back in July I posted about starting to make a series of toy dolls based on inspirational images of antique dolls I'd found on the internet and pinned to my Inspirational Toy Dolls Pinterest board.

Since then I've been having the best fun ever, working on some rather lovely little dolls, of which Rose is the first.

While scrolling through the images, this one caught my eye as I remembered that somewhere in my stash of beautiful silk ribbons and trims, I have a few inches of embroidered silk ribbon with pale pink and green ombre shading, just like the one on the original doll and I was off......

Completely handmade, she is all-bisque and has jointed arms and legs.  Her facial features have been china painted and fired several times.   Also, during the summer, following an epiphany,  I engineered an ingenious new method to replicate the shimmering iridescence of domed glass paperweight eyes.

I decided to give her a hairstripe silk jacket, which has the same colours as the dress.  To add interest I made the tiny gold/crystal buttons down the front of the bodice.  

Suitable as a doll for a 1/12th scale doll's house child, she is also perfect as a 1/24th scale child.  

As a finishing touch she has a tiny Paris card stitched to her sleeve.  I've designed a completely new, bespoke box, in pink to match her costume, with an illustrated lid.  For shipping, in the box, she will be nestled in tissue paper.

She will also be accompanied by a signed certificate of authenticity.

One of a kind, she is unique and will not be repeated.... especially as I don't have any more of the lovely ombre silk ribbon.

She is the first of my Inspirational Toy Dolls to be offered for sale and she is now available on the website HERE.

More dolls inspired by my Pinterest board will be coming in the following weeks, but if you can't wait, or want me to make one specially for you, feel free to browse the images HERE then contact me to discuss your requirements.  

Happy days........  😊

Friday, 19 October 2018

Colour me crazy.......

Earlier this week I wrote about my autumn project list, which includes a few areas of the house which could do with cosmetic makeovers.

Highest on the list is the dining room, which is sadly lacklustre and uninspiring.  It was last decorated *mumble mumble*  years ago.  It doesn't help that it's often the dumping ground for extraneous stuff as we only really use it when we have people come to dinner, so it's a bit wasted as a full-time dining room but that's what happens when you have too much space.

I was aiming for a gothicky look which didn't really come off, apart from the chandelier, of which more anon.

So I've been Pinteresting dining room ideas and had more or less settled on a classy, understated, monochrome colour scheme featuring a palette of greys. 

So far so boring.

But then.... serendipity.

A FB friend posted the link to a house currently for sale in Hastings and its interiors gave me pause for thought.....

It was clearly created by someone with real artistic flair, who isn't afraid of colour!  These days we're constantly exhorted to keep to neutrals to give our homes 'buyer appeal' but the more I thought about my safe colour choice for the dining room, the more I didn't like it.

I showed the colourful house to PP, and we 'oohed' and 'aahed' as successive fun, quirky rooms appeared... no two the same but all sharing an eclectic mix of colours which somehow worked together.  I'd already mentioned my grey idea to PP and she'd agreed, but now we were having second thoughts.  You could have knocked me down with a feather when PP advised me to throw caution to the winds and go for something less 'safe' and more fun.  After all... it's a room which is only used occasionally, so we could afford to do something rather more outré with it.

As a result, my Pinteresting has taken a different turn, down a more colourful scenic route and I already have already pinned a few 'off the wall' ideas.  Also, as it will have to be done on a budget, I've been Googling how to do stuff, like changing this....

To this......

Without going to the vast expense of replacing it.

Apparently it's doable... but tricky.  It will have to be 'upcycled' in situ, which means standing up a ladder for long periods of time, doing fiddly stuff.

And maths.

Lots of adding and taking away and times-ing and the thing with the tens and units.

Our chandelier has 56 prisms (those dangly teardrop things) and a grand total of 512 crystals (those things strung together)  Extensive Googling has revealed that I can buy the individual crystals, and the connecting rings, and make bespoke, multicolour strands in the exact configuration I need.

That's making 24 individual strands in three different lengths, using 512 crystals in a range of 8 different colours.

However, this sort of thing is right up my street.  My idea of heaven is to spend several hours sorting through my boxes of dozens of colours of silk ribbon, categorising them by shade and organising them into gripseal bags.  In my defence, at least my OCD has a creative bent.

So I'm totally up for the whole mulitcoloured crystal stringing thing, which I'm hoping will be the equivalent of adult colouring in terms of soothing and calming a troubled mind.

The bit I'm not so keen on is transforming the black glass 'skeleton' of the chandelier, into a thing of beauty and delight, with the use of gesso and acrylic paints.

Anyway....what could possibly go wrong?