Workshops and Organization

Page: 3

Organizing Part 3: by Connie Sauve
Now, let's get started on your organizing! The hardest part to organizing is getting started. It can be overwhelming. Most people make the mistake of starting, getting overwhelmed by not knowing what to start with and finally giving up. The whole key to getting organized is to make lists - very detailed lists, by breaking down the tasks into small manageable jobs. It's a great feeling (for some of us) to be able to cross off a task when finished and slowly step by step you'll be done in no time!

Here's a list of steps to get you started:

1. Decide how your going to break down your collection (i.e. by project, by room, by similar artisan, etc.) and write up the list of your = projects for use later. This will give you an idea of how many inventory forms you will need to copy and also how many tabs you will need to buy.

2. Get your notebook set up. Obtain a 3-ring binder and as many tabs as you will need ( I have about 48 - I heard that WOW from the peanut gallery!). Use the tabs that can be customized with those little paper inserts. Label the tabs with your project names.

3. Get inventory sheets copied and titled with the appropriate project.Another good tip is to take a picture of each room or project and mount it to the tabbed dividers in your binder.

4. Start by either gathering all your minis and taking them one at a time and writing down all the information you know about each item. Or for finished projects, go project by project, room by room (in a dollhouse) and write down each item in the room. Again write down all the information you know about each item. Either look up receipts or go by memory and guess all the information listed on the inventory form. You can either write it directly onto the form (pencil only) or on scratch paper first and transfer the information to the form when completed. I have mine listed in chronological order for each project, by date when I purchased them. Easy to keep up since I started this when I first started mini collecting in 1979 ( I was in high school - do the math).

Take your time. Your probably not going to get this done in a day or even a week unless you don't have many minis (is that possible?). Set goals for yourself, like "today (or this week) I'm going to record the items in my dollhouse's living room."

When doing your inventory it's a perfect time to go through and get rid of unwanted items. Make sure you also write down your closetful of unfinished kits too. You could even start a list of your unfinished kits (I'll bet you'll be surprised at how many you have), then when you need = a new project to work on you'll know what you have available. I keep all my kits in a box so they're all in one place.

Happy Organizing!

Quick tip: (Not mini related but it's been such a great help). I seem to be always taping shows on TV. I number (in pen) my tapes on the paper label on each tape. If it's a 6 hour tape I number the label 1-6, one for each hour. If it's an 8 hour tape I number those 1-8, one for each hour. Then when I tape something, I write the name (in pencil only) of the show under the "hour" where it's been taped. Example: 1. Friends / Will and Grace (1/2 hour shows) 2. and 3. Casablanca 4. Antique Roadshow, etc. Then you know about how much time you need to rewind or forward to find a certain show.

Connie Sauve

Organizing minis: I have developed a system similar to Connie's with a three ring binder with tab dividers. Each project has its own section and I have developed four forms to use. Since it is a binder, I can use as many of each form as needed for each project, small and large, electrified or not. All pages have a line at the top to identify the project.

1. First page is for "Notes." It has lines to note date project started and ended, then is basically a page of blank lines for notes. This is where the project can be fleshed out.
2. second page is for "Components". It has two columns of lines to use to list components needed to complete the project. "Let's see, I'm making a Mother's Day dome, so I'll need a dome, table, chair, tablecloth, flowers, vase, etc." This is a kind of shopping list, too. Handy, because I get confused at shows and shops and forget what I need for what!
3. Third page is for "Inventory". Here is where I list date acquired, description, dealer (or artist), and price.
4. Lastly, I have a "Wiring" page. The first half has lines for notes, the bottom half is blank for a diagram.
Now, I have only just developed this system, so I haven't really test-driven it yet! I used to use a recipe box with different colored cards for accessories, structures, furniture, etc. That works well, too, and I'll probably use that for 'homeless' items that won't be a part of the project book. Now, all this is well and good, but will I use it...?

Lynette in WNC

Inventory Records: I keep a miniature inventory on Excel. I have kept it in a notebook until this year, when someone on this list suggested Excel. I have columns for all of the things you describe. One feature I love about having it on Excel: I can click on ARTIST and it arranges everything on the list alphabetically with the artist's name. Or I click on a project as in Greystone Inn, and it again groups everything that is in this project. You can then click on the cost and it will total each project. This is the only column I DO NOT LEAVE on all the time. For obvious reasons!!! No one cares but me. tends to make you queasy! I took 3 weeks to transfer everything from the book to the computer, but now that's it done it will be easy to keep up.

Fannye in TX

AMAC Plastic Boxes

Buffalo Creek Miniatures (acrylic boxes & bags)

Marilyn, MI

Plastic Boxes: I needed little plastic boxes to mail out some items for a mini swap and swung by a place called Tap Plastics...they had numerous sizes of see through little boxes with hinged lids for 20 - 35 cents a piece, depending on the size of course. the 20 cent size was more than big enough to hold a cake on a pedestal just to give you an idea of size. I believe they are online if you don't have one close by.


Organizing Part 4: In case anybody missed the link to the Miniature Inventory form here it is again. The form is linked from

I get so many wonderful ideas from other peoples' projects I've seen at shows or in all the miniature magazines and now on this SS digest. Miniature people are very creative. I have 4 photo albums full of photographs of miniature projects that I have seen (I always ask first before taking pictures). I keep them separate from family pictures, and when I need inspiration I just thumb through all the wonderful projects. It's kind of like going to a miniature show.

I organize all the ideas I get from magazines and books by writing them in a notebook. I have separate tabs for each magazine. From each issue I write down anything I see that interests me, whether it's a piece of furniture, a doll, someone's finished project, an interesting article or a how-to. Under the appropriate magazine section in my notebook, I first write down the issue and I highlight it. Then I just start listing: 1. Description of what I saw that interested me. 2. Artists name and 3. Page number. If I really like something I'll put an asterisk next to it. Here's an example under the Miniature Collector magazine tab:

June 2001
Dutch bureau cabinet by John Davenport pg. 20
Camelback sofa How-to by Mary Lou Nancken pg. 26-29
*Dining room by Holly June pg. 34-35

I have also heard of a few other ways to record ideas: on note cards and on sticky notes on the outside of each magazine. I actually start out using the sticky note idea because I don't usually read each magazine at one sitting. Then I just keep a running list going and transfer it all to my notebook once in a while. I prefer the notebook or note card idea, instead of leaving the sticky note on each magazine, because then your not handling your magazines all the time when you need to search for something and I can quickly scan my notebook list for all my magazines and books all in one spot. My NN magazines alone go back to 1979! That's a lot of magazines to flip through, let alone find.

Quick Tip: Use cardboard mailing tubes for storing strip wood and moldings. They come in a variety of sizes and lengths, and a bunch can be tied or glued together and stored horizontally or vertically.

Connie Sauve

Inventories: Read Heidi's post about taking inventory, and the importance of insurance, and thought I'd let you all know about my experience. In 1992, I lost everything in Hurricane Andrew. The condo I was renting had the roof blown off, and many of the windows blown out (yes, they had hurricane shutters on them, the shutters blew off) but at least I still had walls - many of my less-fortunate neighbors did not have that. I did have renter's insurance, which kept me from going bankrupt. But, at the risk of sounding like an insurance commercial, the important thing here is that it is really smart to do an inventory, and if you have a LOT of miniatures, or a collection, or even a few dh's, talk to your agent about making certain that they are covered! My company has them listed as a separate rider. Granted, money will not really compensate you for all the time, trouble, etc., that it took to build, or collect, but at least you can try to replace. (Been there, done that, hated it.) And the video is a truly smart idea, but storing it in your home isn't. If you have a safety deposit box, keep it there. If you don't have a video camera or access to one, at least take a ton of pictures. If you have made an inventory on your computer, print it out and put a copy in the safety deposit box, too. None of us really likes to think about a disaster happening to us, but "stuff" does happen, and at least we can try to be prepared.

Deena in Miami

Organizing Part 5: Here are a few more tips on organizing. I keep one drawer in my file cabinet for all my miniature catalogs I have collected over the years. I use hanging files for the following things: 1. How-to Books 2. Mini Project Ideas (pictures, sketches, lists etc.) 3. Sales Receipts 4. Architectural Patterns (instruction sheets from kits and patterns) 5. Furniture Patterns (again, instruction sheets from kits and patterns) 6. Miniature Houses, and 7. Miniature Furniture and Accessories. Number 7, you could break it down even further into furniture, food, plants, dolls, etc. Right now mine is all lumped together, but it would be easier when searching for a particular catalog to have it separated more.

Make sure when going to a class to put your name on all your tools. Even with my name on my tools when I'm teaching, things get borrowed and end up going home with other people. But the good thing is, as soon as the person realizes they have it, the tool always gets returned because they sooner or later see my name on it.

When you go through all the sweat and tears to make a miniature you're proud of - remember to sign your name and date it! Also sign and date your finished projects, so people in the future will know who the wonderful miniaturist was (is).

Take progressive photos of your big projects as your working on them. It's fun to look back and see how you made it.

Quick tip: I use a Monoject syringe for my glue. I've found that the finger tabs aren't wide enough, so I bought a metal or plastic washer and slipped it on the syringe and that gives me more area for my fingers to press on. Just look around the hardware store for ideas. I also put a rubber knitting needle tip on the end so it doesn't dry out (don't use a pin, it will rust). If you get a lot of glue dribbling out of it, that means there is an air bubble in it. Tip it on end, let it sit until the air bubbles rise to the top and insert a thin tweezers next to the rubber stopper by the air bubble and squeeze out the bubble.

Connie Sauve

Paint Brushes and Water Picks: "I received a dozen roses for my birthday and they all had the nice little plastic flower "keepers" ....The water tubes on the end of your roses are a favorite of mine when I'm painting. I place a small amount of water in each tube, stick them in my famous Styrofoam work block. I remove the rubber lid and slide it over the end of my paintbrush. When I finish the work I'm doing with that brush, I place my brush in the tube then slide the rubber cap down and reattach it to the water pick. I use a different brush for each color and stroke. This even allows brushes to be left overnight. Such a joy to sit down at the worktable and pick up where I left off. I also love not having a jar of water to knock off my table. I also use these little gems when I'm painting at an outdoor location. They protect my brushes better than anything I've ever found.

Becky Holliday

Teaching Classes: I've taught miniature doll-dressing classes many times. Personally I think that classes should cost no more than HALF of what that finished project would cost, so people can not only learn how to make it, but can also save money by doing it themselves. I like to make up a little packet for each student... containing what they'll need for the project. I don't try to include tools (glue or scissors etc.)... but do provide the basics. I also like to offer some variety and choices (e.g.: I like to have each packet of fabric be a different design/color so students can pick their favorite -- and so that they don't all go home with the SAME doll). Kids always enjoy clothing peg dolls and they are very easy to dress and wig. Keep in mind that most kids cannot sit still very long... so a simple project is best. I taught dollhouse furniture to children several years ago and would have all the pieces cut for them. All they had to do was glue, paint etc. I found that the more lengthy complex pieces tired them too much. The length of time to allow for a class will depend on what you are teaching. I always like to allow a little extra time for those that are slower. I also like to provide them with written instructions so they can take them home and use the instructions as a "reminder" of how it's done. Those instructions also help the "fast workers" move ahead rather than have to wait for the slower workers to catch up. Good luck with your classes. It's so much fun!


X-acto storage: I keep one of those triangular plastic things on my x-acto's -- and no accidents so far. My DH's insulin pens come in plastic trays, divided into 5 shallow compartments. I keep a 6" ruler in one compartment, an x-acto in a second, a stylus in a third, a small pair of tweezers in a fourth, and whatever else I happen to think of in the fifth.

Janet in Baltimore

Workshops & Organization: Organizing fabric: I just finished a monumental job of sorting through years of my own purchases, plus the quilting fabrics I inherited from my mother. I have an old dresser/chest of drawers, with four small drawers across the top and six drawers side by side below that I use for fabrics and sewing stuff. Here's how I did it:

I bought several boxes of ziploc plastic bags, both sandwich and gallon size. For all those fat quarters and eighths of a yard pieces that I'm always buying, I grouped related prints and solids together in the sandwich bags, by color. I did the same thing with the larger pieces, folding everything to fit. It's surprising what will fit within one of those bags.

I discovered that three rows of sandwich bags fit exactly side by side across the width of one standard drawer. I measured and marked off two dividers to fit from front to back of each drawer and my grandson cut them for me from cardboard. Four drawers held three rows each of sandwich bags (gasp!). I can just riffle through them as one does the patterns in the file cabinets at a fabric store. It's the dividers that keep them from slithering down.

For the larger pieces in the gallon size bags I made dividers to fit them, also, although the bags had to be lengthwise in the drawer as opposed to facing me (does that make sense?), sometimes with the ends of the fabric sticking out of the top of the bag. The largest pieces of yardages (from my mother's quilting) I just folded as compactly as I could and laid them flat in the bottom drawer. I may cut them into smaller pieces eventually to share with newbies.

I worked for days on it, but now it should not be that difficult to either locate something or to add new pieces (which I shouldn't do but know I will). I would imagine you could use the same process in those large plastic storage boxes, too, if you don't have a chest of drawers. Just line up the bags to see how they best fit, snugly but still flippable-through, and make your dividers.

In some cases I added odds and ends to the bags that I knew would go into a planned scene. For example, in a bag with some correlated apple prints from Joann's I put some apple buttons, stickers and pictures clipped from a magazine for posters, etc., that will eventually go in a Michael's hutch in my apple kitchen vignette.

Wanna in El Paso

Storing fabric in plastic bags: An addition to the utility of plastic Ziploc type bags. I also write in permanent marker on the top of the bag, the more rigid part above the zipper. For example, one bag may be labelled "Solids, cotton", another "Plain silk", another "Brocade" or "Christmas prints". You then only need to flip through the top of the bags, not investigate what is actually in each one.

Wendy in Clinton, NJ

Storing fabric: I, too have tons of fabric scraps. I store mine in those large cardboard storage boxes that are made to go under the bed. I did not use the plastic ones because some fabrics will deteriorate if they can't breathe (and how do I know this, you ask?). I made dividers for them and put all of the fabrics of a similar colour together in each section. I deliberately didn't label them because I like to go through them once in a awhile to see what's there. A few times a fabric has inspired a whole roombox.

Pat M, London, ON

Creativity and multiple projects: I found that my creativity is directly linked to the state of order/disorder of my workspace. I had a big cleanup last week, after I knocked over a bottle of acetone on my overcrowded table. After that, I was struck by "the thunderbolt", and produced non stop everything from plants, carpets, food, woodwork and needlework. For all the new SS members: Go to the SS website. There is a lot of useful tips about organizing your workspace. All the things I made during the past week, went into plastic containers, one for each project I'm planning to do in future.

Betsie, South Africa

Creativity and multiple projects: I have read, with great interest, the different comments about the number of unfinished projects that live in many of your lives. This very issue has been a source of contention between my mother and me for many years. She doesn't understand nor have any compassion for the fuel needed to feed the fires in an artistic spirit. I have contended that multiple projects are mandatory to maintain the greatest level of creativity. I believe it is necessary for an artist to surround themselves with varied challenges - complex to simple, inspired to mundane, new endeavors and old faithfuls and a few wild experiments just to spice up life and keep the creative juices flowing freely. This variety allows the creative soul to chose the task he/she feels is best suited for the moment - rather like choosing a chocolate from an assorted gift box. Some days we need to crunch nuts and others days we need a soft cream. My parent has snorted (a sound I have never mastered) and told me chocolate makes you fat and a collection of unfinished tasks only proves how little self discipline you have. What can I say? She is a troglodyte with no imagination. It has often taken me many years to collect and/or create and assemble the items required to complete a project. There are box's in my studio labeled,Firehouse;Sheriff's Office, Oriental Garden, etc. When I have enough material to move a given topic into a large shadow box or room box, I transfer it. I have special box's designed for this purpose. They are a holding house for a completed project yet to come. This has proved a satisfactory way to build an idea. I can enjoy the dream as the vision unfolds. This method of collecting has also saved me many costly mistakes in my purchasing. I seldom start with a structure. I manufacture the structure to fit the items I have gathered.

Becky Holliday

Work surfaces/areas: Presently I am using 5ft by 2.5 ft work table---its actually a larger version of a card table so it does have the folding legs. My actual project, a doll house, is on a table of its own so that the area isn't cluttered with the tools, pieces I am working with. My various tools are in two plastic 5-drawer containers. So the items are very moveable. I've used the larger table many times for family gatherings. I use news paper or large paper bags in my work space to protect the table. If I need to cut something, that is done on another surface--this is where your piece of plywood might come in handy.


Portable Work Surface: A simple piece of 1 inch thick Styrofoam makes a serviceable work caddie. I have corsage pins, toothpicks, paintbrushes, x-acto knife, tweezers, cuticle scissors, hair clippies (for clamps) and other items stuck in a single small brick. I also have the lid from an old glue bottle wedged in the corner. This is a perfect size for a small quantity of glue and the dried out glue will lift out with a flick of my corsage pin. I use golf tees for pedestals to hold the item I am working on. They stick well in the Styrofoam brick and provide a handle that I can hold as I work on a tiny item. My Styrofoam studio rests on a small tray with handles (damaged sale item at T J Max). This item is light weight, easy to move to various locations (the kitchen stove as I boil grapevine, the dining table as I assemble a kit, the arm of the love seat in the family room as I watch a movie while I work, the bathtub while I seek inspiration, the car as we travel, etc.) To be candid, I use this small portable workstation, more than my large, well designed studio.

Becky Holliday

Small Organizer: you could get a smallish tackle-type box (drug stores sell them for makeup) that will hold basic supplies -- tacky glue, scissors, sandpaper, tape, wire -- and carry part or all of any current project in it to work on during downtime. You could even recycle a plastic water bottle to carry rinse water and take some brushes and acrylic paints to work on plants with masking tape and wire. A box with a lift-out tray would allow you to keep the supplies in the bottom and put the finished (or partly finished) projects in the tray where they won't get smashed by rolling bottles. Not an original idea -- it's what I will do with the fabulous supply box Rebecca gave me for my birthday now that I've looted it to decorate the hats she packed with the trims. I'll be able to take projects down to Pam's so we can craft together.

Loretta Sniarowski

Indexing Articles: I was reading a Dec 97 issue of Dolls House World and saw an article by Eve it she gave her solution to remembering where the article was on "making tiles"...."doing hat boxes" and so on. She took a loose leaf notebook and always had it handy when her newest magazine arrived by mail or home from the store, and kept it close by in case there was an article she knew she would have a use to refer to soon or when she was ready for a related project. In this loose leaf binder she had Alphabetical tabs. The filing would be done by Feature title. The columns read....Feature title--Magazinel---Issue-- Pages--Contributor--Add'l Notes. Being in a binder additional pages could be added whenever needed where as in a notebook you could easily "run out of room". When I read this, it hit me that all these strips of paper or stickies coming out of the tops of my magazines wouldn't be necessary, and I wouldn't be searching through all with tabs on them to find just the right one! I now am starting my own notebook....hopefully this will save me hours of searching time.


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