Monday, August 2, 2021

Patience and Persistence Pay

 It's County Fair week, so I'll be watching the 3 granddaughters participate and compete. They have worked so hard all summer to get projects ready and horses trained. Elinore has already competed in dog training competition, and her young healer-border collie qualified for state competion the end of August. What a shock that was for the novice dog and trainer in just such a short time to win a chance to compete at the Colorado State Fair. Ellie also has some amazing projects, including a leather , an entomology collection, and a wood project entered. Her sister, Lucy, has a leather project, as well. You can keep up with these adventures on my InstaGram.

I spent my free hours this week assembling the stairs for the Manchester Country Home. What a struggle. After assembling the kit's stairs, I cut the stair treads from 1/16" basswood with a nice hole to insert the spindles in to make their installation quick, easy, accurate, and uniform. Great idea, but I didn't cut the hole quite big enough, so I remeasured the spindle bottom and cut a second set of treads . The wood moved on the mat slightly or something went wrong and the cuts weren't straight, but the holes were large enough. I should have cut a third set, but didn't want to waste more wood. 

I struggled then to get the spindles to attach and hold since the hole reduced the gluing surface, using first wood glue that took longer to set. When I had to re-glue some spindles because they got knocked loose, I used Aileen's tacky glue, which grabbed and gripped more quickly.

I used sample sized latex house paint to paint the spindles and stairs white and Minwax walnut stain as the accent on the newel posts, the rails and the hand rail. When I first put the dark stain on the treads, I was really nervous because it was so dark. I applied it on the treads with a brush, which applied too much, wiped off the excess with a rag. Using a cloth to apply the stain was more effective and created a nicer finish. Still I felt that the walnut was too dark.

So I sanded the treads slightly to take away more of the stain to make them look used and worn with wear. Once the stain had fully dried, taking over 24 hours, I applied clear varnish to the treads, rails, and newel posts knobs. After the first coat of varnish dried, I sanded with 000 weight steel wool and laid down a second coat of varnish. The stairs look naturally worn and I've grown to love the dark contrast. While it is the look that I wanted, that dark walnut was really DARK. I originally purchased it thinking that I would use on the main wood floor, but is way too dark for an entire floor. 

To attach the hand rail to spindles is probably the biggest challenge in assembling the stair case. Julie Warren has such a simple and common sense technique: she installs the spindles and once the glue has cured and sent in place, she lays the stairs on its side with the spindles on the mat then she is able to place the hand rail next to the spindles, arrange the newel posts into position, and measure accurately the length that hand rail needs to be. You have to watch the video. While it looks really simple--and it is-- it still is a challenging task.


Now with the spindles securely glued in place on the treads, the newel posts can be positioned and the hand rail can be placed against the top of the row of spindles and on top of the newels posts. Julie shows where to mark the cut lines on each end to determine the length of the hand rail. 

With the hand rail measured, dab a bit glue on the top of each spindle to secure it in place then
apply  gentle pressure to each spindle to carefully it snap into place. 


Another problem comes with the placement of the newel posts: does the bottom one go on the floor or the first step? If you place it on the floor, does it go beside the the bottom stair or in front of it? And for the top of the stairs where will that newel post go? Next to the hand rail newel post? 

To answer that question, I searched through Pinterest to look for stair ideas and decided that the bottom newel post would be in front of the stairs on the floor. Julie positions hers on the that first step. 

I positioned to newel post at the top of the stairs on the top stair that blends into the floor. For me, those positions made attaching the hand rail easier.



The stair steps are not glued in yet because there is a lot of work left to do. I keep saying that tape wire will go in next--and it will--but first I have to figure where to attach the transformer so that it is out of sight and the base for house has to be fortified and painted and then the I have to attach the base of the addition and the addition to the main house. Won't that be interesting?!

The windows and exterior doors are painted and ready to glue in place. Before they were painted, the window fit securely in place, but with the humidity in the basement and the expansion of the wood and MDF the openings have swelled some, so before the window can be glued into place, I'll have to do some sanding.


Since I ordered upgraded windows fro HBS (Houseworks LTD product), the window film that comes in the kit won't work, so I cut new "glass" from Cricut acetate. It's a bit thinner than the kit window film, so  I am playing with idea of using plexiglass. I cut a new round window and then used a Cricut pen to draw the humming bird. Days later, the ink still has not set, so that will not be an option. 


I really love this house for its plain, simple lines and classic architecture, and while the addition is a bit of pain, I think it will make the Manchester Country Home a grand house.           


Thanks for visiting. 

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Oh Look, a Ladybug: Facsimile or a Replica

 It's a question that I have been asking myself for a while, now, as I get more and more obsessed with making my own miniature accessories since moving beyond the "play" dollhouse stage. Encouraged by others miniaturists that I follow--the blog, Instagram, Facebook crowd, and the Youtubers, I am challenging myself to learn more that will help me to pay attention to detail and get better at miniature crafting, but as an amateur trying to get better where do I draw the line between a creating a reasonable facsimile or realistic, detailed representation of an object, be a it chair, a flower, or a bug?

A.A Milne wrote about Winnie the Pooh as a bear of "Very Little Brain: “When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.” 

I could easily substitute When you are girl of "Very Little Artistic Talent" and you make tiny things. . ., well you get the idea. 

So here is an example of a current project--completed when I should have been working on other things. While I have that large farmhouse to complete and the half scale Fairfield to put back together along with various projects for each of those houses, I spent the better part of the day making bees and bugs, specifically ladybugs.  I watched two youtube tutorials that helped me figure out how to make those tiny creatures so essential to a garden, even my miniature garden that I'll be making for the Bellingham Farmhouse. I tried to follow this Youtube tutorial Daniela Minis

I began by conditioning my Fimo clay by kneading and rolling in my hands then I ran though my pasta machine at setting 9, the thinnest setting to get two thin sheets.

Since the bees are so tiny, I didn't need a large amount of clay. Once rolled out, I placed the black on top and gently patted it down to work out the air bubbles that you see in the top photo.

Next, I trimmed off the ends then sliced off about a 1/3  of the sheet and laid it on top of the first piece and repeated that again to have 3 layers, lining up the cut edge perfectly. You can begin see the layers that will form the stripped bee body. So far my project looks much like Daniela's. 

I used my old razor blade to cut small slices, making sure to have the striped layers facing the correct direction to ensure horizontal stripes instead of vertical ones, which would look maybe more like a snake.

After cutting thin slices, I gentle rolled each slice my palm to make a dozen bees. But they looked too big, so I dug out my little pot of sunflowers.

Just as I thought, these bees were plenty large for this flower, taking up the entire center of it.

So I cut thinner slices and rolled more.

Once the bees are formed, wings have to be fashioned. Using transparent white Fimo. I tried roll out two evenly sized ropes, as the tutorial directs. 

With the ropes rolled out and pressed side by side, the tutorial directs pressing the rope flat to get the shape of wings. The rope is baked per your clay directions. For me, I baked everything for about 7 minutest at 275 degrees.

When I sliced the ropes for the wings, I did not get nicely rounded shaped wings. They were way too small and square.  As the saying goes: "Back to square one." I think I will cut wings out of vellum. 

Ladybugs have to be most everyone's favorite garden bug --they eat aphids, you know. So  I really want to have them in the mini garden.  Art by Nell has a good tutorial, but most of it is devoted to making a leaf necklace with a ladybug on it. So you have to watch the half the video to get to her bug--or fast forward, so I sort of went out on my own when I fashioned my ladybugs. This first bug begins with rolling tiny balls from black, the rolling out the red in the pasta machine, #9 setting to get a thin piece.

(Pay no attention to round cut.) With this flattened red, I use a needle tool to cut out a round circle large enough to wrap around the black ball. I used the needle tool to create the separate wings. 

The head for this one is too big. I sould have reshaped it. I tried to roll even smaller balls to make the spots; instead, I tried again following this model. It's a good one if you are making a larger bug because you will have more control over larger pieces of clay. I decided, too, that these bugs would be too large. Nor is the head round; its more of a semi circle. 

I took a second approach to get even smaller bugs by rolling very small balls for the body, using white clay and then slightly flattening them with my finger. Since the ladybugs that live on my sunflowers are more orange than red, I shaved two pastels to try to get an not red a color.

Too tiny to really dust with a brush, I just rolled them around in the chalk dust until they were will covered.

Using the needle tool, I fashioned the head using the needle and sort of pushing the heads against the body then baking for about 5 minutes. I didn't want to burn them.

I did the same with the making the spots: digging a tiny bit of black clay with the end of the needle tool and poking it on the bug's wings.

I think these little bugs will do a good job eating aphids on the mini sunflowers in the mini garden. I am quite fine with making facsimiles that are not botanically correct, perfectly scale lady bugs. I pleased with these little ladies. The bees could use some more work. 

I dug through my punch stash and found a shape that could work for wings, which I like much better than the translucent clay.


Next step will be to glaze the little critters and add the bee wings.

I think I have answered my own question: A handmade symbolic facsimile or a replica, a carefully construction reproduction or a realistic life-like representation? For the hobbyists, I think a facsimile works fine.  There is great satisfaction in making my own. Were I to enter competition or offer my tiny things for sale, a facsimile would not do. We can expect and appreciate the imperfections of handmade items, but if we are perfectionists then there are other ways to get perfect pieces for our miniature projects: buy handmade items crafted by skilled, gifted artisans or invest in a 3-D printer.

I have no shame in buying from the skilled artist, but I doubt that I will invest in 3-D printer but one would certainly be a great tool to add to the workshop. 

Finally, while I am still very much an amateurish, I try to  remember the old adage, "Practice makes perfect," because the more you make, the better you will get. I know that if I make more bees and bugs, they will be better. I learn from mistakes. 

Most importantly then,  joy and satisfaction of making our own miniatures come through that satisfied feeling of completing a project that we like. We are, after all, our own worst critic, seeing every flaw and mistae  the we make, while others oooo and awe over our creation. I think I found my comfort level where I am fine with bees wings that merely represent a bee's wing. I'll be glad when someone looking at my miniature garden, squeals in joy, "Oh look, a little lady bug!" 

Thanks for visiting. 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Mission Accomplished

 Hello. I am waiting for the tree service company to arrive to begin removing 4 trees that were damaged by the bad snow storm at the end of winter, so now seems to be a good time catch you up on the mini project of the week: The Hen Pen. 

But before I begin, I have to share the best Saturday that I've had in long time: a trip to the Denver Museum of Miniatures, Dolls, and Toys. They were having garage sale. Not the best garage sale, but, none the less, a great reason to spend time with my oldest daughter, see some old friends in the business, take a quick gander at my favorite house in the museum's collection, and find a few tiny things to bring home. Most exciting is the museum's announcement that they will sponsor their big miniature how the second week in September. Can hardly wait! 

After the garage sale shopping, we went inside and shopped more in the museum's very tiny gift shop. I had things in my hands both at the garage sale and inside that I didn't bring home. Now I am kicking myself. Most of the garage sale items were vintage items, including items that are no long available anywhere, and the item that I most regret not buying was a set of nesting--or stacking copper mixing bowls. Darn it! And that little baggie if tiny horse figurines. 

I always do that. I don't suffer from buyer's remorse--just the opposite. 😞

I've taken photos of this house before, so this time I took more of the garden. The detail is amazing. You can visit this post Wish List that shows our first trip to the museum, including photos of the house itself.

The house has an impressive garden that has inspired my next project. I have decided to plant a garden for the Bellingham Farmhouse, using this garden as my guide. I will make the plants from polymer and kits, but there are few kits available for vegetables, so I will be pushed to learn how to make more of my own items.

I don't know if I'll have a roadside vegetable stand or not. Still this one is quite impressive.

My farm won't have these spectacular antique farm implements either, but I might find a more modern tractor.  You can't read the signs. One says, "1887 John Deere plow."

I may even build a green house like this one attached to another house.

Last week I chronicled my misadventures in building a solid hen pen. All attempts ended in disaster. My dear friend Barbara in the UK who follows me here kindly offered to shop for netting that would work as fencing and send it to me. I decided to give the tulle one more go to see if I could get it work. Thank you Barb. 💖

Here is the first attempt at fence. The main problem that I had was stabilizing the fence.

Without going through the entire process, I decided to use a round dowel as fencing. I took a second look at our own pen to get a better idea on how to construct this pen. That hepled.

I am satisfied with this pen for the time being. Right now it is not attached to the coop. Once I glue it in place, nothing in the pen will be assessable since I didn't add a gate. I may leave the roof unattached. 

I had one more project inside to finish: the feed storage cans. They are converted coffee creamer containers that I painted with platinum acrylic paint that has a bit of sparkle to replicate the aluminum. The lids are gum ball machine trinket containers. 

I love my calico kitty. I found her at a local garden center where I seemed to have purchased all of my mini cats. 

Last winter a calico cat moved into our barn. My husband began feeding her. She had come from the back of our property where she lived in the ditch culvert, so we knew that she was feral. When I first met her, I told my husband that she was pregnant. He didn't think so. She had two babies and we found homes for them. I vowed to get her fixed, but didn't and then a litter of 4 were born. I made the same vow and failed to follow up and soon two more babies arrived. They were so sweet. One went to a 5 year old little girl and my oldest daughter took the other one. Callie is sweet and loving and gentle and so are her babies. While I don't believe in indiscriminate breeding of cats and dogs, these six babies went to loving homes where they will have a good life. And, No, Callie will not have anymore babies. She will live her life as queen of the barn. 

Super excited to be getting away for few days on a nice, long road trip. Our house keeper will look after the house and the animals within, while a friend will tend to Callie, Pop the Pony, and the hens. Brody will go to the kennel. After the spring that we have had, driving for a day and half to reach our destination-- through mostly grasslands and farmland, we can escape the duties and responsibilities that keep us busy. I wanted to have the hen pen finished before I left so that when I return I can work on the Manchester and hopefully get it finished before summer's end.

Unless I discover a super, amazing, must have large house, the Manchester is my last big build. The garden project that I want to take on for Bellingham will keep my quite occupied. 

Cricut Maker Update: None. I am resolved to rebuild my library of projects even better than before. I can recreate everything that I lost--or not. Technology is not perfect, thus the lesson to SAVE SAVE SAVE and even PRINT. I was told by tech support that my projects were saved in THE CLOUD, but I have yet to found where they might be hiding. When I set up my Maker, I didn't tell it save projects to The Cloud, so I don't know where they would go. Nor do I know where my new projects are currently being saved. Do you? If so, let me know. 

I am rambling now. Have a great week. I'll be keeping up with everyone while I'm gone. 
Thanks for joining me today.

Patience and Persistence Pay

 It's County Fair week, so I'll be watching the 3 granddaughters participate and compete. They have worked so hard all summer to get...