Thursday, 9 January 2020

Roller blinds on show

Well the 'bit of a breather' (my previous post) seemed to turn into five months but here I am again, hopefully, back in the game.

Part of the procrastination, on the days when I could have cracked on with my project, is that I have reached the 'doing the windows' stage which I always find pretty tedious.  We all have our mini bete noires. .  I have made it even more difficult for myself by deciding to add another dimension to the, already boring, window chore by trying to make them into a more realistic version of sash windows.  This involves adding fifteen pieces of fiddly wood to each of sixteen windows.   Two hundred and forty bits of wood to be carefully measured, cut, some ends shaped, lined up and glued in place..... over the glazing!  Maybe if I stopped doing the maths and just cracked on with it, it would seem less daunting.

The other challenge I have given myself is making roller blinds for these sixteen windows.  Mostly their ends and tops will be hidden by curtain or pelmets so can be simple rod and roll of fabric.

My real life house has ivory blinds (different fabrics) in every single window and we don't, in fact, draw any curtains in the evening - we just roll down the blinds.  They are all one colour because I like the idea of 'uniformity' when viewed from the outside.  A tad OCD probably, especially as I roll then up completely when open and they are never seen from the outside in the daytime.  Generally the fixing part (each end) is hidden by a curtain and they all fit inside the window rebate.

The bathroom, kitchen and workroom ones don't have curtains softening their impact and the blinds can be seen ...fixings and all.

In Dalton House my three apartment windows are pokey and shoved in dormers in a roof and they won't take curtains very easily.  The four basement windows are in my workroom, a mud room and the childrens rec room; so none of those require any curtains either.  This gives me seven windows where the ends and tops of the blinds will not be hidden by curtains or pelmets, so they need to look a bit more realistic than a roll of fabric on a stick - why, you might ask...... and how wise you are.  Off I went on trying to make realistic-looking roller blinds.

Here's how I did it.  If you are as mad as me, enjoy ...... otherwise just skip to the finished picture and I will see you again when seven of these have been made and fitted to their windows.  It might be a while.....hopefully not five months.

The rods are cut from bamboo skewers.  I discovered they are a pig to cut.  Knife and fine saw worked but not easily then, guess what, I discovered I could cut them with large scissors.😂  Tidy up the ends with sanding and paint just the ends white.  I forgot this and had to do it when I had finished the whole thing.  Make them a tad wider than the finished blind will be as you should be able to glimpse a bit of them between fabric and bracket.

The Fabric
Measure your windows and cut the fabric slightly larger than you are going to need.  I wanted my finished blind to have an eighth of an inch overlap each side of the window: scaled up that would be only be about one and a half inches in real life so you could be a bit more generous with that . 

For the attic windows I needed a strip three inches for the window, plus quarter inch (two lots of one eighth) plus another quarter inch to allow some trimming later.  This gave me a width of three and a half inches.  

The length of your blind is really determined by the fabric you are using.  In real life of course it needs to be longer than the drop from your blind rod to below the window.  Here, though, if your fabric is a bit bulky (and it is best that it isn't!) you won't want to roll a huge amount round your rod, so finding the best length is about trial error or good guessing.

My fabric was too thin for blinds so I cut strips twice the length I needed.  I folded them in half and ironed in a sharp crease.

To stop fraying I mixed 'Fraystop' 50:50 with water and pasted it generously on the inside of one half.  I am pretty sure Mod Podge or any PVA glue will do the same job - but do a small test piece first to make sure it doesn't affect your fabric in any way.

My real blinds have a wooden bar added in the hem at the bottom to give them weight.  I cut a one eighth strip of photographic paper (thin card would do) and pushed that tightly in place and folded over the dry side and carefully rubbed the whole thing down to remove any pockets of air.

Now here comes the hard part.....  leave them alone and let them dry completely. They will be as stiff as a board and no fraying when you cut them.

Next, they need to be squared up perfectly so they don't hang winky wonky.  I use my marked up with guide lines cutting board for this but you could use any right angle and ruler or even make a nice cardboard template exactly the right size.

I am no way a fan of superglue for all sorts of reasons but sometimes it is the go to place.  Put a few dots of superglue along the top edge (I use a toothpick and squeeze small amounts of glue onto a glass tile for easy clear up and good control)

Place your rod carefully along this edge and hold in place until its fixed.  

Roll the blind to where you want it to stop - this takes many flittings in and out of the windows to decide.  Put a few dots of superglue a bit behind the stopping place and roll your blind very tightly and hold in place until its set.

Making the brackets and assembly

I made the brackets by cutting strips of photographic card into three sixteenth inch wide strips and then cutting these into three eighths of an inch long lengths (top left)   

[I chose to use photographic paper because I wanted the outside elements of the fittings to be a bit shiny like the real ones.  I have a feeling I am just proving my 'madness' with everything I write....😊]

The end discs (top centre) were made just using a normal two-hole paper punch.

The bracket arm was stuck to the round end cap; again with superglue just for speed of assembly. (top right)

For the plain end of the roller another cap was stuck on top (bottom left)

For the control end a piece of cord was glued in place and then the cap piece glued on top. (bottom right)  I took a long time finding a cord that was in scale and had some texture.

Bend a little of the bracket end at right angles to create the fixing part to the wall.

Fix each of these finished ends to the ends of the rods - superglue again and hold in place each time.

Et Voila .......

.......... and there we have it one roller blinds that can be seen 

one blind for the use of

inside the apartment sitting room


Only the people reading this will understand the self-satisfied glow of being able to replace the attic flap for its very last time after having the attic rooms exposed and the sloping roof lying on the mansard for five months.  Happy day.  This is what minis do for me.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Bit of a breather

I currently have a lot of RL commitments to various things so I didn't want to get stuck into adding the many window frames which I've decided to do but, now I am back in the game, I find I am itching to get back to the house.  When I have some moments (in the evening) I am trawling the web for ideas and some occasional shopping.  I have also been through my stash in hopes of finding any very quick projects to crack off when I have the odd half hour here and there in the day to play.


I was disappointed with my Jim Coates Trumau mirror from the States (for me an expensive buy).  The idea was to match the one I already have in the hall.  This is a completely different colour - I realise it is likely to be slightly different from a different batch of paint but this one is waaaayyy off.  I am very wary of having to repaint both of them to make them match as they are fairly complicated when it comes to a repaint.  Additionally the moulding seems to be bordering on 'crude' - its partner is nicely done, hence my original and subsequent investment.

For four years, now and then, I have been searching for a House of Miniatures Hunt-board to match the one I made back in 2017  One extremely kind mini contact sold me one of hers and the very same day that it was mailed I came across one in  Hobby's   Most annoyingly, it had probably been lurking there all the time I was looking elsewhere.  Being me, I decided on belt and braces and now have the two of them.  If I make a mess of making one I do have a fall back position.  This photo shows my 2017 make and one of the proposed ones.

I love, love, love this.  One of Elizabeth's super-dooper creations from Elf Miniatures.  I bet you are all looking and (a) wondering what the heck it is and (b) why is she so excited.  Well, it is a pan rack which I love in its own right but the plus for me is I had a single miserable looking open shelf (over the sink area) between my cupboards in my student's kitchen and I kept putting this and that object on it and each time deciding it was too boring to stay.  I actually risked being able to get this in the space but committed to it before its arrival by gently tugging out the offending shelf.  It is such an exact fit it will almost stay in place without glue.   I even have the set of pans to go on it.

The bundle beside the rack holds modern door handles - I will show you where they are going when I get to that task.

Mmmm, yet another disappointing expensive purchase.  I paid £30 plus postage for this as it was the exact mirror I wanted for a particular place.  When the desire for a Girondole mirror arose I couldn't for the life of me remember where I had seen one of them - years ago!  So I was pleased when I fell across one via Etsy.  I spent some time talking myself up into another extravagance but bit the bullet and off went my pounds and back came this broken and bent version of the Girondole mirror I craved.  I am leaving the 'repairs' for now and just hoping it will be OK after a bit of glue and gentle reshaping.  To add insult to injury I have, of course, since remembered that this very mirror is sold by Pheonix Model developments in a (very easy) kit form and I could have had that for £12.60 with less postage and the same amount of assembly (of not bent pieces) plus a little paint.

I also bought some silk fabric for curtains  to match a Brodnax wallpaper which turned out to be absolutely not a match and managed to look like someone had been smoking in the house for the last thirty years.  My sitting room wallpaper is an almost white background to pale pink cherry blossom and pale green leaves.  The silk arrived with a cream/beigy background and very undefined pattern of flowers and branches.  Most decidedly not the vendor's fault, just a rubbish product.  I am hoping some of it might make cushions as my chairs are a cream silk.  Again, fair warning if you are using Brodnax wallpaper.

This fabric shown below is from Les Chinoiseries and is a perfect match for their wallpaper.  I also got a lovely little free bonus included which unfortunately I can't use as this fabric is for the library and I only have one chair int there which doesn't need a cushion.  There is printed fabric for four different pattern cushions with plain matching backs.  It is a nice weight cotton and will work well.  If anyone can use them please let me know and I am happy to post them to you.

Mini makes

My first little make was a great kit by Jane Harrop.  A shopping basket.  One of the things I love about Jane's meticulous work is her spot-on scale and this was no exception.  There are gorgeous baskets out there in mini world at a price but the budget end of basketry that I have found is a bit clunky.  I have made some quarter scale baskets using a fine hessian and they looked good but I hadn't attempted anything for 1/12ths.

This is a simple matter of weaving some beautifully cut paper strips presented in a way to help you manage them accurately and easily.  I honestly loved doing it and considered mass production on this one.  The kit had extras in case of any mishaps and easily made two lovely baskets.  I love them and wish I could think of reasons for having more.  Don't be put off by the idea of them being 'just paper'.

By now I was on a roll - what else would be quick to do - a kit from The Craft pack Company

First things first I needed to find all my other Christmas decorations to see what I might want to put with what.  This entailed clearing out the bogey hole under the stairs in Dalton House.

You can't see the poor light fitting in real life as you can't get your head through the doorway; unlike the camera.  Mental note - when fitting a light in a deep, dark cupboard make sure it has some oomph!  This is a bogey hole I would decidedly not go in.

The decorations were duly made and packed away with the other Christmas stuff.  I decided the bogey hole would only have a ton of Christmas decorations in it.  This is a big house and it needs a Christmas decoration cupboard.😏

In clearing out the (now) Christmas cupboard other things were unearthed.  

Ah, those blessed chairs.  I made them from a couple of House of Miniatures kits and their first incarnation was a mahogany finish which I thought looked poor.  They hung around for a good long while and then acquired what was to be a shabby chic cream finish.  Decidedly shabby and not at all chic.  I was going to just add them to someone's parcel of goodies but am too ashamed of their awfulness.

How about I paint them gold for the music room?

Done.... and they looked even more dreadful - completely patchy all over and another thick gloopy layer of paint.  Perhaps I would I like them better the next day?

New day and the dried paint still looked dreadful; out came the Super Hero of my kit....

Wonderful, wonderful gold leaf Krylon pen went on like silk and covered every blemish.  The 'ugly' now is the gazillion layers of paint, which is never a good look.  Why oh why didn't the god of minis give me that fabulous solution when they were bare wood?

Not content with almost bringing four scabby chairs back into the world with some paint, it was time to find fabric for the seats.  One huge box of fabrics later and the only one I liked for the chairs was already on four chairs in the dining room.  That's OK I was thinking of recovering those any way.

It was not so OK when I discovered that whoever had made them had used heaven knows what glue and a gallon of it.  I pulled and prised and tore it off the chair and then discovered I would have to cut most of it away to remove the stiff unyielding glue covered pieces. I was left with only a few threads to roll over the edges of my gold chair seats.  It is a very close call and I haven't done all four yet but I am now sort of committed.  I have also dislodged a chair leg in the process so far.

Apologies for the hideous finish but, after such a hellish birth, they have become the screaming baby that I love.  They can be 'got away with' as they are only glimpsed in amongst the other furniture.

Thursday, 1 August 2019

Painting and papering walls

I have written a lot about decorating and even made a video.  The links for these are on the left side of this post so if you are new to the game or think I might have a couple of useful tips you will find something there.

This post, therefore, is just my record of this particular bit of my project.

Mostly my time was spent masking-taping up this and that for painting.  The first round was to tape up for painting the three eighths of an inch divisions between the rooms.  Again, this is purely a personal choice.  No problems with joining up room to room.  I do it because I like the outline it gives each space and it remains true to the build in that where these lines are there would be walls separating each room.

The 'doors' had already been primed with a thin coat of ordinary household matt paint.  I do this when I open the flat back on all sides of the wood to stop it warping and sucking up glue and paint at a rate of knots when the finishing work gets done later.

The left hand side actually had two rooms already painted - I must have been on a roll at the time way back when.

before - masked ready to paint
 When all the tape was in place it was a simple case of two coats of Tidy White matt paint.  One handy tip when using tape is to let the paint dry a little but not completely and pull the tape off in one quick movement.  If you let it dry it can cause little flakes of paint to come off with the tape and if the paint is super wet it can run or smudge when the tape comes off, so something between the two gives a nice crisp edge.

afterwards - crisp white lines

I wonder if you spotted the mistake.  For some odd reason I missed out the top and long side edges; so, more measuring and taping and painting followed these photos.

After this you will pretty much need to reverse most of what you have just done and outline the walls that need painting with more masking tape. You need to do all the painting needed before you do any papering, otherwise you will end up with masking tape on your wallpaper and believe me if it is at all 'porous' the tape can grip and mark it when being removed.

Hugely annoying on this kit is this perfectly cut, smooth, curved groove in the top and centre of the main door.  It is like something made to receive a bolt but doesn't make an atom of sense in relation to where it is.  I spent a very frustrating time trying to fill it smoothly.

You can see in the photo below that as always I never obeyed my own rule and I fancied doing a bit of papering before I did any more painting.  That's how I discovered my original plan really was the best one!  So, do as I say, not as I do and finish all the painted areas first. 

To begin papering the wall space I made my usual template so I could cut out the wallpaper exactly.  Remember to flip the template before lying it on the back of your paper and marking up for cutting.  

Dry test your cut wallpaper in place just in case you have made a mistake.  Better to find out before the glue goes on.  So far, so good.

When I pasted it (I use wallpaper border adhesive) and tried to hang it, absolutely nothing went right.  Hand on heart I can't remember ever having a problem hanging paper so I have no idea why it all fell about my ears this time.  The paper sagged and stretched and immediately clung to the surface (MDF is like a sponge) even though the wood had been primed as usual.  This meant there was little or no way to move it about to adjust it.  All of that resulted in a right cod's ear round the windows and it just had to come off.  Well, yes, that would be fine if if had just come off.  It seemed to have dried instantly and would not budge.

I had to resort to actual wallpaper stripping - dampening down and scraping off.  Took ages to get back to a nice smooth surface and equally long clearing up the mess.

I was using Dolls House Emporium paper in this room so if you have any just try a test piece first to see what it does.  Probably a good idea with any paper.  This was decidedly like trying to wallpaper with blotting paper.

I gave up on any idea of papering the window wall in one piece.  There is an easier way to get a good end result and is especially forgiving with stripes.  

This wall has been papered in seven pieces.  Three floor to ceiling strips and then two strips at each window to top and tail them.  If you do have a sheet big enough to cover the whole area the joins will match perfectly.

Simply cut five strips.  Number them on the back as go you from left to right and label the top and bottom of each piece.  Strip one is the width of the space to the left of the window, strip two is the width of the window, strip three is the strip between the window etc.

Paste strip one in place.  Take strip two and cut the paper to fit above the window making sure your top line remains your top and then the remaining part of the strip is to cut up to the window making sure the bottom is still at the bottom.  If you are careful with keeping your paper in the right order and right orientation when you come to butt the pieces together it will be a perfect match because you are simply reassembling the cuts you made when turning your original rectangle into five strips.

If your windows will have curtains they will cover most of these 'seams' any way.

Finally here are the two 'doors' painted and papered.  Ready for the next stages.

On the left side I also added a couple of things.  I finished painting the the door trim around the door and then added the architrave on top.  I also popped in the glazing above the door.  The door bell was added with the bell push outside and the bell box glued to the hall wall inside.  The door locks were then finished off.  The Yale lock and dead bolt needed the their other halves (the boxes) fitted.

The box for the deadbolt was too big for the space I had and I decided chipping a little out of the architrave to squeeze it in wouldn't look right.  I discovered it almost fitted the space if it was turned on its side, I just needed to file off the bumps which represented the screws.  Necessity is certainly the mother of invention when it comes to dollhousing.

I love a bit of remodelling

all sorted and complete

I am not able to add the dado rails in any of the rooms at this stage because, like a lot of things in RL building, one stage is often contingent on others being in place first.  The order of work now is:

  • fit lower window frames and glazing 
  • paint and fit architraves around the window
  • then the chair/dado rails can go in
  • make 5 pelmets and curtains
  • make 4 curtains and put up 4 brass poles for these
  • make and fit 7 roller blinds
  • add any wall decor such as paintings and mirrors to the fourth wall
I had every intention of also adding each room's coving and skirting boards and I have even just bought extra pieces and paint to do that.  Luckily I realised when messing around with the potential dado rails that the windows aren't in a uniform place from room to room and the ones on the upper floor were very near the bottom of the wall.  It suddenly occurred to me that there wasn't enough room for the skirting board.  It turned out to be a very snug fit and looked decidedly odd with the skirting butting up against the bottom of the windows.  So in deciding not to do those it also meant I wouldn't be doing all the other ceiling and floor trims either.  There would be no logic to all the rooms having their trims except the two and they are major ones.

Obviously I am not happy about the money I spent on trims and paint that's not needed now, but there is an upside......  I won't have to paint and fit all these .......

My huge tips following all this are

  • if you intend to do something about your fourth wall be sure your ideas will work by dry testing things where you can at the very beginning of your build
  • be absolutely sure you have enough paint, paper, trims whatever you need to finish the whole job when you first order them .
  • take your time and think about the order you need to do the work in: a couple of half hours doing this will save you hours of workarounds later.


PS:  I just ordered a sample pot of paint from Farrow and Ball and there was no shipping charge.  Mind you they do cost £4.50.  I usually use Valspar test pots from B & Q.  They have thousands of colours and will mix it as a matt or a silk paint.  Cost £3

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Dormer windows

I kind of sorted out the no-wallpaper problem, rather than just white paint the lot.  I quite literally had three small pieces of the green paper left over which got patched and joined together with a panel each side of the window and a piece beneath.  The hairiest part of that job was having such a large pattern which needed matching over very minimal pieces of paper, absolutely no room for error.  

I did this before Anna kindly offered to mail me a couple of sheets all the way from Australia.  [Thank you, Anna]  Not that she didn't comment and email me as soon as the post went up but the posts run close to what I am doing but I am often a little ahead of them in actual work. At least my having already fudged it saved me from  having to make another decision of how best to go about it.  I seem to be floundering a bit in that department right now.

As I didn't have any grey paper at all I did my best to mix a grey as close as I could get to the one in the room - it really needed a slight touch of blue but, as I keep saying, the inside of a roof flap really isn't an area which gets looked at.  It just needs to give a good impression of being finished.  I keep telling myself that.

The decorated sloping walls also have a small dado rail trim between the paint and the 'colour' as it might do in real life.

On to the windows

I prefer to cut all my trims with a saw and mitre block, even the thin ones.  My husband can go through them with a knife in a couple of passes - me?....  I find it nigh on impossible to use a knife through wood.

If you are cutting very thin trims like these you need to boost it up from the floor of the mitre block.  Generally you would add a piece of thick(ish) wood.  I didn't have any so a sacrificial eraser was used and it did just fine.

I use. 0.5mm clear acrylic for the windows and this can be cut with scissors but I find it seems to squidge all over the place between the blades so  I cut it with a very sharp, new blade, Xacto knife.  I also resort to overkill in terms of preparation.  Having once actually sliced a small piece off the end of my thumb I am super-wary of knives.

I make a template for the window (in this case I could use it to cut three windows this size).  I fasten this to my cutting mat with tacky wax (double sided sticky tape will do).  I lay the acrylic over the template and then I even tape that down with masking tape.  Both my hands are now free to focus entirely on holding a steel ruler in place and cutting along its edge.  I don't have to try and stop stuff slipping around at the same time.

This acrylic was a leftover from previous exploits and didn't have any protective film on it.  It was super-dirty and even a bit scratched.  I have better on order.  It is sensible to gently soap and water wash it before  you use it as any really gloppy finger marks or whatever can be a pain to remove once it has been transformed into a 1/12th Georgian window pane. 

This is terrific glue for putting in windows but doesn't come cheap.  That said it has lasted me through several builds.  It does dry clear so if you are a bit messy with glue it won'r ruin your glazing. It also gives you some working time to get things positioned correctly.  It is water based for easy clean up and does a great job of sticking acrylic to a painted surface.

I don't know about you but every time I come to a glue I haven't used in a while I have to go tunneling for the glue down a teeny little hole.  This is my weapon of choice and is just dropped in my handy-on-my-desk box.  It saves a lot of bodging with pins, needles, toothpicks, dental picks, fine tweezers and a gazillion other things I used before I 'invented' this.  It even comes with its own handle, what's not to like.  

So.....  a very small amount of glue round the edges of the 'glass' and press it into place. In this case, on the lower half of the back of the window frames.

all four sides eventually had glue

It was then just a case of adding trims to make the bottom (inside) half of a sash window.  there will be architrave trims round this when they arrive. plus roller blinds to tweak it up a little and conceal even more dubious finishes.

I may have thoroughly shot myself in the foot with my latest dopey idea to 'improve the basic build.  Painting 27 sticks, cutting 264 smaller pieces very accurately, cutting two pieces of glazing for every window rather than one and then assembling this lot to make 16 'mock' sash windows is most probably very pointless.  As you all know once you set off on one of these paths there is no going back.  

Clearly that wasn't challenging enough, so I decided authentic windows needed those little nubs on the frame to stop them thumping down or up.  These require spot on measuring and judicious carving and sanding of just the right amount of stick to shape them and...... hey.......  I only have 64 of these to make.

Here is the before and after photo of the outside.




Yes, I know it is not earth-shatteringly amazing but it feeds the soul of a slightly bonkers mini-enthusiast.