Monday, June 29, 2020

Fairfield Renovation

A couple of years ago I purchased 3 vintage dollhouses from a a local antique store. Then I had buyer's remorse, wondering what I was going to do with those three aged houses. You've seen one, the Storybook that I renovated into a toy store. I had decided, actually, to leave the houses as they were, honoring the original builder, her talent, her hard work, and her love for the art of miniatures. I never met the woman; I only know what the antique deal told me: an elderly woman who had a dozen houses that her daughters were making her sell  because they were sending her to assisted living. I can only imagine how she must have felt  giving up her houses. So I own four of her houses, fully furnished and a general store. One of the houses is the half scale Fairfield, a Green Leaf Dollhouse that was probably the first edition made in the '80s, maybe. This 1:24 scale house is a great beginner house that sells for under $100.00. As I search for inspirations, I am discovering that there are two versions, mine must be the older one. It has two exterior doors, one to the kitchen and one the front entry. The stairs in the house are hidden behind the living room wall, making the entry very hard to access. 

The house came with all of its furniture with a few accessories.

It's a charming house, but shows the years. While it is in very good condition, it is dirty with layers of dust that dulls the luster and the colors.

While the builder's workmanship was sound she did have problems in the kitchen, which is probably what prompted me to do something. The rest of house still looks pretty, but. . .

. . .the kitchen is just awful.

I've been contemplating buying another large house-- the new house that Real Good Toys offers, but I'm running out of room and I already have three big farmhouses, and the not so small Brockwood, so I decided to start a renovations project, prompted, as I said, by this very sad kitchen.

Red upholstery is not my favorite. My mother, though, would have loved the red Victorian dining set and the red sitting room. 

I am still pondering if I should use the original furniture or buy kits to make new. I've been doing a lot of research looking to see how this little house is decorated. 

Blue is nice, but age has soiled the surfaces.

  So, the other night, I tested the waters to see if I could removed the awful "metal" which turned out to be plastic ceiling liner on the roof pieces. It actually came off very easily

 This is where I began, removing the the faux tin roof on the porch, but I didn't stop there.

Once I tested the living room wallpaper to see how easily it might come off there was not turning back. I used my Cricut paddle to remove the wallpaper. Worked great.

Then I ripped up the some carpet.

Next I tested some woodwork. The wood trim actually removed very easily. First I had to find the spot where the glue had not been so heavily applied. I did discover that the glue was the most firm at the bottom of the pieces. Once I got a spot loose the rest came free easily. I am guessing that the glue had dried with age and lost some of its grip, for all of the door trim and interior window released easily. These wooden pieces were also glue to the wall paper not wood to wood, which I think, helped release the bond. I was able to remove all the interior wood trims without breaking any of them.

The carpet was much more difficult to remove, leaving carpet clinging to globs of glue.

Before I knew it, I twas on my way to a full blown renovation project. There was no turning back. The wall paper practically slid off the wall once I saturated it with fabric softener mixed with hot water in a small spray bottle. It even dissolved the glue that held the carpet in place after taking several minutes to dissolve the glue enough to scrape it away. 

This wall is probably the worst one in the house, but fabric softener really does eat through the glue used on this house.

Removing the paper kitchen flooring was more challenging. I've stripped enough wallpaper over the years in my homes that I knew to score the flooring to help the fabric softer penetrate the paper.

Finally after a lot of scrapping, the kitchen is clean.

The third level still needs to be stripped and I have to decided how to deal with the entry way at the front door and the second story hallway, both fairly inaccessible. I might be able to wallpaper over the current paper, but I'm not sure that I can get hand in the small area.

But I wasn't done. I decided to try to remove the front porch railing so that I can update it with new, more decorative railing. I sprayed the joints with fabric softener and with gently prying the glue popped free. 

I am trying to decide if I want to replace the doors. Upgrade them, you know. I am even considering closing off the door that goes into the kitchen because it ruins the layout of the kitchen floor plan. The second edition of the Fairfield doesn't have the kitchen door, which makes for a better kitchen floor plan.  I did remove the front door and broke the the door jamb in the process, so yes, there will be a new front door.

But I didn't break the porch apart then I removed it.

I am getting very excited bring new life to this great little house. 

And look what arrived Saturday. With encouragement from Sherrill and Jodi, I took the big step in miniature making and added new tool to my workroom: the Circuit Maker. And what an impressive machine it is.

I waited long enough that the price came down another $40, but there were only two colors available. I chose to match my phone rather than the wall. Actually, what's in a color?

Unboxing the machine is an experience. I mean, an elegant one with the documents sealed in classy black envelopes; chic cue cards to direct the set up. The machine comes with the scoring wheel and deep cut blade, a piece of fabric and card to make your first cut.

Also packaged with machine are two mats. I purchased one with the accessory kit and received three more cutting mats.

Set-up was so easy. In minutes I made my first project.

I may be making new cabinets for the Fairfield, so designed a box in Cricut's Design Space. I am so pleased with the machine. It will be amazing.  I'm not new to Cricut; I've had an Expression II for years, but this one takes shape cutting to a whole new level. 

Thank you, ladies for patiently taking the time to answer my questions. 

Well, that was a lot. Thanks for stopping by. I'll be back with more on the Fairfield. I think I'll paint the exterior next. What color? I don't know, yet. See you soon.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Crafting with Granny and Little Green Men

I've had a little companion in the craft room for the last two weeks, my 11 year-old grandson Nathan whom I hadn't seen since the first week of January when we celebrated his brother's birthday. There were days during the Stay-at-Home order that the little guy worried that he would never see his grandparents again. So we made up for lost time. Aside from hanging with the neighbor boys, trying to keep up with his three girl cousins, and shooting his compound bow with his grandfather, he enjoys crafting with granny, so while I made flowers and pasta, he made a little green alien and boomerangs out of my wide craft sticks.

Needless to say, I really didn't get much done while he was here; I had more fun keeping up with him. Now the house is quiet and my routine is returning to normal. Here's what I have been working on.
Part I: Geraniums

I decided to make a hanging basket of bright red geraniums for the Bellingham front porch.  I began by making foundation beads out of my FIMO polymer clay as the base of the flowers and glued them on 22 gage paper covered wire--which I would find later was really rather flimsy when I tried to poke into the clay base in my hanging basket.

These 3 artists taught me how to make my geraniums. I use scrapbook paper to punch out my shapes, but I know that there are better papers that will hold the shape better and these ladies will teach you all about papers. I'm still learning and experimenting. 

I began by making my own flower bases out of polymer oven bake clay simply because I didn't have any beads the correct size. 

And I punched out a lot flowers and quite a few leaves using the Punch Bunch punches

 I glued the clay beads to the flimsy wires.

Then painted the clay beads with red paint.

I fussed with how to keep the flowers in the basket, deciding finally on polymer clay. I didn't bake it to keep it soft so that the flower stems would penetrate it. When it came time to add the flowers, I poked a hole, put tacky glue on the end of the flower stem then stuffed it into the hole. 

I covered the clay with tacky glue then with used tea leaves.

I couldn't believe how many flowers and leaves the basket required. To some flower stems, I added leaves, but also create several stems with single leaves so that I fill in the basket to make it full. I still may make another one hanging basket. As it temporarily hangs, it adds character and color to the porch. I did fill in with some moss to give the arrangement a little more definition.

I loved the red flowers so much that I created a companion planter.

Using punches to create the flowers and leaves, I built vining white accent flowers.

Part II: Pasta Making

Since the Stay-at-Home order was issued in early March, I 've only been in the supermarket twice to get groceries, choosing instead to do curb-side pick-up. The one item that I really needed the last time I ventured inside the grocery store was not in stock: pasta. The pasta shelves were nearly empty. Makes a lot of sense. Pasta is inexpensive, easy to fix, and the family likes it, so I decided to make my own--mini, of course. 

I watched three videos to learn how to make my pastas: 
    If you are going to make these little projects, watch the videos because these fine artists are amazing and have created great tutorials that most beginners can easily follow. I tend to go rogue and do my own thing, generally based on what I have in my supplies and my own skill level. Julie's video is very long, but she shares several projects to fill kitchen cupboards. 
A plate full of spaghetti is quite simple to create. The artist will use translucent white and pale yellow to create her spaghetti, but I didn't have those colors, so I blended these two colors to create a darker pasta, more like whole wheat pasta, maybe? I also used a bit of corn starch to keep the pasta from sticking to my fingers and my work surface.

Begin by making a log then rolling it as thin as possible. Since I work on small ceramic tile, as my logs grow in length, I have cut them and keep rolling until I have several fine lines of pasta.

Once you have your pasta rolled out, roll into small circular stacks and place them on a plate. The video will have you use liquid polymer clay to "glue" the pasta to the plate. I skipped this step. I just have removable spaghetti.

Keep stacking pasta until you have nice full plate spaghetti.

Once you have a full plate of pasta rounds, cut more pasta lengths, pinch about three strands together at one end then place it on top of the pasta rounds, blending the ends inside the circles to create a nice mound of spaghetti. 

 For meatballs, I simply rolled three balls of brown FIMO and textured them using a toothpick to rough them up, making them look more meaty. A toothbrush would work great, too.

I used pastel chalk to make the sauce, mixing it with liquid polymer clay. After baking, I finish the foods by using glaze to give them a sheen.



This Charming Stuff has an easy tutorial for making Italian bread and garlic bread. I tried to follow her directions that required using a bit of water and  baking soda added to the clay to make the bread crack when it bakes so that it looks more authentic. I must not have used enough baking soda because my bread didn't crack.

While she used acrylic paints to color the bread, I used my pastels.

I did end up with fairly authentic looking garlic bread. I followed her instructions to scratch the surface of the loaves when they are fresh out of the oven to create that beautiful, cracked crust.

One problem that you really can't see is that I used a bit of green pastel to create the parsley that might be in the garlic butter. When I added the glaze the chalk dissolved, even after baking. The artist used baked green clay that she grated finely on top of the slices. 

Please, take a seat and enjoy. I can proudly say that I made the entire meal--except for the fresh lemonade.

This entire pasta project began with watching Julie's long video that shows how to make foods for the kitchen. If you follower her, she is remaking her childhood dollhouse, now working on the kitchen. She shows how to size food containers to the correct 1:12 ratio then how to make food packages, including a great tutorial on using Photoshop to size and meld scanned package containers. Next she shows how to make different shapes of pasta.

I began with the spaghetti. She mixes ochre and translucent white to get the perfect pasta color. As I said earlier, I didn't have the ochre. After making the spaghetti, I made the bow ties by rolling out a thin layer of clay, cutting away the rough edges to make a rectangle then cut the little pieces and squeezed each one together to make a bow. 

I found that the wider blade tweezer did a better job of squeezing the bows together.

Mac'n Cheese is a family favorite, so, naturally I cut up some elbow macaroni. The photo is pretty self explanatory. I held a toothpick to each end to squeeze the roll into a "U" shape. They are not quite exactly uniform, but once placed in the jar, one won't notice.

Lasagna noodles, too, are easy to create. Once again I could have rolled mine thinner. After working with FIMO oven bake clay for a while, it tends to start sticking to fingers and work surfaces, so before I roll it out, I shape it in a ball, pat just a tad bit of corn starch on the work surface, press the ball flat and dab a bit of corn starch on the top of the clay to prevent it from sticking to my lucite rolling pin. I used the large end of my stylus to give the edges the curled effect that lasagna noodles have.

The jars can be found in so many different places. Mine come from Hobby Lobby located in the jewelry making supplies and in the Tim Holtz section. All different shapes can be purchased from various online stores, one my favorite is Factory Direct Crafts (FDC) which carries all kinds of miniatures, not always the cheapest, but they run good sales.

I used earring backs for the lids. For this tall, skinny jar I pressed the top on an ink pad then placed the earring back on the inked top to get a pattern to cut down the back so that it didn't lap over and fit. Eventually I will glue the backs in place.

I may also paint the gold tops so that they don't look so much like earring backs. The little bowl, by the way, came for FDC.

I didn't make quite enough elbow roni to fill my jar, so I created more. Still I'm thinking that the jars don't have to filled to the brim. This is pasta salad season and I make a lot of it.

I found labels on Pinterest and printed them out. For the jars, I will print them on waterslide transfer paper when I get full sheet of transfers to print.

In summary, pasta making turns out to be quite simple. I'll buy more clay so that I can get a more authentic looking color. To finish the projects, bake your FIMO according to package directions. I bake mine at 265 F. Some clay directions say to bake 15 minutes per 1/4 inch thickness, so it is a bit of a guessing game. I save up until I have several pieces to bake. Since the FIMO is oil based, it does not dry out, so you can make several pieces and bake in quantity. I finish my pieces after they have cooled with glaze just for polymer clay to give it a nice sheen. Pasta does not normally shine, so I didn't glaze it. 

If you are new to polymer clay, the Youtube videos that I reference are so good that even beginners can be successful.
Maker or Not?

I'm still riding the fence on whether or not get a Cricut Maker. I have some questions that perhaps you can help answer:

  1. I have very spotty internet and WiFi, so I worry about losing connection in the middle of a cutting session. I've read that a  lost connection will spoil a project.
  2. Does the Maker come with knife blade to cut wood or do you have buy it extra?
  3. What additional software might I need?
  4. I see several of you cutting card and chipboard, what about 3/32 bass wood? I know that the machine makes several passes, which is a lengthy process. While some items can be made of chipboard, some may be better with thicker wood. Your thoughts?
I am thinking of renovating my Fairfield 1:24 scale house that I purchased. It just looks old and tired, especially the kitchen so I want to make new cupboards for it. And my Blue Farmhouse Now Pink needs a kitchen remake. It was my first project and I have learned so much since that first project. I want to make the cabinets for it, too, using Julie's plans, but I can't bear the thought of hand cutting all that wood. 

Your suggestions will be valuable in helping me decide.

I've gone on quite long enough. I've got to vacuum the family room downstairs--wishing I had riding vacuum since it is a large room. The Carpet cleaner is coming tomorrow, so I won't be playing for the next couple of days. I have to move the village, too, so that he clean.

I hope you have a fabulous week. 

Thanks so much joining me. 

Fairfield Renovation

A couple of years ago I purchased 3 vintage dollhouses from a a local antique store. Then I had buyer's remorse, wondering what I was ...