Archive for April, 2012

I am going to be without a computer later this week and so I am blogging this now, a little bit earlier than I usually do.

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Firstly, a Huge Thank You to the 25 people who have been exceeding generous with their time, and their own resources, and tried out / are still trying out the prototype Fairy Tale Theatre Kit.

Particular, thanks goes to the lady who took all the photographs and tried out all the different sorts of paper and sent me a detailed, written report which contained several excellent suggestions for improvements to the theatre.

Also to the 5 people who sent me the link to the blog of a lady called Kris, who uses step by step photos as a guide to making her miniatures. I recommend looking at her work here http://1inchminisbykris.blogspot.co.uk

Secondly, another Huge Thank You to the 17 people who took the time to contact me and explain (in some detail) why They Will Never Touch a Miniature Kit Again As Long As They Live.

Despite the majority of the feedback that I received, I tried the theatre on Etsy over the weekend. (It was priced at $5.50 – with an explantion I was looking for feedback and an offer to send it free to anyone who would like to try it out). It received 12 views and I was sent one message. The message contained one lovely quote – that by trying out a kit I was, “Devaluing My Brand”.

I loved the idea of having a Brand to Devalue, so I asked for details, but the sender wasn’t/couldn’t be clear about whether they thought the theatre was Bad, or if kits in general were Bad. I am sorry that I can’t reproduce our correspondence in whole; I don’t have the other party’s permission to do that.

Anyway, all the feedback that I have had suggests that:

  • Printed Kits / printable kits / downloadable kits / printies have a reputation for being very poor quality. (Some people were kind enough to direct me to sites and share files with me.)
  • That there are many people who long to make things for themselves. (I understand this completely, I like making things myself).
  • That there are many people who long to make things and have trouble getting supplies. (I know how hard finding the exactly the “right” thing is – believe me, I do! – and I can offer to send out small pieces of wood / paper /card etc. BUT, the postage will probably cost more than the materials. I am happy to tell you where I get my supplies from, but please remember that I am in the UK and you will still need to pay postage.)


Glue alone deserves a whole blog entry to itself.

I told one lady that I use wood glue on paper. Her reply sounded unhappy – in her experience, wood glue is YELLOW /BROWN, while in my experience it is white when wet and clear when dry and does not discolour (at least, in 25 years of use, it hasn’t yet ) – and you need to go looking to find some with dye added to it

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By the way –

If you are looking for conservation grade glue I suggest considering the type/brands shown here


and at this one in particular


but, unless you are very lucky in your local shops, you will need to get this through the post.

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Finally, I came to the conclusion that if I was going to “Devalue My Brand” I might as well make a proper job of it.


I am going to make a page on this blog called Projects, and the first thing on it will be The Fairy Tale Theatre Kit.

If I add more “projects” they will be in the same high resolution, pdf format and of a standard size – A4 – so that it will be possible to simply click on the link to the pdf and print what is on screen. If you want to save the pdf to your computer / a CD / data stick etc. you will be able do that too.

  • You may use the contents of the pdfs for yourself – this includes making things to sell.
  • You may share them with your friends and family, and miniature club.
  • You may link to them from your website / blog / satellite station, if you have one.
  • You may customise them.
  • You may use them / the design ideas, in whole, or in part, as for inspiration for making your own things.

You may not copy the pdf, or the images contained within the pdf, in whole, or in part, and resell them.

If you find that they are usable quality and would like to ask for another project/some other downloadable material, please use the poll form below and let me know.

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I have been surprised, and very grateful, for the responses I have had about the proposed Fairy Tale Theatre Kit.

This morning I made another theatre, and this time I photographed every stage of the process but, before I go through the steps involved in making it, I am going to say a very few words about print quality and why it can vary so much.

This has nothing to do with the mechanics of putting the theatre together, so – skip this is you are not at all interested !!!

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The image that you see on your computer screen is made up from little dots called pixels. Each little pixel is a spot of colour.

Computer images have to appear in your screen FAST and so they are mostly Low Resolution (not too many pixels) – usually around 72 ppi (ppi = pixels per inch).

However, when you want to print an image you need enough pixels (dots of colour) to get a good print.

This is especially important if you want a crisp, clear image that is small / very small indeed.

Look at what happens to a small image if you reduce the resolution from 300 ppi to 72 ppi – and then print it on ordinary copy paper.

The difference between 72 ppi and 300 ppi

If you copy an image from your computer screen, and it is large in size to begin with (filling the screen from top to bottom), you may well be able to make it smaller and get a fairly acceptable print from it. If you copy a small image and try to manipulate it you will find that you get a very poor quality print.

I work from original source material – not web images – and I use images at are usually  300 ppi. This may be a little bit excessive for the average home printer but, if you are printing at 600 dpi, and want a good quality result, it is the minimum you will need.

[NOTE: dpi = dots per inch – Just to be confusing, ink jet printers print in dpi while images are sized in ppi]

Anyway, enough of the technical stuff this is supposed to be about…

How I Put the Theatre Together

I am going to stress the I here.

Everyone works differently and there is no Universal Law that says you must do what I do, just because I did it – if you have an idea and you want to try it out, then TRY IT OUT

The worst that can happen is that  you will need to print another theatre. The best is that your theatre will be BETTER than mine.

First you will need to have some tools:

I used a metal ruler, a very sharp knife, a blunt knife (for scoring creases), some craft glue and a small paintbrush with which to apply the glue

Basic equipment for making a paper theatre

To print the theatre I used our basic Canon Pixma, that cost £29.99 from ASDA, and 140 gsm card, which was 100 sheets for £1 from our local discount shop.

[My Print setting was – plain paper, highest quality print]

This is what I do when I make a prototype to work from.

If I was making this theatre to sell as a finished miniature, I would probably use 200 gsm, cold pressed, very fine water-colour paper, and I would consider getting it printed at the professional printer’s in Derby.

When I was sure the print was dry and would not smudge, I cut it in to 4 parts.

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit for Dolls' House

and then I started to cut out the fiddly bits of scenery.

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - the fiddly bits

I left all the scenes joined together, as they are easier to handle this way.

I cut away from the corners and towards the centre – turning the card as I worked round each scene.

When I had finished, I cut away the card that I did not need from the outside.

The scenes are lined up so that this can be done with one cut.

Look ! I cut off the little hooks at the side – these are used to hang the scenery in the full-size theatre.

I left them in place in case anyone wants to try using them – some people prize authenticity!

[The orange colour is underneath, so that you can see my recklessness clearly]

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - cutting off the excess card

When I had removed all the excess card, I was left with these

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - all the scenes

Then I cut some strips of card – about 16th of an inch (2mm) wide

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit  scenery hangers

and I stuck these to the back of the scenes – at the top

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - sticking hanger to back of scenery

When I stick paper to paper, and I want a neat  finish, I very often put some glue on ONE surface first and let it dry, and then put glue on the other surface and then position the two parts together.

I find this saves pieces slipping about – the downside is that instant contact adhesion is not always a good thing.

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit hangers in place and scenes finished

When I was sure that the glue was dry, I trimmed the hangers so that about 1/8th inch in length (4mm) stuck out at either side

Then I had to trim away some of the hanger that was showing on the scene for Puss in Boots.

The hangers reinforce the scenes – the one for Puss in Boots is very flimsy without its hanger.

Then I moved on to the background scenery.

This needs to be folded in places and so I used the ruler and the blunt knife

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit scoring card to make folding easy

As I have only one pair of hands I can’t show you this bit – only the result

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit fscored for folding

When the fold lines were in place I cut round the back-to-front C shapes.

These are going to hold the curtain in place when the theatre is finished.

Then I cut away the excess card.

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - background complete

Then it was time to tackle the curtain and the sides of the proscenium.

Once again, I scored along the fold lines and bent the card before beginning to cut it out.

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - curtain and sides

And this is where I got annoyed with myself

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit  -1st mistake

I had lined up the curtain and the sides, so that I could make one clean cut along that edge – and I forgot to do it !

So annoying !!!

To make up for my idiocy – let me show you how to see if something is square – use the end of your ruler to check.

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - using ruler as a T square

When I had cut out the curtain and sides, I checked that all the folds lines were straight and in the right place

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - side of proscenium showing folds

Particularly the tiny tab at the bottom

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit f- another fiddly bit

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - proscenium

Then I scored along the fold lines (marked in pink) on the proscenium, cut carefully round the prompter’s box (marked in green) and cut out the excess card from the stage area.


Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - leave some extra for folding

If I had left myself some card attached, folding the tiny folds would have been MUCH EASIER !

Open House Miniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre Kit - proscenium folds

And I could have flattened the proscenium out and cut the card away when I was happy the folds were all in the right place and then refolded it.

I will remember next time – these are a bit tricky without the extra card.

Next I attached the sides of the proscenium to the front.

I put a little bit of glue on the line marked by the pink dots and let it dry

Open House MIniatures - Fairy Tale Theatre kit - assembling the proscenium

and then I folded the flaps on the side pieces right back, applied a little bit of glue and stuck them in place

Open House MIniatures - assembling the proscenium

The bottom of the flap needs to be level with the base of the proscenium and the top needs to be level with the top fold.

This is so the small side flat can be folded down, over the side and glued in to place.

The part of the side that represents the curtain is then folded across and glued in to place.

Open House MIniatures - assembling the proscenium

When I was happy that the top was firmly stuck. I glued the small flaps at the bottom up – to support the stage.

Open House MIniatures - assebling the stage

The proscenium was then completed and could stand up, unsupported

Open House MIniatures -  proscenium completed

Next I gently curved the background scenery – around the handle of the blunt knife

Open House MIniatures - curve the background scene before glueing

before gluing it into place

Open House MIniatures - glue the background scenery to the proscenium

This is where I cheated.

The original full-size, theatre is large enough to allow the background scenery to be attached like this

Open House MIniatures - full size

In miniature it is much, much neater like this – without the inward fold

Open House MIniatures - finally competed paper theatre

and there it was – completed.

Open House Miniatures - dolls house paper theatre kit

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I asked in the Post Office this afternoon how much the basic airmail service will be when the prices go up on the 1st May, and they are effectively set to double – from £2.07 to about £3.90 (depending on the destination).

This bring me, rather neatly, to what I have been trying, and failing, to write about for the most of this morning – DIY  KITS

Open House Miniatures - dolls house paper theatre kit

While I have been listing work on Etsy, I have been surprised at the number of requests that I have had for kits – particularly a kit for a theatre.

In the past, due to time and storage issues, these are not something that I could consider making – at least not at a price that would be significantly cheaper than a completed miniature.

However, here is a possible solution that may – or may not ! – appeal to all those who would really like to make something for themselves.

When assembled, the miniature theatre in the photograph above, is it is just under 1 and ½ inches in width (3.7cm).

It is based on a Scandinavian one from the early 1920s and has a curtain and 4 removable scenes, one each from –

Red Riding Hood
Snow White
Hansel and Gretel
and Puss in Boots

The theatre comes in the form of a crisp, high quality, high-resolution ( 300 ppi) png file, which can be sent anywhere in the world via email (no postage to worry about ! ) and the recipient can then make up their own theatre and resize it, or customise it, as they wish.

This is undoubtedly not a new idea, but I have never considered making a kit before and it has given me a week (off and on) of anxiety.

I know it is something that I would like to have – Will it appeal to people who want to make something for themselves?

I know it is something that I can put together – How will other people find it?

How do I decide on a price for it ? – It took time to set up and test, but the cost of materials and construction time will be borne by others (always supposing that someone buys one ! )

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Anyone out there like to be a guinea pig?

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While I was tidying up my bookcase I found one of my old notebooks

OPen House Miniatures - Elizabeth Plain notebook 2002

As you can see from the photo, I used to sit down with a limited number of coloured pencils and chart designs for (among other things) miniature carpets.

The design above worked out very well done in 1 ply Appleton’s wool on 22 point Aida cloth – and if I could find the carpet I would photograph it.

(Don’t ever move house in a rush – you will never find anything again)

Also hidden on the bookshelf was a CD for the Royal School of Needlework’s Definitive Guide to Cross Stitch and Tapestry, and I have vivid memories of trying very hard to compose a chart on a computer screen, instead of on a piece of paper.

Basically, the software on the CD does two things –

  • Either gives you an, on-screen, charted area on which to design a piece of needlework
  • Or allows you to import an image, and then turn that in to a needlework chart

This sounds nice and easy, BUT unless you understand how many pixels are in the average image on-screen, you are going to get very, very frustrated, very, very quickly, if you want to use software like this to import designs and work in miniature.

Well it rained all weekend, and I had a cold, and it so it was maybe not the best time to put the CD in the computer and try again –

However…  here is a High Victorian, Berlin Wool Work Style rose that I designed on paper and then “pixel painted” in to Paint Shop Pro

Open House Miniatures - pixel rose

Each little square of colour = 1 pixel.

If I import this very small and simple design into the RSN programme, and then save the chart, it will look like this –

Open House Miniatures - Royal School of Needlework Charted Roase

and, on 22 count fabric, this will work to a finished size of about 1 and 1/2 inches (3.8cm)

However, what I would like to work from is something that looks like this –

Open House Miniatures - Charted needlework rose

and I have not been able, so far, to coax the RSN software into saving a chart that looks like this, which is a shame.

Moving on to something more complicated (and I really should have known better!) I wondered what would happen if I wanted to turn one of my printed carpet designs…

Open House Miniatures - printed carpet - Lucinda (pink)

into a chart…

Open House Miniatures - screen shot of needlework carpet design

To be fair, there is a very easy to use wizard that walks you through the process of importing and setting up an image to chart and, after about 4 hours, I had a 7″ x 10″ carpet (on 22 point canvas) which used a mere 46 colours !

Another couple of hours work and I had reduced the colours to 14 and tidied up the design so that it looked almost workable, apart from the central motif, which would not be out-of-place in a needlework portrait, but is probably a bit excessivly detailed for a miniature carpet.

Open House Miniatures - Centre of chart for Lucinda (pink) needlework carpet

Now what you see on screen is not necessarily a true-to-life-colour, so I sorted out the colours that would be needed and then I changed the, software-seclected, light bluish pink to one that had a slightly warmer tone.

Open House Miniatures - needlework design Anchor thread colours

Then, of course, I had to see how hard the central motif was to work.

90 minutes (or one football match) later I had achieved…

Open House Miniatures - Needlework anchor thread on 22 count Aida

Now I have to make a decision – do I work some more, or do I (sensibly) stop now ?

Afterword –

Although I am not very comfortable using the RSN software, it does have its useful points (and some ready charted motifs and alphabets that can be inserted into your own designs) and I can imagine that if you are working “full-size” that it could be a very useful tool.

It is not designed to make working in miniature “easy” – but then I don’t think anything is !

Another thing –

Most miniature needlework kits use mono canvas, not Aida.

I use Aida because it works best for me, and I usually use wool for miniature carpets as it does not have the bright reflective surface of cotton, or silk, embroidery thread and so, to me, it looks more “real”.

If you are looking for miniature needlework kits, I can recommend the work of –

Janet Granger

Nicola Mascal

Janet Oliver


UPDATE 21st January 2015

The charts for the Savonnerie Style Rug are now available from the Projects Page.

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This week we have had rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog – so I haven’t been able to do all the things I was planning to do.

It did, however, mean that I had a chance to start rearranging my bookcase.

I need to do this because, although I had made a solemn promise to myself not to buy any more books, I was tempted beyond endurance by a copy of The Carole and Barry Kaye Museum of Miniatures Catalogue.

It is not very large – 10 inches by 8 1/2 inches and 110 pages – and it is absolutely full of colour photographs of dolls’ houses, miniature scenes and accessories collected by Carole Kaye.

I was fascinated by the American scenes and decor and there were makers who were completely new to me – the work of Rainbow Hand being a wonderful new discovery.

There were also some very beautifully dressed and modelled dolls by George Stuart, which I had never seen before. However, I made the mistake of reading the short paragraph about his Charles II (which is quite stunning to look at) and became intensely annoyed…

Charles II was not “the second in the line of Stuart Kings” – he was the third – James I of England (and 6th of Scotland), Charles I, Cromwell (not a king at all), Charles II – and what is wrong with paying your debts? and the king did not personally plunge the United Kingdom into endless wars – as seems to be implied –

and –

…and then I calmed down a bit

…and remembered that History is Written by The Winners

…and a great deal depends on which books you have read

…and what you have been told

So, no more words, but some pictures – which are far more interesting!

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I am told that only part of the Carole and Barry Kaye collection is featured in this catalogue and sadly the Museum is now closed, so I will  never see it in-situ and in its full glory.

The collection has apparently been donated to The Naples Museum of Art and Philharmonic Center for the Arts where some of it (at least) is now on display as part of the museum’s permanent collection – although I have not been able to find any details about it on their website.

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