Friday, July 1, 2022

Metal Miniatures for the Dollhouse (and almost every mini project)


If you are a long time miniaturist you may have used Metal Miniatures in some of your projects.  This is an actual business name (very non-descript).  The company from Illinois and has been around with the same address since the 1970s.  I have been ordering from them at least since 1976.  I use their tiny metal figurines and dishes in almost every project in some way.  If you have never used them, I think you would be interested to know they have thousands of tiny items you can paint that are very nicely scaled.  They say on their website the material is “old pewter” or “casting metal”.  I am not sure whether it has lead in it but would think you would want to paint anything you buy just to keep it sealed.

Metal Miniatures is very ‘old school’.  They have only recently put photos of their items on their website but they mostly sell wholesale to miniature shops and websites.  You can sometimes find their items on Ebay if you search “unfinished metal” in the “Dollhouse and Miniatures” category.  But they also sell directly to the consumer.  They are EXTREMELY fast in filling orders, even to the individual consumer.  If you order from their website they only take checks (no credit cards).

The Catalog - When I first started ordering from them in the 1970s they had a small pamphlet showing about 100 items.  Things such as plates, knives, cups, goblets.  Over the years they published catalogues with even more items and better photos.  They now have a few thousand items in their catalogue.  There seems to be no categorization to the items so it is very hard to find what you want.  They have some photos on the website and "picture sheets" that you can download but not all of their items are in those photos or picture sheets. 

Tip #1:  Download the order form (Excel file).  Click on the second tab called "Total List" and you can search by keyword (control + F).  The descriptions are not all in the same column but its better than no list.  I have made my own attempt at combining the item numbers into a more searchable Excel file and would suggest, if you have a little experience with Excel, that you do the same. 

Tip #2:  They don't give any measurements, so to compare similar items, use the photos on their website.  The "picture sheets" say "Actual Size" though not all items are shown on those either.

Something else I found interesting is that some of their items look like exact copies of Eugene Kupjack silver pieces.  When I see Kupjack pieces sold on Ebay, I recognize them as Metal Miniatures I have purchased – such as a filigree cake knife or ‘silver’ pitcher or gravy boat.  I don’t know the connection (its probably an interesting story) but both Kupjack and Metal Miniatures were based in Illinois so maybe Kupjack sold his original molds to them OR maybe Metal Miniatures made molds for Kupjack?  If you know the answer I would be very interested to know.

In this blog post I will share some ways I have finished, embellished and combined Metal Miniatures with other things, like microbeads to make accessories.  Metal Miniatures are sort of a dull silver color.  Its hard sometimes to even see the detail in the raw metal but when you paint them they come alive.  I will give the Metal Miniatures item number (that correlates to their website photos and order form) in case you want to try to find these specific items.

Photo #1- Metal Minis

Be sure to right click photos and "open in new tab" (depending on your browser) so you can see them enlarged!

Photo #1 (above) shows miscellaneous Metal Minis items I have painted.  You can see the dull silver item next to the finished painted one in this photo.  Some have been primed in flat white spray paint so you can see the detail without all the silver reflection.  One of my favorite items is the set of ‘Staffordshire dogs’ (#725), top row, far right.  You can even see the 3d chain detail.  I paint these dogs in several colors including pink and white for use on a shelf in a nursery. See my pink ones in this post: Window Shopping Post.  Note that some items in the photo are combined (two or more metal minis glued together).  Here are the item numbers:

Photo #1    Top Row - Item Numbers:
Urn clock (vase with handles) (also in Photo #5Item #100
Round Scalloped plate     Item #F-93
Frog on leaf (glued to above plate)  Item #C-36H
Candlesticks    Item #684 (embellished with bead caps and crystal bead drops)
Bunny Box made from these 3 items stacked and glued:

Bunny    Item # 859
Door knob (clip off knob and file flat)    Item # 111
Oval beaded frame    Item # 767
(oval box is a coiled piece of index card that has been painted)

Staffordshire Dogs    Item # 725
Frame (behind blue Staffordshire dogs)   Item # 849

Photo #1    Bottom Row - Item Numbers:
Santa mug    Item # 835
Santa cookie jar    Item # 941
Mantle Clock (tall, finial top)    Item # 934B
Tiny Bee (glued to clock)   Item # C-36E
Mantle Clock (short, arched top)    Item # 319
Tiny turtle (glued to top of short clock)   Item # C-36D
Chicken basket    Item # 24

Photo #2 - 'Majolica' Plates and Platters

Photo #2 shows some plates and platters.  To simulate Majolica (a type of antique pottery) I paint with washes of colors using photos from real pieces on the internet as a guide.  I first prime them with flat white spray paint before painting with acrylics.  I try to use a dilute wash of color so it sinks down into the cracks highlighting the design.  See the item numbers in the list below.

Photo #2 Item Numbers:   
Lg oval platter with ornate rim    Item # 47
Round Scalloped plate     Item #F-93
Frog on leaf (glued to above plate)  Item #C-36H
Pink/Yellow plates    Item #62
Round plate with berry design    Item #235
Rectangular Platter    Item #513
Pear & Pomegranate drawer pulls (rectangular platter handles)    Item #521

Photo #3 - Tiny Figurines

Photo #4 Tiny Figurines

Photos #3 & 4 - Cute little figurines - these are very tiny items to place on shelves, bookcases, etc.  I especially love the peacock and the bunny with momma – sort of looks like a Beatrix Potter figurine.  The smaller dollhouse is actually supposed to be a bookend.  You can see it on a shelf in another photo below.  The peacock has a lot of detail that comes out with a dilute wash of darker paint on top of ligher.  You can even see individual feathers.  The bigger dollhouse (back view is in Photo 3 and front view in Photo 4) actually has some molded furniture inside though very hard to see that detail.  When I painted the elephant I was trying to attempt the highly collectible Herend china figurines (could be better). 

Photos #3 & 4 - Item Numbers:   
Peacock    Item # 827
Dollhouse with interior     Item #400 B (open version)
Dollhouse Bookend  Item #M-58D
Mother Bunny & Baby    Item #C-47
Elephant    Item #368
Owl    Item #J-10


Photo #5 - Embellished Clocks

Photo #5 - Embellished clocks – (Large is Item #100, small is Item # 934X I think). The clock face is just paper coated with some kind of gloss paper coating.  I glued a large gold jump ring to frame the big clock face.  The large one is similar to an item sold by Brooke Tucker in the '90s.  On both I glued some punched paper flowers and leaves.  I used tiny gold microbeads in the centers of the flowers.  Entire piece including the punched flowers and leaves were painted with metallic acrylic paints and finished with gloss coat (like Glossy Accents type product for paper).

Here are a couple more photos using some Metal Miniatures (peacock, a tiny chair, dollhouse bookend).  

Tiny peacock and tiny chair in X-Acto Grandfather Clock

Owl, Dollhouse bookend in X-Acto upcycled desk

Really love these Metal Miniatures.  I think they add some needed detail -- and sometimes clutter to dollhouse rooms and displays.  Sort of gives it a lived-in look.  Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, May 26, 2022

You can Print a Velvet Rug for the dollhouse??

(...with Spoonflower, Yes!) 

First let me apologize for my lateness and not keeping up with posting since February and to thank my readers for their patience!! (clap clap)

Onto the rugs...I have been trying to find rugs printed on velvet that look nicely scaled.  Most are just printed on a woven cotton and don’t have a nap.  I like the velvet as a base for a rug because I think it is more like a real rug.  So… I thought, why not try Spoonflower?  I love it for custom fabrics. You can find any design you want!  And if you want to design your own fabrics you can do that too (if you have the graphic gene)!  It takes a little bit of effort to learn how to use the website but worth the effort.

What is Spoonflower?  It’s a website where people who design fabric sell their designs (Sort of like Etsy for textile products).  You pick a design, then pick what type of fabric you want the design to be printed on, like cotton or linen or velvet, then decide how much you want to order (full yardage, fat quarter or sample).  You can even buy textile items printed from the design, instead of yardage – things like curtains, pillows, and duvets. 

If you want to create your own design, you make an account, upload your design, use a little gadget to arrange the design (like mirror image, tiled images, etc) then you can order your own design and have it printed on whatever type of fabric you want.  This is how I made the rugs (though I don’t sell them - you also have to be aware of copyrighted designs if you plan to sell them).  

Of course you could select any type of fabric to print your rugs.  I chose velvet.  There are two kinds of velvet available from Spoonflower.  See the photos below for comparison of the two types.  Both velvets cost about $39 per yard but you don’t need to pay that much.  I ordered just a fat quarter (yes you can get a fat quarter of velvet) for $20 but then there was a 50% off sale so I got it for $10.  I was able to print 5 rugs on one Fat Quarter for $10 plus shipping.  They run sales occasionally so watch their website for the sales (or get on their mailing list).  This sale was close to Thanksgiving 2021 (I think).

Here are some hints:

  • Find photos of rugs you like "birds eye view" so it will be perfectly square on the corners.
  • Start with the best quality photo you can  find (highest pixels)
  • If you don’t want them all the same design, create a “collage” (I used Microsoft Paint tool) so they are all in one photo (you can see what mine looked like in the next photo below).
  • Upload the photo or collage to Spoonflower.
  • Select the Fabric (velvet) and Size/yardage from the drop downs (select “Fat Quarter”).
  • It takes a little trial and error working with the uploading / arranging on the website.  Depending on the arrangement, parts of some rugs may get cut off but just try to optimize to get them to print as many full rugs as you can in the correct size.

Try these hints to get the rugs sized while displaying on the grid:

  • Play with the “Repeat” and “Smaller” and “Bigger” buttons and “Change DPI” setting.  Check the displayed design to see if rugs will be correct size (it has a grid marked in inches).  Do this while you have the final size selected (fat quarter) so you can see exactly how many rugs you will get from that size of fabric.
  • If that doesn’t work and you can't get the rug to be small or large enough, you might have to resize your original photo (change pixels width and height) and re-upload (save under a new name).   Generally, if you can't get it small enough, your photo is too big (reduce the pixel size) and vice-versa.
  • Note that your Fat Quarter will have a different number of full rugs if you select a 45 inch wide fabric than if you select a 54 inch wide fabric. 

Photo of the Spoonflower editing screen:

Above you can see my rug collage as it would look if printed on a fat quarter.  The “Celosia” velvet is slightly more transparent than “Performance” velvet (you can see the cutting mat through the Celosia velvet). 

Below are two fat quarters showing both types of velvet.  The Celosia (on top) has more of a nap, like plush velvets.  It is woven, has a slight sheen and a little thinner than the Performance.  The Performance velvet (bottom) seems to be non-woven, sort of like soft suede cloth, very white, slightly thicker and more opaque than the Celosia.  The photo below shows both fat quarters overlapped.  I think the design is a little brighter and crisper on the Performance velvet.  But my preference for miniature rugs would be the Celosia due to having a plush nap or pile and warp and weft threads you can see. 

To finish the rug after cutting it and trimming, I glued 6 strand embroidery floss around the edge using a fine tip glue applicator (fabric or white glue) so I could apply the glue to the very thin edge of the velvet.  It was hard to get it to stay on.  I only did about half the side of a rug at a time and let it sit a while to make sure it got stuck on. 

For fringe, I had some linen upholstery fabric where I had trimmed off the selvage.  It had a perfect fringed edge (glad I don't throw anything away!).  So I trimmed off a little and glued it on as fringe.

Resources: Pink rug – from; other rug photos from various rug manufacturer websites.  The finished rug in the photos was made from the Performance Velvet on the Spoonflower website.

I hope this inspires my readers to check out Spoonflower!  Leave a comment and tell me how you might use Spoonflower for miniatures! Maybe print some lampshades?