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Archive for the ‘Craftsmen & Women’ Category

Open House Miniatures - dolls house Halloween pumpkin head, lanterns and bat garland

The lens on my camera – a Sony cybershot – bends pictures at the edges. I have to crop to the centre of the image in order to have an un-distorted picture : )

I very rarely make anything specifically, in miniature, for Hallowe’en, but this year I tried out an old recipe for papier mache and made a Jack o’ lantern that can be illuminated.

dollhouse light up jack o' lantern

In this photo, the head is sitting on a book light.

For this sort of papier mache you dissolve paper in a glue solution and use the resulting gloop as modelling medium. As the mixture is predominantly water, it tends to shrink dramatically as it dries and I ended up with a rather wrinkled looking head. Maybe it has been alight all night, or possibly it is a warty squash rather than a pumpkin.

The glue traditionally used for this type of papier mache was wallpaper paste. I read somewhere, at some point, that wallpaper paste was, at one time, made from flakes of potato starch. Whatever it is made from today, it usually also contains at least one fungicide and all the brands that I looked at carried warnings about not getting it on your skin. This being so, please read the instructions on your packet of wallpaper paste if you decide to try out the following mix :-

  • 1 part water (I used 1 desert spoon)
  • 1 part paste (I used 1 desert spoon)
  • sufficient moistened paper to beat into a thick paste (I used toilet paper; this is designed specifically to fall apart in water and using it reduces the amount of beating required.)

Because of the way it shrinks as it dries, I am not sure that the resulting mix is suitable for fine modelling but I think it would make an excellent, light-weight surface for a roughly finished wall.

If you would like to make a hollow pumpkin head of your own, air drying clay or fimo might be a better option.

I made mine around a ball of paper handkerchief, covered in cling film and supported on a stick. If I had thought to use a piece of dark coloured tissue paper, around the paper handkerchief ball, it would have made seeing what I was doing, while I was making the face, a great deal easier.

papier mache pumpkin head moulded around a ball of tissue, covered in cling film

When the head was dry, I removed the stick and pulled out the paper handkerchief and cling film.

I think that the papier mache recipe is from a book called ‘The Toymaker’. I did write down that the book was published in 1882 and that the mix was originally used for making a mask. But I don’t have a copy of this book and only wrote down some of the things that I wanted to try out.

While looking for a copy of ‘The Toymaker’ on-line (I am ever hopeful) I did come across a rather nice site called ‘The Toymaker’. On it there are a great many paper based projects to download for free. The owner of the site, Marilyn Scott Walters, is an author and has several books of paper toys on Amazon. I think her work is inventive and great fun – and so well designed that much of it could be reduced in size and made in miniature. Here is just one example :-

marylin scott thomas - the toymaker- fairy market - to make

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Making the supposed-to-be-a-pumpkin head reminded me of these.

miniature paper lanterns in various colours

I know these as ‘Chinese Lanterns’ and they have been made, in one form or another, for many years.  They are certainly not my own invention. I think they are fun to make full-size, in pretty papers, for birthday and Christmas decorations. Ideally I would have liked to make these miniature ones in brightly coloured origami paper. This is beautifully thin and holds its shape well but I didn’t have any, so instead I coloured some thin (75 gsm) printer paper coloured with indelible ink pens.

If you decide to make these and colour paper in this way too, please put something under the paper that you are using as spirit-based inks tend to go straight though thin paper and they will stain the surface underneath.

NB If you use an ordinary felt pen the ink will, in my experience, run when it comes into contact with glue – any sort of glue.

In this case I used ASDA own brand pens, but you can only buy these in-store. For nice colours, including a range of neon, Sharpie pens are possibly my favourite craft pen available on-line at the moment.

when using an indelible marker, put scrap cardboard under thin paper

This is how I made the lanterns:

First I cut an inner piece of paper to make the central cylinder. The example in the photograph is tissue paper. The gold flecks glint nicely in real life but do not show up at all in my photographs of the finished lanterns. I wrapped this paper around a 10 mm (plastic) knitting needle and glued it together with water based glue.

making a miniature lantern - tissue paper around a knitting needle

10 mm knitting needles are approximately old style 000 in the UK, or size 15 in the US.

The paper will shrink as it dries, so it is important not to wrap the paper too tightly around the knitting needle. If you do, you may have trouble getting the completed lantern off the needle.

Next I cut a piece of paper a little bit bigger than the inner paper, folded it in half lengthwise and made a series of cuts, along the entire length, at right angles to the folded edge.making a dolls' house miniature lantern - cutting slits in the paper

When this is unfolded the shape of the lantern began to emerge.

making a miniature lantern - unfolding the paper

Next, I glued one long, outer edge to the top edge of the inner cylinder.

making a miniature lantern - gluing the top edge in place

Then, when this was dry, I pushed up the other edge, applied glue to the edge of the inner cylinder and then lowered the outer casing into place.

making a miniature paper lantern - easing up the outer paper

While this is drying, I cut a strip of paper for the handle.

making a miniature paper lantern - fixing the handle in place

Then I glued this in place, slid the lantern off the knitting needle, and fixed the other end of the handle in place with another dab of glue.

The smaller lanterns are made by exactly the same method, but around a pencil instead of a knitting needle.

The width of the paper, and the size of the cuts made in it, affect the overall appearance of the lantern a great deal. The two sizes that I made are in the following pdf –

OHM_181005_chinese lantern

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Having found my ink pens and having them to hand, I thought I would experiment with an idea that I had for a garland of bats.

The idea was to make a 3D bat. It was an interesting idea, but I don’t think that I succeeded in making a particularly good bat shape and, in an effort to make the bats look more 3D, I ended up adding some flat pumpkin heads to the garland.

First I printed the bat shape on the thin printer paper that I had used for the lanterns.

They are rather small, so I cut them out roughly and scored the fold lines. Then, to make the folding easier, I cut away some of the paper and folded the bat shape.

I then flattened them out again, finished cutting round the outline and coloured them black – with an indelible marker pen.

miniature bat shape

I used black cotton for the string of the garland. The cotton wanted to curl and twist when it came off the spool, so I dampened it and lay it on a formica counter top to dry straight and flat.

doll house miniature bat garland on a cotton thread

I glued the bat shapes to the cotton with a dab of white wood working glue. This will peel off the formica, leaving the bat shape stuck to the cotton thread.

While the glue was drying I cut out some small pumpkin heads and then…

miniature pumpkin heads for a dollshouse garland

…used these to fill in the gaps between the bats.

bat and pumpkin head dolls' house garland

The pdf for the small pumpkin heads that I used in the garland is here: – OHM151102_halloween_pumpkin_heads

The pdf for the small bats is here: – OHM181004 _mini_bats

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Now for some things that are just printable 😀

Creative Beacon have some useful looking bat shapes (for free). I would have used these, if I had found them before embarking on my own bat design  : –
creative beacon - bat shapes for hallowe'en

My own collection of Hallowe’en related images is paltry, but here they are: –

Halloween jack o lantern pumpkin headHalloween jack o lantern pumpkin headHalloween jack o lantern pumpkin headHalloween jack o lantern pumpkin headHalloween jack o lantern pumpkin headHalloween jack o lantern pumpkin headHalloween jack o lantern pumpkin head

Halloween witch head profile

halloween house - microsoft clipartHalloween - witch on broomstickHalloween witch and cauldronHalloween witch and cauldronHalloween - old lady and catHalloween - old lady and cat

Halloween - black catHalloween - black cats

Halloween - crescent moon catHalloween - crescent moon owlHalloween - crescent moon witch

Halloween - card - pumpkin and couple with appleHalloween card - old lady and cat

Halloween - young girl and pumpkin head

How you spell Halloween seems to depend on how old you are and where you were born. I think that Halloween should be spelt (and not spelled) Hallowe’en, which apparently makes me very old and British. (Any pun making is usually unintentional: this time it was irresistible.)

Part of a card - Dolly Dingle doll with witch's costume for Halloween

Finally, time is running out on the Giveaway in the previous post so, if you would like the chance to win a miniature nativity set, please don’t delay entering.

The giveaway ends 22nd October 2018, at midnight, UK time.

[Regular readers probably know by now what I am going to say about any adverts at the bottom of this post – they aren’t put there by me: WordPress needs to fund its blogging service. I could pay a small fee to have them removed, but have chosen not to do this.]

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Kristin Baybars - name detail

Two blog posts in a week! What is going on? I haven’t blogged in ages because I have no ‘blogging time’ to spare. But I think this is important and so some other things have had to wait.

Charlotte Stokoe, organiser of the London Dolls’ House Festival (producer) and Fred Burns (director) have made a film called A Pathway of Crumbs. (see previous blog post) about Kristin Baybars, who is the owner of a very special, almost indescribable shop / toy collection in Gospel Oak, London.

I have watched  A Pathway of Crumbs several times now. And, interesting though it is, I have yet to catch more than the faintest flavour of the person whose life and work it is supposed to document. This bothers me because I think that Kristin’s life and work are worth documenting – fully and properly.

It is quite possible that the qualities that make Kristin Kristin are impossible to capture on film. I am certain that I could not do it, not least because I would have to learn all the technical skills necessary in order to make the attempt.

I did try to write down what I thought about her and ended up with a nebulous list of qualities, rather than actions with dates attached to them. So here, for what it is worth, are some of the things that I think are most important – I have left out more that you can imagine, if I hadn’t I would have been writing for years.

Creativity – throughout her life Kristin has made things. She understands, from the inside out, about making things. She created the Ostrobogulous toy range.

Those of you who watched Play School on the BBC as a child will recognise Humpty and Jemima – well, Humpty was designed by Kristin.

And now there are miniature Humptys at Kristin’s (although these were not made by Kristin, herself.)

Kristin Baybars - miniature humptys

When I first knew Kristin, she had just been asked to make, among other things a  number of miniature cricket bats and tennis racquets to go in sports themed presentation cases. A little later on, and over a number of years, she made a series of tiny wooden jig-saw puzzles. What I find truly remarkable is that she found (and still finds) the time and enthusiasm to encourage other people to make things too.

Dedication – if you are not a shop keeper you will have to exercise your imagination for this… It Is Hard Work… Never Ending Hard Work…You Have to Find the Stock…

Kristin Baybars - dolls house detail

If your stock is unusual and not to be found in a warehouse this is: Even More Hard Work…

Kristin Baybars - wooden mechanical toy camel

Then you have to unpack your stock, clear away the packing, price the stock, arrange it,

Kristin Baybars - miniature clothes hanging up

look after it,

kristin baybars - philip beglan doll painting a pillar box

allow people to buy the things you love, re-order (when possible) what you have sold,

Kristin Baybars - dollhouse interior detail - kitchen table

and that is just for starters.

Now consider the sort of things that are in Kristin’s shop:  toys that are not stocked in most shops because they are not a standard, packaged-in-plastic size,

Kristin Baybars - toy ship and fish

unique things,

Kristin Baybars - seen through shelves of toys

delicate miniatures…

Kristin Baybars - miniature mechanical toys

If Kristin was not utterly and completely dedicated to what she does she could not have done it at all, let alone continue to do it for years and years and years.

Kristin Baybars - dollshouse interior

‘Fauvist Inspiration’ –

fauvism - kristin baybars shop front

I am not trying to say that Kristin’s shop (particularly the front) is Fauvist, but I would never have looked at a Fauvist painting ‘properly’ if I hadn’t seen Kristin’s shop front. And now Fauvist paintings, with their unexpected colours, are a great joy to me. Kristin and her shop have this effect on me: they are make me look at things afresh. They expand my mental horizons.

Helpful Advice – it would be impossible for me to relate all the advice that Kristin has given me over the years, there is so much of it. One of the earliest pieces has stuck with me though. It sounds quite simple and yet it is vital: ‘Babies eyes are in the middle of their faces.’

Elizabeth Plain - miniature baby dolls

Try making a doll, which is I was doing when Kristin told me this, and see how important it is to get the position of the eyes exactly right.

Imagination –

Kristin Baybars - facebook - the ghost of marie antoinette sets up a cake shop

‘The ghost of Marie Antoinette has set up a cake shop at Kristin Baybars’

When I saw this it set me thinking: What sort of cake shop would Marie Antoinette have? Would she have a very flouncy apron? Would she have to wear one of those bakery caps? Do ghosts have the same rules and regulations that we seem to have? I wonder what the court painter would have made of her and her cakes?  Would he have to be a ghost too, or maybe he would be a very brave (or scared) mortal.

I am going to stop now, before I drift off into a dissertation about the French Revolution, interwoven with remarks about some Louis XVI sugar decoration moulds that I once saw. This is what Kristin and her shop have always done for me: fired my imagination, allowed me to think, to ask questions, to have ideas.

In conclusion, I know that this small, vividly coloured, crowded shop, ‘in the middle of nowhere’ is not going to be to everyone’s taste. But if it suits you, you will love it.

Please go there before it vanishes. It is unique and you will not see its like again.

Kristin Baybars, 7 Mansfield Road, Gospel Oak, London, NW3 2JD

Telephone: 020 7267 0934

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Kristin-Baybars

Usual opening hours Tuesday to Saturday, 12 noon to 5pm.

Please check this information before visiting – it may be out of date by the time you read this.

Kristin Baybars - film still - detail of front door

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A Pathway of Crumbs…

A Pathway of Crumbs - a film about the life and work of Kristin Baybars

I have a dilemma (again). You may have noticed that I get them now and then.

A friend has just sent me a copy of a short film about the life and work of Kristin Baybars, owner of possibly the most amazing shop that most people have never heard of.

The film is Called A Pathway of Crumbs and I had four main reactions when I watched it.

1. my personal reaction:  What can I do to help save Kristin’s shop ?

2. the miniaturist reaction: Why are the amazing jig-saws that Kristin used to make not mentioned ? And what about the beautiful, tiny, wooden ark that she made ? What happened to the huge the dolls’ house that she made when she was at school ?

3. personal reaction again: I can’t comment on the technical side of this, but I am going to stop the film so that I can look at David Ward’s work. Ten Thousand Curses, I Was Looking at That… Thank Heaven for the Pause Button… etc.

4. personal reaction yet again: This is not ‘easy’ viewing in places. One of Kristin’s friends, Janet, contracted meningitis and, in order to save her life, had to have what is euphemistically termed ‘life changing surgery’. Kristin, herself, is growing old. This is real life, not a pretty advert for a unique shop.

I hope you can now understand why I felt that I had a dilemma. I haven’t been asked to review this DVD, yet I found it evocative and emotive and think that it is worth seeing. I think it will interest people and yet I hesitate to recommend it because it is not ‘pretty’ and does not fit in with the generally cosy image of the dolls’ house world. My perception of the dolls’ house world being  that, for a great many people, for a great deal of the time, it is a haven and an escape from the cares of the ‘real’ world. And a good and necessary addition to the ‘real’ world too because, would you like to live without your imagination?: I wouldn’t.

The online-trailer, although brief, is (I think) wonderful.

It is possible to watch the whole film on-line – on Vimeo – at a very reasonable £3.99 to hire (48 hour access), or £6.99 to download and watch at any time.

The DVD is also available to buy from The London Dolls’ House Festival – payment details are at the bottom of the page.

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The following short films, also about Kristin Baybars, are charming and free to watch online:

David Ward miniature cat in Kristin Baybars dollhouseLondon Film School – KRISTIN BAYBARS

Talking with Kristin – an 80-year-old toy shop owner in North London – is a lesson in true values and authenticity. Above all she is inspiring, she inspires you to start creating yourself, using your hands, but mainly she inspires you to change your way of thinking. Toys are used as a medium to reveal Kristin and her values, which allow her world to exist. A little journey, escaping from reality but at the same time returning to what really matters…

Running time: 9 min 3 sec

Year of production: 2012

Watch now

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This little place in gospel oak - a film about kristin baybars

Kentish Towner – Kristin Baybars’ ‘Little Place in Gospel Oak’

Filmmaker Alexander Osman has made a short docudrama that captures some of the unique atmosphere of her shop, with a rare cameo role from the softly spoken 80-year-old Kristin herself…

Running Time: 6 minutes 9 sec

Year of production: 2014

Watch now

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Watching A Pathway of Crumbs was a rather odd experience for me. You see, I have been inside Kristin’s shop and it brought home to me, yet again, the fact that looking at things on-screen is no substitute for real-life experience. I can’t describe Kristin or her shop adequately in words. I can only urge dolls’ house enthusiasts and lovers of finely made, intelligent, thought-about, toys to make the journey to Gospel Oak and experience the wonders of Kristin’s shop for themselves.

Do check the shop opening times before you go. Much to my astonishment, I found that Kristin Baybars now has a page on Facebook, where there are updates on what is going on and contact details.

For those of you who are not Facebook fans (and I have to admit that I am not a happy Facebook user):

Address: 

Kristin Baybars

7 Mansfield Road,

Gospel Oak,

London

NW3 2JD

Phone: (UK code 44) 20 7267 0934

kristin baybars map and link to google page

 

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book cover - the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973

The Dolls’ House Book – 126 pages
Author: Pauline Flick
Published by Collins – 1973
ISBN – 0001921568

Having been (possibly) unfair to the 1970s in the previous post, I thought I had better try to redress the balance and mention something that I do like from the 1970s.

Having said that: I didn’t know about this book in the 1970s; I bought it in a library sale in the early 1990s.

[And if you ever wonder why there are so many ex-library copies of books on eBay – the libraries in the UK started selling their books and downsizing quite a while ago now. Our small local library is about to close soon and then it will be goodbye to real books and we will only be able to get digital editions. People without computers, or no internet connection at all, (and there are still quite a few of these) are going to suffer.]

But back to the book: it is a modestly sized and I bought it because I liked the various illustrations of the window pelmets that are used above the section headings.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - pelmet illustration

I very nearly didn’t buy it because there is a section devoted to building a dolls’ house from a cardboard box.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - make your own dolls' house

But when I started reading it I was pleased that I had succumbed to the lure of the pelmets and the suggestion that you could build an Australian dolls’ house.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - australian house illustration

The book is clearly written with a juvenile audience in mind:

Grown-up collectors are always on the look out for old dolls’ house furniture…

but it is far from childish in its approach and, in a quiet sort of way, contains a great deal of historical information.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - cardboard chairs from the 1930s

It is divided into three main sections:

The History of Dolls’ Houses – I find this part fascinating as it is full of details that interest me and it is where I first learned of ‘The Girls’ Own Toymaker and Book of Recreation’ (published 1860 and now available on Google Books)

Making Your Own Dolls’ House – this contains a (sensible, if you ask me) description of making a robust dolls’ house from a cardboard box and suggestions of different types of styles of house that you might like to make, with pictures of the differing architectural styles of houses to be found in various British regions.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - timber framed suffolk house

Furnishing Your Dolls’ House – this is a very short section, but it ends with the wise words: “If you’re like me, once you begin collecting you’ll go on and on.”

*** *** ***

Re-reading the final section just now, in particular where the author describes cutting the head off a plastic deer in order to make a stuffed head to hang in her dolls’ house, I was reminded of something that I think might be of interest to someone reading this.

Jane Harrop (her website is here) provided instructions for making a hobby horse, using the head of a plastic toy horse for The DollsHouse and Miniature Scene Magazine (the article is here)

jane harrop - hobby horse

This is part of a series of ‘How To’ published by the magazine and made freely available by them on-line.

Not all the projects mentioned in the ‘How To’ section have detailed instructions, but there are lots of ideas, even when the instructions are non-existent or a bit sketchy.

*** *** ***

Finally, I have had a look and there is next to no information available on-line about Pauline Flick. This is a great shame as I am certain that she influenced the development of dolls’ house books and collecting in the UK.

The best I can do to redress this lack of recognition is to reproduce the biographic details from the back flap of the jacket ‘The Dolls’ House Book’ here.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - biographic details

While I was searching for information on-line I did come across a scanned copy of this book here.

I am not an expert of UK copyright law, but I am reasonably certain that it must still be in copyright in the UK.

Following Project Gutenberg’s reasoning on the matter of book copyright, it would therefore be an infringement of copyright to download this book to your computer.

Just looking at it on a computer screen, however, appears to be another matter entirely.

If you do decide to read it on-line you will be time travelling, so be prepared – there is only one colour photograph.

the dolls' house book - pauline flick - 1973 - frontispiece

This does not stop it being one of my favourite books about dolls’ houses.

 

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annina_distons_cushion

I think these cushions, which are in one of Annina Diston’s miniature homes, are a wonderful example how a simple designs can be used to great effect.

They lured me away from my search for a new camera and I spent far too long admiring them – and other examples of Annina’s work on Flickr

 

annina_diston_photograph_from_flckr

annina_diston_photograph_of_dollshouse

I came across her work while I was trying to escape a bad case of techno-fatigue. I seem to have spent months reading about camera sensors and lenses and f-stops and goodness knows what else. All the afore mentioned appear to have a impact on the performance (and price) of a camera, but they don’t actually mean much to me and I hoped that the dexterous and skilled photographers, who put their work on Flickr, might have listed what camera they used for which photo and possibly how much they had ‘tweaked’ their photo before uploading it. (Vain hope, but it was worth a try.)

Anyway, when I saw Aninna’s cushions I remembered that I had a plate of elegant embroidery designs from the French company Dollfus-Mieg et Cie that I wanted to share here.

The designs are easy to work and, if embroidered on 22 count canvas, make attractive miniature cushions, stool covers, chair seats, etc.

dmc - dollfus mieg et cie - embroidery plate

The original plate is quite small, so I have resized it to fit onto an A4 piece of paper. If you have trouble printing from the on-screen image, here is link to the pdf: OHM_DMC_20170601

Finally, in conclusion:

I had two things that I wanted to do this week, one was finding a new camera to buy: no luck there… the search continues

The second involved writing a blog post. This isn’t the blog post that I was planning to write, but (fingers crossed) with any luck I might be able to complete that tomorrow…

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Ettore Sobrero

ettore_sobrero_1991-catalogue

Ettore Sobrero’s books are, some of the most beautifully bound miniature volumes that I have ever seen and I was very glad to discover that I still had one of his catalogues.

I scanned the catalogue to see if I would be able to reproduce the fine quality print here. The answer to that is: no.

However, I thought that the  scans weren’t completely unflattering and decided to see if I could remember how to make a slideshow and upload it to Slideshare.

This was only partially successful because I had to compress the images in the presentation in order to be able to upload the file. This naturally affected the quality of the image on-screen and the scans became decidedly uncomplimentary.

Below is the result of my Plan B, which was to host the images on another site. I hope that this will prove to be a reliable way of storing images, although, in this instance, I still had to reduce the files a little in size.

Another reason for writing this particular blog post was to experiment with some of the changes in file management that have taken place on WordPress.

My apologies to all who find my experiments in the technological field duller than ditch water.

 

 

 

 

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Where was I ?

Our computer has been to the PC repair shop and I have been off-line for a while.

While I was waiting for my Spoonflower samples to arrive, I had been planning to write about Sue Bakker,  but thanks to the interruption I have rather lost the thread of of all that I wanted to say (no pun intended).

So what follows is shorter and briefer than I originally intended –

Sue Bakker needlework pattern in International Dolls House News 1977

I am very sorry to say that I only know Sue Bakker by reputation and not personally.

She is a founder member of The Guild of Miniature Needle Arts and some of her superb work can be seen on their website here – http://www.gmna.org.uk/people/SueBakker/Sue.html

She is also a member of The Miniature Needlework Society (International)

I know that her designs appear in various books, but I have never seen any of her charts offered for sale in kit form and I can only suggest that anyone interested in her work should contact her through one of these websites.

One of my friends, who knew how much I enjoy canvas work, gave me a copy of the International Dolls House News (Volume 26 No 11, October 31st 1997) containing one of her charted designs, and above is my attempt to do her work justice.

I think that it is a superb design and I found it was a great deal easier to work than its intricate appearance suggests.

 

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