Sunday, 19 October 2008

Still winding fabric bolts

Anyone still reading this blog is likely wondering if I have died. I am still slowly winding fabric bolts for the quilt shop, and probably have the shelves about 75% full now. I've also bought a few more things for the house at the big Miniatura show in Birmingham. And I made this cute Indian elbow basket from a kit.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Earthquake strikes house

Not my house, just the Willowcrest. I decided it was time to move it out of the kitchen, where it has been since I started constructon in October. The main construction was completed a few months ago and since then I am really only working on furnishing the inside. For quite a while the house was on the dining table and we were eating on the picnic table. Then the mostly completed house got moved to the picnic table and we got the big table back. And to be honest I haven't been working on it much, not least because I didn't have enough working room on the little picnic table (I am one of those people that can fill up any given worksurface with cr*p and end up actually working in a clear area about six square inches right on the edge.) So today I took the big decision and moved the house up to my bedroom, and all the tools and bits and pieces and RECLAIMED THE KITCHEN! Hilariously, neither Ds nor Dh have noticed yet, even though they came back to the house while I was in the middle of doing it. I think the mess has been there so long that we have all developed a blind spot for that corner. Needless to say, the kitchen seems enormous now that the massive blot has been cleared away. My plan is to continue to work on furnishing the house in my bedroom (which is also my sewing room). Here is a before and after pic of the kitchen.

The yarn shop is pretty much finished now, although I can always add more accessories. So now I have started winding fabric bolts for the quilt shop. I have cut white mount card into pieces 5/8" x 2 inches. If I cut fabric pieces a little under four inches wide, then fold them in half and iron the fold, I can wind that around the card a few times then glue down the loose end. It makes a fairly realistic looking fabric bolt. Luckily, as a quilter, I have a wide selection of cotton fabric patterns and colours to choose from. It's going a bit quicker than winding yarn balls, but I still need lots and lots of them.

Friday, 1 August 2008

What's happening?

Sorry about the long silence - my momentum has slowed to a crawl the last few months. I never thought that when I set up in our kitchen back in October, that the house would still be here nine months later. Luckily my family are being very supportive about it - they are so used to it being there now that I think it just blends into the general clutter.

I have been making a few furniture kits up for the shops, which I have blogged at my other blog here. I've also continued to wind dozens of balls of wool and have now filled all the displays in the yarn shop.

So the yarn shop is pretty much finished apart from more signage and accessories, and it is time to start creating fabric bolts for the quilt shop. Again, I want to go for a very well stocked look - I think a lot of dollshouse shops fall down because there isn't enough stock to be realistic - real shops are usually pretty crowded with goods for sale.
Dijon UK are having a 50% off sale this week and I have sent off for a modern sink to go in the office (what is normally the kitchen in the Willowcrest). I already have some cool fridge magnets that look like a photocopier and a filing cabinet.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Still winding balls of yarn

I am (very) slowly filling up the yarn studio with balls and skeins of yarn. I can do about 18 in an hour before I get bored. I want the shop to look very well stocked, so I need loads. Not much else is happening apart from I stained the assortment of whitewood furniture for the quilt shop on the main floor so that it all matches. I have sent off for some sewing accessory kits from Lisa's Little Things in America which will help to stock the counters.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Winding endless balls of yarn

Despite winding what seems like 100s of yarn balls, I am still only about halfway through filling up my yarn store shelves on the middle floor of my Willowcrest. I've also worked out a way of winding skeins of yarns, for some variety on the shelves. I've also had some fun pinning up some knitted garments (bought, won in raffles or gifts to me) on the walls.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

It's an inside job

The exterior of my Willowcrest is now pretty much finished - there will just be some signage to add with the names of the shops, at some point. I am now working on filling the inside.

The picket fence came from Joanne's Fabric Store in America, it was in the dried flowers section and is about 3/4 inch high - more of a 'keep off the lawn' fence. You can see that I painted my electrical wire green, to blend it into the lawn, and the bit of fence it goes under can be loosened in case I need to lift the house off of the base.

It feels very strange to finally be positioning items and furniture that I first conceived of more than six months ago. I think for a long time it seemed like this day would never come, when the house was still a bunch of unpainted bits of splintery plywood and endless tasks like the clapboarding still lay ahead of me.

I've started with the knitting shop because I have all the furniture pieces for it - I don't have everything for downstairs yet and have ordered a few more bookcases from Maple Street (a dollshouse website here in the UK). I had several white wood bookcases and yesterday I cut up many tongue depressors to create vertical dividers in the bookcases, to turn them into yarn display cases. Then I sprayed them white with auto primer. I took all the balls of yarn I have wound so far - and found they only filled half of one display case when I have five or six to fill. This is going to be a big job. I was able to buy some pre-wound wool balls at the London Kensington show, but I will have to do most myself. I did fill one cabinet so far and it looks very effective.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Gardening time

I've been working on the landscaping around the house. I don't want to do too much, as American houses typically have a pretty empty 'yard', unlike English gardens. I will be adding a picket fence which is why there are little pegs glued into the base which will be the supports for the fence. After painting the base green, I flocked it with model railway fine flock for 'grass', then I added some 'bushes'.

On the side I wanted to use some rose blooms that I bought at a scrapbooking shop. I made stems from paper covered wire painted brown and green, and glued the roses on, then added some 'leaves' of green lichen. The roses all looked a bit same-y so I touched them up with a bit of paint. It doesn't bear close scrutiny but considering it didn't cost much, it looks ok.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Thank you, Mar!

I received a lovely surprise when I got a message through The Greenleaf Forum from Mar in the Netherlands. She has enjoyed reading this blog and has found it helpful for the renovation she is doing of an old Willowcrest house. She offered to send me an embroidery silks sample card to use in my quilting shop, as she was making up a few for some Dutch ladies. Of course I said yes, and yesterday it arrived. Not only was there the little card, but several more waiting to be cut out, and a HUGE bag of embroidery silks, and some linen fabric! Thank you so much, Mar, you are so nice and I can certainly use this in my quilt shop. I will use some of the silks as embroidery skeins, and likely wind some of the other into balls of 'wool' for the knitting shop. Here is a pic on the steps of my Willowcrest. As you can see, I now have the glass fitted to the shopfront.

It has been full steam ahead on the house whenever I can get some time. I am working full time now so it is harder to make time.

I tried out a stained glass window effect for the stair window, using Sharpie permanent markers to draw a pattern on plastic. I used a tip from Rik Pierce and painted clear nail polish on the external side - if you splodge it on, it makes the plastic look much more like glass. Don't paint nail polish on the coloured side, it will dissolve the marker pen color - ask me how I know this... This is a picture taken through the living room bay (ignore the cupboard, forgot to move it out of the pic) and you can see the window.

And I've started landscaping the base - starting with a coat of 'grass green' paint. Then I will flock it with foam flock to look like grass, then put in a few bushes.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Interior windows, and refinements

After four coats of paint, sanding in between each one, I declared the interior window frames 'done'. They still look rougher than commercially produced windows but it was time to move on. I think I mentioned before that the acetate windows that came with the kit were all scratched as when I opened the kit box I found them mixed in with all the shingles and clapboard sheets. I was able to purchase some heavy vinyl plastic from Maple Street (a dollshouse store here in the UK) and I re-cut replacement windows, using the originals as patterns. This worked well apart from it means I do not have any sashing strips in my windows (the originals had unconvincing white lines screen printed on them). I think this makes the windows look rather empty and not convincingly period, but my husband says it looks like the house has been updated with modern doubleglazing. I'm going to live with it for a while, I may decide to add wooden cross bars later.

I then glued the plastic to the inside of the frames with tacky glue, and weighted them with books while they dried. The finished windows were glued to the interior walls with quick grab solvent based glue. I was fairly, but not entirely, successful in keeping glue off of the window panes. As I said before, I found that the window frames and the window apertures were not identical in size, therefore I had to paint the back of the internal frames (because it shows from outside in some cases) and a rim of external colour on the interior walls (because this showed inside in some cases).

I haven't done the right side wall windows yet (bath and stair) because I may try to do a stained glass effect on them. I have now been starting the final refinements on the construction, tidying up various things, such as:

- covering up the angles of the dormer windows with right-angle moulding, to hide the tabs.

- I had stained the bedroom door frames, and it was bugging me that the unstained wall was showing through. So I stained some coffee stirrers, and covered up the wall for a more finished look.

- and before I put the glass into the front shop windows, I glued in some laser cut signs that I bought in Chicago - one for the quilting shop above where the sales counter will go, and one at an angle on the staircase to point customers upstairs to the knitting shop.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Exterior now more or less finished

Suddenly my exterior is more or less finished. There are still the windows to install, but as they go on the inside they don't really count as part of the exterior. The only thing I still need to do is the landscaping of the base. I've been trying harder to put time in on the Willowcrest because I want to get it finished so I can get busy with the house that I built in Chicago in a workshop with Rik Pierce.

After painting the plastic railings to look like verdigris, I installed them around the top roof fascia by drilling holes partway into the wood to accommodate the plastic posts. By carefully trimming the pieces of railing, I was able to achieve a seamless look although I haven't actually glued the seams yet. If I do glue them, I will use plastic modeller's glue. The posts themselves are fixed into the holes with tacky glue. I think the railing really adds an authentic 'Second Empire' look to the house. I may also install railing around the porch roof and fix a sign to it, but I will leave that decision until later.

Then I painted the Northeastern brackets that I bought in Chicago at the Three Blind Mice show. The brackets that came with the Willowcrest kit almost all fell apart, the inside of the veneer sandwich literally crumbling away in whole or in part from most of them. These Northeastern brackets are virtually the same size. They came in sets of four so I had enough to install two brackets at the rear of the house to give continuity, although I had to trim them narrower as the fascia does not protrude as much at the back. I think I mentioned earlier that my main fascia is not entirely level, so I had to trim the angle on several of my brackets to fit them into the not-90-degree positions.

I am now working on all the interior window mouldings, which I sealed and then gave a preliminary coat of emulsion prior to a thorough sanding and filling holes with smooth filler. Before I did all that, I glued some crown moulding on the 'sills' of most of the frames, to make them look more dimensional and realistic. It seems that each window will need individual attention, as the frames are not exact matches for the openings. Therefore on some windows you will see the underside of the interior frame from outside (so it will need to be painted in the interior colour) and on other windows you will see the interior edge of the opening protruding forward from the interior window frame (so it will need to be painted in the external colour).

Friday, 25 April 2008

I'm still going

Evidence to the contrary, I am still working on this house but things have stalled a bit the last month. I was away in Chicago for two weeks (building a house with Rik Pierce and attending the Tom Bishop show) and now I have started a new full time job which is demanding a lot of my energy.

I bought loads of accessories for the house at the Bishop show. But about the only thing I have done since I returned is to paint the railings to look like verdigris. These will be installed on top of some of the roof trim, like a typical Second Empire house.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Roof colour

I think I am just about there on the roof colour. Starting with a basecoat of Anita Rust Red, I washed over a thin coat of Anita Chocolate Brown. I then shaded under the shingle lines with Anita Hunter Green watered down. Since taking this photo I have also highlighted the upper edge of the shingle line with Games Workshop Foundation paint in a light red. I picked out the line of fishscale shingles in watery Hunter Green.

As you can see, despite best efforts, I have managed to get quite a bit of paint onto my blue trim, so the next job is to go back and touch up the blue and green paintwork.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Shingling finished, now deciding roof colour

The shingling is finished, and I could finally sweep away the kazillion little bits of shingle and splinters and sawdust littering my work area. It looks like a house now, and I feel like the end is in sight, even though there is still loads to do.

I have about three-quarters of a sheet of shingles left, even after wasting about a sheet on my false start, so there are plenty of shingles in the kit. In fact, I also found some more clapboard in my box which I had thought was shingle, so I had more clapboard left over than I thought also.

Now I have to decide what colour to paint the roof. I've put on a starting coat of Anita's Rust Red but I don't want this to be the final colour, it is too orangey and too much like the foundation. I'm not sure whether I want to go darker, or lighter. I've taken the left over shingles and mocked up a bit of 'shingled roof' on a scrap bit of MDF board, and I will try out a few paint possibilities on that. I want something that will look realistic, but also contrast with the blue and green colours. I am tempted to pick out the fishscale shingles in a different colour, but I did read that that wouldn't be historically accurate. I might do it anyway.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Right mansard roof shingled

Right mansard roof is now shingled. I introduced two rows of fishscale shingles for some period interest, and again used the cardboard shingles on the corners. On the back I shingled up to the level of the fascia board, then stopped to give the illusion that the fascia board continues around the back of the roof. I've bowed to family pressure and moved the house onto the small picnic table so that the family can have the dining table back. The red colour is only a base colour, I will be adding further washes over the red.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Top roof shingling done, and main roof fascia

As my family are getting increasingly fed up with having the dining table tied up with my Willowcrest building project, I have been pressing on with the shingling. The top roof is now done (apart from final painting). As you can see in the 'before' picture, I used the Greenleaf wooden shingles for the main panels, but finished the ridges with cardboard shingles from Bromley Craft Products which bend easily and look realistic when painted. I used pre-painted shingles in places that were touching up against other finished paint work, then gave the whole roof a base coat of Anita's Rust Red when finished. Once the mansard roof is also shingled I will be darkening and toning down this red colour.

In preparation for shingling the mansard roof, I have also glued on the main roof fascia board. This went on fine, I only had to adjust the shaped end to fit around my clapboard a bit better, and I am doing a bit of filling on the exposed ends.

Next step will be mansard roof shingling, and after that perhaps I can return the dining table to the family and use the picnic table instead.

Saturday, 9 February 2008


Now that the clapboard is finally out of the way, I have turned my attention to shingling the roof. I am using the thin shingles that come with the kit. The instructions advise you to draw lines on the roof at a set distance, and they warn that when the roof encounters another roof line, the angle will be different. The instructions say to continue the previously drawn lines across the new roof angle, although the gap between them will now be different.

Well, I decided to start with the top roof (where the chimney is), thinking that it will be easier because it is at a shallow angle and fairly simple in shape. I shingled up one narrow end, and then started across the back. I was dismayed to find that the rows of shingles on the back side were not matching up at all with the shingles on the side roof, even though I was butting up to the lines I had drawn. I had to remove the shingles from the back roof, which destroyed them so hopefully there are extras in the kit. I know it is something to do with the differing angles but I can't get my head around the problem. So I am drawing new lines that match up to the first shingled side, one row at a time, and checking each time to ensure that it looks ok visually. It is a bit of trial and error but I am slowly getting there. The tip in the instructions to put masking tape on a row of shingles works really well, and I am finding that I can easily trim them with scissors. The pic shows some masking tape on a pre-painted sheet of shingles, before I cut them into strips.

I've also painted my foundation, and finished painting the porch, and installed my cellar windows. I decided that I don't like the acetate windows that came with the kit, mine are really scratched because they were just kicking around with all the shingles and clapboard inside the box when I opened it. And they look really shiny and unrealistic. I've got some heavy vinyl so I cut some of that to replace the cellar windows. Not sure what I am going to do for the main windows.

Friday, 1 February 2008

I finally finished the clapboard!

I glued the last two small pieces of clapboard on this morning, and it is finally FINISHED!!! I can't believe how long it has taken, this was a supremely fiddly job and I am now sympathetic with the builders who just stucco the whole outside of these houses. It looks really good though, and I am very pleased with how the house is looking so far. I need to go back and touch up the paint job here and there but overall it is getting close to being finished.

I was fairly miserly with my use of the Greenleaf individual clapboards that came with the kit, re-using shorter pieces whenever possible. After clapboarding all four sides, I have leftover 14 whole sticks, and a handful of shorter bits, so there is enough if you re-use everything that you can. I kept a Tupperware for all the really short pieces, which you sometimes need to fit into odd cracks around the window mouldings etc. I think I used up about 3.5 travel-toothpaste-size tubes of solvent-based glue to do all four sides (like QuickGrab, UHU, Bostik etc.).

I appealed on the Greenleaf community board for tips on how to shape the clapboard around intricate window mouldings. On my own, I had come up with pressing a stick of BlueTack (an office product, like a sticky clay for sticking paper to walls) around the moulding to take an impression, then tracing around that onto a board. A very clever suggestion from the group was to run a compass point along the moulding edge, while the pencil end simultaneously traces the shape onto the board that you hold up in the correct position. My cutting shears were invaluable for quickly snipping straight cuts into the boards, and I used an X-Acto knife for curved cuts. My Dremel tool with a medium sanding drum was also useful for shaving off small amounts for final fitting, particularly from curved cuts. I pre-painted all the boards, and before applying each board, I touched up any raw wood showing from being trimmed. I also painted a narrow band of the clapboard colour around all mouldings so that if there were any gaps at the ends of boards showing through to underneath, it was less obvious.

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Mochas Mom - question re hinging

Mochas Mom, your profile is set to 'no reply/no access' so I couldn't email you re your comment. Here is my answer to your query re hinging doors:

Thank you! I love this house, it is such an attractive design. Because I have converted the house to be a shop (store), I actually only have two hinged doors. There is the main front door, which is a commercially purchased set of French doors with the grille removed, so it comes already hinged. The other is the bathroom door. Because the kit door is so thick, and got even thicker when I applied coffee stirrers to give a panelled effect, I hinged the bathroom door with the pin method. I drilled a small hole at the top and bottom, near the corner, and glued in a sewing pin, then cut the sewing pin down to about 1/4 inch. You need to round off the hinge edge of the door for this to work, so it will open smoothly. Then I drilled a corresponding hole in the floor for the bottom pin to fit into, and a slot into the top of the door frame (hidden by the door moulding) for the top pin to fit into. To mount the door, I just pushed the bottom pin into the floor hole, then stood the door up so the top pin went into the slot. Then I glued on the door moulding to hide the slot. The door pivots on the pins. If you didn't round off the hinge side of the door, then the corners of the door would bind and it wouldn't pivot properly. They do make small brass hinges but I felt it would be too difficult to try to attach them.

Friday, 18 January 2008

Porch framed in

I've finished framing in the porch, although I am going to leave the glazing until later. I filled in between the door and the pillars with some scrap ply leftover from the kit, and applied a baseboard of the same. I applied thin strip along the upper edge on both sides, then finished off the top surface with a coffee stirrer to bring it pretty much level with the top of the pedestals. At the back edge I ran a strip up from the lower panel to the bracket going into the house, to mark the outside of the shop window. Since taking this photo, I have applied clapboard on both sides and now the display window looks pretty much like it was meant to be there. For the glazing I am planning to make framed panels that will stand on the 'shelf' of the lower ply insert and butt up against the sides of the pillars.

Monday, 14 January 2008

Second side done, moving on to the front now

I've finished applying clapboard to the left side now. I found fitting the boards around the top window moulding was very fiddly, I had a lot of trouble with breakages as the boards splinter apart very easily when you try to make complicated cuts. But it's come out fairly well, I'm pleased with it.

I've now moved onto the front, where I need to finish my conversion job to turn this house into a shop. I am going to glass in the porch as a display window. The first step was to customise the french doors and glue them in. Next I will be fitting panels either side of it which will support the 'glass'. The graphics on the door are things like credit card logos and opening hours that I found on the internet.

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Living Room Bay Window

After finishing the first side, I moved on to the back of the house. This was straightforward to apply clapboard to, apart from the question of whether to paint the exposed edge in the clapboard colour, or to leave it as the interior colour. I decided to paint the edge in the clapboard colour, so that you have the suggestion of the wall being cut away to reveal the house interior.

Then I moved on to the right side, which includes the living room bay window. I ran into trouble deciding how to treat the edges of the bay window, and ended up trying three different options before arriving at a fourth option which was my chosen solution.

1) I had already painted the bay window in my clapboard colour (green) before applying the blue window trim. My original plan was to apply clapboard only up to the window sill level, and leave the rest of the bay bare green. However, I found that once I started clapboarding up the side of the house, that when I looked from the front of the house, the bay side wall looked really naked and wrong. So I ripped off the side boards I had applied, back to the level of the windowsill. I am now using a British solvent glue called UHU, similar to QuickGrip but perhaps not as strong and more prone to strings, but I was able to rip the boards off.

2) I mocked up a narrow vertical strip of clapboard siding on some masking tape, and stuck it on the front bay side wall (the one you see from the front). This immediately looked a lot better from the front of the house, because it gave the continuity of the clapboard ridges. But it looked terrible from the side of the house because you saw all the rough raw edges of the clapboard ridges and the gaps between them as they rested on top of each other. And although I have seen pictures of other Willowcrests where keen builders have applied clapboard all around the tiny gaps between the window frames, I didn't want to try to do that with all the complex angles involved. Because of the big gap I had previously had to fill, between the bay front side wall and the next angled panel, my corner wasn't even sharp, it was more sort of rounded from filler and not even entirely straight vertically, so I didn't fancy my chances of trying to mitre clapboard around the corner.

3) I tried simulating the clapboard ridges by cutting appropriately spaced grooves into one clapboard, and sticking it on vertically on the bay side wall. I flooded the grooves with a little diluted black paint to give them the appropriate shadowing. This didn't look too bad from the front of the house, but didn't look very realistic from the side, so I took that off as well.

4) My final solution has been to stick an additional post down the side of the front bay wall, painted green to match the clapboard, and then applied clapboard in the remaining space between the post and the side wall. This means that from the front of the house, the eye sees the expected clapboard, but from the side of the house, the post gives a neat finish and you don't see the rough side edges of the clapboard. Painted green, the post is unobtrusive and the end result is acceptable. I still need to do a bit of paint touch up, but you can get the idea from the photos.

Happy new year to everyone following my build, and I hope that you have a productive 2008.