Building and Customizing

Progress on Porker Residence

Many around the village have been curious about the large construction project in the midst of the town center. Well, wonder no more as we bring you a sneak peek of the newest addition to the downtown skyline.

Porker House WIP Exterior Front

Village grocer Paul Porker has been working closely with Blanche and Bertram Beaver on planning and building a new home for his family.

“It was time that we moved closer to the grocery, and what is closer than right up the stairs?” said Mr. Porker.

Mr. Porker was able to take some time out of his busy day to give us a quick tour of the premises.

We started one flight up from the grocery in the main room:

Porker House WIp Kitchen

“This is a nice big room, which is important for my big family. This over here is where the kitchen area will be.”

We then headed up the stairs to the master bedroom.

Porker House WIP Master

“My wife and I feel it’s important to be able to have some restful time to ourselves. With five children, the opportunities to do so often feel few and far between. But a private master bedroom should give us a bit more of a chance.”

The next door down is the boys’ bedroom:

Porker House WIP Boys Room

“We let our older son Patrick pick out the wallpaper for the room he’ll share with his little brother. Orange stripe isn’t necessarily what I would choose, but as long as the boys are happy with it, it’s fine with me.”

Up another flight of stairs we came to the attic which doubles as the girls’ room:

Porker House WIP Girls Room

“With our three girls sharing a room, we decided they needed a bit more space, so they get the entire attic. Although the sloping roof reduces the amount of usable floor-space, I think they will enjoy spending time up here.”

When asked what his planned next steps for the house are, Mr. Porker sighed. “There is still so much to be done. I think I need to first focus on getting the kitchen up and running. I thought that once the structure was built, furnishing and decorating would be short work, but to be honest, the amount of work still to come is a bit on the daunting side. If only I could just buy a box that had everything I needed for each room!

 

I have been working for the past two weeks on building the Porker residence. I always underestimate how long these things actually take to build – not even counting the furnishing and decorating! So I thought I should at least blog a bit about the process in slightly smaller chunks rather than one big reveal to at least have something new to share!

Porker House WIP Exterior Angle

This structure is my first with a usable attic space – I’ve made an angled roof before on Mr. Beaver’s workshop, but in that case it was primarily for style reasons and not usable. But I knew I needed a third floor, due to the large family. Yet I also wanted it to fit in with the overall village look. So my inspiration for this building is more or less Nyhavn, Copenhagen

As per all my building projects, the house is constructed out of foam core board. Since my last project, I bought a ruler with a finger guard, which has made a huge difference in my cutting confidence/ability.

This time, almost all the additional materials were paper. In the past I have used real wood for the floors and window sills and frames. But I’ve found that using paper keeps the costs and labor down (oh my goodness – multiple coats of paint on each tiny piece – arg!) and looks good enough to me. Yes, it is a bit flatter-looking and a bit more cartoonish, but I don’t dislike it.

I apply all of the surface papers (exterior walls, wallpapers, and floors) before I glue the structure together. It’s much easier to do when the walls are flat on my work table! I use Elmer’s x-treme glue stick to adhere the paper to the foam board, and for added adhesion I like to run a rubber brayer over the top. I have had no issues with the papers lifting.

Porker House WIP Floor 1

Porker House WIP Floor 2

For the first time, I’ve made my “hardwood floors” out of paper. I used a stamp from Stampin’ Up called Hardwood. It is the perfect scale! I wanted to give the floors a bit of texture, so I cut the stamped image into strips, trimmed each strip into 3.5″ lengths, then applied them in a staggered fashion so they looked more realistic. For the white floor, I simply adhered the strips directly to the foam board; for the brown, I didn’t want any white to show through the gaps in the floor, so I adhered a piece of matching brown paper onto the foam board first, then added the “floor boards” on top.

Porker House WIp Window

For the windows, I used Stampin’ Up window sheets. The plastic is quite thin and easy to cut, but adds a bit of realism. In the past I have made the window mullions out of wood or paper, but once again I used a shortcut. This time I used a fine-tip white paint pen to draw the mullions on the window sheets. This process turned out to be a bit tricky, and I had to remake about half of the windows – my paint pen is slightly old and leaky, and I had some issues with smearing. But in the end, I am very happy with the look, although the pictures don’t show them well.

Once the walls and floors are fully papered and finished, I glue the structure together. I have had success using Aleene’s Fast-Grab Tacky Glue. It tacks together quite quickly, so I don’t have to sit there holding it for too long. And I’ve found it to be quite sturdy over the last couple of years. 

Porker House WIP Interior

Another part of the process is making sure all the foam board edges are finished. Sometimes my cuts aren’t very tidy – the foam part of the foam board tears rather than cuts cleanly. So I like to have all visible edges covered – including the window sills. The thickness of foam board I use is the most common – 3/16″ I believe. But with the stupid Imperial measurement system, it’s annoying to measure that width. Luckily, 5mm is really close to 3/16″. So cutting at that width works perfectly for me. Just a handy tip.

In general, I am very happy with what I have created so far. Of course, Mr. Beaver’s sentiments regarding furnishing and decorating closely mirror my own feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I really do love making things, but goodness, my to-do list is a bit daunting. Of course I could buy furnishings, but that can get really expensive, and I sometimes want a more taste-specific look. But we’ll see where I am at after a couple more weeks of crafting!

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Parade of Homes: The Mouse House

The first stop on the inaugural Crabapple Crossings Parade of Homes is the home of the Mouse Family. As Mr. Mortimer Mouse has to awaken bright and early to get started on the day’s baking, he didn’t want to live too far away from his bakery. “Nothing feels better than knowing that my commute is just a short trip down the stairs, especially on cold winter mornings,” he says.

mouse house exterior

mouse house kitchen

The Mouse family had the home built to their own specifications and preferences. “We wanted a nice cozy kitchen and living area,” says Mrs. Mitzi Mouse. “It’s so wonderful having a nice space for all four of us to spend time together in the evenings.”

mouse house bedroom“But also Mort and I do enjoy being able to have time for rest and relaxation, so we definitely wanted a private master bedroom,” Mrs. Mouse continued.

mouse house kids roomOf course Millie and Martin Mouse’s favorite room is their shared bedroom. “It’s so colorful and fun,” says Millie.

“And I like playing with my toys there,” adds Martin.

“We really love our home and welcome guests wanting to come take a look,” says Mrs. Mouse. “It’s wonderful to get to share our ideas and tastes with our friends and neighbors.”

mouse house interior 2

 

To be completely honest, this project has been more or less done for quite some time, but I just haven’t shared it. It was probably the most time consuming of all of my projects, from the initial design through construction and then decorating.

As with most of my self-made buildings, the Mouse House is built from foam-core board. I wanted a structure that could sit on the Lil’ Woodzeez bakery I repainted, so its measurements are based on that. This was my first major construction project and I did a lot of figuring it out as I went along, but I have to credit this site with helping me figure out how to best build with foamcore board. I also have found that Aleene’s Fast Grab Tacky Glue works a lot better than other glues I have tried. Just don’t forget to replace the cap or you’ll get a tough workout trying to squeeze out the glue from then on!

Oh! I also want to mention that I chose to apply all of the floors and interior wallpapers before I glued the walls and floors together. It is a whole lot easier to apply them while everything is still flat. I used a heavy-duty gluestick to apply the wallpapers and it’s been probably a year, and I’ve noticed no un-sticking. The floors are this super-cool adhesive-backed wood veneer called “BARC.” It was super easy to cut into small “planks” and then just stick down. And I love that it’s real wood.

One of the trickiest and time consuming parts of the project was the windows and window frames/trim. Each piece of wood had to be cut to the right length, then the corners properly mitered. Then sanded, and painted a couple of times, then fit together and glued, and finally glued into place. The house has six windows, each of which had 12 pieces each to trim it out. The rest of the exterior is also trimmed out in painted bass wood, though the “siding” is just cardstock paper. Each piece of trim also was mitered to create a more streamlined look. Seriously, the amount of time I spent on the woodwork was not fun. Which is why, as much as I wanted to add baseboards and crown molding to the interiors, I just couldn’t do it. And that’s also why the shutters and window boxes are made of paper. I was too tired of cutting, sanding, and painting that I just couldn’t take it anymore!

mouse house exterior 2

Speaking of the window boxes, they are filled with handmade paper marigolds and little clumps of decorative moss. I really like the cheery look they give the house.

Once the actual structure was completed, it was time to decorate. I guess that probably the best way to do this is by room. 

mouse house interior

Kitchen/Living Room

  • Stove, sink, pantry, table and chairs, and most accessories are the Calico Critters Deluxe Kitchen Set.
  • Stove backsplash is self-made with 1/2″ paper squares (I used a punch) applied to a white background. I then used “Glossy Accents” to add shine and dimension to the “tiles.”
  • Stools and benches are self-built of balsa wood.
  • Chair, stool, and bench cushions are self-made from fun foam and cotton fabric.
  • Clock is a button with a printed clock face applied, Glossy Accents added to give it dimension.
  • Side table is a tiny wooden candlestick I found at a thrift shop flipped upside down. 
  • Curtains are cotton lace that I embroidered with red floss to make it more fun.
  • Book and plant on side table are purchased miniatures.
  • Seed packets are self-made.
  • Paper doll images were found online, scaled down and printed.

Master Bedroom

  • Bed is self-made of balsa wood. Mattress is fabric-covered fun foam. Pillows are self-made, blanket is felt. (Note: I hate the felt blankets and intend to change them, I just haven’t yet.
  • Side tables are self-made of balsa wood and miniature wooden spools.
  • Books are purchased miniatures
  • “M” is a necklace pendant.
  • Picture frame is a plastic refrigerator magnet picture frame, magnet removed.
  • Image is this printable, resized.
  • Curtains are cotton lace

Kids Room

 

Hmm, well, I think that’s pretty much everything I can think of to say about this project. I don’t know why I’ve waited so long to share it (actually, taking the pictures probably was the hold-up.) I still am very happy with how this project turned out, although I always have things I want to add or things to improve – and actually, the seed packet box I made for Iron Craft a while ago is in there now. Other things to work on still: new coverlets for the beds (no more felt!), wooden window boxes (if I can figure out how to transfer the flowers without destroying them), better-looking shutters, more flowers around the house (Mrs. Mouse is the village florist after all!), a chimney, improved master bedroom tables, and some nicer looking books. I honestly have no clue how any serious miniaturist ever decides that something is done!

If you have any questions or want more detail about anything, don’t hesitate to comment!

And just for fun, a  bonus picture of the teensy mouse-themed paper doll:

mouse house kitchen 2

New Restaurant Coming to Town

After months of planning, the long-neglected Seaside Restaurant is getting a much-needed face-lift. And Crabapple Crossings will be welcoming something new to the village’s culinary landscape: sushi!

Cooler1

“I’ve been wanting to open up my own restaurant for years,” says Owen Otter. “When I saw that the old Seaside Restaurant was up for sale, I felt like I finally had the opportunity to make my dreams a reality.”

cooler2

When asked about whether he thought a sushi restaurant could succeed in our small village, Mr. Otter was extremely optimistic. “I love traditional fish and chips as much as anyone. And I know some may find the idea of sushi a bit intimidating. But I think that once people taste it, they will embrace it. All of our fish is as fresh as you can imagine – as you may know, my wife Octavia is our town’s fishmonger and is awake bright and early on her boat. You can’t get more fresh than that!”

Of course, Mr. Otter also plans to offer some options for the less adventurous eaters in town. “Not all sushi is raw fish. Some is cooked. And we of course will have some really delicious vegetarian options.”

Although the restaurant is not quite ready to be open for business yet, this week’s delivery of a special sushi case cooler gets Mr. Otter that much closer to the grand opening. “I can’t wait to open my doors and share my love of food with everyone!”

restaurant1

 

It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I have been so incredibly busy that I haven’t been able to spend much time in Crabapple Crossings, and projects have been relegated to the back burner. My July was packed, and my August looks to be even more so! But I was able to find time to do a project for this round of Iron Craft. The theme was “Cool” – things to keep you cool, made with cool colors, or otherwise get you in a “cooling” mood.

I had an idea as to what I wanted to create, because I have been thinking about creating a sushi restaurant for probably almost a year now, since I first saw the Calico Critters Seaside Restaurant. But with all my other projects, it fell to the wayside. When I saw the “Cool” theme, though, I knew I could at least get started on the conversion by creating a sushi bar style cooler.

cooler3

The set came with a counter with a built-in grill – I think the restaurant is supposed to be in the style of a hibachi restaurant? This counter made a great base for my sushi cooler.  I didn’t want any of my changes to be permanent, so the cooler just sits on top of the base. It is made of thin foamcore board, plastic window sheets, and cardstock. 

The items inside the cooler are a mix of handmade and pre-made items. On the left is supposed to be a piece of tuna, made from polymer clay. The two shellfish came with the seaside restaurant. The salmon is polymer clay. And on the left is a bowl of “scallops.” The bowl is from a different Calico Critters play set, and the scallops are the filling from a Dollar Tree baby rattle favor. No, I did not come up with it myself, this person of Flickr gave me the idea. (She has tons of other great ideas for minis, too!)

It was overall a fun project, and it makes me excited to continue furnishing the sushi restaurant. I’m not really planning that many big changes, mostly just making lots of tiny sushi!

Sylvia Squirrel Makes Sweet Dreams a Reality

Ms. Sylvia Squirrel has always had a bit of a sweet tooth, “Growing up, my mother could not seem to keep the candies out of my paws.” Luckily for her, the elder Mrs. Squirrel knew a thing or two about sugary treats – she, too, was passionate about confectionery. “I spent many afternoons and evenings helping my mother create the most delicious candies. Of course, it was not too much of a chore for me, as I got to help ‘clean up’ and sample all of the wonderful treats.”

squirrel1

Since those days of her youth, Mrs. Squirrel has dreamed of opening up her very own candy shop. “I’ve been imagining my store for nearly as long as I can remember,” she says. “So I could not be happier to finally have the chance to share my love of sweets with my family, friends, and neighbors.”

squirrel2

Her shop specializes in both simple, old-fashioned penny candies and higher-end artisan chocolates, made by Sylvia herself. “I try to stock all of my childhood favorites,” she says. “We have pretty much everything you can think of – gumballs, gummy fruit slices, caramels, mints, lemon drops, licorice, candy dots, candy corn, circus peanuts, bottle caps, and more. It’s been so fun deciding what treats to stock.”

squirrel3

But she is especially enthusiastic about her hand-made specialty chocolates. “These are the candies my mother taught me to make. I use dark chocolate, milk chocolate,  white chocolate, and lots of fun fillings. I tend to make whatever I’m excited about at the time, so I should always have an interesting assortment to fill a box.”

children

It looks like Mrs. Squirrel’s shop is going to a success. While photographing her shop, we caught some local children peering in at the tasty treats.

“I do eat candy every day,” Mrs. Squirrel admits. “But I always make sure to brush my teeth and I’ve never had even one cavity!”

Okay, I’m the first to admit that this round of Iron Craft is a pretty big stretch, but hear me out. The theme this time was “Dots.” I was really stuck! I love polka dots, but I didn’t want to sew anything, and I just couldn’t think of very many crafts I wanted to make that used a polka dot pattern. But then I thought of candy dots, and that seemed like a fun mini project. So I got out my 1/16″ hole punch and strips of paper and made some candy dots:

candy dots

Of course, once I saw how cute these tiny candies made of paper were, I couldn’t seem to stop! So I punched out tiny paper bottle caps candy. And tiny M&Ms candy. 

inspiration

Well, once I had my three kinds of dots candy, I was pretty pleased. I had completed the challenge and was happy with the results. But something was missing. And that something was a place to put my tiny paper dot treats. So I decided to make a candy shop.

exterior

interior

It’s crazy, I know. And the reason this post is going up in the afternoon is that I finished the project today. I think this was my first Iron Craft time crunch! 

So, just a few words on supplies and such. Pretty much the whole thing is made of foam core and cardstock. I cut and dry fit the structure out of foam core, then applied all the papers while it was still in flats. The checkerboard floor was helped along with a 1″ square punch. The window is a piece of plastic window sheeting, which I wrote on with a white paint pen. The shelves and display case are foam board, cardstock, and window sheets as well. The chalkboard frames were a find in the Michael’s dollar bins (though I think they were $1.50.) The candy jars are from the Dollar Tree. They are for nail art glitter and come 8 to a package. A complete steal for real glass bottles. I filled the jars and case with some paper dots as shown above and polymer clay candies. The final touch (what took me into the time crunch) were the candy boxes which I printed onto cardstock, then cut and glued together. The one box is (mostly) full of the leftover chocolates from the display case, each one with its own paper candy cup made from a hole punch (hey! another dot!) of tissue paper.

This project was such a challenge for me. I’ve made and decorated structures before, but never in such a short time frame. I know it seems simple, but I really worked hard to get this done. I think I am the slowest person ever when it comes to polymer clay. It’s honestly quite ridiculous. And I’m still not sure I’m really done with this project. I always have tweaks I want to make. In this case, I want to add an awning to the front, because it’s really very boring and maybe some sort of hanging “open” sign. Just make the exterior more interesting in general, I guess.

So, I’m not sure I did so hot for the Iron Craft challenge of it. I mean, I truly was inspired by “Dots” as the theme, but the end result is maybe 5% dots to 95% everything else. But on the other hand, I would not have undertaken this project without the dots inspiration as a jumping off point. But either way, Crabapple Crossings has a candy shop now, and that makes me happy.

Students Say: Wood Shop Wonderful

A small group of students from Crabapple Crossings public school have opted to take a very special elective class – wood shop. The class is taught by local builder Mr. Bertram Beaver.

dollhouse2

“It’s so important to get children interested in skills and hobbies like wood working,” he says. “And wood working truly nurtures so many important life skills. I think it is especially great for teaching children how to problem solve and tackle difficult tasks. They have to design, plan, and follow through on those plans. As well as deal with realistic solutions to any hiccups they may encounter along the way.”

This year, three children signed up for the class: Patrick Porker, Caleb Cuddle-Bear, and Sally Squirrel.

“My favorite part was getting to use the neat tools. The saw is my favorite,” says Caleb Cuddle-Bear.

“I liked making the plans,” says Patrick Porker. “Figuring out what steps to take and when is quite the brain workout!”

“Painting the project was the best part,” says Sally Squirrel. “It’s kind of fun to be allowed to make a mess.”

The project the children made is a doll house.

“We brainstormed lots of ideas,” says Patrick Porker. “But Mr. Beaver really encouraged us to do the dollhouse. He said that it would help us build our skills and give us lots of opportunities to problem solve.”

dollhouse3

The children are quite proud of their project, but could not decide who should get to keep it.

“We all worked on it equally – it wouldn’t be fair for just one of us to get to have it,” says Caleb Cuddle-Bear.

“So we agreed that we should raffle it off,” says Sally Squirrel.

dollhouse1

Raffle tickets can be purchased exclusively at the grocery store. All proceeds will be used for next year’s wood shop students. All three students agree that taking the class has been a lot of fun and that they would encourage their friends to give it a try.

Says Patrick Porker, “It feels so good to be able to say ‘I made this!'”

 

I was so honored when I saw that this round of Iron Craft was at least partially inspired by my tiny projects! It makes me so happy to know that people enjoy my silly little things. With the theme being “Teeny Tiny” I didn’t want to totally rest on my laurels, as it were. I’m planning on making all of my Iron Craft projects teeny tiny, so doing just any mini didn’t seem to be keeping with the spirit of the challenges. So I decided to embrace the challenge – and make something tiny for my tinies. And really, the only tiny thing I could think of was a dollhouse. 

dollhouse5

I doubt I’ll ever make a dollhouse for a dollhouse again. The process was really quite difficult and frustrating. For context, the dollhouse is just under 1-1/2″ tall at the apex of the roof and 1″ across. I used 1/16″ thick bass wood for the project. With all minis, measuring and cutting correctly is very important, but with things this small, it has to be just right or it won’t work. Because the wood is so thin, I found it difficult to get good adhesion with my glue. And painting on the details was a true exercise in frustration. I’m really not all that happy with how it came out. The roof doesn’t fit quite right, as I couldn’t figure out how to cut the thin edges of the bass wood to the correct angle. The painting is amateur at best. My consolation is that at least for the story, I can say the kids made it.

dollhouse4

I continued with my folly by doing a bit of decorating on the inside. The bottom floor has a stove and cabinet (you can’t see it, but there are drawn-on details on the front of the stove and the cabinet) and the top floor has a bed with painted pillows and a paper comforter. 

So I guess this was a good experience in that I learned that I never want to do it again. I will definitely leave the 1:144 scale and micro minis to the professionals. I just don’t have the skills or the patience for it. 

Mrs. Goat’s Greengrocery Display

Local citizen Mrs. Gail Goat is helping to spearhead a campaign to get the youth of Crabapple Crossings to embrace good nutritional habits. As a purveyor of fresh vegetables to the town, she is in a unique position to encourage healthy eating.

“I know that with my children, they sometimes turn up their noses at the veggies on their plates, afraid to try new things. At least with my kids, I have found that offering vegetables for them to taste without pressure, especially in their raw form seems to make the veggies less scary and more an exciting undertaking. So I decided to offer this to all the children of the village. After school, I will offer the children tastes of what vegetables I have available at no cost. I think the children of the town will be excited to get a free snack.”

While I was interviewing Mrs. Goat, several village children stopped by. Mrs. Goat offered Hugh Holstein some broccoli.

grocer story 2

At first Hugh wasn’t sure. “I’m not sure I like broccoli,” he said.

“That’s okay,” said Mrs. Goat. “But if you change your mind, I’ll be happy to give you some.”

“What do you think, should I try it?” Hugh asked his companion, Martin Mouse.

“I love broccoli!” Martin said. “I think you should at least taste it.”

grocer story 3

“Okay,” Hugh said. “I’ll give it a shot.” He bit into the broccoli. “Ooh, it’s a bit peppery. But it’s pretty good! Thank you, Mrs. Goat.”

“You’re welcome, Hugh” she replied.

grocer story 4

Meanwhile, Wesley Whitetail was peeking into the bin of pumpkins. “I don’t think you’ll like those so much, Wesley,” Mrs. Goat told the tot. “They need to be cooked to taste yummy. Why don’t you try this carrot instead? It’s orange like the pumpkins.”

grocer story 5

Wesley happily accepted the carrot and crunched happily on it. “Normally Wesley doesn’t like to eat his veggies,” said his older sister Winnie Whitetail. “But I guess he’s enjoying his carrot a lot!” she said as he finished. “I’m sure mama will be so happy to hear that Wesley has gained a new appreciation for a healthy snack!”

Mrs. Goat is already quite pleased with the success of her program. “If it gets just one child to discover a new favorite vegetable, I’ll call it a success. And I think today proved that it can work.”

Mrs. Goat’s greengrocery is open daily from 9 to 5. She offers seasonal vegetables at this time and hopes to offer a variety of fruits in the future.

The theme for the third round of Iron Craft was “G is for…” Our projects had to relate to a skill, material, or subject that begins with the letter “G.” I decided that Mrs. Goat’s Greengrocery would certainly fit this alphabet-based theme.

Greengrocer

This project was not as intensive as my last one, but I really should learn not to make so many projects that need to be “filled”!

I began this project by creating the crates based on this tutorial from about.com. They came together pretty easily, although I now see that I didn’t actually follow the tutorial particularly well. They turned out pretty nicely despite my apparent inability to follow directions.

I then built the stand. I wanted the crates to be on an angle, so I played around with different thicknesses of balsa wood. I eventually settled on a 3/8″ riser. I also used 1/8″ wood to create a little lip or stop at the fronts of the risers to keep the crates from sliding off. The entire project is made of these two widths of wood and 1/16″ wood sheets. After assembly, I painted it a fresh spring green.

Then I had to fill the crates (why do I keep doing this to myself!?) As it is winter here, I decided to primarily make winter vegetables. I also wanted a variety of colors to make the display more appealing. I use Premo Sculpey, because I have heard that it is one of the more stiff clays. I always have very warm hands, so I chose a clay that could withstand that. I also work on tile that I keep in the refrigerator when I’m not working on it. I realize I am very much in the minority with my hot hands, so it’s worthwhile doing some research to find what will work best for you.

I used a whole bunch of tutorials as a guideline for my veggies. Most of these tutorials are very involved and result in hyper-realistic veggies. I am not that much of a stickler for super-realism – my village inhabitants are anthropomorphic animals; a little cartoonishness is okay with me. (And I’m kind of lazy.) So these links are just guidelines – I definitely did not follow every step!

  1. Carrots (video)
  2. Eggplant/aubergine
  3. Parsnip (pretty much the same as carrots)
  4. Broccoli (video)
  5. Butternut squash (video)
  6. Potatoes (video)
  7. Beets (for general shape)
  8. Pumpkin (video; and see butternut squash video)

Some of the items I made enough to fill the crate; others I didn’t. For those that didn’t look full enough, I added some small bits of crumpled tissue paper on the bottom of the crates to give them a fuller look. I then made mini signs with some scrap paper and used a 01/.25 mm micron pen to write the signs. I used Scotch tape to stick them on. It’s really not sticking well, so I will need to find some other solution.

Greengrocer stand

This project was really fun. I truly enjoyed creating all the veggies and working with polymer clay. I’ve only done maybe one or two other projects with the clay, so this has been a great learning experience. Figuring out how to mix the clays I had to get the right colors was really interesting. I always had a reference image available for color matching and shaping. Are my items amazing? No, but they are effective-enough for my taste. And I can see why people are enthusiastic about polymer clay; it really is fun!

Mrs. Mouse’s Flower Cart

Crabapple Crossings has become a little more colorful this week with the debut of a new flower cart. Mrs. Mitzi Mouse, president of the local gardening club has always been enthusiastic about sharing her floral expertise with the town. Her flowers and arrangements are highly sought after as a cheery addition to homes and businesses.

Cart Mouse

“I’ve been doing most of my flower arranging at the kitchen table or outside on my potting bench. My customers knew me mostly by word-of mouth, so they had to take the initiative to seek me out. Now with my cart, I’m much easier to find!”

Cart

Mrs. Holly Holstein agrees with Mrs. Mouse’s sentiments. “I can’t say I’ve ever thought to buy flowers from Mrs. Mouse before. But when I was walking by, I couldn’t help but take a look at her gorgeous specimens. It’s so nice to be able to buy a lovely bouquet on my way home from the market.”

Cart Sale

Mrs. Holstein’s daughter, Hazel Holstein is also excited about the cart. “Mrs. Mouse gave me some lavender to take home. It will smell so nice next to my bed, and is sure to bring me lots of good dreams!” she said.

Mrs. Mouse’s flower cart will frequently be found in the town square, weather permitting, of course. Mrs. Mouse also encourages anyone with an upcoming special occasion to contact her. “I love doing weddings and other big events, so please don’t hesitate to let me know what you have in mind.” She’d also like to remind everyone that Valentine’s Day is coming up soon, so order early if you “have something special in mind for your special someone.”

This flower cart has been my project for the past couple of weeks. The Iron Craft Hearts and Flowers theme was so perfect for me. I have been mulling over this flower cart idea for a while now (you can see that Mrs. Mouse has a flower cart in her bio that I wrote almost a month ago.) But I hadn’t taken the steps to actually make it happen. 

Cart Side 1

I don’t always have a solid plan going into my projects; I often start on one thing and see where it leads. So for this project, I actually started by making the buckets. I printed off the 1/12 version this pattern from about.com (seriously a great resource for minis, there will be several more links to them in this post). I wasn’t a big fan of the particular designs on the pattern, so I very carefully cut out one of the larger bucket patterns and traced it onto gray cardstock. I then followed the assembly instructions. I wanted to give the buckets a more weathered zinc-look, so I applied white paint. To get the streaky look of the white, I used a dry-brush technique, wiping most of the paint off my brush before adding it to the buckets.

While I was making my buckets, I had a series of paper punches out, primarily to see if one in my stash was the right size for the bottoms of the bucket – nope. But I did discover that although my 3/4″ circle punch was just slightly too big, a finished bucket could be suspended in the hole quite effectively. This discovery became crucial to making this project work.

Once I made my discovery, I sketched out a plan for the cart. I wanted a stepped-look to the cart, and dithered back and forth about the length of the cart and number of buckets. I’m not a huge stickler for scale, but I didn’t want things to be too out of proportion, so I did have a critter on-hand to check heights and such. That helped me decide that four buckets in width would be way too long. The cart is made out of a combination of bass and balsa woods, along with paper. I won’t get into the details of specific measurements for everything unless someone wants it; if so, just leave a comment.

Cart Side 2

I cut all the wood with an X-acto blade. This kind is my favorite, as I can’t stand the usual type where the collar that holds the blade is where I grip; it constantly gets loose. With this type, the collar is at the back end. I also use a metal ruler to ensure clean (enough) cuts. All the wooden parts were then painted with multi-surface acrylic paints that matched the cardstock I wanted to use. It was a happy coincidence that I had a pretty close match with cardstock and paint already in my stash. Also, the green is almost identical to the original 1980s Sylvanian Families furniture, which I found a bit amusing. The cart itself was a pretty quick project – from concept to completed structure it was probably only a couple of hours max – and that’s including letting the paint and glue dry!

Compared to the quickness of building the structure, actually filling it was a serious undertaking. I estimate I spent a good 20+ hours working on the flowers; they are definitely not for the impatient!

FlowersFrom left to right, top to bottom: red roses, black-eyed susans, pink roses, pink delphinium, lavender, calla lilies, white daisies, orange daisies, irises.

So. Flowers. There are nine different “types” of flowers in the cart to create some variety in color and shape. All (but the lavender) were made with thin floral wire for the stems. Some of the flowers have paper-wrapped wires and some do not. I think I used 22- and 24-gauge wires (a couple of my packages have lost their labels.) For the flowers with traditional petals, I used simple colored tissue paper. I purchased some of my tissue at a craft store and some of it at a party supply store. Each package was 99 cents and came with eight sheets of 20″x 20″ tissue. I used less than half a sheet for each set of flowers, so this is a great deal! All the leaves were made using acrylic-painted copy paper and small punches or cutting freehand.

So I’ll go into a little detail for each flower, starting with the roses. I used this tutorial from about.com. There are some spots where I got confused, so I kind of did some guessing. I used a mini leaf punch from Punch Bunch for the rose leaves.

For the black-eyed susans and daisies, I used this tutorial from 1-inch Minis from Kris. I used this flower punch from Punch Bunch (between 3 and 4 per flower) for the petals of the blacked eyed susans and white daisies. Unfortunately, that punch jammed (there’s probably tiny tissue bits stuck in the spring…) so for the orange daisies I used this other punch, two per bloom. For the centers of the black eyed susans and orange daisies I used black flocked paper. I can’t find a source online, but I bought it from Joann for around $2. It’s about the thickness of normal cardstock with a velvety flocked side. I used a 1/8″ punch. The centers for the white daisies are yellow cardstock. I wet the cardstock and then pulled the layers apart for a rougher texture.

For the delphinium I used this tutorial from Tudor Dollhouse Project. Instead of using bugle beads for structure, I dipped the stems into acrylic paint. Each stem used between 30 and 50 blooms. Yikes! I also used a white gel pen to add detail after applying the blooms.

For the calla lilies I used yet another about.com tutorial. I chose not to add texture to the centers. The petals are simply white copy paper. I punched the paper with this heart punch from Stampin’ Up, then cut the hearts in half.

The irises were made using this tutorial from Joann Swanson. For the petals, I used the same mini-heart punch as I did for the roses, but carefully cut them in half. I also chose not to add the yellow paint to the petals (I found it too difficult.)

Finally, the lavender. I actually came up with my own technique for these, so I posted a quick tutorial.

Overall, I am very, very happy with my flower cart. I feel a huge sense of accomplishment about it. I find it so cool to think that it started out as just some wood, paper, glue, and paint. I don’t know if I’ll ever undertake this many miniature flowers again. I still have so much tissue paper and floral wire, but it was really very tedious. Maybe an arrangement or pot here or there, but probably never again the 200-some stems I made for this project! 

Mr. Beaver’s Workshop

Local citizen Mr. Bertram Beaver is happy to announce the completion of his wood workshop. He has been working diligently to create this dedicated workspace for his woodworking business.

Interior

His wife, Mrs. Blanche Beaver is thrilled with her husband’s new workshop. “I am so relieved that he now has his own place to work in peace and quiet. And my living room is no longer full of projects, wood scraps, and sawdust!”

Mr. Beaver built his workshop with his own two paws and says that he believes the shop is a great showcase of his skills as a builder and woodworker.

Mr. Beaver offered a short tour of his shop.

After-Exterior

The shop itself is one story and has a cottage-like feel. It has a red wood door and five large windows.

The walls, floor, and roof are made of foam core. The door and window frames are bass wood strips: cut, painted, and glued. The windows are clear plastic. The siding and shingles are made out of cardstock paper.

Tour-1

Mr. Beaver is especially proud of his wooden door. It took a lot of finessing to make it look just right!

I stalled out on the door for a very long time. I initially wanted to use more foam core, but I found that it buckled too much when painted. I eventually settled on balsa or bass wood. I was so nervous about it not working, but it turned out great. The door knobs are just simple wooden beads. Probably the biggest expense of the entire wood shop was the door hinges. One slight downside is that the door doesn’t generally want to stay closed. I suppose a bit of tape could work, or I could try to create some sort of latch. I haven’t quite figured it out yet.

Tour-2

Just inside the door is Mr. Beaver’s wood scrap bin. He built the bin himself. It helps keep the workshop tidy.

Also, I can mention here that the floors are a textured cardstock with a crackled look – I thought it looked a lot like crackled poured concrete.

Tour-3

Over here is his peg board for his most used tools.

The peg board is a piece of foam core covered in cardstock. I drew on the peg holes and used sequin pins for the nails. The tools are charms I found in the jewelry section of a craft store. Also, I should mention that the walls and interior window and door frames are made out of adhesive-backed real wood veneer. I am totally addicted to the stuff and highly recommend it. It is so easy to work with. I wish I could buy it in bulk!

Tour-4

Mr. Beaver is most proud of his work bench, which he also built. It is the perfect height for working on his many projects.

It’s a bit hard to tell, but I added a faux vice to the end of the work bench. I made it out of some small wood scraps and a toothpick. I thought it added a small level of realism to the space.

Tour-5

Finally, in this corner Mr. Beaver keeps his tool box and shelves with jars full of fasteners. His tool box is always at the ready for when he needs to head out to a job site.

The tool box and tools are purchased miniatures. The shelves are made by me. The jars are real glass and are from the dollar store – they originally held nail glitter. I filled them with some mini screws, some sequin pins that I cut down to size with a wire cutter, and some teeny tiny nails that came with the door hinges. I was too nervous to use them on the door in the fear that the wood would split. Also, I made the jar lids out of paper circles. I will certainly be using these jars often in my projects. (And at 8 for $1, they are a great deal!)

After-Interior

“I welcome everyone in the village to come take a look around to see what I can do. There is no project too big or small for me to undertake, and I am so happy to offer my building services to the Crabapple Crossings community.”

Overall this project was a rather time consuming, but I am so happy with the result. I felt that Crabapple Crossings definitely needed a workshop for Mr. Beaver so that he can help build the other critters’ homes. The only additional things that I am considering adding are some blueprints and maybe some paint cans and paint brushes. I was having some trouble getting the thick dowels I want to use to cut nicely, so that will be a project for another day. But as it is, Mr. Beaver is quite pleased with his workshop and looks forward to spending lots of time working in there.

Customizing the Li’l Woodzeez Bakery

When I first started collecting Calico Critters, I have to admit I had a bit of sticker-shock when it came to the buildings and environments. Not only can they be rather hard on the pocketbook, the line can seem quite limited. Right now the bakery available in the U.S. is more like a market stall than a full bakery, and isn’t really to my taste. However, a newish line of Critter-like toys called Li’l Woodzeez is quite widely available at Target stores and the playsets run about $20. I was initially turned off by the Woodzeez line because of the (to me) overly bright and cartoon-ish look. But on closer examination, I became interested in the “bones” of the structures and the wide variety of accessories that the playsets came with. So I purchased the “Tickle Your Tastebuds” bakery with the goal of renovating it to fit more with my aesthetic tastes.

Let me give you a sample of the “before and after” before I begin explaining my process and getting into the nitty-gritty.

Before and After

Let me say first off that this customization was very detailed and tedious. It’s probably only a way to “save” money if you don’t put a dollar value on your time. (So what I’m saying is that the official Calico Critters environments are not overpriced if you like how they look. The cost of materials and time to customize the cheaper Li’l Woodzeez version is most likely more than what you would pay for a Calico Critters playset.)

I didn’t think to take pictures of my full process, so this will be text heavy until the end.

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