Thursday, September 1, 2011

Dollhouse doll update

These EFA dollhouse dolls were for the Yahoo vintage cloth doll making group, and the lady was rushed a bit to meet the deadline. I wasn't quite happy with her yet.
So I went back to add a few details and now she has a blouse and petticoat...
and a new hairstyle - my favourite style of braids worn up. Which incidentally was my favourite hairstyle when I was nine. Possibly the style I will return to in my old age?

She didn't exist two days ago and now I love her. I know, I know, I need to finish her house now. Believe me that is a long term project!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

EFA dollhouse dolls

As promised, here are some Edith Flack Ackley dollhouse dolls that I just finished yesterday. The man has a brown knitted sweater with plaid trousers. The lady has a pink floral skirt and a top made from a bit of trim with a ribbon belt. They both have painted shoes, the cloth shoes just looked too bulky at this tiny size.

In case you didn't know, Edith Flack Ackley published a lovely book called Dolls to Make for Fun and Profit in the 1930s and her sweet designs have been popular ever since. In the book she has patterns for dollhouse dolls which I adapted so that they are a bit smaller. So the man is 6" tall (still a bit on the tall side) and the lady is 5 1/2" tall. I also made up my own clothes so they would be more up-to-date for my sort of up-to-date dollhouse.

Generally they are made exactly the same way as all her dolls, including the sewn joints, but it's just a bit more fiddly. The two tools that made sewing these little dolls possible: fray block to keep tiny seam allowances from coming apart and hemostat scissors for turning tiny legs and arms right side out.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dollhouse bed updated

Dollhouse bed "after"
I had trouble finding a bed I liked and finally compromised on a new one from Ebay. It had a nice shape but I didn't like the reddish finish to the wood (it also clashed with everything I already had) and the mattress was a piece of yellow foam with the coverlet fabric glued to it. Ick.
 Dollhouse bed "before"
So I stripped it all down and washed off the glue (easier said than done). I painted it my new favourite colour, Martha Stewart's bone folder, a simple creamy white with a vintage look. Then I made a new mattress using some foam with a quilt batting sewn around it for extra cushioning. The best part is when you use thread to add the lovely tufting. I love the results! I even created a little free tutorial to share:
Just click on the image to see it full size and go ahead and print it out and make your own dollhouse mattress. My own EFA dollhouse doll (more on that next) and the pug have been lounging on it non-stop.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dollhouse rugs

Upstairs rug - with a new bureau waiting to be finished
I've been meaning to do this for some time, and I'm glad I finally did because it was such an easy project but with such satisfying results. These are dollhouse rugs made using little sample pieces of fabric. I found these fabric pieces at the Textile museum sale and because they were so small they cost next to nothing.
Downstairs rug
If you'd like some nice rugs like this for your dollhouse it's so easy, here's how you do it. I used small pieces of woven fabric. It works nicely with a patterned fabric with texture, it doesn't have to be miniature scale since contemporary rugs often have large scale patterns. I wish I could make a full sized rug like this!

Because they were sample pieces the edges were already serged using clear thread. This means you can barely see the stitching at all but the edges won't unravel. An alternative to this would be to just use fray block or some watered down white glue dabbed along the edge.
I unravelled the serging on the two ends and squared them up by gently pulling the weft (crosswise) threads out and then trimming the edge straight. To make the fringe, continue to pull the weft threads until there is a fringe leftover of warp threads that's the length you want. If the fabric seems secure you can leave it like this, or use some fray block to make sure it won't unravel any further.
That's it! I love my new rugs, they make the rooms look so cosy.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Dollhouse doll dressed

I've finally wigged and dressed the dollhouse doll. Wigging was something I knew nothing about but I just finished my first Gail Wilson doll kit and so that taught me a nice way to do it with wool top. I even managed to use the leftover wool from the doll kit to make this miniature doll's wig.
The only concern in this case was that the head was a bit large as there was a molded hairdo, but I thinned out the wig as much as I could and I'm content with the results. The Gail Wilson kit also taught me about stuffing the doll more firmly, so I applied that to this doll and now the head is held up firmly (instead of flopping due to the heaviness and a soft cloth body) and the doll stands easily.
Working on clothes this tiny is pretty fiddly and kind of frustrating. I really wanted to make a proper dress that had sleeves and some detail. The sleeves were probably the trickiest but I just did each step the way I normally would but a bit more painstakingly if you know what I mean. In the end this dress turned out well, it even has a bias trim enclosed neckline.

I could use the sewing machine in some areas but it did require some handsewing. Also working this small you need to be careful about fraying so the gathers around the waist are lined on the inside. The dress is even removable.
The real treat was being able to use a little scrap of vintage fabric for the dress since it required so little. I love this print so much! It is one of many tiny hoarded scraps I have, so it was nice to finally have the perfect project for it. The pink and red floral print even works with her rose pink painted stockings. The petticoat is made from eyelet trim that was already ruffled and bound at the top.

Now that I have the first inhabitant ready, I really should finish the house...

Monday, April 25, 2011

Working on a tiny doll

I'm still intrigued by dolls lately, so here is another dollhouse doll. She came with a pink cotton body, but it was a bit floppy and also stained and looked fairly new so I didn't have any compunction about changing it. I used a nice linen and stuffed it firmly with wool.

I learned how to sew together a china doll cloth body (and attach the arms and legs) from the book Making Old-Fashioned Dolls by Venus A. Dodge. This book is chock-full of detailed doll-making information.
Her hair seemed nice in the photos but in the back it was just a crusty mess of glue. So I used some hot water to soften the glue and remove the wig which I will probably replace with a new one later. But underneath her head is molded to look like a hairstyle. Unpainted, it looks almost like a Marie Antoinette style. I would like new brown wool hair though.
And lastly, this doll was described as an antique doll but I don't think she is.
There's a small inked mark on her shoulderplate, which seems to be an initial that looks a bit like pi, along with the numbers "76". I think this refers to the year 1976, and it was possibly an artisan making a reproduction antique-style doll from a kit. Any ideas anyone?
Next I will have to make her a dress and think about wig options. I love her sweet face and contemplative expression! And at a diminutive 5 1/2" she will do very nicely for my dollhouse.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Tiny dollhouse doll

So far I've collected a few little animals from around the house that seem to like living in the dollhouse. But I wanted to try my hand at making my own little people.
As you can see from my needle book blog, I've been working on dolls lately. I've been trying different patterns, such as the vintage patterns of Edith Flack Ackley, and working out some of my own.

And now I've finished my first dollhouse doll! I've added her to my Etsy shop - she's here. She has a lovely purple floral Liberty dress and lace trimmed petticoat. It was hard to cut into some of my precious Liberty fabric, but it was just so perfect for this. The lawn stays in place nicely. Not every fabric will work on such a small scale. I was happy to find this tiny lace amongst all my trim. These supplies are gathered up by me over the years and every now and then the perfect project comes along.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Strombecker kitchen set

Well once again in the interests of putting the cart before the horse, this is the furniture I bought for the kitchen which has yet to have the floor finished. These pieces are from the 1930s, a wooden table, chairs and stool set made by Strombecker.

After I bought it I found out that this set sometimes comes with a little floral decal on each piece so I'm sorry they don't have that, but they're still so charming. I love the vintage green colour and the detail of them, they're quite simple but still nice.

I can't decide whether or not it would be ok to paint flowers on them myself. They aren't particularly valuable or anything but I don't like to mess up something in its original condition. I thought if I painted them they would have a bit of that Tynietoy style that I covet. 

The little bowl is actually from a tiny incense set. I keep finding little things like this around the house that I bought at some time because they were tiny and nice. Then finding that they'll work perfectly in the dollhouse!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


I've been doing various odds and ends on the house, but not really finishing anything. I keep doing little details like putting logs into the wood box when I should be getting the shell completed.

I need to touch up the stairs before I put that outer wall up, and that's the next step before doing the roof and other additions. The stairs had some primer and paint spilled on them - as I've already said I should have added them in later - and after sanding that off I need to add a fresh coat of polyeurethane. I'm waiting for a warmer day when I can air out the room afterwards.

So I think I'm kind of stalled a bit! I've also spent a lot of time on bits of furniture that aren't done yet. Although I did finally sand, prime and paint the living room floor.
I also bought some baseboard trim and thought I would try that out. But I realized I would need to add the door trim first, and the instructions say to add the door hinges before the trim. Which means getting the doors ready and figuring out the hinges. So I just tried out the baseboard on one of the plain walls. I love how it looks!
Adding the mitred corners is a bit trickier but I found a good little saw at a local hobby shop. I wasn't sure about going in as it seemed to be mostly boat, airplane and car kits, but they had lots of handy tools and the man I talked to had helpful tips and used to work on dollhouse furniture himself.

So that's the update for now, I really am going to finish the shell someday, but it could take a while!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


So I think I spent most of my childhood making books, particularly miniature books. I had a whole series of tiny books with illustrated stories in them and a staple holding them together. I wish I still had those! Someone told me once he remembered me bringing them to class for show and tell. I had forgotten about that and I was embarrassed when he told me but now I'm thinking it's pretty cute.

I spent the rest of the time trying to acquire miniature books. They used to have miniature joke books in bubble gum machines but the tricky part was getting one because most of the bubbles just had gum. You could spend a lot trying to get a bubble with a book! Several years ago I found some on ebay though, so I have 3 of those.
Anyway I just finished making my HOM secretary desk and decided it needed lots of books. I thought the joke books would work but they were just a wee bit too big. The shelves aren't very tall so the books have to be really tiny. I measured a paperback and Bradley helped me work out the right size for 1:12 scale and it was smaller than the joke books.

So I made lots of books. They're perfect bound - a glued spine - with origami paper covers. They have real pages that are blank like a little notebook or sketchbook. While I was at it I made a couple of sketchbooks that are a bit larger and thinner and a few smaller notebooks. The sketchbooks and notebooks have brown paper backs to look like the cardboard back of a notebook. Then I even made two really tiny plain notepads.

These are my first tiny handmade items for the "tiny handmade" section of the needle book shop! I'm selling little book sets with combinations of books, sketchbooks, notebooks and notepads.
the teacup is a little wooden one, the only remaining piece from a set I bought in Scotland when I was little.
The desk still needs some knobs and a bit of touching up, but I think it looks cute with all the books. I'd like some little mugs/cups as well for the pencils I'm going to make. But for now I accessorized with a plastic thimble, little cup shaped button and a tiny dish from the dish set I showed you before.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

White HOM chest of drawers

So as I mentioned there are these House of Miniatures kits that make nice little 1:12 scale furniture pieces for dollhouses. They're from the 70s and 80s but some are replicas of 18th century furniture by Chippendale such as this Chest on Chest piece.

I love these kits, they are generally perfect, the pieces match up beautifully and are nice wood with lots of charming details. They're easy to make - the main trick is to figure out the right amount of glue for a secure bond without too much oozing out the sides.
I decided I wouldn't really have such a grand piece of furniture in my house, so I painted mine white which I think is pretty for a chest of drawers. I also changed it by adding green glass knobs (flower beads) instead of the brass fittings that came with the kit. It just seemed like too many tiny brass bits on the drawers as there are also the keyhole escutcheons. I think I may even paint over those later. It would be nice if they darkened up but that could take ages. (I want green glass knobs for my own bureau but when you need to buy ten the cost adds up. So it was nice to have them for the dollhouse.)
The final touch was Japanese paper drawer linings. I did paint the insides of the drawers as it's so easy with a little piece like this, I thought I might as well. It's less realistic but I thought it was pretty. 
Then onto the styling. I crocheted a tiny granny square bureau doily for the top from a single ply of cotton embroidery thread. I just learned how to make a picot edging border, I love it! Then I added a little pot from The Little Dollhouse Company shop. I had some tiny flowers that are used for bridal embellishments, I liked these ones that look like some kind of spring bulb. I was disappointed I didn't have clay for the soil then remembered I had tea leaves in the kitchen leftover from my morning tea. It's absolutely perfect for potting soil!

I'm starting to get caught up in these decorating details but I need to finish building the house. I guess I will start on the ceiling beams soon...

Monday, January 31, 2011

Downstairs floors

I've been working on the downstairs floors but the kitchen slowed me down. I wasn't sure what kind of flooring to put in there and didn't want to just have the same hardwood flooring. Also I didn't want to buy fake sheets of tiling.
In the end I had an inspiration and I think it's working out. I'm making subway shaped tiles from the same batch of popsicle sticks. It's time consuming, but I think it will be worth it. So they're going to go on in a brick design. Then later I'll prime and paint them white to look like tiles. I'm not sure about the grout but I suspect I can just let the paint fill the gaps.
The "tiles" aren't attached yet but I wanted to see if I'd like the way they'd look. Then I just kept putting them in place as I was cutting. I figure when it comes time to glue they'll be all ready to go. The nice thing about doing them from the same popsicle sticks is that the kitchen floor is the same thickness as the living room floor.

At the same time I've been working on some House of Miniatures kits. These are dollhouse furniture kits from the 70s and 80s. They are really nice quality and I've been enjoying assembling the little pieces of furniture. I have a few of them, so when some of the pieces are done I'll be sure to post them!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Popsicle stick floors

While my house doesn't have a roof I thought I would do the flooring. I'm not sure if this is the right order to do things in, but it's worked out so far. Except I wish I hadn't attached the stair treads yet.

I've been doing some filling and sanding to touch up gaps and cracks here and there and the dust is all over the stairs now. Then I stained the floors and some stain got on the risers. Then I carefully covered the treads with painters tape and touched up the risers and now there's paint on the treads that leaked under the tape! Now I'm just leaving them and will try sanding them later and adding another coat of polyurethane.

It's things like this that make me wonder why I'm doing this when there's so many other things I should/could be working on. But I will say that working on my house is usually very relaxing!
floor after sanding
Anyway, so back to the floor. I decided the most affordable and nicest way would be to use popsicle sticks. Most dollar stores have them, I bought two big bags for just $1.25 each. I trimmed the rounded corners off with a pruning tool, glued them down and then sanded the surface until it was nice and smooth. A regular popsicle stick is like having a wide plank floor, but you can get narrower craft sticks with straight ends at places like Michael's. I saw a bag of them there on the weekend for around $5. 

Here's a little strip of popsicle stick that I cut to go between rooms in the doorway:
Cutting the sticks lengthwise is pretty easy, just go over them a few times with an exacto knife and metal ruler.
 floor after staining
I've read that you should make a template of the floor then attach your flooring to that then attach it to your house. I guess it would be easier to work on a flat piece outside of the house but I didn't have any trouble. Although as I mentioned the stain did make a mess. But I think that was because I used a rag to apply it. For more control I would use a little foam brush or even a cotton swab for corners. (Another reason to attach your flooring to a cardboard template is so that you can take it out later and also so you can run wiring underneath.)

Speaking of the staining... Well, I regret that. It was pretty smelly and I had to open the window for a long time in the middle of a cold Canadian winter. And in the end I thought the colour was too high contrast with the white walls, clashed with the wood stain on the furniture and seemed dark and heavy. I didn't like it at all so I just ignored the house for a while.
painted floors upstairs
Then I decided to paint the floors - I love that country look. So this is how the upstairs floors look now and I'm happy with them. It will look even nicer once I add baseboards, and the wood furniture looks great. The little mirror over the fireplace is from the antique mall in St. Jacobs. I love that place!

Friday, January 21, 2011

A glimpse of furnishings

I haven't been very patient about finishing my house before making or buying furnishings so here's a sneak peek. Over the years I've bought a few little odds and ends just because they were so cute but now that I have a place to put them I'm gathering them all together.

And I've bought a few more little things recently. Hardly anything. Really. And of course, I made some new things myself. The picture above shows a little vintage crocheted dog I've had for a few years now. I was doing a little crocheting last night and started making something that wasn't working out and it turned into a tiny beret. And now that he has it, it seems like it should always have been there.

Making a tiny beret is very simple, I started with a crocheted circle, then once it was the right size stopped increasing stitches and crocheted a couple more circles to make a little rim. Then I used the tail leftover from the start to chain a few stitches and that's the little point on top. I used a single ply of yarn (a single ply of the machine knitting yarn you get from cones is perfect - I occasionally find them at Goodwill but also stocked up at the Montreal custom yarn shop I went to a few years ago) and the tiniest crochet hook I had, size 1.0MM.
For my niece's birthday I made some cushions to go with the living room set my parents bought her for Christmas. The set was contemporary, a white 3-piece couch and chair set with a bookcase, TV and entertainment unit. So I tried to pick some modern fabrics that a 9-year old would like!
Then I made a few extra cushions for myself. I like the blue print, it looks like something from IKEA to me, but it's a vintage bit of quilt fabric. It's a folklore kind of print with flowers, birds, a boy and girl and a little house. The other set is a pretty ikat-style rose floral.

The table is my first bit of furniture. It came as a matching set of two from Etsy. The legs on the other table are a bit chewed but the pair was only $3 so I can't complain. They're charming, I think they were probably made from a 1970s House of Miniatures kit.

And lastly the plant was a housewarming gift that came along with my miniature building permit from The Little Dollhouse Company when I picked up my kit.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Downstairs fireplace

the downstairs fireplace
Speaking of upstairs, downstairs, I love the show Downton Abbey that has just started airing here. It makes me want to make a period dollhouse because the decor is so lovely. I enjoyed the Dowager Countess of Grantham's (played by Dame Maggie Smith) dismay at the addition of electricity to the house. I'm not planning to add electricity to my dollhouse. Partly due to the extra cost but mainly because I just don't think it's necessary.
I painted around the first bit of trim before adding the rest
So on to the downstairs fireplace. This fireplace has curved trim similar to the upstairs fireplace, but also has additional pieces. Two strips go next to the curved trim, then one on top, then the mantel on top of that. I thought it would be good to post as I personally found it difficult to get a good picture online of this feature of the kit. The instructions were also lacking a diagram or picture which would have helped clarify this part.
trim is in place and trying out the mantel
I decided that it would be best to paint all the trim pieces to look like grey stone. But I'm not sure about the design, and in some ways I prefer the simplicity of having just the one curved piece as trim. The extra pieces do give it more presence though.
the shortened mantel - before touch-ups
Also, the mantel is designed to extend over the bookcase as well. I decided to cut it down to go over the fireplace alone. I want a pair of Staffordshire dogs for the mantel. Or if they're too large they can sit on the hearth. A typical example of how my version of a contemporary dollhouse isn't exactly modern! (Are miniaturists strongly divided on this issue? I seem to see mostly modern mid-century or Tudor/Georgian/Victorian houses)
touch-ups on the mantel done and the hole in the wall filled
For our full-sized house (will I have to specify this from now on? I'm obsessed. Lately when I look in decorating magazines the rooms suddenly look miniature to me) I adore these charming contemporary versions of Staffordshire dogs by artist Donna Wilson. They could go on our mantel if we ever get one.

I'm waiting for someone in our neighbourhood who is gutting their bungalow to put one on the curb for me to find. The bungalows around here (including ours) are from around the 40s. Ours was built in 1940 so a mantel from around then would be perfect. I figure we don't need a real fireplace to have a mantel!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Upstairs fireplace

I wish I had a fireplace in real life. They can be such a pretty focal point and then you have a mantle to decorate. And of course, I would want beautiful built-in bookcases. So I'm trying to make my dollhouse fireplaces nice but they have been a bit fiddly to work on.
So this is the upstairs fireplace in the bedroom. The kit is designed so that there is a fireplace, then next to it a built-in box for firewood. How cute is that going to be with logs stacked up inside and just the ends showing? There is a curved trim piece that goes over the front of the fireplace opening. There is a piece that fits on the floor of both openings (and juts out front a bit) for a hearth. And lastly there is a little mantle.

I made a few adjustments. The curved trim part really does not match the curved opening. I could have cut the opening away so that they matched, but I painted both in a stony grey (as seen in the 3rd pic) and figured it didn't matter, it's like an extra grooved detail in the stone. I think this stone paint will need some touchups but basically I used old separated grey paint that was kind of sludgy. I painted everything grey, then painted a paler grey over top (leftover Titanium from our old kitchen) then sanded it all down. The result is a smooth surface but with a mottled grey colour for a subtle stone effect. I like it now.
The second adjustment was because I didn't like the pointy top to the wood box. This was an easy fix. I took the original punched out piece and cut it so that just the top part was left, and glued that in place. Then a bit of filler and sanding and the wood box is now squared.

Behind the fireplace and woodbox there are pieces you glue in place to make the sides. In the case of my adjusted woodbox, I just cut that piece in two and used one for the side and one for the top so that it's square inside.

The mantle is two pieces glued together and I used a bit of filler to make the edges smoother. The mantle is painted in semigloss while the walls are eggshell (Cloud White). It's hard to see in the pictures but I thought it was important!
This is the final result - and a sneak peek at the flooring.

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