Preparing for the overhaul...

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Making An Authentic Tudor Thatched Or Sod Roof, Part I

It's the iconic tudor cottage: half timbering, a low, sloping roofline, and a thatched roof.  Reproducing the effect in miniature, though, is hard.  We've been through a number of different experiments, and have finally found a fairly decent solution to the problem.  Part I addresses an often overlooked aspect of this program: the interior.

Most dollhouses with thatched or sod roofs feature plaster ceilings, which is historically inaccurate.  In real life, the upper ceilings of these houses were rushes.  Basically, you were looking at the inside of the thatch itself.  Sometimes, it grew moss, taking on sort of a fuzzy, rug-like appearance.

Photo courtesy of Gayle Hebbard

A view of the (often overlooked) ceiling. 

A close-up of a different ceiling.

The ceiling of a sod roofed house, on the other hand, would've been made of rushes, or slats of wood, or bark.  In Sweden, sod roofed houses traditionally feature a layer of sod on top of a layer of birch bark.  The primary function of the sod was to keep the bark in place.

Our first step was a trip to the fabric store.  I've found some really great bargains by going through the remnant pile.  I got a terrific deal on this fabric, because it was the end of a bolt.  It's fairly thick (more of an upholstery grade), and very fuzzy and nubbly.  My goal was to find something that looked as much like mossy rushes, or bark pieces, as possible.

Color, texture, and weight are important. 

I especially liked the fact that it was vertically oriented; up close, it looks like bundles of rushes tied together.  Here, I took a close-up of a little holiday; you can fill in (slight) mistakes after the fabric has dried, by inserting tiny strips along the sides.  Or, perhaps, you could touch them up with paint.  Since this fabric is so highly textured, mistakes are easy to hide. 

Attaching this fabric was extremely difficult.  I started by cutting a piece of roughly the right size--it's an exact fit along the sides, but as you can see, I left some extra room at the front--and then spraying the back with permanent matte fixative.  Then, I painted a layer of wallpaper mucilage on the ceiling, and fitted the fabric in.  I actually had to take it off, add more wallpaper mucilage in certain spots, and reposition it.  Patience is required! 

I like MiniGraphics wallpaper mucilage, because it doesn't get the paper/fabric too "wet".  It contains silicone, which makes it very easy to work with.  For my money, MiniGraphics runs circles around YES! mucilage. 

Because the fabric was so hard to attach, I did it in phases: first the rear side, and then, after the rear side had dried, the front side.

To be continued...

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