Good golly, it's not Ms Molly

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

30 January 2013

Miniaturists please note that there is a spam email going around the circuit. At first glance it looks as though it comes from Molly Cromwell - organiser of amazing dolls' house tours. It reads as follows;

Sorry to bother you with this, I had a sudden trip out of the country to Belgium to see my ill cousin, she is suffering from Kidney disease and must undergo Kidney transplant to save her life. The surgery is very expensive here, so I want to transfer her back home to have the surgery implemented. I really need to take care of this now but my credit card can't work here. I traveled with little money due to the short time I had to prepare for this trip and never expected things to be this way right now. I need a loan of $1,500 from you and I'll reimburse you at my return.  I will really appreciate whatever amount you can come up with if not all, get back to me I'll advise on how to transfer it.
Molly Cromwell

Please ignore this! Molly's email list has been hacked. Do not send any money and be kind enough to let other unsuspecting - and kind-hearted people know. Sometimes it's a cruel world that we live in.




A J-Cloth is for frills AND spills

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

28 January 2013


I called in to see my 23-year-old daughter on friday to discover her hard at work creating a costume. In her spare time she is a 'larper' (that's Live Action Role Player), where individuals assume the identity of a character (often part of a tribe) and live out scenarios over a weekend in a live version of a Dungeons & Dragons-style game. There never seems to be a dull moment for those who go along to the regular meets ; with a fair amount of strategic planning, actual combat (and I have tried out the bow & arrow), music and dancing, beer swilling, and plenty of mud to keep everyone occupied!

For this year's adventures my daughter was seeking a Shakespearean-style look (admittedly it was going to be worn over a metallic skin with a headpiece adorned with two massive curved horns!). She'd already found instructions on the internet on how to make those fabulous puffed sleeves with a slashed effect. She has sourced fabric from various charity shops and had found a lovely baroque design, and some plush crimson velvet to work with. Now it was a question of getting the shape right for the sleeve. It was at that point I had rung the doorbell.

I've made clothes in my time - real size, and of course in miniature - so I knew the thing to do would be to make a template. Not wanting to use any of the precious fabric I hit on the idea of using J-Cloths - easily stitched together on the sewing machine to create a bigger piece of cloth to work with. A trial shape was cut, pinned, and tried on. Not quite right. This template was adjusted with a second piece and bingo! This shape was transfered to the real fabric, and the J-Cloth awaited its original purpose. Job done!

And of course, I'm pleased as punch that the creative gene has been handed-down...and the nose for a good charity-shop bargain! Whether the the clearing up will be done with the same gusto remains to be seen!


Tales from the Toy Fair

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

23 January 2013


The Toy Fair is on this week at Kensington Olympia. With 250 exhibitors ranging from the large internationals to brand new start up companies, the Toy Fair is the only dedicated toy trade event in the UK. With a staggering 24,000 square meters of space devoted to the toy, game and hobby business there's a lot to see. Like a child escaping from school I took advantage of seeing how dolls' houses were represented at this major event by requesting a press pass. Magic!

 toy fair press pass

Unlike Santa's grotto, the Toy Fair is not home to a cheerful bunch of elves merrily helping out Father Christmas brandishing the latest toys, while Mamma Christmas circulates with trays of mince pies and hot chocolate. So maybe it is just as well that this event is for grown-ups! There were lots of men (and women) in grey suits talking very seriously about packaging, market value, branding and promotion tactics. They did this though surrounded by every manner of toy that you can think of…and this being a showcase for new products…some you haven't even heard of! Each exhibitor hoping that their product will be the next big thing (or even small thing - those pocket money priced, collectibles - or swapsies! - are big business). This is the view from the upper gallery looking across the venue.

 Toy Fair 4

Those attendees who drew the short straws spent the day dressed as favourite toy characters. Though on a snowy day like yesterday, maybe the extra bulk was welcome! I narrowly missed colliding with Dennis the Mennis on my way up to the Press Suite; no mince pies but there was cake and coffee. Journalists were working away at laptops, and today The Guardian website carries a picture gallery from the event. And I'm sure that there will be lots of other toy-related features and media bulletins propelled around the circuit. Maybe you'll catch a glimpse of the giant dinosaur too? This is the official picture of the numerous larger-than-life characters - how many do you recognise?


Spotting the celebratory was easy when they were this size. But also on view inflatable versions, pocket-sized pals, and other assorted plastic friends (I rather liked this imposing Batman, though I think he was more to draw in the crowds than to take home), and soft plush Pepper Pigs a-plenty! 


And dolls' houses? Yes, there were a number, of which this is one of the many pink versions available (I'll be writing more about my finds in the magazine). There were also castles, fire stations, farms and stables. But its good to know that the dolls' house is one of the staples in the traditional toy market. Hurrah for that!

Pink dolls' house

It's snowtime!

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

21 January 2013


There is something lovely about Sunday evening costume dramas, and last night was a joy with Call the Midwife, followed by Mr Selfridge. As the snow fell outside, I was warm and snug and wrapped up in the stories of the past. But then came Monday morning, where the lingering snow wasn't so delightful. But, deciding this year to look more on the positives, I thought at least there was a photo opportunity. From The Dolls' House magazine window we can see Lewes Castle. I thought that today would be the day to look in from the other direction. So, come lunchtime, armed with my camera, I set off.

 castle up

It was worth the climb! The views across the snow covered landscape were spectacular. I took lots of pictures and some video footage too, capturing the sound of birdsong, and children playing in nearby Baxter's Field.


In this picture you can see The Dolls' House magazine office, it is the yellow building in the bottom left hand corner. Our office window is the top left, with Black & White Photography, and Outdoor Photography magazines taking the other two top floor windows. Bet they've been out with their cameras!

barbican gate snow

Looking the other direction in this shot you can see the Barbican Gate. I thought I'd walk back down from the main part of the castle and across to this iconic gatehouse. Little did I realise that my isolated idyll was about to come to an end! As I walked up the narrow path and through the doorway into the chamber, I saw a hooded figure. Was this another intrepid photographer? Hmm, no sign of a camera. A lonely tourist? Didn't look the type. 


On the point of tiptoeing out (or screaming) a final glance at the figure calmed my beating heart. This was not a real person, but a very good model figure! But boy was I fooled, and even knowing this I approached him very cautiously to take this photograph. Stupid I know. Maybe I've seen one too many Doctor Whos in my time, where mannequins come to life!


Crafty kids

Karen Bamford

Karen Bamford

17 January 2013

Here's an ideal opportunity to get kids interested in miniatures and crafting while also learning about World War II. My nine-year-old's homework last week included making a model of an Anderson Shelter. Yippee, homework that was fun and that I could actually help him with!

Families that were poor were given their Anderson Shelter for free, but anyone earning £5 a week or more had to buy theirs for £7. Rich or poor, you had to construct it yourself and dig a hole in your garden so that it could be partially buried. (Unfortunately this meant that they often flooded and so about three-quarters of the population never used their shelters.) That aside, Arron and I felt the hole was an important factor to recreate in miniature, so the model had to have depth.

 Arron's Anderson Shelter

We started with a shoebox. The top would be the garden, covered in modeling turf, and a hole would be cut, with stairs leading down to the shelter. The shelter itself was simply constructed from corrugated cardboard, painted silver. We read that householders were told to cover their shelters with mud or turf, but some didn't bother, and this was excuse enough not to spoil Arron's lovely handiwork!

He was happy, however, to muddy up the grass with a wash of brown paint. A creative addition to the scene was sandbags to offer protection from blasts. These were made from used teabags, which we left in a cooling oven to dry. Unfortunately we forgot to retrieve them until after the oven had been switched back on again for dinner. The result was a lovely aroma of Redbush tea and some rather toasted looking sandbags.

I was keen to fill the shelter with makeshift beds, a couple of mugs and some books or magazines. Arron's enthusiasm had waned by then and as he had done his duty by getting this far (and it was his homework and not mine!) I stood him down.

Don't miss this exhibition

Karen Bamford

Karen Bamford

17 January 2013

North Wales Miniaturist and Doll House Club has announced a change to the opening times of its exhibition at Bodelwyddan Castle. It will now be open at weekends only from 19 January until 10 February, 10.30am-4pm, and then daily the following week 11-17 February, 10.30am-4pm.

Club Secretary Anita Roberts said: "Our sincere apologies to anyone who has taken the trouble to visit and been disappointed but unfortunately, posters, flyers and advertisements had gone out prior to the changes."

Time to call myself to order

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

16 January 2013

Just taken a belated look at Making's blog. And wow - I love these ideas! I think if my workspace looked as pretty as some of these do it would really cheer up these January days. And if the snow does fall, I'll have no excuse to avoid staying in and getting sorted!!.aspx


Crash landing

Karen Bamford

Karen Bamford

15 January 2013

The crash landing of a model aircraft into a dolls' house is probably a more common occurrence than you might imagine. Over the decades, no doubt, boisterous little brothers have caused such calamities to befall their sisters' toy homes. Today anyone with a collectible dolls' house will be firmly steering small children with low flying planes well away from their pride and joy.

Or will they? The coming together of two ideas this weekend got me thinking about installing a model plane in a dolls' house - deliberately and artistically of course!

Firstly, my nine-year-old son spent Sunday afternoon painting an Airfix model of a Spitfire. He did a great job and the finished model, which sits on the palm of my hand, was proudly carried to school on Monday to add to his classroom display of World War II artifacts.

Secondly, watching ITV's drama, Mr Selfridge, I was amazed to see the entrepreneur persuading French aviator and the first man to fly across the English Channel, Louis Blériot, to make a personal appearance in the store along with the aircraft in which he made his historic flight. Imagine the excitement this publicity stunt created as shoppers surged to Selfridges to see the plane in the shop!

This was when I got to thinking about what fun it would be to recreate the scene in miniature. Just imagine making a miniature department store with the crazy addition of an aeroplane inside! I think Arron's Spitfire would suit a 1:48 scale project, but no doubt Airfix offers various sizes as well as designs.

So when he brings his plane back from school at the end of term, I will encourage him towards a carefully controlled landing.

Competition encourages creativity

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

10 January 2013

I was browsing the web this morning when I came across Christina Orleans' blog. She's charting her progress renovating her real house. And, being a miniaturist you can follow her progress on her miniature house as well. But she also has a challenge for other minaturists, on her website she says...

Most of us have ideas and plans (and Pinterest boards) for the extravagant dream house we may or may not ever have.  That's what is so fun about building your dream space from scratch.  Dreaming of a Smeg fridge??  You can have one in your dollhouse, for only a few dollars if you are up for the simple DIY.  An ultra modern house maybe?

But this dollhouse contest is not limited to actual houses, either.  You can make a little studio, bakery, clothing store (I'm tempted to try that!)…whatever you dream about doing.  How about a Japanese teahouse?

You don't have to purchase an actual house or building either.  Here's a contemporary loft made out of a $13 plastic box from IKEA.  Or you could make one out of a shoebox or foam core


Here's what will happen:

  1. Begin building your dream place in miniature.  Link up to the contest anytime between now and May 4, 2013. 
  2. On Sunday, May 5th, you and anyone else who has access to a computer will be able to vote on their favorite mini creations. Each voter gets up to cast up to three votes (only one vote per dollhouse).
  3. One week later, on May 12th, you will have determined three winners. The first place winner will receive a $100 gift card, the second a $50 gift card and the third a $25 gift card. Read more about the prizes here.

So spread the word, especially if you are participating! 

Check out the details of Christine's Undersized Urbanite Dollhouse Contest at

Don't you just love the sharing community that we have? 

2013 here we go!

Christiane Berridge

Christiane Berridge

2 January 2013

After what seems like forever I am back in the office this morning and trying to pick up the editorial strands that I put down to enjoy the festive break. In the world of magazines this means wrapping up the March 2013 issue just as the real world gets to grips with January. After a dozen years at the helm I've just about got used to the way our forward planning works! 

As much as I enjoyed Christmas - and I hope you all did too - I do like the clean slate that the New Year presents. There is only so much sitting around that I can do before cabin fever sets in. I like the idea of new projects - and this includes miniatures ones as well as real-size, although as yet they tend to be the more domestic (yet another clear out of unworn clothes to enable my wardrobe doors to close), and don't even get me started on what I need to do in my garden - it looks really be-draggled. With any luck it won't be too long before I can get settled to something more creative! I certainly will be challenging myself with some more photography assignments.

There was plenty of interesting television and radio productions on over the Christmas period to inspire. I was delighted to listen to Radio 4s adaptation of Alice Through the Looking Glass over Christmas, it tied in so well with our January 2013 issue. Such a lucky coincidence....and then the Christmas Downton Abbey special - matching our feature in February's issue which is out on sale in the shops tomorrow. What did you make of that dramatic ending? And of course with Call the Midwife too, I'm buzzing with excitement with another fantastic issue on its way. You'd almost think I was glad to be back at work!