The up-cycle project inspired by Zach Braff.

When Big Poppa and I first met we spent many, many hours lying around watching Scrubs. We’d hang out for every new season, buy it on DVD and watch it until the discs wore out (I mean this quite literally). When we met we used to joke that all we had in common was a mutual love of Bill Murray, but the thing that probably kept us together was our common brand of humour. We loved the crap out of Scrubs and both of us were pretty fond of Zach Braff. We didn’t write this song, but we probably would have if we’d thought of it first.

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So, years ago, when I discovered this t-shirt available for sale of course I bought it for BP. Of course I did. BP was leaner then (okay, if I’m going to be fair we were both so much leaner then), but he’s always been particular about the shape of his shirts and he prefers black, so he never wore it much. With all the decluttering and shifting of stuff, I just haven’t been able to pass this one on. It doesn’t fit BP and it doesn’t fit me, but maybe one day…?

Today a post that promised 25 minute sewing projects came up in my feed. I’m always looking for 25 minute sewing projects, because then I am absolutely certain they won’t take me more than 8 hours. Waking today and realising that no one had any plans (an oasis in a storm of activity) we decided to have a pyjama day. Big Poppa has been working on a mixtape for someone special, so I figured I had time for a mini project. This DIY kids nightie caught my eye. Even better – it boasts that it’s a 15 minute project. That’s only about 4 hours in Mama time. Super!

I rummaged through the sewing box and found the vending machine t-shirt. At men’s size XL I knew I was stretching being able to do this in just 15 minutes, but I figured I could probably get something to work. Even if it just kind of worked. Little Fearse is never particularly critical of my sewing adventures, so I reckoned it was a safe bet.

The Fearse Family: Zach Braff t-shirt upcycle.

It took me about 2 hours in the end. Due to the size of the t-shirt I also had to cut out and reset the sleeves. I only knew this was a possibility from reading other t-shirt up-cycle tutorials previously and I’m sure that if anyone who actually knew anything about sewing checked this out they’d be horrified. It works, anyway, and Little Fearse (although very grumpy for these photos) seems wiling to wear it. And I reckon she looks just as spiffy as Zach Braff.

Mama xo

The Winter of Contentment.

We really challenged ourselves in April. I mean, more than usual. Every day in April we were working on the Minimalist Game, putting together the dolls’ house and working around the (worthy) challenges of avoiding the supermarket. It was a great, eye opening month, but I was glad when it was over.

I feel like I spent most of May catching our readers up on April and now we’re here and it’s June and in many ways, I’ve run out of words. So here, instead, are some pictures of fun BNNish stuff I’ve been doing lately.

The Fearse Family DIY Cress Men

Making Cress Men on Easter Sunday. Little Fearse asked to see the “Cress man and cress lady” every morning and gave them a kiss hello until their hair was ready to eat.

The Fearse Family DIY Scrap Material Rag Doll

Making a Jemima style rag-doll from a very sketchy pattern in the 1980 edition of Play School’s Useful Book. Little Fearse helped choose all the materials and even sacrificed her favourite (but very worn) PJ pants for Jemima’s striped leggings. An old pair of jeans was used to make feet and the rest were scraps found at the bottom of my material bench. One of her arms has already fallen off twice and she was given a much nicer Jemima for her birthday anyway, but it was a really fun holiday activity to do together.

The Fearse Family DIY Old Jeans and Place Mat Tool Belt

Making a tool belt for a friend’s third birthday using a place mat, old jeans (the waist band of the jeans was used as the belt part – vintage buttons were added to make it adjustable and they even kind of matched the place mat) and tools collected from the op shop and market. I looked at lots of tutorials for these but ended up making my own by combining different ideas. Worth exploring!

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Curtain Material Zoo Skirt

I used some vintage curtain material to make my first ever Little Fearse skirt, using a combination of this tutorial and this tutorial. I made this one for a special trip to the zoo. It’s very zooey

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Fabric Scrap Dolls' Bedding

Little Fearse has been asking me for awhile to make blankets for Maggie in the dolls’ house. Yeah, true, this did take me al of about three minutes to sew, but I love the material Little Fearse chose from my new stash of vintage fabric scraps. I look forward to whipping up some more blankets for the rest of the dolls’ house inhabitants.

The Fearse Family DIY Vintage Scrap Patchwork SKirt

Using the same lot of vintage scraps and a similar concept to the zoo skirt I patch worked some of my favourite scraps together and (lacking elastic) I used an op shopped skirt (with bonus shorts inside!) and attached my patchwork to the skirts original waist. I am absolutely thrilled with how this turned out.

You know, Winter isn’t my favourite time of year, but I’m really determined not to let it get me down this year. I hope that with the satisfaction I gain from these mini projects (plus lots of reading, which I’ve been indulging in more and more lately) I will while away the gloomy days and bring on Spring a little faster.

Mama xo

Dolls’ house renovation: The Library

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

 

The thing I love the most about the library is that it wasn’t a library when we began. It wasn’t an anything. In the time the dolls’ house had been played with it was simply a landing. No furniture, rarely used in play, just there. I’m not sure what inspired the library, probably the desk that came in the raw wood set from eBay. Here’s the nothing room before we began…

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If you know me, if you’ve been reading along – you’ll get the library straight away. This was all Mama. If Big Poppa had his way this would probably be a music studio. If Little Fearse was designing it? I dunno…a zoo? A museum? But it was up to me and I made a library.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (The Library)

I pretty much love everything about the library. The bookshelf is simply a printed out picture of a bookshelf from the ‘net modge podged to the wall. If I had time to be fiddly would I customise the books? Chuck in my favourites? You know I would. Maybe a future labour of love. When Little Fearse unveiled the dolls’ house Marge was sitting drinking a cup of coffee. The first thing Little Fearse said was “Ooooh, coffee!” It just struck me as a place Marge would enjoy, hidden away from her needy family.

I made the chair. I had grand plans to make a whole lounge suite, but I ran out of time and fortunately our friend donated the suite for the living room. I used the material from some old curtains that hung in my parents’ first house. This chair is not perfect, but I kind of love it. I wish I had a full sized one to lounge in (in my own study, of course). I got the pattern from one of the books referenced in our first post. Big Poppa cut the wood, my brother Loc helped file them down to size. The rest was done by me. It was exceptionally fiddly and took a lot of glue and a surprising amount of material, but I enjoyed (almost) every moment of it.

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The table came with the lounge suite and the lamp with the bath and second toilet (see in the background of the lower level – I kind of figure a household of 8 needs more than one toilet).

The desk is one of the secrets of the dolls’ house. It was raw wood with blue shelves (you can see from my dodgy paint job some of the blue coming through). I painted it with some of the guache paints we got at the Reverse Art Truck. It’s not ideal, but it was the best I could do. The map on the desk part is the block BP and I lived on when we stayed in Brooklyn for a month in 2009/2010. I am kind of annoyed at how the desk turned out, but I still love that it bears that map and that I managed to find a way to memorialise the map without having it hanging around, useless forever, with a bunch of other sentimental paper bits and pieces.

The gorgeous brass pot was found at the market with the two photo frames (in the bedroom and living room). I think it’s beautiful.

For those who’ve stuck with me throughout the tour – thanks. I wish I’d been more organised and published the whole series at once, but we live, we learn. This really has been a labour of love (the house and this ‘blog tour). I appreciate you coming along on the journey.

Mama xo

Dolls’ house renovation: The Bedroom

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house make over

 

The bedroom was a pretty unimpressive shade of 50s pale green before the makeover. Like a less dazzling version of our new bathroom green.

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Someone who has had the in person tour of the dolls’ house asked us why Marge and Homer sleep in the same room as the kids. Well, aside from relegating the kids (or the parents) to a cupboard under the stairs we didn’t really have many options here. This room is our designated bedroom for all types. Grandpa Simpson sleeps here, Krusty the Clown sleeps here, Doctor Hibbert sleeps here. Everyone sleeps in this room. This has, so far, caused no major problems in the dolls’ house. I’ll let you know if any arise. (Let’s also note that it isn’t that dissimilar to our own house where Little Fearse’s bed is in the part of our bedroom probably designed as a dressing room…)

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (The Bedroom)

 

The best features of this room come from the same angel who gave us the best features for all the other rooms; the gorgeous fireplace and the double bed. The bed needed a bit of work. One end was detached and the mattress as covered in a faded striped fabric that was fairly heavily marked from years of play. I reglued the bed head and searched through my fabric stash to find this gorgeous vintage material featuring kids and cats in silhouette. I wish we had a bed spread like this on our bed!

The double bed mattress before updating the material.

The double bed mattress before updating the material.

We found the beautiful vintage photo frame at the market with the one in the living room. The photo was taken at our nephew’s school fete in the photo booth. We both really loved this picture of Little Fearse and thought it would make a very cute addition to the house. Lil Fearse was pretty stoked to find herself on the mantle.

The camera came from the container of bits and pieces from the op shop. There is also a camera case somewhere that hasn’t yet made it into the house. The wardrobe and bunk bed came from one of the eBay lots. I stained the wardrobe slightly to make it less raw. There is a cradle somewhere that went missing somewhere between purchase and putting the furniture in the house. I’m sure it will show up one day. The pram and tiny baby (Little Fearse’s absolute favourite thing in the house…she loses it constantly, though) came from the same set.

The map on the back wall is another secret of the dolls’ house. It is from a map of Geneva that my parents used on their trip there in the late 60s. Don’t look too closely, I accidentally cut it out upside down!

The other secret of the dolls’ house in this room is the Mos Def poster (I can say that, because he wasn’t Yasiin Bey when this photo was taken). This photo was on a gig flyer. It came from our pretend honeymoon (pre-actual honeymoon) in New York when we booked out a suite in the Hotel Chelsea and went to see Mos Def play at midnight in the Highline Ballroom. I can say with certainty that it was the best gig I have ever been to. I love that we can commemorate that in the dolls’ house.

I hope to one day add a rug, some curtains, maybe more pictures to the walls. I’d like to add some clothes to the wardrobe, too. Future endeavours.

The last room will be one that is very close to my heart, the library.

Mama xo

Dolls’ House renovation: The Bathroom

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

 

You’ll now be accustomed to our drab before shots. Here’s this one.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation

It has been been pointed out to us that the bathroom in the dolls’ house is ridiculously large. This is not unlike the bathroom in our actual house, which is the size of a single bedroom. Not only is the bathroom ridiculously large, but it is also absurdly non-private. I kind of like this about the bathroom, but maybe one day I’ll make some little folding screens to go around the toilet and bath. I’d also like to add a shower one day. Here she is, all jazzed up.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house renovation (Bathroom)

The bathroom (slash laundry) was painted with some green paint left over from a side table we did up for Little Fearse’s bedroom before she was born. (You know, the one she still doesn’t sleep in.) Admittedly the paint job is a bit rushed. We decided against adding curtains due to time restraints, but I’d like to add a sheer curtain some time that can stay across the window. Just to add a bit of privacy, you know? 😉

The ironing board, vacuum, washing machine, mop, bucket and broom all came from a set Little Fearse’s Nan bought for her at Aldi. You never know what you’re going to find in that place.

The toilet was from our dolls’ house angel (the piano and table and lounge suite friend…I think she really needs more credit for this house than we do at this point). It’s a very cute toilet actually – I love the chain and the fact that it’s porcelain. The bath was bought with a set of random things on eBay. It was a simple raw wood bath. BP painted it white and added the hook for a tap. I found the rubber ducky, soap, shampoo bottle and a small hair dryer that is in one of the vanity drawers in amongst the container of things I found at the op shop.

The vanity is one of the things I am most proud of designing. It is also the thing that Little Fearse likes destroying the most and I have had to reglue the sink and mirror several times already. This started off as a baby change table purchased with other nursery stuff on eBay. It was raw wood with red handles. I painted it with the wall paint and the handles with the gold paint we got from the Reverse Art Truck. BP screwed a hook into the top for the tap. I glued one of the bowls from the kitchen on top for the sink and glued a mirror from an old purse to the back (it’s plastic but quite reflective).

As well as curtains and some screens we plan to frame some small paintings from a MoMA guide to hang on the bathroom walls.

Next room: The Bedroom.

Mama xo

Dolls’ House renovation: The Living Room

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Our living room has a lot less detail than the kitchen, but it is still a very charming room (we think!). This room is even more influenced by the wonderful presents from my bagel-gifting, E.T.-contributing, kitchen table-donating friend. But before we get into the finer details. The before shot…

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This is a very blah shade of pink. Of course it is grubby, too, adding to the dreariness of this picture. It was a very not-wow room. Although it isn’t my favourite room in the house, I’m pretty fond of the newer version..

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house living room renovation

As I mentioned, this room is mostly furnished with gifts from my friend’s childhood dolls’ house. The lounge suite, coffee table, piano and piano stool are all from her miniature house. I was going to make a lounge suite to go with the comfy chair I made for the study. I was so relieved to be gifted these as I was fast running out of time and I had a strong feeling I wasn’t going to finish them in time. Next thing I know I have a shoe box in my hands full of these gorgeous mini things.

The piano. Swoon! This is another of the dolls’ house secrets. The piano plays! It has a music box inside. This is one of the best features of the house and sometimes while Little Fearse is playing with the house I pull the piano out and set it playing next to the house just for my own aural pleasure. It is just gorgeous.

The curtains I cut from some vintage fabric I had in my sewing box. I’d purchased it on eBay years ago. I sewed these on my machine. They’re a bit wonky and rough, but tied up you’d never know. I tied the bows with a ribbon that I cut off a shirt. They were the little ribbons that are sewn inside the shoulder and used for hanging the clothing on hangers in the shop. I always keep these. They’re often handy! The curtain rod, like the kitchen rod, was a poorly painted plastic rod from our spare room blinds. Big Poppa screwed little eyelets in for the rod to slide through. I found them in the shed looking very rusty. I painted them with gold paint, too.

BP printed off a picture of some brick work and glued some of these inside the fire place. It used to be painted red, but got a few white streaks on it when BP painted the room, so he decided to add the brickwork to cover it. I think it’s really charming and also goes with the brickwork he glued to the chimney outside the house. This is one of my favourite new things about the house and it was so easy to do.

The big backed TV with all its vintage charm comes from the Simpsons set BP was given in 1992. There is also a purple plastic couch somewhere, but we didn’t use this in the house. You can change the picture, there is a slot on the side. We’d like to add some different television shows over time, probably mostly Play School at this stage, as that’s Little Fearse’s favourite.

The picture frame on the mantle piece we found from a kooky vintage stall at the market. The photo of us is from our honeymoon in New York. We sought out all the photo booths we could find throughout New York and have a whole series of photos which we have so far done nothing with. We thought this photo was kind of fun hoped Little Fearse would think it was silly, which she did. Eventually I’d like to mount this on the wall, too, but I need to figure a way of doing it without gluing it to the wall, so that can wait for now.

Next up, the bathroom.

Mama xo

Dolls’ house renovation: The Kitchen

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I’ve been writing this post in my head all day (do you do that?) and what I keep wanting to start with are the words “The kitchen is my favourite room in the house”. But, actually, I feel that way about all the rooms. They just came together so beautifully. I think that the kitchen is the most “together” room in the house. Most of the furniture in there kind of matches and looks vibrant and lovely. Since the furniture and decorations for our house were sourced from all over the shop there was never any real intention for things to go together, so that was a nice surprise.

When I was a kid the kitchen had a contacted floor. The grey and white checks looked very smart and gave it a real kitchen-y vibe, but somewhere along the way half the contact was pulled up and the kitchen was left looking pretty ratty.

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The paint job left a bit to be desired. I did like how you could see stencilled writing coming through from the original wood on the floor. I wonder what my Papa used to make the house in the first place. Anyway, it’s gone now, hidden beneath a layer of shiny white paint. We hope to update the floor of the kitchen one day with tiling or floor boards, but for now the paint will suffice. So…time to unveil.

The Fearse Family: Dolls' house kitchen renovation

 

Ta-da!*

The kitchen is the life-blood of most homes. Yes, it bugs me that not all the Simpsons can fit around the kitchen table. This will probably be something I rectify in the future. The adorable little red table and chairs were a beautiful gift from a friend’s childhood dolls’ house. I think they are very charming. The other red chair (with Marge’s apron draped over it) came from a set of things we bought on eBay. The child’s high chair came from the same set. They just happen to (sort of) match the other furniture.

The long bench we made from items purchased from the Reverse Art Truck. This is a not for profit organisation that collects items from businesses that would otherwise go into landfill and recycles them for arts and crafts. They offer it by the bag load to customers. We bought a garbage bag full of paints, varnish, paper goods, wooden bits and pieces, plastic, foam, material etc etc etc for $30, which was our major expense. We have a lot of this stuff left for other craft projects. The bench is made from a piece of Venetian blind with dowels for legs.  It actually caused us quite a bit of trouble putting this together as we had lots of different ideas about how to make it. As it turned out the most simple method (literally gluing dowelling to the bottom of the blind) was the best one. It is so easy to over-think things sometimes.

The wall paper was also found at the Reverse Art Truck. It was gift wrapping and I thought it was perfect for vintage-style wall paper. I attached this with modge podge. I think it turned out really well. The paper itself is very thin and I was worried it would tear, but it adhered beautifully.

The fridge was purchased from eBay with some other random things you’ll see throughout the house. The door opens. There is a small slice of pizza in there that came with an E.T. doll a friend gave me years ago. The same friend (actually, the same one who gave me the table and chairs, too!) gave me bagel and cream cheese earrings after a trip to New York. I lost the cream cheese earring somewhere along the way, but the bagel was removed from the earring to join the pizza in the kitchen.

When I was hunting for things for the dolls’ house I found a round take away container, sealed with tape, in the op shop for $1.25. It was full of Barbie clothes, but amongst them I could see little bits of plastic here and there. I wasn’t able to open it to check what they were, so I decided to risk the $1.25 and see what I could find. It was filled with great stuff for the house, including the champagne glasses, bowls, plates, orange juice and cereal you can see here. It was a really lucky find.

The stove was made by Big Poppa. It took us a while to come up with this idea. The painted block was left over from an abandoned project for Little Fearse’s first birthday. BP drew the details on the front of the stove, including the time 8:00. This is one of the “secrets” of the dolls’ house as whenever we ask Little Fearse what time it is she says “8 o’clock, tick tock”. I borrowed the idea of using buttons for hotplates from my favourite dolls’ house tour. I plan to add a sink one day.

The small pictorial plate was my Mum’s as a child. When she had to clear her parents’ house out she gave me a sewing basket from her old bedroom full of random bits and pieces. This was in there. I really like that something she had as a child is in the house, since it was originally hers.

The final feature of the kitchen is the curtain. The rod is actually a piece of strong plastic that came out of some blinds we removed from the spare bedroom in our house. I cut off a small piece and painted it (poorly) with gold paint I found at the Reverse Art Truck. I used a scrap of material left over from my Mum’s 70s sewing fabrics to make the cafe style curtain. I attached this to a scrap of calico I usually use for practising stitches on my sewing machine. I really love the curtain – it turned out exactly as I hoped it would.

Stay tuned for room 2, the living room.

Mama xo

*For those of you that, like me, enjoy continuity you will notice these photos were taken from two different shoots. It definitely irritates me that the bagel turns up in different spots in different pictures. I hope you can cope with this, my fellow anally retentive persons.