Miniature quilt tutorial

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I realized I haven’t done a dedicated tutorial before, yet have benefited greatly from what others have shared, so here is a short post on how I make tiny quilts.  I’ve only made two simple quilts in this way (the one here and the one in this post), but it seems to work, at least for square-shaped patches.The first step, which may take longer than actually sewing the quilt, is deciding what kind of look you are going for. Is it a rustic patchwork quilt, or is it something with a pattern and specific color palette? I’d also suggest figuring out your dimensions at this stage by scaling down from real quilt sizes and sketching out what you want.

Selection of fabrics with small patterns is important for making the scale look right, and since I work in half (1:24) scale, the smaller the better. I tend to buy the right fabrics when I find them, even if I don’t have a use for them yet, since they are hard to come by and an eighth of a yard of cotton is cheap.

Once your quilt is planned and with fabrics in-hand, it’s time to measure and cut your squares. I use a 1/8″ inch seam allowance around whatever final square size I want. In this quilt, I was making half inch squares with an added eighth of an inch all around. I grid out my squares by marking the backside of the fabric with a mechanical pencil before I cut out a bunch of squares at once. Don’t worry, the pencil lines will be hidden in the finished quilt.

Each time you add a square, press the two edges you want to sew together with the backsides facing outward. The needle should pass exactly through the corners of your squares, where the pencil lines cross, and stitch evenly in small (1-2mm) stitches until you reach the next corner. Keep to your pencil lines on both sides, and it is better to stop a stitch early than a stitch late, since if you go too far and then backtrack later that extra stitch may show through on the finished quilt. When the fabric is turned right side out and the pieces of fabric are folded on their seams, no one will know a stitch was missing.

To save on time and thread in this quilt, I was sort of random in how I added squares, instead of making strips or groups of squares and then stitching them together. I kept track of how many squares I had vertically and horizontally, and eventually all 100 squares were in place.

To finish the quilt, spread the stitched fabric right-side up and iron it a little to make it lay flat. Cut a square of backing fabric in your planned finished dimensions with 1/8” seam allowance. Stitch the two faces together, all of the way around except for a gap on one edge long enough to let you flip the quilt inside out. I used a lot of pins and tacking stitches at this point to stretch out my springy, scrunched up front side to match its sibling.

Once flipped inside out, slip some batting (here I used no scrim cotton, about 1/8” thick) into the hole between the quilt faces. You may want to use tweezers or a long stick to make sure it gets all the way into the corners.

The last step is to seal the hole, by using a ladder stitch, like this one.

Pat yourself on the back, you just made a very nice coaster!

Grandmother Hoppinset, usually a jovial soul, disapproves of that last remark my husband made. She instead says good things take time and care.

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Trees from Tokushima

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Hello! It has been far too long, and recently life has gotten calm enough for me to consider blog updates. I’m actually on vacation on Grand Cayman at the moment, with the following view just above my laptop.

The bunny café has been progressing, but it’s been so piecemeal I didn’t think I had enough for a cohesive post for a while. Case in point, I have twelve blog posts started on different aspects waiting in the wings.

I decided why not start with the foundation, and while peel-and-stick veneers are not a new thing, I found some really unique ones to share.

I thought to myself, “I used Hawaiian wood in the hideaway, why not use some Japanese wood in the café?” Finding said Japanese wood, or even the kind of woods used in the Land of the Rising Sun, proved a bit of a quest. I Googled every combination wood and the concept of thinness that you could imagine, and eventually found a company called BIG Will.

As best as I can tell from their Google translated website, they take trees being thinned in forests for conservation efforts, trees felled in the big tsunami, or old trees being removed from schoolyards or businesses around Japan. They then mill the wood into thin sheets and use them in products. On their Facebook page they also do a lot of outreach at schools, with photos of happy children and their handmade crafts.

I couldn’t help but notice the serendipity of using a company called White Rabbit Express for the bunny café, and felt I had reached a new level of Japanophile cred by using a purchasing service. Since many Japanese (or other international) stores do not ship beyond their country’s borders, services like White Rabbit acquire the item for you, then ship it to you, with a fee for their efforts.

I purchased hinoki, tamo, and birch, as well as some random mini sheets, which contained I think sapele, oak, and pine. They are giant stickers, which you can cut to size. Hinoki is a type of cypress that is aromatic and water resistant, and so it is commonly used to make bathtubs and spa items. My sheet was cheerfully pinkish, and I did seal it a bit of polyurethane, but not so slick that teeny bunnies couldn’t get traction.

The wood was so thin that for best results I pre-painted the base in matching colors. You can actually see the difference it makes in the second photo, before I trimmed off the excess in the white zone.

Tamo grows in mountainous regions and since it was hard to obtain, it used to be reserved for royalty. It is also resistant to the elements, so I used it on the deck. To make the planks look less perfect and more worn, I doubled up on the thin strips in some places and placed folded strips of it under other sections for a buckled effect. Varying dilutions of Citadel’s Agrax Earthshade and some sanding of the high spots worked better than I could have hoped. Every miniature nail I had was too big, but the deck wouldn’t have been held together by magic, so I used gunmetal-colored wire from some headpins and cut them into short stubs to look like screws. I still have a ways to go (as in everything except the five leftmost planks), but you get the idea.

I chose tile for the entryway because in my experience, rabbits dislike tile floors (Hanna won’t go on them), or they at least can’t move quickly on them since it’s hard for them to get good footing. Their feet are covered in fur and they lack paw pads, after all. I figured it was a good bit of insurance for keeping the staff inside.

The tiles are polymer clay, which I ran through a pasta machine to make thin sheets and used a hexagonal punch. To get them aligned properly, I printed the tile pattern on paper, then did an old-school pencil graphite transfer (cover the backside with scribbled pencil, tape where desired, trace the printed parts with a ball point pen, remove paper). It worked well enough to show me where the tiles were supposed to go.

With the tiles glued in, I used some 1/16” half round wood strip, soaked in hot water to make it bendy, to fence in the grout and transition from tile to hardwood. I thought that doing the grout would be a breeze, and used some Pebeo modeling paste I had around. But it was a messy business. I couldn’t let it dry on the tiles because it permanently adhered to them, and I eventually resorted to holding the floor sideways, wiping off the excess grout with wet fingers, and letting the mess drip off the edge into a trashcan. It took three rounds to get enough grout to look right, and then lots of sanding and buffing, to try to get back to their original shine. By that point, most of the clear polyurethane I’d delicately layered on had worn off.

The tedious tilework reminded me of that old Batteries Not Included move. (A quirky and endearing old gem, worth a watch).

Daydreaming of bunnies and the happenings of fish

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The Pokémon homage has been coming along and I make bursts of progress now and again, but I was reaching a point where other projects seemed rosier.  I realized the reason was that for the Pokémon scene to be effective, everything has to look a certain way. Making something another fan would identify as accurate is a great challenge, but that marvelous and detailed world has already been created and I am bound by it.

I let my mind wander and arrived at a tiny café in the middle of Tokyo. A quaint tea shop that is also home to a group of rabbits, who are patient with the guests but well cared for. The shop’s name and its nuances have quickly fallen into place, and in a few days the lasercut pieces will arrive and I will have this project’s possibilities to balance the requirements of the other.

In the meantime, while Tea and Bunny remains a sketch and an idea, I can point you to a couple of cute videos of rabbit cafes (here and here) and you can see what I’m thinking on my Pinterest board.

I’ll be hopping between the two projects, and another donated house, for the next several months, so hopefully something in the mix will tickle your fancies :-).

As for a pet update, Gill’s fins keep growing and I’m about to change his name to Rapunzel. He also hardly ever stops moving, except to sleep curled up in the grass. His genetics still baffle me.

He’s a month and a half older on the left, and still a hyperactive ham.

And nothing says “buy me a massive sampler of fancy hay” like a sudden onset of ileus on a Sunday morning. Similar to her E. cuniculi bout a couple of years ago, Hanna went from bouncy and voracious to hunched and not eating in like two hours, and it took her several days to recover. I learned that lacing meds in banana slices only works three times. And bunny owners all know their lives are ruled by their tiny charges.

She only likes the oat hay. Sigh.

Happy Easter everyone!

New craft room buddy!

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Meet the newest member of our household, who will be hanging out in my craft room to keep me company.

newbetta1He doesn’t have a name yet, but I like his spark.

I had a wonderful, though cowardly and morbid betta named Pansy a couple of years ago (I actually did a Toastmasters speech on the many ways he tried to murder himself or was injured by his tankmates, half of which were inanimate objects). Pansy was a small treasure, and thanks to his marble genes, did a lot of color changing over his lifetime, mostly swapping his white for turquoise. After his passing, his tank was cleaned and neatly packed away, waiting for its new tenant.

A while ago I got the fishkeeping nibble to get a betta tank running again in my craft room. Knowing this, my friend and I found ourselves in a pet store yesterday, and while no one likes seeing those teeny cups, most of their occupants seemed active, clean, and healthy, and it was the biggest and most varied collection of beautiful bettas I’d ever seen. It probably took me half an hour to choose, with yea/nay help from my friend, and still at the eleventh hour I switched from a billowy tricolor to this pastel, pearlescent oddity.

Part of it was I wanted the more wild-type plakat shape, after Pansy’s flowing fins kept getting him into trouble. Newbie’s colors are very shimmery and ethereal when they catch the light. He’s also a lot braver than his predecessor, and I daresay more intelligent. By his second feeding (he darted to the bottom on his first) he figured out whenever I come into the room (or so much as make eye contact) to race to the front and dance like crazy, then immediately pause and look up at the surface for pellets. Repeat as needed until desired result. I fell for an aquatic peacock, and I don’t think he understands that feeding him whenever he wants will make him fat.

I confess I broke the cardinal rule of fishkeeping (and I’m a DVM no less) and set up the tank the same day instead of letting it cycle. Five gallons with plants, sand, and all the peripherals is a vast improvement to the cup though.

fishtankOne thing I’m really interested in is whether his sky blue and yellow brighten or change with time. He may just be a light-colored fish, and I’m cool with that, but I also see some variation in his scales that suggests marble genetics, and there are amazing before and after photos of similarly young and pale pet store “rescues”  who look like totally different, vibrant fish after days or weeks of better husbandry. I promptly went to Amazon and bought him two brands of the finest of pellets.

He needs an aristocratic name because he is already somewhat spoiled and is about to get very spoiled. I am thinking about Marquis, because of the powder blue and gold, Lafayette is my favorite Hamilton character, and this fish has no problem advertising himself like a freaking theater marquee :-).

The Search for Wolf River

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I confess, this entry was going to go up months ago but then I got caught up in finishing my Master’s. Figured late is better than never :-).

wolfriver6For the past few years, my family has been on a quiet mission. My Grandmother, now in her nineties and who I’ve mentioned before on this blog, grew up in the mountains of North Carolina. She once told us about the best apple jelly made from Wolf River apples, and that the apples had enough natural pectin to gel on their own, which was convenient when living high up on the mountain and in lean times. My Mom also remembers the homemade apple jelly my Great Grandmother made and its unique taste. These legendary apples are also humongous, with tales that a single one could fill a pie.

Unfortunately, in our part of the country, the variety has a very short growing season, and we missed finding Wolf River at farmer’s markets for two years in a row.

By pure chance, I went to the state farmer’s market early last fall and Wolf River was just coming into season. One vendor had a lone bushel box, and after telling her what my family wanted to do with them, she sold me the whole thing.

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I have teeny hands but these are still massive apples.

We’d never made jelly before, but my Sister and I got together on a Sunday afternoon and worked late into the night. Our Grandmother walked us through the process on speakerphone in the kitchen. We soon learned these apples were strange, and immediately cooked into a thick sauce, instead of keeping any kind of shape. Wolf Rivers are famous for making apple butter, and I can see why, but all of the how-to YouTube videos I’d seen had shapely stewed apples in a nice clear juice. When it came time to strain our brew, we had to dilute the mush and watch the trickle of murky liquid ever so slowly fill a four-quart bowl.

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Mush, mush, and the hard-earned juice in the back.

We used the 1 cup juice to 1 cup sugar ratio and worked in batches cooking the jelly. It was neat how by the end of the night my Sister and I could taste the liquid and know when it was ready. Terrified of the idea of sharing botulism with my relatives, we also boiled everything, and then gave the finished jars a good boil (because USDA said so).

The best way I can describe the flavor is rustic. It’s sour, but not as tart as Granny Smith, and almost savory, but when cooked it magically becomes the quintessential country apple flavor. I made an apple pie with some of the extras and it was marvelous. I may not find them again for some time, but these would be my go-to baking apple, along with Arkansas Black.

wolfriver5In the end we got through half the bushel before realizing we’d filled every available pot in my Sister’s kitchen, and were rewarded with eighteen big and little jars of gelatinous substance, which we gave to our relatives at Christmas as a surprise. We also paired it with a family photo album, which had some neat 1800’s tintypes and other gems of our history in western North Carolina.

My Great Great Grandfather Vernon.

My Great Grandfather.

Where my Grandmother grew up.

Where my Grandmother grew up.

A little Christmas cheer

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Good tidings everyone! I am one exam away from being done with my Master’s of Public Health, and figured I had time for a quick post.

My miniatures club just had their annual Christmas party and it was heartwarming as always. As is tradition, we did a gift exchange, and my contribution this year was this little 2″ fellow.

steiff1Yep, I went back to bun side after two years and made another rabbit toy. Whenever I think of miniatures and Christmas I imagine tiny Victorian homes festooned with all of the holiday trimmings, and the simple yet elegant toys the children would have played with a hundred years ago. I recently learned about the history of Steiff plush toys, so I made a little Steiff bunny complete with the button in the ear. It was a nice reason to test out a set of Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils, and the bun started out all white.

steiff4As a bit of trivia, I fashioned the name Wishcraft from the idea of thoughts becoming real, and have long loved the story of the Velveteen Rabbit. It is also part of the reason why my logo has a bunny, but don’t tell Hanna because she doesn’t like to share the spotlight.

Speaking of Hanna in the spotlight, she recently ventured onto our new sofa, with a bit of help by making her some stairs and a cave system  :-). The video is a bit long, but is good at showing how bunnies methodically explore new places. She’s doing pretty good for a 2009 vintage. Sorry for the dreaded cell phone black bars.

 

I choose you!

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Cyndaquil in the TV series. Mine is not that smug.

Cyndaquil in the TV series. Mine would never be that smug.

The most important decision for players of the Pokémon games is which starter you pick from the Pokémon Professor’s lab at the very beginning of the game. Each generation has three unique beasties, corresponding to fire, water, and grass, and this creature is your first buddy and protector. Cyndaquil is my favorite starter of all time (Chikorita is a very close second), and in my story, he is the rookie member of my team, given to me as a newly registered trainer arriving in Johto from Kalos.

Starter Pokémon are always cute and toddler-like, probably because they are supposed to grow with their trainer. But this trait made posing Cyndaquil difficult, because he suffers from a serious case of T-Rex Arm Syndrome and has a snout that gets places 15 minutes before he does. But my little napalm-spewing shrew is resourceful, and will MacGyver whatever he needs in the mini scene.

Reference images made for the TV show. I really wish I'd known about these when I was sculpting mine!

Reference images made way back when for the TV show. I really wish I’d known about these when I was sculpting mine!

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Yes he had a stick toothpick up his butt, and I’m still fighting with that epic schnozz.

His sculpt was the first and surprisingly difficult, making me have a deeper appreciation for the people who design toys based off of 2D characters. It taught me to stick to reference pics, even if Cyndaquil’s nose defies the third dimension.

Actual internal conversation I had follows.

Me: I should give him some cheeks, to look more like a real animal, like this one:

shrewimage

Pygmy shrews are totally tiny Cyndaquils.

Myself: But Cyndaquils don’t really have cheeks…their heads are like perfectly round.

Me: I’ll try anyway. (10 minutes later…) Hrm, that doesn’t look much like a Cyndaquil.

Myself: See, I told Me. Hrm, but now that it’s round again it looks pretty boring and expressionless.

Me: Don’t say I didn’t warn Myself.

I was going to show each Pokemon sculpt with their final paint jobs, but since everything in the scene is going to be painted, I’m going to wait. Like a blank canvas turning into a finished piece, the miniature scene is going to go from flat white to full color, and I think it will make for a fun before and after.

If digital Japanese creatures aren’t your thing and you came here for the dollhouses, here’s a spoiler of the build.

cottagemontage

The Parade of Homes, Johto edition.

Houses in the Pokémon games are eerily similar, especially in the older games. One room downstairs, door on the left, big window on the right, attic room if you’re lucky. Since my scene is in a forest, I went with a log cabin (like the top right image).

Here is the current mockup, cut out of Gatorboard and dressed up with basswood like the mill cottage, held in place with lots of masking tape. The house is only a couple of inches deep because it will be fitting inside a shadowbox when all is said and done. It’s funny that I’m making it with wood, only to cover it in white and paint it to look like wood again.

cabinspoiler2cabinspoiler3In other news, I am on my last semester of my Masters of Public Health (yay!), but that means I’m going to be buried in papers the next couple of weeks.  Believe you me, once I have my free time back I will be doing a lot of crafting!

“I wanna be the very best…”

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There’s a subset of the population who reads this line and feels a nostalgic wave (including the US Olympic swim team at 5:01). I didn’t encounter Pokémon games until college with a bootleg rom of Crystal, but it was a big part of my husband and his sister’s lives, and I’m now pretty into the games and the fandom. Some of Justin’s proudest childhood moments are when he broke the clock in Pokémon Blue (at 255 hours, probably because 8-bit data storage can handle 256 values, including 0), got 13 Pokémon to level 100 without cheating, and won a Mew off another kid way back when those were only given away at contests and events.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first Pokémon games, and the company has been having a year-long celebration. The original games had 151 beasties you could catch and interact with, and in two decades that number has increased to a staggering 720, with another batch on the way later this year (totally reserving a copy of Sun, by the way).

pokemon_rainbow

Image by Firehippo782. It doesn’t include the most recent generation, but you get the idea :-).

Like Mario, Legend of Zelda, and other lasting video games, the main Pokémon games are rife with traditions that fuel the nostalgia. The player always starts as a new Pokémon trainer, who is given their first Pokémon by a local professor, and then embarks on an adventure to explore the world. In celebration of the anniversary, I’m making a scene from the game world, with my all-time favorite Pokémon team.

trainercard-lizThis project has been tricky to get into, mainly because I kept changing the setting, I had several hundred possible Pokémon to whittle down to about six faves, and a not insignificant part of me wimps out publicly and serially posting the extent of my previously hidden geekiness. This project will also be a huge technical challenge, because most of it is going to be sculpted out of polymer clay and painted. I’m also trying to recreate the feel of franchise’s art style. Sort of like when you go to Mikey and Minnie’s Houses at Disney World and it’s like you’ve stepped through the television screen.

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Who’s that Pokémon?

Half of my team is sculpted in 1:24 scale (though some doozies are left) and the house is in rough pieces.

So grab your PokéDex and choose your starter, because we’re going on a little journey to the world of Pokémon!

 

What’s your 20?

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*Huff huff pant pant*…Hello everyone, how’s it going?

I know I said I’d get back into blogging once the semester was over, but it’s been pretty kooky in the Bradshaw household up til now, and the dust is finally settling.

HondaEggplant

Let’s hope this transport lasts 13 years like its Mazda predecessor.

Since the last post, my husband and I sold three cars, bought two cars (including one Honda Eggplant and a Scion XB pretending to be a different “big blue box”), and moved into our first (soon to be very geeky) house from our apartment.

pokemondoormatHanna has adapted well, and believes herself to have dominion over all boxes (or anything she sees, really) and so she has been pleased with her new, ever-shifting territory.

HannaDominion

Yes, my minions, climb!

I also took on the role of Vice President in my miniatures club, which means I come up with the crafts we do at the meetings for the next year. The ladies decided to take the plunge into making my half scale beach bungalow, and since half scale is hard to shop for, I designed some furniture for them.

beachfurniture3FYI, if anyone is interested in the kits (house and furniture), I have one or two spares I could part with :-).

As for future projects, the move reminds me of a certain fandom on which I am going to do a mini tribute…

PokemonHouseEach Pokémon game begins with the player moving to a (usually two-room) house in a new (and absurdly tiny) town. This year is the 20th anniversary of the original game, and when I’m not taking breaks from Pokémon Go or Pokémon Sun when it comes out later this year, I’ll be making my trainer abode and team.

JustinEkans

Justin telling Ekans he won’t take no more sass at dinner. Please disregard my finger.

The Pokémon world is both frustratingly and conveniently flexible in its style, so we will see what happens.

dollhousefinishedOh, and I finished Bonnie’s House and got it delivered to kind relatives who will find it a good home. My part in its story is finished but hopefully its tale will be a long and happy one 🙂

P.S. – The children’s science museum I used to work at eons ago had radios and we actually used the title phrase often…Probably because most of us were high schoolers and thought talking like truckers was cool.

Happy Easter!

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HannaEaster

Muahahaha these round things are all mine!

I really apologize for disappearing since early February with the conclusion of the Undersized Urbanite. (I won second place in the experienced category, which I’m grateful for, and this year’s entries were very imaginative!) Since then I’ve had my nose to the grindstone on my Master’s project, my day job, a friendly commission for cartography, and helping out the clubs I’m in, to the level where sleep and social interactions have been luxuries. Once May rolls around, you will find a much more relaxed, crafting, and blogging version of me.

In the meantime, here is what Hanna’s been up to lately. I’ll make use of today’s date to cheer for the Make Mine Chocolate campaign and others that promote not giving children live bunnies at Easter, because many will end up in shelters or worse. Based on her age when she was found, Hanna could have been an unwanted 2009-model Easter bunny, but I think her story turned out alright :-).

 

In other news, I have been stealing away tidbits of time to put finishing touches on Bonnie’s house, and it will find its new owners in May as well.

Here’s an in-progress teaser until then. Are those two little ears I see?

easterspoiler2