Sunday, 19 February 2017

Step by step: servant room

In my guided tour of Womble Hall I have now ascended to the attic. You come to the attic by the stairs from the front corridor. The stairs lead to the servant quarters.


This room goes all the way back to the first Victorian house in a book shelf. It was so simple that I didn't even write a separate post about it, but here is a picture from January 2008:

Not much left of it, except for the doll.

When I reconstructed the dollhouse in the cabinet, there was no space for a servant room. The servant had to stay in the hall, and all the temporary furniture was stored away.

But in Womble Hall I wanted to have servant quarters, and the most logical place would be in the attic. However, I also wanted a nursery, and eventually I decided I wanted a guest bedroom that also had to be in the attic.  It doesn't really make sense to have doors from a servant room into the nursery and particularly not to the guest bedroom, but that's the way it is. (This is the only feature of the house I am still dissatisfied with).

There weren't any important decisions to make for this room: no partitions, corridors, chimney breasts, not even a window, just two doors. I put in paper floors and added a couple of objects, as I did in all other rooms, just to make it look nice. I hang wallpaper on flat surfaces, which was very straightforward.  I didn't plan to have any ceiling decorations. In the picture of the first proper assembly, you can see the back wall:

I didn't do anything in this room for a very long time, definitely not until I had to insert the upper staircase and realised that before that I actually needed to finish the floor in the servant room, as well as the two doors that lead from it. It was a long story. But I was quite pleased with the result, particularly when I put more objects in.

Sometime around this point it struck me that it would be fun to have a tired servant sleeping in this bed. Have you tried putting a regular dollhouse doll into a bed? Let me tell you: it doesn't look natural. So I searched ebay for "sleeping doll". Most of returns were sleeping baby dolls, but there was a remarkable doll couple sleeping in each others arms, at an outrageous price. I consulted my Facebook groups and, can you imagine, someone replied that it was their handmade dolls, re-sold, yes, at an outrageous price. But I could order one at a reasonable price. It would be OOAK - which I think is a wonderful acronym (on case you don't know, One Of A Kind).

Here is my sleeping doll, custom-made by smallsorts. .

I think she is absolutely amazing. Of course normally she is covered by a blanket, but I wanted to show her as she is.


Eventually I added an Adam ceiling to this room as well. Among the objects, I made a night stand and a chest.

I like this room, but there is probably more I can do with it. 

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Borrowers room box, part 3

In my previous post about The Borrowers room box I described how I made the fireplace. It so happened that very soon after that I received a box of rubbish from a friend who was moving house. Being a borrower I had asked her to collect everything she didn't want, even the most outlandish things. The first thing I saw on top of all rubbish was what I really needed for a proper borrowers fireplace. Let's read it again:

"It was a charming fireplace, made by Arrietty's grandfather, with a cogwheel from the stables, part of an old cider-press. The spokes of the cogwheel stood out in starry rays, and the fire itself nested in the centre".

As I explained in the previous post, I didn't have a cogwheel and I had very poor prospects of finding one, but whatever piece of plumbing my friend had put into her gift box, it was just right.


This is still not a cogwheel, but a huge improvement. And I wasn't displeased in the first place. Now I just need to bring the funnel lower down. 

Meanwhile, the description also mentions "that useful stand-by - a chest of drawers made of match boxes". 

Didn't I make all kind of furniture of match boxes: chests, writing desks, nightstands. Both when I was a child and when my daughter was small. But it was all once upon a time when match boxes were made of wood and when you actually used them. Where do you get real, authentic Victorian match boxes these days? I tried ebay, but while they had zillions of match-box labels from all eras and countries, apparently you couldn't just get a set of old-fashioned match boxes. I knew I had to do with modern paper ones, but at least I could be a borrower and a recycler so I posted an appeal in a local Facebook group asking for used matchboxes. Somebody thoughtful, who wished to remain anonymous, put a set in my pigeonhole.

I have seen these in craft shops, and I have no idea what crafty people make with them. What I needed to make was - yes, you get it: match boxes. With labels and abrasive sides. And preferably looking old and worn out.

The old and worn out look is usually achieved with tea, but I had to use diluted paint that I also had to wipe off quickly so that the paper didn't get soaked. I honestly don't know what match-box sides are made of, but I used sandpaper that I painted brown.

I don't think you can strike a match on it, and I am not going to try.

I found printable match-box labels on Pinterest.

Only the label on the top drawer will be visible, but for my own sake I made them properly. And just as borrowers would do, I used beads for knobs.

Isn't this a chest of drawers that Pod Clock would be proud of? (Pod Clock is the name of the father. Their last name was Clock because they lived under a big grandfather clock). Now I need to find many tiny objects that the family would have in the drawers.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Step by step: rear corridor

In the posts about bathroom and front corridor you could see glimpses of the rear corridor, which is one of the most interesting features of this house. As I have said many times, rear corridors and fake doors create a wonderful sense of extra space where anything can be hidden. This is what it looks like today:

But the way there was long.

Obviously, I couldn't start doing anything properly before I glued the shell, and I wasn't even sure what I wanted to do. As you see, there are two doors leading into the corridor, one from the bathroom and one from the front corridor. At each end of the corridor there is a door as well: on the left, into the master bedroom and on the right, to the hidden corridor behind the study. There is actually no door there because nobody will ever see it, but if there is light in the hidden corridor it can be seen through the opening.

In the picture of the glued assembly, you can see the back wall of the corridor:

This blog post describes the rationale and the process well, so I won't repeat it. Just note that the post is from April 2015, more than half a year since I started. Things take time. I believe this step was among the most difficult. The next post describes all the decisions I had to make because once the rear partition was inserted I couldn't do much behind it. This is one of the few places in the house where objects are permanently attached.

And in the next post, I explain how I made lights in the corridor - which was the beginning of my lighting revolution and resulted in this:


Which is more or less what it has been since then. You can see a bit of the corridor through the side window of the master bedroom:


Therefore I made a point of having some objects there that cannot be seen from the front. I didn't bother to do the same on the right because it cannot be seen at all. But as I said, the light from the corridor behind the study comes through the opening.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

The most magnificent chandelier ever

Do you want to hear once again that a project is never finished? You probably don't, but I will say it anyway. And I will say again that every time I replace something in the house I feel bad about it. Especially if it is something I made myself very long ago, when I wasn't that good at making things.

This time I am replacing my crystal chandelier. It was among the very first objects I made ten years ago, and with all its faults I have been proud of it. I improved it when I decorated the dining room, and it can and will be further improved, but at the moment I have replaced it with a chandelier I bought last summer in the dangerous shop in Stockholm where I spend more money than I will ever admit. I got it relatively cheap because it was broken, but I was sure that my clever son-in-law would be able to mend it. I did try to solder it myself, but I am not very good at soldering, and it was such a delicate thing that I didn't dare. When my daughter and son-in-law visited us for holidays, he had a closer look at it and concluded that gluing it with superglue would work better than soldering, and since I have the deepest respect for his knowledge I agreed. He glued it, holding it together cleverly, at the same time pointing out that what I really needed for my miniature-making was a tool called third hand, which I immediately bought online, but by the time it arrived my wonderful son-in-law had left.

It took some time before I got down to putting up the chandelier, because to do so, I had to remove the floor of the room above, and I have once described the process. I had to remove all objects from the study, which is so high up that I need library steps to work comfortably. I know it's my own fault that the room is so crammed, but until you have to move them you don't even realise how many objects there are. Then I had to remove the floor, and because last time I put in the floor I was confident it was the very, very last time, it was if not permanently, but very firmly attached. I managed to pull it out without damaging too much of skirting, and while I was at it, sanded and varnished the floor a bit better. This is also typical: you become more and more demanding about the quality of your work. When I made this floor two years ago I was perfectly happy with it. Not any more. So this was an unexpected positive side effect.

I removed the old chandelier, burning with guilt. Then I started hanging the new chandelier and ran into some technical problems. The way I do it is hang the chandelier by a thin wire, the kind you find on wine bottles, then use a large darning needle to run the wire through the hole in the ceiling into the room above and fix it with masking tape. The trick is that the wire has to be strong enough to hold the weight of the lamp, but thin enough to go through the hole, and as I was working with it, the lamp broke again, as might be expected.

However, now I 1) knew that I could glue it 2) had a third hand. It still took a lot of manipulation, but I managed to glue and fix it, left it to dry for some days and today finally put it up. Isn't it fabulous?

Here is a view of the whole room where you can see how it is attached to the ceiling. The ceiling rose is a scrapbooking embellishment. The chandelier goes well together with the ancient mirror, from the same shop.

And this is the third hand. When you have got something like this you wonder how you could ever manage without it.


I think he has a very strong personality. Yes, I am confident it's a he. A bit like WALL-E. He has certainly already become a dear friend.

Saturday, 21 January 2017

Step by step: upper corridor

The closest predecessor to the upper corridor in Womble Hall is the staircase in the old Victorian house, rebuilt in the cabinet. To have or not to have stairs in a dollhouse is a matter of taste. Stairs unquestionably take a lot of space, but they do add a more natural look, and they are fun to make (to a certain degree - there is a lot of pain as well).

This is what the corridor looks like today: 


The general design of the house suggested stairs in the right-hand side of the middle room on the upper floor. My initial thought was to ignore the partition that created two very small rooms and just have one large hall with stairs on one side. There were several reasons to abandon this plan. The whole design would have been much too symmetrical: three similar rooms on three floors. The central partition created variation. I also needed the left-side small room for the bathroom. I could have done the opposite: keep the partition and get rid of stairs, but what would I then have in the right-side small room? It has two doors, and doors also take a lot of space. A corridor anyway? Then I could just as well have stairs.

It took ages before I did anything at all in this room. In the early shell, I didn't have any furniture. I couldn't decide on the wallpaper or floor, and in any case I needed to make the rear corridor first.

It was not until December 2014 that I took the first step and made the floor.


It was really, as I say in the linked blog post, a side effect of looking for floor patterns for the other rooms, but at least there was some progress. In this picture, the wallpaper is just leaned onto the wall, the stairs are attached with tack, and the door is not inserted properly. At this stage, the shell wasn't glued yet, and as I mentioned, I had to finish the rear corridor first.

I didn't plan to have any particular ceiling in the corridor so when I was painting and decorating ceilings on flat surfaces, I just left this bit plain white.

When I assembled the house, the back and central partitions were not inserted so what you could see was the back wall of the rear corridor. Nobody would even guess that there would be two more rooms there.

It took a couple of months before I started getting closer, and in pictures from rear corridor trials you can see that I had decided on the wallpaper, which is thick craft paper, with probably too large pattern, but I thought - and still think - it fits well. In this picture, obviously, the stairs aren't there, and you can see a hole in the ceiling where it would eventually be inserted. Paradoxically, without stairs, the room looks very small.


Then finally it was time to deal with the stairs. Read the linked blog post carefully, because it is yet another example of how you gradually become more demanding, not satisfied with easy solutions. After a lot of effort I was pleased, and I still am.


As with the grand stairs, I could have used individual spindles - but it will have to wait. I added moulding and a rail on the wall which weren't included. And this was it, apart from Adam ceiling, which I think gave the corridor a really grand look.


Since then, I have - temporarily - put the magnificent breakfront in the corridor, and as there is no other place for it in the house, I guess it's staying there.The only problem is that it is so big that nothing can be put further along the wall, and I am running short of space.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Borrowers room box, part 2

Read the beginning of this story.

This is how the fireplace in the Borrowers' dwelling is described:

"It was a charming fireplace, made by Arrietty's grandfather, with a cogwheel from the stables, part of an old cider-press. The spokes of the cogwheel stood out in starry rays, and the fire itself nested in the centre. Above there was a chimney-piece made from a small brass funnel, inverted... An arrangement of pipes, from the spout of the funnel, carried the fumes into the kitchen flues above. The fire was laid with match-sticks and fed with assorted slack and, as it burned up, the iron would become hot, and Homily would simmer soup on the spokes in a silver thimble, and Arrietty would broil nuts".

I have no idea how to get hold of a cogwheel from a cider-press. Maybe if I go to car-boot sales or large antique stores. I tried ebay but it only returned steam-punk jewellery. Therefore, so far my Borrowers will have to do with something else.

I don't know what it is, most probably something to hold a water hose. It was semitransparent plastic, and I painted it black with a light coat of copper. The back is just a piece of black card. But there must be something for Homily to put her soup on, and, digging deeper into rubbish under the kitchen sink, I found another object of unknown origin:


Funnel next. I have a set of plastic funnels, and the smallest was just the right size. I painted it black, with the same light coat of copper. And used a drinking straw for "an arrangement of pipes".


I appropriately "borrowed" a flickering tea light from my large Victorian house, piled some matches, found a thimble and a nut.

I think Arrietty's grandfather would have approved of it.

To be continued.

Step by step: bathroom

Bathrooms are very interesting to make, just like kitchens, because there are many tiny details that you can add more and more of.

This is what the bathroom in Womble Hall looks like at the moment. It is on the upper floor, next to the master bedroom. There isn't a direct door from the bedroom to the bathroom, but you must go through a corridor. Maybe it's not correct, but there wasn't any other natural place for the bathroom.


The very first bathroom I made was in my old Victorian house in a bookshelf, which I keep referring to. I still have the bathtub, and I keep changing my mind between it and the current sugar-bowl with lion feet (you can see a glimpse of it in the picture).

In the next step, I added a washbasin and other stuff. I was a beginner then and didn't know what materials and tools to use, but I had fun. As you see, the tiles have found their way into Womble Hall after all these years.

When I moved the house into a cabinet, I kept the bathroom, but it became very small. Yet the concept is the same, and has remained so.

When I started planning Womble Hall I wasn't sure where the bathroom would go. I first thought in the attic, but it would be very uncomfortable for people in the bedroom if they had to run upstairs in the middle of the night. I also considered the large right-hand room on the upper floor, that eventually become the study.

But already on the very first picture of the shell, long before it was glued, you can see the bathroom in its current place.

I made the first attempts decorating the bathroom early in the project, precisely because I simply copied it from the previous house. Maybe it was my lack of imagination, but I really liked the old bathroom, and even though not a lot has survived, the general sense has. As I explain in that early blog post, I have seen pictures of bathrooms in people's dollhouses where they have just pasted the whole sheet of tiles on the wall, and it doesn't look natural. So here I pasted the tiny tiles one by one. Yes, it did take some time. But I am never in a hurry with my mini projects. The floor is also a commercial sheet that I bought very early in my mini-making days, today I would have made in myself. But the sheet was not large enough, so the back part of it is a photocopy. Can you tell?

In the picture below you see a door in the back wall. Behind the door is a corridor, and in the next picture you can see what I made there.


As with all other rooms, it took a long time before I could make any final arrangements. In this case particularly, I had to finish the rear corridor (which I will show in due time), but as soon as that was done, the basic work on the bathroom was done as well.

After that, I added some objects, and the final touch came with Adam ceilings.

Since then, I made the Chippendale dressing table and two small tables - you cannot have too many tables in a Victorian house. I may add another mirror over the dressing table, and the hooks keep falling off, as you see, I must fix them better.I also want to make a proper Victorian water cistern over the toilet. Once again, a project is never ever finished.