Archive for July, 2013

For the Record…

I wondered how long it would be before I found myself writing a blog post like this one.

Last week someone sent me a photograph of a theatre that was evidently based on one of mine.

I hadn’t made it and I sincerely hope that the person who owns it had not bought it because it had been sold as mine.

I have not asked for permission to reproduce their photograph here, which perhaps I should have done, however in an attempt to set the record straight…

Here is the prototype of one of my theatres – it is the one that had evidently been copied.

open house miniature - prototype for theatre

open house miniatures

I have been making this type of theatre for many years now and…

Elizabeth Plain theatre the dolls' house magazine november 2003 - issue number 66

This is from The Dolls’ House Magazine
November 2003

… because I make far too many different things, I keep sample and prototypes of everything so that I can match colours / size etc when / if I would like to re-make something after a while.

Over the years this theatre has undergone changes.

open house miniatures - theatre colour change

For example it was greener than it is now – that is due to a change in printer / paper / inks etc.

The curtain was originally ribbed silk – this was a piece of antique fabric and eventually I had none left, so I had to reinvent the curtain.

(Incidentally, the current curtain is not a copy of a toy theatre curtain.)

The look of the boxes, for storing character pieces and scenery, has changed too – this is because I like variety.

The first theatres that I made, which looked exactly like my prototype, were (and still are) only available through one London retailer, and they have never been available on-line.

However,  for this type of wooden theatre, I have sold on-line –

The Fairy Garden set

The Red Riding Hood set

The Cinderella Set

For the record, the Cinderella set, which has not been mentioned here or been available on Etsy, has scenery that looks like this –

open house miniatures

I like toy theatres and so I do make other types of theatre, and the characters and scenery to go with them.

However, this particular theatre is the one that has been most “visible” and widely available.

Dolls from the Marie France Beglan archives with an Elizabeth Plain theatre

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Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower - Test Fabric

It is certainly possible to print onto fabric at home (See Bits and Pieces for an example) but it is not something that I would encourage anyone to do, unless they have a printer that can cope with fabric.

The printers that I buy are designed  to print letters and invoices etc, and they tend to jam if I ask them to print on anything much thicker than thin card.

This being so, I only attempt to print onto fabric when I know that my printer is about to expire and I am going to need a new one soon anyway.

There are other reasons for getting fabrics commercially printed. Here are some random examples –

  • Cost – believe it or not, given the price of ink, it is actually cheaper for me to go to a proper print shop and get my printing done there – and not have the bother of maintaining a very expensive piece of machinery.
  • Dust – fibres from fabric will inevitably get into the mechanism of the printer – even though I am scrupulous about No Loose Threads.
  • Size / quality of print
  • Guaranteed colour-fastness of a fabric print (Some people recommend using Bubble Jest Set – I haven’t tried this (yet) as I find that simply boiling cotton fabric works sufficiently well for me.)

However, generally speaking, I would say that getting a fabric commercially printed is a costly and time-consuming business – and very often you are expected to buy yards and yards of the finished product too.

Given all this, I have been eyeing up Spoonflower (rather skeptically) for a while and wondering if I could justify the time involved in preparing some files to their specifications.

In the end I had an “If Not Now When?” moment and uploaded a large design which I had ready. (This had not been tweaked to fit any of Spoonflower’s recommendations – which was very unfair of me.)

And the result was ?

  • I uploaded the design on a Friday and paid for a proof to be sent to me. ($6 in total for one sample)
  • My 8 inch x 8 inch proof was posted to me on the following Monday. (20.3 x 20.3 cm)
  • The proof arrived the following Tuesday. (I am in the UK and Spoonflower is in the US.)
  • I sat and looked at it and thought – This is pretty amazing. There must be something wrong with it.

But there isn’t.

The sample was folded when it arrived – and neatly creased along the folds.

So I washed it.

Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower - Test Fabric washed

and ironed it on the reverse (I always iron printed fabrics on the reverse).

Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower Test Fabric - Ironed

I had asked for a sample in the cheapest  fabric available and this is very fine and smooth (and slightly transparent).

It is also looks unbleached and is very slightly creamy in colour, and this does affect the colour of the print.

(The fabric on the left and the paper print on the right – again, this is an unfair comparison as I can only print in CMYK and Spoonflower prints in RGB).

Open House MIniatures - Spoonflower Test Print - colour comparison

I would say that, on this fabric,  the print quality is excellent, with very minimal colour bleed.

(The ruler is showing millimeters).

Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower Test Print - minimal colour bleed

But what made me smile most was the one of the nicest compliment slips that I have seen for ages.

Open House Miniatures - Spoonflower fabric compliment slip

This fabric by Khandisha is here

And the thing that made me laugh when I saw it…?

(You will need to take a look at my previous post to understand why.)

Open House Miniatures - How big is this

I really must see if I can get some American coins, mustn’t I?

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In conclusion, am I planning to see if Spoonflower can handle some very small prints?

I am very tempted to, and if I do I will report back – with a sample book of the various materials available and a ruler !

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If you would like to visit my Spoonflower page in the meantime, it is here –


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How Big…?

Open House Miniatures - screen detail and 10p coin

10p coin.

One of the comments on the post before this one started a train of thought that ended, a great deal earlier this morning, in these photographs.

Open House Miniatures - screen detail and 10p coin

1p coin.

I look in bemusement at photographs from around the world, where my only size reference is an unknown coin.

Does the same thing happen to you?

If it does, this may help – for the UK at least.

Open House Miniatures - UK coins

The 10p coin
(far right)
is very slightly smaller than
1 inch
(2.5 cm)
in diameter

Open House Miniatures - UK coins

I think that, if you are not familiar with the UK currency,  in addition to the variety of sizes and shapes, it may sometimes difficult to identify a coin because the front and reverse of the same denomination can vary.

Open House Miniatures - 5p and 1p coins showing variations

This is one of the reasons why I continue to use a ruler – even though many people have told me how much they dislike it.

Open House Miniatures - screen detail and ruler

“…horrible, everyday, metallic, nasty, mundane-ness…” is possibly my favourite quote to date.

[Please do not take this as encouragement to send me more, even more descriptive, quotes !]

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Open House Miniatures - detail of painted dolls house firescreen

Here I am about to be depressing again as I am (reluctantly) coming to the conclusion that “on-line” is not a good place for the majority of things that I make.


Well, in order for something to exist here,  I have to photograph it.

And in order to photograph something I have to wait for a day when the light levels are “right”.

This is not too bad for repeatable items, but for things that I cannot repeat exactly, it is a distinct problem.

What do I mean by “repeatable” and “not-repeatable”?

A good example of “repeatable” would be this year’s nativity set.

It is going to be printed and so when they are finished all the nativities are all going to look very nearly identical.

This means that once I have managed to photograph one nativity, the photographs can be used for every nativity set,

Open House Miniatures - Notebook - Nativity Scene 2013

This is an old photo.
I started working on the nativity at Easter.

“Not-repeatable” on the other hand, would be something like the fire screens that I made last week.

Here they are, waiting to be wrapped for posting.


It was not particularly sunny this morning, but my camera is still picking up far too much reflected light and the detail is burned out.

I can cut down on the reflected glare by using a different background.

Open House Miniatures - miniature firescreens

and by using pieces of off-white paper to soften some of the light.

Open House Miniatures - dolls house firescreens

but I can’t honestly say that I am happy with the result.

Open House Miniature - doll house firescreens

And because I cannot reproduce a painted item exactly, I have to photograph every piece individually and this, in our uncertain climate, can be a very frustrating and time-consuming business.

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The photographs on this blog post are watermarked to protect their integrity and reproduced with the permission of the new owner.

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The design on the bluer screen is based on a painting by Renoir.

The basket of flowers on the greener screen is my own design.

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