This is an ongoing list of questions that come in to me on a daily basis, I think they make an interesting read, and I will get them organised into categories  when I have a mo…. but for now just scroll down the list till something takes your fancy!
    I will keep adding to them as more questions come in which should turn this page into a handy go to spot!
    I think its its great to be asked for advice, and even better to share theanswers so you know you are not the only one with problems!

OCTOBER 2022: FEATHERSTONE HALL AT MINIATURA  Q&A SPECIAL

After just having shown Featherstone Hall for the first time in years, I was inundated with questions about it and thought most of them would make a good addition to a special section on this page

Take a look below to to find out a few secrets about it and how it was made!

And don’t forget –  if you have a (miniature) problem or just want some ideas on how to do something – use the form on the ASK JULIE page to pose your own question – its free and I love a challenge!

Q: How do you clean it?

A: I prepared the house for showing again by giving it a good dust with a small stiff paintbrush and hoovered as I went with the mico tool attachment for my house vacuum.
   I then went over the whole house with a damp cloth just to really freshen it up after hoovering.
   To keep it clean when on display at home I put the clear acrylic sheet I use at shows over the front which does a good job of keeping dust out and avoids accidental knocks and breakages! I got the sheet online – there are several stores specialising in it (I used 2mm thick) – all you do is send them the size you require and its cut and posted out to you.

The blue area shows the new sheet of acrylic I bought to take the house to Miniatura with - It comes with a protective film that I peeled off just before the show.

Q: How did you do the water in the sinks?

A: Originally (10 years ago!) I used Deluxe materials Scenic Water, however I found over time that it discoloured and went yellowish. Having grown in experience since then – I now use Deluxe Materials two part resin which sets clear and solid on my Dee-Daw Designs retail range of sinks, and so I replaced the Scenic Water in the house with resin before the show.   

 

 

This shows the resin water effect as used in the current range of sinks in the website shop.

Q: How did you replace the ceiling lights without lifting the floor above?

A: When I made the house 10 years ago as it was my first house I quite merrily put all the wiring for ceiling lights through and into the floor above. This now means that if I want to replace a ceiling light fitting I have to lift the floor of the room above! However there is a way around it…
   I tried a different approach in the Duchess suite of the house – I had a fabulous sheet of fake plaster ceiling paper and I put the wires for the lights through the paper and attached it to the ceiling, pulling the wires through and attaching the light fittings to the paper. The wires then run between the paper and ceiling towards the back wall and the tiny section that shows is virtually invisible. I finished the edge of the paper on the Duchess suite ceiling with a small wooden edging strip (see page 62 of the book for more details).

The replacement lights hang from a sheet of decorative ceiling paper (left over from when I crested the house 10 years ago!)

Q: How did you get working lights on the doors?

A: I really couldn’t figure out how to do it to start with (10 years ago!) but then I  came across battery powered LED lights. I didn’t really like them as the first ones on the market had huge battery compartments and the lamp designs were a bit restrictive. However they did solve my lighting problem and I decided to go with them. On the plus side they are easy to use – just stick on the magnetic backing plate and attach the light unit. (The light bases unscrew and have an on/off switch). Looking at the ones on the house doors the majority have a blue white LED bulb and I think I would like to change them at some point to a newer model which would have a yellow white LED which would look more natural for a vintage light fitting.

This is my favourite of the door shelves with the battery lamp illuminating one of the staff winding the grandfather clock (complete with a large mouse peeking out from underneath the clock)

Q: Did you add any windows on the side of the house?

 

A: Yes – I added two to the basement side walls.  and two in the back wall in the grand hall and hall above it. I felt that it really added to perceived depth and reality of the house and (in the case of the basement) stopped them looking like narrow boxes.
   It was simple enough to do although it did seem a bit drastic when it was my first house I was cutting lumps out of it!

Although the house already has quite a few windows it really needed the two I added in the basement.

Q: How do you get so much detail into your rooms?

 

A: One of the reasons why Featherstone Hall Hotel is so interesting to look at is that I used a story for every room to help me decide what decoration and dressing is required. Take a look on the introduction to the Featherstone Hall page on the BIG PROJECTS section of this website – read about what’s going on and you’ll see that the room contents all flow from the story. Take a look at the October NEWS BLOG where I discuss how the addition of Amy’s father on shelf adds more information to her story!

Not only does every room have a story but I also used the door shelves to add to the scene,

Q: Why do you have so many divided rooms?

 

A: I think that the use of partitions in the house is probably the most successful part of the project. I used them in virtually every room, by creating ensuite bathrooms, boxing in stairs, creating a bathroom, and reducing the depth of some rooms to allow for a transformer for the lights to be hidden in the unused space. They created more interest in the rooms, made them look more realistic, and made the full house depth rooms (like the Grand Hall) more visually effective. The change in the viewers perspective across the rooms adds impact and reality.

The only full house depth rooms are the grand hall and the hall above, both of which have windows in the back wall to emphasise theroom depth.

Q: How did you go about decorating the door interiors?

 

A: The doors of the house when on display at Miniatura were one of the main topics of conversation. Having seen them decorated, many show visitors were inspired to go away and do their own. I cover how I did them in the book (p144 onward) but there are few things to consider:
   If your house rooms have coving, when you decorate the interior of the door you will need to trim it shorter so that the door will still close – this also goes for the skirting boards – so plan the panels to be decorated carefully!
    Also, if you are going to add the mini shelves like I did, make sure to set them slightly above the house floor height and make sure there is no furniture or people in the way!

 

This picture shows the narrower door of the two and is decorated for the dining room, Duchess suite and Thistlemere room.

Q: How did you do the curtains?

 

A: The curtains of the door interiors were another major talking point of the show, however I felt quite embarrassed to say that I hate doing curtains and only sew when I have to.   
   When it came to doing the house and door ones there were so many pairs to make I decided to challenge myself to do every pair in a different style to get me through making them! (probably why they proved so interesting to people at the show!) – but my best advice after making loads of them is –  if you don’t like doing them – buy them!

 

Not only are all the curtain styles different in some rooms the colour is too - I ran out of the Library bar curtain fabric so the ones on the door interior are a cmpletely different fabric!

Here’s where the Featherstone Hall Special ends – the questions below are one sent in via the ASK JULIE page and ones I get asked at shows:

Q: Corner Shop Name Sign – I am making/decorating/stocking a grocer/hardware shop circa. 1920s 1930s, with accommodation above, based loosely on a shop of my husband’s family. Can you please offer any advice as to how I can paint (or otherwise) the name etc on the outside front fascia. There is room for the name “Powell’s”, a number above the front door and Grocer and Hardware, as it is a corner shop. It is 1/12th scale. Help! Your expert advice would be much appreciated, as I seem to be up against a brick wall – or should I say fascia!

A: Thanks for your question, without seeing a picture I can’t be too specific with suggestions, but I can give you some general ideas. If you have a computer and printer the world is your oyster! (But if you don’t I can suggest a couple of other things!)

First of all you need a sign to add the name onto. Its easier making a sign to apply to the shop than it is to try and decorate the panel available on the shop building. I would suggest a piece of wood – you can buy very thin strips of it from dolls house suppliers online – I would recommend my friend’s online shop: https://jennifersofwalsall.co.uk/index.php She has section on wood and i would recommend the Obeche wood as easy to use – it comes in wide strips so will do a sign nicely.

If you are a dab hand at woodwork then shop signs look nice with a molded edge if you can knock a frame together for it? Either way I would use primer, sand it then apply a base coat of enamel paint (I use the Humbrol model makers little tins of paints).

The lettering is the tricky bit.

Using the above method you would need to hand paint the lettering and this requires a steady hand! However you could also buy Letraset dry transfer lettering (try WH Smiths) or peel off letters (any good craft store or online from amazon or ebay) The gold coloured peel off letters have the advantage of being repositionable (should you need to!) and the slightly raised effect and gold edge which accents the matt gold infill has a nice effect (also if you wanted the letters a specific colour they can be hand coloured with ‘Sharpie’ felt tip pens.)

If it was me I would either print the name (on a coloured background) on photo paper cut it out (not forgetting to touch out the white paper edges with a felt tip pen held at 90 degrees to the cut edge to prevent slipping onto the print). Then stick it onto the piece of wood. Or I would create a waterslide decal – by printing my design on special paper (widely available online) and apply it to a painted wooden piece then over paint some of it with gold accents/details.

Q: Scenic water is hard to find here (North America) and when you do, quite expensive. So I wondered if I used tap water and glue also colouring for jellies and other food stuff?

A: I sometimes use clear Gorilla Glue as an alternative, but you’ll need to experiment with what colourings work with it. I think you’ll find you won’t get the bulk you need to fill things by using glue and tap water – once its dry it will shrink a lot. The Gorilla glue mostly keeps its bulk, and is fine for jars and bottles although I have not used it over large areas.  

Q: Do you make/supply Victorian barometers 

A: Theoretically yes ….and no. LOL I ‘ve had a tidy out of my studio recently. I know I didn’t get rid of it, but I don’t know where I put it! and it may be some time before I come across it again.

But I am happy to let you know that I bought it from Phoenix Model Developments – they have a website shop and the kit is in stock. Item number DH025 – it comes complete with the decals for the dial and mercury scale.

website: https://www.phoenixmodeldevelopments.com

Q: A couple of things I need advice on … I’m looking for some vintage leather books ( quite a few) any recommendations?

Also I’ve got a few jars I  would like to fill to look like it has liquid in maybe a different colour. Could you advise what is best …

A: I can recommend Dateman Books – they produce replica printed books and have a range of period book bindings for Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian houses.

https://dateman-books.myshopify.com/

Regarding putting liquid in jars – I would recommend Deluxe materials Solid water – it can be tinted with pigments and applied with a fine tip syringe to get into the bottom of the bottle – use a cocktail stick to move the contents around to remove air pockets. Pigments and syringes are available on the website too.

https://deluxematerials.co.uk

Q:  My new dilemma is do I wallpaper the outside with brick paper…..like you have done (Featherstone Hall Hotel) or do I just paint it cream and have stone coloured quoins?  I was originally doing the latter…….but now I’ve seen your bricks I like it much better that way?

A: Brick Paper- I think its a no brainer – do it! Otherwise when the house is on display it will just look like a big grey chunk. I used a one from streets ahead called DIY263 old red brick – although they still do it, there are newer ones available now – DIY761B weathered brick Flemish bond is embossed so will look even better that a flat paper. You should be able to find it on the internet (Streets Ahead are trade only)

Q: I’ve put 2 wall lights in the alcoves where the range thing is, now I’m left with 2 x 6cm gaps which I want cupboards for…….yet can’t find any…….in fact one side is 6cm other is a bit smaller………..ah well!!  I do have a light coloured drawer thing and that does fit in one side……not sure what to put other side though, maybe a chair…….

A: ….got your picture. I have managed to save it on my pooter – I get what you are saying about the alcoves – I have a couple of ideas – grab your Featherstone Hall Book….

Take a look at page 126 – what about a butchers block? (you could tile the alcove – makes it easier to wash the blood off!) couple of nice meat cleavers and couple of dead chickens and you are laughing! You could also have a tool rack on the wall below the light with saws and knives on?

Or page 125 – I cut a bookcase/shop unit in the middle at 45 degrees and made a corner unit. you could do that with a base unit and add a couple of shelves across the alcove?

Q: I am currently sending myself round the twist with deciding if to put some windows in my 2 grand rooms, I feel that curtains make a room, i have been searching for the right curtains and can not find any I like, Do you know anyone that makes really elegant curtains .. swags n tails too?

A: Re curtains: You’ll know from the book that after stairs, curtains are a close second in my list of hates! but I get where you are coming from! but if you put windows in your grand rooms you’ll have to cut holes in the building – what about (if they are going on the back wall) you put window frames mounted on the wall (Like a framed picture) with mirror in them instead of glass – less work and they will reflect light back into the room? As for a curtain maker I can recommend my friend Linda Toerzey at Simply silk, she does curtains for other customers of mine – https://www.simplysilkminiatures.com – and her work is beautiful!

R: (Reply) Thank you for the curtain lady contact, so grateful, i though more about the windows over the weekend and i really don’t want to start cutting holes into my house, I love your idea about the windows .. thank you so much, far better that having to cut into my house

Q: Do you have any tips on making a wall a little dirty in the kitchen. At the moment I’ve got embossed tiled paper and it looks too spanking new and shiny. So just would like to make it a little dirty and used!

A: make a thinish solution of brownish paint (see how technical I can be!) brush it on and wipe off before its totally dry with kitchen roll. Do it several times to build up layers. Practice on a spare bit first – to practice the technique and just to check the paint does not interfere with the tile card surface!  Its the same idea as aging the outside of Featherstone Hall (and the kitchen floor tiles) Take a look at the relevant pages in your copy of the book for photos.

Q: I’ve been thinking of my study/library. Well I’ve been thinking this one through and still haven’t decided to either have both them rooms rolled into one and a games room for the other room

A: ….it depends on how many rooms you have in the house, but a library by itself can look a bit dull – a good big desk and maybe some collectors cabinets would liven it up (and a drinks buffet or trolley). I did library/bar/snooker room and card room all in one in Featherstone Hall – but I was short of rooms!

Q: I’ve spent so much money this month trying to find a correct wood stain. So ordered another make and let’s see what happens…

A: I tend to use Ronseal or Coloron – don’t get bogged down in buying the right colour – you can mix them together – I do!

Q: As I have already mentioned to you (I think) I am working my way through several sets of no-sew silk curtains. My problem is that I am repeatedly warned that glue cannot be used with silk. In the magazine, though the curtains are silk, there is not enough advice on this problem. I have just been looking through ‘Featherstone Hall’ again, to see how you managed silk,  especially for preventing fraying, and have noticed that on page 62 you refer to ‘spray glue’.  What do you mean by this? Can you please let me know the name of the product? I would be most grateful for your advice.

A: Yes silk and glue is a tricky mix to get right… I use 3M Craft Mount spray glue on my silks – HOWEVER you do have to be very careful in you usage (fumes) and selection of silk – if its too thin the glue can spit and then the silk is ruined. You can get around this by ironing on some very fine dressmakers interfacing first. The interfacing bonds with heat alone to the silk and its much easier to spray glue the interfacing. It will also give the curtains some ‘body’ which will help in making the drapes look more real – I’m not keen on pleating boards – they tend to look to perfect, I do mine by hand for softer my realistic ones.

NEW QUESTIONS WILL BE ADDED TO THE TOP OF THIS PAGE UNTIL I GET THE TIME TO ORGANISE THEM IN CATEGORIES! So don’t sit there faced with a pile of pieces on the floor that’s supposed to be a house, or trying to decide what to put in which room, whats right for the period of your house or trying to work out just how to do something – get on to ASK JULIE – Its free and I am happy to offer my advice – you may not want to hear some of it – tough love is painful sometimes! But please get in touch if you have a (dollshouse!) problem using the form on the ASK JULIE page – If I can’t help, offer some ideas or a crackpot solution, I may know someone else who can – and I am happy to recommend other miniaturists or suppliers that I know and respect, who may be able to help you.


 
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