Here’s a little Thanksgiving present for everyone who’s never heard of Mouseland.
Oh yes, the massively talented and always sure to cheer up my day, Mouseland. If you can stay grumpy after looking at her images, seek medical attention.
This optimistically titled book is from my small (but distinguished) collection of vintage craft books. It was published in England in (guessing) the 1930s or 40s (it’s not dated). It contains instructions, diagrams and patterns for an large number of toys of amazing diversity of subject matter. My copy even still has the full size pattern sheet which was loosely inserted into the book.
What a gem. You could populate an entire nursery with just projects from this book. Which given the toy shortages of the time (due to the economy and the war) was rather a necessity. The soft toys are either knitted or sewn fabric/felt, oddly there are no crocheted toys. The wood toys include a section on reed basketry and the metal toys (and other toys) includes paper/card models and crafts.
But there is another reason I bought this book and here it is:
Fantastic illustrated endpapers! Virtually every single thing in the illustration is a project from the book. Who knew the hula girl’s boyfriend was a dog? That a monkey could be a fireman? That penguins are allowed on the bus? My very most favorite bit is Punch wreaking havoc with the crane and spilling milk all over the poor Golly, while Judy wisely makes discreetly for the exit.
Overall an entirely delightful window into the past. And terribly useful to boot.
I don’t usually do this, but this is essentially a redirect to a great post of a totally brilliant playset of the Muppet Show Theater designed and built by Lance Cardinal.
Among the many things I like are books about dolls and their houses (and their people). The Popover Family is such a book, a collection of short stories arrayed as a novel, telling of their many adventures. Comforting adventures with much love and friendship with a dash of excitement. Like many vintage books (this is from 1927) the language is delightfully dated. I’m also inordinately fond of decorated endsheets. Like these:
What I find particularly charming about the Popover Family is that fully half the family are improvised dolls. The mother and daughter are regular manufactured dolls; the mother is said to be “a little china doll” and the daughter is stated to be “a little girl doll” which might indicate she’s a bisque doll. But Father Popover and Baby Popover (whose long name is Loo-Loo) are improvised, that is, made of found or as is currently fashionable upcycled objects.
“Mr. Popover was a clothes-pin, tall and slim and brown. His head was small, but his legs were long, and of them he was very, very proud.”
“Baby Popover was a chubby glass bottle, smooth and long and round. He wore a little white cape and a white pointed cap tied over the cork that made his head. He lay in a little wooden cradle, as snug as could be, and he was never so good and quiet as when someone was rocking him to and fro.”
As you can see from the above illustration, there are also fairies in this book. Only in one story but that story is rather atypical for a fairy story, involving a domestic crisis wherein the Fairy Queen’s baby won’t stop screaming unless she holds him so she can’t dance at the ball. Mother and Loo-Loo Popover come to the rescue, the crisis resolved and a jolly time is had by all.
There is a decided emphasis on the power of the imagination in books like these. As an example, look closely at their house.
There are no internal doors, no stairs, and overall a general disregard for having things be in the same scale. So the imagination takes over and then anything, anything at all becomes possible. Tea parties with a feast of crumbs, midnight rides on a mouse named Brownie, and a baby who gets colic after his head came off in the bath and he filled up with water. And that is truly magical.
My copy of The Popover Family is battered and worn, the binding is loose, there are copious pencil marking on the text and it’s missing one of the four illustrations (the last, which I think might be of when Santa visits). I love it just the same.
This is a trial run of a little paper dollhouse that is made of ink-jet printouts fused to cracker and cereal box cardboard. The files were sent to me by Esben (a very generous toy theatre fan) from Denmark. The dollhouse was originally published in Illustretet Family Journal in the first part of the 20th century. This was a Danish magazine that included a great many paper models including some fantastic toy theatres. Since this is just a trial I shrank all the parts down to fit on 8-1/2 x 11 paper and didn’t pay strict attention to scale. The house turned out to be around 1/24 scale (1/2″ to the foot). Even at this size I can easily fit my hand into the attic to arrange the furniture and a friends six year old had no trouble at all playing with the house.
The house is designed to come apart into two pieces — voila! the attic comes off. I particularly love the wallpaper and wainscoting in the attic.
The parquet floor and french doors in the downstairs room are rather elegant, and the little portraits and sconces are lovely.
The attention to detail carries over into the furniture. Notice the woodgraining on the bedroom set (and the mattress ticking on that bed). Downstairs the table cloth does overhang the table legs all the way around (the legs are inset about 1/8″) and the designer included a piano!
The furniture is only partially cut out — those little white spaces in the chair and table legs should normally have been trimmed but this was only a test. I printed the furniture sheets on plain white cardstock and didn’t fuse any reinforcement. They are surprisingly sturdy.
The actual assembly went smoothly, all the parts were well designed and fit together as they should. The only problem I had was that I should have just used plain card stock for the attic dormers. The cardboard was a bit too thick and made fitting them very fiddley. Also next time I would cut out the window panes; it’s too dark in that attic. It would be great fun to do this project again on a slightly larger scale and make little dolls to live in it.