Doll house stories – all moved in

In this final part 5 in the Doll House Stories series, you will see the completed rooms in my newly refurbished doll house, along with its wee folk inhabitants. The house, which I built in 1975 while in art school, is on view in the exhibition “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020.

In addition to showing the original illustrations for my new picture book MY BED, the Cahoon Museum is displaying many rarely seen creations from my art school days to the present, including this doll house. These extra items are only included in the Cahoon Museum show and will not travel in the touring exhibition.

Since “Bedtime Stitches” opened in mid-September, I’ve heard from many people who’ve gone to see the exhibition with their children, grandchildren, parents and friends. One woman said, “After our visit, my husband said it was the best day of 2020.” Another wrote to say, “It feels like your art is the antidote to, I don’t know, maybe most of the rest of the world.”

I’m so glad the show will be up for another 6 weeks (through Dec 19), so that more folks can make the trip to see it. Not only has the Cahoon Museum done a beautiful job presenting my work in the gallery, they have protocols in place to ensure a safe and welcoming experience for their visitors, with timed entry in 1 hour intervals and required face coverings. Click here for hours, registration and Covid safely information.

For the past few weeks, you’ve seen several posts about the doll house. Here’s a list if you’d like to review them:
How the house was used over the past 45 years – part 1 (history)
Before and after shots of wallpapering – part 2 (wall-papering)
The process of making wee folk characters – part 3 (kitchen)
How I re-upholstered a 1930’s era sofa – part 4 (re-upholstery).

After arranging the furniture and figuring out who would live in the house, I moved the whole setup into the basement so that Rob could photograph it. He also made a little film, which pans from room to room throughout the house.

For the soundtrack, Rob recorded crickets and other night sounds outside. In the middle of summer, he sat on our patio with a microphone and headphones, listening in the dark, with the moon above.

I hope you enjoy this little house tour.

It was so much fun working on the house over the summer! I probably wouldn’t have taken the time to indulge in something so seemingly unimportant, if not for the deadline to get it fixed up for the “Bedtime Stitches” exhibition. But, after allowing myself the luxury of “playing house” again, I feel connected to my younger self – The child who spent blissful hours engrossed in creative play, the 13 year old who kept her love of dolls a secret and the self-conscious art student who lay in bed thinking about decorating her new doll house. Throughout my life, I’ve been on the same search – to find ways to make what I imagine into something real to share. And it makes me happy to share it with you!

What are they making in the kitchen? Cheese Straws! This cozy scene is printed on a card with my family recipe for cheese straws on the back. Cards are available in my shop.

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Doll house stories: re-upholstery

This part 4 in the Doll House Stories series shows how I re-upholstered the sofa which is in the living room of my newly renovated doll house. The house, which I built in 1975 while in art school, is on view in my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020. Other posts in this series: part 1 (history), part 2 (wall-papering), part 3 (kitchen).

The “made in Japan” 1930’s era sofa came from my mother’s childhood collection of doll house furniture. Over the years since she gave me the furniture, I’d become quite fond of the sofa, with its sinking seat and rusted tacks. But, as I fixed up the house, I knew that it was time to re-cover the sofa.

When I started sharing the re-upholstery process on Facebook, an immediate alarm went off, as I committed the grave sin of altering a vintage item! And on a cherished toy of my mother’s no less! I imagined that many of the people who commented were just preaching the gospel according to Antiques Road Show. As I posted new photos, the chastising subsided and when they saw what it looked like in the end, I even got some requests for forgiveness.

It actually took years for me to overcome my sentimental attachment to this sofa and decide that my mother would be excited about upgrading it. The first challenge was to find a fabric that was the right color, weave and weight. I looked through my large stash of upholstery fabric and chose this one, with its appropriately scaled pattern and subdued color palette. The only problem was its distracting reddish purple dots, which I pulled out, thread by thread.

I didn’t want to take the sofa apart, since I wasn’t sure what I’d find underneath, so I left the existing fabric in place. Using a combination of white glue and stitching, I covered the seat first.

Then, I covered the back…

and stitched along the curve of the top.

The arms were tricky. Looking at this photo months later, I can’t even tell how I did it.

The front of the arms where all of the sides came together looked kind of messy, so I sewed a metal button on top.

It took several wee hands to help move the sofa into the living room. All it needed were some pillows and a doily antimacassar draped over the back.

Stay tuned for part 5 in the Doll House Stories series. I will show photos and a video of the finished doll house. Other posts in this series: part 1, part 2 (wallpapreing), part 3 (kitchen).

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Doll house stories: kitchen

This part 3 in the Doll House Stories series shows how I made the family of dolls who are gathered around the kitchen table in my newly renovated doll house. The house, which I built in 1975 while in art school, is on view in my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020. Other posts in this series: part 1, part 2 (wallpapering), part 4 (re-upholstery.

Here’s a short video of the kitchen scene.

I suppose the boy could be rolling out dough for lots of different baked treats, but I imagined them making cheese straws, which is a family tradition going back several generations. In the past, I’ve shared the recipe for the best cheese straws in the world on this blog.

Since so many of you’ve enjoyed the recipe over the years, I decided to make a card with the cozy kitchen scene (above) on the front and the recipe for making cheese straws printed on the back. That way, it’s a greeting card (or Christmas card) and recipe card all in one.

The Cheese Straws card is available in my shop in packs of 4 or 8.

To make the figures in this scene, I started by painting their faces on wooden beads. After seeing their personalities come to life, I’m motivated to make the rest of their bodies. The doll making process is based on the instructions and patterns in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

I glued felt wigs to the crown of the bead heads, making a surface that a needle can grab onto. Then, I stitched their hair with mending wool, which is just the right weight for this kind of detailed work. It seems like all of my relatives kept cards of wool to mend sweaters, so I now have a nice supply of browns and grays to choose from.

I bent wire in the shape of hands and wrapped the fingers and palms with embroidery floss. I’m frequently asked to show in detail how I make hands, but I choose to keep that process private.

Just like I teach in Felt Wee Folk, their bodies are constructed with pipe cleaners.

Here, you can see how the skirt fabric is gathered and sewn to her waist. It can be messy because it will be covered by a sweater.

Since their clothes are sewn on, these dolls can’t change outfits very easily.

I used a chain stitch to sew stripes on this shirt.

To give this character a womanly shape, I sewed beads to her chest.

To finish off her cooking outfit, I made a little apron.

The dough is made with polymer clay. To give it a more realistic color, I kneaded in dried mustard, which is an ingredient in the cheese straws recipe. As mentioned earlier, Cheese Straws cards are available in my shop here.

Stay tuned for part 4 in the Doll House Stories series. I will share how I re-upholstered a vintage 1930’s miniature sofa.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Doll house stories- wallpapering

This part 2 in the Doll House Stories series shows how a little light demo work and new wallpaper transformed the interior of my 45 year old doll house. It was a welcome indulgence to spend the summer fixing up the house. My excuse was that the house needed some home improvements to make it presentable for my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches” at the Cahoon Museum (through Dec. 19, 2020). As you can see, the wallpaper was showing a level of wear and tear that strategically hung pictures could not hide much longer. Other posts in this series: part 1 (history), part 3 (kitchen), part 4 (re-upholstery).

Years of neglect as well as the Wee Folk Players theater troupe’s multiple set changes and general mayhem had taken its toll on the place.

The kitchen was in an especially sorry state.

I demolished the tile splash board.

And made new wallpaper.

I cut out separate pieces for each wall, cutting out the window and door openings. Then I glued them in place, covering up the grimy old paper with the new stuff.

For the other rooms, I used newly purchased scrap-booking paper and some other paper I’ve had in store since I first made the house 45 years ago. It’s true, I don’t throw out anything of an artistic nature that shows promise.

Once all of the rooms were newly wallpapered, I set about putting back the furniture and picking out new pictures to hang on the walls.

My son Ian made a tiny painting of a suspended egg, which is one of his favorite themes.

I printed out a miniature reproduction of the snow scene from my book “You and Me”, mounted it on mat board and hung it up in the kitchen.

It was fun setting up this domestic scene in the bright and cheery new kitchen. I already had most of the furniture and appliances, but I made a new wall clock out of a Timex watch face set inside a plastic curtain ring.

Stay tuned for part 3 in the Doll House Stories series. – I will share how I made the woman and children and give some clues about what they’re cooking.

To keep up with new posts, subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram.

Doll house stories – history

This past summer, I renovated my 45 year old doll house, to get it ready to display in my exhibition, “Bedtime Stitches”, which is on view at the Cahoon Museum in Cotuit, MA through Dec. 19, 2020.

In addition to showing the original illustrations for my new picture book MY BED, the Cahoon Museum is displaying many rarely seen creations from my art school days to the present, including this doll house. These extra items are only included in the Cahoon Museum show and will not travel in the touring exhibition.

There are so many pictures and stories to tell about redecorating, re-wallpapering and re-upholstering furniture for the house, that I’ll be writing several posts about it. I thought I’d begin by giving a little history of when it was first constructed and how it’s been used up until now. Other posts in this series: part 2 (wall-papering)part 3 (kitchen)part 4 (re-upholstery).

I built the doll house in the summer of 1975, after taking a wood working class. I can remember using my father’s tools and workbench and later obsessing over the wall paper choices and other architectural details. To me, this was just another art project, but I knew enough not to talk about it with people who wouldn’t understand how a 20 year old young woman would rather construct and decorate a doll house than go out partying.

in subsequent years, the doll house has moved around with my family and me, from house to house, along with all of our other stuff. For a long time it sat neglected in the corner and my boys weren’t interested in playing with it. Then, a few years ago, my interest was renewed when some real live children visited my studio and made a beeline for it.

I looked at the house with new eyes and decided to spiff it up. I added some green molding here and there and painted leafy branches on the plain pink gable.

An opportunity to display the house at Highfield Hall’s Holiday event came up, so I decked it out in a Christmas theme. I went through my old family Christmas ornaments and spun cotton Santas and set them up in the rooms, together with the doll house family. There were Santa’s hanging out everywhere – even in the bathtub and sitting on the toilet. I found miniature lights and pine boughs at Michael’s and strung them up. To keep eager fingers out of the rooms, I covered the openings with Plexiglas. People really got a kick of peeking inside!

The house was also used in a photographic set-up that shows the doll house family project in my how-to book, Felt Wee Folk – New Adventures.

Then, after the 2016 election, the Wee Folk Players theater troupe took over the house and staged their series of politically satirical scenarios. They ruthlessly rearranged the furniture and transformed the rooms into the White House and a Royal Palace, among other set-ups.

Women’s March

The doll house, along with characters from the Wee Folk Players was part of my exhibition, “Liberty and Justice” at the New England Quilt Museum in 2018.

During their month’s-long occupation, the theater troupe pretty much trashed the place, so when another opportunity to show the doll house came up this year, I decided to fix it up first. Stay tuned for more stories about the renovation. Other posts in this Doll house series: part 2, part 3.

To keep up with new posts, please subscribe to this blog (top right column on the home page). Your contact info will not be sold or shared. If you’d like to see more frequent photos tracking the projects in my studio, please follow me on Facebook and/or Instagram