Something Tasty

For some reason, I’m always most excited about kitchens and more specifically teeny tiny food items! The first rooms I think about are those that involve food! In fact, fireplaces aside, a table full of food is the only thing I’ve placed in my Tudor house so far!

My favourite rooms in the Edwardian house (I’ll be introducing that project to you later) are the kitchen and pantry. The kitchen was the first room to be finished, the pantry the last. As such there is quite a difference in how well they are finished, as my knowledge and understanding has grown over the years.

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Edwardian Pantry

There are some great places to find miniature food items for your houses and I’m going to share a few of my favourites with you. I started the Edwardian house well over a decade ago so sadly I don’t really recall where half of the stuff came from. It’s a shame as I have some lovely bits but no idea where they were purchased and I know that various Ebay sellers have also been a source.

COUNTRY CONTRAST

I can’t remember whether I first discovered these guys online or at Kensington but I’ve been back to them time and time again. Their food is really beautifully produced and they also do some great accessories (my pantry contains a meat cupboard, butchers block and a few little cleaning accessories from them too!) for all sorts of eras. They luckily have a very nice little Tudor section too.

When I’ve been to fairs, I always head straight to their stall and end up happily filling a bag with little treats and they’re my first port of call for online miniature groceries!

The little vegetable basket is so realistic with exceptional attention to detail. There’s also one hiding on the back of the pantry table. On the Edwardian kitchen table the vegetable prep board is from Country Contrast.

The pantry table also contains an adorable basket of eggs and in the background you can see meat and a delightful ex-turkey hanging perfectly over the aforementioned butcher’s block. The “brace” of pheasants was purchased at Kensington but as they’d run out of girls at the time, I was quite happy to have two boys!

Country Contrast also have an array of wonderful preparation boards and other items and are well worth a visit.

TUDOR FOOD

Most recently I’ve been busy looking for authentic looking Tudor food. Again, I turned to Country Contrast and found some lovely bits and bobs but I also discovered a couple of new sites well worth a look for this era.

The first is Small Wonders Miniatures. It was only when I received my items from Country Contrast and Small Wonders together that I realised they were connected! In fact they are a husband and wife team – Doreen who is behind Small Wonders and Bob of Country Contrast!  My favourite discovery in Doreen’s Medieval and Tudor section was a little set of spice sacks and they accompany other food items and a hippocras set from Bob!

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Also currently on my table are an adorable pair of pigs trotters and a bowl of eggs. These are from Medieval Morsels on Etsy and are just two of a vast array of accurate and beautifully made items. If you want authenticity then you’re sure to get it here. Almost every item description includes information on the origins and history of each food item so you know if it’s going to be right for your setting.

So if I’ve whetted your appetite for some miniature munchies, here are the links:

Country Contrast

Small Wonders

Medieval Morsels

Music Old and New

Thought I’d add a little to the “Music” section today.

I was brought up with music playing all the time. My parents made sure we were surrounded by it.

I grew up doing amateur dramatics, mostly Gilbert & Sullivan then trained professionally in Musical Theatre. As a result I am the Queen of cheese and frequently annoy my husband by belting out show tunes in the car! But I was also exposed to every other kind of music too – especially folk. I adore artists like Jackson Browne, Sandy Denny, Gretchen Peters – anything acoustic. And James Taylor? Well, as far as I’m concerned there is nobody better. He is the soundtrack to my every day – although he is occasionally usurped by The Go! Go! Go! Show (Nick Jr) or endless rounds of Wheels on the Bus when Munch has her way!

Since quitting dancing for a living and leaving my dance teaching job, I’ve been singing with duos and bands on the Isle of Wight – mostly playing acoustic and folk music – and it’s pretty much when I’m the best version of myself. Playing music I love with some of the most talented musicians you could meet, is somewhere near heaven for me. Of course in my dreams I’m up there singing with James Taylor, but you can’t have everything!

One of my biggest regrets is not having properly learned an instrument as a kid. I was so busy with dancing that there just wasn’t the time.

In recent years I tried my hand at piano with an exceptionally patient (believe me, she had to be!) teacher called Shirley Camfield, but I took a break when I fell pregnant as my concentration went so far out the window I couldn’t tell one note from another! I fully intend to go back to it, perhaps when Munch is old enough to learn with me.

In the meantime I’ve found a bit of a connection to the acoustic guitar. It suits the style of music I like to perform and I can just pick it up and curl up on the sofa with it. To top it off, with just a few basic chords you can play an array of songs – something which appeals to the impatient side of me. And believe me – basic is good! Because I’m not exactly Eric Clapton here!

As an early Christmas present I acquired myself a “beginners” guitar, although actually I think it’s rather better than that. I figured that if I bought a £30 guitar and it sounded rubbish, I wouldn’t be encouraged to stick with it.

So we spent just a little more and I now own my first guitar. It’s a Tanglewood Discovery and I am in love with it…even though I can’t play it in the way it deserves! I love that I can comfortably fit my stubby little fingers around the neck, I love the way the curves in the body comfortably hug my legs and I love the natural wood finish.

Keeping the blog up to date with my progress will be a slow process as progress in itself is slow. Thus far I can finger pick a little, I can strum a bit and I can “play” about 6 chords, but not with any real skill or style. I’m off to see my old duo partner, Phil, who is an exceptional guitarist, for a few lessons soon so will post any tips or breakthroughs if and when they happen!

Now, if I can just stop Munch posting my picks or small plastic toys through the sound hole or yelling “no” at me when I start to practice, I think I might stand a better chance of improving!

Small Steps

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I’ve thought long and hard about whether or not to put any bridal designs online. A friend of mine who has seen them suggested that I may find it helpful blog about my progress – part of what inspired me to blog in the first place.

I feel pretty comfortable blogging about miniature stuff – it’s safe. Reviewing other people’s work and basically playing make-believe whilst pretending to be a grown up!

But now I actually come to share some designs with people outside of my tiny comfort circle, I’m scared. The same friend told me I should watermark/copyright the designs if I’m adding them to a blog. So I’ve done that at his suggestion, not because I think they’re remotely good enough to be pinched!

I’m so inexperienced and below even novice level with this whole thing! I’ve gone back to the very first designs I did today, thinking that I’d find a few I was happy to post. But looking through them, all I could see was very poorly executed, naive and primitive sketches. I’ve bravely picked the best of a bad bunch to show where I started.

I drew the figures free-hand from templates I’d found online and in the books I had. They aren’t at all ground-breaking but everyone has to start somewhere!

Fast forward a few months and past about 30 more sketches to the most recent set. These were done using templates in The PANTONE Fashion Sketchpad, which was a Christmas gift. The figures in here are drawn in such a way that the outlines disappear when scanned or photocopied.

It’s certainly a quicker way of working and takes a lot of the effort out of trying to proportion figures. Indeed I read that the vast majority of designers have one or two ready made figures that they use over and over to create their designs onto.

There are a lot of figures in the book that don’t really lend themselves to slinky, sleek bridal dresses (there’s many a wide stance!) but the ones I found work rather nicely and it may be that I continue to use them for my sketches. But a large part of me wants to create my own figure to use again and again!

So that’s where I am so far. Very much a beginner, with a lot to learn, but getting a lot of pleasure from it!

Drawing back to happiness!

I’ve been writing a lot about miniatures so I thought I’d pop in a post about one of my other hobbies.

I mentioned in the “About” section why these hobbies of mine have been so important. The hobby that really was the start of me feeling like me again is something entirely new to me. Bridal dress design! And it’s kind of hard to explain why!

Like a lot of little girls, I dreamed about my wedding day pretty much from the time I was old enough! The groom would vary according to my stage in life. At one point it was a real struggle to choose between Glen Medeiros and Rick Astley! But I always had my dream dress firmly planted in my mind.

A few years before I actually got married, my Mum started working as a seamstress in a bridal shop. She would bring home dress after dress to alter and I started to take a real interest in their styles and construction. Then, once I started planning my own wedding, I went crazy with magazines, websites, wedding TV (yep, there was such a thing if you chose to delve far enough into the Sky menu!).

But for some reason my fascination with wedding dresses carried on long after my dress was packed firmly away in the loft.

I have something of a design background, all be it vague! I have an A-level in Graphic Design and most of the design needed for the charity is entirely my work . A few years ago I met a graphic designer who was doing the job for real and he really encouraged me to explore the design world further and gave me plenty of tips which really helped my understanding and honed my skills, such as they were! (Incidentally, he has his own pretty cool illustration blog now. You should check it out).

But fashion design was never something I’d tried to do. I’ve always loved looking at fashion illustrations and had a few books about the subject. And it was something I always thought I’d like to have a go at but never really did. So, one day, I picked up a book about how to draw fashion figures and gave it a go!

It was fun, but it didn’t really click. Well, not until I was watching yet another episode of Say Yes to the Dress that is. My guilty secret is out. I love that show! I got started on it when I was feeding Munch as a tiny baby and couldn’t reach the remote and now I’m hooked! I can take or leave a lot of the people on it but I can’t get enough of looking at the dresses.

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A small selection of my “tools”

And that was it! Once I started drawing wedding dress designs, I couldn’t stop! Munch would go to bed and immediately my sketch pad came out. And it made me happy! It gave me back something that I couldn’t describe but it was tangible.

In another show of his utter awesomeness and seeing a spark in me that had all but disappeared, my husband took me shopping for new pens, portfolio folders, sketch pads. Last year my birthday presents consisted entirely of reference books, material sample books, pens and drawing boards.

My Mum reckons my designs are really good…and so do the select few others I’ve been brave enough to share them with. I’m hoping that maybe I’ll brave sharing them with you all too. My Mum is even talking about making some of the designs for me and has visions of me launching a new career in bridal fashion! I think that’s very kind of her but a step too far perhaps! For now I’m just enjoying my new found hobby and trying to be better at it!

Let’s Cook!

I mentioned in my post yesterday that I was awaiting my Tudor fireplace from Firecraft Miniatures, who can be found on Etsy.

Well, today it arrived, all snug amongst a mountain of shredded paper and bubble wrap. The first thing I noticed as I unwrapped it was the smell! You can smell the handmade! The aroma of wood, paint and clay is one which immediately screams “quality and care”.

It is beautifully made, there’s no doubt about it and fits beautifully in the space.

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I was a little worried I was going to have to do some beam removal for it to sit flush but actually, I’m rather pleased with how it looks. It’s exactly what I’d been looking for and for what I think is a pretty reasonable price for something handmade to this standard – £37.95 plus postage. I have seen vaguely similar things for well over the £100 mark and i doubt I would have been as happy with them!

Firecraft Miniatures is actually a chap called Chris who, according to his website, hand crafts items to order in his spare time. He says “If your [sic] fed up with buying high priced low quality unrealistic dollshouse accessories and now want to start buying lifelike high quality, fairly priced products then look no further.” I hear you Chris and that’s why I’m pleased as punch with my fireplace.

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I’m going to look at finding a very teeny drill bit to make a hole for an LED to light the cute little fire and I can’t wait to get going on accessorising!

See FirecraftMiniatures on Etsy here or visit the website here.

 

 

 

Hearth and Home – Introducing the Tudor House

A few years ago I headed to the Kensington Dollshouse Festival with my Mum, a fellow miniature fan, and an exceptionally patient husband!

Whilst there I fell hopelessly in love with some hand built 1/24th scale Tudor houses by Triggerpond and have coveted them ever since. They had to be custom built to order and the price, whilst fair, was way out of reach. I’ve been constantly on the look out for one which was more suited to my budget ever since but never seen anything that came close to these.

My reason for going down in scale from my usual 1/12th was purely a matter of space. We don’t have a huge house and whilst she’s a wee little thing, it’s amazing how much space Munch takes up! I’d seen quite a few 12th scale tudor houses which met my criteria but I just couldn’t see how we’d fit them in.

Fast forward to Christmas 2015. My husband starts to look worried and drops the odd comment expressing his concern about a gift he’s purchased. “I think you’ll love it” he says “but I think your first reaction will be to flip out in a panic about space”.

Here is the gift he was worrying about. A beautiful Tudor house which he found on the website of a little antique shop in Lincoln. I’m told it was quite an epic task to get it couriered to the Isle of Wight!

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He was assured it was one of a kind, hand built and a replica of the Lincoln Tea Rooms. I’ve not been able to find reference to the building as yet. He was also however, assured it was 1/24th scale but when the courier delivered it, he started to realise that perhaps there had been some mix up! It is indeed 1/12th scale but I’m not going to quibble. It’s really quite beautiful.

It has 3 removable sections revealing a large open plan downstairs and a cute little room upstairs. It’s pre-lit and pretty much good to go, ready to fill with furniture. My plan is to make it the home of a Tudor merchant, or at least a middle class Tudor family. I’m undecided about thatching. My initial thoughts (based on minimal research) are that most houses in towns were tiled to protect from fire so I think I may leave it as is.

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It looks great when it’s lit but the light fittings are a bit on the modern side. There was also a fire in the bedroom which was a little too 1980s for my liking. I’ve replaced this with an adorable little log and peat fire from Romney Miniatures (links below) which cost me all of about a fiver! I already had the bulb to insert from the other fire but you can buy the bulbs on the same site, either separately or along with their fireplaces, for a reasonable price too.

Also from Romney Miniatures are my replacement light fittings, again around a fiver each. They have a great range of Tudor light fixtures and for pretty much the best price I’ve seen online thus far. I’m yet to tackle fitting them because the bulbs are unbelievably small but will let you know how this goes when I get brave enough to do it! As an important aside, the guys at Romney Miniatures are also super efficient and delivery was swift!

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Current light fittings

Whilst we’re on fires, I’ve ordered a whole tudor fireplace complete with bread oven from FirecraftMiniatures on Etsy for the kitchen area. They’re made to order so take a little while to arrive but I have an inkling it will be worth the wait. I had a despatch email yesterday so watch this space for a review!

You can find the log and peat fires, fittings and lighting at:

http://www.romneymin.com/

 

 

Introducing Minis, Munch and Me!

Well, here goes nothing! My first ever blog post! I hope it doesn’t prove too painful for me or for you!

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ME

I’m very adept at repeating myself, so in order not to do that, it might be worth checking out the About page to learn more about why I started this blog and what I hope to gain from it.

To introduce myself properly though, I’m Sarah. I’m 36 and I live on the Isle of Wight but I’m originally from Southampton. I live with my husband of 5 years, Matt and my beautiful almost 2 year old daughter…more about her later! Oh, and Maisie the cat, who I must mention as she’s spent the last 2 years looking rather put-out!

I used to be a professional dancer, until I got injured and realised that actually, as much as I loved dancing, a lot of what comes with being a dancer, wasn’t for me after all. I now work for an awesome charity and find helping people through some of the worst experiences of their lives super rewarding.

I love history, music, reading, art and I am collecting hobbies! You can read more about why in that About page I mentioned before. When the little one is in bed or Daddy is being amazing and letting me have some “me” time, that’s when I indulge myself in all the things I love. Which brings me to “Minis”.

MINIS

This refers to just one of my hobbies and was the only one that seemed to lend itself to the blog title!

Maybe it’s because I’m short (5ft exactly) that I like small things or maybe I’m trying to recapture some part of childhood! Whatever the reason, I’m the proud owner of 3 doll houses. My first is Edwardian in style and this is the most complete, the second is a modern bridal shop (you’ll see a theme here) and the most recent acquisition is tudor. They’re all 12th scale and in varying states of completion. I intend to blog a bit about my progress on each of these and any really good products or techniques I uncover along the way.

Other hobbies which I shall be blogging about (is that even the right term?!) are my newly discovered love of fashion design (specifically bridal), my lifelong love of music and 3 month long relationship with acoustic guitar and perhaps a little bit of baking and cake decoration may find its way in.

Hopefully anyone reading will find something they like or find interesting – or perhaps just something that you want to point and laugh at! As long as it makes you smile!

MUNCH

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And finally, Munch.

This is an easy one to explain. When I was pregnant with my little girl, we had a scan at 10 weeks. My husband’s first reaction to seeing the little bean-like dot on the screen was “it looks like one of the Munch Bunch!”.

I couldn’t see it myself but somehow the Munch bit stuck and from then until this day, despite having a very pretty name, our little girl is very often referred to as “Munch”. Thus fulfilling the “Mummy Stuff” element!

That’s it! Introductory post done. Now follows the interesting stuff…I hope!