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January 5, 2021

It's me again.  

Well, ok. 'us.'

It's time I introduced Maxwell.  Maxwell Overlooking Pearl, to be exact.

Maxwell is my shoulder dragon.  I made him from Simplicity pattern 8715, an amazing design by BeeZee Art.  Seriously, check out her website, she has a ton of amazing stuffed animals and plushy patterns!

I'd wanted a shoulder dragon for a while.  To be more specific, I wanted a gargoyle perched on my shoulder.  For cosplay reasons.  It seemed appropriate?  And fun?  I just had a really hard time finding a pattern I liked, and wasn't secure enough in my sewing skills to design one.  So when this pattern came out in 2018, I pounced on it.

Then I had to decide on fabric.  I went to Joann's, hoping to find something that looked like stone.  The original pattern calls for fleece or minky, but I thought it would make up just as well with cotton.  Ideally, I wanted a reversible sequin fabric, but there  was very little in the stores and I wanted to be able to see it in person to make sure the sequins were to scale. (hah!)   

Eventually I settled on a Keepsake Calico cotton called metallic galaxy . . . brown?  It was mottled grey, but it also had little dots of crusty, glittery spots that looked like bird droppings, and it made me laugh.  I found a dark grey fabric to match, and then a plain grey for his horns, and home I went to tackle the pattern.

This post is mainly about how I made him, in case you've tackled the project yourself and are getting frustrated.  I've never had a project go so fast, start to finish.  Usually I put it off for months, but he wanted to be made.  

So, firstly, gargoyle vs grotesque.  He is technically not a gargoyle, because water cannot actually pass through him.  DO NOT THINK I DID NOT FIGURE OUT HOW TO DO THIS.  I just figured other cosplayers would not appreciate their own costumes/projects being spat upon.  

I did try to make him with an open mouth.  It didn't go well. It looked like he got stung by a bee, actually.  I probably could have tried harder, but the next head I made was so perfect I no longer cared about accuracy.  

He is a well behaved gargoyle.  He does not spit on people, nor indoors.

All right, so, the pattern was pretty straightforward, but here are some tips you might want that were either not in the pattern, or I neglected to read the pattern fully.

**Please note my notes are based on working with plain cotton fabric!**

  1. You need a tiny bit of iron-on interfacing for behind the eyes.  I'd recommend it for the spikes, too, if you want them to be particularly spiky.
  2. A washable fabric marker and Fray Chek will come in handy, too.  Draw out your sewing lines and go slow!
  3. Increase your sewing tension.  I used 6.
  4. I used a 1/4" quilting foot.  It made it easier to guide.
  5. Decrease your stitch length, especially on the head.  I shortened it to 1.5.  I found it easier to navigate the curves this way, and it kept my stitches from showing after I stuffed it.
  6. The iron is your friend.  The iron is your friend.  Obey the details, don't rush, it will show in your work on a piece this small and detailed. Iron and clip.  
  7. Stuffing tools (i.e, a pencil or chopstick) will come in handy.  Do not skimp on the stuffing.
  8. I stuffed him with rice and cotton.  I thought the extra weight would help keep him in place on my shoulder, so I focused on filling the tail and front with the rice.
  9. I ignored the instructions about cutting holes in the legs and body and sewing them on that way.  I just hand stitched them on, according to instructions for making plushes found on other websites. There are numerous ways to do this.  Do a web search and pick your favorite.
  10. I used 12mm eyes, mostly because I couldn't read when I was in the store.  I thought the 15 mm were too big with the cotton fabric.  It's also possible the pattern on the fabric played a role in how he looked.
  11. I twisted together a number of chenille stems/pipecleaners and used them to reinforce his neck.  See below for more details.

Maxwell, obviously, ended up being adorable.  He was more so once I made him his first hat - a pair of Mickey Mouse ears, because his debut was at Disney World.  I am not making this up.  He had a fantastic time.  He even got to meet several Disney Princesses, and they were gracious enough to pose with them.  (I also spent several minutes stalking Gaston, but he was gone before I worked up the nerve to talk to him, and beg for a photo. Next time?)

Next I took him to a local Colorado con, and he was also a huge hit.  I loved having him with me, because, well, I have social anxiety, and knowing what people were likely to say to me first (OMG YOUR FRIEND IS SO CUTE CAN I BOOP HIS NOSE) helped a lot.    He greatly enjoyed the attention, and even more so when he was in costume and everyone wanted to know what he would wear next.

However, can you see the problem?  Check out that neck droop.  This was his first outing.  It got worse.  His neck couldn't support the weight of his head, even with just a felt hat, and I had plans for many more hats.  I tried to avoid it, but  eventually had to make the difficult decision to operate.  I took his head off, reinforced his neck by stuffing a thick bundle of chenille stems twisted together into his neck area, then restuffed him and sewed his head back on.  Since then, he can wear any hat with his head held high.  

I didn't give him wings initially, because I had vague ideas of giving him steampunk style wings.  Then my mom randomly sent me an adorable embroidery link for bat wings, designed to be laced to your shoes, asking if I needed them.  Yes, please!  We spent a few evenings making him two pairs of removable wings to wear.  

I have plans for even more wings in the future.

You're still wondering about the name, aren't you?  I used Sir Terry Pratchett's method of  naming gargoyles in his Discworld novels, based on their location.  I was living on Pearl Street in Boulder when I made him, so that part seemed obvious.  I was considering Allistair, Third Stair, and Stairwell Overlooking Pearl, but Maxwell seemed to suit him best.  

Yes, I might have an obsession now, but really, he's a great pet, with a ton of personality, and does not need feeding or vet visits.

He has his own twitter feed now, too.  We'll see how that goes.  

Here's some photo collages, too.

February 10, 2020

Without further ado - the finished 1:144 scale Willowcrest.

Here's the exterior:

And the interior:

And here are some final interior details that I haven't discussed yet!

I found the artwork on Pinterest, but I'm not sure who the artist is.  Yes, I made books.  It was easier than it looks.  

I cut thin strips of cardstock in multiple colors, thin enough to fit on the shelves, folded and glued one end over, roughly the depth of the shelf, and then glued those folded ends together.  Then I glued them to the shelf, and cut off the excess.

The flower arrangement on the top is a seed bead and some flocking glued to a tiny strip of cardstock.  The coat hanging on the (cardstock) wall hook is a basic coat form (shaped like a T) cut out of red tissue paper and shaped/glued to look like it's hanging.  

The coffee table and shelf were from kits by Diminutive Details, who also made the bathroom kit.  The rug is cut out from a bit of lace.  Everything else was made by me!

I am excited enough to have this finished that I also made a video, because it's hard to see all the details without moving the house around.  I apologize for the shaky-cam phone camera quality.

Thank you for following along on my creative journey!  I had a lot of fun with this scale, and am shocked to realize that this is the first dollhouse I've ever completed AND furnished.  

Now it's time to move on to the next project!

February 9, 2020

I wanted to add just a bit more detail to the exterior, since there was a base for the house to sit on and the batteries to hide in.  I kept it simple, though I had plans of flowers.  I couldn't get the flocking to stick to the foam!

I used green floral foam (you don't need much at all!) and shaped it carefully.  I thought it would require a knife, but in the end, I pulled off chunks and carefully rolled it between my hands like it was clay.  I had one piece dissolve in my hands, but I probably still could have used that if I'd had a bigger yard.  
Next I took green and black markers and dabbed extra color on until I was satisfied with the look, and glued in place.  The grassy area is green cardstock.  

February 8, 2020

I blame the kitchen for most of my frustration and inability to finish this project.  Or, more accurately, the big windows that prevented me from putting in a kitchen in the first place.  It took me until last week to finally figure out how I could do it.  I ended up blocking up one of the windows, and put half of the kitchen on an interior wall.

I have a kitchen set, but they're made out of some sort of heavy resin, and it made the house much heavier than I wanted, so I went ahead and designed my own out of cardstock,  with a bit of wire for the faucet.

I ran into a problem, my Cameo didn't want to accurately cut the pieces out, even when I slowed it down to its lowest cut speed!  My oven window is a little lopsided, but since I got most of the rest worked out, I'm not overly concerned.  I had grand plans for a range hood, but decided not to overdo things.

The kitchen didn't give me nearly the trouble that the table and chairs did.  Fortunately, they're way in the back and hard to see once the kitchen is put in place.

Yes, I admit I traded quality for speed, but I knew what I was prepared to accept.  It says 'kitchen' and I'm happy with that.

The interior of the house is done!  On to the exterior.

January 31, 2020

After verifying that yes, my sofa pattern works, I set out to test paper.  What would happen if I used something thinner?  Something thicker?  Something patterned?  Something textured?  At this scale, every tiny bit counts.

I went through my paper stash and picked three pieces of paper that I thought might look good as a sofa.  It was easy to test, I simply held the page I had cut my test sofas from over the potential pages and looked through the holes left behind.

I looked at all the tiny print pages, but also the ones with big, busy prints.  Sometimes, something can be so big that the little bits will work, too.

Things I discovered:

Thicker papers work better.  Thinner papers don't fold as well (I don't know why?) and tend to mash around the edges more quickly. However, there's hope!  Since there's three layers of paper, you can use two layers made out of plain cardstock, and then glue your preferred pattern to the exterior, cutting off the tabs first.
Papers with the same color core are also better, but with a narrow brush and a tiny bit of matching paint, the problem is easily solved.  In fact, the brown one I painted is currently my favorite.  This was one of the textured papers, and it ended up needing paint, because the colored texture had a tendency to scrape off in tiny bits.  It has a white core, so it really needed the help.  Fortunately the paper was quite sturdy and the paint didn't warp the paper.  

I haven't yet attempted to print my own, but it seems perfectly reasonable to do so, if your printer can do the fine work on cardstock.  Both the chair and sofa fit in a 1" x 2" block, so you don't need much!

January 29, 2020

I own a Silhouette Cameo, and for years I've been wondering if it was possible to make dollhouse furniture with it.   It seemed it would be easy enough for 1:48 scale, but could it do something as tiny as 1:144? After successfully making some really tiny cuts for a Christmas ornament, I decided to test it.

First and foremost to determine is scale.  Even tiny differences in size can make a really big visual difference in a dollhouse.  I didn't feel the sofa should be significantly bigger than the bathtub, so I had to nix using the back right sofa in the house.  I made the back left one out of wood, but made the poor decision of attempting to add texture when I painted, and it just looks nasty.  I did like the size, though, so I based my paper design around it.

Then it was nothing but hours of nudging nodes around.  Fortunately it cuts fast, and takes up almost no paper!  Here are my prototypes:

The first one was too small, and while I was assembling it, I came up with a much more efficient design idea.  The second one was the results of the design, which I was pleased with, but needed to alter some areas so they would fit together properly.  The third one I positioned improperly on the page when cutting out - oops.  And #4 is where I decide that yes, this will definitely work.

I used cardstock from the giant multicolor pack from The Paper Studio.  Its weight isn't labeled, naturally, but three layers makes for a very sturdy piece of furniture.  You can also take a nail file to it and rough up the edges enough to hide the fact that it's layered.

The Cameo had a hard time with precision cuts at this scale, but it did much better when I slowed the speed down to 1.  I also have to be MUCH more careful in lining up the pieces when I glue them together!  I was more concerned here with the length/width of the arm.  I am overall very pleased with the results, and looking forward to designing more!

January 28, 2020

My house is lit and controlled by a button.  It's ridiculously exciting.  I don't HAVE to disguise those bulbs, but I want to!

My crafting stash is currently in storage, two time zones away.  It's painful.  I've had to start over.  Fortunately, I had gotten into making knitting stitch markers and had started building up my tiny bead stash again. 

Here's what I had on hand:

From Michael's:
Gold metal rondelle beads.  The holes were too big for the project I bought them for, but fortunately just about perfect for this. 

Small glass rondelle beads.  I used the darker ones for the bedroom, the clear ones for the downstairs.  It was mostly a test to see which looked best.  I liked the darker look for the bedroom, anyway!

One randomly acquired pearl bead.  I don't know where it came from.  I only had the one.  It's a bit too bright, but it looked so good for a bathroom fixture! I need to work out how to tone it down.  I think maybe a little paint will do the trick.

I used e6000 glue to glue the gold bead to the ceiling around the Pico LED, and then glued the other bead on top of that.

And . . . that's it.  The hardest part was making decisions about which beads to use.  Oh, and taking pictures.  Taking pictures of lights is not easy! 

The beads were all roughly 2 mm sized, to help you figure out scale.  They do look a bit big in the house, but lighting is one of those things you can easily cheat on in regards to accuracy.  They come in so many sizes in real life, too!

Oh, look.  It's been four years.

What can I say?  Life has been busy, and I started sharing my projects on Facebook because, well, I get responses there.

BUT, I started posting about my 1:144 scale Willowcrest here, and I'm going to finish it here, so let's keep going!  Here's where we left off:

Bathroom and bedroom furnishings and walls completed.  The next thing to work on is lighting and  . . . oh, yeah, now I see why it's been four years.

Yes, I was determined to make this tiny house light up.  That required a bit of planning.

Things you need to think about before lighting a house are:

What kind of fixtures do you want?
What materials can you use to make them look that way?
Where do you want the lights to be?
Where do you put the power source for the lights?
How do you run the wires to those locations from the light source?

I'm going to address the second part of these questions first.

I opted to keep it simple, and just put one ceiling light in each room.  I turned to Evan Designs for my supplies, based on suggestions from True2Scale.

I ordered 1 switched coin cell battery holder, 4 3v warm white pico LED lights, and some heat shrink tubing.  (please hover over the text for the links, the lines don't show up?) These bulbs are TINY.  I can't really take a photo of them, they're just little yellow blobs, but they give off an amazing amount of light.

I used poster board for the ceiling on the upper floors, and ran the wires up through a tiny hole, then down the outside sides of the house.  (Had I planned ahead further, I could have run them down the inside of the house.)

For the lower floors, the wires are glued to the ceiling and run to the interior corners, then down the wall and out under it.  A little paint will make them vanish.

You'll notice that each bulb has two wires. One is colored red at the far end, just before you get to bare wire, and the other colored green.  Once you've got your wires where you want them to end up, you need to carefully gather up and twist all the exposed ends of the red wires together, and then the ends of all the green wires together.  (it's possible the green wires were black, just make sure your colors match!)

Cut two short lengths (about one inch, perhaps?) of the narrower heat shrink tubing, and slide one onto each of your twists of wires, pushing it further back so you can work with the exposed ends.  Then you need to match your twists to the proper color on the battery coin holder, and twist red to red, green to black, ensuring the exposed metal touches.  (it's only important that the reds go together, the other color clearly doesn't matter!)
Now, get a battery and test to make sure it all works before you do anything more permanent.  Make sure the exposed ends of the red and green wires don't touch!

Oh, and relax.  It's only 3 volts.  Your skin has a resistance to such tiny amounts of electricity and you won't feel anything.  I can hold the wires directly against a battery to test the lights and it's just fine. But it could mess up your project if it's improperly wired, so make sure your exposed wires are completely covered!

I ran into the slight problem of having a coin cell battery that was labeled 3v, but only half the width required to fit in the device. I must have scavenged it from a Dollar Tree magnet flashlight. I eventually found the right size. 

Once you've determined everything works, slide the tubing to completely cover all the wires, and use a heat gun or similar to shrink the tubing.  I tried to use a hairdryer, but it apparently didn't get hot enough.  Tug gently to ensure there's a tight grip.  I will say that I had some problems with this,  (the wires are too thin for even the thinnest tubing!) and I'm not sure how to fix it, except with another, longer layer of heat shrink tubing.  Just make sure you put both layers on the wires first, and keep the second layer away from the heat source!

And it works. Check it out!

So where did I put that battery and switch?  It's pretty obnoxious to have all that wiring and that heavy battery and casing dragging about with this tiny house.

Fortunately, this particular dollhouse came with a simple wooden base, and I was able to use it to hide the wiring, battery, and switch.  To keep it accessible, I cut out a frame to fit inside, and then used a piece of cardstock to act as a sliding lid.  I'm using museum wax (and/or orthodontic wax, they're essentially the same thing) to prevent the battery from sliding.  I used E6000 glue to hold the switch in place.

I didn't measure properly, or I would have realized the button was the same width as the side pieces, and I would have cut the frame to glue to the bottom of the piece, rather than level with the interior.  It's a minor problem, fortunately, and easy to work around.

And the lighting is done!  Not too painful, right?

January 11, 2017

*waves hands around*

This will soon be the new home of  It has been sort of planned for years, since my web site (since 2003!) has basically been a glorified blog anyway, but now that plan has escalated due to a dramatic increase in costs from the current web host.

I'm going to do my best to recreate everything on there on here in one form or another, although I think the Realm pages will end up getting axed.  Don't worry, I'll keep the puzzle answers!

If I end up doing mass blogging and it messes with your life, I apologize.

This should be interesting!

November 1, 2016

I'm just going to toss these up, out of order.  Do we really need an explanation at this point?

That's CAPTAIN Poppins, Thank YOU!