If your inspiration for decorating dollhouse miniatures comes from interior design magazines or TV show, do not forget the scale in which you are working. It sounds self-evident, but so many of us lose sight of that fact, when we gaze at all the wonderful fabrics offered to us.
Following are some guidelines to stay focused on what is most important: you are searching for a perfect fabric to use in a dollhouse miniature. Now please don’t say, “Duh!” just yet.
I strongly feel that when we focus primarily on color, and don’t keep the “technicalities” of pattern size and the weight of the fabric in mind at the beginning of the design process, we risk falling in love with an inappropriate material. The color is gorgeous, but perhaps the pattern is too large, or the fabric too stiff and heavy. But it’s such a beautiful color! Right, then we try to force this material into our project and the next step is usually to start over.
Fortunately, we can “audition’ fabrics before we buy them.
Brick Mortar Stores
Educators tell us we all learn in three different ways: visual, auditory and kinetic – touching. The trick for teachers is to figure out which the three is the primary portal to the brain or each of their charges. We have a kinetic learner in the family. When he encounters something new, he says, “Let me see!” grabs the object. This darling is kept out of fine glassware and porcelain shops.
Fortunately for miniaturists, fabric stores give us the opportunity to hone our kinetic skills, without fear of breakage.
Choosing The Right Pattern
One trick is to cut a one inch square out of a piece of stiff paper or a plastic card. I prefer a plastic card because its convenient to keep in my wallet.
Scan the bolts of fabric in the rack and pull several that might be suitable. Remember, you are considering color, pattern and weight, all at the same time. To zero in on pattern, pass the one inch window over a fabric. This expands your choices because even large flowered prints may have areas like stems, buds and leaves that may be useful to your design.
This video from Joanne’s Minis gives a good demonstration of the One Inch Window technique: http://youtu.be/zXd38Jm4bpI
Wrinkles Are Good.
If you need pleats on curtains, dresses or furniture skirts, the fabric must hold a crease, Scrunch the material in your hand and see if it wrinkles. If it does, it’s a prospect.
Stains Aren’t Good.
Wet a small spot with some saliva and see if it stains. This will be important if you want to use glue anywhere and don’t want it to show.
Fraying, Sometimes Good.
Check out the cut end of the cloth to see if it frays. You don’t want to be sewing tiny seams and have it fray apart. On the other hand, you want it to fray a bit, if a fringe is in your plan.
Pay attention to the weight of the material. If it is heavy, it may be too thick for miniature work. I feel comfortable working with cotton, light-weight wool, cotton and silk blend, rayon and some other light-weight fabrics – if they behave the way I want. Regular quilting cotton or similar materials have the qualities I like for most projects
No local store can compete with the variety of fabrics available online. And you need not be overwhelmed by the number choices. A “long tail keyword search” gives you ample control on what is presented to you.
As an example, start with “fabric tiny prints.” Narrow it down by adding “cotton” or “large weave.” Use as many key words as you can, before the search engine gets totally confused and nothing but irrelevant choices are offered.
Using Both Online and Local Shops
Here is a recent experience I had. Custom made curtains are a popular item in my online shop, I received an order for pleated curtains in shade of gray that aqua throw pillows would love. The local JoAnns had nothing useful; same at Jay’s Fabrics. Online shopping was next.
First I went to several tried-and-true websites and used the internal links to browse. Still no luck, so I went to my favorite browser and entered this long tail keyword string in the search field: “dollhouse curtain fabric brocade cotton gray” and got links to three possibilities. The descriptions of the fabrics looked good. I did a screen print of each and emailed them to the customer. She made her choice, I made and shipped curtains. All is well.
It would have been much easier, less time-consuming, ergo more profitable if I could have found what I wanted at a local fabric store. They sell to a mass market, and the miniature artisan gets lost in that demographic. In the end, there is always a way. Sometimes we just have to learn new things.