Monday, 8 February 2016

Faffing Around With the Hatter's Table.....

These last couple of days I have been playing around with the tea table. I have stuck two tables together and after removing the middle legs it has been possible to fit three chairs along two sides.
I am using vintage handkerchiefs for the tablecloths that I purchased off Ebay for 99p.
Vintage hankies are great for linens in dolls houses because the materials used are quite fine, especially the older ones, and they usually have some embroidery or lace.
I have used hankies before on beds and they work really well. Plus they are so cheap and come in all colours.
 No Victorian tea table would be perfect without something lacy so I have added two beautiful table runners by an Etsy seller from Canada who I recently came across after recommendations by a very talented miniaturist, Lyn Jowers.
I contacted Frieda after looking in her Etsy shop, Black Leopard Dollshouse Creation, to see if she would make me a few pieces in the size and colours I wanted. 
There are quite a few crochet artisans so it was nice to be able to deal with someone I knew had made items for a quality artisan.
Freida, who lives in Canada, was so helpful and friendly readily agreeing to both sizes and colours.
 These are the beautiful table runners Frieda made in an antique white,
 I also ordered three throws for other projects in white, lemon and
 a pale grey. I am so pleased with them, they are so fine and delicate. Freida went out of her way to get the right colours despite Canadian winter weather and a house move!! 
I looked at the sold items in her Etsy shop and then chose the items I wanted in the colours and sizes I wanted which meant I got exactly what I wanted.
The post between us was amazing too, each parcel took three days to arrive! My UK post takes longer at Christmas time.
After messing around with the handkerchiefs and cutting two to size as I can't decide which one to use yet I have a play with some water based wood dyes I bought off Amazon. They are all in a tester set by Littlefair, perfect sizes for miniaturists and really good value. The pots aren't huge, they sell them individually on Ebay, but it does mean you can have a play with the colours and choose before investing in a larger pot. 
I have stained some lollysticks for reference in both single and double coats and you can see the nice variety of colours.
 I used six different stains on the chairs for the tea table. These chairs are from a variety of sellers: Jane Harrop, Julie Warren and Rob Lucas and once fully stained I will paint and distress them.
Once I have done with the chairs I am putting Alice aside until I go to the Summer shows and finally make a decision regarding the china.
Thank you to everyone who offered advice about my mini dilemma.
I really think I might go the de-cal route, at the moment I am veering towards the sets from True2Scale. After all the main pieces on the table will be all the gorgeous food.
Anyway I have had enough of thinking about it now and ready to move on to my next project something I have been planning for over a year now.
Can't wait to get started, it been a long time since I tackled a kit!!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Flower Planting Finished....Phew!! Mad Hatter's Wood In Full Bloom....

Well it's been a bit of a marathon but the planting is finally finished. I must admit I am really pleased with it. This part of the project has come out exactly how I had envisaged it and its not often anyone can say that with this hobby.
 The mound for the caterpillar was made from aluminium foil covered with making tape. I then topped it with PVA glue and a tea leaf mixture. To plant the flowers I used a thick darning needle to make the holes before adding the wire stems.
 I used a lot of the make believe ground cover plants on the mound as I needed to keep the plants low in order to appreciate the mushroom.
 I then worked may round the side bed after firmly placing the larger trees in air drying clay and tea leaves mixed with PVA. I also added clematis flowers to one of the large tree trunks. I have stuck with the Bonnie Lavish and Templewood Miniatures kits as well as adding my own made up flowers.
 With about three inches left I ran out of the teeny plants for the front of the borders which led to another day of plant making. I can't believe how many I have had to make, I am sure they are all disappearing down the rabbit hole.
Finally the last flower was planted! 
 It was quite an amazing feeling standing back and seeing it all finished. Then I had a panic about the glass roof and front. I hadn't tested it at all to make sure my measurements were correct.
Thankfully they both slotted into place.
 The tall trees have blended into the main planting......
 ......on both sides although there is more sky on the right hand side than I had hoped for.
 Of course I had to have a play. I immediately realised the size of the table would have to be severely cut down. So I have settled for a square. 
 I am going to cut off the middle legs in order to add and extra chair on each side. This means eight places instead of ten which means less china to buy!! Hooray!! The chairs will be stained and then given a distressed wash I think. Final decision to be made once I dress the table and get a proper feel for the table as a whole.
 The Mad Hatter also has a new friend that I don't think I have shown before.
 This fabulous dormouse, asleep in his nest of Alice books was of course made by The Giddy Kipper, as were all the characters at the Tea Party.
I made the choice of having a see through ceiling for this room box as I knew there needed to be a way of seeing the planting as well as enjoying the characters.
So here I am with the china. These three teapots give an idea of size and general decoration. The larger one is a Ruetter and the two smaller ones are by A Woman's Touch. I had originally chosen this tea service as there is a whole range of tea pots and plates but they seem to have gone out of business even though their website is still up and running.
They don't respond to emails or send out orders. Does anyone know if they are still trading?
So that's why I am still hunting.
These cakes are by The English Kitchen and Linda Cummings and are perfect for the traditional afternoon tea theme. 
Tomorrow I hope to work on the table linens and chairs then I will be able to stand back and decide if I need a complete and matching tea set to off set the colour and business of the planting and the dominance of the characters.
Simple might be best after all my hand wringing.

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Back in the Woods Today.....A Quick Blossom Shrub and Preparing the Ground Cover....

When I was making trees I also made a few wire shrubs thinking I would add leaves and blossom and create height and foliage in the borders. By the end of my tree making period I decided that these smaller wire structures would require more time and leaves than I was prepared to give. 
 I didn't want to waste them, however, so I came up with a quick fix by smothering them in PVA,
 then sprinkling the branches liberally with railway scenic scatter.
 The branches then had 1/4 scale lasered dandelion blossoms added. Not the most natural of looking shrubs, I think I did this at the end of a long day, but the general technique works. Next time I would give the gluing of the blossoms a but more attention.
 At the back of my border it filled a gap quite nicely and added light to a dark corner.
I have spent most of today getting all the stems ready for the ground cover plants I will need for my Caterpillar's mound and the edging of the final two sides.
I thought I would show how differently the same punch shape can look. This is a simple flower punch, on the left hand side I have made a hole in the centre and pushed the flower up to the top of the wire. The flower on the right hand side has had each petal gently cupped and then turned over and slid up the wire. I have topped the wire with a dab of PVA and then orange paint to both stop the flower head from slipping off and to add a centre to the flower.
This shape is from a mini punch as these will be used for ground cover.
 Just like all of these!! My laser sheets arrived from Mary Kinloch today so I have painted the quarter scale flowers and leaves the set them on wires.
The flowers do have central holes and I have threaded some of them but the really teeny ones I found easier just to glue on the top of the wire. I am not making them into the proper plants so this way was fine for me. 
I have used 30 gauge wrapped florist wire but I might be tempted to use a 32 gauge when I have a go at making the actual flowers in the future.
I have also bought some tiny leaves to experiment with too which might prove a challenge! 

Monday, 25 January 2016

And Now For Something Completely Different......

Like many a crafter, collector and miniaturist I am always thinking of the next project, the next fun thing to create or the next beautiful piece to buy.
After all the flowers are done and planted I intend to have a mini project break and these are my new treasures I want to showcase.
 Domes of all shapes and sizes seem to be a bit of a decorating rage at the moment and I picked up a large dome in the Marks and Spencer sale a few months ago. When I saw Jo Medvenic's new Downton Abbey dowager I knew I had a prime piece for my dome.
Unfortunately, this dome did not have a base and after much thought I decided to use a cake board as the circular base. I intend to cover the silver paper with oak floorboards and look for a circular rug when I attend this year's shows. 
It seemed meant to be when I saw the silver silken dowager on Julie Cambell's magnificent stand at the Christmas Kensington Fair and I brought her home with me to meet her new friend.
These wonderful ladies will make a great display in my living room so the colours are perfect to fit in with my current colour scheme but now I need to decide what to do with the furniture pieces.
I have an unfinished Bespaq sofa, side table and plant stand purchased from Maritza Moran's Etsy shop as well as a chair that I hope will suit my Alice. Maritza is a very talented artisan who produces hand painted pieces of the highest quality for the most luxurious dolls house collectors, do take a look at her personal website, her work is amazing.
Now I don't aspire to such perfection for my dowagers but I do want to upholster and paint these pieces but have never attempted something like this before. 
I need to remove the current padding and with other pieces of furniture I have microwaved them to soften up the glue. I am assuming that this will still be the right thing to do with a piece of Bespaq.
I have Googled 'painting Bespaq' but so far not had any joy.
Essentially this is just bare wood so I am heading towards staining and varnish.
These pieces have quite a lot of fine detail so I am a bit worried about losing the detail by adding too much paint or varnish which is why I am going the stain route.
I am still awaiting my laser sheets from the US so I can't finish off my final blossom trees and bushes but I have finished all the plants now so it won't be long before I can play with my new toys!!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Seem to be Stuck Down the Rabbit Hole....China for the Tea Party

I have been thinking about the china pieces I need for my Mad Hatter's Tea Party.
There will be ten settings which means ten of everything, plus at least six teapots, plus sugar bowls and milk jugs. 
I have googled and googled in an attempt to find the right china remembering that my scene is very closely adapted from the original look.
Now if the unredeemed Lottery Ticket belonged to me I would not hesitate in commissioning everything by the Japanese artist Miyuki Nagashima. I haven't been able to find a website for her but there are lots of examples of her work if you google her name and pick images.
I have seen her pieces at the Kensington Dolls House Festival on a number of occasions and it is simply gorgeous.

There is also the wonderful work of Teresa Welsh of The China Closet.
Teresa sells on Ebay I have recently discovered and I have long admired her beautifully hand painted pieces. I am not sure if she accepts commissions but I don't think my budget will stretch as far unfortunately.

Then there is Stokseyware, whose work I love. It is very delicate and beautifully scaled but can I really justify £23 for just one cup and saucer when I need ten? Of course if this was my one project I would not hesitate but I have lots of projects. 

I have searched for a miniature china maker whose pieces are more in my price range but have failed miserably. I am now thinking that my only route is Reutter. Not as beautiful as Stokeseyware obviously, and certainly not as delicate, but in a price range that I can justify. Remembering that the plates are for show, it will be the cakes and characters that will be stealing the scene.
There are quite a few designs by Reutter : Yellow French Rose,

Gold Crosshatch,
Blue Onion....

....are I think my favourites and seem to be pretty easy to get in the UK although they are also available in the US.
I think the Reutter yellow set is the front runner at the moment.
I might just have to bite the bullet and buy one set just to see the quality and scale. 

Amazingly I am off to Chicago in April to visit the miniature shows that are held there. Persuaded the husband that we just had to visit Chicago before flying on to Calafornia! So my plan is to wait until I go to these shows before making a decision on the china.

Any thoughts or favourite china maker links most gratefully recieved.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Moving Round the Corner.....Still Planting.

I have managed to fill in three more sections of the woodland over the last couple of days.
These flowers are all from the same kits I have already used. I do have kits by a couple of other makers but I want to keep them for more specimen plants for my other mini projects. They are all a bit more complicated and I need ease and speed at the moment.
As I started packing away this evening I had a good look at what plants I have remaining......Not good news. I am definitely going to have to make some more. I still have two sides to complete and I appear to have too many left of the same type which will lead to a lot of repetition. 
I also think I might have over planted these areas.......
Looking at them in the photographs they all look a little too packed in.
 Oh well nothing to be done about that now.
So, tomorrow I will be returning to the kits I have left in my very depleted stash.
Which is ok as I am waiting for some laser sheets of the tiny blossoms to arrive from the US.
Onwards and upwards!!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

If You Go Down to the Woods Today.......

I will still be planting.......
I began yesterday by picking a selection of flower stems. I use a dry oasis from Hobbycraft to hold flower stems as I work. A large block is £1 and I cut it in half, they do shed oasis dust but hold the stems in place very nicely.
 Having decided what flowers I am going to group together in this portion I go back to each kit packet and work on the leaves. This usually includes a but of extra colouring and cupping or curling. I had expected that this stage would be completed in no time at all but as usual I completely underestimated how long it would take. The most important thing is to make sure the plants had different heights and depth of foliage.
 Getting height from the flowers led me to make my own foxglove/gladioli thingies which have actually turned out much better than I expected but were incredibly time consuming.
I started with what were supposed to represent unopened flowers at the top and then added rows of punched flowers glued into the same cupped circles and then finished with cupped geranium leaves that I had previously punched. I have used the same process for all the tall flowers.
They make not be real plants but this is Wonderland so I think I can get away with a bit of artistic licence!!
Many of the kits I use start with the creation of a 'bud' at the top of the flower stem as can be seen here with the pink carnations. I think this is a way of hiding the wire stem and it prevents the additional petals from sliding off. The trouble is that you seem to end up with a big clump at the top with some of the plants and no matter how I tweak and crimp I can't seem to bring the other petals up to meet it. 
I also noticed that even using this technique I never seemed to be able to completely hide the tip of the wire so I now dip all the wire tips in a matching paint colour which avoids this problem.
I lost the kit leaves for the carnations so I added some leaves from my tree stash. These are obviously not accurate but they add a bit more greenery than the proper leaves. 
I made a little blossom bush to hide the LED strip light in the corner next the The Caterpillar using the tiny quarter scale flowers from Mary Kinolch and it seems to have done the job.
 Once I had added all the leaves I added a layer of air drying clay and began placing out the flower stems checking heights and depth. When I was happy with my choices I removed all the flowers and added in the tea leaf/PVA mix. Once this 'soil' was in place I replanted all the flowers including a small patch of tiny pink begonias around the tree trunk.
 On finishing the planting I realised I did not have any teeny tiny ground cover plants to fill in the front gaps beneath the medium sized plants. To avoid the super tidy flower bed look I need to make sure that the edges are broken up by spreading plants and these need to be tiny like the begonias.
 This led to a bit of a mad rush using Mary's laser sheets yet again. These sheets are such good value providing many pre-cut flower shapes and I quickly prepared the wire, added the flower heads from the quarter scale sheets and finished off with some leaves. I had to hurry because the 'soil' mix hardens off pretty quickly and I didn't want it to set and not be able to sink the wires.
In this section I have used: Pink Begonias by Bonnie Lavish, then from the back, my own yellow tall flowers, orange lilies, white roses, blue hydrangeas, pink fuchsias and pink carnations all by Bonnie Lavish. The 'lavender' plants have been made from FlowerSoft and punched leaves.
Another section down and my flower stash is still looking quite healthy but next time I will make sure I have enough teeny plants ready for ground cover!