What?! Echeverias, Yes, again


I got a new eight-petaled punch, about 5/8-inch (16 mm). It has spawned a whole new genus of succulents. These are punched from a sage green cardstock painted with an acrylic wash. After lengthy fooling around, I prefer detailing each shape with markers.


Here’s where my documentation lapses. Profoundly. I call Sunday, North American time change, and very good California champagne.


I’m really happy with the end result, and will be more mindful to share my steps. It’s basically three punched and shaped forms, and then a lot of individually applied shaped petals. Or leaves, whatever they’re called. This version more closely approximates what I see in parts of my own succulent garden.

This is also where I *really* want to buy a laser cutter, to be able to realistically emulate the considerable varieties of succulents and cacti. What do you think? Anyone else out there enamored of miniature succulents to want to make them in their boundless assortment? Do you know of anyone already making kits?

Felines and Flora

I’ll just get the cat pix out of the way first thing.



Classic long-suffering Albie and his unwanted sidekick. All he wants to do is sleep on the bed and not be mauled. She shadows and adores and mauls him.


See the succulent/cactus hybrid hovering slightly above her sisters in the long planter? This is a new feature :) I’m adding believable stems to some of them.


This may be one of the most enigmatic photos I’ve ever published. Here are tiny stems very close up — they’re just over an inch long. They’re made from floral wire wrapped with torn strips of brown paper bag. Easy to make a gentle curve and plant.


In other projects, I got all the sizes of leaves from JMG Miniatures to make potted palms for either side of the stairway. They come five to a bag and are cut from a nice green sturdy stock. I’m not even painting them! I glued a fine gauge green wire onto the central stem of each frond to enable sculpting.


Once the glue was dry, I curled them around a fat watercolor pencil (Derwent Inktense, Teal Green 1300, not mandatory).


I gathered groups of three or four fronds, and bound them together with strips of torn brown paper bag.


I bundled three or four frond clusters around another length of floral wire, and covered the lot of them with more torn paper bag strips, and stabbed them to dry in their eventual planters. These are those ever-versatile, well-modeled chocolate brown Houseworks tapered pots to which I had given a “zinc” finish.


Here they are “palmed” and waiting for the glue to dry in the pots. I’ll cluster more succulents around the bases, tying in with the rest of the casual landscaping. I like how they both frame and add a “parlor” friendliness to the entrance. Since this is meant to be a refurbished working farm building, I didn’t want to put in a stuffy staircase banister.

In the showroom proper you can see an exquisite spinning wheel, gifted by our beloved reader BW. We’ve both agreed it’s a bit too pristine, but I’m reluctant to augment it. I need to channel my inner Sleeping Beauty for counsel.

Until then…



Been making California poppy and echeveria planters for a little while now.



I first learned how to make echeveria from this wonderful tutorial by Annie Christensen of We Love Miniatures. She uses brushed pastels at the end to tint the leaves. All the succulents in the Argo Wool Works foundation plantings were made using her method.

Lately, I’ve taken to using markers to tint and edge the various shapes punched from cardstock painted with acrylic wash, as seen above.

Also, do you see those footed flat clay planters? They’re from Falcon Miniatures, made in Thailand, and seem no longer available. If any of you know a source, I’d be very stoked :)


This afternoon I was fooling around, searching for some new shapes from the limited punches I have. I covered a bottle brush seed pod with overlapping petal shapes, and set that in a base of cupped leaves. Then I stuffed an emerging flower shape in the apex hole — I really need to look up the correct botanical terms — and… a new, fairly convincing succulent/cactus hybrid variety was born! I’m quite pleased with its appearance and will post a step-by, after I get a manicure :)


This picture of Scarlett nuzzling into Albie expresses my joy. I expect one day to stop posting so very many cat pictures, but she is so stinking cute and delightful…


Starla Argo


Introducing Starla Argo, a seven-point celestial, who lives in the semi-autobiographical North Coast community all my builds inhabit.


This is a first prototype and is not fully felted or finessed. I’m happy with the proportions, but want to try out some different construction techniques for the star rays, as well as highlight colors.

I also just learned about Paverpol Craft Medium, a liquid textile hardener that seems perfect for preserving details. I want to read a bit more about it, and then check it out!


The “tin” sign above the cubbies is this old yarn label I found at the Graphics Fairy, then tinted with watercolor and glued to a flattened wine lead foil.


The pair of porcelain sheep figurines on the back wall bookcases are feves from ValueArtifacts. For which I credit and blame our dear reader Barbara W for my growing obsession. If you’ve not visited the shop, there are some treasures to be had. The tiny fish pitcher on the table is from there, as well as the sleek white and black mid-century cat duo in the front left corner.

Retro Sofa


Kris Compas had two new kits up in her Etsy shop, this sofa and some equally awesome chairs. I chose the sofa kit for the Argo Wool Works showroom porch.


I want to use tie silk for the upholstery. But which one? Thanks to the generosity of friends, I have a curated collection of about 30 ties from which to choose. I’ve narrowed it down to these six:


Blue, gray and black Escher flying fish.


Ivory and black dots, which I used on this bench:



Leaping trout on a burgundy background


Blue and white Paisley on black


Multicolored truncated ovals on burgundy


Gold and blue fans on pale yellow


I feel like my granddaughter, Maddie Lou, making decisions with the happy abundance of choices.

Which one would you pick?



California Poppies


Native poppy season is well underway here in Northern California. One of my art supply stockists (thank you, Britain, for that great word) was selling Letraset markers for $0.67 (!) so I laid in a fresh supply of flower colors. The 3/16-inch (4–5mm) petals — four per flower — are punched from inexpensive 20 lb. paper. Stamens are a thin strip of paper tinted deep yellow, cut into a fine fringe and rolled around the stem tips. I’m using 28-gauge paper-wrapped wire cut to approximately .75 to 1.25-inch (19–31mm) lengths.


Here’s the first clump of poppies in with the lavender. The color with these markers when dry is a bit muted, so I’m going to mix in some Sharpie for vibrancy in subsequent propagation. I’m using small mounds of preserved moss to suggest their foliage, as I did on the Sea House Warming Hut living roof. There is continuity in Nancyland :)


The yummy bench is from Peter Tucker, found at the Good Sam show a few years back.

You are welcome to come sit and watch the gardens grow :)



Ties, Lavender, Echeveria, Rocks


Albie immediately curled up on the rest of the ties, and I set up to make more lavender.

I’m still experimenting with technique, but I try to make a shrubbery’s worth of stems each time, so if they change I can call them varieties or cultivars :) #miniaturejustifications

I’m using paper-wrapped stem wire, purple superfine sand (Activa Scenic brand) for the flowers, tissue paper for the petals, tacky glue, and cardstock painted  grayish-green for the foliage. Most tutorials call for lycopodium as foliage, but I’ve decided on this well-designed and versatile punch from Punch Bunch.


I got my birthday order from The Miniature Garden, which included some 28-gauge paper covered stem wire, yay! Turns out what I’ve been using is 26-gauge, so voilà, the first (subtle) variety. (The #28 is on the left.)


I cut 1.5-inch (3.8 cm) lengths of stem wire and rolled one end a scant quarter-inch (6mm) in tacky glue.


Rather than dip the glued end, I pour the sand repeatedly over the stem wire. This builds up and preserves the shape of the flower.

drying stems_032016

The sanded stems are placed upright to dry. (The fluffy ones you see on the left are made with Flowersoft, a poofy kind of scatter that I’m considering using.)

The petals on top are made from tissue paper punched with a small flower shape, cupped with a ball stylus, and glued to the flower.


In the foreground you can see the Flowersoft flowers with petals cut from waxed paper tinted with a marker. Behind those are the sanded flowers with tissue petals.


The lavender spikes are planted in the mounds with an awl and glue.


These ones were built on #26 wire stems.


The foliage is shaped with a stylus and glued in around the stems to create a pleasantly convincing, if stylized, base.



Making more echeveria hen and chicks to cluster in around the lavender mounds. If you look closely above, you can see once again the difference between #26 and #28 (on the right) stem wire.

paperclay_rocks_unThere’s an entire molds-worth of paperclay rocks dried and awaiting mineralization. These will be nestled and half-buried around the lavender, poppy and succulents bed as an unobtrusive border.

Happy vernal equinox (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere)!


Lavender, Ties

lavender_031916-1I mentioned that Argo Wool Works also grows lavender. There are a few good approaches to making miniature lavender, and after a thoughtful review, I’ve adopted a hybrid technique. This is always the question in miniatures: how best to convey a feeling, an illusion of the real thing? Absolute adherence to reality, or a simpatico synthesis of appearance? Answers often surprise me, as did this lavender.

lavender_031916-2These are the start of the demonstration lavender beds outside the AWW showroom, as planted in the egg styrofoam and sand-covered mounds established earlier. I’ll post a more step-by-step later, when I’ve more available time. I think the method is worthwhile :)

The final observances of my family’s multiple March birthdays have been celebrated. I was delighted to receive an unexpected gift from one of my oldest, dearest friends, who noted my quest for fabulous silk ties with a large bag of said items. Her husband — another oldest, dearest friend — is a professional wearer of ties.ties_031916.jpgThese are the top five I pulled out for the squiggly vintage Chippendale sofa, and/or throw pillows. The far left is out of focus, but is a delightful fish pattern. The next is an exquisite gray/black circular motif… on through a classic understated Paisley, a retro-looking I don’t even know what, and a brilliant Escher tribute.

Adding to the Spring bounty is another bestowal of wood veneer and samples that would have otherwise gone into landfill, from family member Tony. This is a large roll of oak veneer, and samples of bamboo, cut both horizontally and vertically.more_veneer_031916So, so beautiful, and interesting! May your cups runneth over with unexpected gifts and bounty to share.