Tuesday, June 15, 2021

I have been away for so long, trying to fix my back injury after my accident in January.  It has been almost 6 months, a very slow, frustrating process.  Unfortunately most of the time I can't work on my miniatures, but a little while ago, between surgeries, I managed to do a couple of things.  

As I was stuck in bed for quite a while, everything I could do had to fit on a small tray.  So the work on the music room and the kitchen has had to be postponed.

I started with a flower kit by Pascale Garnier.  They seem to be as rare as hen's teeth, but with many wonderful reviews, so I was very happy to find this kit second-hand on Ebay.  The detail is wonderful, and the paper is thinner than in most kits.

I have been making paper flowers for a while, but this kit taught me a few interesting things to make the flowers more realistic. 

 One, use really fine guage wire, or green thread stiffened with glue.  Two, dry artist's pastels applied with a brush give a very realistic colour.  And three, use very fine paper.  I have airmail paper, and some light tracing paper, and they seem to be about the same thickness as Pascale's paper.

The Pierre de Ronsard roses that I made really do look lovely, (certainly not like my RL Pierre de Ronsard, which is suffering from my lack of gardening this spring)  and I highly recommend Pascale's kits, if you can find them, that is!

After I made the roses, I made a small bunch of Jonquils (of course!  Sorry!)  I used tracing paper, and they really have the texture of Paperwhites.  I will make some more when I can.

Finally some irises.  The same way I always make them, but again using tracing paper, which is so much more realistic.

The tablecloth was made using normal white sewing thread and a piece of old cotton bedsheet.  Staying in bed made me so bored, I had to turn anything into a miniature! 

 I was so far from my usual sewing supplies that I used what I had with me in the hospital.  I tried whitework with pulled threads and some needlelace inserts.  It certainly helped me out of my medical misery doing such fine work!

It is so difficult to photograph this, but I think you get the idea.  When I got home (finally), I added an edging of vintage French lace.  I cannot crochet for the life of me (even though my mother has tried to teach me for years), which is a shame, as I would love to do an Edwardian crochet hem.

And then, of course, the matching napkins.  You can't see it, but each one has the initals of my family.  They look lovely in the sterling silver napkin rings, and I wish I had more than four.

I hope you enjoy these late Spring flowers, and that they bring you as much pleasure as I had making them.

Fingers crossed that my recovery keeps going well, and I shall try to post as much as I can,



Saturday, February 20, 2021

When life gives you lemons, make miniatures

In January I had the unfortunate luck of being knocked over by a car on a zebra crossing.  

This resulted in an extended stay in bed and off work, but without much mobility.  I decided to tackle the library armchair petit point, as it was a project I could do without too much movement or equipment.  

This was the chair we last saw two posts ago, when I was very rude about picot braid (I apologise to anyone who uses it), and decided to do some reupholstering.  I decided on petit point as it is quite a relaxing way of sewing.  

I hate following charts:  I invariably get lost, or make a mistake, or get a bit bored.  I think I am too much of a free-style embroiderer.  So  I'm going to show you my method of petit point pattern designing.  Actually, this is just the original method, before  Berlin woolwork introduced paper charts in the 19th century.

First, I made a template of all the pieces I needed.  Then I drew the floral designs.  I chose a twining design of vines, leaves and flowers.  I used colouring pencils to give a little colour.  

I then traced the design directly onto the silk gauze with a B pencil.  I am using 40 count silk gauze as it is small enough to be in scale, but not so small that I need a magnifier.  Good light is alway necessary though.

I (luckily) have an enormous stash of embroidery threads, as I do a lot of larger scale embroidery (especially stumpwork).  Some of the threads are vintage, which gives them a lovely sheen, but it is important to make sure that the background threads come from the same dye lot, so I tend to order the background threads for each project I do.  Here I have a mixture of DMC and Anchor cotton thread and silk Waterlillies in variegated green.

I start by embroidering the stems in tent stitch (half a cross stitch), and then do the leaves and flowers.  I always leave the background until last, and generally try to find a good TV series to watch at the same time.  This chair was done to an Elizabeth Gaskell box set of 'North and South', 'Wives and Daughters' and 'Cranford'.  Highly recommended to pass the time!

Just checking the colours 'in situ' to make sure they work in the library

Some of the threads were left-overs from the rug project, which means that although the designs are very different, the colours in the chair don't clash with the rug.  I wanted to keep the cosy feeling of the library.

The seat covers and stool took quite a long time to finish, but they kept me well occupied.  I still have to complete the back of the chair.

I think the worst part of the process is the actual upholstering.  After all that work, it is a risky process cutting the fabric and using glue!  I trim the gauze with a generous hem, and use superglue around the edge to stop it from fraying. 

 I then fold the raw edges over a fine card template (usually a cereal packet), and sew the opposite edges together in a zig zag, making sure the fabric is pulled tight.

I should have taken a photo of this part of the process, but I was concentrating too hard!

When the pieces were covered, I glued them to the chair.  The order of gluing is quite important:  sides first, then back, then seat.  This way the risk of glue smears is lower, and the pieces slot together nicely.

Small clamps are an absolute necessity to make sure the edges are firmly glued.  I use my clamps for all sorts of things, so I made sure that they were clean before I used them on the embroidery.

Ta da!  One cosy armchair to sink into with a good book, and a footstool to put your feet up.

Of course, I couldn't resist finishing the stool and chair with some tassels.

For the braid I used the background colour embroidery thread twisted into cord.   I won't apologise, I think it looks better than picot ;)  !



Sunday, February 14, 2021

Le Saint Valentin


I received a beautiful bouquet of pink striped tulips today, and put them in my 19th century Delft tulipière.  I thought I'd share them with you to wish everybody a Happy Valentine's Day

A few years ago I asked  Rachel Williamsto make a miniature version of my tulipière, which she did beautifully.  I filled it with striped tulips made from cold porcelain.  I love the fact that I have a full size vase and a miniature version. 

When the vase is empty, it has such a strange shape, but when it is filled with tulips it looks lovely.  Almost a magical transition.

Rachel has listed the tulipière on her website for ordering, in case you would like to own a miniature version.  The real life version is antique, a lucky find as the shop owner did not know what it was, and wanted to get rid of it!

I made a petit point cushion of a striped tulip, and above the table hangs a heart shaped Venetian mirror from Arjen Spinhoven.  

The tulip is often associated with the Netherlands, but it originates in Persia, where the bloom was considered a symbol of love. 

Wishing you lots of miniature love,


Saturday, January 23, 2021

Library Progress

There have been a few developments in the library that I thought I'd share with you.  The first is the long, long awaited rug, which I have named the lockdown rug:  I started at the beginning of January 2020, and finished it just before Christmas.  

I started following a pattern for the medallion in the middle, and then got really bored following a chart, and started to make up my own design.  

I think the green and brown shades pull the room together.

This lovely little chair and footstool was an ebay find.  The chair has a bergère shape and is very well made, polished beautifully.  The quality of the woodwork is completely let down by the upholstery, which though a good colour,  is made of quilting cotton finished with picot braid. 

 I find that the moment picot braid is put on a miniature, it suddenly looks clunky.  Quilting cotton is very easy to use, but often the pattern is just out of scale.   I don't know why, just my personal taste.  It is a shame, as the upholstery itself has been really well done, and I don't relish peeling it off to start again! 

On the other hand, it could do with some embroidery or tapestry...

Next to the armchair is a revolving bookcase from Masters Miniatures, which was a Christmas present .  It has a beautiful inlaid top, which is lit up by the Tiffany lamp.  Usually a table like this would be covered up with knick knacks, but I like to see the marquetry. 

A revolving bookcase is a great way to add more books to a room without losing surface area, the perfect place to put a glass of sherry while reading in front of the fire.  But of course, it needs to be filled!

The Great Winter Bookmaking continues... it is astounding how many books it takes to fill the shelves!  We are getting there slowly but surely.  Some of the books date from the begining of my miniatures adventure, and need replacing as they aren't as well made as later books, but all in good time.

The next thing on my list of things to do is sort out the lighting.  I don't want bright lights, as I like the cosy atmosphere of this room, but I also need a little more light to show off the lovely items at the back of the room, especially around the fireplace.  

I think a pair of sconces would look best, but of course (of course!), when I glued in the chimney, I didn't think about the electricity, so it will be a bit of a pain sorting that out. 

 I have a few electrical jobs piling up, so perhaps I'll take the plunge one rainy afternoon and do the lot.  It involves emptying the house, which I hate doing, as I generally drop, lose or break something in the process...

Perhaps a beautiful pair of sconces from Ray Storey will be my motivation!

So, a few more jobs to do before the library is complete, but at least progress has been made!

I hope you are all keeping safe and warm,



Monday, January 4, 2021

Lounge Lizard


These cold days of Winter, coupled with the on-going COVID restrictions have meant that we're all spending more time in comfortable clothes around the house. 

 Always one to find inspiration in the strangest of places, I had a sudden desire to make a miniature banyan, the ancestor of the dressing gown, and an accessory that no self -respecting gentleman would be without!

The British fashion for the Banyan began in the 17th century.  It was a garment inspired by the loose, silk robes of the Middle East, and was usually made of rich silks or brocades.  Only the very rich, leisured gentlemen could afford some downtime, and the banyan became a symbol of the elite, to the point that it was de rigeur to have one's portrait painted while wearing one. 

The 17th century English diarist, Samuel Pepys was such a social climber that he even hired a banyan to wear for his portrait!


The construction of the banyan was very simple, with no collar or cuffs, cut from one piece of fabric.  The luxuriousness lay in the amount of fabric that was needed to make one, and the fine, expensive silks used.  I used this authentic pattern from the 18th century, and it was very simple to make.

I chose a simple, plain beige silk, because that is what I had on my work-box, and one of my resolutions this year is to use more of the things I have in stock, rather than ordering online.  After a decade of miniaturing, I have quite a lot of things!

I also chose it because it is very difficult to find a light silk with a pattern that is the correct scale.  Most brocades are too stiff for miniatures.

Cutting out was easy, and I used a fine line of glue to seal the cut ends before sewing them, to stop fraying.  I have yet to find a fray-check product that doesn't bleed into silk.

I should say at this point that I am not really a doll person.  My house doesn't have a doll family, as I prefer the interiors as they are.

 But hiding in one of my fabric drawers was this little chap.  He had been bought a long time ago, from a very cheap dolls house shop online, and the quality was, well, not good. 

 I rewrapped his body, changed the giant boots he was wearing for a daintier pair of legs, added stockings and shoes made from glove leather.  The shirt was made out of an old handkerchief, and the stock around his neck from silk ribbon.  A pair of silk breeches and presto, not so bad after all! 

The banyan was cut to fit this doll, but as his arms are too short, I gathered the sleeves to show off his lace cuffs, and added a couple of decorative tassels ( I do like tassels!).  Looking snazzy and relaxed 18th century style.

When the vogue for shaving your head and wearing a wig happened in the 17th century, gentlemen had a bit of a problem.  The expensive and difficult to keep wigs would only be worn when fully dressed, and weren't very comfortable.  Lice and shaving rash meant that most men took them off as soon as possible, but then their poor bald heads were quite cold! 

 A fashion for caps was the solution.  Not to be confused with nightcaps, these were worn in the day, and ranged from stiff embroidered hats to soft, informal turbans. 

(I think I will definitely have to embroider a miniature version of this one!)

I made our chap a matching cap from silk, nice and loose at the top, with, of course, a tassel.  Very chic.

                              Now we're ready for the portrait!

I hope he feels warm and relaxed, and I hope you do too!