Wednesday, 31 December 2014

2014 word of the year

I heard a few years ago about the idea of summarizing your whole year in one word. Not the easiest of tasks, but here's my attempt:

2014 = Progress

Our falling apart house is far from what most people would call acceptable, but it is a lot, lot better than it was when we moved in 2013. We have safe and secure stairs that you don't need climbing equipment to use. We have lintels over doorways so we don't have to worry about bricks falling on our heads. It's all signed off by the building code people. We got central heating well in time for Winter (major win!) and even replaced the front door so I don't have to kick my way into the house. There's still a lot to do, and we're a long way off even thinking about actual decor, but it is certainly progress on a work in progress.

We've got a proper staircase now - progress!

I changed jobs in 2014 after over 5 years in the same place. It's closer to home and hopefully has more scope for my to grow. It feels like progress to me. I sure hope it will be!

And on a note that I'm sure will bore most people, I am finally making progress on getting my weight and diet in check. It was never extremely bad (I'm lucky enough to sincerely dislike soda!), but it wasn't great and I have put on a few too many pounds in recent years. But now it is slowly but surely progressing in the right direction. Here's hoping I can keep going with it throughout 2015 and beyond.

More of this!
Less of this!

Now the only thing that didn't really progress for me in 2014 was my Etsy shop. What with all the DIY and job searching etc., it rather went on the back burner. Sure, I kept it ticking over, but I didn't make a fraction of the new miniatures I used to, and I certainly didn't do much in the way of marketing and publicizing or whatever it is the Etsy gurus are always referring to. I won't pretend it's going to suddenly pick up loads in 2015, because clearly there is still lots to do in the house and my job should be getting busier and busier. But I hope I can at least keep Little Time Wasters ticking along and get some new miniature made, as I do really enjoy doing it.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Pizza Party

Here's a miniature pizza I made recently. There's a slice already cut so your dolls can get started with their pizza party.

I'm also making a tutorial on how I made this dollhouse miniature pizza, which I'll hopefully have finished soon!

Friday, 26 December 2014

Hexie Flower Basket

I made a flower basket patchwork wall hanging a year ago for my nan-in-law, and my mother-in-law liked it so much, she got her own version for Christmas this year. I've been wanting to share for a while but she'd be bound to find my blog if I posted it before Christmas, so here we are now!

This was done entirely by hand using the English paper piecing technique. I am still obsessed with hexagons. Each one measures less than 20mm across, so they were quite fiddly, small patches - just the kind I like.
Here is a close up of the basket so you can just about make out the quilting (all by hand). I did the leaves and the basket, which was enough to keep everything securely quilted without distracting from the patchwork picture.

And here is the design I used which I more or less made up as I went along. As you can see, I very nearly followed it properly, but I always seem to make a few changes as I go along.

This was the original flower basket wall hanging I made for my nan last year. The design is slightly different, since I my original sketch and it was easier just to draw a new one from scratch.

This one has less of a white background, which is probably why I remember it being so much faster to do!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Real life baking

Everyone that celebrates Christmas has Christmas traditions, and one of mine is baking. Throughout the year I make the odd quiche or flapjack, but at this time of year I go a little wild on the baking front. The main candidates are mince pies, gingerbread, fairy cakes and whatever else I fancy, which can be florentines or macaroons or who knows what. I spend a day just before Christmas baking up a storm to be given out to the various family members we visit during the holidays.

Here's what this year's baking session extraordinaire yielded.

Mince Pies. It's not really Christmas in England until you have some mince pies. Mine are small and a bit ugly, but they taste gorgeous! For anyone unfamiliar with mince pies, they're little pastry pies full of mincemeat, which doesn't actually have any meat in it. It's a concoction of dried fruits, sugar and spices that just tastes of Christmas.


Gingerbread biscuits. Another flavour of Christmas that I love, plus I have found an (almost) idiot-proof recipe so even I rarely mess it up. I'll post the recipe at the bottom of this post.

Fairy Cakes. These aren't particularly Christmassy, but my husband likes them so they get baked. The ones with the cherries on top are for me!

Banana Oaties are something that I make all year round as a breakfast item. They are extremely simple and rather good for you. The only ingredients are mashed bananas and oats! But at Christmas I make a slightly unhealthier version by adding some leftover mincemeat from the mince pies for a Christmassy flavour. Yum. The original recipe can be found here. It's still better for you than nearly anything else we consume at Christmas.

Gingerbread biscuit recipe
I can't remember where I found this recipe, it's certainly not my own! But it's easy to follow and makes lovely gingerbread biscuits.
You will need:
350g plain flour
1-2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
100g butter or margarine
175g soft light brown sugar
1 egg
4 tablespoons golden syrup
Makes about 20 biscuits.
Put the flour, ginger and soda into a bowl and rub in the butter.
Add the sugar and stir in the syrup and egg to make a firm dough.
Roll out to about 5mm thick and cut out your biscuits. I just make round ones as I only have a round cutter, but clearly I need to invest in some gingerbread men cutters!
Bake at 190 C/Gas 5 on a greased or lined baking tray for about 10-15 minutes until golden brown. Space them out as they will spread! Leave to firm up for a couple of minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.
Once cooled, decorate (the fun part!).
The raw dough is super tasty but it contains raw egg so you shouldn't eat it (not that I heed my own advice). You have been warned!


Monday, 22 December 2014

A little something sweet

Here are a couple of flower cupcake rings I made to add a little sweetness to someone's day.

I enjoy making little cupcake rings as there are so may different ways to do it. 
But sometimes the simple ones like these are just as satisfying.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Cupcakes, cupcakes, cupcakes

It's nearly Christmas so there's already a ridiculous amount of super sugary food everywhere. But that doesn't make cupcakes any less appealing. Especially teeny, tiny dollhouse miniature cupcakes. And at least my cupcakes won't make you put on any weight (although they don't taste too good).
With a penny for scale.

Monday, 15 December 2014

Deck the Halls

Whenever I see red, green and gold, I think of Christmas! So with that colour scheme in mind, here is my latest project - a tree skirt. For once I made something I intend to keep for myself, as we have never had a tree skirt so I can kid myself we 'need' one. Plus it matches my existing decorations.

Detail on the fabric.
 I actually started this project in early November, but since it's entirely hand sewn, I wanted to give myself plenty of time to have it actually ready for Christmas. Luckily, I was aided by the fact that we don't put up our tree particularly early. Partly because we have birthdays in December that we like to celebrate first, but mainly because I really find it helps keep it special if the decorations don't go up until just a week or so beforehand.

The tree skirt in action!

Here is some bunting I knocked together last Christmas to cheer up my lounge, which was looking a little bare and sad (we didn't have anything Christmassy except the tree).

It hangs from random nails already in my beams, so is a breeze to put up and take down, plus unlike tinsel which can get a little musty while it's stored throughout the year, this bunting can be thrown in the washing machine if need be. I made this from leftover scraps of material, so all I really bought especially was the red ribbon.

Sunday, 14 December 2014


I randomly made a miniature banoffee pie recently. I was icing miniature cupcakes and I thought, this icing looks like banoffee pie filling, so that's what it became. Luckily I had loads of banana slices already made (but of course).

Friday, 12 December 2014

Christmas miniatures

It's December so it's officially allowed (in my little world) to talk about Christmas. Hurrah!
Here is my latest miniature festive creation:
I love making miniature gingerbread houses as each one is unique, but they are a bit fiddly!
Here are a few more Christmas themed miniatures to be found on Etsy which will add a little festive cheer to any 12th scale dollhouse scene.
Christmas Tree by 12thCouture
Christmas room box by Minicler
Baubles by mettelaurendz
Elf making ornaments by StorybookMiniatures

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Polymer clay treasures

I was in a treasury on Etsy including lots of lovely polymer clay items. It's nice to see a dollhouse miniature represented, but it's also cool to see all the different ways people use my favourite medium polymer clay. Does it give you inspiration for a new polymer clay project? It does for me!

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Liquorice Allsorts Tutorial
An early Christmas present from me to you, this tutorial is great for absolute beginners because it shows you a couple of very useful techniques in their simplest form, but you don't need loads of expensive equipment.
You will need:

Black polymer clay
White polymer clay
Yellow polymer clay
Pink polymer clay (you'll probably need to mix white and pink to achieve the correct shade)
Mid brown polymer clay
Orange polymer clay
Rolling pin (I use an old pen!)
Sharp blade
Ceramic tile to work on

1.Before you begin, you need to ensure your work area and hands are clean, because unbaked polymer clay is a fluff magnet. I like to work on a large, blank ceramic tile, as this can go straight in the oven when it is time to bake the clay, without having to move your work and risk unwanted fingerprints. It helps to use a white tile, as fluff shows up better on it.

2. The clay needs to be conditioned to avoid it cracking later on. Do this by rolling it in the palms of your hands to put some heat into it so it becomes more malleable. My top tip for this tutorial is always start with the lightest colour first. If you start with the black clay, you will get black all over everything and turn everything grey. When you do handle colours which stain, such as black, dark pink and brown, be sure to wash your hands before handling lighter colours again.

3. Let's start with the round yellow and pink liquorice allsorts. For this you need to make a very simple cane. Start by rolling out a sausage of black polymer clay about 7mm in diameter. It only needs to be one or two inches long (this will be enough for squillions of miniature sweets). Then roll out a strip of the outer colour (pink or yellow). It needs to be at least as thick as your sausage was, and as wide as your sausage is long.

You always need much more of the outer colour (pink or yellow) than you'd think. Cut one end of your outer colour so it is even, and begin wrapping your black sausage. Once the two sides fully wrap the sausage, cut the other end of the outer colour so it is flat and lies flush. This way, it should be evenly thick all the way round, and you won't have any overlap.

 4. Slowly roll your completed liquorice cane thinner and thinner until it is the desired size I like my liquorice candy to be about 2mm in diameter. You need to roll as evenly as possible so the cane doesn't warp. I use just my two index fingertips, working from the middle outward and pressing only lightly. Don't roll too hard, as the cane can very quickly become unworkably thin. Don't worry about the ends being too thick or looking terrible, the ends of canes are always scrap. Keep the polymer clay though, it may come in useful for something else.

5. Your cane may become really long, so cut it in half every so often so it is easy to work with and fits on your ceramic tile. You'll also get a sneaky preview of the inside of your cane.  

Once it is the desired diameter, it is ready to bake according to the polymer clay manufacturer's instructions.  

6. For the smaller and longer black and white liquorice allsorts, follow the same method but alter the ratio for the inner and outer colours. The inner white sausage needs to be thicker, and the outer black wrap-around needs to be thinner.

But still be careful not to overlap the black, or it will warp the shape.

Roll out to approximately 1mm in diameter, and now it's ready to bake.


7. Now for the square liquorice allsorts. For this we will use a layering and reducing technique. Begin by rolling flat your white polymer clay to approx 4-5mm in thickness. Width doesn't matter but you don't want it much bigger than a couple of centimetres (one inch) or it becomes difficult to work with). Do the same for whichever colour you are using (brown, orange, yellow, or pink), and finally the black polymer clay. It doesn't matter what size you choose, but make sure all the different coloured pieces are approximately the same as this makes for less waste.

8. Layer your colours according to whichever kind of liquorice you are making. I can never remember what order it should, so I like to reference a photo  (or even better buy some real liquorice!). 
9. Now slowly and evenly roll out your layered polymer clay, turning over every so often. If your clay seems to get stuck to your work surface, slide your blade underneath it. Don't pull it or it will warp - or worse break! The outer layers will try to thin out faster than the inner layers, so it's important to do it slowly and gently. Keep going until your layers are about 1.5-3mm thick in total depending on how many layers you have. Don't go too thin or you won't be able to make out the layers on the finished sweet.

10. Using your sharp blade, cut lines vertically and horizontally about 3mm apart. At this point, do not try to separate them all out. It will take you years!


11. For the twisted black liquorice, roll out a piece of black polymer clay as thinly as you dare without breaking it. It doesn't have to be a very long piece, in fact I would cut it in half if it gets to more than 10cm (4 inches).

Take two of these thin strands and pinch them together at one end.

Then roll the loose ends to form a twist. You have to be very gentle so you don't squash the clay and lose the pattern.


12. The liquorice allsorts are now ready to be baked according to the polymer clay manufacturer's instructions. I use Fimo Soft which goes in the oven at 125 Celcius for 25-30 minutes, but you should check yours.
Don't bake your rolling pin like I nearly did!
 13. Allow all your miniatures to cool thoroughly before handling. Now for the fun part, cutting up your canes and layers for the finished candy. Using your sharp blade over the ceramic tile, cut your round cane aproximately every 1-2mm. The candies may ping out and you will be finding them forever more in every nook and cranny, so be careful when you do this. And don't have anyone sitting opposite you, it could land in their eye!
14. For the square liquorice allsorts, simply slice your blade down the vertical and horizontal lines you already made. You could snap them out, but it makes for a cleaner edge to use your blade. Scrap any candies whose layers are not complete (the ones near the edge of the sandwich may have to be scrapped).
A final word of warning: please be careful when handling blades and hot items from the oven. Please do not leave your miniature liquorice unattended with young children, because they are very small and very yummy looking but are very, very inedible!