I Finally Get It

I used to spend a lot of time wondering how some of my favorite mini artists could possibly look at a kit and come up with a great way to bash it, especially so it no longer really looked like the kit itself. All of my own ideas for alterations to a kit build came long after I received it, did a dry fit, and spent some time pondering what it would be.

Then it happened.

Hobby Builder’s Supply announced their 2015 Creatin’ Contest, and the kit’s potential smacked me in the face.

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The front isn’t quite what gave me the inkling. I looked at it and really thought hard about another tiny house, much like the one I started for last year’s Undersized Urbanite contest (and am still working on…). But the dimensions are a little too big for a good tiny house – and a little too small for a “small home,” in my opinion. I’d have to come up with a lot of good ways to fill the empty space.

Then I saw the back of the build.

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I don’t know what it is about the back here that really made it stand out to me, but it did. I had been browsing home plans recently in preparation for, of all things, a new house to build in Minecraft. I have a good deal of experience with both Minecraft and Sims architecture, so my requirements for house plans are pretty strict. Specifically for Minecraft, I need a small house but one with enough room for very thick walls, since that’s the nature of Minecraft blocks.

I finally found a house I really liked for Minecraft. It’s out of my usual comfort zone – I typically prefer more traditional style builds, and this one is very contemporary/modern.

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The floor plan is going to need to change a bit; here you’re looking at it from the back. In the end, I’ll essentially have an open-front home with a really magnificent “back” of the house, haha. I’m still trying to decide if I will add a basement, and what I will do with that…but there’s some time to figure that out, still. In the meantime, I’m going to have a lot of fun actually walking through my 3-D version in Minecraft, and envisioning recreating it in miniature.

So, long story short, I’m throwing my hat into the ring for the Creatin’ Contest. Hopefully I won’t get bowled over here. I am planning to make this a public build, because I really enjoy sharing my ideas here, and because my photography skills need some practice. But I really can’t wait to see what happens when the kit arrives!

Tufting a Mini Couch

It’s highly unlikely I’ll finish my Undersized Urbanite build at this point, sadly, but I am still plugging away and having a good time when I can. Right now I am still teaching, writing away at my thesis, and now we are moving in less than 2 months. Lots to do, and sadly minis don’t take mini amounts of time!

Most recently I’ve been working on the sofa. I wanted it to be both grand and understated, or at least that’s the best way to describe it. I had a House of Miniatures Chippendale Sofa kit on hand, and decided to utilize it to make my visions come true.

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I’ve seen an awful lot of tutorials on Pinterest about making your own upholstered, tufted headboard, and I used many of the techniques here. I started by marking out lines on the back of the sofa, to create half-inch squares. I then drew diagonal lines to find the middle of each square, and proceeded to use a pin vise to drill through the back. This helped me to create an offset pattern for each of the “buttons.” If I had truly thought it through, I would have begun with a centered line – sadly, I did not, but ultimately I don’t think it would have done a whole lot to change the finished product.

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The next step was to find the best way to cover the couch. House of Miniatures kits are old, and while the foam included for the couch cushions was in good shape, I knew it is likely to dry out and disintegrate in the near-ish future. I ended up cutting new cushions out of pink craft foam, 2 layers. Unfortunately for me, the pink of the foam showed through the linen-esque fabric I chose, even after a layer of white felt. I ended up covering the bottom half with a scrap of fabric (seen above – you can see some of the pink through it!) and the top half with another piece of felt to add a little extra fluff to the top part of the couch. When it’s all covered with the larger piece of fabric, you can see it looks pretty uniform in color.

The next part was by far the most difficult part of the whole process – adding the tufts. The holes were quite small, and finding a way to keep the threads pulled really tight was hard. I ended up using two different methods – nails and bead crimps. The bead crimps were easier, but if I had to do it again I’d do nails all the way. More complicated, but it seems like a stronger hold. You can see the nails below – they are the tops of jewelry pins, cut off and carefully hammered in partway.

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To get the thread through the holes, I first put a bead on the thread and put both ends of the thread through a long needle (Needle 1). I then took a second needle (Needle 2) and pushed it through the hole from the back of the couch. Next, I took Needle 1 and pushed it through right next to Needle 2. Then Needle 2 was pulled out from behind, and Needle 1 was pushed all the way through until all thread had come out the back. I then taped the thread down so it wouldn’t accidentally be pulled out. This took a little trial and error, as Needle 1 was not always in the correct position to just go straight through the pre-drilled hole, but it was by far the easiest way to get the needle through all layers of foam, batting, and fabric, in the right place!

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Once I had the full row done, I pulled the threads as tightly as I dared, wrapped them around a nail several times, and held the thread tight while I hammered the nail in fully. This is definitely the way I would recommend doing this if you try, and if I try tufting another piece I will do it this way again. It is complicated and can be frustrating, especially if you knock a nail out, but is far easier than the bead crimps. Had I known I’d use bead crimps, I definitely would have picked up sturdier thread. Occasionally the crimp would just cut right through the thread and I would have to completely re-do the tuft all together. I’ve also had a couple come loose since I finished, leading me to have to glue a couple of beads back on – definitely not ideal!

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This is the unfinished product – one row done! I did not bother tufting all the way down, because half of the back is hidden behind the back cushion. Instead, I started in the middle and worked my way up.

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The finished product! Before I attach this to the rest of the couch, I’ll take a needle and try to get all of the beads facing the same way. Until then, I think it looks pretty darn good!

Life is a little crazy

IMG_20140314_145622195It has been far too long since I have been able to make a post about progress – sadly, not a whole lot of progress has been made. Since my semester ended in December, I’ve been working on my thesis a lot, but I have also been hired as a teaching fellow for a huge university, which is a very awesome step for me! Unfortunately, it means less time for minis – but I’m trying!

Above is the progress I’ve made on the kitchen. You can see a bit of the staircase as well – that will have a nice feature of some pull-out stairs 🙂 After struggling with options for the counter top for a while and really not being happy with any of my DIY options, I finally decided to contact ELF Miniatures about a custom worktop. Elizabeth at ELF has been incredibly amazing, and I’ve experienced some of the best customer service I’ve ever been given. I can’t wait to showcase the final result!

The most work left at this point is finishing the kitchen, putting together the bathroom, and a few pieces of furniture. After that it will be decorating. I don’t know if I will be able to finish in time for the Undersized Urbanite, but I’ll certainly be trying!

 

Playing with Poly Clay

My Pinterest feed is filled to the brim with gorgeous miniatures day in and day out, many of them pictures of miniature food, flowers, and other items made from polymer clay. While I love to spend ages pouring over the pictures and the websites they’re from, the artisans who make them (rightfully) charge higher prices than I am able to pay for the items I so covet.

Lucky for me, an awful lot of artisans, some in miniatures and some in other areas (e.g. beading and jewelry) are also willing to share their tips and techniques to allow people like me to get started without too much failure in the trial and error process. And so, here begins my journey in polymer clay!

I’m in the process of working on the kitchen for the Undersized Urbanite build (man, I really need to actually come up with a good name for it – any suggestions?) and due to the tiny size, I thought I would utilize some of the basic kitchen utensils as decor. I have actually already done this in my lifesize home, because my cookware doesn’t all fit in my cabinets, and I didn’t want to stack them because it would void their warranty.

314768_10100564392135489_44882342_nThere’s blue poster board behind them since we rent and I did not want to damage the walls – that also makes the whole ensemble look like a rather nice modern art installation, even when dirty pots are missing!

As I was musing for items I could feasibly utilize for decor in the tiny house, Christina at the Little Victorian posted this update to her home kitchen, inspired by photos from Houzz. Both my mother and grandmother occasionally hung cutting boards up in the kitchen, and it all just clicked into place.

That said, finding nice miniature cutting boards is far easier said than done. If I actually made them out of wood, the ultimate product would not look nearly so nice with the materials I have in store.

Enter polymer clay, a quick Google search of tips to create wood grain in clay, and a scant 20 minutes or so playing, cutting, and cooking:

IMG_1440They are modeled after my favorite olive wood cutting boards which my aunt introduced me to. I’m a little undecided if I am going to actually use these, or if I’ll have another shot at it. I cut the white clay with some brown, but did not think it would stand out quite so much – so we’ll see what the final decision is! If I decide to stick with them, in all likelihood I’ll only use one.

More kitchen updates coming soon 🙂

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

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I’m with my family celebrating Thanksgiving today (and writing this post in advance – don’t worry, I really am spending time with them!) and wanted to recount some of the things I’m thankful for right now that are specifically miniatures-related.

  • My husband, who recognizes my need for creativity as a release from my life stresses, and supports me in my crazy tiny hobby emotionally and financially
  • The incredible miniaturists, both professional and amateur, who are so kind as to share their projects, tips, and tricks online to help all of us reach that teeny little peak of realism
  • Pinterest, for serving as a wonderful medium for sharing all of our mini finds
  • All of the kind independent sellers out there, on Etsy and eBay and their own websites, who are not only sweet enough to share their projects with the world but who are also very nice to work with (and who take the time to write out personal thank-you cards to their customers – holy cow, what dedication!)
  • Finally, my friends and family who are nice enough to listen to my excitement over my teeny tiny furniture and accessories without rolling their eyes or making fun of me

I hope you have a wonderful holiday – and if you are not a celebrant of the US Thanksgiving weekend, I do so hope you have a wonderful weekend!

Still here…

I haven’t given up on Pico Life, nor the Undersized Urbanite contest, but life has been busy and I’ve been in need of serious thesis work 🙂  Add that to the fact that my husband set up a new Minecraft server and…well, I’ve been spending a fair bit of my free time geeking out, haha!

I’m hoping to get a good full-home update done soon, but in all honesty I’m not entirely sure when that will be.  I am, however, still making progress, even if I haven’t had time to document it here.  Electricity and the kitchen are my current goals for the tiny home, and I’m really excited to share both my progress and my techniques here.

For this brief update, however, I only have one small thing to share.  I began the living room area rug last night, and it’s going very quickly!  This is approximately 3 hours of progress on and off (for reference, the design is 3.5 inches in diameter inside a 5″ hoop)

IMAG0794The second color for the rug is going to be a warm creamy color.  The primary color in the house is a buttery yellow, which I’m accenting with persimmon and olive.  It may sound strange, but so far I’m extremely happy with it!  My punch needle is adjustable which means I can use different loop lengths.  The previous rugs I’ve made have been done as short as possible, which makes for a great, medium-pile area rug.  This one is going fairly long; ultimately it will be closer to a fluffy shag-like rug, perfect for the personality of the home’s resident 🙂

Progress!

Progress – so far – has been very quick on my Undersized Urbanite build.  I’m starting to grow concerned that I’m about to hit a wall with how it’s going and have to start over, but it’s  not like I don’t have 7 months to finish, right?

IMAG0780On Monday afternoon, I painted the walls and laid & stained the floor.  The base of the floor is quarter inch thick balsa, very easy to size and cut, and the wood plank flooring is actually iron-on veneer strips meant for cabinet edging.  It’s been stained with Minwax water-based express  finish stain in Golden Oak.  With the actual veneer being Red Oak, staining with the Golden Oak gives it a nice strawberry-blonde finish, which will go extremely well with the decor scheme I have planned!

Monday night, I began to paint and install the windows, which I had already built.

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As you can see, the windows do open 🙂  I considered purchasing working windows, but not only was this method extraordinarily inexpensive (all of the windows came from one piece of three dollar 8×10″ plexiglass from Lowes, and trim was 29 cent stripwood from Michaels) but I didn’t have to wait for them to arrive in the mail AND I got to custom size them all.  I really like the hinged openings for this build, I think they fit the character of the home quite nicely and as it all comes together I hope you do too 🙂 I still have one more small window to build out, so I hope to utilize that one to make a tutorial on my DIY hinged windows.

Tonight, I finished installing the windows, tiled the viewable portion of the bathroom floor, and glued the three permanent walls.

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I LOVE the tile colors!  They’re stuck and grouted with plain old spackle.  I still have some clean-up to do with them, but they really need to dry overnight first.  I’ve also propped in the pocket door to see what it looks like; I love it, but it needs some revamping to actually function.

There is one more wall that needs to be installed, but for now it will have to wait.  Unlike most dollhouses which have either an open side, front, or back, or a hinged side (typically the front), I’ve decided this build needs a removable wall for the full effect.  Most full-size dollhouses can get away with the open wall, and all of the rooms are essentially set like a stage for a play; with this build of a tiny house, all four walls must be used.  This also means that when it comes to my final photos of my entry, I’m going to have to get creative with the photography.

My next steps will be building out the kitchen cabinets and/or doing a bit of external trim and fitting the fourth wall.  I haven’t quite decided yet 🙂  Lighting arrived today, so I’ll have to give that some consideration as well….but electricity will most certainly warrant its own post!