Your miniature questions are welcome here!

The original Miniatures Question and Answer Blog was the brain child of Nikki Rowe from Witch and Wizards Miniatures. Lately, she realized that she was spreading herself way too thin to continue doing all the things she's involved with well.

Since we all wait in anticipation of what awesome item she'll create next and we all want her to concentrate on making those fabulous mini's that we love, I have agreed to take over the responsiblity of the Miniature Question and Answer blog.

Format is the same. Once a week, on Sunday or Monday, a new question will be posted, researched and, with any luck, answered. You are all welcomed and encouraged to comment with your own answers and suggestions.

If you have a miniature related question you'd like investigated, the best way is to send me an e-mail.

But you can also put it in the comments section as a suggestion for the following week and, hopefully, I'll find it.

Nikki will be deleting the original blog so you will have to "re-follow" here, but I have saved all the questions...and answers and comments and they will be the subject of the first post.

Sounds like fun, eh?



Friday, March 18, 2011

DIY Products for Miniaturists... not just for builders anymore!

I recently had some questions about several DIY products which might be suitable for miniature stone work.  While there are products made just for artists, such as a variety of air dry clays, these are expensive, by comparison, and often unavailable.
Here is what I’ve learned…
Dry wall/joint compound or “mud”:  
Paste-like material, used by building/construction contractors to fill in the seams between sheets of drywall...also called “sheet rock”. These sheets replaced plaster and lathe many years ago.  This product is usually mixed at the site from a powder but is available pre-mixed in smaller quantities.
It takes at least 24 hours to fully dry. Can be sanded smooth or left sculpted for a textured look.  Usually dries grayish white but can also be obtained with a pink tint for second coats after the first sanding.  That helps the drywall guy find where he needs to do a second sanding after a re-coat.
This stuff has a lot of water in it and the substrate (especially paper-coated foam core board) can easily warp.  It will also add weight to the project.  You will need to paint this product unless you are going for a really rustic or aged look but it takes paint and washes and stains well.
Heavy duty or heavyweight vinyl spackling compound/paste: 
Another paste-like material used by builders or DIY-ers for major repairs to drywall or sheetrock.  By major repair, I mean a large hole or crack in the wall.  This product dries slowly also and requires several applications to fill the hole.  It has a consistency similar to the drywall mud (almost like peanut butter without the stickiness…).  It also dries to a grayish white; it can be sanded and painted.  I have never seen this product in powder form but it is available in a variety of pre-mixed quantities and stays soft if kept air-tight.
Both the joint compound and vinyl spackle can be sculpted into brick and stone after they have set up awhile, using the usual tools. Both can be textured, sanded, painted and stained. Both can be pre-tinted with small amounts of acrylic paint. Both products will add weight to your project…which is the biggest downside.  Both products can crack if they dry too fast or are applied too thickly…or if the project crashes to the floor…
Light duty or lightweight spackling compound/paste:
This product is used to make small repairs to drywall.  A “small” repair would be filling in nail holes from pictures or a dent. 
This product has the consistency of buttercream frosting. It is very light and airy. 
It can be pressed into place with your fingers or smoothed with a variety of tools. It does not require sanding.  I use a palette knife or old credit card to texture it.  
It is pure white and dries pure white but can be colored with powdered tempera paint.  Adding liquid paint can thin it too much.  However, since the product can be revitalized with a small amount of water if it becomes too stiff, adding paint shouldn’t be a problem if one is careful. It dries very quickly and can be painted within a few hours.  I have only seen it available pre-mixed in the US.  Storing in an air-tight container keeps it soft and spreadable.
I don’t think this product would sculpt into bricks very well but it makes a great “plaster” or “stucco” wall and grout for mini tiles or bricks.  One of the pluses is that it doesn’t add much weight at all to a project.  And that’s a big plus.  It also doesn’t seem to crack…at least not in my experience.
CAUTION:  NEVER wash any this stuff down your sink…ever!  Unless you are a plumber or a close friend of one. 
After wiping your tools with paper towel, wash them in a large bucket of warm water and discard water outdoors.  Wear gloves as it will dry out your hands.
Regarding warping.  All these products contain a lot of water and when they dry, the water has to go somewhere.  Some of it evaporates outward but some also soaks into the substrate.  I always seal both sides of the substrate with something before I apply these products. Most times I used white glue.  It doesn’t always prevent warping but it sure makes it less than if it wasn’t sealed.  The only thing I’ve not observed to warp is ½ inch polystyrene.
So take a trip to the hardware store and look around.  You never know what you’ll find!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010's not just for breakfast...

heheheh....  No, I'm talking about yarn.  :-)

Several weeks ago, Kristy, from Mini Menagerie had a question (and I have been quite remiss in responding to her...sorry, Kristy).

As many of you know, Kristy makes fabulous furred mini critters.  Here's her question:

"For furring my animals, I use mostly combed out yarn (usually alpaca, but sometimes wool, or blends, etc).  Anyway, I cram all my balls of yarn in a drawer and maybe it's just my imagination, but it seems likes after a while, the yarn starts getting, hmmm, how do I put it...sort of "frizzy", a lot of fly-away hairs sticking out all over.  It's a pain to fur with because I swear I keep trimming the frizzy fly-aways off but they keep re-appearing.
So I guess my question is, does yarn get like this after a while or am I just losing my marbles?  And if so, is there a proper way to store it (or any other tips) to keep it from getting like this?"

I hardly ever work with yarn...I don't knit or felt or do any sort of yarn related needlecraft so I haven't a clue but I know there are several followers who do this work. 

My first thought was to use fibers before they are spun into yarn so she wouldn't have to comb them out, though I haven't any idea where to get such a thing.  Perhaps the storage is part of the problem or maybe it is just hte nature of the yarn....

Doll artists often use liquid fabric softener to keep the fibers they use for hair in control....but not being a doll artist, I could begin to even advise how to do this.

Does anyone know of a source for bamboo fiber for this use?  Or even for bamboo yarn?  Frankly, this is the first I'm hearing about bamboo in this form but Kristy is in the market for some to try for furring.

I am afraid Tabitha has few answers for this conumdrum but hopefully someone out there in Blogland can enlighten us all!


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Wigged Out!

My dear friend Kat the Hat Lady posed this question recently:

"I would love to know how to make a wig that is removable to display on a stand. I want to make some 18th Century powder wigs to show off my hats on."  She attached this photo:

Personally, wigging is the worst part of doll "couture" for me.  It is just not something I 've been very successful with.  I also have never seen a miniature wig that was not attached to a dolls head, but it seems to me that such a thing would be made in a similar way to constructing a full sized wig.

The material used for hair would have to be attached to some sort of cap.  My first thought was to use either a bald doll or a bead that was close to the size of a doll's head.  I'd wrap it in plastic wrap to be able to remove it from the form and then I'd try some sort of fabric over the form as a base or maybe just use a huge glob of pva spread around.

But never having done such a thing, I explored the wonderful world of the internet to seek enlightenment.

Guess what??  People actually do make these kind of things!  Who knew?!

You can find these wigs for sale at House of Caron and Doreen Sinnett Dolls

And they are apparently made the same way as I'd surmised.....

About.Com has a short but concise little tutorial on it  Here

This is not somethig I think I'll try any time soon but it looks fairly straightforward.  Like anything else, it'll take a little (or a lot!) of practice to get the end product to your satisfaction.

Has anyone ever tried this? 

Here you go Kat!  Let us know how yours turn out!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wrought Iron Railings?????

I am rather in over my head this week more ways than one...

My "professional" life is frantic right now.  Note to self: NEVER send out work to individuals whose skill sets are uncertain, regardless of how much there is to do or who recommends them...

On to the question for this week.

Jenn from Looking Glass Miniatures asked:  How to make miniature wrought iron railing? I have one tutorial for railing but the link is at home and i found it hard to understand.

She included the link.  Miniature metal railings how to

I had a quick look at it and while it appears relatively straightforward (aren't most things that often prove disasterous in the end??), I suspect it is not as easy as it looks.

I have no idea which metals work the best, what can be soldered to what.

...and how   ...and where to get supplies.

I confess that when I was planning the Alice Project, I really wanted an ornate gate at the entrance to the tea party garden.

Something like this...

......or this...

However, I quickly put it aside as something I had not the talent nor the time for.

The question intrigues me, as I am still of a mind to try a gate....sometime...soon...maybe.  I've not had a second to research it, though. 

However, I am sure sure someone knows the answers so I am tossing this one to the masses and hoping an "expert" steps up to the plate.

Come on...I know you're out there!!


Monday, October 25, 2010

You Can't Tell a Book by it's Cover....

The lovely Kate from Whittakers Miniatures asked:
I love making books Susan but half the time my method always seems to take forever and Im always wondering if there are easier ways!! Open and closed books would be a good question and answer, how people cut their paper, age it, do the covers, even to how to make mini proper book covers with front, back and spine images.
Books are so very versatile.  The can be used in almost any setting and time period from Ancient to Modern.  They are the kind of detail that adds dimension and depth to a miniature setting and they are not hard to make.
Book can be a variety of sizes also.  Medieval or magical setting can handle books of a much larger scale than an 18th century or more modern setting.
They can be covered with paper, leather, faux leather or cloth; be open or closed; single or stacked.
One of the best miniature closed book tutorials that I have seen was done by Kris Compass from 1 Inch Minis.  Suffice it to say, I use my own adaptation of her technique now whenever I make books.
Can you believe that I used to cut strips of paper and then make individual pages and then glue the binding??!!  Took forever!  And the pages were never even…..
The tutorial is in 2 parts with a very informative addendum about printies for pages.

Printies for pages    read through the comments on this one for important information!

Here is an example of some books I made using the technique.  I used scrapbook paper or paper I printed from the internet.  Some of the “leather look” is actually a scrapbook paper I found at JoAnn’s.  Some is real leather from old wallets or gloves from the thrift store.  For the edging, it is really important to use extremely thin leather. 
To get the coloration on the edges (I didn’t want white), I used a stamp pad with either a gold or champagne ink or an “old paper” or “tea dye” ink.  The last two are by Tim Holz.  I like those for aging paper.  I did that before I attached the cover.  The stamp pad ink allows the pages to be opened whereas paint or marker will make them stick together.  Your choice.
These books open but have blank pages. The largest (a ledger) is about 7/8 inch longer x 5/8 inch wide.

Of course, sometimes, you don’t want the pages even and you want your books bigger and a little less “nice” looking.  Here is an example of some of the Magical books I’ve made.   They are thicker, wider and a whole lot dirtier.  I used a less delicate leather on all of these and then did all manner of things to it to age the leather.  I sanded, inked, stained, re-sanded, re-stained….until I was satisfied.  I also used chalks and sometimes plain old dirt.  These pages of these books tend not to open because I have used a gold paint on the edges. 

However, I have made open books.

I start with the same book “blank”, attach the cover and then press the book open, usually in the middle.  If you have glued the binding sufficiently, it should not fall apart.  For open books, I used paper that has been aged to a cream or tan color.   I’ll often put a bookmark ribbon done the center by gluing a piece of silk ribbon into the binding at the top and then draping it over the page. 
You can make the two “printed” pages several ways.  I usually print out whatever I want on a pre-tea stained piece of parchment or tracing paper.  Then I cut it to size and glue it over the blank page.  The parchment pretty much disappears.  Or you can just add two printed pages (same paper as the book) to the center with glue and press them back.  Then add the silk ribbon.  It will be necessary to weight the book in the open position for a while to keep it from closing.  I press it between two pieces of thin wood with spring clothes pins.

Of course, there are other ways to make books…
When I was filling this bookcase, I cut foamcore to size, painted the edges with gold paint and covered them with scrapbook paper.  They cannot be removed from the bookcase.

These books in Professor Pimm’s study are made from balsa wood cut to size.  The edges were stained with a wood stainstick and lightly gilded.  Then they were covered with thin leather.

You can add paper details to the leather covers easily.  One trick I learned to make the paper look like part of the leather is to rub it lightly with petroleum jelly (just a teensy dab) and buff it with a cloth.  It soaks into the paper and makes it somewhat translucent.

If you are even the least bit computer literate, you can reduce and print out covers and text for your mini books.  Of course, on the smallest sizes, it will not be legible so it really just depends on what your final goal is. 

So that’s what I know.  What about you? 
Is there something you’ve learned while trying to make your mini books? 
Is there something I’ve missed that you have some questions about? 
Do you have any suggestions or know of another good book tutorial?
I'm waiting to hear from you.....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

...technical difficulties...

...ahem...due to my inability to upload (or is it download....) pictures tonight, there will be a slight delay in the posting of this week's Q&A. 

With any luck, I'll have this sorted out by tomorrow....

Hope you all are not too shattered by this news.... :-)

Carry on....

Tabitha the Totally Inept

Friday, October 22, 2010


Hi all!

I haven't gotten any questions for this weekend yet. 

Anyone have something they're buring to know?

...or even mildy curious about?

Send me an e-mail at