Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Ballet Studio Opens

Hello. Thank you for stopping by. I am so excited as I put the finishing touches on the Alpine Farmhouse which hence forth will be known as the Ballet Studio. I still have to do the window boxes and the roof, but I just couldn't wait any longer to see the little house on the blog.

We will begin our tour with the exterior front, not yet finished. I made window boxes for the porch, but I need to find dainty little flowers or make some them. The pots also need flowers. I love the little bicycle that I painted lavender. Originally it was red. I used Testers enamel paint. Rather tedious. I blog about it later.

The purpose for building this little house was to practice and learn skills for the large Bellingham Farmhouse that I will build. You can see I had a boo-boo. I had the light installed perfectly and it worked Then when I had a black out, I started at the wrong end of the electrical line to trouble shoot, thinking that the fault was in the installation of the light, which it was not, I reinstalled it, changing the way I had it wired. I thought the connection was bad where I hard wired the light, so I rewired it to plug in. Dumb but a common error for a beginner.

 Twice I did trouble shooting at the wrong end of the wiring system. As it turned out the the cheap 12 volt transformer that came with the kit I used failed. Lesson: before disassembling lighting and fixture, check the transformer.

Aside from the wiring, the upstairs looks nice. I did have a heck of time cutting mitered corners for window trim.

I spent a lot of time making a bed and bedding for the second floor, but then I asked myself why would a dance studio have a bedroom upstairs. I decided that it would, of course, have a workroom, a sewing room where all of the costumes are made. I need to find a seamstress.

I found a pattern for the tutus on line. It was in a foreign language, so I just followed the good photos to make rough little tutus.

I wanted another mannequin for the sewing room, so I decided to make my own. I did find patterns on Pinterest to cut out the body, then just made up the rest.

I am not the best at sewing these tiny pieces, but I will get better. I do know that I need take more time.

Love this little chair that I made. I will make the next one better.

It is hard to see, but there is throw rug in front of the chair in the corner. I printed it directly on a piece of muslin. The color is a bit faded, but on a white carpet it looks pretty.

Downstairs, I need to decide how to attach the mirrors and I need to make the dance bar.

I am still learning how to make the chandeliers, but I like this one, one of my first. I have found smaller lights that will be more delicate and I hope not so bright and overwhelming.

A house needs inspiration for good results. In the beginning, I no idea as to how I wanted to decorate the house. I knew that outside it would be be pink and gray. Since I am pretty much obsessive about pink, I couldn't resist a pink and white interior. Nor did I want to buy more paint.

Now meet the dancers:

Owner and teacher in her work clothes Shey. A hard working taskmaster, she demands perfection from her dances. She pays attention to every little detail, which pays off when it is show time. Carol,  dressed in her fairy costume works hard, dances hard, but loves to read and play with the cats. Krissie will always be late practice. (Don't tell the girls, they don't have long memories, but the were once Happy Meal toys who ended up in plastic bag with an assortment of other little dolls at the Goodwill. They would be heart broken if they knew the truth. Thankfully a kindly grandma rescued them. Alan is the only guy in the little troupe. No one really knows what he looks like because he always comes to class in costume. Silly guy.

Always at the bar Lucy, practices so hard to get her steps perfect, while Ellie dreams of riding her pony after dance class. These girls don't remember their humble beginnings when they were discovered at Hobby Lobby in the Christmas tree ornaments aisle. Here in the dance cottage they dance every day, never knowing the agony of spending 50 weeks of their year in a box in a closet.

The youngest member of the troupe, Sissy works very hard to get her positions perfect so that she can have a place in the recital.

The dance troupe has gathered this afternoon to plan the winter recital,  Alan hopes to do the Nutcracker--again--so he comes dressed the part, hoping to convince Shey that they should do it in pink this year. Little sister Sissy has come for the afternoon. Maybe she will get a part this year. 

Shey rescued the kitty family. They, too, were found in a suffocating plastic bag at the local thrift store ARC. Everyone loves them and hopefully they will keep the mice away. (Do you see the mouse?) 

The Ballet Studio is now open.

The dollhouse tools and material are put away until next year as I get the craft area ready to work on Christmas gifts and decorations, but I have plenty to share on how I did things and where I went for instruction, inspiration, and help, stay tuned. 

Thanks so much for visiting. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Alpine Farmhouse Begins

With the Lafayette finished (with only minor things left to do, actually), I began work on the Alpine Farm house. 

Let me tell you about this little house. The box aptly describes the two story two room house made out of mdf (manufactured wood), unlike the Lafayette made of very thin plywood. This house then is sturdier, heavier, but I think a bit easier to work with. I found it online, wanting a small house to assemble to learn how to work with the mdf wood and it has been a learning experience. Check the link to check out Real Good Toys  web site's description of the house. I especially like this company for the workmanship, quality, was of assembly, and especially that it is a made in America product.

The house measures 19Wx16Dx20H, making it nice size as a starter home. It has all of the features that teach us how to assemble larger homes. Be prepared for the weight of the house as the thick manufactured wood product is heavier.

Step 1: Carefully read the instructions. Sort out all of the pieces to familiarize yourself with them. Read the instructions again. Read them one more time. Read again. Unpack the kit, take an inventory of all of the pieces, making sure that they are all there to familiarize yourself with the kit pieces.

Step 2: Learn the pieces:  Dry fit the pieces together to get a feel for how the house will go together. I used blue painter's tape, but then realized that masking tape holds better.

Step 3: Painting:  Read instructions again. 

I wondered if I paint before or after assembling the house and opted for painting pieces before based on the trouble I had as I refurbished Heather's house. It is much easier to paint before all of the gingerbread and trims go on. So, while I didn't photograph the painting process, I painted the exterior with two coats of a satin enamel as the the can says. I was told at ACE Hardware that the paint was a semi-gloss latex. I trusted what they said. It worked, but instructions call for a good quality latex flat paint. In the research that I did as I questioned paint, one house builder said that a good paint job requires good sanding. The MDF does not need to be primed or sanded as the plywood does, but sanding in between coats does improve the second coat. I even gave the second coat a light sanding to make a nice smooth surface.  One caution to remind yourself is to be sure not to paint the surfaces where the glue will be applied because the paint will weaken the glue bond. This kit has nice notched edges that don't require taping off to paint the exterior surfaces. I used a light sandpaper 220 weight.

For the interior, if you already know how you will decorate the interior, you can paint prior to assembly for it will be much easier, or at least prime it. Do keep in mind that if you electrify your house using the copper tape, as I did, you will paint and paper after the tape has been installed which is done after the house is assembled. I painted the ceilings before assembling the house.

Step 4: Gluing. I was really quite nervous about gluing the house together. MDF absorbs moisture so you DO NOT want to get it wet, so choose carefully the products that you. House builders, how-to sites, and other instructions say to use white glue, i.e. Elmer's. I did not use Elmer's; instead, I used Sargent Art white glue that comes in a tube, acid free, non toxic, and had a nice pointed application top.   While it is water based, white glue must be used instead of the yellow wood glue that will turn yellow when it dries. 

As you apply glue, you want to do so carefully so that you do not have glue that seeps out of the cracks, even the white glue. I simply ran my finger along the joints where the glue seeped out to wipe it off. Keep in mind, too, that paint will not adhere to globs of glue.

Step 5: Clamping. You have to find some way to hold the pieces in place once glue has been applied because it will not hold together. On the very small wood pieces, I used rubber bands, but for the house I purchased regular wood clamps. They aren't cheap, running about $30 at ACE, but they do hold and I will use them again for the next house and I am sure that after the house building, they will be used for other projects. If you do not want to use clamps, follow the company directions using masking tape to secure the glued pieces together until the glue dries.

While the white glue does dry quickly, I gave the glue 24 hours to set.

And here is a preview. I have the house assembled, wired, papered, and all of the little trim pieces painted. At this point I have not yet glued the railing in place. You can see that I have made some modifications. 

You can see the changes that I have made: carved posts for the porch and adding two more, shutters for the windows, and I built window boxes that I will add instead of the kit's fake ones. 

When I began the Alpine house, I had no idea as to how to decorate it. I needed inspiration.

Regretfully, I a thrift shopper. My daughters and I love going to ARC and Goodwill looking for stuff. I have set some rules for myself, but I always look for dollhouse furniture which we rarely find, dolls, but only certain, special dolls. At Goodwill one day I found a bag of little dolls that had this cute little girl, a Madame Alexander doll that was a MacDonald's Happy Meal toy-- a ballerina. Boy did she get lucky because she will soon open her own ballet studio.  I sorted through the dolls and gave the grand daughters little dolls and keeping the ballerina for myself.  Both of the grand daughters have taken ballet, and little Lucy continues her lessons. I am so excited and I cannot wait to show you the finished house, but before then we have a lot more to do: painting little pieces, electrical wiring, wallpapering, flooring, gluing the front on, shingling the roof. 

Next time the trials and tribulations of an electrician. Stay tuned.

Thanks so much for visiting. I love your comments.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Finished--Well, Almost

Hello again. The Lafayette is almost done. I need to do a little more work around the front door. I ran into some problems with getting the door molding to fit. I was able to get molding fit around the kitchen window perfectly, but the living room window gave me problems and the molding ended up crocked. I mitered cut the molding for the door, but for some reason I cannot get the pieces sized so that they fit. So I gave up. That's why you see bits of blue painter's tape still holding the pieces in place. So here it is:

I really am pleased with my first attempt. I have to remind myself that this was a restoration, so as in any remodel job unless you are working with a true professional, some things just do not turn out perfectly. But for the most part, I am satisfied with my results. The house sits on a little table in front of a basement window that gets ample afternoon sunshine, so the girls can have  afternoon tea with sun shining through the window.

I haven't decided if the little mermaid is sad or tired. I am sure that she misses the sea.

I used the small Mattel bathroom fixtures though they are out of scale, but they fit better than the larger bathroom set that I have. I do like the room screen. It turned out so well.

Downstairs Jaya entertains her kitty friend. 

 I decided to add the room divider to give the house more wall space and definition. I need to finish the wall on both sides. I will add a chair rail on the living room side. On the kitchen side, I need to paint and add wallpaper. I am out of the paper I used in the kitchen so I am waiting to get to a dollhouse store in Denver to see what sort of selection it has. I am in no hurry.

Dollhouses are very hard to photograph. Getting exposure, lighting, and focus are very hard. I have found that my iPhone works nicely for closeups. For today's post, however, I used my Canon DSR with the 75-300mm lens with the flash on and the available sunlight providing back lighting.

So now I am working on the Alpine Farm House. I have the first coat of paint on the outside, the windows and doors painted and fitted in the walls. I have been reading and studying on how to add the wiring using a tape system. I will glue it together first then add the wiring. Right now I am at the point where I really do not know what I am doing, so I am taking my time. It is a simple two room, two story, so I shouldn't have too much trouble. Right?

I have decided that it will be a little ballet studio, inspired by a little doll I found at Goodwill. I'll introduce her the next post.

Thanks so much for stopping. I enjoy your comments.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Lafayette Renovations Near Completion

I absolutely love this little house. I have been working on it for several weeks now, mostly in the evenings. Right now the little house sits on my work table in my craft area in our basement. I have decided not paint the outside of the house, opting instead to leave it natural. First because I like the natural ginger bread look, but more importantly because I just don't think that I can do a decent job of painting the house without getting paint where it does not belong. I went through that frustration as I repainted Heather's house last spring. Painting the gingerbread trim on dollhouses works best during the building process so that each piece can be properly sanded, painted, sanded, and given a second coat. One house builder on one of the many sites that I have consulted made the point that a really fine paint job requires lots of sanding in between coats. I never thought that I would get so attached to this little house, but I have and I want it look nice.

Inside, the house still needs the trim glued in. I do have two concerns. As you can see the house originally had a stair way to the upper level which had a bit of a curve to it at the bottom. I have decided not try to rebuild the staircase; rather, I will place the bathroom flooring over the stair cutout. I don't think I will permanently install the floor at this point. The house originally had two walls. I decided not to put the wall in on the second level, but I think I will put the wall in on the first level to give the rooms better definition.
I thought that I would share with you the pieces that I have decided to put in the house, which by the way is now knows as Sonja's House. 

The Bathroom

While the house is 1:12 scale, I am finding that furniture and pieces at the that scale are too large, especially for little Sonja. I already had this little toilet. It had been one that the girls had when they were little. I found it a while back as I sorted through their old toy box so that the granddaughters could play with their mom and aunt's old toys. 

It is a perfect size, so I looked on eBay for similar pieces by searching for 1980s metal dollhouse furniture. I found several pieces and purchased the tub and the sink. These were made by Mattel in the 1980s for a play set called The Littles. My daughter gave me the rest of her pieces, but as it turns out the sink and the stove are too small.

The rug is a paper cut-out. By googling or searching Pinterest, you can find a nice selections of printables for dollhouses. Looks real, doesn't it?

Because I am not putting in a bathroom wall, I decided that I needed some sort of room divider, so I made a folding screen: 

The screen is two sided. The bathroom side has this pretty print which is actually scrap booking paper. The frame is made out of pop sickle sticks glued to a flat piece of balsa wood. 

The screen facing the bedroom side is covered with wall paper scraps. I barely had enough to cover the little panels. I stitched curtain panels, placed them on trimmed toothpicks for curtain rods, glued gold metal jewelry beads to hold the curtain on the rod, then glued them to the screen panels.

The Bedroom

Nicely shabby bedroom furniture.

Heather bought the little bedroom furniture for me on eBay. The set has another side table that I probably won't be using. I don't think these pieces are 1:12 and they fit perfectly in the little house.

I decided early in the renovation that I would make everything for house. Well, almost everything. Well, what I am able to make. So here is my bed. I really struggled with it. The headboard is cut from a piece of craft cardboard painted with craft acrylic paint with a little printable cutout decoupaged. 

I searched through my material stash, finding bits and pieces to make the bed linens. I made the pillows and pillow cases by hand stitching them. I could have used the sewing machine, but it just seemed like a lot of trouble to take it out and set it up. Besides I have all of work surfaces piled with construction supplies.

I have spent several hours creating perfume bottles using jewelry beads and findings, mostly things that I already had. Now I find myself at Hobby Lobby looking for more beads and different findings to see what new creations I can come up with. 

These little bottles can become quite addictive to created. And how pretty they are.

Today, I found a package of Spare Parts (product name) bezels in the scrap booking section. These are just right the size to use for framed wall art or vanity trays.

The Kitchen

Every kitchen needs a clock, right? I found this little jewelry piece on the sale wall at Hobby Lobby. Perfect. And while some dollhouse designers and builders have infinite talent and patience to make their own paper towel holder, I bought mine at Hobby Lobby. 

I am using 1950s Renwal style plastic dollhouse furniture for the kitchen. An antique dealer friend of mine gave the furniture to my granddaughter, but she gave it back to me to use in the Lafayette. It will work until I find something more suitable.  (A popular collector item, Renwal dollhouse furniture was used in the old metal style dollhouses of the '50s).

I love the fruit bowl. My oldest grand daughter who is 7 loves to craft with me and is very creative. She got use the glue gun for the first time and made this cute little fruit bowl by gluing bits and bobs of beads and a little button in a large button.

I had to build a kitchen table for Sonja. I will show you how I built it from scratch in another post. I found the little chairs at ARC, a thrift store. The one chair was missing a leg, so I fixed it. I have not yet decided if I will repaint the chairs. I rather like the  hap hazard decorating style that little Sonja has. 

The Living Room

 Sonja likes the shabby look. She doesn't seem to be too picky about little details. She is one of those decorators who can take an old piece of furniture and throw a piece of fabric over it and make look like a designer piece.

She likes thrift shop, too. She found the sofa and foot stool at ARC. What a find, too, because dollhouse furniture does not last on the shelves, nor is it often donated. You are more likely to find it on eBay or Craig's List.

I would imagine that when I wasn't looking she rummaged through my material scraps and found a hunk of white linen-like cloth that she just threw over the couch. I may have to tidy it up a bit. I had tried to make a slip cover for the footstool, but it is really hard to make things fit without a pattern and proper instructions.

The living room bay window will have have a wallpapered and lace valance.

The final touch for living room will be this beaded chandelier that I made.  This one is not lighted. The house will have one lighted lamp.

I still have some work left to do and then the Grand Reveal. I will also so you how I made some of the things for the little house. 

In The Beginning

Before I bought the Lafayette, I had planned on building a room in a box to practice my techniques for the Bellingham Farmhouse that I have to build. When my grand daughters saw what I was doing, they had to do a room too. I ended up giving my boxes to them. This one is Elinore's. At 7, she is a very creative child. She has finished her room and taken it home. The bed is made out of a box lid covered with material. I made a second table top, so when she decided that she needed a table for all of the perfume bottles that she was making, I gave her my table top and let her glue the legs on. Ellie wanted a light for her house, too, so I gave her my first  try at chandelier making. She likes it. 

Lucy, 6, actually got the box I had started to make. I had already cut out the scrap booking paper for wallpaper, but she wanted a box, so I just gave her mine. She received one my improved chandeliers. I am still working on how to make them better and trying to figure out to light them. I'll share how I make the jeweled lights in another post.

I am anxious to finish up the Lafayette and get to work on the Alpine Farmhouse. Give me a few days and I will be back with the completed little house. I think you will love it.

Thanks so much for stopping by. I need to spend more time on this blog and work to get more followers. As always,  I very much appreciate your visits and comments.

Drop by my gardening blog if you want to see what else I am up to: Welcome to Ann's Garden Spot.

Have a fabulous weekend.

And may all of your dollhouse daydreams come true.

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