Sweetbriar Dreams

So where shall we go on our journey today?

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Keeping a Record of Times Gone By

It has been hot, hot, hot this week and not being a sun worshipper meant that I hid away to keep out of the raging sun.  So, my little creative juices and ideas started to overflow and I just couldn't find anything suitable.  Yes, I know my crafts have been taking a back seat for a little while.  I needed to find something that wasn't as warm as being tucked under a woolly blanket while crocheting.  This pleasure is for those cozy dark winter months with members of the family sitting that little bit closer to share the warmth of 'Mum's latest project!'  At the moment I just want to cozy up to my late Grandma's lavender!
Now, yes I know I have loads of projects that need completing but my greatest work in progress has very regretfully been sitting in the corner of my lounge gradually aging with dust and neglect.  Ok, maybe I'm over dramatising this but I am writing this to make myself feel GUILTY!  So, I have decided to kick start my need to get going on this and write a post to put this right in my mind and motivate me into concentrating on this enormous project.  There are no trips out to write about this week (as all I did was moan at how horridly humid it was - my family hate July and August with me because I do nothing but moan!!), the only trip was for this project to make its way outside into the garden to blow away the cobwebs, a GUILT trip for me.
I need to explain from the outset that my dolls house project is going to be HUGE!  It will take years to complete with each thing being carefully thought through.  You see, this is no normal dolls house with the usual furniture, carpets and curtains and hours of enjoyment with little fingers and thumbs playing house with the dolls in each room.  No, this is going to be a family history encapsulated in a piece of 'furniture' that will be loved and respected in the corner of the lounge.  This will be a testimony to my darling Grandad Tom who, when he passed away, left a mountain of paperwork which encompassed his research on the London Docklands and his stories of his life and of the history handed down from my ancestors.  The following photo is the contents of just one small box!
Nearly all the papers are in his own handwriting and, most surprisingly to us, the Museum of London oral archives gave me copies of  7 CD's that they had collected with him over the years of his most amazing memories from 1908 to his death - captured forever.  His writing is all over the archives of the Museum of London Docklands, his knowledge of the area can't be outdone or disputed.  My role is to now put this all together (another reason for this GUILT trip post to also kick start this again!).
I have an old book that I am beginning to write myself where I am trying to piece everything together.  It reminds me of an old Bob Cratchet accounts book in Scrooge.
Now, I don't know when the 'spark' came to me, but I decided to get a shell of a dolls house and put together an heirloom to future generations where there would be a story to each item, a reason for it to be there.  A story literally attached to each individual thing.  I started this a couple of years ago four  years ago - A Christmas present from hubby - A plain brown shell was perfect!
The inside was just oozing ideas to me.
To start with, the house had to be set in the Victoria era.  My Grandad's family originally came down to the East End of London in the mid 1800's from South Shields so that my Great Great Grandad could set up, own and manage one of the docks.  This era was perfect as my love for the Victorian period is basically obsessional!  I love anything Dickensian - Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and The Old Curiosity Shop being particular favourites.  So, well, obvious purchase really, this sign was ordered from New York and graciously they agreed to add Est. 1879 - The year that my Great Grandad was born.
The roof was a wonderful thing to do.  I wanted to lay this myself and crack and shape the tiles with parts being covered with moss to show the fragility of the roofs back then.  I found a wonderful slate tile supplier on Ebay whose tiles were mixed so that they weren't uniform in shades of grey, each one seemed to be individual.  The calming influence over me while laying these tiles and filling with the moss made me remember the times I used to sit with my Grandad and listen to his stories, sometimes sitting on the floor next to his chair while he slowly went through the maps of the old London town, who lived where, what the streets looked like, the poverty etc.  Sometimes, while laying the tiles I would play one of the CD's of his voice and I was right there with him again, feeling his presence.
The outside walls were the next challenge.  I knew that Victorian houses were brick but I really wanted to have mainly textured walls which exposed brickwork where cracks would have appeared.  Sand and paint was the answer and I drew where I wanted the bricks exposed and set to work.  Believe me, the roof was a doddle by comparison!  I gave up many times, hid it away, cursed it, but one rainy afternoon I laid down on the floor with the brick slips, cut and shaped each individual one and slowly made progress.  Admittedly these are still incomplete as the mortar still needs to be pushed into the gaps - another rainy day soon perhaps.
After looking at many of the old photos, I saw that the houses had darker windows frames due to the industrial area and decided, with a bit of artistic shading, that I could mimic some age to these.  The street sign was specially made to show my Great Grandad's road, this has long gone, well before the Docklands redevelopment, but the stories of that road are still in my Grandad's papers.
The chimney pots were lots of fun.  The dolls house came with some clean, wooden, uncharacteristic tubes which were nothing like the worn, dirty, weathered Victorian chimneys.  So, paint, moss, glue and I set to work with some clay pots I found on Ebay and these were transformed.  One of them cracked in my hand, so with the thought that everything was not going to be pristine, the glue and moss was perfect to create an abandoned chimney that in the future will show a pigeon's nest!
The dolls house came with a porch with arched gaps either side.  Again, inspiration jumped out at me and I thought how lovely it would be to make some stained glass windows.  I will try my hand at anything, but I thought real stained glass would be too much of a challenge so decided on Shrinkies, some glass pens and some research into the colours and patterns from that era.  This was so much fun to do.  Firstly creating a ruler on a full size shrinkie, carefully putting all the lines for each mm, and then baking this until it shrank.  This gave me an accurate recording of what size the windows would be (measuring with the shrinked ruler and then the real measurements being used on the full size shrinkie).  Once two had been created and coloured it was time for the oven.  They curled up - I panicked - please lay flat - then shrank to the right size.  They were then filed a little bit to sit perfectly and Ta Dah!!
Then, my favourite part so far, the door!  The best part of Christmas Carol for me is when Scrooge approaches his foreboding front door, with the lion head knocker.  It speaks the opening of a wonderful story and this is what I wanted to portray.  Again, the door that came with the house was very plain so this came off and a heavier more ornate door was ordered and then painted a deep black gloss.  The door knocker was extremely important and my search went all over the place.  Why didn't I go to Ebay first?!  There it was!  This seller had one that moved and was nicely heavy.  How can something so tiny give me such joy!  So here it is, the door to be opened to start the journey.
My word, I am waffling on this week aren't I?!

So, The Old Curiosity Shop, which is going to be full of curiosities each having some relevance to my family's history.  A shop in the making and that will be cleaned this weekend to prepare for new wall coverings, flooring, a rearrangement of the ground floor to depict an old Victorian shop, cornicing and skirting boards.  A couple of hours will be spent on looking at some of the many Victorian photos I have from my Grandad so I can reduce and frame them.  At the back of each frame will be a pull out book (small of course) with a history of the person depicted.  The history lesson will then begin.
I know this is a break from the norm for my weekly posts, but I am telling myself off a bit.  My Grandad's life's work is sitting in boxes, folders, cupboards and drawers all around my house and needs to be catalogued properly and sorted out so I can put this all in a book that he never got round to writing (he was 98!).  The dolls house will be my mark of his work, something different but equally as educational with my love of crafts and ideas popping up.

So, I can now say to myself I have been well and truly told off!  It has been hard, and with getting some of the papers out, very emotional.  I miss the family that I had back when I was younger, the weekends staying with them, the stories they told, the love we shared.  The memories are still very strong, such as the smell of lavender (my Grandma), the smell of Imperial Leather soap (my Grandad), face powder (my Nan) and tobacco (my Grandpa), but I hope through the years I can encapsulate most things to future generations by the stories, sounds and smells I hope to put in this wooden box of wonder.

Is there anything that you have got hidden away that needs to be completed or re-started?

Have a wonderful week and take care.


(Remember that if you want to see a larger version of my photos just click on one and a slide will appear)

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Time Travel Thursday


  1. Oh, I love dollhouses! I can't wait to see what you do.

  2. Good for you - a project like this just cries out to be completed. I, for one, would be happy to see regular posts on how it is coming along. Perhaps the thought of writing about the project's unfolding will help. The dolls' house is just lovely - all the details, so painstakingly thought-out and executed. Keep it up!

  3. This is going to be an awesome project! I am looking forward to following along with you.
    Love Leanne

  4. What a wonderful project. I really look forward to seeing how it goes. xx

  5. Crikey Chel what a fantastic undertaking! The dolls house is looking wonderful but fancy being custodian of all of those memories - your Grandad would be so thrilled. Looking forward to seeing it progress x Jane (P.S. I agree with you by the way - it has been tooooo hot!)

  6. Hi Chel, you have done such a wonderful job on the doll house already and I'm looking forward to your seeing your progress.

  7. How wonderful. I wish I had the old doll house my grandpa made for us girls when we were little, it was all hand made with little curtains, dishes, even down to the doilies and sheets, pillow cases etc. Grandma made the inside things and he made the outside, it even had a tiny hangers... so cute.
    During hard times our mother got rid of it, not sure why other than perhaps for money. It is long gone but I do remember it a little.

  8. The dolls house is wonderful! I will look forward to seeing your progress with this project...
    M x

  9. This is a fascinating project, Chel. I can't wait to see your progress with it. :o)

  10. How wonderful to have your grandpas paper and the CD, your dolls house is amazing I will look forward to seeing future work.

  11. Chel, what a wonderful project you are working on. I am sure it will be an awesome dollhouse when you are done. I am looking forward to seeing more. Thanks for sharing, have a happy week!

  12. This is a huge project, but so wonderful! I love the idea of the dollhouse and the book. There's so much history for your family to remember. They will thank you so much.

  13. That will be fantastic when finished - probably on year 101st birthday!

  14. Crikey your book based on your grandpappy's papers sounds fascinating. Good luck with that. Your dolls' house will be magnificent, I'm sure. xx

  15. Oh Chel....what a creative and fun project to honor the memory of your grandfather. I am in love with this idea! I love A Christmas Carol and have a couple copies and a lovely old bowl with Dickens scenes on it that I just love...:) You have done a fabulous job on every little detail so far and I can't wait to see what you do with it next. Have a blessed week my friend....Vicky
    Life On Willie Mae Lane

  16. Wow Chel, the dollhouse is going to be wonderful! It's definitely a big project, but well worth it - I love the idea and the history behind it.

    Hugs to you!

  17. This is a wonderful and completely unique idea for preserving your family's cherished history, Chel! I love what you have done so far - taking so much time and thought for each little section. The tiles and stained glass and tiny door knocker...amazing! A true labor of love. How nice that you have your Dear Grandfather's legacy right there to build upon. I can relate to your feelings of missing the old days and the stories and scents...it is a melancholy feeling, but you are putting it all to good use by giving your family a lovely and unique family legacy.
    I have a shadow box to display my Father's precious belongings that I need to complete. You have inspired me to start. Hugs xoxo

  18. I need to work on photos and scrapbooks but I always think it will be better when I am in the mood. Once I start a project, I want to spend every minute working on it. One of these days I would like to get a doll house to work on. It would be a pleasure to take your time and make it your own! I love the one you have. I hope you'll give us updates! Oh, and I like your new profile pic! Sweet hugs!

  19. I love it! You are doing a beautiful job on the dollhouse! I love the attention to detail, especially on the roof. It'll be great to follow along on this darling project.

  20. What a clever girl you are - fascinating stuff - this will obviously be a long-running project which I will enjoy following.

  21. Oh, my! You've done an amazing job so far. The roof is lovely and I love how the brick work shows on the façade. The door is perfect and I love the stain glass on the porch.

  22. That's one amazing project, and it must be so interesting to work on. The detail that you have captured is amazing.


  23. What an incredible project! I can't wait to see how you progress with it, it is looking wonderful so far xx

  24. This is a labor of love for sure! Yes, I have projects awaiting in the basement. When I retire, I want to sew more. I want to learn to make birdhouses and also stenciling signs for the garden. I want to have a booth in an antique mall and resell old things and the things I make.

  25. Such a cool project - keep us up on your progress!

  26. Hallo Chel!
    The dolls house is wonderful! I will look forward to seeing your progress with this project!!!
    Have a lovely week!!!Take care!!
    (you can find me here)http://decdimisaussi.blogspot.gr/

  27. That is one huge project you have undertaken. I wish you well on your jouney, I do believe it will be a rather lengthy one!!

  28. "like" from me,look forward to following your Blog..

  29. I just stumbled on your delightful blog - this dollhouse is wonderful- I have one in my basement my father built me as a child and am dying to "renovate" it one day! - just love the idea of making it part of your personal history- am now following to see how it turns out lol :)

  30. Wow! Amazing. I look forward to seeing all that you do.

  31. Wow, those are loads of papers! For the sake of all those records, I wish your dollhouse is coming along great, if it hasn’t been finished yet. It would be a shame to lose all those pieces of history.

    Ruby Badcoe


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