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Thursday, 31 December 2009

Happy Christmas tide, welcome Aussie girls and best wishes for 2010

I've had little time for blogging in the past 2 weeks, as every night before Christmas Day I've been sewing more Barbie clothes and another ice skating outfit for my cousin's daughter's third Gotz doll she acquired for her birthday some months ago.  Christmas Eve was spent frantically wrapping my own two daughter's presents whilst fighting off extreme tiredness, and I wasn't able to actually finish the skating outfit until the evening of Christmas Day!

Christmas afternoon my daughters eventually unwrapped their new Austalian Girl dolls, the first to arrive in England I believe.  We always spread presents out over the day, and had gone to Church in the morning, so the large boxes waited beneath the tree until after we'd had Christmas dinner, been for a walk with the dog and eaten Christmas pudding!  It prolongs the excitement to spread the presents over the day.  Welcome Belle and Matilda - my girls are happy to have you.  My younger daughter also got two Gotz deck chairs, a swimming costume and a paddling pool with accessories, so these were used to make the new girls from Australia feel at home despite the fact we still had the previous Monday's snow on the ground outside.

Peter is transfixed by Matilda's beautiful hair and forgets to tie his shoe laces!

Anna and Belle get to know each other 'Aussie style' despite snow on the ground outside

Harriet and Samantha showing off their new Kimonos from Hong Kong

Jayne models Lacey's new skating dress

On Boxing day we took the handmade Barbie clothes etc amongst other presents to my cousin's house and later that afternoon had the pleasure of watching them being unwrapped.  The long blue dress and matching felt handbag was a definite hit and went on one of her many Barbies straight away.  Prince Charming who had arrived for her on Christmas day was given some casual clothes (Bermuda shorts and Tshirt) and there were another couple of casual sets for her Barbies (she has about 10) too.

My daughter's Barbie showing off the handmade outfits just before they were wrapped

Prince Charming's casual outfit
She was absolutely delighted with the new skating dress, silver skates, silver shoes for off the ice and knitted bag I had found at a sale and changed Lacey into the dress immediately.  We had taken ALL our Gotz girls and boy, my girls insisted that even my Anna doll had to be there, so we ended up with 8 Gotz dolls and 2 Australian Girl dolls whilst with my cousin!  The men in the household were remarkably understanding.

The whole line up l-r: Sarah*, Jayne, Mia*, Matilda, Peter, Belle, Harriet, Samantha, Lacey* and Anna

Sarah*, Jayne, Mia*, Matilda and Peter

Belle, Harriet, Samantha, Lacey* and Anna

* Sarah, Mia and Lacey are my cousin's daughter's dolls
And now it is New Year's Eve, we are watching DVDs, eating popcorn and lazing at home whilst waiting for midnight, so I'm taking the opportunity to blog at the same time to wish every one a very happy continued Christmas tide (not over until the 5th January) and peaceful and prosperous 2010.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Barbie clothes for Christmas

It has been another very busy week, especially with the lead up to Christmas: the children and myself involved in seasonal music making and the great card signing exercise before the postal deadline. However at last I have been able to return to the sewing machine for the next part of the countdown - to make Barbie doll clothes for my younger daughter's friend.

A few weeks ago I bought Burda pattern 8576, which features a variety of different outfits for Barbies and Ken dolls. On Wednesday evening I cut out most of the pieces and ironed out the folds.

I made a start on the long dress on Thursday night, but then found that despite cutting to the pattern, the doll's backside was too big to allow the dress to meet properly at the back! This was very frustrating as I had done quite a lot to the dress but was also struggling with the material, which is very slippery and would slide sideways in the sewing machine. So I recut the dress to allow for an additional seam allowance (these had been included in the pattern, so don't know why it didn't work first time, maybe it was meant to be for stretch material.)

The simple evening dress which took so long to make

Ironing the dress was also tricky once I had sewn the back seam, as it needed a cool iron for the fabric, but I also needed to get the centre front crease out. I ended up rolling up a tube of white felt and stuffing it up the dress, then ironing it bit by bit. This worked well. The dress is simple, it has a slit up the back of the skirt, a slit at the back for the fastening (I used a press stud, not horrible velcro as suggested) and a ribbon looped through the front top which pulls the top of the dress to a simple gather, tying the ribbon behind the neck. I sewed the ribbon in place at the centre front and hid the stitching with a decoration.

The dress seemed to take ages to make, but was worth the effort (my elder girl saw it and was impressed).

The jeans took about 30 minutes to make from cutting to finishing - they were incredibly quick, simple and effective to make. They have fold up bottoms, turning them into crop jeans.

The little top took a bit longer than the jeans. I cut two identical pieces of the material, sewed them together around the side and bottom edges then turned them the right side out, and sewed down the top folded over to the back. I trimmed it with green ribbon which doubled up as the shoulder straps which attach at the back. This little top is also fastened with a press stud.

The jeans and top

I shall be making these outfits again for my cousin's daughter.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Rag dolls

I spent a fair bit of last weekend cleaning and tidying the house as it had got in a real state recently.  Whilst my elder daughter was out at a choir rehearsal I finished off the job of tidying up that she had started in her bedroom, and took the opportunity to photograph her rag dolls and the patchwork cushion I had made for her some time ago. 
Meet Brownie Guide, Trudie, Betty, Charlotte, Thomas and Madeleine the rag doll.
Brownie Guide, Trudy and Betty
The Brownie was knitted by a colleague of mine for her daughter some years ago, but was passed to my elder girl when she became a Brownie Guide.  My step mother brought Trudy to us - she is a South African rag doll and her clothes are made from denim trimmed with the Moravian blue and white indigo print cloth which was made into dresses by English missionaries in the 19th century for Xhosa women to wear -  it is called "Chwe-Chwe" (shweshwe) and was absorbed into Xhosa culture in time.  Trudy's shirt is a print of the patterns found on traditional mud huts in the Eastern Cape.  Betty was a 'guess the name of the doll' prize for my girls at a church fete a couple of years ago (they guessed Elizabeth, it was the closest guess).
Charlotte and Thomas
Charlotte is a Zapf creations doll (West Germany), she is soft bodied and quite chunky compared to the Gotz girls, though she is about the same height.  She is a toddler doll.  She was given to my elder daughter when aged 3 for Christmas and is wearing a cardigan I knitted for her which matched one her owner possessed.  Thomas is a baby doll from John Lewis which was given to my big girl just before her little sister was born nearly 6 years ago.
Madeleine the rag doll
We love Bagpuss, and I made this Madeleine for my big girl when she was 2 1/2.  I don't think she had seen Bagpuss though at the time, the doll acquired the name later.  Madeleine is made from a pattern I cut out of the newspaper in 1975.  In fact I was lucky enough to have two copies of the paper, which meant that when I finally made up the doll from the pattern more than 30 years later, I was able to cut out the pattern without having to trace it.
The doll in the newspaper pattern
The uncut version of the pattern
The cut version of the pattern
I made the cushion cover from hexagonal patchwork pieces of cloth that was left over from various dresses - cloth from the rag bag.  I had made my daughter a log cabin patterned duvet cover from the same selection of material, and it is still a favourite, more than 10 years later.

Brownie, Trudy, Betty, Charlotte, Thomas and Madeleine
sit on the hexagonal patchwork cushion

Monday, 30 November 2009

Painting the teddy

It has been such a busy week since my previous update, and I've had little time for miniatures (though have been reading other blogs late at night when I should really go to bed!).  However I had left the paints out from last weekend's efforts because there was one white metal miniature from the toy set that needed some additional preparation work before I could paint it.  The jointed teddy came with only 3 of his 4 pins as one had broken off, and I wasn't willing to trust white metal cast pins anyway.  So my husband chopped them off and drilled holes through his body and suggested fuse wire would be the best material for adding on his jointed legs so they can still move.  He found an ancient card of three different thicknesses of fuse wire, and I chose the middle thickness, so he drilled the holes accordingly.  I am a dab hand with the pillar drill, but as he was available, I asked him to do the drilling.

To paint the bear I threaded the four limbs onto a bent out paperclip I had been using to stir the Humbrol paint, and threaded the body onto the fuse wire.  This way I didn't have the problem of trying to hold a tiny bear and paint him, so my fingers didn't get quite so messy, and it also meant he could dry without touching anything and smearing the paint.

The photos show that the bear is still work in progress, as I've really only given him 2 coats of yellow paint, and want to follow this up with brown detail for the fur and his features, but have had such a busy weekend with church fundraising activities and taking the girls skating, so teddy has to wait until I can spare a little time one weekday evening.

Teddy's painted body on the fuse wire (still on its card) so he could dry

Teddy's limbs on the paperclip propped up by a screwdriver resting on the tin

Monday, 23 November 2009

Results from a weekend of miniatures

It was lovely making miniatures again this weekend. Sunday afternoon my daughter and I dashed into Hobbycraft (always a risky business going in there because there is so much variety of craftware to buy) and bought some Humbrol Enamel paints.

My girl wanted to paint the figures as well, so I gave her the challenge of the little doll's dress whilst I continued working on the Cuckoo clock. In my previous posting I uploaded a photo of the work in progress - the clock needed more colour but not too much as I didn't want it to look too bright or tacky. I printed out photos from the web of 6 different but colourful clocks to give me a guide on colour balance. None of them were anything like the same design, but they did help.

I made a start on the clown in between coats of paint drying on the clock and cooking Roast Lamb for dinner. My daughter did a pretty good job of the doll's dress and her face skin painting but then had other things to do (like getting ready for school for Monday). So I eventually finished the girl, including painting her features which I did at the same time as the clown's face.

Front view of the doll (white metal Phoenix Model)

Back view of the painted doll 

The finished clown 

I also glued the fire iron stand base and top to the upright, touched up paint a bit and the set was complete.

The fire iron set

This evening, after work and choir practice I have fitted the weights, chain and pendulum on the clock, so my daughter will get a surprise in the morning.

The finished clown and Cuckoo Clock 

Close up of the Clock

Saturday, 21 November 2009

An afternoon of miniatures

It is a long time since I've been able to create anything really miniatures-related, as so much of my creative time recently has been concentrated on making clothes for play dolls and a baby's quilt.  Additionally, since July my Westville Greenleaf dollshouse has been in storage while we had our house on the market for a while, so my miniatures are out of reach.  Fortunately however my elder daughter's 3 storey shop is still very much accessible at home and today I got a chance to play with it!

We collected a few things from storage this morning, including a few of my tools (just in case), though in fact so far I haven't needed to use them.  More about what we collected in another posting this week.  After lunch we cleared the kitchen table (actually a breakfast bar, a good height for working at because you can stand or sit without breaking your back) and got the much used cutting mat out.  At Miniatura about 18 months ago we had bought some cut-out your own board games and my daughter set to work with a scalpel and ruler after I showed her what to do.  She got a bit confused at one point with the folding and gluing corner tabs instructions (the diagram was good for someone who had done these things before, but not so clear for a beginner) but ultimately did a very good job of the two boxes.

 My daughter cutting out miniature boxes

Miniature Snakes & Ladders

Her two boxes of games, with a 50 pence piece

Whilst she was cutting and gluing, I borrowed my husband's humbrol enamel paints and painted the fire iron set and the cuckoo clock white metal kits from Phoenix Models.  I had made up one of their cooking range kits in the past, so it was familiar territory for me.  This was a cheap way of providing her with a set of fireplace accessories which, if made by a professional miniaturist using the proper materials, would have been 10 times as expensive, so although the bronze paint isn't really like the real thing, it is okay.  We had looked at cheap ready made sets, but none of them looked authentic enough, whereas the Phoenix Models look right if painted correctly.

I needed my set of needle files to tidy up the metal on the clock before painting, but fortunately these were easily to hand in my husband's small workshop.  The cuckoo clock is still work in progress, my husband's collection of paints are for his aeroplane models, and I need some brigher colours to finish it off, especially as we've got a Phoenix Model set of toys to paint, so I think a trip to Hobbycraft tomorrow is a must.

Work in progress on the fire iron set

Painting work in progress on the cuckoo clock

For a while this evening we dusted and tidied the dollshouse starting with the attic bedroom, working down to the kitchen followed by the shop on the ground floor.  However the shop part isn't yet completely tidy, as we want to make some Christmas boxes and bags from the latest issue of Dollshouse and Miniature Scene, and a container is required for those skittles...

Hopefully we'll get some more mini making done tomorrow.  The weather is awful at the moment, so spending time indoors making things is one good way to pass the weekend.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Welcome, and look forward to the weekend

I'm looking forward to this weekend because it will be:

a) A lot less hectic than last weekend, when we had 3 different events on one day and two the next!
b) My elder daughter and I are spending tomorrow afternoon making miniatures!

I'd so love to go to the Dollshouse Festival at Kensington tomorrow, but for one thing my current bank balance just won't allow such indulgence (train fare and entrance fee before even buying a mini), and secondly I can't justify buying more minis when I haven't made up some kits we bought at Miniatura about 18 months ago.  So we are devoting the afternoon (and possibly the evening as well) to making up kits, doing cut outs from recently purchased miniature magazines and generally giving Mrs Harvey's toy and cake shop a proper clean up in preparation for all those parents coming to buy Christmas toys for their children.  I plan to take lots of photos this weekend of work in progress and I'm looking forward to sharing them with everyone who follows this blog.

With that in mind, I'd like to welcome six more people (wow, I can't believe I've got 37 people following my doll writings):

Mary in Italy specialises in crochet (something I can sort of do as I made a baby blanket once, but am not very good at, as I prefer to knit).  She makes the most amazing crochet flowers - see and

Lisette, who lives in the Netherlands, is already getting ready for Advent on her blog She, like me, has been passionate about dollshouses all her life.

Daisy, in Brazil, has great variety on her miniatures blog with lots of lovely 1/12th scale food, though she has several other blogs too.

Monica, like me, loves sewing, and has a collection of Sasha dolls  She isn't afraid to give them a repaint to great effect.

Roz & Aidy of Lilyelf miniatures create wonderful individual dolls which you can see at

NikNik lives in Russia and makes all sorts of interesting things including some incredible doll modelling She is the mother of Victoria who has been following my blog for a little while.

Welcome everyone, I hope you enjoy reading this blog as much as I enjoy yours.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Doll play - for teens

We took our girls to a local church quiz night recently.  My elder girl invited two of her friends to join us, and the other children on their team (the children insisted on a kids only team) were two nearly teen boys my girls know through church.  My younger daughter decided to take along two of the Gotz dolls, dressed up in their Bavarian outfits (well we had just been to see the Sound of Music!).  Funnily enough she actually took along the shared dolls, Jayne and Peter.  Samantha and Harriet, who were still dressed in Halloween outfits, had to stay at home (we knew those outfits wouldn't go down well at a church quiz!)

The two visiting girls arrived at our house and saw my little one playing with her dolls, and my elder daughter's soft toys all over her bedroom floor.  One admitted she loved her own soft toys, but my elder girl was careful not to admit that any of the dolls actually belonged to her.  We had discussed this beforehand, as quite often my girls use elder daughter's larger bedroom floor for doll play, and I was concerned that she would be teased by her friends for playing with dolls, aged 13.  When they all got into the car, one of the girls was very happy to play dolls with my little girl (they played 'hide and seek' would you believe!).  I think it was partly the novelty of having a little sister for the evening (this child has three younger brothers), but at the Quiz I noticed she was quite happy to have the two dolls on her lap for a while in full view of lots of adult strangers and the boys, and later was happy to resume the hide and seek game when we took them to their respective homes. 

I think it is sad that we expect our children to grow up so fast, and put away childish things.  There is so much pressure to conform to being a teen as soon as they start secondary school (if you don't like pop music you are 'so not cool').  My elder daughter's friends are not the types who go in for heavy makeup yet (and are despised by some of the really trendy girls for being just a little bit different from the average), though they all enjoy pop music and Nintendo DS, etc.  But still liking dolls isn't something they can readily admit even to their own peers, it would be social death in the dog-eat-dog school environment.  So observing the girls with the dolls at the quiz night gave me a quiet sense of pleasure, I felt as if, albeit briefly, I had scored a small point for the regaining of their fast disappearing childhood just by treating the taking of dolls to a public event as perfectly normal and not commenting on their play which would have made them self conscious.


Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Patchwork Quilt, and another welcome

I've spent the past 4 evenings sewing a patchwork quilt to welcome a friend's baby (due very soon).  Although I have done patchwork before (a log cabin pattern duvet cover for my elder daughter's bed, and a hexagonal pattern cushion cover to match), I've never actually quilted before.  I found the pattern in a book on patchwork projects, it is called a baby's quilt with matching dolls quilt (which I haven't made) and the instructions were straightforward, with clear photos illustrating what to do.

Because I don't know the gender of the soon to be born infant, the quilt had to be suitable for either boy or girl, so I settled on a rainbow colour combination.  I used a pressed wadding for the middle of the quilt, which made it manageable to sew the quilting on my sewing machine.  The quilt measures 34 inches x 31 inches.

I'm rather pleased with the results.

The quilt completed

Showing the back and front of the quilt

Close up

Close up

Whilst I've sewed, my blog has acquired two more followers:

Silken Purse who is an artist, has several blogs:

Dora is also an artist, her blogs are in Spanish, which I cannot read, but are still good to look at:

Welcome to my blog, I hope you enjoy it.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Welcome and Jam

This evening I have made a batch of real, full size Quince Jam.  I've still got enough quinces for another batch, but one batch in an evening after a full day at work as well as feeding the family and listening to my elder daughter's violin practice is just about as much as I can manage in a day, so the last batch will have to wait (I made a previous batch about 2 weeks ago, and the quinces have been sitting on the table awaiting my time ever since).  Thankfully, it is a fruit that doesn't go off quickly, so I was able to sew those Halloween outfits for the dolls without feeling too guilty about wasted fruit.  I would like to make some jars of miniature quince jam one day for my daughter's dollshouse shop and my Westville house.

I've got four more people following this blog:

Suzan makes dolls from wire armature and papier mache.  Her blog is in Turkish, so I can't read it but the photos of her dolls are amazing.

Snowfern in Singapore creates wonderful miniatures, especially food, some of which is sold on Etsy, and also contributes to

Florine in the USA collects vintage minatures and houses, is very knowledgeable about them and like me browses eBay a lot ;-)

Debie is a doll artist who sells her wonderful original creations at fairs in the UK and on Etsy. Maybe one day I'll get to see her dolls and meet her at a fair.

Welcome everyone and thank you for following my blog.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Gotz doll halloween

I've spent the past three evenings working against the clock to provide some Halloween costumes for the Gotz dolls.  Too much midnight oil but my girls seem pleased with the results.  Today I hadn't quite finished and we had a family day trip to London (Science Museum), so on the train my elder daughter and I did all the hand finishing work required, including sewing on press-studs.  I was really proud of her for being keen to do it (she isn't always into sewing) and for sewing dolls clothes on a moving train without dropping any press studs!  She had been experimenting with felt sewing this week, and made two items before today.  When we got home this evening I ironed all the outfits and we dressed the dolls for their Halloween photo shoot and tea party (in the tent my girls set up in one of their bedrooms for half term!)

The pumpkin face being hand stitched onto the costume 3days ago 

Samantha, Harriet and Jayne all dressed up for Halloween

Samantha in her witchy dress, hat and cape, Jayne in a cape
(with the green outfit made previously underneath)

Harriet in her Pumpkin outfit, with the felt trick or treat bag my elder daughter stitched,
and the choc pumpkins we picked up at the station on the way home

Peter in his ghost outfit hurriedly constructed
by my elder daughter when we got home

The whole scary lineup!

Halloween tea in the dome tent,
with Arctic Hare (bought today by elder daughter)
and his felt carrot she made 2 days ago

Samantha and Harriet - notice the scary touch to the tea pot! 
that gruesome finger came with the pumpkins

Arctic Hare, Jayne and Samantha

Younger daughter tucking into the chocolate pumpkins!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Reader's Award

Oh Rebecca, what have you started!  Thank you for thinking of me in your Reader's award.  I really enjoyed reading about all the different books that you could associate with people whom you've met in blogland, especially as several of the books are already familiar to me.  I love The Shield Ring by Rosemary Sutcliff - the Lake District area where it is set is a place I love, and grew up with the Laura Ingalls Little House books and have them all.  However what you chose for me was a book I had not encountered:  The Adventures of Galldora.  I discovered when searching on Amazon that a second book was also available about Galldora the rag doll, so I managed to buy both from the same seller, and they arrived today.  This evening my 5 year old daughter and I enjoyed the first chapter - Galldora and the small reward - at her bedtime, so thank you for introducing these stories to us.

I'm supposed to obey the rules and think of books that I associate with the various blogs I follow, however, like Rebecca I'm going to cheat. Instead of dedicating books to any particular person, I'm going to talk about books I own and love that I associate with dolls and miniatures, and dedicate them to everyone who reads my blog.

One of the books Rebecca listed is Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.  I adored this book as a child, and the sequel Little Plum, in fact they inspired me so much I made my own versions of Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.

Their heads, hands and feet are Fimo, and their bodies, arms and legs are stuffed cloth.  Their wigs are black cotton thread stitched into a cloth pad which is glued to the head and their faces are very roughly moulded - I'm terrible at working with modelling clay - I carve and sew better than this.  Although I tried to model their features, they were not very distinct so today when photographing them I re-drew their eyes, brows and nostrils with a black felt tip pen.

Miss Flower on the left and Miss Happiness
on the right before I re-drew their eyes

After their faces were re-drawn

I also made their clothes, though they are not authentic, and their sashes are made of tissue paper, one is a bit decayed now.

In the photo with them is a small box with a roll top lid.  In the book their cupboard is a similar box, and when I found this one on a market as a teenager I thought it was perfect for my Miss Happiness and Miss Flower.

Ursula Moray William's Adventures of the Little Wooden Horse is similar in a way to the concept of Galldora, in that the horse leaves home and goes on many adventures before finally managing to get back to his beloved master with his treasure.  I loved this book as a child, and was delighted when we went to Miniatura a couple of years ago to find a miniature horse very similar to this one, which is perfect for my elder daughter's miniature toy and cake shop.

Another book I love by the same author is Malkin's Mountain - all about toy makers, carving wood, families, love and community.  What more inspiration could a budding wood carver want than a story such as this.  I've recently acquired the two other books in the set.

The Ship that Flew was one of those books I only discovered when I went to High School, because a copy was available in my school library, it was one of the few books that wasn't a teen, adult or reference book in the secondary school library.  It is a magical story about 4 ordinary children who get a ship in a bottle that takes them on wonderful adventures, including back in time.  I was taken with the fact that the eldest boy found the ship in a strange antique shop filled with curious things, but that the ship was what attracted him and he loved it and gave all he had in his pocket for it.  Who doesn't like browsing in antique shops, even if you can't afford most of what is on offer!

Another story series that is closely associated with miniatures is Mary Norton's The Borrowers.  I have collected all the books in the set over the years, and even have managed to buy Poor Stainless, an additional borrower story.  Not only were these stories a great introduction for a non UK child to various aspects of English culture, it was also a lovely way to get to know more about the English countryside, when Pod, Homily and Arriety venture out of the safety of the big old house in Buckinghamshire to find a new home, after their under floorboard sanctury is discovered by the humans.  One day I plan to explore that area of Buckinghamshire (Mary Norton lived near Leighton Buzzard) because it is not too far from where I live now.

Although the Family from One End Street stories by Eve Garnett don't mention dollshouses, the detailing of the the lives of the Ruggles Children is fascinating social history source material for anyone building dollshouses based in 1930s/1940s England.  Once again, these books were a good way for me to learn about a country I only visited once every 4 years during my childhood.  There are three books, and my all time favourite is the third when Kate Ruggles enjoys a glorious summer holiday at the Dew Drop Inn in her beloved countryside, a far cry from her urban home.

I have so many children's books - I spent many happy hours browsing various second hand book shops when I was a teenager, and discovered several delights, including the Eve Garnet books.  Our house probably contains at least 2,000 books (not all for children), but my children's book collection is very treasured, and I am especially pleased when my daughters discover kinship with books in the shelves, my library is meant to be used and enjoyed.