Sunday, April 26, 2009

Mining for Magic

Not exactly mining, but this evening I started looking through all of the little boxes of accessories that have accumulated in the past several years. I was looking for lantern tops for the two "oil" lamps upstairs. I found them and a lot of other little goodies that I thought would look good in the mushroom.

This picture shows a wall hanging I made from a printie on cloth. I think it was for a swap, as I found several in various states of construction. Also found some candy, a little plastic rocker so the little elf can rest while the cookies bake, and stuff to put into the cooking area. I think I'll paint the rocker but will save the paper design on it.

[By the way, you do know that if you click on a picture a larger version will appear, don't you? If you do a left click, use the Back button to get back to the blog. If you do a right click, you can open it in a separate window.]

The counter looks awfully clean considering the amount of dirty dishes in the sink, but I'm pretty sure this area isn't finished. It needs some dish towels and a bucket of water for the dry sink at the very least.

For the upstairs, I found a little ship and a sewing machine. One of the elves builds miniature ships as a hobby in the down season. I gave the seamstress a basket for her materials, but I may build her a little bench with drawers or a lift-up top instead. The railing on the stair rail is a little wonky, but I'm not overly concerned. I think that eventually it will be covered by something over the railing, like a drape or throw or a garland.

Here's the sideboard with the new lanterns that I finally found. They are some kind of little bottle. I bought them at Through the Keyhole in Dallas a few years ago with no idea how I'd use them. They came with two or three teensy little seashells. I tested the lights in them and decided they are keepers. The gingerbread house is made from Fimo, glitter, puff paint, and a couple of little gems. It was made for a swap in 2006. I'm not sure if the baskets will stay there. They're being auditioned for color and texture.

Last, but not least, here is the divider wall. I glued a couple of little wooden deer blanks on the shelf and put a scrapbooking sticker wreath at the top. In the corner of the photo you can see a bit of a Christmas tree on a table, part of a 1/2" swap. It has a little card and some packages with it. I'm not sure it will stay. I'm wondering if the elves would go all out for Christmas decorations or would they be so tired of Christmas cheer after making all of those toys that they'd downplay it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Wall is Up

I woke up this morning with several things to do, but the wall kept calling to me. I got into a groove and forgot to pick up the camera, but you can easily see how this was done. I cut a door shaped hole in the center, added a piece to fill in the front of the wall, then cut balsa into strips for trim. The door is thicker balsa hinged with faux leather hinges. There's a little shelf above the door. I'll surprise you later with what's going on it. :)

The other side of the wall has trim around the door but none of the timbers. I'm considering it to be plastered over. I winged the pattern for the beams. I have no idea if they are properly engineered or not, but if you consider that this cottage is supposedly carved from a large mushroom, how heavy can the load on it be?

By the way, the wall is not glued in place. If I ever want to take the hammocks out for cleaning or refurbishing, the wall has to come out. It's wedged in very nicely. I have no fear of collapse unless the elves get a really wild party going!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dining Table & Chairs

It has been nearly a week since my last post. I managed to get our real life bedroom wallpaper stripped, and the painter is coming tomorrow to do the trim and ceiling. The paper hangers will be here in a few days. Meanwhile, the elves have been waiting patiently for me to get back to what's important to them.

While I was still in cleaning mode, I tackled some of the storage bins in the craft area and found a set of wooden furniture from Greenleaf that I'd marked as being a little bit smaller than 1:12 scale, more like 1:16 -- elf scale!

After the glue dried, I filled in the holes & slots with wallboard mud. Spackle would also work. When it dried, I sanded it smooth.

I painted it with a coat of gesso and let it dry, then gave it a couple coats of sage green acrylic. I may put a bit of decoration on the chairs, but for now the elves have someplace to eat dinner.

As I was looking at the table and chairs and envisioning some hot games of checkers or chess in the evening, it occurred to me that maybe one or more of the elves would want to turn in early and have a little privacy, so I dug out the wall and slipped it in place with a paper template of a door. It would open between the hammocks. I have more styrene left from the downstairs wall I didn't use to fill in the missing bit at the front. I'm giving this some serious consideration. What do you think?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Getting a Hold on Things

Never let it be said that a miniaturist has enough clamps. I collect them wherever I see them. I have a whole bag of them, including some wooden clothespins that make nice, gentle clamps. These are some of my favorites. I think they came from the $1 bin at the hardware store. I like their thin little noses. Great for clamping in tiny spaces, like holding a veneer door while the glue dries.
This is the only how-to photo for the dry sink. I was working out of my head again and got so caught up in the moment that it was nearly finished before I thought to pick up the camera. It's just a little box with trim. The box itself is basswood, the trim is balsa. The mix didn't matter because I knew it would be painted. The big question with this item is: where will it go?

Here's the elf with the finished sink. I had some fun aging it. The inside of the sink part has a piece of aluminum foil glued to the bottom (dull side up) and the sides of the metal pan are silver acrylic paint. I couldn't fold the foil neatly enough to form the sides. Don't you love it when a good work-around steps up? The hinges are parts of a jewelry finding. The little dragonfly doorknob is a bead.

This is where I thought the sink should go. But the backsplash hides what will become a sink full of dirty dishes, and the stove is a bit overpowered. What fun is there in that?

The next choice is beside the settee. It's easier to see, but it looks a bit strange to me.

Third choice might be by the front door. I could cut off the bottom of the Christmas tree so it will be closer to the wall, and it's handier to the counter, but still I'm lukewarm about putting it here.

I thought of one thing that might help me be happier with putting it by the stairs. The stove can be raised up on a platform. It gives the stove more oomph and will be easier on the elf's back. It's a bit low, even for her.

Well, what do you think?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Settling down ... sort of

I got a bit distracted today. I was going to head right downstairs and make the settee and dry sink, but on my way past the bedroom I reached in and pulled a bit of the old vinyl wallpaper away from the wall. It came very easily. Before I knew it, I was having a good old time peeling away the vinyl. It was sort of like peeling skin after a sunburn: the trick was to see how large a piece would come off before tearing. I got a couple of good ones -- nearly half of a strip in one piece! And yes, we have new wallpaper to put up. It's been sitting here for the longest. Tomorrow I can start wetting down the paper backing and scraping it down to plaster. I don't think that will be as much fun, but now that the project has begun, I'm committed.

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So I didn't get downstairs until late afternoon, but I did manage to make a settee, age the worktable a bit, and put a couple coats of matte finish Modge Podge on the stained items. I like the silky smooth look of the MP. It gives it a sort of aged patina, like eons of waxing the furniture. All you can see in this photo is the back of the settee. It faces the front door.

This is how the settee began. I found a sketch of one I liked on the Internet and then made a pattern freehand. I had some old pieces of 1/4"=scored basswood flooring that I used. It was a bit warped, but gluing and clamping flattened it enough to be usable.

Here it is waiting for the glue to dry. This particular elf seemed interested, but the way he gazes at the little gingerbread man in his hand makes me wonder how much he really sees.

Next step, gesso.

Here it is finished. I used a couple coats of acrylics of various shades, mostly watered down to a stain. The cushion is a piece of foamcore board with one of the cardboard sides sliced off wrapped in cloth. Aileen's Tacky Glue holds it just fine.

This is the view of the settee through the front door. Sorry it's so dark. The lights weren't on. It will have a throw of some kind and probably some toys or presents on or beside it.

I know what the dry sink will look like now. That's the project for tomorrow.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Furniture Shop in Full Swing

No, I didn't make a swing. But I did make a counter with a shelf for the kitchen area and a nice sturdy worktable for the workshop. I also added some wood trim to the back edges. I think it looks nicely finished that way, and I was getting tired of the sagging second floor. Now it's nice and level.

Here's the kitchen counter with shelf. I used some of the styrene scraps from the kit to make the base and put a wooden top on it. I think there will be baking dishes and pots stored under there. There needs to be a sink or some kind of water and more shelves in this area, but I haven't figured out how or where. I don't think there would be running water in a mushroom, so I think a hand pump or a simple basin arrangement would be best. I just don't know what it looks like yet.

Here's the basic construction of the workbend. It's another one with no pattern. I used right-angle trim for the legs and put little block of square dowel at the bottom for the shelf to rest on. (I used the right-angle trim to finish off the back of the house, and a leftover piece caught my imagination. I saw table legs, and so the worktable came to be.) I cut two shelf pieces the same size and glued one of them to the bottom of the tabletop so there would be a place to glue the tops of the legs and to add support to the top itself. The top and shelf pieces are balsa.

I wanted a rustic look but not more wood color, so I gave the table a wash of sage green acrylic and then went over it with my favorite stain pens to age it. It looks more green here than it does in real life. The stain aged it nicely. I think the elves have been using this table for a few hundred years now. It needs to be a bit more distressed and the aging smoothed out a bit, but it needs to dry before I go at it with a nail file and some pastels (I think).

The table is a tad bit large for the area, but when all of the toys are in, I think it will look just right. I got an order today from Manor House Minis with some of the cutest little wooden toys to stock the shelves. Can't wait to get the construction work finished so I can play!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Trundling off to bed ...

Well, not exactly heading for bed right now. First let me show you the bay window shelf. I think it turned out nicely and will give the boys much needed room to display finished toys. I'm not sure if the back should be white or have a wooden backing. I'm leaving it white for now.

Now, this is what the trundle bed and cabinet looked like. I didn't have a pattern. I measured the space between the two posts and left the rest to logic. The bedding is wrapped around a piece of foamcore board and will drop into the trundle box.

The next photo shows it stained and nearly assembled. I used the combo dark walnut/golden oak stain pens again. I like the effect. Those are pony beads casters under the bed. They don't really roll, but hey ... And yes, one of the drawers doesn't match. You'll see.

And here's the finished trundle. It still needs accessories, but you can see why one of the drawers was left open. :) As it turns out, the trundle is about an eight of an inch wider than I'd like it to be. I've coped with that by slipping it in on an angle. Besides, I'm telling myself, if it slid all the way in, no one could see the bedding to know what it is. (How's that for rationalizing? LOL)

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lights on!

It took most of the day to hook up the wires as I wanted most of the joins to be hidden in the corner, under the mat. That meant stuffing my less than delicate hands into a tiny corner where I really couldn't see what I was doing without peering like an old granny who's lost her glasses. This is what I was doing ... stripping the wires, twisting them together, and then insulating the twisted bit with a wrapping of electrician's tape. The one on the left is finished. The next one is half done, and the other three are waiting to be done. I had to take several breaks during this process.

But when I flipped the switch, everything worked! The light behind the cornice glows slightly. It looks better in real life. The lamps look like oil lamps at a distance. The jury is still out on whether they will get shades (or maybe hurricane lamp chimneys?).
Below is the overall view of the sitting room. You can barely see the mat at the top of the stairs, but it works well to cover the wires. The tables are glued in place. I didn't want them moving around and risk pulling the wires out. The sofa and chairs are movable. I may want to put a rug under them.

Here's a closeup of one of the lamps. That is a plastic bead that I drilled out to accept the bulb. The wires goes down through the tabletop, scoots under the corner of the sofa, then runs along the base of the stair surround. (I can't think of what that little fence is called. I hope that doesn't mean I've been sniffing too much E6000 and stain fumes!)

I noticed that the back of the workbench looks ugly and brown through the front window, so I painted the back of it white. I think with some plants or something colorful on the window sill, it will look okay.
I was almost ready to quit for the night when I decided to make some shelves to go under the bay window in the workshop area. The larger piece will cover the existing sill and hang over about 3/4". There will be one shelf the width of the window, plus the two side pieces. I cut them from balsa and stained them with stain pens, using both dark walnut and golden oak. I wanted to make it look as if they've been there a while. I can't wait to start putting out the toys, but I'm trying to rein in that impulse until I get more furniture made and the outside finished.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Let there be lights!

Today I worked on the sitting room lights. Remember all of the light wires coming up through the floor by the stairs? I made four lamps from beads and jewelry findings and put the fifth light in the center gable, behind the top of the hanging shelf unit. (More about that below.) I used one of the sample window shades from Lowe's as a floor covering to hide the wires. I had to cut a quarter inch off each side to fit, but it will work. I looks a bit wonky right now because of the snarl of wires under it. When they're sorted out, it will lie flat.

The two lamps lying on the floor will go on the little tables I made. I'm going to drill a hole in the table top and run the wire down through it. The tables will be glued in place. The lamps are jewelry findings with a wooden wheel for a base, which will be painted. The bulb is stuck up inside a plastic bead. I used my handy Dremel to enlarge the hole in the bead so it will fit.

The end tables will be painted cream with sage and brown trim, I think. I cut the ends off some Houseworks pieces for the legs. I have no idea what scale this is. The whole house is sort of elf scale. I'm just eyeballing relationships and going from there.

The lamps on the dresser are also wired in place. I think the bulbs will stay unadorned. If they look too raw when lighted, I'll figure out shades for them. The top of the dresser is a bit rough, but it will have a nice doily or something similar to cover the rough part. I think it adds character to the piece. (That's my story, and I'm sticking to it!)

This is what the back of the dresser looks like. I drilled four holes and connected them with the Dremel saw blade so as to have a place to pull through the lamp wires. I added an extra piece of wire to each one after I took this photo and now have to wire them up to the stubs left sticking out of the floor.

The wiring for the upper cabinet is hidden behind the door, which will never be opened. The photo below shows the single bulb atop the unit. I surrounded it with little mirrors that won't be seen by the casual observer but will, I hope, help enhance the light and cast it upward for effect.
Both the wall unit and dresser are now glued in place. This gives me a little discomfort, as I have no idea whether the lights will work. It's a sort of Catch 22, as I can't test them until they're reconnected. And I can't reconnect them until they are fixed in their permanent place. I can't think of any reason why they won't work ... so that's what I'm hanging my hat on.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

I started the day thinking I'd paint the little bits of furniture, but I kept staring at the pillows on the sofa and chairs and thinking how plain they were. I Googled pine cone clip art and found some pictures for inspiration, then painted the design on the pillows. I thought I'd like tassels on the corners of the pillows, but after tying 16 of them, I decided I didn't like the look at all. Instead, I glued an edging of embroidery floss around them. It added just the little zip they needed.

That finished, I considered the workbench and the need for a ladder. After a few minutes, the light came on. No need for the elves to climb up if the workbench were lowered. Out came the little razor saw, and voila! Problem solved!

I painted the little stools and chairs in primary colors. While waiting for them to dry, I rummaged through my stash again and found a kit for 3 toy boats that has been hanging around since the NAME conference in Kansas City a few years ago. I had fun putting them together. They're stored in a nice plastic shoe box with the rest of the finished interior items.

Since I had the paints out, I added some gold trim to the cookstove. It looks neater than this in real life, as it's too small to see the details. The gold brings out some of the detail. Photographs magnify every little mistake.

With the house emptied, I could run more white tape along the interior joints in the center gable. That will hold the back wall of the cuckoo's house in place as well as make a neater presentation.

I got out some beads and cut one of the upstairs lights off so I could work on lamps, but inspiration eluded me and I had to walk away. I guess there's not much point in doing lamps until I make the furniture they'll sit on. There's always tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Making Progress

Well, this morning I got right to work. The new pillows for the hammocks turned out much more to my liking, and the old pillows moved to the sitting area furniture, so they're not a total loss. I like it when things work out.

Here's the upholstery in progress. It was purely a cut and paste operation.

The final product isn't really final. I think there needs to be a bit of trim at the base, but for now I'm considering it finished. The pillows worked well with the cloth, which I found in my stash. No need to hit the fabric store today. I just noticed the threads in the photo ... they're loose. The upholstery isn't falling apart!

And here's the workbench. I don't like that it's blocking a window, but I don't know where else to put it. I could sort of wall off that part of the room by putting it perpendicular to the wall, but then it would be harder to see all of the little items on the bench. Do you see the chair on the bench? I just happened to have two of them in my stash. And note the stepstools for access to the workbench. I think the elves will need something a little less prone to an OSHA crackdown before we get much further along with this project.