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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Baking Pans

This week for Trash to Treasure Thursday I am showing how to get a bunch of inexpensive baking pans for the dolls in your dollhouse.

This is another old trick but it is really cool and not everyone knows about it. If you look closely at a lot of the containers of make-up like eye shadow and some lip gloss you will find that it is packaged in mini baking pans. Not all brands have the little metal inserts and I have even found that sometimes some brands will and sometimes they don't. Lots of times you can see the edge of the metal piece if you look around the edges of the make-up.

The first step is to get the make-up out of the pan, how to do this will depend on what it is. For a powder eyeshadow I usually dig it out with a pointed tool (my dental pick this time) and it will all come out pretty easily. If the make-up has a more creamy consistency you might need to use a craft stick and some paper towels.

One the little tins are empty you will need to carefully pry them out of the plastic case that it comes in. Sometimes this is really easy like on the video and sometimes I need to work at it a bit. If you find that the tin is glued firmly in place try heating the make-up case up with a hair dryer to soften the glue.

After the tins are loose from the plastic case use a paper towel to clean the tin more thoroughly. You might need to use some soap and water to really get it clean.

Once clean and dry you are ready to fill it with whatever the dolls in your dollhouse are asking for.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


This week for Tools of the Trade Tuesday I thought I would discuss tweezers. I think most of us that work with minis and have for any length of time have at least one pair of these in among our tools. I know I have several varieties and styles as you can see in the photos at the end of this post. I am not positive that these are all of them but at least they are the ones that I use.

You can see that tweezers have some properties in common but they do come in a variety of styles. Which is better?? Well, that is a really good question. I have my very favorite ones and yet when my daughter uses my tools she hates that pair. She prefers another style. I think you really have to try several styles and pick for yourself. You will know when you have found “your pair” because they really will feel like they are an extension of your fingers. Several of the pairs I have just feel awkward to me but I know people that swear by them.

My suggestion is to go shopping at the craft store and take advantage of the sales or the coupons and get different ones to try. I do wish more stores had some tweezers out where you could try them. It would make shopping much easier.

I am lucky in that my favorite pair are actually among the cheapest in the local store so I have several pairs of that one.

I still try out new styles just to see if there is something better out there. In fact for my birthday last year I asked my daughter for some tweezers, she asked what kind I wanted and I told her to surprise me I wanted to try new ones. She did give me a nice variety, a couple like what I normally use and several new ones to try including one pair with a built in light. Those are fun to use but just don't feel right in my hand I wish they did. I do use them when I am working on things that are hard to see.

When you are shopping for tweezers you will find that there are two major categories (for lack of what to call this) the type that when you squeeze them they close and the type that when you squeeze them they open. I do use the first type the most but the second type is really handy when you need to clamp a glued project that is too small for normal clamps.

So let's talk about some of the tweezers from my collection.

I'll start with my favorite pair, I love the tiny tips on this pair, they are well balanced and very lightweight. They really do feel like an extension of my fingers.

 Next this pair is very similar to the first ones but because of the coating on the tips I find them to be hard to use. They seem to not be balanced in my hand.

These are actually my daughter's favorite pair but for me they seem a little short. Also I can never get a comfortable grip on them.

 This is the pair with the light, I think if the tips were smaller (more like the first pair) I would love these. As they are they are I just can't get a good grip easily so I don't use them as often as I would like. 


 These I really never use except to hold things for painting. I just don't find them to work well for me. Maybe if (and it is a big if) they were longer I might like them better.

I tried to use these one time and haven't picked them up again since except to move them. This pair just is the wrong everything for my, too short, wrong angle, I just plain don't like them. 


 I love this pair for some things they are easily my second favorite pair. I love that they have a lock so I can use them to grip things for gluing. They are really well balanced and wonderfully thin tips. They are very heavy compared to the other pairs. 


Now onto the second type of tweezers the type that are closed until you squeeze them.

I only have one pair of these and I don't use them often, usually only for clamping things. The spring tension on them is extreme and my hand gets very tired if I use them very much.

I hope that this has been helpful to you. Just because someone (even me) says that a certain pair of tweezers is their favorite it really doesn't mean that you will love them too. You won't know until you have them in you hand and you are actually using them. So go to the craft store and shop the sales or use a coupon and find the perfect pair for you. 


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Scale: Choosing Fabrics for Your Dollhouse

This week I am sharing a few tips on choosing fabrics for your dollhouse. I am concentrating on the scale of the design this time, we will cover other aspects of fabric at another time.

I know that walking into the fabric store can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you are not someone that sews a lot. I have an advantage in that respect not only have I been sewing all my life my mom and my grandma were both avid seamstresses too. I practically grew up in the fabric store.

When you enter a fabric store you will be encountered by many bolts of fabric (thousands most likely) most of which will not work for miniatures. If you have the tool I show you in the video with you it will help a lot. As for picking fabric types (which will be a future video all on its own) stick with natural fibers. All of the fabrics that are in the video (except the tiny gingham) are 100% cotton quilt fabrics.

Even in the quilt fabric department you can eliminate a lot of the fabrics at a glance. Most of them will have designs that are too large. Use your eyes and scan for designs that look like they might work. Now take out that little card stock tool and use it to eliminate most of the design from your view. Move the window around the fabric and look at different areas. By only looking at the small area in the window you can get a much better idea of how the fabric will work. Remember that the square in the card stock represents a 12” by 12” area or the size of a small pillow like you might use on a couch. Depending on what your fabric will be used for this will give you an idea of the scale. If you are making drapes or a bedspread you can use a larger design but it still can't be huge. If you are dressing a doll the print needs to be tiny, this will take some practice but you can train you eye to pick up on the scale.

Now what about other scales? Just translate the tool to the correct size for what you are working with. If you are working with Barbie or other 1/6th scale dolls cut that opening 2” by 2”. If you are working in 1/24th scale cut it ½” by ½” or what ever equals 12” by 12” in your scale.

One thing about working in scale is that it is easier to work in larger scales than the smaller and you will have more to choose from in the larger scales. I have successfully found fabrics for as small as 1/48th scale with the window in the card stock method. 


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Craft Room Storage Bin

This week on Trash to Treasure Thursday I am showing you a cute little way for the crafter in your dollhouse to store some of his/her craft supplies. I know many of us have a craft room in our dollhouses, our mini people seem to be as creative as we are in real life. And in mini as in real life those supplies need to be kept in an organized way.

This little storage bin is designed to hold the wood pieces that your mini crafter has at the ready for the next project.

My daughter actually made a bunch of these several years ago as a teenager when she belonged to one of the online swap groups that was having a “craft room swap” and they were a hit. I'm not sure how original the idea was, she thought of it looking at my real life wood storage bin.

This is a true T2T project in that it uses the lid of a common container a bit of paint and some odds and ends of small wood pieces.

You can choose to glue in the wood or not, that is totally up to you.

The hardest part of this project is waiting for the paint to dry before you complete it. You really do need to wait though and I have a tendency to rush that step as I am sure a lot you do to. 


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Work Tiles

I thought today for Tools of the Trade Tuesday I would talk a bit about the ceramic tile I use a work surface. If you watch very many of my videos I am sure you have noticed I almost always work on the tile, it makes the perfect surface for me. I think you might like to use them to work on too.

I started out by buying just a couple of small tiles to bake clay on way back when I started doing polymer clay and still baked on the tiles. I soon found that working on a larger tile was a lot easier than working on a smaller one so I moved up to the 12” by 12” tiles pretty quickly.

At first I just used them for working on clay, then one day I had some gluing to do and I really didn't want to have the clean up that usually entails. I decided to work on a tile and see how that worked out. It was perfect! Not only was it easy to clean (I use a wet wipe or one of those paint scrapers that holds a razor blade to clean mine) but I could feel free to put out a bit of glue on the tile to work with. No need to find something to put glue in or to try to control the flow out of the glue bottle.

Next I needed to do some painting and for the same reasons as with the glue I pulled out a tile. That was the beginning and I have never looked back.

I also love the fact that the tile is portable, I can move my project to where the best light is very easily. Also since I tend to have multiple projects going at any given time I can have each one on its own tile and move them from a safe drying place to my work space easily. It makes keeping the project together so simple too.

If I had the room I would love to move up to some 18” by 18” tiles but since I share my work table with two cameras on tripods (I leave them set up most of the time) I just don't have the room so I will stick with my 12”x12” tiles at least for now. 


Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Mashed Potatoes

This week I am teaching you how to make a container of mashed potatoes to go with that roast beef that we made last week. Since mashed potatoes are such a staple on our dinner table I am sure your dolls will find many dinners these will go with.

I know there are many ways to make miniature mashed potatoes, some easier than others. This is my very favorite method and I rarely see it anywhere. I found this technique about 8 or 10 years ago in one of the British miniature magazines. It was in an article featuring the work of Philippa Todd, one of my very favorite miniature food artists. I remember reading the article and going home and trying the method and I was so happy with the results that it is the only method I have used since.

Let me wander here a bit and tell you about my favorite mini magazine (which is where I found this article way back then) First off, my daughter has been an ice skater since she was 7 (she's 20 now) and for way too many years I spent many hours every week at the ice rink. One of the things I loved about her rink was that there is a huge book store next door. So every time we went to the rink (multiple times every week) I would head over to the bookstore to do some looking and sometimes purchase something to read while I waited for her to have lessons, practice or take classes. I soon discovered that this particular bookstore did not carry any of the U.S. mini magazines but they did have one from England (Dolls House and Miniature Scene) I remember looking at it in the store a few times. I held off buying a copy since they run about $8 or $10 a copy but it wasn't long before I was buying them every month. I fell in love with that magazine and spent many hours at the ice rink reading the issues I purchased. Now that my daughter is living on her own I don't get to the bookstore on a regular basis so I miss the magazine but I have many years of back issues that I still read from time to time. Anyway, in my reading of this magazine over the years I also fell in love with the miniature foods that Philippa Todd makes. She was written up on a fairly regular basis and those issues are my very favorites. So I want you all to know I give her article complete credit for where I found this way of making mashed potatoes.

Now onto how we do this. I start by mixing up my cream color clay, it can be a bit darker in color than what you want for your finished mashed potatoes. Form it into a shape that will be easy to hold to grate up. The other bit you need to mix is the TLS (Transparent Liquid Sculpey) it also needs to be a cream color, as close to what you want you finished mashed potatoes as possible. I use oil paint to color my TLS for this project because it is easy to control the texture of the TLS. One thing I forgot to mention in the video that makes this easier to bake off a tiny sample of the colored TLS to check the color, because the un-cured TLS is white it is a bit hard to judge what the baking process will do to it.

On the topic of coloring the TLS, I know there are a lot of videos and articles out there that use acrylic paint to color it. I really caution you to not do this. First off the makers of TLS say not to, most of the clay artists that really know about the product and have researched it say it is a big no-no. One of the issues is that acrylic paint contains water that evaporates as it dries, if there is still water in the TLS mixture when you bake it that water can bubble and boil and that will ruin your project. Is it really worth it to take the chance? I have a feeling there is also a slight chance the project could explode too if there were enough moisture left in it when it was baked. This is one of those cases where it is really best to not take the chance, oil paint is not that expensive, it lasts a long, long time and it stores easily. You really will only need a few colors so that keeps the cost down too.

To grate the cooked clay you will need a small grater of some kind. I usually use one of those things that comes in the pedicure sets from the dollar store that is designed to take the rough skin off your feet. Any small grater would work a nutmeg grater would also be ideal.

As far as the process of making the potatoes if you have ever made instant mashed potatoes in real life you will have no problems with this miniature project. It really is the same idea, we take the grated clay (it needs to be almost a dust consistency) and mix it with the TLS. Just like in real life adjust the liquid (TLS) to get the correct texture.

If you want to add some color to the top of your mashed potatoes use either some chalk (use a cotton swab before baking to apply it) or rub on some acrylic paint after it is baked. I have a real life mashed potato dish that I make that I cook off in the oven and one of these days I am going to make the dolls in my dollhouse a batch of it in mini to serve.

Now before we go I do need to give credit for the photo of this week's project to my youngest son. He is an excellent photographer and even he had trouble getting a decent shot of these potatoes. They do look much better in person than we could capture with the camera.

A huge thank you to my son, Erik, for taking the photo!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Push Broom

Watch  the video here.

This week for Trash to Treasure Thursday I show you how to make a simple push broom out of a toothbrush. Once again this is a super easy project although it does require some cutting (you will need either an Easy Cutter or a small saw) and a drill.

The hardest part of this project was finding a toothbrush that had all white bristles and I had to settle for one made of clear plastic though I would have preferred to have one that was a solid color. Not a huge deal though.

Be very careful when cutting the head off the toothbrush it cuts fairly easily but does take a bit of pressure. Same with drilling the hole for the handle, take your time and ask for help if you are not well experienced with using a drill. I used a length of 1/8” dowel for the handle, if you don't have any you can use a wooden skewer from the kitchen just a easily. Just be sure to check the drill bit with the handle to get the right size hole.

You will need a glue that can hold the plastic and wood together. I used 527 glue but E6000 would also work. I think the secret is look for a slightly thick clear glue that smells bad, those seem to do the best for this kind of job.

Have fun with this easy project and check back next week for another trash to treasure project.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Easy Cutter

I know I have talked a bit about this tool before in various videos but I want to cover it here too.

I use my Easy Cutter all the time. I do love the ease that it cuts most things (as long as you don't try to cut something too thick or hard) I have been using mine for several years now and I still have the original blade in it. They do sell replacement blades so don't worry about that.

The only downside I have found is that it sometimes cuts at an angle not straight. I'm not sure if that is because I am trying to cut something too thick or not. Normally I can re-cut in the same spot to correct the cut or just use some sand paper or an emery board to straighten it out.

I manage to cut myself with mine about once a year, but I do tend to be a klutz so I think that is not a surprise to anyone that knows me. LOL

I love that the more common angles that I might want to cut are marked on the tool so it is easy to make a 45 degree cut for example. Here is a link to the web-site of the manufacturer so you can see the features for yourself. 


Sunday, May 12, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Roast Beef

This week we are continuing on what we have learned the last couple of weeks. I use the Skinner Blend technique to show you how to make a cooked roast beef. I am using up some of the left over clay from the raw beef roast we made a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't watched that video you can see it here. And the related blog for it is here.

To re-cap the raw meat clay mixture is:
Fimo white (1 part)
Fimo translucent (1 part)
Fimo red (1 part)
Premo Sienna (almost 1 part, just enough to make the correct color, I prefer to use Fimo Terracotta)

I used this for the center of the cooked meat and for the cooked portion of the roast I added some dark brown (I used Fimo Chocolate) and just a pinch of black. It is really important to work either from the real thing or from a really good photo of some cooked meat to match the color to. I used a photo in one of my really nice cookbooks, it is next to impossible to get the color right if you don't have a reference.

For the fat on this roast I used the fat mix from the raw roast:
Fimo White (1 part)
Fimo Translucent (3 parts)
and added just a small pinch of Ochre Fimo. Start with way less of the Ochre than you think you will need, and go from there. It really takes a very small amount and if you add too much you really can't take it out again. Best to have to add more if needed. This is one of those colors that is really strong and can take over the other colors quickly.

To get the color variation in the roast we are using the Skinner Blending technique. If you haven't watched my video from last week you can see it here. I love this technique for blending colors and use it on a lot of projects. If you look at the photo of the finished roast you can see how this blending method gives us the gradual change of color that makes this roast look like it has been cooked.

After you form the log that will become your roast, if you have time it does work better to chill the clay in the freezer for about 15 or 20 minutes before you try to split it. I didn't want to take that much time the day I did mine and the weather here has been very warm for this time of year so my clay was much softer that I would have liked. The idea is to just start the cut with the blade and then to tear the log into 2 parts. You really want this to be natural looking and not look like you cut it with a blade.

When you are getting ready to lay the layer of fat on the top of your roast be sure that the edges of the fat layer area bit irregular. I usually use a small enough bit of clay that mine doesn't need to be trimmed but if you do need to trim yours tear it rather than cut it. You want the edge to look natural not have a straight cut. Also be sure that the fat layer I (both the one running through the roast and the layer on top) is as thin as possible. I use the thinnest setting on my pasta machine but with patience you can do this with a clay roller.

When you are slicing the slices for the cut end of the roast take you time and arrange them where you want them. With patience you can get them to look like they have been just sliced and are ready to serve. I usually also slice some slices of roast to have for making individual plates for the finished scene. You might need to watch those as you bake though, since there is a lot of red clay as well as the translucent parts these are both colors that tend to darken when over baked. You might want to pull the slices out of the oven before the main roast is done baking.

The trick with the Amber glass paint and sand is one that took me a while to come up with. I just had always felt that most of the cooked roasts that I had seen didn't look convincing but once I started adding this step I was very happy with them

By the way, these cooked beef roasts and the raw ones on foam trays I showed you a few weeks ago were among the very first mini items I ever sold. That was a long time ago on Ebay, for a while I couldn't make them fast enough to keep up with the sales.

The platter I used for this roast is one of the metal minis I showed you how to do many videos ago. If you want to look at the website I order from here is a link. I have bought from here for many years and have always been very happy.

If you haven't found us on Facebook you can follow this link, we talk about a lot of stuff over there and it is usually the quickest way to get in touch with me. I would love to see you join us on FB and feel free to post photos of the minis you are making on the wall there. 


Friday, May 10, 2013

Tools of the Trade Tuesdays

I am adding yet another feature to this blog, Tools of the Trade Tuesdays. I get so many questions about the tools I use to make minis, both things that were meant to be tools and those things that I have found that I use as a tool, that I decided to write a weekly blog covering one of these items each week.

This will be a blog only feature, no videos are planned to go along with the blogs. Although I suppose from time to time I might make a video if it seems appropriate to the post.

If you have a tool you would like to learn my opinions on please let me know, or if you are looking for a tool to do a specific thing feel free to ask. I will try to get to as many as I can over time. 

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Candles and Holders

Watch  the video here.

This week on Trash to Treasure Thursday I show you a super easy, super fast way to create some candles in holders for the dollhouse.

For this project you will need some small eyelets, I got mine in the craft store with the scrapbooking supplies. They are quite a bit smaller than the ones we use for sewing as you can see in the video. They come in both a chrome color and a brass so you have some options there.

For the candle portion I going old school and using a simple round tooth pick. This has been around forever and still works for a simple project. It is also so inexpensive.

I used craft paint to paint my tooth picks, I choose to use white but feel free to use what ever color goes best in your dollhouse. Candles come in a rainbow of colors so pick your favorite.

I cut my “candles” 1” long to represent 12” candles, again candles come in lots of sizes so you get to decide what will work best in your display.

The dot of bright orange for a “flame” is totally optional and could also be added when you are all done if you want to see how they look without it first.

To get the candles to stick to the interior of the eyelets I used the old cotton soaked in glue trick. I've used this before a few times on my videos and it is a good way to help things stick together when there is room for the extra bulk the cotton brings.

I like to let mine dry on my work tile and then simply pop the finished candles off when the glue is completely dry. You may need to trim the bottom of your finished candles, I had to trim one of mine.

Again this is a project that is meant to be fun, so have fun doing it. 


Sunday, May 5, 2013

The Skinner Blending Technique

This week I am showing you how to do the Skinner Blending Technique for polymer clay. This wonderful method of blending colors of clay to make a smooth transition from one color to the next is really much easier than a lot of people think.

When you look at the process it makes so much sense and is really an easy thing to do. I think really what you need the most is a bit of patience, because you do need to run the clay through the pasta machine a minimum of 20 times to get a good blend (I did count how many times I ran the blue blend through on video, I did 28 times through if I counted correctly)

No matter how many times I do this technique I am still fascinated by watching the color change as I work. It is almost like magic and I have done this so many times over the years. For this video I wanted to show you how changing the angle and placement of the cut within in the clay changes the blend. Once you practice a bit you can really do so much with this.

I use this for many foods and I have shown you a short bit on it in at least one previous video. I have something planned to show you soon and rather than try to quickly cover the blending again I decided to go a bit in depth on it for one time. Now I plan to just add the link to this video when it is a technique used in future projects. Sometime in the future I will show you some more variations with this using more colors too.

I took some closer pictures of the individual blends to post here on the blog so you can really see how this turns out.

all the colors

cut corner to corner
a little bit away from the corners
more distance from the corners
just a bit of blending in the center

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Dollhouse Miniature Toilet Bowl Brush

Join me for another Trash to Treasure Thursday project where I show you an old favorite project. We are going to take just 2 items (a cocktail straw and a white chenille stem) and create a really cute little toilet cleaning brush so your dolls can get some spring cleaning done.

I actually love this little project because for virtually no work you get a mini that looks pretty realistic. It's little touches like putting a toilet cleaning brush into the bathroom that adds that bit of reality to the dollhouse too. How many houses do you know of in real life that don't have one of these somewhere???

I do use glue in the video but this project will work just as well without the glue if you don't want to bother with it. I do like to cut the straw after I get the brush part attached but again that is up to you. Since this is such an easy project and would be a good one for kids it might make a fun group project if you happen to have a group of kids to teach (or even just one or two) For this you might want to cut all the parts ahead and let them put their own together with just a bit of guidance. It really is an easy enough project for the absolute beginner.

Speaking of beginners, many of these T2T projects are that easy but they are still fun for those of us that have been making minis for years. So take a break from the complicated and do some easy, fun and stress free T2T projects.