Monday, November 16, 2015

Breathing New Life into Old Blankets

Last summer, Pa graciously helped me paint the guest room here at Briarpatch. The guest room has been seriously upgraded from its previous state, but that's all for another blog post. The point of this one is the blanket. After I had all of the furniture in and the decor arranged, I asked my mother if I could come over and grab a blanket out of my childhood closet. Considering the fact that my sister and I have randomly asked to look at something and then made a HUGE MESS out of boxes of old things at Ma's multiple times, she was hesitant. I promised that I knew exactly where the blanket was, however. And I did. It's a special blanket -- the original guest room blanket from when my grandparents were alive and lived in this very house.

Above, you can see the design in the center of the blanket. (My bad for the lines showing that I haven't ironed it.) When I was little, my sister and I used to come over here to spend the night from time to time. This beautiful blanket was on the guest bed, but I remember Grandma Blonderson taking it off and putting it away when we spent the night. I mentioned this to my cousins -- that I remembered Grandma saying if we sat on it that the bumps could disappear. Chicago Cousin pointed out that maybe just maybe Grandma didn't want little children spilling things or tearing or squishing or ruining her lovely bedspread. So true. All this time, I'd been thinking I had to take care to not sit on one spot too much because the bumps would smoosh down. Nice one, Grandma!

I found the blanket instantly in the closet and brought it back home to put on my guest bed. I was flooded with memories, and it felt wonderful. I even gave it the "boob tuck" pillow treatment just like Grandma used to. Ma taught me how to do this properly when I was a little girl. I haven't done it in a few decades, so my current version is a bit sloppy. Meh. It still looks faboosh:

Back when I started researching the history of dollhouses and miniatures, I learned about the word provenance. It basically means the history of something, or exact origin. With antique dollhouses, they're far more valuable when they come with provenance materials -- who made it, when, why, how, etc. As I've gotten older, I've become more and more interested in the provenance of my family's heirlooms. I got really curious about Grandma's bedspread.

I found a tag still in place and legible at the top of the blanket, which is very helpful in figuring out the history of it. The tag says "Bates Queen Elizabeth," so I quickly found the Bates site and the exact blanket. Now I know why Grandma didn't want any kiddos to play on it: it was expensive. There's a really great history of the Bates Mill Store, so I read that, and then the FAQ page told me that the Queen Elizabeth blanket is a matelassé bedspread, which is a particular type of weaving that creates the "bumps." And I'm 99.9% sure that no matter what I do, those bumps aren't going anywhere. WHOOT!

The Queen Elizabeth blanket was in a tub in my old closet with a few other blankets. I left them behind because I wasn't ready to bring them home yet. After my house fire in college, I got really jumpy about heirlooms. I lost some important things from all of my grandparents in that fire, and it took me many years to feel safe bringing anything special into my home. My parents, bless their hearts, diligently kept all of my special things in my old bedroom. (Yes, I realize something could happen to my things there, too, *knocks on wood*, but it just feels safer.) My sister cleaned out her childhood closet many years ago, so hers has been used for storage for a long, long time. Ma has put some clothes and jackets on my clothing racks, but the shelves and floor are still filled with special things from my past. Little by little, I've been moving them in.

It's time to bring the blankets home.

Last night, I went to my folks' house and went back to that very closet and pulled out a tub. Inside, I found my beauties. The first one is pink and white. It was made by my great grandmother for my Gran and given to her in 1912, when she was 4 years old -- I learned this because it's embroidered on the back (I'm not showing the signatures for privacy reasons). Then it was passed to my mother and me -- again with embroidered names. That's some good provenance! I suppose at some point, I'll stitch my niece's name on the back and pass it on to her. It will be a while though because I'm so attached to it. For being over 100 years old, it's in remarkable shape. As much as I tried, I couldn't get the cats to go away during the photo shoot, so Gretchen and Webster will help me present them here:

The back of this blanket is simple white, but the front is oh so purty:

There are little black or dark blue dots within the white on the front. At some point, I'll read up on the history of American quilts to learn what this kind of pattern is called:

The next quilt has my mother's first and middle names on the back and the date 1953, which means Ma would have received it when she was 8 years old. My first name is embroidered with my birth year, 1977. This one is especially soft because it's been loved, used, and washed many times over the years:

There is a name on the front that I can't quite make out. I assume this woman made the quilt for Gran, who then gave it as a gift to Ma:

The backing of this quilt is light pink with flowers. This pattern is also under the main front design, and it's peeking through in places. Ma loved this blanket, and Gran told her to use it and not feel bad. Quilts aren't meant to be boxed up forever. I'm slowly learning this lesson:

There is one quilt that I've always used, even after my house fire, without any fear. It was made by the Quilt Ladies at the Lutheran church that I grew up going to. The church has an auction each year, and I saw this quilt some time between 6th–8th grade and WANTED IT. It was on display before the auction, and I distinctly recall BEGGING asking my father to buy it for me. I had NO idea how much quilts cost. Completely oblivious. But I wanted it so bad that I most likely squirmed and bounced around and made it virtually impossible for Pa to not bid. Someone bid against him, and I was so worried. I NEED THAT QUILT! The hammer went down for $80. I remember the price because I was all WHOA THAT'S AN EXPENSIVE BLANKET I'M SO LUCKY!! Now I know better -- that's actually a cheap price for a handmade quilt. We got a bargain. Thank you, Pa. That lumpy spot is Gretchen:

The church adds little red, felt crosses to the corner of each quilt, and mine has fallen off over time. I've been thinking about going over to the church to see if I can get a new one sewn on before it completely disintegrates. We'll see. I might just leave it as it is:

Here's the thing about quilts: they aren't warm. Pretty much ever. But my church quilt? That thing is SO warm!!! All of the squares are polyester, which holds heat like crazy. I sleep with this quilt on my bed in the winter, and I'm never cold no matter how low I set the heat. If you ever want a really warm quilt, think 70s fabrics. Just sayin'.

Then we move on to my bestest quilt. It's very special to me because it was made by my college bestie, Seawee. Seawee has always been incredibly crafty. Girlfriend can sew, cook, bake, and make damn near everything by hand beautifully. In 1998, Seawee made me this Dorothy costume to wear for Halloween. I can't find a picture of the entire thing, but at least you can see part of it here:

Little did I know that she kept some of the material and put it into a quilt for me. I'm incredibly lucky that Seawee gave me the quilt AFTER my house fire. It was my college graduation gift from her back in 1999, and she was going to give it to me early. Thank GAWD she didn't. Nestled in the squares are little triangles of my Dorothy costume material. It's an incredibly special quilt. When I moved to Portland right after graduation, I brought it with me as my only blanket. Here, you can see it lying on the floor on my not-yet-inflated airbed that I slept on until I could buy a real bed:

When I moved from Portland to Chicago, I put Seawee's quilt in the box with my other blankets in that childhood closet. It's been hidden from view since 2001, sadly sitting unattended in a tub. I've gotten over many things that used to really bother me -- house fire buttons that get pushed from time to time. The healing process is continuous, and I'm sure there will always be little flickers of panic surrounding those memories. But when I moved back home to Farmsville, I made myself start bringing some of my precious things into Farmhouse Villa. I had to push myself to do this. Each time, it got a little easier. For some reason, I could never pull the blanket trigger. Not anymore.

Once again, Gretchen is the lump in the middle. She wears it well, and so does the bed:

[OK, seriously WTF, Blogger? No matter what I do, these last few paragraphs will NOT left align. Whatevs.] 

So which blanket will stay on the guest bed permanently? None of them. They'll have a rotation, and each one will get loved and used and get to breathe and be out here in the real world where they belong. I noticed Seawee didn't embroider her name on the back of the quilt, so I'll ask her to do that to keep the provenance intact. 

I'm so blessed. Look at all of these lovely quilts from so many lovely ladies. Thank you. Some certain meows I know thank you, too:

Friday, November 13, 2015

The Mad Hatter's Cafe & Bakery

This summer, NAME's 2015 National Convention was held in Indianapolis, Indiana. I was going to attend the event, but I had to cancel at the last minute. Luckily, my tote bag from the convention was still mailed to me. I also received the Thursday Night Project, which was The Mad Hatter's Café & Bakery (designed and made by Robin and Shawn Betterley just for this event). One of my dear friends from my local mini guild bought the kit for me in 1:12 scale. It was also made in 1:24 and 1:48. I saw one of the 1:48 versions, and it was equally detailed and adorable. The only problem with this kit? It makes me crave sweets constantly!!!

Ruth Stewart from Stewart Dollhouse Creations contributed some goodies to the kit. She gave everyone a Mad Hatter hat cake with lollipops on the top. Yum:

Ruth also contributed the cupcake boxes that I filled and put on the ledge to entice passersby. The macaroons in the box were one of the convention's official souvenirs, also made by Ruth:

This dessert tray has ice cream sundaes, cookies, candy, and cake. It's so beautiful in person -- I'm in awe. This tray was also one of the official souvenirs, and it was made by Carl Bronsdon (no Web site), who makes really really really great candy:

Here's a close-up of the Mad Hatter cake. NOM:

I filled up the rest of the scene with goodies from the tote bag and some other minis I had in the stash. The little coffee cup here says "What's Cookin?" on it, which was the convention theme:

I've had two beautiful teapots by C. Rohal for a few years now. I've never known where to put them, but it became obvious that they were meant for a build like this:

Then come the cakes! My friends Keli and Debora both sent me some extra cakes they had, so the shelves filled up quickly. There are also some cookies, nuts, tarts, and cupcakes here from the tote bag:

One fun tote bag item is the yellow NAME cake, which has NAME's motto on it: "Only through sharing can we really enjoy our treasures":

I put one of the bags of White Rabbit Coffee in a shopping bag along with a pot holder for a lucky patron:

The Betterleys provided a cappuccino maker to go with the kit. It's SO cute:

I filled the coffee bags with sand from my sister's wedding reception candles that I now use for emergency lighting when the power goes out (they've been stored in my mother's basement for over a decade waiting for my *cough* wedding reception). I've used this sand for other minis, too, so I think it's safe to say that it's officially gone from being Wedding Sand to Mini-ing Sand. It made the coffee bags look nice and full and gave them a little weight:

Looks like the proprietor has been nomming on some cookies behind the scenes:

The Betterleys also included a bakery tray that came with a piece of Plexiglas for a cover, but I misplaced it and then figured it would be OK without it. This way I have easier access to the donuts. Next to the tray is a little box of Buckeyes candy from the tote bag:

I had a bunch of other food items and some more souvenir pieces, but I ran out of room. I'll just have to build an additional kitchen scene in the future. TWIST MY ARM:

It's such a cute little kit:

There are some tables I can add on the sides as an extension if I want. I might do that in the future:

For now, The Mad Hatter's Café & Bakery is open for service:

Who's hungry?

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

First Comes Love: a Nina Davenport Documentary

A few nights ago, I watched a documentary called "First Comes Love" by Nina Davenport. It was incredible. The film follows Davenport as she decides to have a child on her own -- the kind of choice that is a polarizing topic for many. It's a beautiful, heartbreaking, eye-opening, thoughtful, joyous documentary. I loved it so much, and I think every single woman or man who wants children of her/his own should watch it. DO IT.

Thank you for sharing your story, Nina.

[And no, don't worry, Parents. I'm not going to knock myself up.]

Friday, October 30, 2015

Getting in the Mortuary Mood

Do you like my jack-o-lantern? It's been a long time since I've carved one. I used to make them when my niece Little came to town, but I don't recall carving one all by myself in a long time -- maybe ever. This year, something clicked in me that told me I needed one. I saw a green beauty in a local parking lot and stopped to get it. It started turning orange over time, so now we have this:

But originally, it was a really, really, really beautiful dark green:

Gretchen approved and lovingly marked it for me:

The pumpkin sat on the counter these last few weeks and ripened up. I came THISCLOSE to not carving it at all, but then I decided to take it over to my folks' house last night when I went to dinner. I sat at the table, asked my father to join me, and peppered him with questions about the history of the Blonderson farmland while I hacked out pumpkin guts. A good time was had by all.

So what else have I been up to? It fits well with the Halloween theme. I'm starting on my next dollhouse project: Willowcrest Mortuary. A while back, I cracked open the box and started to dry-fit it together:

I got the main walls up and then promptly got stuck. There is a really gorgeous first floor staircase inside the Willowcrest, but it's hard to see once the house is all put together. I've decided to leave it out, along with the second floor staircase and the chimney. I figure the staircases, along with the body elevator and anything else I don't want to build, are all located on the "fourth wall" -- that one you don't see because you're looking through it. I got stuck because I'm not used to bashing houses. "Bashing" is the term miniaturists use for making changes to a given kit. I will technically be bashing the Willowcrest by removing some walls and the staircase -- perhaps adding in new walls or features in the process. I've never truly bashed a kit before, so I got nervous.

What do I do? How do I do it?

In order to get myself more in the mood, I got out some reference material:

I last watched Six Feet Under around a decade ago, so it's almost new to me. I've forgotten plot lines and events. I've forgotten how batsh*t crazy everyone is. I've forgotten how incredibly moving the show can be.

Weeks have gone by while I've tuned in to see what will happen next with the Fishers. Meanwhile, I've moved the Willowcrest from the floor to the surface of a card table tucked behind the sofa. Knowing how long it takes me to put together builds, I figured I might as well give it an out-of-the-way permanent home in the living room:

I've now gotten to Season 5 of Six Feet and stalled a few episodes in. I want to drag out the experience a bit longer -- to really appreciate the beauty and intrigue of the funeral home. Much to my surprise, I realized Claire had built a dollhouse! Whaaaa?! I enjoy her effort, but I also like what she says about making it "just for me." I'm right there with you, Claire.

I'm not going to recreate Fisher & Sons. I'm going to make my very own mortuary with its own quirky personality. I've got a few ideas of what it will look like, but it's mostly shrouded in a foggy mental image mystery. In order to really get myself going, I had to get that first miniature -- the one that kicks off the build. And what better thing to get than a wee coffin?

Yes, it's true. I went all out and bought a black Bespaq/Jeanetta Kendall coffin, It's stunning:

It sits open like so:

And also comes with a stick if you want to prop it open:

It will go in Willowcrest Mortuary's first floor slumber room:

Nice touch, eh?

Now I just need to build up my confidence, get all those walls together, and figure out the layout. The story will come with time.  

Patience, Self. 
You can do this.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Presenting Luna Lair

I have finally finished Luna Lair! Ollie the grumpy, elderly owl is finally able to live in his quaint home in the woods... on a turntable... Ha! I started working on this kit back in March 2014. It's taken me a LONG time to finish it because I kept getting distracted with other minis and Real Life. But it's done now, and that's all that matters!

Luna Lair is a half scale Buttercup kit from Greenleaf. Half scale, or 1:24, is half the size of "regular" dollhouses, which are in 1:12 scale. Tis a wee house, and it was very fun to work on. The back story is that Ollie lives in this house all by himself. He's extremely crabby. His wife passed away many years ago, so all of the decoration is hers. Ollie hasn't changed a thing, so the house is cheerier than it would be if he'd been in charge of decor.

There is a happy, little birdbath outside:

There are flowers in all of the flower boxes and some froggies in a pond:

I used modified jewelry charms from Dime Store Emporium on Etsy to fit the theme. You can see them on the apexes and on the front lower portion of the house:

I made this little wind chime from random jewelry findings. The string is held to the house with a tiny star:

There is an itty bitty owl charm on the bump-out apex from Dime Store Emporium. The stars are mother of pearl beads from akya on Etsy:

My sweet friend Debora gave me this owl, which I've turned into a yard statue that is perched in gravel:

The tiniest little robin's nest ever (with eggs in it!!!) is from DAL Minis on eBay:

I decided to leave the chimney off of the house since Ollie doesn't have a fireplace, but I used the pieces to hold a dovecote from Petite Properties. Ollie has a lot of random wildlife living on and around his property. In fact, I left out all of the window "glass" so these critters could easily get in and out:

I decided to add a little moon-y flair to the back:

The turntable is from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Extremely handy! I found it in the kitchen section last year, and it ended up being the perfect size for the house:

Ollie says, "Come in. Hurry up! Let's get this over with!":

Come in:



OK, we'll start on the first floor. On the floor in the bump-out are some board games (Operation and Clue) from Sue's Little Things on eBay. Then on the window seat, I have an orchid and a shell stand from DAL Minis and some books I made myself:

The back wall of this side has moon art and some beads as wall hangings. The painting in the front-ish of a moon with two kitties sitting on it was made by Kelly Morin of Fat Cat Designs. I asked Kelly to make me some moon-y paintings, and she knocked them out of the park! I think I saw Ollie smile when he first saw them, but I can't be sure:

Here's a close up of the orchid. GORGEOUS:

The side table is a kit from Teresa's Miniature Creations. I got it at the 2014 St. Louis NAME National Convention. It came with wood inlay for the engraved areas, but my fat fingers couldn't handle it. I think it looks just as gorgeous as-is. Look at that paper crane from my friend Debora! So intricate and tiny! The bowl of fruit and the candlestick are from A Mini Thing. I made the candle itself from a 1:12 candle that I butchered down:

On the right side, I have another lovely painting from Kelly Morin. Ollie's pet fish sits next to some owl art. I did NOT paint those owls. They were pre-painted and came with the shelf as a roundtable kit at the St. Louis NAME Convention:

A Yahtzee game is leaning up against this fantastic old-fashioned standing radio that I got from Harlan Schleuter at the Omaha-Council Bluffs Miniature Guild's Nebraska State Day 2015. Ollie LOVES listening to his music and radio programs:

In the back corner is a Hoosier cabinet kit from Scale Designs that's holding a bunch of kitchen goodies -- food, dishes, utensils. There's a wonderful cutting board holding a jar of sugar and a some apples from Kelly Morin. See Ollie's owl cane leaning up against the wall? He doesn't leave home without it. The little crate on the floor is from anshuman bhatia 3D design on Shapeways:

It's hard to see everything on/in the Hoosier cabinet from that angle, so here's one that's dead on. You can see Ollie is hiding some cherry candies in that middle door while displaying the healthy prunes on top. Cheater:

The Dt. Mountain Dew can really puts the size of these things in perspective, eh?

I peeked through the window to look at the cabinet this way, too. The Hoosier cabinet kit itself was really hard to put together, but I'm happy that I pushed through and did it. HOORAY for perseverance:

Now it's time to move upstairs. The table is a kit from Scale Designs. It's holding a small metal mug, a book I made, a doily by Jeanetta Kendall, and a fantastic candle in a candle holder that I got from Alemikimikri (Italian) at the Bishop Show last year. The candle was so tiny that it works perfectly in half scale. It's one of my favorite purchases from the shows:

The painting is by Kelly Morin. So perfect for an owl's bedroom:

The bed and stairs are kits from Scale Designs. I added a twig nest to the bed and some wee owl charms from Dime Store Emporium as a special touch:

It's kind of hard to see the nest bed, so here are a few pictures of its construction:

Slightly crunchy, but oh so cozy:

The bookshelf is also from Scale Designs and is holding a whole bunch of goodies. Books, candy, soap, some food, a little clear glass bottle with a stopper, some games, and Ollie's deceased wife's ashes in a blue lidded urn:

The tiny dollhouse on the floor was a gift from my friend Debora:

Debora even prettied up the wee house's interior, which has hardwood floors and a whole staircase. I wanted to make sure viewers could see both sides, but it's extremely hard to photograph. Trust me, you can see the inside of it in Real Life. Ollie's bathtub is tucked in the nook in the background:

I love my nest bed. It cracks me up:

So there you have it! Luna Lair is COMPLETE!!!! It's been a long time since I was able to store it inside the Heritage Room of the Beacon Hill. See Ollie pouting in the doorway? I'm happy to report that he's not squawking incessantly at me to hurry up anymore:

Thank you for visiting our wee house in the fake woods. Stop by any time!!!

What's up my sleeve next? Hmmmm.... We'll see...