In 2011, my husband and I purchased a West Virginia mountain farm that had been abandoned for 30 years. We’ve had a great time restoring the 100-year-old farmhouse and bringing the farm back to life and health. (You can read all about it here.) The day I first saw the farm, I said, “Oh! It looks just like a house in a story book that needs love!” Thus, our farm is called Storybook Farm. We also had to name our driveway: I called it Memory Lane, because my fondest hope was that our family would make many memories here.
In fact, our main purpose in buying this property later in life was to provide a place for our extended family (and often our friends) to retreat, gather, vacation, and visit in a setting that is both beautiful and remote.
At 54 years old, we had six grown children, four of whom were at that time getting married and starting families. (My daughter was married at the farm only months after we purchased it! This was the view for her special day. As with all pictures on this blog, you can click on this picture to see it larger and closer.)
For those who visit, coming to Storybook Farm truly feels like “getting away from it all.” There is no live TV, no streaming movies via Internet, and no cell service! (We do, however, have satellite Internet for email and blogging.) In only four short years, Storybook Farm has become our family’s home place. Scott and I live here, and all the children and their kids love to be here as often as possible! I tell you all this, because the farm is a reference point for many of my fabric creations.
In 2015, my daughter Marjorie (who is a resident artist at Storybook Farm) and I decided to attempt a “homemade Christmas.” By this we meant to make from scratch all (or most) of our Christmas gifts. We succeeded in large measure (and nearly also succeeded in killing ourselves, but that’s a different story!). We had a ton of fun both leading up to Christmas and on the day that gifts were opened.
I write this to let you know that the next several blog posts are going to be about the gifts that I made out of fabric, but also using a fantastic tool that I bought for myself (early, with Christmas money that I knew was coming): my Silhouette Cameo machine. Also, you should know that this doll house was sewn in four days (LONG ones) and much remained to be added to it after I gave it to my precious granddaughters, Violet and Beatrice.
Four days before our gift-giving get together, I created for two of my granddaughters my first ever quiet book, and it was a Storybook Farm house. I looked at many existing creative efforts that are
exhibited online. In the end, my main inspirations for my creation were the Sophia doll on Etsy and the two-room house posted at XXOO Grandma’s blog. I want to be sure that these two talented ladies get full attribution!
Here is the doll I modified from the Sophia on Etsy. The house and clothing that I created are for her. She is made of felt and is 8″ tall. As with Sophia, she has wigs that can be changed by my granddaughters, and Velcro undergarments that hold on her outfits.
The Doll House Front
Now, at the left is a picture of our farmhouse. Note that it has yellow clapboarding, a front porch, and a tin roof. (We renovated the porch this summer, adding the deck. This is a construction shot; one of my upcoming summer projects will be to paint it.)
I wanted my doll house to reference our family farm, so below is what I did with the front, all from fabrics in Aunti’s stash (except for the white felt).
As you can see the yellow fabric had “clapboards” already in the pattern! I created the two “standing seam roofs” by tucking the fabric at intervals, and slanting these so that the perspective was maintained.
I decided to put a handle as an integral part of the dollhouse (not using a strap at the top, as XXOO Grandma did). I waited until practically the last minute to punch through the top, so some of the photos below don’t show that completion. It was super scary to me to do it, but after I did, I found it not too difficult to bind the opening by hand with bias tape. I couldn’t get it to lie perfectly flat, but it was good enough for a first try at a quiet book for which I had no pattern.
The felt front door is backed with clear plastic (to simulate our screen door) and opens. It has a snap closure that mimics a door handle. (Please note something I learned doing this first quiet book: such a closure doesn’t hold in whatever is behind it. To keep things safely stored in the house, you must make pockets, not merely “barriers.” This comes into play in my kitchen and laundry rooms, as you’ll see if you keep reading.)
One special thing about this present was that I can add to it throughout the year. So, I plan to create a miniature of our dog in felt so the children can put her into that door’s window.
The roof of the porch lifts up to reveal a large pocket, which is actually the whole lower half of this front cover. I constructed this pocket first, and then sewed to to the rest of the front of the house, which had the yellow fabric and the garden background fabric sewed to a base of muslin. This pocket is for storage of the smaller items that I plan to create in future days. Throughout the house, I put in as many pockets as I could conceive, because (of course) we girls can never have enough storage!
The flowers on the front were made with the clever yo yo-maker tools sold by Clover. See the one for those pictured above here. (You’ll notice, if you’re super detail oriented, that they switch from picture to picture. That’s because some of the better shots of the front of the house were taken while I was still debating about final placement. In the end, I decided to use a variety of yo yo designs.)
The front steps are one flat piece of cloth: I used a satin machine embroidery stitch and perspective drawing to create the illusion of front steps, just like the ones we have at Storybook Farm.
As you open the book, you come first to the doll’s bedroom.
Here you find a bed, with a pillow that’s removable and attached with Velcro, and a colorful counterpane. I chose white furniture because my own girlhood furniture was white, and because it made the book lighter and brighter.
The 8″ doll can go into the pocket that the counterpane creates, and rest her head on the removable pillow. She can also get dressed each day by opening the wardrobe on the facing page. This is where the doll’s clothing can be stored, including her pajamas.
Next, our doll can go into the kitchen to eat her breakfast, or to the laundry room, to do her washing for the day.
After “washing” her clothes (that laundry machine door opens; again, I used clear plastic, but this time a Velcro closure), she can hang them up to dry using mini-clothes pins.
In the picture at the left, you can see two of the outfits that I made initially, hanging. Don’t miss the golden slippers on the shelf under the red party dress! I am posting pictures of more outfits as I make them.
Again, there’s storage on both of these pages, but I found that the children will need to use baggies to keep small items, like the clothespins, from dropping out because these aren’t pockets, but only doors. The washing machine and cupboard are one big storage section, and in the kitchen, the cupboard and “table” are all storage area one as well.
Again, I’m adding accessories as I go, but I’m posting details those separately, because this is already way too long a post. Here’s a preview, though: for the laundry room, I’ve made various pairs of socks that my granddaughters can “launder” and then “hang” via the mini clothespins to match as an activity. I’m also planning to make food and cooking utensils and plates, etc. for the kitchen. (Click on the links to see more on this projects.)
The Back Cover
Finally, dolly can go out into the garden!
The back of the book is a flower garden.
The greenery is one printed piece of fabric, and forms a storage pocket, closed by velcro. I cut along the basic line of the print at the top, and finished it against stabilizer with a machine satin stitch.
Buttons hold the blossoms to the page, but each blossom can be removed, flipped, and/or re-positioned.
Each of the flowers are two-sided, with different colors and patterns on each side, so there are many possible variations. As a matter of fact, one can even double the blossoms, giving even more creative scope for children’s imaginations!
The butterflies are also buttons, but they are permanently sewn on.
Mistakes and Modifications for Next Time
- I originally planned that the house would be stiffer, so that it could stand up. I used plastic canvas as stiffener in each panel, but it stayed floppy nonetheless.
- I used my machine to sew on the flower buttons, and it sewed them very quickly, but too tight to easily double the flower blossoms, so in the future, I’ll be sewing buttons on by hand if I want that feature in my quiet books.
- Again, with storage, you need to keep them more like pockets than simply providing a “door” for them, such as I did with cupboards.
Well, that’s it. I can share pictures and details of construction if anyone comments below and wants them. Otherwise, thanks for stopping by, and have a great day! (Comments, of course, are always welcome and encouraged!)