Sunday, 15 October 2017

A zillion treasures

I hope you like looking at other people's purchases.... if not, better to leave now as this will be a long haul.


The first three come from a company with several names!  Letter heading and site name is Hobby's - if you Google this it will come up as 'Hobby's Hobbys' and its actual company name is W. Hobby Limited.  I tell you this because there are so many companies out there that are vaguely called something around 'hobby' that it is sometimes hard to remember or re-find the one you want.  Any way here is its link:  Hobby's

The first purchase, and my reason for being there, was some 3mm strips of pine to make 'joists' for a false floor so I can get wires out the back without having to make grooves.  Great value at £5.95 and happy to see how nice and straight they all are .  Enough here for ages.

Once I am on a site I have to look round to see if I can get anything else to make the postage less painful.  So because I was spending £3.80 on shipping and handling I decided to spend £11.60 on something I had not ever thought of.  Not sure of the logic there.  If this makes up nicely it will be lovely as a side table in my dining room for the 'silver' or 'crystal.

True to form, every time I shop I have to buy a 'why-did-I-do-this' lulu.  I saw a photo of tiled wallpaper which looked like a delft blue and white and thought (as I had never seen it before) I would keep it for something....  the plan being to cut out and stick each square down as a tile and then 'glaze'..... a future splash-back maybe....  any way I am  £1.65 lighter and now own a decidedly useless bright turquoise (!!!) item.  So £3.80 postage plus £1.65 saving post and packing money method really works (not).

ELF Miniatures

Here comes my next series of projects from the fandabulous ELF Miniatures

Firstly the bones of my little kitchen

a scary bag of bits
Then the extra challenges to complete the kitchen

the labels explain what they are

A lovely table and two chairs for the kitchen - the seats will change colour - probably grey.

Two little kits to make a clock and a sidboard

Here's what I hope they will look like

A couple of chairs for the sitting room - I am sure about the lovely fuzzy yellow one, not so sure about the swivel chair.  It is intended for a desk but I am not fixed on that yet.

 I invested in an already made up set of furniture for the bedroom as it was reduced.

 As always I can't capture the colours very well but this wallpaper is really nice.  I saw it originally on the Dolls House Emporium site where it is reduced right now so, presumably, on its way out.  It wasn't expensive over at ELF so I picked up a couple of pieces for the bedroom.  The green background is lovely and soft and it goes beautifully with the bed set.

I have no idea what the legal and moral ramifications are re. buying people but I am hoping it may not apply with mini resin ones.  I have decided to give my PhD student a boyfriend (the seated chap) and have converted the original children into older versions (the standing boy).  I already have the teenage girl.  The seated girl is the bonkers purchase in all this lot - I keep telling you there is always one- she is for the future-may-never-do-it project.  The logic to buying her is that I am not seeing her around a lot and any way I had already paid postage on this lot.  You may shake your head in despair.  

Maria's Fabrics

My favourite fabric vendor, without doubt, is Maria's Fabrics.  I snaffled a couple of 'just the right colour' pieces to make cushions (left) and a soft wool throw (right) for the siting room while I had them in my sight.  This will not prevent me from visiting her stall at the next show we are both at and buying some more pieces for my growing fabric collection.


Saturday, 7 October 2017

The Loft Apartment Kitchen

I am finally working on the top floor of my house.  This will be a modern apartment for a post-grad student 'lodging' with Elizabeth.

The original three rooms were servants' rooms with a door in the back wall leading to a corridor.  I pretty much have to stick with this division of the roof space so that the dormer windows still work well in each space.  The bedroom retains the door at the back of the room as that now leads to an en suite bathroom.

The middle room also keeps the door as it is the entrance from the corridor to the apartment (stepping into the kitchen).  In the final space, the sitting room, the corridor door space has been blocked up.

Roof spaces with dormers are always a bit of a pain to convert (even in real life) as there is a large strip along the front that can't really be utilised  because no-one can stand up in the space.  In real life it does make for a great built in storage area for each room but if I do this it will (partially) block the view into the rooms and certainly 'stop the eye'.  I might add interesting stuff to the fourth wall for this space.(?)  A further complication is that this space is then broken up by each dormer window where is actually enough room to stand upright.

So, with 4.5 inches 'trimmed from the front the remaining workable space gives me three rooms each 10.5" deep by a little under 12" wide.

If you are interested in the space, click on this to enlarge the photo

I do have to have a door cut through one of the side walls between the original bedrooms. I got my 'handy-man' to cut a hole in the right hand wall for an interior door: this leads into the bedroom so that would need the privacy of a door.  

Using my fabulous (!) universal two-inch cardboard cupboards, I worked that I can get three kitchen units along the remaining wall: a six-inch run.

So, over here there will be four 1.5" floor cupboards with an under-counter s/s sink, with two wall cupboards.  The water pipes etc would be on that side of the room as the en-suite bathroom is nearby.

On the other side of the room I use my trusty friend.... still carrying her books, poor woman..... to test out how far out we can go before we bang our head.  I intend to just chop the wall out here, as if it had been knocked through, so the kitchen and sitting room is sort of semi-open plan.  I don't want actual open plan because the roof in real life would need support and I want to retain some of the wall so I can add wall cupboards in what will be a very tiny kitchen.  Looks like I can get an eight inch run on this side.

 The base cupboards have a small built-in oven and s/s fridge (with a small freezer box inside it).  The right-hand cupboard has now been changed to a set of drawers.  Above these will be two cupboards, an extractor hood and a built-in microwave.

Since sketching out these rough plans I have also decided to go with white gloss and no handles...all very sleek.  This is the 'feel' I am going for......  on a much smaller scale!

The wonderful, wonderful, Elizabeth from ELF has been her usual patient and super-helpful self and after a flurry of emails we have arrived at solutions for it all, including a 'real' pale grey granite worktop from the equally lovely Graham from Dollshouse Flooring.  You may remember his Decrastone which I used for the hearths in front of my fireplaces. 


Monday, 2 October 2017

NEC Miniatura, Brimingham 30 Sept/1Oct 2017

Here is an extra post this week so that it is current.... I went to the NEC show at the weekend and thought some of you might like to see what I bought.

If you want to read my thoughts about the show they can be found over in my Dollshouse Trips and Shows blog.

Masters Miniatures

The card table was bought for more than one reason.  I thought it might be nice in the music room as this is the room for social gatherings and after dinner 'entertainment'.  Also, I so much wanted a piece from Masters Miniatures and this was something I could afford to buy.  In order of cost my top three furniture makers that I see at shows are:  Beith Miniatures,(most expensive) then Escutcheon and then Masters Miniatures.  Do go and take a look at Beith and Escutcheon's work you'll love it.

Ellie de Lacy

I am trying to find pictures for various rooms and it is much harder than you would think when you see how many pictures there are out there.  To be honest I have really just been looking at inexpensive pictures to use their frames, intending to make my own actual picture.  That said, I thought these, from Ellie de Lacy, were nicely made and would do a few jobs.  The top pair are for the music room, the centre pair are for the dining room, the bottom picture was bought because I hoped it would be the right size and proportion to balance my nice Jim Coates mirror in the hall.

The resident of my house would not be so naff as to have reproductions of such famous paintings so I am not sure how to square that away..... maybe she likes copying paintings?????

Ellie de Lacy
I know I have just made a gazillion books but I really liked these, they are so nicely made and will be lovely for leaving around the place.

I liked the neat and informative backs on the paintings

Mini McGregor
 I need to collect a lot of bits and pieces for dressing various spaces and Mini McGregor is a great source for such things.  Here I have some shoes in a box for my French student, cards ready for the card table, some shells in a box (one of the children collects shells) and a lovely packed magazine box to leave out on a desk.

Amanda Speakman
 Amanda Speakman doesn't have an online presence any more - hence no click available here.  This means you can only find her work at various shows.  I met her at one of her earliest shows (maybe her first) and fell in love with her work - the scale and detail is just perfect and at a price I can afford.  I wish I had bought up a lot of her things at this show for future use but sadly I didn't have the presence of mind to do that.

The Ironworks and Black Country Miniatures
 I need a modern silver-coloured escutcheon for the flat door as a deadlock.  One of these will be dandy after it is painted.  The Ironworks and Black Country Miniatures is a fantastic source for anything you can think of in metal.

Delph Miniatures
 Any show Delph Miniatures is at I am compelled to buy something.

also from Delph

Magpies Dolls House Miniatures
 We don't seem to get many practical stalls at shows - I overheard more than one person asking for paint and wood etc so it is always useful when you find a vendor with a few helpful bits and pieces on their stand.  Magpies Dolls House Miniatures was just such a find and just at the very moment I wanted some more Deluxe Glue.  I have used their Rocket Glue and Craft Glue and I love them and wouldn't use anything else but I have wanted to try their Glue 'n' Glaze as it claims to stick pretty much any material to any other and better still will glue painted surfaces together.

Blue Riband Fabrics
 Blue Riband Fabrics is a very large (lots of tables) stand with a huge variety of fabrics and trims etc.  I always feel compelled to stop buy and I never leave empty handed and generally with a maybe-that-will come-in useful-someday purchase.  This show was no exception.  I have no idea why I might want batting but I know I would be very frustrated if I couldn't do something because I didn't have any????  Again, no online presence, so you need to get to the shows.

Halls Miniature Clocks

Malcolm Hall of Halls Miniature Clocks makes the most exquisite miniatures that are real collectors pieces but, luckily for folk like me he also makes accessible (cost-wise) pieces that are still pretty appealing.  The little radio matches my own DAB radio that sometimes comes into my Hive when working so i decided I needed one for the mini Hive.  Sadly I wanted a white one but got home and discovered it was pink.... my lucky student will get it for her bedroom.  The simple green clock is for my Hive and will make it into there.

Heidi Ott
I know I keep saying this but the fact remains I can never find the lights I want.  This time was even more annoying.  I thought I might buy a light with fan like I have in the Rec Room for the bedroom in the loft as it can get pretty warm up there in summer.  Heidi Ott's stall had two but I saw them right at the beginning of the room so I decided I would have a look round first in case I saw something else.  You guessed it, I returned and they had gone!  So this is it for now.....
Pride of Plaice
 I am surprised this is the first time I have bought from Pride of Plaice.  What caught my eye this time was the very nicely made fruit and veg that they sell for ten pieces for two pounds.  I bought the dishes because they were a thin finish but am pretty sure I have some the same in my 'dressings'.  As for the fruit bowl and small knife....I just liked them.

Bindels Ornaments
 Bindels Ornaments from the Netherlands was new to the show and new to me.  Not an exciting photo but it serves two purposes.  The first to encourage you to go and check out their site, they have some of the best findings I have seen, they have things made from them and a ton of ideas for you to go at.  The second reason is to prove I never go to a show without buying something I have absolutely no use for when I get home.  These were my 'why?' purchase for this show.  My theory with these was that one size would fit the ends of the future (sixteen) blinds' rollers to finish them off nicely when I come to make the binds.  I didn't know what size I would need, so went barmy and bought two lots.  I got home, looked at my RL roller blinds and realised they are finished in a different way and in white!  These would make good tops for 'bead' bottles....????

Maria's Fabrics
Yet another always-have-to-have-something from them purchase is this lovely cotton (£1.10 each) from Maria's Fabrics she has the best, fabrics, best prices and best service, bar none.

So there we go folks, another show done and dusted.  We have just booked a winter break in Florida and happily it coincides with a show - so that will be my next one.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Americana Gel Stains

I am doing a bit of procrastinating right now and choosing not to start on the third and final floor of Dalton House.  Partly because I don't want to finish it and then have to decide whether to go on to another project or not!!!! and partly because I haven't actually come up with a decent set of plans for this loft apartment.  As in real life, with these sort of loft conversions, I am trying to squeeze a quart into a pint pot.

So, for now, I want to make up some more furniture kits for various places in the house.

I am always pretty unhappy about the final finish on these things.  In an effort to improve this, I thought I would have a go with something other than my usual traditional spirit based wood-stain followed by polyurethane varnish.

I came across Gel stains looking through a Minwax site.  I wish we could get Minwax products (full range and right price) in the UK.  Anyway, having spotted gel stains, I did some reading up on them and began to wonder if this was the way forward.

Like most paints/stains these days they come in spirit based and water based versions.  I always opt for water-based 
for easy clean up.  Some would argue water-based is not the way to go when dealing with wood.  I find water-based or spirit-based wood will always need denibbing and can warp if it has a tendency to do that which ever is applied.  I didn't want the usual pint or more (from DIY stores) for a few teeny furniture items.  Happily I managed to find small pots (2 oz?) made by Americana.  I already have some of their acrylic paints and they seem fine, so it was worth a punt.

In the UK I could only get three colours and even that required a bit of a search.  They came from someone called Buddly Crafts.  Totally unknown to me but the price was fine (£2.49 plus VAT)   Three bottles plus postage came to £10.49 - not exactly small beer but a long term solution if they work.

fingers crossed

left to right - oak, walnut, maple
I rummaged out some off-cuts from skirting and the experiment began with trying to ascertain how many coats I would need to get a decent finish.

Looks like it needs three.  It is easy and quick to do if you cheat and don't wait long enough between coats!!  Paint on with a brush just as you would any other paint and wipe off the excess.  You should then allow an hour before adding the next coat.....needless to say my hour measured about ten minutes.  I decided when it didn't feel tacky any more that would be fine.

You can see there is a real difference on each layer.

They were lovely to use, much easier that nasty old smelly spirit-based wood-stain.  They seem to have a pigment which sits more on top of the wood than actually soaking in so they feel like a cross between a paint and a stain.  They have a more even coverage than ordinary stain and went on easily with a small brush.

After three coats they dry to a very slight sheen but they did look as though they needed a bit more of a glow. You might get away with waxing it but I am too lazy to go there.

I then wondered which varnish to apply.  I usually use a water based satin varnish from B & Q but decided to stay in the realm of little bottles. I had these bottles in my drawer - brought home from the States and my brief affair with quarter scale!

ignore the triple thick one
 In the photo below I doubt you can see any difference between the gloss on the left side of the stain and the satin on the right side of the stain.  Even in real life it is pretty subtle other than the gloss didn't go on as easily as the satin and would need a rub down and another coat.  I did this after the photo was taken, but the difference is so infinitesimal its not worth showing you.

left side gloss, right side satin
After this I also did a bit of a naughty and tipped all three bottles into a small glass jar so now I don't actually have a satin or a gloss.  I assume I now have a glatin? or a sloss? - it will be fine.  Basically I think they are all the same animal - the satin being thinned down and very runny and the gloss more 'condensed' and a bit gloppy to apply.

I am very tempted to do the same with the three wood stains**.  There is only the subtlest difference in the colours and I am already faffing about which one to choose.

The real point of all this is that I am trying to find a way of staining wooden kits and get a decent even finish  However, what you can see clearly on this test is that the nasty effect you get applying stain to poor quality wood, namely flecks, is still happening.

Having read this, I may have a solution: 

'When using on wood, you can mix 25% Multi-Purpose Sealer with 75% Americana Gel Stain to seal and stain at the same time.'

 I have sent for the Multi-Purpose sealer so watch this space.


** Yup, I mixed them up too - all together in a glass jar. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Here it is:

 In real world you can buy all sorts of wood sealers but as usual you gets far too much of the stuff for us mini folk.  It seemed sensible to give this teeny one a go.   Made by Americana again and, in this case, sold by Country Crafts.  This is another new to me vendor and the service was fine and gets a good rating on Facebook.

OK:  a site I saw this on said mix 25:75 sealer and stain.  The bottle says mix 50:50 - so going with the bottle instructions,  I duly mixed fifty/fifty.  Starting at A (the right way up)  you are looking at one, two and then three coats of this mix.

I still had flecks so thought I would try applying the sealer first and then three coats of stain.  You can see the result of that on the small left-hand upside-down section of the trim.  Still flecky.

The top piece of wood shows the three coats I did before I got the sealer and the strip below is three coats of fifty/fifty stain and sealer.  It has finished up a much lighter shade so the sealer must be working in some way.  Just not the way I want.

Again, the top piece of wood shows the three coats of stain without any sealer and the strip below shows where the sealer was applied first and then three coats of stain added.  Again, this is lighter than the no sealer piece and, again, is still flecky.


  • If you are still awake, all I can say is there doesn't seem much point to the sealer either applied before or mixed in with the gel stain before coating.  Most importantly none of them with or without sealer seem to help with the flecky finish that I am particularly trying to avoid.

  • However, the gel stain is as good as..... or as bad as......the more usual spirit based wood stain in terms of coverage but it goes on easier and cleaner and clean up after is easier.  So, I am very happy to use the gel stain.  I will probably also use the sealer (as I have bought it!) and I quite like the lighter finish.

This will be miles more interesting when I get to make some actual furniture and see what happens on that wood.


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Hanging Art Work (mirrors etc)

I mentioned a while ago I had real life notes on hanging art work in a house and that I found them really useful.  It took a while to find them as I now know them by heart having moved through many home incarnations and so I have not had to look at them for a while.  Finally they emerged, so here they are.  As always pretty much anything you find in big world can be transcribed down to minis - hope this is a useful memo for you too.