Thursday, February 23, 2012

I have taken a one day hiatus from the Thornhill.  It is hazy today, and when the daylight is not very good, it is hard for me see well enough to do work on the Thornhill that requires accuracy and fine workmanship.  So, I thought I might tell you a wee bit about some of my miniature 'secrets' as pertains to  linens, fabrics, etc.

When my dear mother passed away, I inherited her entire 'collection' of magnificent hankies that included those of my grandmothers (both paternal and maternal).  Since the advent of Kleenex and throwaway paper products to wipe one's tears and one's drippy nose, the lady''s hanky has become fairly 'extinct'.  But years ago, a lady's apron pocket ALWAYS contained a lovely hanky with which to wipe drippy children's noses, perform 'spit baths' around the mouths of messy children, and wipe away the tears of those same children.  They were used to clean one's eyeglass with a 'huff' of breath applied to the lenses before wiping with the linen hanky.  I can remember in the late 1940's when as a Valentine, Easter, or Christmas gift from a friend, one might get a lovely card with a fine hanky enclosed in the card.  They were so lovely.  The finest were made of Irish handkerchief linen and Swiss cotton so fine that it is translucent.  Others were in lovely cotton lawn and other finely woven cottons so wispy that a breath would make them gently waft.  Some had lovely open work all done by hand of the finest thread.  Some had lovely embroidery, and fine tatted edgings.  But all were exquisite. 

A bride's trousseau over the centuries ALWAYs contained a lovely white hanky trimmed in exquisite fine laces and embroidery.  With the advent of Kleenex, that tradition has all but vanished. and gone out of fashion.  How very sad.

These 'fancy' hankys were usually for carrying to church, or when company came, or to weddings, etc.  My grandmother always said the fancy hankys were "showers not blowers", indicating they were meant to show off not blow into.  LOL

Now, how does this relate to miniatures.  Well, I have found that the 'hand' (feel) of the lovely fabric used in ladies hankys, and also in fine 'tea napkins' is absolutely wonderful for miniature linens.  The plus is the wonderful embellishments and hemming that are already on the hankys or tea napkins.  They add to the beauty of the miniature linens made from these wonderful and exquisite antique/vintage items.

So, I went on e-bay and found an absolute plethora of vintage hankys and tea napkins for insanely reasonable prices. (I haven't had the nerve to cut-up too many of the ones from my family, but plan to use some of them in the linens for the Thornhill)   I look for the ones that are Irish handkerchief linen or fine Swiss cotton.  You can tell from the photos in the e-bay ads if they are translucent or not.  Then I look for ones with fine hand hemming, openwork, and fine lace (the more delicate the better).  For the last dollhouse I constructed I 'stocked' an entire linen press with lovely miniature linens made from hankys and tea napkins.  I filled it with lovely Irish linen sheets, pillowcases, tea towels, and table linens.  They are also very useful in making wispy kitchen curtains that allow the light to permeate their translucency.  The hemmed edges make perfect pre-sewn 'rod pockets'.  Pillowcases made from hankys are sweet and delicate and soooooo Victorian.

If any of you are interested in making linens from hankys, e-mail me and I will go into detail how I repurposed the vintage hankys into miniature linens. 

Some of the hanky's are just the right size already to use as tablecloths.  The fabric is so wispy and fine that they drape beautifully.  Then one can find another hanky of the same fabric and cut it into tiny napkins that one can hand hem.  I even use ones I buy at yard sales and auctions that might have holes in them.  I cut around the holes and use what is good. 

I always hand wash all of my cotton and linen hankys in OxyClean. (NEVER use OxyClean on protein fibers such as wool or silk) But OxyClean brightens and freshens cotton and linen like nothing else.  Then I dry them and press them.

Here are some photos of some of the hankys and tea napkins I inherited from my mother.  The first photo is one set of 4 are tea napkins, and the individual one is on the right.  They have a very interesting symetrical cutaway border that doesn't show up very well in the photos.

This one below is particularly lovely.  All of the openwork was done in a Wedgewood blue thread.  It is a very small hanky being only approx. 6" across.  It is vry fine Irish linen.

The machine lace on this hanky is just lovely.  The center is Irish linen.

This does not show up too well, but this hanky is beautifully embroidered (albeit by machine).  I plan to use this one in the Thornhill.  The embroidery is very small and delicate in appearance.

Madeira linens such as hankys, tea napkins, tea tablecloths, etc. are wonderful for miniature repurposing.  If you are very lucky, you might even find a genuine Marghab tea napkin,. fingertip towel, or tea table cloth.  These hand made linens made in Portugal are the finest in the world.  I will not bore you with all of the Marghab 'history', but if you are interested, you might peruse the following link: 

If you are ever in Brookings, SD plan to visit the museum.  It is on the campus of South Dakota State University.

So, happy hanky searching

Peace and love



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

While waiting for Chuck 'square up' all of the openings on the room partitions, I thought I would post a wee bit relative to how I use my skills in sewing and fibre arts in my dollhouses.  I LOVE to sew, and am an accomplished quilter. When I saw what passed as 'bedding' on the miniature market, I just knew I could do better.  So I began by making miniature pieced quilts and comforters.  I found that cotton muslin and calico is far to heavy for miniature bedding.  It does not drape easily, and looks a bit 'stiff' when installed on a bed.  The solution was to use a fabric that had a drapeable hand and a soft feel.  I chose haboti silk, and it lends itself wonderfully to hand sewing and finishing.  There are few examples of my work in my 'miniature stash'.  I have given away and sold with other dollhouses many pieces of silk bedding and quilts that were made before the digital camera, and hence there are no photos.  I do have one of my very first silk twin bed ensembles that I determined was not quite 'up to snuff' as far as quality of workmanship.  The photos are below (all pieces DO have square corners.  They just look a little 'off' in the photos because of the positioning.) 

The ensemble consists of two bottom bed sheets, one embellished top bed sheet w/matching pillowcase and pillow, and one comforter.  Also shown in the picture are several hand made pillows (incidentally all pillows are filled with REAL down), and several plain pillowcases.

I have since done many 1:12 scale bedding pieces and found that searching the 'Thrift Stores' for 100% silk neckties yields some incredible teeny tiny silk prints that can be used for quilts, comforters, fabric linings for hat boxes, curtains, and upholstery.  So I have amassed quite a 'stash' of wonderful designer silks from neck ties.  Some of them have linings that have the design logo woven into the silk (i.e. Oleg Cassini, Versace, etc.)  I also scavenge these  linings from the ties for use as linings in hat boxes, luggage, etc.  A little 'designer touch' is always welcome in my creations.

Silk damask also makes lovely dining room tablecloths w/matching napkins.  They all must be hand sewn with extra fine thread so they appear to scale.  Machine sewing, for the most part is not compatible with 1:12" scale.  Hopefully, I will have some time in the next few weeks to finish up a few more bedding sets that show up much better than the one above.

So, that's my bit of palaver for today.  Hopefully tomorrow we will get the partitions in the Thornhill and the hinged panels attached.  The kit instructions call for a stucco finish, but I plan on using the Magic Mortar Brick system to 'brick' the Thornhill.  It is more in keeping with the Federal style.  So, I will want to have all of the panels attached before applying the 'brick' so that all rows will align properly.

So until the next time,  'Think Miniature', it's so much fun!!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

I arose this morning determined to get the gable constructed on the Thornhill roof and the top hinged.  I accomplished both, and must say it is beginning to look like a Federal home.  This was also the ideal time to draw the 'shingle' row lines on the roof, and that was also completed.  I am not going to install the 'trim' on the gable until much later in the project.  The instructions on this purchased 'kit' call for a stucco exterior with quoins.  However, I hope to brick my Thornhill with individual bricks.  I will have to see if the thickness of the bricks (which I believe is 1/16") will make any difference in the fit of the windows and doors, and if there will be major 'tweaks' involved if I go the individual brick route.  But that is my goal.  Here are the pictures.  I do have to construct a 'prop' of some type that will hold the roof up when one wants to access the attic rooms.  But, as per Scarlett O'Hara, "I'll think about that tomorrow."

So, I suppose the next thing is to hinge the rest of the opening panels (one in the front and one in the rear, and one on each end), and then begin to shingle the roof.  I also forgot to apply shellac to the roof pieces before I began constructing the roof.  So, I must do that tomorrow, without fail!!  The shellac/denatured alcohol mixture, when applied, prevents moisture from warping the wood during construction, and after completion.  So it is something I cannot and must not avoid doing.  Also, in my haste to get a roof on the mansion, I neglected to 'square off' the door openings on the two attic partitions.  However, that is a minor thing, and I will do that tomorrow.  Note to self:  REMEMBER TO SQUARE OFF ALL OPENINGS IN ALL OTHER PARTITIONS AND APPLY SHELLAC MIXTURE TO ALL SURFACES!!!.  Now, if I only read my own notes, I will be fine. 

It is time to relax a little after a long day's work.  There is a special on PBS coming up in a few minutes titled "The Queen's Castles".  It is all about Windsor Castle.  There will also be a wonderful portion of the show devoted to Queen Mary's Dolls' House.  It is the most spectacular doll house (if one can refer to such a magnificent item as a 'doll house').  If you check my 'Favorite Links', there is a link to this doll house with all of the photos.  I have seen it in person, and the design, workmanship, craftsmanship, and quality of the furnishings is beyond comparison.  So, do check out the link.

Until next time, the weather is wonderful, I have a roof on the Thornhill, and I still have a little energy left after today to do a little quilting.  Life is good.


Friday, February 17, 2012

Just a short post to show the 'Phoenix' rising from the dust in the box.  My Thornhill now has a roof (albeit unshingled--but nevertheless, it does have a roof).  I have some 'tweaking' to do on the gable before I get the front finished.  Have to wait for all the glue to set up.  Then I need to put the attic kneewalls in tomorrow, and hopefully finish the gable and the front.

After all of the above has been completed, the next item on my 'bucket list' is to mark the roof off for the shingles, and get the shingles on.  So, it is beginning to resemble a REAL house finally. 

Hope you all have a wonderful weekend, and 'think in miniature--it's so rewarding".

Peace and love,


Monday, February 13, 2012

We awoke today to a 'skiff' of that cold white 'winter stuff' on the ground.  Brrrrr.  Fortunately it is mid-February and our winter so far has been mild, to say the least.  We have had many days in the 40's, several in the 50's, and lots of days in the mid 30's.  So we have had a very easy winter 'so far'.  If we can just make it through February, then spring will not be far behind.
Work on the Thornhill Mansion continues.  We now have all the 'floors' in place and have erected the 'dormer' on the third floor.  It is only glued in position.  Tomorrow, I will drill the holes for the dowel pegs, and 'peg' that part of the mansion.  I am so happy I chose to do a nail free construction.  At first I had my doubts, but it gives a wonderfully solid 'feel' to the mansion, and I dare say it could survive a hurricane.  Here are a few photos showing my 'pegging' construction method, and then of course, progress on the mansion itself. 

Tomorrow we will 'peg' the dormer and then the next step is to construct the roof.  So the mansion is slowly 'rising from the dust' and I am more anxious then ever to start the 'fun part' of decorating, and furnishing.  But I'm always getting ahead of myself.  First things must come first!!!  Ugh......menial labor.  Until the next time,  "don't make excuses, make progress". 


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Just a short post/entry today to post photos of the little Chippendale chest I finished putting together and finishing.  I have a host of these little kits that were put out by "The House of Miniatures" in the 1960's and 70's.  They were sent out on a subscription basis, much like the 'record clubs' of years ago where they sent you a 'kit a month'.  I have found these kits on e-bay, at garage sales, flea markets and thrift stores over the years.  They are very nice little detailed museum quality 1:12 scale pieces of furniture with working doors, drawers, etc.  So, here are the pictures of my little Chippendale 3-drawer chest. 

I am still busy 'pegging' my Thornhill.  I made the decision to construct it with 1/8" dowel pegs in lieu of nails.  It is time consuming, and requires such accuracy to make certain the dowel holes are drilled squarely and within tolerances necessary.  As soon as I finish 'pegging' the first and second floors, then I will add the front entry gable and the third floor and, the roof. 

Lovely weather in Iowa again today.  It is nearly 30 degrees in mid February--unheard of!!  We keep hoping it will stay this way for at least one more month, then spring will be here, and no portents of snow or extreme cold.  I can't wait!!


Sunday, January 29, 2012

It is a beautiful cloudless, sunny day in Iowa  The temperature is trying very hard to reach 30 degrees, which is remarkable considering it is nearly the end of January.  Chuck and I have been working on the Thornhill for several days now.  All of the 'prep work' takes so much time:  things like sealing all of the wood surfaces, squaring all of the corners of each opening, and reading and re-reading all of the 'instructions' before diving in.  The instructions from Real Good Toys leave a great deal to be desired.  Chuck thinks I should 'write' my own instructions for construction of this behemoth and send them to Real Good Toys.  But for now, I am content in knowing that my Thornhill will probably survive a nuclear holocaust. 

The first photos show my 'peg construction'.  I am drilling 1/8" holes at every point where a nail would be required, and inserting a 1/8" dowel peg to hold the pieces together.  It has been my hope to have absolutely NO NAILS in this construction, but we will allow screws to hold the hinges necessary to create the openings on the mansion. 

The construction of the 'foundation' was fairly straight forward, and it was completed with no 'glitches'.

With the foundation complete, today we arose early to tackle the beginning construction phase of the mansion. Because both sides of the house will be hinged and open for access to the house, as will the center front panel and back panels, these parts had to be 'tacked' in place and then I used yards of masking tape to keep things in position.  We also decided to temporarily 'tack' all of the points where we will be drilling holes and inserting wooden dowels as construction 'nails'.  So, here are the photos of today's work.  I am tired, and I think Chuck is sick of my orders and complaints.  It must be very difficult for him to deal with such an anal person as myself.  I just have to have things done correctly!!!  Bless his heart, he didn't complain too loudly, and was a big help to me--especially when we had to lift the mansion up onto the foundation.  There it will stay for a few days so I can analyze my work, and work out the details of my next steps in constructions.  The first thing will be to strengthen the 'glue joint' where the floor meets the walls by drilling holes and inserting dowels through the outside walls and into the center of the floor.  I certainly am so thankful for Dremel and Black & Decker  rotary and hand tools.  They surely make my life easier when building miniatures and doll houses.

So there you have a day's work on the Thornhill Mansion.  It certainly doesn't look like much, but believe me, what you see constitutes approximately 46 hours of work over the past week or so.  I will be happy to get to the 'fun' stage.  That would be when construction reaches a point where floors can be inlaid, fireplaces built-in, stairways installed, and decorative finishes applied.  All will come in good time, but for today, enough done and enough said.  Now to step outside and breathe the nice clean crisp Iowa air.