Monday 25 September 2017

“To be silent does not mean to be inactive..."

Or at least so said Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

So although things may have been quiet on the blog this summer, there has been quite a lot of varied activity in Small Worlds itself.   Visitor numbers are a bit down, probably because I arrived back here much later than usual and had little chance of doing as much advertising as I would have liked.   A pity, because an excellent new assistant joined the team which has so far consisted of me and Veronika, the granddaughter of a good friend here in Bavorov.  Veronika has been with Small Worlds since we opened way back in 2013 and I could not manage without her, but she is now at university and has a part-time job as well, so sadly has less time to commit to being in the museum. 

To our joint relief, Tomaš joined us at the beginning of the summer and has carried the main load of showing visitors round the houses.   I was listening to him one day and thinking to myself that he does the tour better than I do it myself....

This has left me free to fully enjoy the advantages of having The Stables to work in. I can spread out projects, work on several things at once, leave boxes open as I search for things, and generally create chaos all around me which is clearly my preferred way of tackling tasks. I always plan to be neater and more organised; somehow it never happens. 

And having The Stables also means that when friends come to stay and find themselves creating things for Small Worlds, we have space to work together without cluttering up the museum, which is only just large enough anyway.  So far only Butterfly has flatly refused to create in a bright orange room!  (Of the three wall colours in The Stables I find the orange the least offensive - bright deep pink and lime green are even less conducive to creative work!)

Milena the Milliner was here a little while ago - here you can see some of her previous work.

This time she focused on producing a rather wonderful costume-clad mannequin for Gosthwaites Department Store.
I have to find a way of incorporating her into the showroom as she is slightly too large at the moment but I shall doubtless think of something.

She and friend Jana from Prague were closely followed by Lynda who last year gave sterling service in dealing with much of the stuff that had to be resorted into The Stables.   

This year there was time for her to produce something, and not content with just one item, she worked on three different projects at once.

I had found a pattern for a patchwork quilt in the June 2017 Dolls House World

and thought it was the very thing to cover the iron bedstead in the miner's cottage that is being furnished at this moment.  I have mentioned it before I think.   It is based on one of a row of cottages in the Beamish Open Air Museum and was given to me, in the form of many pieces of cut out wood, by a friend in England who in turn received it from a friend of hers. It had been commissioned by this friend's mother, but never built and Pat offered it to me.   It has now been beautifully made up by Colin Rose, who designed and built the Czech village house and there will be a post all about it when it is finished. 

The sweep arrived on the roof of the Czech house after two chimney sweeps came into Small Worlds and asked if we had any on view.  The answer at that point was no but I remembered that somewhere was a tiny sweep and, miraculously, he emerged from his hiding place.   He keeps falling off the roof though....

In order to make the quilt, Lynda had to burrow in the large suitcase filled to bursting with every kind of material.  

She was also keeping an eye out for some curtain material for a little puppet theatre I had picked up in a charity shop, as well as for suitable patchwork bits.  

As she burrowed, an old skirt 
emerged which I had long thought ought to be used as a patchwork blanket, and so that was the first thing she made.   

As she sat patiently doing very neat and tiny blanket stitch, I was reminded of how I had struggled to learn the same stitch back in primary school.   Unsuccessfully....

The finished blanket is adorning the bed of the maid in the Walmer Dolls House, and gives her rather bare bedroom a much more cosy look.  

I forgot to take a photo of the little puppet theatre before we transformed it, but it is so well-made that I figured I would be able to find it on-line.   

Sure enough, it is the theatre from the Early Learning Centre - I reeled back in horror at the prices on ebay!  I think I paid under £3 which is my usual charity shop limit for items for Small Worlds unless they are something very special.

Lynda sewed some elegant green curtains to replace the clumsy red velvet ones......

.....we used velvet ribbon for the pelmet, and we are both rather pleased with the final result.  If all goes as planned, you will see more of the theatre before the end of the year.

The patchwork quilt required much skill and a degree of trial and error.   I have a little tiny sewing machine, not at all the size that Lynda is used to, and wields very competently, so there was much under-the-breath muttering on the other side of the table as she learned to use it.
But the end result, as you can see from the photos, is a triumph.
Getting the squares into the right positions was a challenge!

Lynda's method - not quite as suggested

But it worked!

At the moment, the quilt is resting on one of the beds in the Cape Cod house as the miner's wife has not yet managed to set up the brass bed she inherited from her parents.

Whilst Lynda was sewing away, I was making a stage for the theatre which was stageless since it was intended for finger or glove puppets and I need it for string marionettes, and also digging out some scenery I was sure I had somewhere.  

At the same time, I was engaged in producing railway tracks for a number of small engines - the next window display will feature assorted trains and a rather special station.  
You can see my granddaughter here, cleaning said station in preparation for the display.   More of that in the next blog.

I have also been making up a Chrysnbon kit of the parlour organ for the miner's cottage.  

It's work that I can do on a board, so that I can take it up to the museum itself if I need to be on duty there.   

It's not a difficult kit to build, apart from the organ stops which are a complete nightmare. 

You can see the size of the stops from the photo with an Ibuprofen tablet plus some saccharin perched on top of it.  
There is no way to hold them whilst gluing them into the holes and mine finally ended up looking as if some drunken mice had inserted them.  I note that very wisely Bagpuss's mice built their organ without any stops!

However the final result is not unpleasing ...

Whilst all of this activity was going on, I was informed, with half a day's notice, that new windows were going to be put into the building.   This entailed much shifting of things, including the window display, and covering up of houses etc.   Fortunately one of the council's staff helped me enormously, and not only tirelessly shifted stuff but also, together with a colleague, insisted on cleaning the whole museum (although the workmen were remarkably clean and efficient in their work).   Both the museum and The Stables are now much cleaner and brighter than before the upheaval.   And the new windows are lovely....

And one final event that was completely delightful - a group of young people from six different countries - Jordan, Iran, Mexico, Georgia, Thailand and Turkey - have been spending a week at the local school and came into Small Worlds at the end of last week.  

They were enchanted by the houses,  and the stories attached to them, took many photos, and wrote lovely things in the guest book - the one that pleased me most came from Victor from Mexico "I can feel magic in this room" he said.

So as you can see, much has been happening, and at this very moment I am awaiting the arrival of two friends from England who will doubtless also grasp their needles and some thread and help me with creating this year's Christmas scene - I hope.   They don't know yet what is in store for them, but I hear them at the gate so will sign off and thank you for reading this far.   See you again very soon....


  1. Having now been let in through the gate, am wondering what new delights there are in Small Worlds, and what challenges are ahead, courtesy of Cestina.

    1. I have absolute faith that you will both be well able to overcome whatever challenges present themselves! Lovely to have you here :-) x

  2. Was going to save reading this till tomorrow but couldn't wait and just had to devour the latest news from Small Worlds before bed. Brilliant work as ever. I adore those patchwork bedspreads which remind me of one my Mum knitted for me and my sister... we loved them and I love your miniature ones.

    1. How lovely that you couldn't wait to read it :-) It sounds, from what Butterfly says below, as if yet another quilt may be needed....

  3. Full steam ahead! Brilliant work from Lynda on the quilts - and they look great in situ... there may be protests from Cape Cod when the miner's wife tries to remove that one. I remember those organ stops from the Walmer instrument - congrats on getting them in at all. And how lovely to end the visitors' year with such a great group - magic indeed!

    1. Oh good - I was worried that the owner of the Cape Cod might object to the arrival of a strange quilt - but doesn't it fit well?

      You did the organ stops on the previous one did you? That's why they came as a horrible shock to me. The Walmer ones are much straighter....

  4. Wow lots being going on, love the blanket and quilt. Bagpuss was my favourite TV programme when I was a child and I love fixing things up too :).

  5. I am quite fatigued by reading of all this activity! Well done everyone. Lovely pix. I am intrigued about your plans to reduce the mannequin in size...
    Andrea xx

    1. She is going on the 5:2 eating plan. Oops, no, that won't work for height will it, just weight? I daresay we shall have to create a whole fashion studio around her then.