Monday, June 22, 2015

Reupholstering Dollhouse Furniture

Since I don't buy much new dollhouse furniture (I get most of mine in odd lots on Kijiji and MaxSold), and also because I enjoy making things, I've recently had a go at re-covering some of my miniature furniture. My first try is shown above. The original fabric was the blue stripe, which looked nice but not really in scale: more like a toy than a miniature.

In order to re-cover dollhouse furniture, you have to gently pry the pieces apart. For some, a hair dryer will help melt the glue; for others, you might need to dampen them (although this could be risky in many ways.) Cheaper furniture is actually easier to disassemble, because the glue gives way easily and there are no nails.

Then you gently tear off the original fabric, cut out copies in the new fabric and glue them on. This wingback chair was a chore to do, because of my choice of fabric. It's a rather heavy synthetic with a tight weave that repels the glue, so I had to work in stages and secure everything with alligator clips while the glue dried. Also, the fabric tended to ravel at the cut edges.

By sheer fluke, I spotted a bit of brown ribbon from a chocolate box as I was working on it, and I like how it looks glued across the front in place of another band of the fabric. I'm fairly pleased with the end result, despite some frayed edges; the interior I'm planning can use some shopworn-looking items.

By chance, I acquired two chairs and a sofa of the same type (but in different colours) in separate lots. The original velvet-like covering was rather threadbare, and a bit was missing from one of the chair arms (above). The swatches show the original emerald and ruby fabrics.

The flowery fabric, which is (expensive) scale fabric, came in a different batch. It's a cotton with a fairly open weave, and it stuck on like a charm. (I think I could size it with a watered-down brushing of glue to really seal loose ends and baggy bits.)  As with my first try, I was fairly lucky in my attempts to make the pattern match up between  pieces.

Here's the sofa from the set, with the cushions lifted out and one piece of the fabric off, to show what it looks like. This set has nails, which makes them fussier to work with, but sturdier in the long run. I'm looking forward to (eventually) installing three matching pieces in the Westville dollhouse.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Last Socks of the Season

While I was working on these during a record-cold Toronto February, I was joking that I just might get them done in time to wear them before it was too hot. Well, I finished them during a faculty meeting at the college; then the weather warmed  up, and it was just cool enough to wear them yesterday.

They're Thermal Textured Socks by Kelly Patla, available on Ravelry. I enjoyed them; they were my first time  trying a flap heel instead of a short-row one, and the pattern was tricky but not maddening. It's basically plain at the back, with a column of seed stitch on each side and broken ribbing across the front. Patla explains in detail how to do all these things; she gives a chart for the pattern, but I re-wrote it for myself as (K1 P1) x 4, K 16, (P1 K1) x 4 and so on.

I think they're made up in Spud & Chloƫ Stripey Fine, maybe in the Mint Chip (#7861) colour? I regret that I may only get to wear them a couple of times before summer kicks in. But they'll be something to look forward to in the fall.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Flour and Sugar Bags for the Dollhouse Patisserie

When I discovered that the local dollhouse supply company charges $4 to $6  for a toy flour sack, I thought "This will never do!" Clearly the patisserie will need a great deal of flour—not to mention sugar and coffee. Some other plan had to be devised.

My flour and sugar bags are made with bits and pieces from around the house: some scrap cotton from the rag bag (I have a rag bag for clothes that are too worn for Goodwill), some stuffing material, an art eraser (I have lots) and a red stamp pad.

I carved the labels into the eraser with a small blade cutter. Yes, I made the mistake of cutting out the letters right way around (twice) before I remembered to make them backwards. Then all I had to do was stamp the fabric and sew up the little bags while watching TV with my mom. I'll just have to remember—as my brother remarked—not to launder them, because the ink will run.

Yes, the store-bought  ones are fancier, but these will do me just fine. I think I'll make some coffee bags too, but I'll dye them darker brown with coffee or tea.

So now the upper storey is well on its way.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Simple Shelving Unit for the Dollhouse Patisserie

Since the dollhouse patisserie started offering coffee service, there's been a need for someplace to store coffee cups (and French onion soup bowls). This shelving unit was a quick project, although I did leave it overnight a couple of times to let paint or glue dry.

It's just made out of dollar-store tongue depressors cut to size with scissors. The decorative top and the backing are one piece of dollar-store craft foam, which can be cut into fancy shapes with scissors. The inside of the shelf area is painted a very pale mauve-pink. The roses are just freehand-painted with craft acrylics and a fine brush (dollar store again).

The tongue depressors curl when damp with glue or paint. The nice thing about a project of this size is that you can fix almost any irregularity with sanding, a bit more glue, some wood filler or even another coat of paint.

I've attached the shelf to the wall with that blue sticky stuff that comes in various brand names, so I can reposition it later without having to repair and repaint the wall behind it. As you can see in the close-up, I've also used it to stick the china to the shelves so I don't have to keep replacing knocked-down bits and pieces.

All in all, it makes for a tidier storage situation and a busier-looking patisserie scene.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Dollhouse Patisserie is Open for Business

After I posted pictures of the dollhouse patisserie on Facebook, at least half a dozen of my friends thought I was opening a real, human-sized pastry shop. Perhaps I should change careers? Now that I have a few more items "in stock", I would be less surprised if people mistook this interior for the real thing.

Since the last report, I've added lots of little details. I'm especially pleased with the tray stand in the window, which is made with wire and wooden beads that I've twisted and painted gold. It supports a ceramic tray.

Meet the doll family from that Westville house, trying out my wire chairs and cafe table, which have proved to be just the right size. I should point out that the children are drinking cocoa, even though it looks like coffee. Also, the boy has been very greedy with his cake order.

You can see the wire tray stand in this shot too. I've slightly changed the exterior (new lettering, more paint), and I'm in the process of applying a terra cotta roof. (Plastic, actually.) More to come.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

How to Make Cafe Chairs for a Dollhouse

It costs about $20 to buy a bistro table and two chairs for a dollhouse, so I thought I'd try to make some myself. My first attempt at a table (not pictured) was a misshapen monstrosity that taught me the first rule of wire-bending dollhouse furniture: unless you can solder, you need to design furniture made from one continuous piece of wire.

The next day, a friend who had seen my dollhouse patisserie on Facebook (and who was unaware of my wire-bending attempts) suggested I might "easily" make some wire chairs and tables. So I didn't give up, and I think I've come up with a workable DIY design for wire dollhouse chairs.

The necessary tools include small needle-nose pliers, wire cutters and small, blunt, square-ended pliers. I had the pliers already (for beading). The needle-nose pliers actually have wire cutters too, so you could get away with just those, but I picked up the wire cutters (pictured in the centre) because they're more efficient. Each of these tools costs about $6. They really spare your fingers and make accurate bends.

The wire cost about $3 for a little coil from the hardware store that would be enough to make a couple of tables and at least four chairs. Apart from that, you need a very small amount of craft foam—or small disks of wood or plastic, some craft glue and some paint. I used white acrylic craft paint, which is available at the dollar store for $1 per bottle. So if you already own the tools, you could do two tables and four chairs for about $7.

Travelling from left to right, I began with a 3" tail, then shaped the wire as pictured above. The four legs are 2⅛" long, and I've left 1⅛" between legs. I left a foot of extra at the end; this will become the chair back.

Next, I bent the chair as pictured above, and secured the end of the 3" tail to close it. I then trimmed off the excess wire, leaving the extra foot of wire at the other end sticking straight up.

I used the needle-nose pilers to twist each leg. I found that 12 half-turns (like flipping a pancake) was just about right.

Then comes the tricky part: bending and shaping the legs and back. It can take a while. I slightly rounded out the sides of the seat square, then used the needle-nose pilers to curve the legs into gentle S curves. The blunt pliers are good for straightening and for making sharp bends.

Note that the back feet point backward and the front feet point forward. If the legs aren't quite the same length, you can change the height by bending the feet at a higher or lower point on the "ankle".

The back legs should be closer together than the front ones. I drew a template for the chair back to guide my wire-bending. It stands about 1½" in height from the seat. (It seems to work best to leave bending the seat back for last.) The end of the chair-back wire gets twisted to secure it around the place where the back leg meets the seat. I bent the backs to tilt just slightly backwards.

The final step is to glue on a circle cut out of craft foam or an equivalent paintable material as a seat. I've given these chairs two coats of acrylic craft paint, which really thickens the wire, glues everything together and fills in little holes like the teardrop-shaped opening on the feet. I'm planning to finish them with a coat of craft enamel to make them more chip-resistant and to give them a slightly glossier finish.

I think if I made a dozen of these, the last few would be really good. The thing that would make a big difference would be what my brother calls a jig: a folding guide that would ensure that all the bends and curves were exactly the same. But for now, I'm happy with the results.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Le Petit Patisserie

Well, I thought I was going to make a room box—basically a wooden shoebox—designed to display a pastry shop counter scene, and I started to collect a few little odds and ends. But somehow, it all  got out of hand. I think I've spent about $65 so far on this much more ambitious conception—all in, even including paint and glue and whatnot. If I splurge $20 on "slate" tiles, I think my 1:12 scale patisserie will look quite chic, without being too shamefully extravagant.

Here's how it happened. One day I was browsing Kijiji and I spotted this kit for $20. It's a modest little house, but I noticed the front windows, and thought "Hmmmm, could be a shop." That very day (my birthday, as it happens), I bought it from a nice mom and her two sons, who had won it as a prize at a local event.

Here's what the windows looked like when I assembled the kit. I made quite a few alterations:  I cut off the front porch, left out the roof trim and sliced the interior window frames out. Then I cut out acetate "window panes" and drew leading on with a Sharpie. I built up the roof of the bay window section and added trim and a sign, all made from leftover bits of wood from the kit.

The letters are foam stick-on ones from the dollar store. I may change them out at some point, but for now I like them. I also cut out the non-functional door, enlarged the door frame and put in a swinging door I bought for another project for $5 (it was too short for the house I'd planned to use it in).

The door number is a scrap of painted wood. The easel is from the dollar store, and the "chalkboard" is a piece of black foam painted with acrylic paint. The balloons came off my birthday cake.

Here's the inside when first built. I did a lot of trimming-off of extra bits of wood, like the vertical divider in the attic roof. The floor is a plastic one ($8, I think) I had intended for a different house.

This shows the inside of the windows. Later, I used leftover wood scraps to build a sort of window seat-display shelf in the window, as well as baseboards. The kit came with mouldings for the outside windows, but none for the inside, so I traced and painted interior ones out of dollar-store foam sheets. You can see a broken bit of furniture in the shot above. I repaired and painted it as a display shelf.

Here's the whole interior, painted, and with a few little cakes in the window. I like a weathered and distressed look, so I painted a brown wash over everything and sanded the edges. There's a tongue-depressor floor in the attic (dollar store again).

There will be a curtain on the windows (dollar-store sheer ribbon), and I'll spent $2 or $3 on a door handle. The mirror was part of a lot I got on Kijiji. The candies are dollar-store glass jars and beads, so about $2. I'm going to manufacture some "chocolate boxes" out of wood bits. More to come...