Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Everything you wanted to know about wiring but were afraid to ask

If that title sounds familiar, you're over 40. LOL!

All jokes aside, I do have some awesome information about wiring a dollhouse to share with everyone. I think I've mentioned that I'm the editor in chief of the Greenleaf Gazette. The Gazette is the monthly newsletter/e-zine from Greenleaf Dollhouses. If you're not a subscriber yet, sign up! I'm not just promoting it because I'm the editor either. We put helpful information about building dollhouses and miniatures, tons of tutorials, and sometimes just excellent eye candy in your inbox every month. There's no advertising or spam either. I include updates and featured kits from Greenleaf but that's dollhouse news, not advertising! LOL! When kits like the Beaumont are re-released in laser cut, that's news that any dollhouse builder or collector wants to hear about! But that's just in the "hot news" section, the main content of the newsletter is tutorials and articles about dollhouses and miniatures.

The issue with all the wiring information is the February 2009 issue. You'll find all the articles on this page. Here are the links to the individual articles as well:

"Why Put Lights in a Dollhouse?" To Light or not to Light" by Deb Roberts

Dollhouse Wiring 101 - The basics of electrifying and troubleshooting wiring for your dollhouse" by Deb Roberts

Plug and Play— Using the round wire method (and hiding wires) by Deb Roberts

Hybrid Wiring—Combining Round Wire with Tape Wire
By Christine Errico

Hard Wiring a Front Opening Dollhouse
By Christine Errico

Darrell’s Electrification Guide: Tape Wiring and More
By Darrell Payne

Regardless of what kind of lighting you want to do or even if you've wired a dollhouse before, I recommend reading the article on Wiring 101. It's a nice little glossery of terms and a breakdown of things like what hardware and tools you'll need, the different methods of wiring you can use, how to tell how many bulbs your transformer can handle, and lots of pictures of what wiring components look like. There's also a section on troubleshooting wiring problems. That article has been picked up by Dolls House Magazine and will be running sometime this winter but you can beat the rush and read it directly on the Greenleaf newsletter.

If you've never wired before and are considering where to start and what kind of lighting you want to use (light fixtures, baby spots, ambient lighting) or how to decide where to place lights in a dollhouse, read the first article on "To Light or Not to Light".

When I started wiring dollhouses, I would have given my left arm for pictures of the hardware and descriptions of what I'd need! I felt like an idiot because I didn't even know what the plug on a dollhouse lamp looked like! The retailer websites and catalogs show pictures of lamps, but never the business end of one. The biggest mystery to me was how to connect tape wire to the transmformer! I knew there must be some kind of hardware involved, but I couldn't find anything that simply showed the whole connection process. When I found out about junction splices and transformer lead in wires I felt like I'd discovered the secret to the meaning of life and it wasn't 42!! LOL!

So when I did the wiring issue, I remembered all those newbie questions I'd had and tried to include the answers to all of them and take the mystery out of wiring a dollhouse. I know that there's a lot of information about wiring dollhouses in various locations on the web if you have the time to dig for it and know what to look for in the first place but when we did the wiring issue of the Gazette, we wanted to create a one-stop location with almost everything anyone could want to know about wiring, including the very basics and introductions to wiring concepts.

I hope that this helps a little bit! And if you're not already a subscriber to the Greenleaf Gazette, you can see the archives of past issues here and there's a link on that page to sign up for it too.

I knew I forgot something.......

I just realized that I've been rambling on about Magick Street and haven't shown any pictures of what I'm talking about. It would probably make more sense if you could see it, huh. These are the houses that started Magick Street. The Glencroft (left) is home to Percutio the Wizard and the Orchid (right) is where Maharet the Witch lives. They've got a thing goin' on. Oh, and Percutio has a pet dragon named Phideau.

I fell in love with bombay mahogany combined with antique white on this house. The interior is focused on the woodwork from the ceiling beams to the shiny floors. The windows are all stained glass and use assorted sigals and pentacles for the designs. Percutio is a ceremonial wizard.

In between the two houses is a small, romantic cemetary. There is a little wrought iron lamp post by the gate, but the grave stones look best in the light of sunset.

Maharet is more of a hedge witch.....a true wise woman. She's very grounded in the elements and most of the time she's a nice witch. However, judging by the frog on the front porch reading the Wall Street Journal it's probably not a good idea to give her bad financial advice.

Maharet's greenhouse.

This is how some of my dollhouses are displayed in my living room............the Victorian street is on the tables and Magick Street is on the floor under the tables. (there are 9 more dollhouses scattered thru my house but these are the primary groupings) Our house is a tri-level and these houses are the first thing people see when they come thru the front door. I've yet to have a visitor make it up the stairs to the living room without stopping to look. Anyway, you can see the arrangement of Magick Street with the Glencroft, the Orchid, the rgt shoppe (Wise Ways Emporium) and the Aster (Emerald Fairy Cottage) in a row. You can also see that the current building for Wise Ways just doesn't fit in at all. All my other houses are back opening and the front opening stands out like a sore thumb. That's why Sarah Ann and I have been so eager for the Brimbles to be re-released. Brimbles is side opening so the other houses will be moved down closer to the fairy house and Brimbles will go on the end so the side and front are both visible.

Here's how the houses look from the back. (you can just barely see the fairy cottage interior hiding behind the arm of the love seat) The Victorian street from left to right is the Beacon Hill, the Willowcrest and the Pierce.

But I'm not addicted. LOL! I'm really eager to get Wise Ways moved to its new store so the whole street looks perfect.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Some decisions are easier than others

I had such grand and glorious plans to put a wrap around porch and a boardwalk on the side of the Brimbles. It would be soooooooooooo awesome. I even had the porch facade from the Willowcrest and all the other wood carefully laid out to make sure that I had everything I needed and that it would work. All that remained was measuring the space for Brimbles on Magick Street to see how much room I'd have.

Turns out it's only 1 3/4". I could have gotten away with 2 1/2" and used some optical illusions to make it look wider than it is but 1 3/4 is just a little too narrow for a board walk. Another thing I noticed while I was moving things around and measuring is that all the other houses are landscaped on the side that faces the street. Brimbles would look just a little out of place with a boardwalk.

So it' s on to Plan B where I make a small herb garden instead! Sarah Ann thinks that's a better idea since Wise Ways advertises their fresh herbs and it's only natural that she'd have an herb garden out back. There will even be room for her bammy-gilly tree. It will just look so much better with the landscaping of the other houses too so I'll roll with the changes.

I still want to put a boardwalk on the side of the Brimbles. It would just look so totally cool! The solution for that is that I'll just have to build another Brimbles! I've always thought that it would make an awesome old west saloon! I could put it next to my ghost town stage stop and start a whole new street. Since I love ghost towns, this makes perfect sense. I'm excited now about building a Brimbles as a saloon with a bordello upstairs, a mirror behind the bar and tables with card games in progress. The one closest to the door will have a hand of aces and eights of course. I'll put a hitching post outside and landscape with tumbleweeds. Hmmm. As long as I'm making a saloon to go with the stage stop, I should probably make a hotel and a blacksmith shop too.

Time to go back to work. I have everything painted except the walls and Sarah Ann wants me to finish those so I can wallpaper upstairs tomorrow and start putting everything together. I think she's eager for me to start on the parquet floors. Oh! And another happy thing! I found a smoking stand to go between the wing back chairs in the research room! It's those little things that mean so much.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Wise Ways Relocation Project Begins

Great-Grandma Sarah Ann is a very happy little lady right now. I started building the Brimbles for her this weekend and she's already starting to pack up her inventory and get ready to move. She's never, ever liked the store I built for her and told me that she only tolerated it until I could find a Brimbles. I reminded her over and over that Brimbles was out of production and finding one on eBay would cost an arm and three fingers (and how could I build without my fingers anyway). She told me not to fret about it, she'd make sure that we found one. Then Brimbles came back into production and was re-released in laser cut! Hmmmm.............she may only be 6 inches tall, but apparently she's still a mighty little witch. I need to get her to tell me which spell she used for that.

Anyway, the building has started and I think I'm happier than Sarah Ann. For one thing, I've lusted after a Brimbles for sooooooooo long that this is a dream come true. It's an awesome house and it's HUGE! I mean, those rooms are really, really, really big! I had no idea from the pictures just how much space there is in this house. I already made over 350 books for Wise Ways and now I need to make more. Oh well, that's okay. I found some burgundy leather and mixing that in with the black and brown books will look excellent.

And it's laser cut! OMG! This is the third laser cut kit I've built and it just gets better and better! Before the laser cut I had cringed at the idea of sanding all the porch pieces and dormer window parts and trim because of what it would do to my hands, but there's NO sanding needed at all. Woooooohoooooo!Wait till you see how the laser cut window frames take stain! It's SO gorgeous that I've been drooling. I'm using bombay mahogany and the dark laser cut edges make the stained wood look even richer and really pop the grain. After seeing this, I'm positive now that I have to pick one of the laser cut kits to simply stain both and varnish just to showcase the wood grain and the lines of the kit.

I had planned on putting in four or five lights but Sarah Ann had different ideas about that. We ended up planning for 18 lights and a total of 26 bulbs. I decided to put lights in the front windows to highlight the displays there and discovered that if I turned a couple of floor lamps upside down, they look exactly like those old department store ceiling lights on brass poles and are the perfect length to show in the windows. Cool! We're going to have two more chandeliers downstairs and one upstairs plus lights in the display cases, on shelves, and on the desk in the research room. Oh, and Sarah Ann wants to have glowing crystal balls on the shelves so we're going to do that too. All these lights will really make the mahogany woodwork and parquet floors glow!

When I was planning the design, I had fully intended to put the staircase in coz it's as cool as the one in the Glencroft, but Sarah Ann nixed that idea. She pointed out that if I put in the staircase there wouldn't be enough room for all of her shelves and counters for inventory. She wants wall-to-wall shelves from floor to ceiling downstairs. Okay, no stairs.

One thing we're still discussing is wrapping the porch around the side to make a boardwalk. I still have the porch post assembly from the Willowcrest and it looks *perfect* with the Brimbles porch. It's not an exact match, but it's close enough to work nicely. I was all excited about it until I did some measuring and discovered that if I put the boardwalk on the side, the store will be too wide to fit into the space allocated for it on Magick Street. I'm going to go back upstairs and mess around with the Glencroft and Orchid to see if I can possibly rearrange anything to make it work. I might be able to make it fit if I make the boardwalk really, really, really narrow. It would be more of a facade about an inch and a half wide but if I make some shadows with paint I might be able to create an optical illusion so it looks like it's wider than it is. Wish me luck.

Sarah Ann is telling me that break time is over and I have to get back to work. I'd call her a bossy old woman but the truth is that I'm so excited about this build that I don't want to stop for anything!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

A mini celebration!

Actually, every day is a party when it involves minis! I think we celebrate our joy in life with the little things we make, but sometimes it turns into a party. I had an accidental celebration the other day when my muse suddenly felt like doing something with a bit of color and sparkle. My muse loves sparkly things. Anyway, I got to digging around in my fabric stash and ran across some Hoffman's prints from waaaaaaaaaaaaay back. I can't remember if these were part of a Hoffman's challenge in the 90s or not. I think they might have been. I had several prints from the collection and used them in an art quilt called "Moon Over Mardi Gras". MOMG took best of show at two exhibits and I think it was just because it was such a fun piece to look at.

The man in the moon is done in needle turn applique. His mask is outlined with gold embroidery and instead of quilting around the moon, I used crystal beads. There are some enameled charms here and there and lots of star shaped sequins in the background. The confetti fabrics are beaded with bugle beads in matching colors. It was just a lot of fun to do.

When I ran across the remnants of those fabrics, I grabbed them up and thought what a great mini bed they would make! After rummaging thru the drawer of silks and satins, I found the perfect emerald green satin to use for the sheets. I used a white washed bed frame so the colors in the fabrics would really pop. For some reason, a neatly made bed didn't seem right, so to give it the right tone, I rumpled up the sheets and named it "Morning After Mardi Gras".

Of course I had to have sparklie things on this bed! The fabrics have the Hoffman's signature gold worked into the design and I used gold loop trim on the throw over the foot of the bed, but I had a need to bead. Making a pile of Mardi Gras bead necklaces was easy to do and then I tossed them over the bed posts.

When it came to the pillows, I used the confetti and ribbon prints for the smaller pillows but for the big pillows, I fussy cut two masks from the larger print in the collection and was delighted with the results! The final touch was to drape some bead necklaces over the pillows.

I like it! My muse is satisfied with our use of color and sparklies too. Most of all, I got to have a little mini celebration!