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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!

When I discovered I had a hit on my hands with this costume, I realized I had better step up my game a bit. My Mary Poppins hat has been a big success, but I still feel it's a little too big for my head and a bit unstructured. I tend to tilt it up when wearing it, which means the underbrim shows up in photos rather than the flowers. It was a good start, but I was ready to do better.

Right after I decided to look for new hat options, I happened to find myself in a thrift shop, wiling away an hour while waiting to pick up B. from work.

Halloween stuff was already out, which generally means "the ugliest, weirdest clothing that got donated to us." This particular shop had a bin full of vintage hats, most of which I adored. Among the items was a green straw hat.

Now, what you're seeing is what I consider 'After - Part 1.' I did not take a 'before' photo, because that was one sorry hat. It had a faded golden ribbon, with an equally faded golden suede bow, and some really ratty yellow netting. There were stains on it. It looked like someone had squashed it up and stuffed it in a pocket for a few years. But I saw some potential, and it fit nicely on my head. I bought it and began tearing off the yellowed decorations while walking back to my car a few blocks away. It was rather embarrassing to be seen with it! The photo is also not so great, I was in the basement and only thought at the last minute that I should get a before spraypaint shot.

P.S. Same thrift shop had ANOTHER rocking chair. Y'know, THE rocking chair. In great shape. I did not buy it. I am very curious about its history, though!

Back to the hat! I did a little research, and the Internet crafters said I could fix it with some steam. They were right! I watered up my iron, and grabbed a large can I use to store plastic bags in. It's over 6" wide and has a metal bottom. I fitted it over the metal end (it was still a little loose, but close enough!) and tied some ribbon around it to help hold the shape, and began fake ironing around it, letting puffs of steam do its thing. Eventually I grabbed a lightweight scrap of upholstery fabric and began ironing the hat with that as a layer in between. I even laid the can on its side on the edge of the ironing board and ironed the sides of the hat. It made a HUGE difference. I even sprayed the hat with some water to see if that would help. I don't think it made a difference. I eventually turned the hat and can upside down and left it to dry.

Internet crafters also assured me I could spray paint the hat just fine. I had used the Design Master brand for my fairy wings with beautiful results, no cracking or flaking, so I dashed to Michaels to add to my spray paint collection. Lots of shaking, several coats and waiting about half an hour or so between outside and inside, and I am now the proud owner of a second Poppins hat base!

I bought some vintage millinery cherries on Etsy, but frankly I prefer the wooden cherries I painted. 'Nice' daisies are also hard to find. I am still on the lookout, but these will do.

Et voila!

I found the white cotton prairie blouse on eBay, and am much pleased with this cosplay. Judging from people's responses, they are pleased, too! I have a coat, too, but unless the event is outdoors it's generally too hot to wear.

Now I need to work on what to carry in the bag. Everybody expects a lamp for some reason. I kept explaining that I only pack a lamp when I'm moving house . . .

July 30, 2016

I had to set aside the Micro-Willowcrest for the moment, I just realized Myths and Legends Con is two weeks away!

There's no way I can generate a whole new costume in time this year, but I thought I'd at least build up a few more accessories.  Today I finally finished my Steampunk hat!

The hat is a vital accessory for almost every costume.  It helps to define who you are and what you're doing,  Mary Poppins, for example, is totally identifiable just from her hat.

I have a pith helmet, but that implies adventure, excitement, and activity, which I don't always want to portray, and, well, it's a little too big for me.  I wanted a fancy hat, but with my short hair, there's a lot of hats that I just can't wear because I don't have anything to attach it to.

On our South Dakota trip, my mother-in-law proudly wore this little number, which she had redesigned herself out of a boy's straw hat from Walmart.  I was inspired, and made my own trip to the thrift store to see what I could find.  I lucked out, and came home with this on my first try.

All right, so it's more 'Caribbean Vacation' than Steampunk, but bear with me.  It was worn and a little brittle, but for $3 I was willing to make the attempt.  I rushed the beginning of this, and just soaked it in a tub of water for half an hour before attempting to shape.  Fortunately it did ok, although the sides of the underbrim were in bad shape.  With lots of loose ends glued down, carefully applied clothespins, and some round weight (a case of blank CDS worked) I eventually ended up with this:

The sides are a bit deeper than I wanted, but I liked the riding hat style a lot!  I cut out a piece of cardboard to help maintain the flatness of the top and to keep my head from rounding it out.  

Then I started thinking about decorations.  I was planning to hit up the local bead shops for ides, but decided I better shop my stash first.  I wavered between a leather and a brown silk band, and the brown silk won.  I found brown tulle for a veil in the back, and my fabric collection produced leftovers from my Clockwork Doll and the poufy bathroom curtains I made for the townhouse.  I had lace and beads everywhere, and Simplicity Pattern 1085 to help me figure out how to make fabric flowers.  Oh, and I also had these LED balloon lights.  They seemed like a great self contained device for lighting up projects, and I was determined to play with them.  Eventually I produced these:

I was so excited with how the light up rose turned out!  The balloon light has an external casing, so I could pull out EVERYTHING, batteries, bulb, and all, so I was able to superglue wire ribbon to it to make a flower.  The light was initially too bright, but it dimmed down pretty quick, especially after I put a thin coat of acrylic paint over the glass.  Then it wasn't bright enough!  It does stand out at night, but during the day, you're not sure if it's just a yellow tipped rose bud or what.  I sewed a loop of ribbon to hold the rose in place, so I can remove it easily to fiddle with the batteries.  It feels pretty secure, it's not like I'm going to be standing on my head!  It's lit in all the photos below.

Finally, here is what I ended up with:

Pre 'am I sure this is what I want?' shot.  It was what I wanted.

My first glow-in-the-dark hat!

I'm still thinking about more details in the back, and possibly the undersides of the brim.  Gotta add some gears somewhere, right? It may need more lit roses.  The veil kind of helps give an illusion of hair in the back so the hat doesn't look so harsh on my head. 

It's a bit busy and ridiculous, but welcome to Victoriana.  I can't wait to put the final outfit together!

July 24, 2016

Having mentally completed the second floor, I've moved down to the first.  I wanted to fit both a kitchen and a living room down there.  I have a basic metal kitchen set I bought years ago from Anita McNary, plus the living room kit I had picked up from Diminutive Details.

Here I ran into a problem I knew I'd eventually have.  The scale was off.  Either my kitchen set was too small, or my living room set was too big.  Just a microscopic amount off can really throw your eye.

I tried to make it work, but was unhappy with the look, so I grabbed some scrap wood and made a couch that was just a little bit smaller.  It's very plain, but gets the hint across.  Because this was smaller, I was also able to make multiple armchairs to also fit in the room.  It's really not THAT much smaller, but it made a big difference.

Only two of them will stay in the room, the third is going in the bedroom.  I should have made an ottoman to go along with it!  

Downstairs is pretty much all windows, so I don't think I'm going to bother with any wall decor except for lace curtains in the bay window.  I am STILL deciding on blocking up some windows on the kitchen side.  I don't think I'm going to put a wall between the two rooms, it will make it look too crowded.  

July 17, 2016

I got totally hung up on printing wallpaper, so I'm not as far along as I would like to be.

My printer is probably about 12 years old, and I bought it for $35 at Big Lots.  It's printed out tons of school papers, crafts, cards, letters, and even wedding invitations and table decorations.  But in this digital age my use has been steadily declining, and in the past few years, it seems like every time I went to use it, the ink had dried up. I blamed the lack of use and the high, dry altitude.  Everyone else is blaming the printer head, which is so old it's not self cleaning.  My attempt with a qtip was not successful.  I'm not willing to buy yet another ink cartridge after the failure of the other one, so eventually I have to pick out a new printer if I can convince myself I still need one.

I finally snuck a print in at work, and initially decided it was too blurry for use.  I eventually changed my mind on one style, and decided to use it in the bedroom. In the bathroom and the downstairs, I opted to paint.

The thing about 144th scale houses is that you have to decorate all the walls COMPLETELY before assembly, so I have started concentrating on everything that goes on walls.  Everything is so tiny that you have to reconsider traditional decorative items.  My tiniest bead were put to use as container and candles.  Scraps of wood from the furniture kits became wall shelves, and even tinier scraps of fabric became towels.

The white curtains?  Tissue paper, carefully scrunched up and glued for the bathroom, and the bedroom is bits of lace.  I have some amazing tiny laces in my stash, but sometimes it's the not-so-tiny but detailed laces that work best.  For the bedroom, I ended up cutting out elements of a trim that worked perfectly for a hint of a draped valance.  Can you see the arches in the 'open' section?  The solid section will make a great rug.

Here is the bedroom, pre final assembly.  (I haven't done the back wall yet.)  I made up a faux gallery wall with plain old printer paper and a colored pencil.  The curtain rods are just thin wire.

I'm documenting this now because it's probably not going to be visible once it's assembled!  Certainly not photograph-able.  But check out the effect of all these detail below!

I promise I will dig out my real camera soon.

July 10, 2016

At a miniature show a few years ago, I fell for a series of 1:144th scale room kits by Diminutive Details.  So cheap, so detailed, and at the time I bought multiple 'rooms' I wasn't even thinking about that scale.  They just followed me home!

I decided I had better pull them out and work on them, particularly as I couldn't progress any further on the micro Willowcrest until I got my printer ink and, frankly, knew exactly what I was going to put where.  I'm planning to add some interior walls and I need to know if and where I can place them.  Furniture determines this!

I started with the bathroom kit.  Seeing the kit next to my 144th Bay House made me VERY concerned that the pieces were too big for the rooms.
There were no instructions, but I was able to figure out how things went together based on the picture provided.  the pieces came with punched in two thicknesses of wood, one to provide depth, the other to provide details.  The thicker pieces were held in place on a piece of sticky paper, when I peeled it off the back of the board, all the pieces came out I had to cut the thinner pieces off the board with an Xacto knife, which resulted in a tag that needed to be dealt with.  They were super easy to assemble, but I ran into a problem when I decided I wanted my tub and toilet to look like porcelain.  I eventually remembered I had white nail polish and pulled it out of my stash.  It was adequate, but I was surprised that the wood was so absorbent.  I should have sealed the wood first, but I didn't think the polish would be absorbable.  The toilet looks terrible.  Next time I should just remember that I have glossy sealer.

I think there was a glitch on that big cabinet.  I figure I can hide it somehow.

I cut out a new floor for the 2nd floor, and marked on it where all the windows were, plus where the center of the floor was.  (there are windows EVERYWHERE.)  The bathroom furniture all fits in the room, but it feels crowded in there.  I think I would have much preferred a pedestal sink.  It wouldn't take up so much visual space. I'm still figuring out how to make one.  There is a window where the hamper is, so I can't put any of the other pieces there, and the tub just looks odd from the narrow side.

I'm thinking the cabinet can go, and if I can do a pedestal sink, the sink will go, too.  

I also made the bed while waiting for the paint on the tub and toilet to dry.  I cut out a block of balsa, and some 1"~ squares of fabric from my stash that I thought might work for bedding.  There was fabric that worked better for a quilt, but it was a yellowish brown, and just looked a little weird in such a small piece.  The pillows are two tiny squares glued together.  I'm thinking next time of putting something in between to make them poofier - no idea what, though!

July 7, 2016

My delight with the 144th scale Willowcrest kit (Aegean Sea) waned a bit when I explored deeper into the box.  The kit comes with furniture, but I was highly unimpressed with it.  First and foremost, it is NOT to scale.  Not even close.   Check out the bed below:

The white board is the second floor - the entire interior of the house.  (Sorry for the blur, my phone camera can only do so much macro!)  The wooden bed is from a 1:144th scale kit by Anita McNary (now SDK Miniatures)  It's a BIG difference, and while I'd probably like sleeping in a bed that big, it takes up pretty much the entire second floor.  I also have no idea what it's made from. It's hard, has a kind of chalky, waxy feel to it, and you could probably break up chunks of it without too much effort.  The rest of the furniture is to the same scale, which I will eventually figure out what it is.  The bed might work well as a child's toy in 1:12 scale.

Then, of course, we had to investigate the wiring.  It came with a voice activated (?) chip board and two lights, and even watch batteries for it.  One of the batteries was obviously unusable, having swelled horribly.  Fortunately I had extra batteries of the same type.  Unfortunately it didn't matter, because the wires were loosely soldered to the board and I managed to knock one loose while attempting to insert the batteries into the awkward holders.  The lights did light up when testing the batteries!
At that point, I looked at the light device, looked at the McNary bed, looked at the instructions for how to hide the device: under the house, with the batteries, intended to be tucked through a small hole in a glass ball (and you just know those batteries won't last long!) and I decided I had a much better idea.  So I headed to Evan Designs and purchased a pico chip light kit with two lights.  It arrived super fast!  I'm actually impressed by just how tiny the pico light is.  I could probably fit four or more of these in the house with no problems.  Below you can see the lights that came with the kit, compared to the bed for sizing, and you can ALMOST see the pico bulb because my camera said 'what bulb?' when I tried to convince it to take a photo.  They're attached to the yellow bits.

I'm impressed, and also slightly concerned, because I feel they're TOO small for lighting up two floors.  Still, the chip kit runs on a single, easy to extract battery, and has a button switch to make it easy to light up.  I probably won't bother using the glass ball at this point, but I'm at least going to check and make sure it's possible to fit the house in there in the first place.  

I still feel the kit is well worth it just for the house!

July 4, 2016

I have the sneaking suspicion that the Willowcrest is never going to be finished.  I'm now attempting to 'let it go' emotionally and will likely get rid of it physically at some point.  I LIKE living in an apartment sized space, and I foresee lots more moves and small spaces in the future, and since the last movers refused to touch it.  . . well, it's just going to be a pain for the rest of my life.

I am NOT giving up miniatures.  I'm just . . . downsizing them.  Quarter scale (1:48) fascinates me, and I love how quickly 1:144 scale goes.  So when I was browsing eBay a few weeks ago and came across this kit, called Aegean Sea, I could not resist.  I can still keep my Willowcrest in another form!

The kit is Chinese, so I had my concerns about quality.  I was able to find a US seller, which helped me make the decision to purchase.  It claims to be 1:48 scale but is actually 1:144.

It arrived quickly, and I was very impressed with the whole deal.  It came with EVERYTHING.  Glass ball, rocks, greenery, furniture, even curtains and bits to make ceiling lights.  Yes, it lights up! the lighting component hides under the base, and it claims to be voice activated.  I haven't tested it yet.  It looks like it takes three watch batteries, which will be interesting and messy to change when they die. The glass ball has a flat bottom on it, so you can hang it or set it on a shelf.  It's about 5" across, so it might be a little too big for your Christmas tree.  Everything was prepainted and precut, just waiting to be glued.  The wood is good quality and everything fit together amazingly well.  I did have to push two little wood bits out of two window pieces, but they popped right out.  The instructions did come in English and Chinse, but really all you need is the pictures, and fortunately there are a lot of them.  Not so fortunately is that they don't always correspond with the pieces I have.  For instance, the base has a small hole drilled through it for wiring, but not in the photo where you assemble it, so of course I have glued the frame to the wrong side and will have to redrill.  There's also some confusing about the side piece with the bay window, sometimes it's centered on the wall, sometimes it's offset.  Just go carefully and you'll figure it out!

I bought the kit with the thought that I wanted to do something miniature, with a straightforward, complete kit, no decision making involved, no changes, just follow the instructions.

That lasted about 10 minutes.

It's now going to look like MY Willowcrest (only finished) because I knew I would regret it if I didn't try.

The brick proved difficult.  I first tried to print brick paper to glue on the sides, guess whose red ink dried up?  Then I attempted to cut and glue bits of red cardstock to the side.  Hehe, might have worked, but heck no.  So I resorted to an Xacto knife and etching the bricks into the wood.  I had a few mess-ups with figuring out how to apply the paint, but I think I got it pretty well in the end.  

I know there's bits where I think I can fill it in a bit better, but that always bites me in the rear so I stopped before I overloaded it.  I think it's pretty effective for being unmeasureable by my ruler!  (Note, I have a layer of wax paper between the paint and the cutting mat.  Also note those lines are 1" apart!)

Then, of course, I had to paint the roof and the front door, because brown just wasn't quite right with the red and white.  The wood took the paint beautifully, no warping at all!  

I plan to draw lines with a mechanical pencil on the base to simulate wood floors.  I also plan to replace the second floor, because I don't really care for the spiral staircase that came with it and I figured I'd just nix stairs altogether.  I'm annoyed at this point because there are windows EVERYWHERE and no wall space.  I was hoping to make this modern and hopefully fit a kitchen in!  I am also likely to add a ceiling to the front porch (just a scrap of poster board will do) and I'm not actually sure that I like the side porch . . . 

Apparently I am incapable of building a kit as is.  HOWEVER, I accomplished all of this in one day.  I can't assemble any further until I can replace my ink cartridge and print out some wallpaper.    

More pictures to follow!  I recommend these kits if you've been eyeing them!

June 4, 2016

Vacation Destination for 2016 - South Dakota?

I've never really thought about South Dakota before.  What springs to mind is 'vast amounts of nothing', 'snow', and probably 'Indians.'  'Laura Ingalls' probably should have come up, too, but I don't know that I ever paid much attention to where she actually was in her stories until recently.

After having been there, what comes to mind is 'vast amounts of nothing,'  'constant wind', 'awkward violent history', and 'Presidents.'  Yep.  There's a weird presidential obsession, and I say that coming from the DC area, where people proudly mark out the places where George Washington ate and slept.

We were planning to visit a variety of places, so we chose Rapid City as our base.  (LOVE the airport, by the way. So compact and easy to navigate!)  This was my first indication of the presidential love, as there's a bronze statue of a president on every corner downtown.

Calvin Coolidge, wondering who
 took his horse.
Thomas Jefferson, being supervised
by my father-in-law.

Next to our hotel was a miniature golf course, with an equally unexpected Pirate theme so far inland.  It wasn't open when we got there, so we were prepared to just walk by and ogle the awesome decorations, but they opened that weekend and we got to play!


Our first destination was Deadwood, an old west gold rush town.  The town has been turned into a giant tourist attraction, but we were there right before official opening season.  Fortunately they had a few goings on going on.  

We first went up the mountain to Mount Moriah Cemetery.

It's pretty big, and has lots of trees, which I was kind of missing.  We naturally paid a visit to Wild Bill Hickock and Calamity Jane.

And admired the view from it.

Then we headed back down to visit the Adams Museum, which has been around so long they had exhibits on their early exhibits.  After that, we ambled downtown to shop and hopefully run into some excitement.

Wait, didn't we just see their graves?

Let's follow them into the bar!

They gave a great presentation inside the pizza place/bar, giving a brief history of themselves as from their persona's point of view.  Lots of fun!  We also took a walking history tour of Main Street.

Floods kept washing sediment through the town,
forcing residents to eventually wall up basement
windows a they were unusable!

I wish the tour had been longer, or at least less windy!  The guide recommended a book written by the judge's daughter, Old Deadwood Days by Estelline Bennett. I got a copy and it was a great read.

The following day we headed south to the Pine Ridge Reservation, where we saw some amazing artwork at the Red Cloud Heritage Center.  Their museum included a number of quilts, nearly all of which featured a white background and primary colored blocks forming the design.  You can see some photos here.

The museum is located on the grounds of a catholic church and school, and we discovered that Chief Red Cloud was buried up on the hill.

We headed from there to the Wounded Knee Memorial, where a mass grave and a lonely view is all that remains to remind us of the bloody massacre that occurred there.

I didn't understand what I was seeing at the time, so I unfortunately only got a shot of the marker.  (I always feel awkward taking pictures of other people's graves!)  There was a large, long fence around this marker, and then the spot was used as a cemetery for some time - possibly still so?  The fence outlines the mass grave of all the Lakota killed in the 1890 attack.  

Having had enough of cemeteries and feeling rather guilty about Western history, we decided to head to the Badlands, because thing are always more uplifting when it's Man attempting to conquer Nature, or at least prevent nature from conquering us.  

Again, I didn't really have any idea of what to expect.  I'm just going to show some photos so you can gape in awe like I did.  

OK, The Badlands must be mountains/rocks, like Arches.

Don't go in the grass.


Ooooh, now the Badlands are canyons!

Click to make it larger!  (I remembered the panorama feature n my phone.)

And the miles of rolling prairie just roll right up to them and then drop abruptly.

Yay Bison!  It's springtime, and they're shedding their winter coats.
and did you see the prairie dogs?

They make noises exactly like the squeakers in dog toys.

Look at the colorful striations!

We headed back to Rapid City in awe.

The next day we took a train ride from Hill City to Keystone.  There weren't a lot of photos because the train car was very cramped!  We also went to a Wax Museum in Keystone that featured U.S. Presidents.  Surprise!  Keystone is the nearest town to Mount Rushmore, so it made sense.

We also stopped at the Chief Crazy Horse Memorial, which is 'in progress.'  

The museum seemed to be more about the building of the monument rather than about Crazy Horse, so I was a little disappointed. 

Since we hadn't seen very many bison, our next adventure was to Custer State Park.  It was a rainy cold day, and we nearly didn't go because we'd be riding around in an open jeep! Fortunately it had a roof and a lot of blankets. The cold was worth it!  

I'd normally say I'd never been that close to a herd of bison, but that's not actually true when I think about it.  We had an unexpectedly close encounter a few years ago at the Rocky Mountain Arsenal a few years ago.  We thought we'd parked a safe distance, but silly us for thinking they would cross the road and go directly through a gate!  They opted to meander around and hang around against the fence . . . right where we were waiting.

Uhhh, hi there.  (This was 2013, right before the flood incident.)

So we got lucky twice as our tour guide drove us straight into a herd!

There were so many!

And babies!

She's ok, just shedding her winter coat.

This particular herd was crossed with cattle, which makes them a little smaller in size, and sometimes gives them twisted horns.   We had been promising to show my mother-in-law bison for years, and we finally made good on it!  I snapped pictures the entire time to take advantage of the opportunity.  They're all right here.

Oh yes, there were other animals in the park, too.

Begging Burros.  They're rather smart!


a bluebird.


And, of course, prairie dogs.

Naturally our trip had to take us to Mount Rushmore, which we accomplished our last day, after the rain stopped.  The wind was still cold, though!

Rubble with drill marks in it!

I think this is the first non-costume photo taken of me in
months.  I was unprepared for the cold!

It's impossible to get a bad picture of these, so I started
concentrating on how much I could zoom in.  Look at the
eye illusion!

The museum had several alternative design ideas.  I kind
of prefer this one!

The surrounding countryside was amazing!

The museum had a display about the fault/crack through Jefferson's face,
they had to re-angle is face to work around it - it's up against his nose.

By this point, we were exhausted, and it was time to go home.  I can say with confidence South Dakota is full of history, cemeteries, bison, Presidential memorabilia, and lots and lots of empty space.