Monday, May 25, 2009

Mother and daughter

Jesse at Beyond Baffled asked where I found the mother and daughter in the Big Yellow House.

The mother and daughter are Heidi Ott dolls. They are lovely - fully jointed, made of resin, so you don't have to worry about breaking them, and you can chose the wig so you can have any hairstyle. They sell them at the Little Dollhouse company here in Toronto. But I bought them on ebay from Lesley's Miniature Knitting in Beacon Hill, New South Wales, Australia ( Since I won them in an auction the price, even with shipping, was less than buying them at the store.
I haven't had time to make clothes for them, so mother and daughter are wearing clothes by Mattel. Father is naked and has to stay up in the bedroom for now.

I love them. I think they are gorgeous. I am going to buy another family or two once I get some more houses finished.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Moving Day

A new house has appeared in the neighbourhood. The mother in the Big Yellow House watches curiously.  The giant Hand is over there helping the new family move in. Mother hasn't seen the Hand for a while. She wasn't worried, though. She knew it wouldn't dessert them.

The new house is white with green shutters. Mother can see fresh, clean wallpaper and beautiful floors in each room. "How lovely," she thinks. "I wonder if the Hand will fix up our house like that." She tries to interest Grandmother in the new neighbours, but Grandmother is too busy in the kitchen. "I can't look now," she says. I have to cut up these tomatoes and get the bean pot off the heat."

Mother calls up the stairs for father to come and see, but he has no clothes and can't leave the bedroom. She tells him to watch out the bedroom window, although he won't see much from there. Mother and the little girl go to the window nearest the new house to see what happens.

First, the Hand brings a maid to the house. The maid is wearing a black uniform with a white apron and cap. She  puts her hand to her mouth as if she's amazed at what she sees. Next comes a cook. She is carrying a broom and she and the maid give the house a once over so the furniture can be moved in.

The Hand starts bringing furniture to the top floor of the house. In the bathroom the tub, toilet and sink are decorated with little pink flowers. "How pretty!" says the little girl. Do you think the Hand will bring us a bathroom?"

"We'll just have to wait and see." answers Mother. "The Hand will do whatever is best for us." But Mother secretly wishes for a bathroom too. The yellow house is big it but has only four rooms and a hallway. There is no place to put a bathroom.

Next comes the nursery furniture. "There's a little bed!" cries the little girl. "Maybe they have a daughter my age."

"That would be nice." says Mother. "And there's a bassinet. How pretty it is. Maybe that mother and I can take our babies for walks together. That is, if the Hand brings me a pram." Mother has been secretly wishing for a nice woman to make friends with. Grandmother isn't much company. All she wants to do is cook and clean the kitchen. And father can't come out of his room so she doesn't see much of him. She wishes the Hand would bring him some clothes.
"I wonder if the other room is also a child's room," says the little girl. "It would be nice to have new friends."  But no, the Hand is placing a sewing machine and a dress form in that room. The maid is busy helping the Hand arrange things.

"it looks like it may be a storeroom as well as a work room." says Mother. "They are moving in a large trunk and an old dresser. I wonder who sews over there." Mother doesn't say it, but she is thinking that if the new neighbors are friendly, she might ask about having some clothes made for father. Maybe she could give them something from her own house in exchange.

The Hand lifts the maid down to the middle floor of the house. Mother realizes the new house had no stairs. "So that's where they found the space for a bathroom." She thinks. And it was true. Green Shutters, as Mother has come to think of the new house, has less actual floor space than the Big Yellow House, but it has more rooms.

The Hand brings Cook to join the maid in the bedroom, and starts to bring in the furniture. A dresser is set in the middle of the room while the maid puts a statue of Queen Victoria on the fireplace. The bed, Night table and side chair are moved into place after the dresser is put against the wall. The maid shakes out a beautiful hand crocheted coverlet and arranges it on the bed.

Cook and Maid move over to the living room to arrange the furniture the Hand is delivering. The cook lays the fire and the maid arranges ornaments on the hanging shelf.

(Oops, it looks like the elusive Hand actually got in a picture - a rare occurrence.)

"My, but they have lovely things." says Mother as the maid moves an elegant settee into place.

Mother notices that the fireplace still needs painting. She wonders why the Hand hasn't done it already. It seems silly to move in all that lovely furniture when they would just have to move it all again to do the fireplace. Maybe the family is impatient to move in. She knows she would be.
Mother notices that the furniture, while lovely and new, seems to be from a different era. She also notices that the maid and the cook have floor length skirts. "I wonder what decade this family is from.' She muses. The bust of Queen Victoria makes her think that they might be Victorian.
Now the maid is arranging a tea tray on an unusual table with brass elephants at its corners. "The family must be coming soon". thinks Mother, "if the maid has put out the tea."

There is only one floor left to furnish. The maid and cook, with the Hand's help, move down to the dining room. The cook sweeps while the maid puts a delicate statue on the top of the corner cupboard.

Once all the furniture is in the cook hurries off to arrange the kitchen and the maid sets everything in place in the dining room.

"Have they put in the kitchen yet?" asks Grandmother, as she joins them at the window. 
"You are just in time," says Mother. "They are doing the kitchen now." Grandmother watches with interest before she turns away with a sniff.

"it's not nearly as modern as mine." Grandmother says. "I don't envy that cook." And she rushes back to her kitchen.

"I can't wait to see the family." says the little girl. "What do you think they'll be like?"

"All in good time." says Mother, though she was just as anxious as her daughter." Let's go down stairs and bake them some cookies. You can watch out the kitchen window in case something else happens."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The nursery

I have learned a few things about designing mini-wallpaper. One of them is that the paper may look great in human scale, but it doesn't translate to dollhouse scale.

The nursery is a good example. While looking for vintage wallpapers I came across the name, Charles Francis Annesley Voysey. I knew this name because I had read about him when I researched Stockbroker Tudor houses. (see my Stockbroker Tudor blog:

The nursery wallpaper is 'Alice in Wonderland' by CFA Voysey. The busy design looks great in full size, but is almost overwhelming when shrunk to miniature. Next time I will do a little customizing on the print. This time though, I left the busy print as is for the top part of the wall. In PhotoShop I cut out flowers from the design and distributed them across a background of the main colour to make the bottom of the room. Then I went back in and cut out the characters from the design, and made a ceiling border. I botched the border when gluing and later got paint on it. I will replace it with a properly sized one when I regain that fabled energy. Really, I just wanted to get this house finished and move on.

It's not really finished though because I want to put up some ceiling medallions and (non-working) light fixtures. I still have a fireplace to paint and install in the living room too. All that can wait for another day. I am going to take pictures of the rooms with the furniture in and post those over the next few days. Back soon.

Wallpapering is hard!

I have finally finished my first foray into wallpapering a dollhouse with my own designs. Wallpapering a dollhouse is not easy. Why didn't someone tell me?

I discovered that my hands are more like paws when it comes to small details and that wet paper stretches to a madly frustrating degree. This being so, I decided to live with a couple of wrinkles that didn't disappear when the glue was dry. Furniture can hide a lot of flaws, right?

I bought this dollhouse at an auction several years ago, long before the mini-mania that infects me now had struck. As I mentioned before, I had always wanted a dollhouse, so I bought this one. But then I put it up in my bedroom and filled it with odds and ends (not miniatures) and never really looked at it again. (I have the missing shutter - I just have to find it. It's among the odds and ends in the bedroom.)

The house's previous owner had wallpapered it, but very badly. The only paper that was even close to the right scale was put on sideways with its stripe running horizontally across the room. A few weeks ago I battled this house down the stairs and into the living room (which has unfortunately become my work room). I stripped the walls, full of optimism, excitement and creative ideas.

I had grown  bored with commercial wallpapers and decided to create my own (cheaper too). Some of them I am very pleased with, some didn't really work, but I think that, overall, the project was a success.

Here is the dining room. I have shown you this before. but this is a better picture

I researched Victorian wallpapers and then made the background paper, ceiling paper, and borders and the parquet floor in PhotoShop. They are copies of wallpapers from around 1890. I was delighted to learn that the Victorians loved to paper their ceilings too. Good idea, especially as I didn't bother to prime the inside of the house (I know, I know, I am too impatient.) The door is just a flat colour printout, but looks pretty good, don't you think?

I fell in love with this Arts and Craft Hollyhock paper complete with border and ceiling medallions. I put it in the bedroom with a commercial hardwood floor. I still have to fix the ceiling - it doesn't reach the edges. I am waiting for renewed energy.

Since I had the Chrysnbon treadle sewing machine and dress form kit I thought the house needed a sewing room. I made the third floor into three small rooms instead of two as it was originally. I really like the green striped wallpaper, and I was quite pleased when I came across the twisted rope wood trim at Michael's. I painted it gold to go with the ceiling border. 

I used a couple of leftover pieces of wood flooring in this room and they don't quite match, but I plan to put down a throw rug.

The bathroom may not be authentically Victorian, but I like the clean contrast of black and white. I papered the ceiling with a print-out of turn-of-the-century tiles. I am not sure whether I like it or not, but I will live with it for now.

I struggled with the living room design. I had picked out a lovely 1908 wallpaper with a deep dado and flowered border - very William Morris. It looked so good on the computer. Several times I placed it into the room to see how it was going to look, but it just wasn't giving me the effect I was looking for. I even went so far as to glue the paper in. I got out the squirt bottle and scraper and took it all out again. At one point I thought I would never be finished with this house because I just couldn't find a paper I liked. Finally I gave up and started looking for a new project. I had picked up a sheet of plastic marble at the Little Dollhouse store, but had no plans for it yet. I was trying to figure out what to make out of it when I suddenly saw that it would make an elegant wainscoting for the living room. I had made the wallpaper previously, but had no firm plan for that either. They look great together I think. I probably should have changed the floor too, but it was all ready to go, so I used it. I think a lighter parquet might suit better, though.

My next blog will cover the nursery. Then I will show you how it looks furnished. I still need to take the pictures. Back soon.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mini things

Deb's newest Tiny Treasure is adorable. Check it out here:

Sorry to horn in on baby Beau's introduction, Deb, but your blog made me think of my favourite picture of me and my Dad, so I thought I would share. 

I am about three years old here. The colt is just a few hours. I remember this day clearly. I was never allowed to go into the barnyard in case I got hurt, which I thought was unfair because my older brothers got to go out there all the time and be with the animals. Of course, now I realize they were doing chores, so I was lucky to be in the house, playing my dolls. 

My dad came up to the house and took me out to the forbidden barnyard. This shetland pony had just been born and was so tiny they wanted to get a picture. I guess they used me for scale.

I remember chasing it around the small sunny yard on the north side of the barn. I remember the feel of its rough hair on my hands and its energy while I held it. It looked large to me, but if you compare the colt and me to my Dad who was 6'3", it is very small.

You will notice I am wearing a dress in the barnyard. Although my mother loved my brothers dearly, she enjoyed having a girl, and insisted on dressing me in pretty clothes. She often told me that she would put me in a lovely little dress and send me outside to play. Within minutes she'd find me sitting in a mud puddle splashing happily. I can't imagine her laundry pile. And in those days everything had to be ironed. 

She persevered though, despite being a busy farm wife. In early pictures of me I am usually in Dionne quintuplet curls and a fancy nylon dress. My poor mother - my hair was straight as a board. She became an expert at rag ringlets.

Good memories, but now I want a baby pony.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The house that started it all

Last November I had a few minutes to kill before my hair appointment, so I popped into Value Village. I like to check out the thrift shops because I am a dollaholic. Miniatures are a new hobby of mine but I have collected dolls since childhood. I especially love the vintage ones I can't afford - the first Barbies, Madame Alexanders, antique bisques. I love fashion dolls, especially if they come with wardrobes and accessories. We can blame my grandmother and mother for this. I was the only girl in the family and they kept me well supplied with any dolls they could find. They didn't have a lot of money so I received rummage sale dolls, dime store dolls, and, always, a new doll from Santa each year.

Anyway to get back to VV last November - at the back of the store I spotted this little handmade dollhouse for $6.99.

I looked at it with curiosity. I didn't need a dollhouse. I had too much stuff in my house as it was. There was no room for this. But I looked at it again and I saw the hand painted bricks and shingles, the red shutters with  a different design on each window, and the little pond on the patio.

I looked inside and saw the built-in fire place, the kitchen wallpaper and the tiny one-inch tiles in the bathroom. The little girl in me cried out for this house that had been made with so much love and such imperfect detail.

Did I dare buy it and take it to my hair appointment? I was taking the bus home after, could I schlep it home from the bus stop? I did. And, I did.

I arrived at my hairdresser and said "Look, I bought a house!" She shook her head and laughed uncertainly. She thinks I am pretty funny most days, but I could tell she was trying figure out if this was a joke of some sort. If it was the joke was on me because in that short six months since November, I have collected about a dozen doll houses. My living room is full, but I am having a ball.

This little house had only four pieces of cheap plastic furniture in it when I found it. I don't know about you, but I torture myself by thinking of the lovely vintage things that got lost between the donor's house and the sales floor. Maybe it left the donor fully furnished, maybe it didn't, but all I got was two cheap toilets, a little sink and a kitchen sink with a pump apparatus attached to it.
You can see that the carpet for the living room is missing. There is a tiny piece of it at the bottom of the stairs.

I love the gold wallpaper in the living room and the askew picture of Bambi over the fireplace. It is glued firmly, it can't be straightened. Some child must have loved this house.

I furnished it with my sparse collection of Marx, Renewal and Reliable (a Canadian toy and doll company) furniture. I think it looks rather elegant now.

The lawn mower and wheelbarrow are Dinky toys, but the scale is perfect, and I think they add something to the garden.

The dog I got at the same estate sale where I found the dining room furniture. He has lost some of his paint, but he makes a good dollhouse dog just the same.

The TV fits in perfectly but needs some parental restraints. If you look into the little eye piece on the back of it you will see a buxom bare-breasted beauty. Push the button on the bottom and you see another one. There are four in all. I have a feeling that this little entertainment system would not have been put into a child's dollhouse back in the 60s.

Does anyone else love this little hand built charmer as much as I do? For me, it was love at first sight.

As with some of my other treasures, I can't imagine how anyone could give this up.