Friday 14 June 2013

Work in progress . . .

. . . or it was, about fifteen years ago!

Look what I found!  I'm really delighted, it was such a nice surprise. I think the design is called Persian Garden but when I dug out this mini rug by accident yesterday - from the pine chest where I keep a stash of fabrics and trimmings - there was no pattern with it. Fortunately there's not much of the border left to do and I can follow what's already there. The rug measures 16.5 cm (6.5 in) in length and will be ideal for the sitting room upstairs over the shop. 

This was my first attempt using embroidery silks (floss) instead of 2-ply tapestry wool  (yes, there were actually four more rugs lurking in the chest) however, with exception of the pink rose design below, I confess I don't much care for the others. 

They're stitched on a coarser canvas and seem clumsy by comparison (I was so clearly a novice!). They'll probably end up rolled up and leaning in a corner of Charlie Brennan's secondhand shop.

This (above) was the first and worst. But I can't have been discouraged because I went on and finished two more in wool. I wish I could remember where the patterns came from, I'm sure I didn't work without a guide.

Hmm, orange and green could prove difficult to place.

The Tree of Life is quite cute but possibly a bit folksy for the Brennans. Perhaps it'll go to the lodger. Lodger's rooms are often the last refuge of odd bits and pieces of furniture. 

By the way, the warm glow is due to the fact that I took these shots out of doors under our peachy-coloured sun umbrella.

To help me decide their fate, the mini rugs must be blocked, ie damped and nailed down on a board so that they will dry straight and square, not all cock-eyed and wavy as they are now. I shall do that job over the weekend - finishing the Persian Garden may take a little longer.


Thursday 6 June 2013

The English Sumer Is Icumen In

And about time too. To celebrate its arrival, and the fact that our gardens are blooming at last, I post this bunch of sweet rocket plus a stem of pink columbine that got caught up with the rest. The scent indoors is both sweet and spicey - delicious!

Beyond this jug of flowers, I'm afraid I have nothing to offer this time, I only dropped by to say hello because it's been a while since I wrote. Some RL paid work has arrived at my desk and I must pay it some attention. As usual in these situations, the mini world suddenly seems even more attractive and one longs to have time to 'play'. 

As things stand, I'll just have to find smaller tasks to do in odd moments - the dolls need wigging and I have several pairs of army boots to make from Fimo.

Meanwhile, enjoy the season, wherever you are.


Monday 20 May 2013

Cleaning up at the Summer KDF

Once more to Kensington Town Hall on 11 May for the Summer Festival. I went with an expat American friend - expert quiltmaker and all-round needlewoman - who, although a regular attender of the big stitching shows, had never been to a miniaturists' fair before. She was amazed at so much skill and ingenuity and specially delighted to discover the mini florists, inlaid furniture and ceramics.  We had a great time going around the show, I don't think we missed a single stand!

I'd resolved to keep a tight hold on my purse and not give way to too many self-administered treats (I knew it would be impossible to forbid myself completely). I went for this bright red dustpan and brush from Laurence and Angela St Leger because I had nothing made by them already, and I've always loved how they put their own style on the most ordinary household items.
I called in to see Steve Messenger, kit-designer at Sid Cooke's, and took another look at the completed Bon Marché model. I wanted to check the roof opening and also see whether I could alter the chimney height and position. Steve tells me he is taking plenty of orders from the US these days.
After that, my other 'practical ' call was to Wood Supplies (see their catalogue at ) for a neatly packaged boxful of pre-ordered cornices, skirting boards, picture rails etc. Let's hope all my estimates and calculations are correct!

This charming mirror by Tarbena (see will hang in the hallway. It deliberately doesn't go with the wallpaper but reminds us of Charlie Brennan's heyday as an antique dealer. There are quality items like this scattered throughout his house, Charlie gets attached to certain things and 'forgets' to sell them on. 
Not such a glamorous object but vital to the story: I collected a small sink unit for the ground floor kitchenette from Rob Lucas (see At home, I swapped the Belfast sink and drainer supplied by Rob for a shallower Butler-style with ribbed sides that I already had. This small unit with its single cold water tap would have been the one and only when the house was newly built. A larger sink and unit were put in later upstairs, when the big kitchen was created and a hot water geyser installed; and what a wonderful innovation that must have seemed.
 While at World of My Own's stand, my eye fell upon this perfect little meat safe - absolutely identical to the one my grandmother had hanging on the wall outside the back door.
I had to have it for one other nostalgic reason. When my grandparents eventually bought a fridge they didn't need the meat safe any longer and threw it away into a corner of their garage. From where I rescued it, scrubbed it clean and with my grandfather's help - tools, scraps of wood and old pots of gloss paint - converted it into a dolls house that I could keep and play with whenever I visited them. As an avid eleven-year-old reader, I had just devoured Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca so I called my new mansion Manderley . . . what else?

Wednesday 8 May 2013


In my previous post (Newels and nosings, 2 May), I'd decided the stair balustrades were to be painted a deep cream in contrast to the dark oak-stained woodwork of the rest. They are done now and I'm rather pleased with the dowdy effect. The assembled parts are still not finally glued together because first I need to mix some murky-coloured acrylic and wash a layer of grime into the turned bits, to stop them looking too shiny and new.

I know that weathering or ageing certain aspects of our miniatures points to an obsession with mini details but I also know we are not alone. This time, instead of my caboodle, here is a link to two remarkable collectors, Tom Giannini and Linda Gavin. 
Don't miss the prompts 'Click to read more ...' for their fascinating stories.

This weekend is Dolls House Festival time once more at Kensington Town Hall. Good luck to everyone involved! My planned purchases are very down-to-earth and practical, no impulse-buying allowed. But of course, one can never be quite sure . . .       


Thursday 2 May 2013

Newels and nosings

Before installing the three flights of stairs in this shop/house, I had to decide how to treat the woodwork. Would it be painted or stained and what colours would I use? In the end I chose to copy the type of decoration that we had discovered under various layers of paint in our own RL house.

It's a typical terraced villa built in 1906 - right in the middle of the Edwardian period. When we moved in, it had kept its original stained glass front door, plaster mouldings and brass door knobs. However, it wasn't until we stripped down the window frames, skirting boards etc for repainting that we uncovered the dark brown stain that had been applied to the pine wood in the beginning. Obviously an attempt to convert it to instant ancestral oak!

So, assuming that no one had wanted to change the look of the staircases throughout the twenties and thirties,  this is what I have done to the miniature woodwork, using the same stain as on the floorboards (In at the ground floor, 5 November 2012).

And since I don't want a glossy effect, I have just waxed and polished the 'oak' stained parts to a moderately smooth finish. The balustrades or spindles will all be painted a contrasting shade of deep cream, in a nod to the move that the Edwardians made away from the heavy Victorian style.

Apart from the business of newels and nosings, I've done a little more kit bashing and installed an extra window in the side wall of the lodger's room at the top of the house. The room has a large dormer window but I had a small square frame lying about doing nothing and it seemed a pity to waste it!

It's been fitted high enough to allow furniture to stand underneath because the sloping ceiling doesn't leave very much upright wall space in that room.

Josje's recent post, on the re-opening of the Rijksmuseum, showed some beautiful miniature silverware. Now I certainly don't have anything to match such a marvellous display, but it reminded me that I have collected a few pieces in the past (when I could afford them!).

The lovely monteith bowl is by Ken Palmer, one day I may get some little glass cups to hang round the rim. The pair of serving spoons is by Jens Torp. The minute salt cellar and even tinier salt spoon are the work of Mike Sparrow. The candlesticks, wine cooler and cake basket are from the Royal Tunbridge Wells Miniatures collection issued during the mid-1990s.