25 Jun

Shelf dreaming

Geez, where have I been? I write blog posts all the time — but they never seem to make it past Facebook. I need to do a better job of just putting everything here as well.

Anyway. So I want to put a big ol’ shelf unit on the high wall in my bedroom (the ceiling is vaulted and one of the walls is VERY tall). The IKEA KALLAX unit I have is not enough.

So I was thinking of doing floating shelves all the way up. Maybe LACK shelves (because, dammit, they are cheap and plain).

But then I stumbled on this:

Modular shelf

Imagine this in some amazing bright colors. Source: https://www.arun.is/blog/how-i-built-a-modular-bookcase/

It’s just made from plywood and the 75 cent IKEA EKBY STÖDIS shelf brackets. But look at the great atomic-era shape it creates!

So now I’m thinking about this. Only twice as tall. Or something like that. 😀

31 May

One way to create your own fairy garden house

When you’re designing a miniature garden, little “fairy houses” are irresistible. A tiny castle or log cabin or Tudor house, the door ajar, surrounded by tiny trees and vines — there’s really nothing more magical. It’s even more magical if you have them light up in the evening.

The problem, however, is that fairy garden houses are really freaking expensive. The most affordable ones tend to be painted sloppily and poorly made. Ones that are really well-made? Well, you might have to take out a mortgage to pay for them. And that’s no fun at all.

Additionally, do you really want to have the same house in your garden that everyone else does? The ones at Jo-Ann or Michael’s are cute, but what if you want your garden to be unique?

There’s a simple solution to this — make your own! It’s a lot easier than it might seem.

Here is what you need to do this:

  1. Air-drying clay (I used DAS air-hardening modeling clay)
  2. Aluminum foil
  3. Craft wire (something like this, but I already had some around)
  4. Clear plastic bottles (I used a Tropicana orange juice bottle and one other smaller bottle that I can’t recall)
  5. Hot glue (hi-temp unless the house will never be in the sun) and a glue gun
  6. Watercolor paints

If you are a crafter, it’s likely you already have a bunch of these on hand. The only thing I had to buy was the clay.

First, you will want to cut the bottles down a bit. Cut the base off of each, and then you can cut the neck to make it shorter, cut off a side so the bottles can attach more closely to each other, etc. It’s up to you. Set the lids aside — you might or might not use them later. Hot glue the bottles into position. You can see in the picture that I used two bottles together, and glued them side by side.

Then take your foil and start molding it into shapes, such as an arch to go around a doorway, and a smooth curve where bottles are joined, if you are using multiple bottles. Hot glue the foil onto the bottles.

If you want to have features that look like stems or vines, as I did, use craft wire to create an armature for each structure, then mold foil around the armatures. Again, glue these to the bottles.

You can use the bottle lids as bases for roofs for your house. You can also use other items such as craft sticks for these structures. Glue them on too.

Now, it’s clay time! Get out your air-hardening clay. Roll out pieces of clay, wet your hands down well, and start smoothing the clay onto the structures you’ve created. Keep your hands wet and the surface of the clay wet to smooth it down. Cover the foil structures you have made.



Use a blade to cut away spaces that will become windows. You can also use a blade or a pin to sculpt the clay to look like wood grain or other textures. Using more clay, add windowsills and any other items your house needs.


Set the house aside to dry for at least 24 hours.

Once it’s dry, it’s time to paint. You don’t need any special type of paint. Watercolor works well, and is very forgiving for this. Start painting the house, and use multiple layers of color to make it look more realistic. Let your layers dry a bit before continuing, but since they are watercolors it’s a short wait.



Keep adding paint until you are done. (I always keep going a bit after I should have stopped. You can always add more but it’s harder to remove if you’ve added too much!)


Once the paint is dry, all that remains is to put some LED lighting inside if you like, and you might consider spraying a protective varnish of some sort on the outside if it will be spending much time outdoors. You’ll want to protect the paint from water and UV light.

And there you have it! This one is actually the second one I’ve made. (The first one is the tiny one on the left of the picture below.) I know I can make them even better with some practice. I love that I have a miniature house for my garden that no one else has!


 I must give credit to Creative Mom on YouTube, who inspired me with this video. Her houses are much more professional appearing than mine, but I think with more practice I can get there. 🙂 And even one that isn’t perfect is pretty darned neat.

10 Aug

Paisley Tote Bag project

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted here! Well, moving across the country can do that to you. I have a lot of potential posts saved up, and I hope I will be able to get to them soon.

Here’s a quick little project I just finished up last night: a simple paisley tote bag. What’s cool about this one? I designed the fabric myself!

I’ve designed fabric patterns for Spoonflower off and on for a while, but despite that, I’ve never actually made anything out of the fabric I designed. I only have swatches of each design on hand. I really wanted to try to make something, but I wanted something quick and easy.

A while back, Spoonflower integrated with Sprout, a company that will sell you fabric custom printed with pattern pieces. You can buy simple patterns like this tote bag, or more complicated dresses, jackets, and so on. I decided to try Sprout with a simple tote bag, using one of my fabric designs.  Read More

02 May

The Miniature Fairy Garden Project: Playing With Scale


Before I get to what I promised last time, I want to talk for a moment about scale. Like model railroads, fairy gardens come in many scales. The most common is 1:12 or 1″ scale, which means one inch in your miniatures is the equivalent of one foot in the real world. Other common scales include 1:24 or 1/2″ scale (1/2 inch is the equivalent of a foot) and 1:48 or 1/4″ scale, which means 1/4 inch is the equivalent of a foot.

If you’re not sure what scale your accessories are (or may need to be), there is a very useful chart at minigardener.wordpress.com that helps you estimate. (There are also some great photos to illustrate the scales there.)

An example in the chart is the height of the door in your fairy house. If the door is 6″–7″ tall, it’s probably 1:12 scale. If it’s 3″–4″ tall, think 1:24. And if it is 1 1/4″–1 1/2″ tall, it’s likely 1:48. My garden is pretty small — the average scale is closer to 1:48.

However… as it turns out, there are a lot of accessories out there that aren’t made to one of these scales. Sometimes you find the perfect miniature mansion or tiny teeter-totter or wee wishing well, and it just doesn’t match your planned scale. What do you do then?

You have a couple of possibilities. One is to decide you don’t really care about scale — maybe your fairies come in all different sizes. It won’t look as “perfect, but that may not be what you are interested in for the project anyway. And that’s OK. There is another option as well, one I learned from the Imagineers at Disneyland. (Well, from reading about them, anyway.) Let’s look at the photo from the top of the page again:

Which one is bigger?

Which one is bigger?

How tall do you think these houses are, relevant to each other? Is one bigger? Are they the same size? How far apart are they? What do you think? Try to guess before you scroll down further.

Did you guess right?

Did you guess right?

The house on the left is smaller than the one on the right. In the previous picture, however, the eye tends to see them as being roughly similar sizes. When you see a small house in the background, your brain thinks it’s small because it’s far away, not because it really is smaller. (This illusion would work far better if you could not see the wooden boards the houses are sitting on.) This is called forced perspective.

Forced perspective is used in many places, but at Disney theme parks, you can see it used to change the apparent height of buildings such as the castle, and to change the apparent size of Snow White in Disneyland’s Snow White Wishing Well area. For the castle, the upper sections are made smaller than they should actually be, so when a guest sees them, the brain will be fooled into thinking the castle spires are much further away — taller.

The situation for Snow White is similar. Disney received a set of statues as a gift once: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. But… they were all the same size. Snow White was the same height as the dwarfs. And as we all know, she was quite a bit taller in the movie than the dwarfs were. So Disney solved this problem with forced perspective. The Snow White statue is set much further up on the hill than the dwarf statues. The brain is fooled into thinking she only looks too small because of the distance.

(Photo by HarshLight via Creative Commons/Flickr.)

(Photo by HarshLight via Creative Commons/Flickr.)

It’s fascinating; even knowing that Snow White is the same height as the other statues, it’s hard to make yourself see it.

How does this apply to your miniature garden? Two ways. One is that you can make your garden look larger by using forced perspective. Putting small items further away from the viewer will fool the eye into thinking that the space is bigger than it is. And the other way is that you can use it to “mix scales” in your garden. If you have a large house and a very tiny house, use forced perspective so that both of them can fit in the garden without the size looking wrong.

A view from the front of the garden to the back.

A view from the front of the garden to the back.

This photo shows an angled view from the front of the garden to the back. In the front, there is a gazebo. This is the largest-scale item. (It’s actually a tiny bit smaller than it should be for that location. The wishing well that used to be there was larger. The gazebo will probably move a bit at some point for this reason.) Further back, we have a small green house. The scale is a bit smaller than the gazebo — it’s pretty close to 1:48. (The birdhouses are actually too large to be there, except for the smallest one! I should move them.) Still further back, we see two small houses, one of which was the small house in the photo at the top of the page. I’d guess they are about 1:96. And way back there, with the orangish roof and in front of some rocky “hills”, there is a tiny, tiny Tudor-style manor house. I haven’t measured it, but it may be half the scale of the houses in front. And they are right in front of it, but it doesn’t look that way. (That house was a Goodwill find a few days ago. I don’t know if it was for a small scale railroad layout, or a fairy garden, or what, but I was thrilled to find it.)

The forced perspective makes the houses look further apart, and the garden space bigger. I still need to enhance the effect somewhat, however. (Tiny “trees” by those houses, for example. Need to find the right plant for that.)

Another forced perspective example.

Another forced perspective example, from “fairy-eye-view.”

Here’s another example. You can see three layers of distance here. The sign in the front is at least half as tall as the Tudor house right behind it. Think about that for a second. That means that if I put that Welcome sign right up against that house, it would appear to be one story tall! And that would look weirdly big. However, it’s up near the front of the garden, and so the size looks perfectly natural. (It helps that we don’t know what size it should be in the first place.)

Then, way in the back, we see one of the smaller peak-roofed houses. We already know from the photos above that that house is smaller than the one in the middle distance. But in this photo? The brain has no trouble seeing it as larger, and believing it’s just far away.

If I switched those two houses, it would look very odd indeed. We’d see a small house in front, and what would appear to be a giant behemoth of a house behind it. If I moved the Welcome sign next to the small house, it would suddenly appear bigger than a billboard!

So that’s forced perspective. You don’t have to use it, and sometimes you really don’t need to, but it can be a lot of fun to play with — plus, it allows you to acquire lots of accessories in different sizes that otherwise wouldn’t work together.

Next post, I’ll get back to what this one was planned to be — some more things to consider when planning your garden, and the “magic tips” to make your garden come to life.

Don’t forget that if you are in the Seattle area, I teach a workshop on creating your own unique fairy garden. You can find out more and sign up at Verlocal.

See the previous post in this series here.

30 Apr

The miniature fairy garden project: getting started

So, you want to have a fairy garden. Before you get started, there are a few things you should consider. Some of them I remembered to consider myself; others were hard-won wisdom after I’d been working on my miniature garden for a while. No matter what, though, remember that you are doing this to make something you love. In the end, no matter what suggestions I make, the decisions are yours — and if you like what you created, then you made the right ones!

Think about the space you have available and what you might want to fit there. This was one of the earliest stages of my garden: I built some tiny hills and rockeries and planned where some of the houses might go.

Think about the space you have available and what you might want to fit there. This was one of the earliest stages of my garden; I built some tiny hills and rockeries and planned where some of the houses might go.

First: What do you want your garden to be?

  1. Location: There are three basic locations for gardens, in a general sense. Portable indoors gardens are set up in a dish, or a basket, or a flowerpot, or some other container, and kept indoors. Because they are indoors, you don’t have to worry about weatherproofing or things like that. Portable outdoors gardens are the same thing, but they stay outdoors. Sometimes they are in large containers like old wheelbarrows. In-ground gardens are not portable at all. They are right in the ground like any other garden feature.
  2. Size: Once you know your location, you have an idea what size you need. Fairy gardens can be tiny — tiny enough to fit in a teacup! But there are also some that are very large. The space available will help you decide.
  3. When?: The vast majority of fairy gardens people make are spring and summer things. They set them up in the spring, then when fall arrives, they take it down and set everything aside for next year. But there are others that are year-round. (Mine is one of those.) There are also some that are specifically set up for holidays like Christmas. If you are going to do an in-ground year-round garden, as I do, you need to prepare it for winter weather.
  4. Theme: You don’t have to have a specific theme, but it’s common to have a general direction. What will your garden look like? Common themes include Park, Village, Beach, Farm/Garden, Fantasy, or some mixture of these. Mine, for example, is a miniature village. If you chose a theme, it will help you narrow down your choices when you’re deciding what you want to add. But you don’t have to stick to any theme unless you want to.
  5. Style: This ties in to the next topic, “Which type of gardener are you?” Basically this is the sort of garden you want to do — one that is toy-based, so children can play in it; one that is whimsical and fantastic; or one that is so realistic that in a photo, you can’t even tell it’s miniature. A related decision: do you want fairy figures in your garden? Some people do, some people don’t. If you do, that will also relate to the size you choose for your other garden fixtures.

The first three plants went into the garden in September. So tiny!

The first three plants went into the garden in September. So tiny!

Next, what sort of gardener are you?

  1. Purist: Everything looks like the fairies made it out of stuff they found. Think “The Borrowers.” Houses and accessories might be made of twigs, pencils, buttons, paper clips, ribbons, bottle caps, etc. It’s not about realism, but instead making it look like the fairies have created a space in the human world.
  2. Miniaturist: Small is what matters. You might have miniature animals, etc. You’re non-purist about what is included as long as it is small.
  3. Playgrounder: The garden is to be played in, and that is the priority. You design it so kids can move around in or around it, and play with the figures and accessories.
  4. Cutista: Cute is your priority. Realism, accuracy, and coherent style are not as important. It just needs to be adorable. People squee when they see your garden, and rightfully so.
  5. Gardener: You’re doing this for the plants. Your fairy garden will be very, very green.
  6. Combination: Any or all of these! This is probably most common.

Or, you can just wing it. That’s OK, too!

I’ll stop right here for now. The next post will address a few more things to consider when creating or buying, as well as some “magic tips” to help make your garden come to life.

Don’t forget that if you are in the Seattle area, I teach a workshop on creating your own unique fairy garden. You can find out more and sign up at Verlocal.

See the previous post in this series here.

See the next post in this series here.

29 Apr

The miniature fairy garden project

Late last summer, I had an empty space in my yard. Under the living room window, behind the rose bushes, there used to be a ton of marigolds, which sounds nice, but they grew like weeds in that space and looked horrible after they finished blooming. So my housemate dug ’em all out, and there was an empty patch of dirt where they had been. That was in late August.

I had an inspiration to turn the space into a permanent outdoor miniature garden, or “fairy garden.” Eight months later, this is what it looks like now, in April 2016:

Small house with a greenhouse. A mossy front yard, and a thyme "shrub."

Small house with a greenhouse. A mossy front yard, and a thyme “shrub.”

Looking through the village to the more distant houses.

Looking through the village to the more distant houses.

A gazebo on the hill.

A gazebo on the hill.

Thyme and Scotch Moss grow in the village.

Thyme and Scotch Moss grow in the village.

The front step of a new fairy house.

The front step of a new fairy house.

There is an Airstream trailer in the village. Like the other homes, it lights up at night when someone is home.

There is an Airstream trailer in the village. Like the other homes, it lights up at night when someone is home.

Another look through the village. There is a house made of twigs in the background.

Another look through the village. There is a house made of twigs in the background.

The front yard of the "Green House."

The front yard of the “Green House.”

The village lights up at night.

The village lights up at night.

A gazing globe outside the conservatory.

A gazing globe outside the conservatory.

Inside the garden conservatory.

Inside the garden conservatory.

It’s still a work in progress, and there are lots of things planned for it. But I’m pretty happy with it so far. It contains a garden conservatory, a gazebo, several houses, a miniature “Airstream” travel trailer, a small “creek”, lots of plants and moss that are slowly filling in the empty spots, a cemetery, and a tiny, tiny greenhouse containing tiny, tiny seed packets, tools, and potted plants.

The best thing about it is that it is solar-powered! At night, the houses light up, one by one as the “fairies” arrive home. There are also some “street lights” (actually solar path lights).

The second best thing about it is that doing this was cheap! If you go to a garden center (or even Jo-Ann’s) and buy a lot of fairy garden stuff, it will cost you an arm and a leg. But most of what is in my garden I either found at Goodwill, or made myself. There are a few things that don’t fit in that category, but most of those I customized in some way as well.

The conservatory building? Goodwill. The gazebo? Goodwill. The miniature wicker-style rocking chair in the conservatory? Etsy. The greenhouse? Well, I bought the tiny glass building on Amazon, but I made the furniture and accessories to go inside the greenhouse. The little green-painted house in the center? I made that out of polymer clay. The Airstream trailer? Goodwill, and it was once a birdhouse. The stone cave house? Goodwill, and it was made for an aquarium. The great thing is that you can do this too, and have a fairy garden that doesn’t look like anyone else’s.

I’m going to do some posts that talk about the various ways I put this together. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the pictures. And if you are in the Seattle area, I teach a workshop on creating your own unique fairy garden. You can find out more and sign up at Verlocal.

See the next post in this series here!

23 Jan

DIY an inexpensive way to hang posters and prints

If you’ve tried to buy a frame for a large poster-sized print lately, you know how frustrating it is. Nice frames that size are ridiculously expensive. Other frames are less ridiculously expensive, but look cheap. Just tacking or taping the posters to the wall gets old once you’ve graduated from college dorm walls. I have a ton of large movie posters I want to hang in my home, but they aren’t hanging yet because framing them is a big investment.

Then, for Christmas this year, I received a gift card to Parabo Press (thanks, Dave!) where they will print poster-size “engineer prints” from your photos. I ordered one from an Instagram photo, and was pretty happy with the print itself:

But… as you can see, it’s just taped to the wall there with washi tape, and that was not going to be my long term solution. I had to find something else. Read More

14 Jun

The notebook obsession: Pt. 2

(Pt. 1 is here.)

I was craving one of the larger Traveler’s Notebooks at this point. One that would give me more room to draw and plan. And I liked the slightly thinner cover the originals have in comparison to the Renaissance Art journal. (Don’t get me wrong, I love it to pieces. But I wanted something different and more like the real Midoris for the larger notebook.)

I kept looking at the prices and thinking “No, I can’t justify buying one.” But I didn’t want to get one of the “fauxdoris”, either. The thing about Midoris is that they are a bit like Apple products in that they are not just nice products, but they are beautifully designed and packaged and they feel a bit like a treasure to open. Fake Midoris often do not have that quality, though of course some do, and many of them just looked… cheap. The ones that didn’t were expensive, like real Midoris. And even the ones that looked good usually didn’t have that quality of “vintage notebook that Indiana Jones would probably carry around” that I was looking for.

So then, I received an unexpected Amazon gift card. Surprise! I thought about what I would spend it on. A Midori? But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. And then I found this. A set of two notebooks and a pen holder from ZLYC. I was skeptical — surely they had to be cheap crap. I looked in the reviews and was surprised to see that they were almost universally positive, and didn’t appear to all be shills, either. On top of it all, the notebooks are the same size as Midoris (and almost an exact look-alike). I thought about it for a while, then took the plunge, ordering a set in Dark Coffee. Here’s what I got:

Let’s just say I was impressed. The leather was perfect — thin and flexible and yet with some good heft to it. It is nice to hold on to. It smelled good, not of chemicals or mildew. They were put together nicely, and each book came with three random inserts (plus an extra plastic pocket insert in the large book).

The large book had a two graph inserts, a free calendar, and the pocket insert; the small book had all kraft paper inserts. I was thrilled, and immediately started customizing the large book. I may use the small one as a gift since I already have the other from Renaissance Arts.

And now, a few days later, here’s what I have!

I’m terribly happy with it so far. It’s the perfect weight and feel in the hands, and it’s easy to write in. The paper is lovely — at least, the graph paper is. (Haven’t written on the other yet.) I’ve tested it with fountain pens, gel pens, all kinds of pens, and it doesn’t bleed through. It’s very smooth to write on. I’m going to have to find more of the graph inserts!

I got a Midori blank paper insert for it and swapped it in for one of the graph paper ones, since I don’t need both at the same time. It fits perfectly.

I have a feeling I’m going to be carrying this one around for a long time. But now I’ve seen the blue limited-edition Midori notebook — uh oh. Must. use. self-control.

14 Jun

The notebook obsession: Pt. 1

Uh-oh. I’ve got another obsession.

A few months ago, there was a post on Metafilter about something called the Midori Traveler’s Notebook. I had never heard of this. The notebooks, apparently, have a devoted cult of users who buy all kinds of accessories, customize and decorate their notebooks, and generally spend a lot of time using them as planners, sketchbooks, and more. I looked at some links about the Midori notebooks, and thought they looked nice, but not anything I would use much. Though I’ve always loved stationery and journals, I’ve never used them enough. Usually I get one, write in it a few times, then never again.

And then an online friend pointed me to a free journal offer from Renaissance Art. This one. She said “Anyone interested in those Midori notebooks should try this offer. You only have to pay for shipping.” Why not? I thought. I do love journals and notebooks. And $9.99 for a pretty leather journal? What’s not to like? It’s not a Midori-brand notebook, but it is the same size as a Midori Passport-size Traveler’s Notebook, the smaller size, so Midori refills would fit.

I ordered the notebook, and was impressed when, only a few days later, this arrived from Renaissance-Art. (Incidentally — I have no connection with Renaissance Art. I just like the notebook they sent me.)

The notebook was made of beautiful, buttery leather. It smelled good, like a new baseball glove. I went online to see how people use and customize their Midoris and “fauxdoris” like this one, and immediately fell head over heels into the rabbit hole. For example, see this Flickr group. People use the books as sketchbooks, art journals, travel journals, planners, and more.

What is special about them is the refillable system. Refills are held in with elastics, and you can add more elastics to hold more refills. There are a ton of different refills — graph, lined, blank, kraft paper, calendars, zip pouches, etc. It’s not difficult to make your own, either. So if you want to use yours as a personal planner, you might include a calendar, a Chronodex insert, and lined paper. But if you want to use yours as an art journal, your inserts might include drawing paper and a pouch to carry supplies. When you fill up one of the paper inserts, you can take it out and replace it with a new one, even if the rest of your inserts aren’t used up yet. It’s endlessly customizable and flexible.

Of course, I got all excited about this and started customizing mine. Of course.

I love the book and have been using it a lot. But. It wasn’t enough. It’s a bit small for writing, and might work better for me as a sort of wallet, so I wanted the larger size — maybe a real Midori?

And with that cliffhanger of sorts, I’ll stop for now. Watch for Part 2.

28 Feb

Just wrote an article on Medium. It’s about nostalgia, and development, and the city, and the feelings caused by change. Please read and share, if you like.

Erasing place

06 Jan

Bartell’s Soda Fountain, 1922

Something for those, like me, who are interested in Seattle history:

Bartell's Soda Fountain

From The Bulletin of Pharmacy, 1922.

Bartell Drugs is still in business, but, sadly, there are no soda fountains remaining at their stores. There is no longer a store at Second and Union, but there is one a block away on Third.

(This post is mirrored on my soda fountain blog, Phosphates, Fizzes and Frappes.)

26 Dec

Project: Orange coconut oil sugar scrub

Orange sugar scrubThis year my budget for Christmas was lower than it has been in previous years. So I made some presents: orange coconut oil sugar scrubs. They came out perfectly — they smell great and do an excellent job of exfoliating and moisturizing the skin. I love this stuff. As it turned out, the folks I gave it to loved it as well. I may have to do it again.

IMG_1414It was a fairly easy and inexpensive project. Here’s what you need:

  • Coconut oil
  • Sugar
  • Essential oil
  • Anything else you want to include in the scrub
  • Jars
  • Labels
  • Anything else you want to decorate the jars with, such as ribbon

The sugar and coconut oil are roughly a 1:1 mixture, but you can adjust it depending on what you want your scrub to be like. I used orange essential oil, just a bit, and dried orange peel from Penzey’s. The jars were from IKEA ($3.99 for a package of 4). I made the labels myself in Photoshop.

I was inspired by this project, which has been pinned on Pinterest more than 19,000 times! Sometimes Pinterest-inspired stuff can fail pretty badly, but I’ve had relatively good luck with them, and this one was an unqualified success.

%d bloggers like this: