Thursday, December 30, 2010

Oliver + S Jump Rope Dress . the finale

I finished the Oliver + S Jump Rope Dress a while ago and wanted to wait to show pics of Z in the dress. With Winter, that's just not going to happen anytime soon. One brighter day, I shot this picture of the dress in its current location. It's been hanging there like a painting and will continue to do so until Spring.

If you want to know more, follow the links from this post.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Extending the tree skirt pattern

I took a photo of my tree skirt pattern for different sizes of trees. Christmas fabric is dirt cheap right now so you may want to make a pattern that will fit your tree and head out and pick some up to hoard away for your 2011 projects. The pattern I linked to in the previous post was made from the brown craft paper pattern that I placed on top of the extended version for the photo.

My mom has a very tall tree with a large branch span at the bottom. The bigger pattern is for her. It's about 2.5 feet from the center to the edge. As you can see, the hole at the center is much larger than the one for my little tree.

I recycled used wrapping paper to make the larger pattern. I wrote instructions on it for my SIL who plans to make one for her tree next year. So if you have a big tree, haul some of your wrapping paper out of the recycle bin and flatten it out. Tape my little pattern down and extend the straight lines with a ruler. Use that same ruler to mark your bottom curve.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A little wrapping up (or unwrapping)

Christmas was awesome. It's hard to say more. We had a really wonderful holiday with family. Z got so much loot she doesn't know what to do. Her favorite present, by far, has to be this 5-layer girl puzzle by Beleduc. She has worked it a million times. Each layer has seven pieces so there's more to it than you can see in the product photo. It's very cool. We are learning the names of some muscles and bones and organs (I need to brush up on my terms). The wood is good quality and the pieces are just right for her hands. (Thanks again Auntie Crystal!).

And no, a hurricane did not touch down. This is just the aftermath of the wild child. See the chef apparel on the pandas? I got that for Z and her daddy from an eBay seller. Love. The house is getting a lot of play. It's a bit jumbled but once we move it up to her room, there will be more space to spread things out. You can't tell from this angle but we took the wood that our changing table was and cut two inches off one end. I rewrapped it with some thick cotton fabric to be like grass and we attached it to a shelf/table thing we found in the trash in Brooklyn. (Yeah, we go through people's trash when we travel -- that's how we roll). I'll post some more photos when it's in its new place. I just thought you would appreciate a photo of a messy house and I'll never show you what my real house looks like.

Speaking of a mess... this blog has been a mess. It's been all disorganized lately because the dollhouse reviews took on a life of their own and my job was crazier than usual. I've got some great stuff in the works and things will be more orderly from now on. I've got a week of play food ahead and also a bunch of crafty book reviews. If you'd like to do a guest post on either topic, please comment on this post. I have some awesome bloggers lined up already and I'm very excited about that.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I have finished my first mini project: this tiny little tree that is just like ours! The base is a piece of a branch from our wood pile. We drilled a hole in it and glued a dowel rod in place. Very easy. I took silver pipe cleaners from the dollar store and twisted them around the dowel rod piece by piece. I used pliers to cut the wire to shape it. The garland is Martha Stewart trim from Kmart a few years ago. Next year, we'll make some ornaments.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


If you remember from this post, I started planning Z's elf apparel in October.  I found the vintage dress and shirt at a thrift store this summer. The shirt has little candy cane piping around the Peter Pan collar. I am shocked that both actually fit. I couldn't find red elf-enough shoes so I cut out holly leaf shapes from felt and hot glued them on and added a couple of red plastic beads. 

Clearly, the best part is the hat. I got it from this seller who was awesome. She made it for me in a green velvet. The red dress had originally come with navy blue grosgrain ribbon around the neck so I picked it off with my trusty seam ripper and added a ruffle in its place with some fabric Kirsten was super nice to include in the package just for this purpose.

Last week we went to New York City for the first time in a holiday season. Santaland at Macy's was not bad -- we even got to see a fight between natives while standing in line. The photos are really terrible, I know. I'll get some more on Christmas Eve.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Play Dollhouse . Scale

Or should I type, "Scale"? Because play dollhouse furniture is not remotely to scale. I've mentioned scale before but I wanted to do a full post on it with pics so you can see how the play sets work in relation to each other.  Here's the low down: Plan Toys, Ryan's Room, Educo/Hape, and Le Toy Van all pretty much have the same scale. It's just about 1:12 or 1/12. That means that for every foot in real life, you have an inch in the mini. As you can see in the photo above, the awesome mushroom bed (by Enchantmints) is smaller. Not much, but enough. In the play dollhouse, it's not going to make much difference. I'm sure my 2 year old is not going to mind.  Pictured above is the double bed from Educo/Hape with the Plan Toys bunk bed and the Enchantmints bed.

Sylvanian Families or Calico Critters run smaller. I've read both 1:16 and 1:18. Some of my favorite dollhouse companies like Lundby use the smaller scale. That means that 1:12 scale items are going to look a little large in the space. But I have seen photos on flickr and I find it hard to tell the difference. Think about it: the couch I'm sitting on right now looks big in my tiny house but in my friend's McMansion, it would look small. Above on the left is the stove from Ryan's Room (came with the house), on the right, the Le Toy Van Sugarplum kitchen stove, and in front, the stove from Enchantmints.

The thing with play furniture is that it doesn't have the fine detail of regular or collectible dollhouse miniatures. Also, as you can see in the photos, even within some of the sets, there is a big size difference.  Pictured above is the Enchantmints bed -- about the same width as the Plan Toys crib. And that crib is not much smaller than the bunk beds. In real life, the crib would not be that big. That's the Plan Toys bunk bed. Play dollhouse furniture is made with thicker pieces of wood than traditional miniatures so that little fingers will have a harder time destroying it.

The white sofa is Ryan's Room (came with the house). Leaf settee from Enchantmints. The Enchantmints line works really well with the Calico Critters (known internationally as Sylvanian Families).

And three sets of barstools! I can't remember if the orange is Ryan's Room or Le Toy Van. The white is the other one. The mushroom set is obviously Enchantmints.

And a little more information on other brands: Barbie and Blythe dolls (not the petites) are 1:6 scale. So there will be some stuff for them that you can use in a play dollhouse that will work fine because of the chunkiness of the wooden toys. I found some dishes in a box from when I was a kid that I'll be adding to the loot so she'll have some accessories. 

For the rest of the play dollhouse posts, click here. They are all in one place.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Interview with Andrea Courchene

I am please to introduce Andrea Lauren Courchene of Paper Sparrow for today's interview. I first "discovered" Andrea's work while shopping for fabric on Spoonflower. I decided to impulse buy some gnomes that were super cute and in the process, looked for more of her work.  Andrea has a very unique style that combines whimsical imagery with a touch of humor.

You grew up in England. How has that impacted you as an artist?

My fondest memories from my childhood are of walks in the New Forest with my grandparents. My sister and I spent several weeks at their house throughout the year, and as avid bird-watchers, they took us on many hikes, picnics and adventures in different parts of the forest. The New Forest is the largest unpopulated area in South-East England and dates back to the Bronze Age. It's mostly rivers and trails and walks but there are a few towns and historic sites too. My Grandfather told wonderful stories which let our imaginations run wild. I have the most vivid memories of picnics on tree logs, seeing deer, birds and other wildlife, building little dams in rivers and hopping on stones across streams. These memories have a huge impact on my art today.

You currently live in Florida, a place that is magical to me because of the amazing state parks and wildlife opportunities there. Do you see the Florida landscape in your backgrounds? A manatee perhaps?

Absolutely! Florida has some fantastic parks. I've lived in a few different areas of Florida, the panhandle has beautiful beaches with white sand and emerald waters, as well as those most picturesque old oak trees with spanish moss. I was fortunate to live in a house that was a short walk to Pensacola Bay in one direction and to a state park in the other. At the moment, I live in Central Florida which boasts beautiful springs and I get to visit my mum who lives on the Banana River on the Space Coast. You've reminded me of a Manatee series I did in High School, perhaps it is time to re-invent those pieces!

I read that you play cello. Does music influence your work at all?

I started playing cello when I was three and actually went to college for a performance degree. It has influenced my life in so many ways and given me many opportunities to travel and connect with people who have made who I am today. I've been lucky to spend a summer in Maine, a summer in North Carolina, as well as in Texas attending music festivals, which has given me a chance to see different parts of the States as well as some great road trips along the way. And I got to live in Chicago for two years during grad school which was one of the best cities to live in! A lot of my paintings feature animals playing music. Collaborating with musicians is a wonderfully creative experience, and something I've been doing all my life, so I like to imagine a world in which animals would do this too!

Your work reminds me of Wes Anderson’s films. Are you a fan?

Of course! Several of his films would make my top ten. Royal Tenenbaums is one of my favorite films and my boyfriend Paul loves Bottle Rocket. Most recently I've been hugely influenced by Fantastic Mr. Fox. My "Fox Jam" painting was directly inspired by this movie. Being from England, I grew up reading Roald Dahl's books, The Witches, Matilda and the BFG were some of my favorites books as a child so I was particularly drawn to Fantastic Mr. Fox. In addition to Wes Anderson films I love stop-motion animation like Fantastic Mr. Fox, the British series Wallace and Gromit as well as Tim Burton's classics The Nightmare before Christmas and Corpse Bride.

So you’ve recently quit your day job. What does that mean for Paper Sparrow?

It's funny - I ask myself this same question all the time. A couple of years ago, I would never have imagined that Paper Sparrow would be a real business or that anybody would even like or buy my work, so Paper Sparrow has been a complete dream for me so far. I'm leaving my options open and seeing where the road takes me, I'm hopeful that I'll be lucky enough to continue doing Paper Sparrow full-time in ten years time.

A million thanks to Andrea for the interview! She has some awesome Christmas fabric on Spoonflower right now that you should check out. I bought a nice little series to hoard for future projects (I'm thinking stockings for next year!). If you follow the main link to her blog, you'll find links to all of the places where you can buy her stuff. She has set it up so that you can buy her images on iPhone sleeves, pillows, and even shoes. Very cool. But you won't be able to buy the original painting of Pandas in Canoes 'cause that's mine (well, on Christmas it will be mine).

All photos courtesy of Andrea Lauren Courchene.

Monday, December 13, 2010


So I finished the several hundred stockings that my crazy self volunteered to make for Z's school (ok, 20). What was I thinking? I don't know. But they hung them on the mantle of the faux fireplace they have taped on the wall of the classroom and apparently loved every minute of it. I got as full of a play-by-play as I'm ever going to get out of the two-year old.

I don't know what's with me but every once in a while I go into batshit production mode around the holidays. One year I made a ton of these little elves. At my mom's church they bring these advent baskets to the shut-ins (wow, is that PC? prolly not, huh). There are usually around 40 of them. So I made about 50 - 60 of these guys -- most to give to the shut-ins but I know that a lot of my friends have at least one, and also family members -- and I have one of each color.

I'd share a tutorial with you but I remember getting the idea from one of those fliers they used to have hanging around at Michael's -- you know before the internet. I used those sheets of foam for the ears, handstitched the little felt hats, made their little noses from polymer clay, and I very clearly remember using a q-tip and blush for their rosy cheeks. I am a freaking factory! I can't believe I painted every face and every lock of hair.

Anyway, I'm super busy lately and have been pretty stressed out but when I started writing this post, I began to feel better. Tomorrow, check in for an AMAZING interview. I'm really excited about this one. I'll get back to the dollhouse posts shortly after. I'm taking a couple of days off but I will share my stocking tutorial with you as soon as I recover.

Oh yeah, and that mirror is not dirty. It's vintage. It was born in 1911 with our house.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lessons learned

Arranging flowers and stuff in pots is not my forte. So I leave you today with a photo of the super cool elf planter I bought at a junk shop (Thank you, Sandi, for the reminder!). I picked up some sprigs (is that what they're called?) at the craft store. They have wood colored stems and dark Christmasy red berries and sparkly things. The elf is laughing at me from his perch. Little jerk.

I will spare you my creation. I think I need to go to Michaels and buy some more faux foliage to shove down in there. Or maybe something so that these things will stick in there right. I have been way into the Christmas spirit this year and wanted more cool decorations to clutter up the place.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

When I grow up

I found this list of future jobs in a bag full of stuff at my parents' house on Thanksgiving. This is so hilarious and ironic to me and also bizarre.

Craft store? Check.
Interior Decorating? Check. (I mean, it's not like I get paid for it but someone's got to do it and it's not bad. I like the kitchen and our bedroom too. The rest of the house, however, is a disaster).
Broadway? Broadway?!? I guess I'll have to save that one for my 40s.

Also how funny that the date is Jan. 29 -- like that means anything all these years later. What year was it? I have no idea.

Monday, December 06, 2010


I will have no official post today. For some reason way back when it was hot out, I volunteered to make several million stockings for Zadie's class. Her teacher didn't even ask me if I could make them. I just offered my sewing services like a crazed lunatic (is that even politically correct?). Anyway. I've been procrastinating like that was my job so tonight's the night.

So I leave you with this:

Go ahead, click on it. One day, I will actually get around to sewing stockings for my own family and when I do, I hope they will be as cool as that one.

Oh, and a word on the dollhouse posts: I have one more post on scale and that's it. Also, I'll be doing a giveaway and there will be a post on that and a post on which you should leave comments if you want to win the loot. And I think that's it. Well, I'll have to announce a winner too.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Dollhouse furniture review: Educo Hape

I have to say that I was most excited about this bedroom set and also the most disappointed. A bedroom wasn't needed because we already had a couple of beds. But I thought it would be nice for Mama and Papa Panda to have a room of their own. This is from the regular Educo Hape dollhouse line. There is also a very contemporary bamboo line that I love the looks of but it's more expensive. This bedroom is going for about $14.00 on Amazon. Not bad. Like with the Le Toy Van set, I used my Swagbucks to buy Amazon giftcards.

Scale: These are identical in scale to the Plan Toys, Le Toy Van and the Ryan's Room sets that I have previously reviewed. As you can see, they are a little big for the Calico Critters (or Sylvanian Families) pandas that we love. Also, they are slightly larger than the Enchantmints mushroom stuff.

Quality: This is where the disappointment comes in. The construction is just shoddy. The plexiglass on the doors of the wardrobe and shelves of the bed is scuffed and the pieces are not square. The dresser is okay but the bed is very crooked. The paint is fine but where glue seeped from the seams, it was not cleaned up very well. There is one cut of the wood that is very rough. So basically, these items just lack the attention to detail in craftsmanship that all of the other companies have.

Overall: I bought this set because of the beanbag. I liked the colors and I liked the modern styling -- especially the striped comforter. All of the fabric on the other sets was yucky and floral. So I have no complaints there. I love the little lamps and those will work well in other parts of the house. And the beanbag is fabulous. While this set doesn't have details in the paint like the Le Toy Van, there are cool details elsewhere -- the drawers pull out and there are tiny hangers in the wardrobe. Cute.

So I do recommend these. The lower price point and modern styling make up for the lack of quality on some of the pieces.

If you would like to read the rest of my dollhouse reviews, click here.