Tag Archive | backdrop

A Sad Day for Ellowyne Wilde

IMG_5658Bonjour, mes amis! Ellowyne Wilde here. It’s been a long time, n’est ce pas?  I thought I would chime in today with an update on Laurie’s dolly adventures—oh, wait. Sorry, my bad. There haven’t been any adventures. Why’s that, you ask? Because she was too busy trying to perfect her Christmas story this past winter and spring that she hasn’t taken the time to play. And then! Then!

Then she packed. Us. Away.

Can you believe it?

“Only for a little while,” she promised. And she removed our accessories.

“Just until we move into a rental house.” And she wrapped up our furniture.

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Before

“Look on the bright side—you can still see the goings-on around here.” And she stuck us in the—gasp—doll cabinet!

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Let us out!

At least she had the decency to look contrite.

And now that she’s not moving? Dare we hope she’ll free us? Bring back our humble abode?

Nope! Claims she doesn’t want to put a new set of holes into the walls she freshly patched and painted.

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After

Oh sure, she stops by our cramped quarters now and then, looking a little put-out (like she’s the one who lost all her belongings), but it’s not the same as when she could pose us, and decorate for us, and imagine with us. We’ve been guaranteed a kitchen and fireplace when we finally move. Hmm, methinks I’ve heard that one before.

But you know what really boils my vinyl? The fact she’s letting the Senson girls—those mischief-makers—run free. Cinnamon joined us this spring, Mistletoe got a new outfit, and Piper got a new hairdo.

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think Laurie had found a new favorite doll.

Sniff.

Time will tell I suppose. Maybe Christmas…2017? Maybe by then, we Tonner girls will be warming our non-articulated toes by an LED-fed fireplace befitting dolls of our caliber.

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When words fail…use your hands!

I’ve been doing a lot of research and menial rewriting over the last couple of months. Researching agents, tweaking the first 10-50 pages of my manuscript, writing query letters, tweaking query letters, more researching… I hadn’t had much time left over for actual writing—you know, the kind that gets a writer’s butt into the chair and keeps it there—so two weeks ago, I decided to take a break from the research and querying and work on “downsizing” one of my almost-completed manuscripts. It’s 150,000 words, with some scenes that still need to be fleshed out. Ideally, the word count should be around 90,000. That’s a lot of chopping.

I started my attack by hacking off the first few chapters and jumping right into the sixth. Great. Except I cut out pertinent information and character development I now need to squeeze into my new beginning chapters without them sounding like “info dump.” Not so great. Or rather, not so easy. Suffice it to say, by the end of the week I was drowning under old mindsets and negative thinking and had to yank my head out of the water so I could take a breather. And give myself permission not to write for a few days.

Perfect time, then, to make curtains for the living room and finish an American Girl backdrop.

Before

Before

After

After

 

I knew changing the curtains from those drab brown ones could only be a good thing, but I wasn’t prepared for how much a simple piece of hemmed fabric could breathe fresh air into a stale room! Needless to say, I bought more of the same fabric so I can attack the bedroom curtains during my next writing funk.

As for the backdrop…

American Girl backdrop

American Girl backdrop

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…I’ve been wanting to work on it for a while, but writing has won out week after week until now. Good thing, too, since my kids get out of school in a week and a half and I wanted this finished by then so they could spend summer days playing with the backdrops as well as their doll furniture!

Some of you might remember my first attempt at an AG-scaled backdrop: IMG_1278

Ever since then, I’ve been playing with ways to make the backdrops easier to maneuver and have come up with this for now:

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A simple 2”x4” piece of wood with grooves cut into it via Hubby’s table saw, into which slide two 2’x2’ halves of a MDF board. Having smaller boards to work with made the decorating go much easier and faster.

To make the wood paneling, I cut strips of balsa wood, glued them in place, then primed and painted the area.

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I then primed the area behind the “wall paper” (because fabric on white backing is brighter than on a brown MDF board) and used Mod Podge to glue the fabric to the board. Mod Podge worked much better than the adhesive spray I used last time. After letting the glue dry, I painted two coats of Mod Podge over the fabric, sanding after each coat had dried. Lastly, for my lip edge, I glued pieces of trim (found at Lowe’s) that I had first primed and painted.IMG_3132

All in all, the steps themselves are easy; the time it takes to cut, prime, paint two to three coats, Mod Podge, and glue, on the other hand, can sometimes be hard to find.

My next big project? Moving my soon-to-be middle schooler out of the bedroom she shares with her younger sister into her own room. A room currently dubbed the office/guest room; a room of clutter and one long, shallow, ill-functioning closet. I aim to have this accomplished before the new school year begins in late August.

Gulp. Wish me luck!

(Up for a laugh? Keep scrolling…)

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It’s Christmastime in Ello-land…

Merry Christmas! Ellowyne Wilde here. So excited about the upcoming holidays! We’ve been busy decorating, wrapping presents, coiffing for parties, and anticipating the arrival of a new friend: Urban Legend Lizette!

Meet Lizette!

Meet Lizette!

Last week, we enfolded her into our family with as much enthusiasm as a pack of moody dolls can muster and Lizette wasted no time jumping into the mix of activities (her skills with a tube of icing are quite remarkable).

Decorating the gingerbread house.

Decorating the gingerbread house.

And while some of us affix candy to gingerbread houses, others of us affix ornaments to Christmas trees.

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How am I supposed to get this star all the way up there?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tori, bless her little heart, has been wrapping presents for days…

Keep up the good work!

Keep up the good work!

…and some of us could stand a little less primping and a little more productivity (oh, get to the party already, ladies!).

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Here are a few different snapshots of our lovely new front porch decked out for Christmas:

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Our loft railing…IMG_2227

And a pair enjoying a chilly rendezvous under a sparkling tree.IMG_2231

Yes, it’s quite festive around here right now, although I’m hoping Laurie will toss a disco ball our way for New Year’s Eve…

All we’re missing is a cozy fireplace hung with stockings, but I’m told that’s on Laurie’s To Do list for 2015. (And blurting out something like that on her blog is kind of like a binding contract, right? Now she’s obligated to make me—er, all of us—a fireplace. Aaah, I can feel the warmth already.)

We dolls hope everyone has a safe and joyous holiday season. Don’t forget to schedule in time amidst the busyness to rest and soak up the more delightful aspects of Christmas…such as driving through neighborhoods to look at lights, listening to favorite carols, watching favorite holiday movies, quality hours spent with family and friends, couch time with a mug of hot cocoa and a good book—

Oooo, now that last one sounds inviting. Say, girls, do any of you know where I put my reading glasses?

Finally…A Front Porch!

Before I hand things over to Ellowyne, I just want to thank the Lord for helping me complete this project that’s been two years in the making. I’ve prayed over this porch every step of the way—from prayers that I wouldn’t fudge on the detailed painting to prayers that I would make the correct cuts to prayers that I could drill straight holes, etc.—and I just have to point out the obvious: God answered every prayer.

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This is the way I made sure the rails were at right angles (after I fit them together with small nails and glue)!

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I attached this brace with only a small jewelry box to hold it in place while I drilled and screwed. Look a little closer and you’ll see God’s hand holding it, as well.

He gave me steady hands when I used the drill—especially during the more stressful moments when I had to attach the brace for the swing, when I attached the railings to the posts, and when I fastened the roof to the back wall. He gave me strength and judgment several times when I had to wrestle with the roof and a free-standing wall (not yet attached to the base and propped up only by a child’s chair) to insure they would mount properly with the porch posts before I could begin securing things together. And considering I had never attempted such a project before, it was only through God downloading His creativity into me via insights, epiphanies, and good advice from my hubby and my dad that allowed all the different pieces of this porch to actually fit together in the end! So, THANK YOU, LORD, for being present in the details.

(And thanks to Mike Harrison for letting me use his drill press, without which I couldn’t have created my railings!)

Ellowyne? Do you have anything to add?

Well, of course I do! Let’s not forget all the help we dolls gave you at the end, there! I’ve got pictures documenting it all. See for yourself:

 

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Here we are at the beginning, having a little pow-wow before getting down to the nitty-gritty.

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Here we are, anchoring the back wall to the porch floor and reattaching the lanterns.

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Prudence and Spring fit the porch posts and railings into the floor.

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Here we are enjoying a job well done and celebrating the fact we now have more square footage in which to stretch—and play and chat and vent and…you get the picture.

Some interesting tidbits you might like to know about this porch’s development:

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The swing cushions inhabit what otherwise would hold birdseed.

Laurie’s oldest daughter initially came up with the idea for a porch when Laurie was pondering future diorama possibilities (this was before my shelves in the dining room were even in the lineup). Laurie then told her mother in MA about the idea, her mother later shared the idea with Laurie’s aunt in TN during a visit, and you know what Aunt Fran said? “Every porch needs a swing.” So she bought a cedar swing originally intended to hold birdseed, fashioned cushions for the swing, and sent it on to Laurie in MT. More than a year later, that swing finally has a home. 🙂

Laurie knew she eventually wanted lanterns to flank the front door, but they had to be the correct scale, so naturally the prevalent three-inch lanterns she could find just about anywhere wouldn’t do. At last she scored after this past Christmas season when she found on clearance a set of twelve plastic lanterns fitted with a string of Christmas lights. The easy part was in popping off the lanterns from the mini light bulbs. The hard part was figuring out how she wanted to attach the lanterns to the back wall and how she could make them light up—because we dolls need functioning lanterns, after all! In the end, she used cup hooks screwed into the wall, black chain links, some black wire, and mini, battery-operated party lights that she can change out when the batteries die (or change the batteries—whichever one is a cheaper fix!).

 

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Lantern with mini party light

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Working lanterns!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The railings are made from trim bought at the hardware store and lots of spindles ordered online from a craft supply store. Using Mike’s drill press, Laurie drilled holes into the flat side of the trim and, after painting all required pieces, she glued the spindles into the holes. The railings were later attached to the posts (originally stair balusters) via small nails used as pegs for precision fit and strength. Strength, you ask? Well, you see how Mistletoe and Tori treat the railings!

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Two things Laurie had to keep in mind when creating this porch:

  1. It had to involve affordable materials so her hubby’s eyes wouldn’t bulge when he read the credit card statements.
  2. Even once she put it together, the porch had to be able to come apart—just in case. So the big pieces like the roof, back wall, and floor are only attached to each other by screws, and the railing system fits into holes in the floor and holes in the roof braces. No glue.
To show you the scale, here's Laurie standing beside the porch.

To show you the scale, here’s Laurie standing beside the porch, which measures 2 ft tall, 4 ft wide, and 16 inches deep.

All in all, we dolls are as pleased as inanimate objects can be over the completion of our front porch! As you can see, we didn’t waste time decorating for autumn…

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…since in a few days we’ll be bringing out the Christmas decorations (yeah, we do that early in this household!). I’m thinking strings of Christmas lights around the railings…a wreath on the door…and maybe we can wedge a Christmas tree over there in the corner! What do you say, Laurie? Think you can find us a twenty-two-inch Christmas tree?

Oh, and I wanted to discuss with you some plans for a possible back porch, now that you know how to go about making these structures. A balcony might be nice down the road, too—

Laurie?

Laurie?

Um, girls…I need some smelling salts over here!

A Teaser

IMG_1790Hello, everyone! Ellowyne Wilde here. I’m back (finally!) with a quick update on how Laurie is coming along on my front porch. She’s allowed me to reveal a few snippets, assuring me she will have the whole thing completed by the end of September. Okay, so she didn’t promise. I believe the word she used was “hope.” But I have to hand it to her; she’s done more work on the porch in the last couple of weeks than she has in the last six months!

Here is the latest piece completed: the porch roof.

All 816 square inches of it!

Finished roof...

Finished roof…

 

 

 

 

After calculating how many shingles she would need to make and how much wood that would entail, Laurie went about using her hubby’s table saw to cut up a 4’ x 2’ MDF board. She had finished just over half the number of shingles when she began to corral them all into a plastic bag. Well, the bag became heavier…and heavier…and heavier…

Note to self: MDF is too heavy to use for shingles when a doll’s front porch is being constructed by a non-professional.

Sigh.

So, Laurie moved on to balsa wood and ordered several sheets of it from an online company. They arrived a few days after she left for vacation this summer. We dolls would have had a work party while she was gone and helped her cut some shingles…except we worried about knicking our plastic and vinyl bodies with the X-acto knife. Thankfully it didn’t take her but a few days to cut the 322 shingles all by herself (8 sheets of 36” x 6” balsa wood sheets, in case you wanted to know!).

During the gluing stage...

During the gluing stage…

Then came the gluing. You guessed it—she used Power Grip glue. And then came the staining, for which she used a cherry finish, along with a 1” foam brush for the shingles and a narrow craft bristle brush for all the tiny spaces in between.

And now that it’s done…we wait.

Because there are several things Laurie needs to finish before she can put all the pieces together. Like attaching the door to the doorjamb on the back wall, for instance.

I watched her working on it yesterday. She didn’t look too happy. Apparently once she screwed the hinges into the door…the door doesn’t fit into the opening anymore! So now she has to take a chisel to the doorjamb.

She had better take care of my wall!

She had better take care of my wall!

Given that the back wall is already finished, she had better not deface my wall with a chisel gone awry!

Ahem.

You know, I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t have hired a real carpenter in the first place—two years ago when this project first took root in that woman’s brain. At the very latest, we dolls probably could have had a completed porch by this time last year!

Of course, then Laurie wouldn’t have had all the fun in making it herself. (She doesn’t like me to remind her of the frustration involved!)

Weighing the options...

Weighing the options…

 

 

 

 

Hmm…weighing the options. Profressional…non-professional. Happy Laurie…disappointed Laurie…

Ooo, wait! Laurie has some carpenter friends, doesn’t she? Surely they’d be willing to lend a hand to a gal in need!

 

 

Yoo-hoo! Mr. Schwaubauer! I could really use your help on something…!

Too busy?

Okay. Um, Mr. Harrison, you interested?

Not into doll-scaled details?

Sigh.

Maybe I should seek out Ty Pennington. Think he’s doing anything important these days?

Anybody know of a reputable carpenter?

Anybody know of a reputable carpenter?

Time to…Play?

Hello, my cyber-space friends. It’s me: Ellowyne Wilde of the Germaine clan, back with some news that’s thrilling enough to keep me happy for more than a few minutes! Yours Truly is now officially in charge of all future Doll Drama posts. Eeee!

I'm excited--can't you tell?

I’m excited–can’t you tell?

Today, I’d like to highlight one of Laurie’s latest projects: an American Girl backdrop. (If I didn’t have three floors of my own and a porch on the way, I might be a little jealous.) From what I understand, these AG dolls—and other dolls of similar size—are quite popular among young girls right now, and I, for one, am very thankful for that…otherwise I might not have half the furniture I currently enjoy in my own not-so-humble abode!

Anyway, it seems Laurie had so much fun making my backdrops that she got it in her head to make some more, except this time on a slightly larger scale for the AG dolls. Heaven only knows what she’s going to do with them all, but that’s her problem, not mine. Just as long as she leaves my corner of the dining room out of it…IMG_1051

So here are the “bones” of her first backdrop: a 2’ x 4’ MDF board (1/8” thick) bought at Home Depot. This picture shows it cut in half then duck-taped together again with an inch-wide “spine,” as well as a cutout for the door. The cutout will later become the actual door.

The next step requires some fun fabric that would look great as wallpaper and spray adhesive glue. Laurie used Elmer’s CraftBond. Cut the fabric so it overlaps the MDF board by an inch or two, protect the area in which you are going to use the adhesive spray, then glue the fabric to the board one section at a time. She did this step too fast the first time and the fabric didn’t stick, so make sure to spray slowly up and down and work the fabric along a few inches at a time, smoothing it out as you go. Because her board was 48” and her fabric only 44”, she used the door frame as a natural break in the two pieces of fabric and lined up the pattern accordingly.IMG_1248 After that, it’s ModPodge time. Two coats of ModPodge, sanding after each coat. This gives the fabric durability and makes it feel less like cotton fibers. 😉 Once that’s dry, carefully flip the backdrop over and ModPodge the ends of the fabric to the back of the board.

 

 

Next stop: the doorframe. Laurie used 1-inch wide trim from Lowe’s as the frame and chiseled out the areas in which the hinges could nestle so the trim would lay flush against the “wall.”IMG_1246 Next she stained the wood and then glued the hinges into place.

Time to make the donuts…er, the door! Using the cutout as her base, she first measured and cut strips of Balsa wood for the detailed work then stained everything the same color as the frame (I know it doesn’t look the same, but it is; case of different types of wood). Afterward, she glued the Balsa wood to the door base, taking care to hide the hinges beneath the right-hand strip of wood.

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The door pre-assembly…

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The door after assembly…

What kind of glue did she use for the wood, you ask? Her go-to glue, of course: Loctite Power Grab, which holds fast and dries clear.

Lastly, she glued on the doorknob—found in the scrapbooking department at her local craft store!! Perfect size, isn’t it? If scrapbooking places are hard to come by in your area, Home Depot has a great selection of small cabinet hardware you could use for a doorknob. (It worked for my front porch, but shhh—I’m not supposed to tell you that yet!)

Isn't this fantastic?!

Isn’t this fantastic?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh, look...it's Caroline!

Oh, look…it’s Caroline!

Make yourself right at home, dear...but I get my desk back after this post!

Make yourself right at home, dear…but I get my desk back after this post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now that the hard work is done, let the glue set for 24 hours…and you’re ready to play! I, uh, mean, your kids are ready to play. Naturally, I don’t mean you. (Not to worry—your secret is safe with me…)

Hey, Laurie, guess what…

You're not the only grown-up who plays with dolls!

You’re not the only grown-up who plays with dolls!

Ladders and Railings and–oh, MY!

Hello! Ellowyne Wilde here. Laurie has graciously allowed me to write another post—

~She twisted my arm.~

I am a doll. The only arms I’m twisting are my own ball-jointed ones!

~(She twisted my arm.)~

Anyway…my bedroom is now one step closer to completion, for Laurie finished making the ladder and railings for the loft area!IMG_1200 I wish I could claim to have built them myself, but I don’t go anywhere near power saws. Do you realize what sawdust would do to my hair? To say nothing about my clothes and joints and—

~Moving on.~

—(And my shoes!) So, the railings. After spending an enormous amount of time making the railings for our front porch (she won’t let me post a picture yet—hmph!), Laurie decided to take the easy route for our loft and bought a railing that in other homes would sit atop a kitchen cabinet. Not the case in this home. After cutting it to fit the perimeter of the loft, she stained it to match the loft floorboards and wall timber.IMG_1136 I’m told she will eventually anchor the railings to the floor, but for now, they’re just sitting there. Careful, Mistletoe!IMG_1201

To construct the ladder, she bought another 3 ft railing (yes, she decided to pay for the convenience of having pre-drilled holes rather than making the drive to use a friend’s drill press—again) and pulled the pieces apart after cutting it to the correct length. The little posts she set aside for some future project—who knows what at this point in time—and painted the “holey” lengths with Valspar Ultra Paint + Primer.IMG_1198 From a 5/16” x 36” dowel, she then cut nine ladder rungs and painted them with Valspar Royal Gray (looks dark blue to me). Once everything had dried, she fit the pieces together and voilà: We have ourselves a ladder!IMG_1199

Again, Laurie has promised to glue the rungs to prevent the ladder from falling apart, but everything is—for the moment—tightly wedged together. (And I was too anxious to get this post off to wait around for the glue to dry!) So…um…use with extreme caution, Tori!

 

 

Tori and Mistletoe making mischief in the loft.

Tori and Mistletoe making mischief in the loft.

Sigh. Why did we want a ladder, again?

Sigh. Why did we want a ladder, again?