Tag Archive | DIY

DIY Doll Tree Swing

Bonjour, mes amis! C’est moi, Ellowyne Wilde.

It’s a sad time to be me these days. Not only did I (and my dolly peeps) get booted from our cozy home in Laurie’s dining room and crammed into a cold-hearted cabinet (because of a move to another town that ended up not happening!)…

…but we learned a few months ago that as of the end of 2016, Robert Tonner wouldn’t be making any more dolls from the Wilde Imagination line for our lovely collectors. Gasp and cry! No more new Ellowyne or Prudence dolls for Laurie—unless they come by way of her mother as she downsizes. I suppose Laurie has enough of us to keep her occupied, but it’s the principle of the thing. I was just coming into my glory days. You should see what kind of amazing pics people share about me and my Wilde friends on FB, Twitter, and Instagram!

Because Laurie’s somewhat listless right now (a writer without a manuscript to sink her teeth into is like a waitress without customers; a teacher without students; a pastor without a congregation; a doll without her cozy home—er…), I’ve taken it upon myself to present her latest craft. It was a simple feat, really. Just a matter of finding some time to implement it, which she accomplished yesterday as she worked through that day’s Bible study lesson.

(Priscilla Shirer’s Armor of God—so good!)

Ahem.

Here it is:

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A tree swing.

Didn’t I tell you it was simple?

If you’d like to make one for your dolls (okay, fine, your children’s dolls (we both know the truth ;))), keep reading for how she did it. If you don’t care to make one…scroll down a few pics for a brief slideshow near the end.

To make this swing, cut to size any piece of scrap wood, MDF board, particle board, etc., that you have on hand (this one is 3″ x 6.25″, scaled for a 16″ doll), and drill four holes near the corners:

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Prime the board and then paint it/decorate it any way you like. Laurie used Valspar paint in Fresh Cotton, followed by Mod Podge to glue some scrapbook paper overtop, purposely tearing the edges:

Once it’s dry, take jute twine–or any kind of cord or rope–and lace it through the holes so it looks like this:

Or! You can insert the twine through the top and tie a knot at each hole under the swing. Because Laurie needed to get this onto a large branch, she tied knots over the branch:

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And voilà! A tree swing fit for a doll.

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This should help take our minds off our troubling times for a bit, don’t you think?

Or…maybe I spoke too soon? It looks like Pru is about to get some unwelcome company.

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Though Writing Ebbs, the Creative Waters Keep Flowing

I didn’t get a lot of new writing done this summer. With the lack of a schedule, the kids being home for summer break, a family vacation, and the fact I wanted to focus more on querying agents when I did get time to write, fresh words just didn’t make it on the page.

But I stayed creative.

Few words are making it to the computer screen even now that school has started and vacations are over. I’m still querying, but I’m plum dried up and uninspired right now to delve into a new world/new manuscript. Honestly, I’d rather roam around the streets in my imaginary Christmas town, peeking in windows on the lookout for a sequel, but I don’t have enough of a plot to get started. Yet. (Yet–right, Lord?)

Again, however, I’m staying creative.

I’ve come to realize that when my writing well has run dry, the other inventive parts of me flare to life to fill in the void until my well is full again. So…here’s what I’ve been up to over the last few months.

First, I finished some projects that had carried over from the summer of ’15.

Alas, though the tunic top fits great, it doesn’t look great on me. Not my first knitting #fail, and I can always either sell this or reclaim the yarn for a different project, but it’s extremely frustrating to have spent all that time knitting something I won’t wear. :/ The market bag is huge—cuz that’s how I intended it to be—but I keep forgetting I need to sew a liner to the underside of the handle to give it more strength. So…I have yet to use it. #fail again—but only for the time being. 😉

But here’s a #success…

From this:

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As usual, I got too project-happy and forgot to take a pic before taking off the trim pieces!

To this:

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This project had been in the mental plans for at least two years, and last summer I ripped off (gently) the trim pieces and painted inside the cupboards…and then got lost in the plot of my Christmas story and progress careened to a halt. Because who can think about refinishing furniture when there’s a world of characters shouting in your head?

Once I found the fabric I wanted to use for the drawer fronts, I went on a hunt for new drawer pulls. The brass ones I found at Lowe’s, and the two funky ones I found at an Anthropologie store in MA. (And yes, it meant I had to fill in old holes and drill new ones, but the end result was well worth the effort.)

The trim pieces bordering the fabric I cut to size from 8’ trim lengths I bought at Lowe’s. Again. And I might as well say here that the paint I used is Valspar, sold at…yep, Lowe’s. (Love that store.)

After priming the surface, I then painted on three coats of the Valspar paint. I probably would have gotten away with only two coats if my mind hadn’t gone on vacation, because I forgot about my little sponge paint roller I use for furniture and was using a brush, instead. And that doesn’t coat as well as a roller. Thankfully, my mind returned in time for the third coat.

I’ll confess that on my first coat, I did try a DIY chalk paint recipe I found on someone’s blog via Pinterest, which called for some Plaster of Paris. I don’t know how that stuff worked for the woman who claims to have used it successfully, but I should have known things wouldn’t go well when I read on the plaster box that it begins to harden within ten minutes after one adds the water. Say what? But the chalk paint recipe calls for water! Um…don’t use Plaster of Paris if you try a DIY recipe. Thankfully my faux pas isn’t too noticeable. Just don’t get too close!

I’m going to try this chalk paint recipe next time (on a smaller piece of furniture). I’ll let you know how it goes. As for the fabric, I did the same thing here that I do for my doll backdrops: Mod Podge! One coat to glue it to the drawer front, let it dry, then two coats on top to give it durability. I usually sand in between the last two coats.

But my favorite project…the one I finished last week…

I’ll show you next time. 😉

(Hint: it relates to my Christmas story and involves knitting.)

Until then, stay creative in whatever venue God has given you a passion for.

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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.

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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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A Taste of Spring

Bonjour, mes amis! C’est moi, Ellowyne Wilde, back for another post now that spring break is over–for Laurie’s daughters are once again at school and quiet reigns here at the house. While February and March teased Montanans with unusually mild temperatures, April seems to have decided at least one month must come in like a lion and it might as well be her. Yet while out-of-doors still reflects the winter—sans the snow because New England confiscated it all—we dolls on the Front Porch enjoy spring-like views.

Yes, Laurie finally managed to get to a larger craft store in Missoula a few weeks ago and brought us back…well, just this:

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This is all we get? Sigh.

 

In times past, she’s spoiled us with lots more goodies to enjoy, but apparently the store was running low on dolly-sized items. Nonetheless, this sprig of flowers is all we really needed to complete our spring project: a topiary tree!

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Wink Wink

Laurie spruced up our pot, using Mod Podge to affix scrapbook paper to the pot’s exterior and then brushing another two coats of Mod Podge over the paper to harden it and give it a glossier look. We dolls don’t go anywhere near glue for obvious reasons (plus, one never knows what ideas it might put in Mistletoe’s head), which is why Laurie also had to attach the flowers to our tree.

 

 

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Topiary pulled apart

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About to use Mod Podge…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But once the glue dried, it was our turn to do some work…and that ended up being relatively easy (especially since we can divide and conquer jobs between sixteen dolls).

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Within minutes, we had the tree planted and set “just so” on our porch.

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I say the topiary looks fab. Prudence says it looks lonely. Laurie says she’ll keep her eye out for more foliage.

I won’t hold my breath.

What do you think of our tree? Are any other dolls out there decorating for spring? I’d love to see some pics!

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!

We’ve been shuttered!

“So what have you been up to today?” my mom asked during our late Saturday afternoon phone call last week.

I smiled. “I finished making the shutters for my house.”

Pause. Then, “For your house…or Ellowyne’s?”

Touché, Mom.

Considering the plethora of doll-sized work I’ve been doing over the last couple of weeks, her question didn’t surprise me. In fact, the clarification of whose shutters I had made was on the tip of my tongue when she voiced her confusion.

Rest assured, Ello’s front porch will have shutters—but the ones I completed are for my human-sized house.

A little back-story here. Though Kreh and I have lived out west for more than twelve years now (!), we were both born and raised in New England, and there are things back east we still enjoy—the fall foliage being one of them. 😉 Shutters flanking house windows are another. I felt that very strongly with my recent visit back “home,” where the majority of houses—even those newly built—have shutters. Out here in my corner of Montana, the majority of homes do not have shutters. When Kreh and I go for a drive, while he is on the lookout for wildlife, I am on the lookout for cute houses—and nine times out of ten, the houses I consider cute are those adorned with shutters.

For me, a house without shutters is like an actress at the Oscars without any bling. Something’s missing.

Naturally, then, when Kreh and I bought our current house, one of the things we wanted to do was add shutters.

Something's definitely missing...

Something’s missing…

That was almost six years ago!

But it all came together so quickly and easily, I’m flabbergasted as to why we didn’t do this during year one!

I built the shutters out of cedar picket fence boards, cutting them to size and angling the corners at the top where applicable. When all the pieces were cut and knowing I was going to screw in the horizontal pieces from the back, I drew lines on the garage floor using a right-angle ruler and my children’s chalk to indicate where to place the horizontal slats and where to place the vertical pieces so things would look even and uniform from the front when all was said and done. Cedar is soft wood, which means no pre-drilling for the screws, so while my girls played inside with their American Girl dolls, I put together seven pairs of shutters.

Cut the boards...

Cut the boards…

Assemble the boards...

Assemble the boards…

That evening, Kreh and I laid out planks of wood in the backyard, upon which I set down all the shutters and for three and a half hours the next Sunday afternoon/early evening, I stained both sides of fourteen shutters.

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Stain the boards…

And Kreh went hunting.

(I’m teasing him with that last comment. In truth, he felt a little guilty leaving me to do all the staining, but I urged him to go hunt. We all need time for our passions, otherwise we get cranky. And Kreh blessed our family that night with a bull elk for our freezer, so it was a win-win all around!)

Thanks, honey!

Thanks, honey!

Between Kreh’s success hunting, open house at the girls’ school, and our other “extra-curricular activities” during the week, it was late Friday evening before we finally attached the shutters to the house—and fully dark by the time we finished. I could hardly wait for the next morning to see fruit of our labor!

 

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Close up...

Close up…

Another view...

Another view…

So our dream of shutters took five years longer than anticipated to see realization, but it was well worth the wait. I might not have a green thumb, and landscaping is not one of my strengths, but with the help of my hubby’s power tools and the abilities God has given me, I’m grateful to be able to bring a bit of charm to our little Montana home.