My oak sewing box

I was going to do a blog post this week about all my favourites doll’s house and miniatures websites, so that you can use it as a ‘basic resource’ when making and collecting for your own doll’s houses, but I have realised that that’s quite a mammoth task (as I have dozens of ‘favourite websites’), so rather than rush to get that one ready (I want it to be good!!), I’m going to give you a ‘stitchy blog post’ this week:

People have asked me what kind of tools and equipment I use day-to-day when I am doing my embroidery, so this week I’m going to talk about one of my favourite things. Whenever I start a new project, I collect together the threads and so on that I’m going to use, and put them in my project box. This is what it looks like:

Box 1

This is a box lid design by Sheila Marshall that I stitched about ten years ago, with goldwork highlights and some beads. I love it!

Most of the embroidery is long and short stitch, with some needlelace filling stitches for textural interest. Many of the shapes are outlined in various thicknesses of gold thread, couched in place with silk thread. Tiny gold seed beads are scattered over the background to fill the spaces.

Box 2

When I saw the design in the book ‘Elizabethan Needlework Accessories’ by Sheila Marshall, I really wanted to make it, but the box she had used for the version in her book had been specially made for her. So, I asked my husband to make me a similar sized box with an aperture lid for my birthday, to put the stitching into.

The box is beautifully made out of oak. It measures 10 inches by 6 by 3 high.

Box 3

I specifically asked him not to make the interior into lots of little compartments, as I find that although they look useful, nothing ever really fits properly. I’d rather have just one compartment.

Box 4

This is the book that the design is from. It was published in New Zealand in 1998. For several years it was out of print, but you can now get it on Amazon again here for around £13.  There are several other books in the series by the same publisher (Dick Georgeson), and they’re all very good. I’ve made several things from all the books, and they’re gorgeous. The stumpwork petal bag on the cover of the book is something I loved making a few years back.

Box 5

One small change that I made to the design was that I added a little bee from a companion piece in the book (to make a pinwheel), which was just too cute to leave out.

Here’s a picture of my box, alongside the picture from the book of Sheila’s one. Similar, aren’t they?!

Box 6

It’s one of my favourite things that I have ever made  🙂

How to assemble a 1:12 Sid Cooke doll’s house shop

This is the Sid Cooke twelfth scale doll’s house shop that I am making (this image is from their website):

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I got this for Christmas a while back – I had been thinking of getting a second doll’s house, and a miniature shop appealed to me, especially as I fancied having one where I could indulge my love of little toys. It’s called ‘Number 1, High Street’, and measures 18 inches wide.

But I got the kit rather than the assembled version – partly because I could customise it as I went. This is how it looked, straight out of the box:

toy-2

Oo-er!! Bit of a shock, to be honest, as I had never assembled a kit house before, and I was surprised by how many bits there were!

Still, with a bit of help (OK, a LOT of help!) from my husband, who is not DIY-challenged like I am, we got the basic shell assembled. The kit comes as two parts – you could buy just the downstairs shop part, as a stand-alone room box, or the upstairs part as well, to make a more realistic-looking building, which is what I chose. This is the simpler-to-assemble upstairs part, with the parts set out on my desk:

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The two halves are glued together at the appropriate time. This is the upstairs part taped together to see how it would look:

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It has a chimney that is glued on last. The windows are plastic, and can be painted. They fit really well, and, although non-opening, look really good.

First, though, I thought it would be a good idea to have a dry-run of the whole thing. The front bay windows were quite tricky to hold together with masking tape to try this out, but it was worth doing, to see the whole thing as one piece. All the parts fitted together very well, with no bits left over, so that was a relief  🙂

toy-4

This was the point where I started to get excited, because it was beginning to actually look like a miniature shop! There were still trims to be added to the frontage, but I’d tried out enough of the assembly to feel confident enough to ‘go for it’.

Introduction to my three doll’s houses

I have owned a Georgian-style twelfth scale doll’s house since 1982, and recently, as that house was *almost* finished (they’re never completely finished!) I became interested in getting another miniature building of some kind.

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But which kind to get?! I eventually settled on a Sid Cooke 1:12 shop kit (called ‘No. 1 High Street’), which will become an Edwardian toy shop. But I also became tempted to get a third miniature building soon after, when I came across the wonderful mini food created by Paris Miniatures, and I then decided to create a French-style two storey doll’s house shop, with a cafe upstairs (to display all the yummy cakes in), and a flower shop downstairs, as I have always adored miniature plants and flowers.

So, I now have two miniature shop buildings to complete at once, and I’ve decided to expand what I write about on this blog, and to start sharing with you the process of building, decorating and collecting for both of them.

I’ve always loved doll’s house nurseries, so the idea of making a toy shop in 1:12 scale has always appealed to me. It would give me so many opportunities for collecting all those little toys, especially dolls!

When I decided to make a mini toy shop, I thought it would be easy to choose a building. But once I started looking, I got picky. I needed a building with a Victorian/Edwardian look to it, with no stairs (as that would take up valuable display space) without too many upstairs rooms (as I didn’t want to be doing ‘living accommodation’, just shop rooms).

This is the image from the Sid Cooke website, when I first decided to get the kit:

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I chose this one, as I liked the off-set bay windows that it has, and the balanced look to the first floor facade. The kit was half the cost of the assembled version, so I sent off for that. It was a bit of a shock when I opened the box on Christmas Day (Santa agreed to get it for me!) to find a couple of dozen bits of MDF and plywood, and quite a brief booklet on how to put it all together.

toy-1

I’d never put a kit together before, and to be honest, when I looked at all those pieces, I thought, ‘What have I done?!’

But I spent two days putting the basic carcase together (with the help of my husband, who knows how to bang a nail in straight!), and it didn’t seem quite so daunting once it started to look like a building. Building it from scratch, of course, means that I can customise bits as I go, and it makes painting the trims far easier.

Since I got the kit (three years ago – there’s a reason for the delay in assembling it, which I’ll explain in a later post!), the Sid Cooke business has been sold on to Maple Street online doll’s house shop. They tell me that they are working to get all the Sid Cooke range of houses back on sale, but as of this post (February 2017), only the bestsellers are available, which doesn’t include this particular shop kit, but they hope to have it available again by the end of 2017.

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The French shop that I want to make will be in a mini building which I bought, again as a kit, from Dolls House Direct. The doll’s house is called ‘Malbury’. To me, it’s got a vaguely French look to it. I had looked for ages to find something with a French look, and there was nothing really strongly French, but I think that by painting it in cream and blue shades, I can make it look suitably French! This is the image from their website:

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It’s got two good-sized rooms (quite a bit deeper than the Sid Cooke house), with an interesting ‘fake door corner’ in each room, giving the impression of further rooms beyond, but no actual staircase to take up valuable space.

Although the Malbury house normally comes with upstairs windows in both left and right hand side walls, I had a custom one made, with only a window on the right wall, so that I can put a large cabinet full of cakes along the left hand one. For once, I am planning ahead…..

So, I’ve got two houses on the go now, as well as my embroidery projects, which are a constant in my life. Stops me being bored, anyway!

 

 

 

 

…and the results are in…..

Thanks so much to everyone who commented on my previous post, where I talked about the possibility of either expanding this blog from being only about embroidery to including posts about my three doll’s houses as well, or whether to start a second blog to write about them. That post became my ‘personal best so far’ as to comments – over four dozen of you commented, and it was really interesting to read all of your opinions.

It became quite clear, from reading them all, that the vast majority of those who commented would like me to combine the two themes – embroidery and the miniatures hobby – into this blog, rather than start a new blog for the minis. To be honest, I had set up a second blog, and written a couple of posts already (just not publicised it), but it wasn’t working for me, somehow.

This blog has been going since 2009, and I have a very large, regular readership now. I was a bit torn as to what to do, as I know that some of you are purely ‘stitchers’, and many of you do both hobbies. But as several of you said, to have two blogs would not only be more fiddly for you all to keep up with, but it would also be more work for me to maintain.

A couple of people also said that they like the idea that whatever I write about would be showing what I *as a person* am interested in at any one time, and I think that is what has been the most persuasive factor in my deciding to stick with the one blog.

This is the first mini-quilt that I made - it measures about 20 inches by 16

This is the first mini-quilt that I made – it measures about 20 inches by 16

For instance, in the past I have written a few times about patchwork and quilting, as I ‘dabbled’ a couple of years ago with that hobby (I still have three mini quilts kitted up, ready to make). And a couple of times I’ve talked about things that are completely ‘non-craftlike’, depending what occurs to me. So, to blend the blog’s usual topic of embroidery with other topics isn’t completely new, but I am definitely planning to do some different things in the coming months.

My Georgian style doll's house

My Georgian style doll’s house

I own three doll’s houses now – one was bought fully built and painted on the outside – I’ve had that one for 34 years, now! The other two have been bought in the past couple of years as flat-pack kits, so I intend to share my decorating and collecting stories with you. I have many doll’s house scale kits of various types (miniature flowers, furniture kits, dolls, etc.), which I will be doing kit reviews of, too.

But the blog posts to do with embroidery will still continue – my stash isn’t getting any smaller, despite me always making stuff – while I make one thing, I seem to buy two more projects, so there’s always lots of gorgeous things to create and then write about!

I’m aware that a few of you said that if the focus of the blog changed from being almost exclusively embroidery-based to being less focussed on stitching, then you might not follow it any more, but although that is your choice, I think that would be a shame, although I know I can’t please everyone all the time. But I’ve always found that the hobby of miniatures can appeal to lots of people, even if they don’t make things themselves – the attraction of the tiny just draws people in! So hopefully most of you will stay, and see what I write about….

A tiny doll's doll that I made from a kit from Tower House Dolls, which is only an inch and three-quarters tall

A tiny doll’s doll that I made from a kit from Tower House Dolls, which is only an inch and three-quarters tall

Thanks again for all the feedback, it really did help to clarify things for me.