Sunday, November 29, 2009

What I've Been Up To

Hello from Cairo! My husband and I are currently in the middle of a three-week trip to Egypt and Israel. Since I like to keep this blog strictly miniatures-only, I've created another blog to journal my travels. If you'd like to visit it and see some photos, click here.

We'll be back in a week or so; I can't wait to catch up with everything you've all been up to!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Foyer Walls

Here you can see I've built a wall for the foyer.
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Actually, I built two walls at the same time (and the assembly-line process really helped speed things up a bit). Here's the other one:

Here's an overview shot for some perspective.

The front door will be in the wall near the bottom of the photo. To the right is the doorway to the dining room, which I'm almost finished with. To the left is the doorway to the parlor, which I've not yet begun. Toward the top of the photo is the ballroom. Eventually, there will be a grand curving staircase in this foyer, leading up to the second floor.

I'm pretty excited about the crown molding I created for the entry. I used some leftover molding I already had for the top portion and some quarter-round for the lower portion, but for the decorative molding in between, I used some braided trim I bought at the fabric store. This what it looked like prior to painting.

And this is a detail shot of it after painting it.

This first time, I glued on the trim before painting the entire piece, which was a bit of a mistake. It took a long time, and probably about 10 coats of paint, to get in all those nooks and crannies. Next time, I'll paint the wood backing separately, and then maybe dip the trim in paint to get it all covered before assembling it. If that works better, I'll let you know.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dining Room: Pocket Doors

When I decided I wanted double doors leading into Myrtlewood's dining room, I didn't know exactly how I'd design them. There isn't enough clearance on either side of the doors - they would block the staircase if they opened into the foyer, and would interfere with the cabinet doors and furniture if they opened into the dining room. After mulling this over a bit, I came up with the perfect solution - pocket doors!
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Installing pocket doors required me to tear out some of the framing I'd already erected, so I put it off for a while, but I've finally finished them. I built the doors out of prepurchased panelling and door frame molding, although I did have to do some modifications to get the top panels sized correctly.

I rigged up some window frame molding I had lying around to create an upper track along which the doors slide. Here's a picture of it from the back (as you can see, I haven't started on the foyer walls yet).

Of course, once I painted everything, the doors didn't slide very easily at all. This is the same problem I've had with the windows, but I think I've found a solution. I used a bit of Slip It Sliding Compound (purchased at Woodcraft) to lubricate the track, and the doors slide much more easily now. I'm definitely going to use this stuff on the windows, too.

I wasn't sure what hardware I'd use; all the standard dollhouse hardware seems to consist of doorknobs, and what would be the point of doorknobs on sliding doors? But then, in the woodworking section of my local Hobby Lobby, I came across a package of clasps. I think their actual purpose is to be used on wooden boxes, but one side looked a lot to me like a door handle. There were four in a package for US$1.49, which is a lot less than what dollhouse stores charge for their doorknobs. I had to cut off the ends and file them down a bit, but I think they work perfectly for these doors.

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm Still Here

Well, it's certainly been a while since I've posted! I spent several weekends working on the dining room windows, then taking them apart, redesigning them, putting them back together and taking them apart yet again. I despise them now. I think I became really uninspired for a while because of those silly things.

Anyway, I think I've finally figured out how I'm going to finish them, but I've lost my energy and patience for them for a while, so I've turned to other projects until I feel like tackling them again.

Here you can see the draperies I've made for the dining room. They were a lot of fun to make, and have kind of reengergized me and renewed my creativity. Please ignore the partially-finished windows behind them.
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I've learned from lots of online reading that the best fabrics to use for miniatures are silk and 100% cotton. My favorite place to shop for small-scale cotton prints is my local quilt shop. They have so many adorable or beautiful scale prints that my difficulty lies in choosing between them all!

Now if only I could find a similar source with a huge variety of tiny trims and laces! I can dream, can't I? (By the way, if you happen to know of such a place, please, pretty please, let me know.)

These were so much fun to make, I've been designing miniature draperies in my sleep the past several nights. I do so wish I could just snap my fingers and have the entire Manor built, so I could spend all my time working on the fun stuff!

Friday, August 28, 2009

One-Year Blogiversary

Today it's been a year since I started this blog and the building of Myrtlewood Manor. At the time, I just wanted an online site to journal the building process. I never guessed there were so many of you out there doing the same thing! Over the past year, I've had the opportunity to meet (online) and be inspired by so many fellow miniaturists. I've really developed a lot creatively and technically, and that's thanks in no small part to all you kind folks who so generously share your miniature endeavors and techniques. I look forward with eager anticipation to each new post by all my new friends.

Year 1 Progress Report:
In the first year of building, I've managed to build the base, frame the first floor, brick the front porch, complete all the floors on the first floor, build all four walls for the dining room, and build a wall of bookcases for the library. When taking breaks from construction, I've built some furniture from kits, as well as tried my hand at a number of other accessories. I've also worked out most of the color scheme for Myrtlewood, which was not easy given my indecisive and perfectionist nature, and amassed quite a few of the fabrics, paints and wallpaper I'll need to decorate the various rooms.

Grand Plans for the Future:
Since the planning stages, I've estimated the building of Myrtlewood as about a 10-year project. In Year 2, I hope to complete the library, the parlor and the entrance hall and tackle the wiring. In Year 3, I plan to build the kitchen and butler's pantry, the music room, the ballroom and the grand curving staircase in the main hall, as well as install the ceilings and light fixtures for the first floor. Years 4 through 6 should see the completion of the second floor, as well as the building of the grand front porch with columns and some work on the exterior of the Manor. In Years 7 through 9, I plan to complete the third floor and start work on the roof. Finally, I'll use Year 10 to finish the roof and exterior of the Manor, as well as any final interior or exterior finish work still needed.

Whew! After all that, I figure it will take me at least 10 years to make all the furnishings and accessories. And then? Well, I can't think that far in advance, but if I'm still into miniatures in 19 years, I'm sure I'll be able to come up with some other project to tickle my fancy.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Oil Paintings

Okay, I know I'm supposed to be working on the Manor, but these were very fun to make and took very little time (and I do need something to do while waiting for paint to dry, don't I?).
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These are just printed from my large file of saved images of art. I think these particular images came from Christie's site. I like to use lesser-known or unknown works of art, because I don't want it to be immediately apparent that these are fakes.

The frames were very cheap; I can't remember exactly what they cost, but I think it was around US$3 for both. They were sort of a dull gold color all over, so I "antiqued" them with some burnt umber paint.

Once I'd sized and printed off the pictures, I texturized them to make them look more like oil paintings. I'd read about a gel medium you can paint over a print to give it texture, but it was late at night and I was impatient to try these out on my wall. So I experimented with Aleene's tacky glue. Using a small brush, I painted the glue right over the prints using short, choppy strokes to build up texture. I'm quite pleased with the results, and happy I saved myself some money, too. I won't be buying that gel medium after all, because glue works so well.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Dining Room Wall 3

As you can see, I've completed the third wall for the dining room at Myrtlewood Manor.
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You may notice there are small spaces in the corners and that the moulding doesn't quite match up in each corner. I haven't permanently installed the walls yet (it's much easier to make minor adjustments while I can still remove them); once I do, I plan to correct these imperfections with wood filler.

I still have to install the windows; I've been working on them but they may take another few weeks to finish. Painting all those little parts can get a bit tedious. I find myself taking frequent breaks, which means that my progress has been quite slow. I'll post more pictures when I finally complete them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mahogany Chippendale Secretary

Here's a little secretary I finished recently from a kit.

I just love these House of Miniatures kits; they go together so nicely and the end result looks great, I think.

I've been piddling around recently, working on furniture and accessories rather than building Myrtlewood. The truth is, I'm mostly building the Manor to have some place to display my furniture and accessories. But now I'm going to crack the whip on myself and get back to my construction duties. Sigh.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pedestal Tables

I found these beautiful egg stands on Amazon - about US$8 for two - and thought they would make really ornate pedestal tables for Myrtlewood's ballroom.
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These are made of some sort of metal and a very nice weight; I guess they have to be heavy enough to hold the marble or stone eggs they are sometimes used to display. They were a little too shiny right out of the box, so I used some burnt umber paint to tone them down and age them a bit.

I made the "marble" tops from polymer clay.

I made two of these for the ballroom. I also bought a few ostrich egg holders; they're shorter but wider around. I haven't decided exactly what to do with them yet - maybe an entrance table or a chess/game table? Let me know if you have any ideas.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Arrival

A month or so ago, I had a birthday, in celebration of which my mother sent me a card and a check. Now, normally I very responsibly (and boringly) just pay bills with birthday money, or save it for some future use. But my mother specified that I was to use it to purchase something for Myrtlewood Manor. And it's not nice to disappoint one's mother, is it?

Mom, I know you mentioned that I should maybe buy a working clock (and I do want one of those eventually; just haven't figured out which kind yet), but I've had my eye on something for a long time that will remind me much more of you.
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This is a Heidi Ott working sewing machine, which just arrived in the mail today. The little treadle pumps up and down, turning the wheel on the right and causing the needle to move up and down. There's no place to actually thread the needle (which isn't all that sharp, actually), so it won't actually sew (so maybe "working" is a bit misleading), but I just love all the moving parts.

I also bought the matching bench, which opens for storage. I think this machine and bench are a lot like the ones my grandmother had when I was little, at least I remember being fascinated by the "secret" storage in the bench.

Thanks so much for my birthday gift, Mom! And, because I got this on sale, I think I still have nearly enough to purchase that clock, too, once I finally figure out which one I want, that is.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Status Update (and I've Been Tagged!)

I think I mentioned in a previous post that I'm having major computer problems. My laptop decided to stop recognizing my profile quite suddenly one evening. Apparently, there's not a lot we can do aside from saving all the information on my computer, then wiping it clean and starting anew with a new profile. So I've been organizing and saving as much as I can on an external drive. We're still working through the various problems, but I think I've finally figured out a workaround so I can get back to posting.

A few weeks ago, I was tagged by George the Miniguy, who has an amazing blog detailing the various houses he's built. If you haven't had a peek, you really, really should. His craftsmanship is remarkable and his houses and furniture are stunning. According to the rules of the "tag," I'm supposed to pick six other blogs I find interesting and then name six things that make me happy (whoever came up with this was quite the taskmaster, wasn't he/she?).

Being late to the party, it seems as though lots of other blogs have already received this tag, so no one I'm going to mention should feel obligated to do this again. Here are my "six":
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Sans, at Dollhouse Diaries, does amazing things in miniature with seemingly very little and comes up with the most hysterical stories about them. Sans, if you're not using creative writing in some way professionally, you definitely should be.

Ara's Addams Family Mini-Mansion is coming along quite nicely, and I suspect she's having a ball dreaming up all her fantastical and slightly macabre creations. I was a big fan of the Addams family when I was younger (I even dressed up as Morticia one year in high school), so I'm a little envious she came up with this idea first!

Ara's also working on Bentley Manor, where she'll stage a Clue murder mystery. I love, love, love the idea of this and cannot wait to see what she comes up with.

Check out all the lovely minis over at O Mundo de Zaphia. The blog is in Portuguese (I think), but the beautiful pictures require no translastion.

Visit the English Tudor Dollhouse All things Mini is building. I love the realism of the entire house, especially the kitchen.

Christine at Dandelion Fair makes the most adorable little creatures with the sweetest expressions. Puppies and tigers and bears, oh my!

Now, for six things that make me happy:

1. My family and friends
2. My garden in the spring and fall (in the summer, it's a jungle!)
3. My fluffy furbabies, who like to "help" me in the garden
4. My local hardware store; I have become a toolaholic
5. Homemade macaroni and cheese
6. The miniature blogging community (that's all you guys!), who help me to feel not quite so all alone in my enjoyment of this hobby

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Inspiration: Real-Life Southern Plantation Houses

I'm currently experiencing technical difficulties with my computer and thus can't post pictures of anything I've been working on lately. While my computer guru (aka my husband) sorts through my computer's various issues, I thought I'd post a few pictures of my inspiration for Myrtlewood.
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Oak Alley Plantation, Vacherie, Louisiana:

Houmas House, Darrow, Louisiana:

Dunleith Plantation, Natchez, Mississippi:

Drayton Hall, Charleston, South Carolina:

Belle Mead Plantation, Nashville, Tennessee:

I have long been enamored with these southern beauties. When I decided I wanted a dollhouse, I knew it would have to be a southern plantation house. There just aren't many kits out there in this style, though, which is one of the reasons I decided to build my own. My plan is for Myrtlewood to look very similar to the first three homes pictured above, except that it will have columns and porches across the front only, rather than all the way around (wrapping them all the way around would greatly impede access to the interior, unfortunately). At some point, I'll try to post the plans I've drawn up.

Hopefully, my computer will be "cured" in the next week or so, and then we can get back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Globe Makeover

I've been having a lot of fun lately taking inexpensive, mass-produced miniatures and remaking them into miniatures with a more unique look. Here's a globe I finished recently.
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Here's the gobe I started out with - I bought it for US$6-7 on eBay.

Now, to me, this piece looked much too modern for Myrtlewood, so I had to "antique" it a bit.

First, I carefully took everything apart and stripped the finish off the wood. Then I restained all the wood and applied a satin finish. This by itself greatly changed the look of the piece.

I replaced the gold bead feet with mini casters. I absolutely love these little casters! They made their first appearance on my cellarette, and will probably find their way onto several pieces in the future. If you want the piece to roll, be careful to apply all the casters facing the same way. While they actually roll (which I love!), mine at least do not swivel, so they must all face the same direction.

Then I got creative and decided to redo the globe itself. To maintain accuracy, I can't have a modern-day globe in an 1880s library! First I searched out antique globe gores on the internet, resized them on my computer, printed them, cut them out, and carefully glued them over the top of the globe. The result was too horrible to photograph. The paper would not lay flat against the globe, and the more I fiddled with it, the lumpier it got!

I finally chucked the whole thing and started over with a 1 1/4" wood ball, which fortuitously was just the right size. I drew on all the continents by hand and then painted them. This was a laborious process that I do not care to repeat, but I think the end result looks nice, and I'm glad I did it. To me, the globe looks a lot more Victorian, and isn't too recognizable as the modern piece I started with. What do you think?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Books: First Attempt

In the comments to my last post, a few people asked how I was planning to fill all the empty shelves in my bookcases. Realizing this was a sensible question, I decided to try my hand at making miniature books. These are my first attempts.
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I plan to eventually use many different materials and make lots of different sizes of books, so I should have a lot of variety on these shelves. I'll probably buy some, too. I have a lot of shelves to fill!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Library: Bookcases

I'm taking a break from the dining room for a while and working on the library at Myrtlewood Manor. As you can see, I've built a wall of bookcases.
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I didn't build these entirely from scratch; I started with some unfinished bookcases I purchased on sale for about $6.00 each.

I added baseboards, plinth blocks, fluted casing and crown molding on the top. Then, because they were only 7" tall and I wanted them to go all the way up to the ceiling, I built the extensions on the top. For the top, I tried to mimic the construction of the bottom bookcases; it's not exact, but pretty close. I cut the arches using my scroll saw, and it is evident to me that I need a LOT more practice with this tool. It took me several attempts to get those arches even.

I'm still trying to decide whether to add cabinet doors to the bottom two shelves of each bookcase. It would involve working with those fiddly little hinges again, but it might look really good. Let me know if you have any thoughts either way.

I plan to add a brass rail about 7" up and build a ladder that hooks over it and rolls along the length of the shelves. I'm still trying to figure out how to do that, but I have some ideas.