Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Easter House Finished

I finished all the details on the Easter house. I am really happy with it. I always have some criticisms I'm my mind on what I didn't do right and what to do better next time, but overall I think the effect is very nice. And I feel confident that my friend's child will be thrilled with it.

Here is the front view of the house. I've add a picket fence from a LaLa Land die. I glued 3-4 layers of cardboard together, painted it with gesso and then Martha Stewart mother of pearl paint which gives it a nice sheen. I think the paint is protective as well as this fence feels really sturdy.

The eggs are just polymer clay rolled into an egg shape. I used primary colors mixed with equal parts of white to make them more pastel. Except to make the pink eggs, I used about 1:4 ratio of red:white. Once they were glued down, I coated them with a thin layer of sculpey glaze to give them some sheen. The grass is a Martha Stewart icicle punch that is still available on Amazon at the time of this writing.

The leaves on the roof are also a Martha Stewart punch that is retired. You can easily find other leaf punches though. I'm going to try oak leaves next time to see how that looks.

I glued a little birdie I got from Hobby Lobby on the top just to add a little decor there.

Here are a couple of photos of the bunny portraits inside the house. I didn't really paint inside very well because it doesn't show up for the most part.

You can see the tape on the back of the door in this view below. I painted over it (sloppily I'm afraid). I didn't do the windows very well on this house, but I know what to do next time so they'll look better.

All of the bunnies are clip art from a digital sheet I got from Alpha Stamps and resized a little bit to fit the house.

This was a relatively quick house to make and very funny. I've got 3 more to do.

Take care everybody and thank you for reading.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Easter (tree stump) House

I've been working on this little Easter house for awhile. I meant to take step by step photos so I could show you how to make it, but looking back I see that I missed an awful lot of steps.

The Easter Tree House is not really done yet. You can see the glue drying at the base of the grass, the easter eggs have not been distributed yet and there will 2 little birds on the roof. It's been awhile since I posted so I wanted you to know I have not been idle.

Here are the approximate steps in making this house.

First I got a cardboard cylinder which is the inside of industrial strength toilet paper from the hospital. It is about 3 1/2 inches in diameter and 3 1/2 inches tall. I cut open one side so I could more easily cut windows and the door in the cardboard. You can't really tell from this view but there are 4 windows and the round gold front door. Then I ripped some newspaper and coated it with glue and applied it to the surface of the cylinder to simulate bark. I did the same thing to make the roots except that I roll and twist the paper to make roots.

It doesn't have to be pretty because you are going to paint it and bark is rough anyway. I first painted with gesso and then ochre acrylic paint. This forms the under layer color that I want to show through a little bit to give depth to the bark.

I made a cone to function as the top of the house. Notice how the top of the cylinder doesn't have any paper mache there. That is so the top can come off. I want to be able to put a tea light in there and let people see the bunny portraits inside. One critical feature is make sure the band on the top is loose enough to be easily removed. I cut a strip of cardboard and loosely tape it so I can make sure I have the right size. After that I glue the strip together, I adhere the band to a thick cardboard circle which gives support to the cone on top. I wanted the cone to extend past the band so it was not so obvious.

Next I glued strips to reinforce the attachment of the base to the cardboard cone. The pipe cleaner in the center forms a stem which functions as a handle to take the top off. I knotted it at the bottom when I had the stem at the correct length.

I dyed the pipe cleaner. I used 2 layers of cardstock to make the cone. This doesn't have to be too strong because it doesn't really support anything. I didn't worry about how neat the cardstock was because it was all going to be covered up (unlike when I did the Black Hat Inn many months ago - that cone had to look good because it was just painted.)

I tested to make sure it still fits.

I painted the cone green, punched out a lot of leaves and edged them with Ground Espresso distress paint to give them a little more depth. See why I didn't worry about how the cone looked?

Inside I put some bunny portraits from Bunny Clip Art that I got from Alpha Stamps. I made little gold frames for the portraits.

I don't have a good photo of the inside of the house yet. When I post the completed house I will be sure and let you see the portraits. I am making this for a 3 year old boy. I think he will be really tickled about the house.

The door actually opens. I adhered it with some fancy air sealing tape (Pro Clima's Tescon Vana if you are curious) left over from building my brother's house - his real house. It's really flexible and adheres to anything really well. I've even patched a pair of jeans with it and it has stayed on for months.

When I have all the decorations done,  I'll post the finished house. I think this little house is going to be seriously cute.

Keep warm everybody.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Bottle Brush Tree Tutorial

I've been making bottle brush trees for my houses for a few months now. It took me a while to get the hang of it. My first trees were definitely on the wonky side at the beginning, but they continue to improve. If your first trees are too lopsided or uneven, you can just toss them as the cost is minimal, but you can cover them with glitter and snowtex and paint and beads to compensate.

I decided to do a tutorial on how I make the trees.

There are a number of tutorials on the web, some free and some for a nominal fee. I did purchase one such tutorial just to get some additional advice, but I had already read that author's free version long before. I make mine using a slightly different method because this is what I've found to be the easiest way for me to make the trees. This is a photo heavy blog post, but I think that helps. I'd do a video if I had 3 hands, but that is not the case. I'll figure out how to a video sometime in the future.

First the supplies:

Sisal rope from the hardware store
Floral wire
Floral tape to wrap trunk
Drill (though there are other ways to twist the wire)
Cup hook to be used as the drill bit
Needlenose pliers or hemostats to hold the wire when twisting
Wire cutters (not shown)
Comb (not shown - I use a pet comb to comb the coarse sisal fibers into submission)

Cut the rope in about 3 inch segments. You don't have to be precise because you're going to cut a lot of it off when you shape the tree.

Untwist the rope segments. You can tell pretty quickly which way the segments are twisted together. Just go the opposite way and the segments separate easily.

Untwist the small segments to get 6 thinner pieces from each piece of rope.

Finally, you separate the individual fibers just by pulling and untwisting a little bit to straighten them out. Some of the fibers have some pretty gnarly tangles, just pull those off so you don't incorporate them into your tree.

Line up a pile of your fibers. How much to use? You're going to have to eyeball this one your own. I make the pile thick enough so I don't really see through the pile. That is probably 2-3 segments of rope all together.

Cut the wire at least twice as long as the height of your tree. I like really long trunks because I want the tree to be tall and not obscure the details of my little house. You can always cut off the extra wire if you make it too tall.

Straighten the wire by pulling on it and fold it over to make the trunk.

Place fibers between the 2 sides of the wire. This is one of the harder things to do because it keeps slipping off. That's why you cut the rope much longer than you need so you have some margin of error in terms of centering the fibers.

Make a loop at the closed end of the wire so you can attach it to the drill. You can also insert a pencil or dowel here and twist without the drill if you want. That's the method that Martha Stewart uses in her bottle brush tree tutorial.

Place loop over the cup hook that is inserted in the drill. I use pliers to hold the open end of the wire tight, but you could use hemostats, or even a clamp to hold the wire. Whatever you use it might be secure, otherwise, the fibers fall out and fly all over your house when you start the drill. You also have to apply some counter traction (pull, in other words) to keep the wire straight.

I have found that it helps to hold the wire at the base of the tree so most of the twisting happens where the fibers are. After the tree is twisted enough I move my pliers further down the wire to twist the trunk of the tree.

Run the drill slowly for control. You don't want to break the wire. It looks ugly at first.

Here's the tree after the comb out.  Be sure to straighten the trunk before you do the cutting. You can see that my tree is curved. This is 22 gauge floral wire. I probably should have used a stiffer wire.

Cut the fibers into a tree shape.

Ta-dah! An almost finished tree. When I dye it with fabric dye, some of the fibers loosen up and straighten out more so you have to do more trimming at that time. One nice thing about using the trees for little glitter houses is that you can coat them with glue and glitter and snowtex and paint to cover up your mistakes or bald spots. You can also glue on beads, birds, stars, etc.

Here are some references for making bottle brush trees if you want to look into some slightly different methods.

Pink House Pages - the first bottle brush tree set of instructions that I found

Martha Stewart's video on how to make the trees

Fynes Designs Bottle Brush Trees - she makes them out of twine and yarn as well

Just Something I Made - Cathe Holden makes the most beautiful trees and displays them in wonderful vignettes.

More later on dyeing and decorating the tree.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Amsterdam House #2

I made a second house on request based on the Amsterdam house pattern. I changed up the facade a little bit and used a different fence. I also learned to cover-up the seams on the house better by painting a thick layer of paint with sand in it. It worked really well.

Once again I made the tree. I generally make long trunks so the tree doesn't obscure the house so much. I was going to use 2 trees, but it made the base too messy-looking. I think this combination looks somewhat elegant and more timeless. And you can always put a little Santa figure on the lawn.

Most of the windows are from an Elizabeth Craft die, but the larger top center window is from Tim Holtz Village Dwelling Bell Tower which I cut out of cardboard and glittered. I cut out a frame for the door and recessed the door to give it more dimension. The chimney actually looks better in real life. My photos are looking downward so it doesn't show that the chimney extends above the roofline very much. Still working on designing chimneys for this type house.

I am very pleased with this house. When I was first making this house, I didn't think it was going to be anything special, but now that it's done I think it is a really handsome little house. I hope the person it goes to will agree.

Thank you for taking a look at my blog.

Tudor House Finished

Here are a few photos of the Tudor house on the base.


I designed and picked the colors of this house so I could add a yellow lab figure on the base, but when the house was done I realized that Josie the dog would look too overwhelming next to the little Tudor house. So I used a little deer instead. The deer is still big relative to the house - notice how the fawn is taller than the door. I'm not a miniaturist interested in maintaining a perfect scale, so it's ok to me. The bird is quite large as well.

Side view of the Tudor house. I kind of like the wall around the building. I should have made it slightly shorter though.

This view shows the shingles much better. I am very happy with the shingles on the house.

I hope to do my next house step by step on the blog so you can some of what is involved in making a little house (assuming there is some interest in that).

Thank you for reading. I hope everyone is doing well. We're having another rainy spell in the South, but this one is only supposed to be 3 days long rather than 2 weeks. We are grateful for that. Take care.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Tudor House or the Half-Timbered House

I am almost finished with the Tudor house which they call a "Half-Timbered House" in England.  The base is drying and that's about all that needs to done.

Here's a photo of the quick sketch I did to make the pattern.

Structurally, the house was really easy so I didn't do anything more than that to make the house pattern.

I painted 2 sheets of cardboard to make strips to look like wood. First a layer of ochre paint, then burnt sienna followed by burnt umber. So I went from light to dark. The darker paints I just brushed on leaving a little bit ochre showing through to look like lighter streaks in the wood.

Then I put the pattern done on the painted cardboard so I could trace the roofline and cut that "wood" out first. Then I cut the rest of the strips on the paper trimmer. I glued the cardboard wood on before I assembled the house because I figured I could get better adherence that way. The base of the house was painted with a color called parchment.

The roof was surprisingly easy despite the curve. If you have ever tried to make a little glitter house, you know that when you are holding the roof done to be glued, it wants to curve inward anyway. I did glue some strips of cardstock underneath to provide good support as well.

Then I made many little shingles to shingle the roof.  And here you can see the house without the base.

I'll get better photos when I get the house on the base. This was a fairly easy house.  What would I do differently? Move the door up so I can have a door step. Shorten the house so the length of the roofline is not so overwhelming. I would also use a different glitter because I like the shingles so much, I don't want them obscured. This glitter is true German glass glitter. I would have used a lighter very fine glitter sparingly to show the details of the roof. 

More tomorrow.