I was always intrigued with the concept of the Sunday Houses in the Texas Hill Country, and had seen these tiny little houses in Fredericksburg. So when a workshop was offered by De-Vonna Clark and Melody Swauger at a Southwest Mini Roundup several years ago, I signed up.
The two ladies had already built the basic foamcore structure, and we painted a stone sheet randomly with various colors, gave it a dirty water wash, and attached it with contact cement.
This little house was based on real stone houses like the one above, made from the limestone in the Fredericksburg area.
We stained and attached the wood flooring and added a border around the top of the lower floor. Next we painted all the GrandtLine windows, doors, staircase parts and other trims.
By the time the workshop was over, the basic structure was done, the interior finished, and shingles had been glued on the roof, but at that time I was still basically doing twelfth scale, so the house remained unfinished for a long time.
For the past couple of years I have been gaining confidence in my abilities at quarter scale, mainly as a result of the National NAME Day Projects, first a hutch, then a kitchen work table. The Quarter Connection, a quarter scale group, provided kits for small roomboxes built around these projects, that allowed me to actually get something completed.
By the time I finally got the confidence to get this house out to finish, I realized there were no pictures to go with the written directions (or if there were, they had been lost over the years). I am a visual person and I just couldn't "see" what I was supposed to do and couldn't remember what the instructors might have demonstrated or said.
I had done some quarter scale kits as a club member back in the early 90s, but this had been my first full quarter scale workshop and my first attempt at a house. I was so nervous and uptight that I might miss something, that I did miss something - like how to do the exterior staircase.
Interestingly enough, one night I was using my stain pen on all the pieces I had painted so long ago, trying to visualize what was what. I happened to lay one completed piece atop another, and by george, they looked like a trellis.
Then I went back and looked at some pictures I had Googled, and there was an exact original of what I realized my staircase was supposed to be. My "trellis" turned out to be the railings for the staircase. lol
Funny, isn't it? Finding that picture helped me recognize that all those miscellaneous bits formed the staircase and landing, and once I had the porch done that's really all that was needed to finish the house. And I had thought I had so much still undone. (How dumb am I not to have worked with a GrandtLine staircase before?)
The upper wood floor had not been glued in place and had badly warped, so I sprayed it with water, placed a dampened hot washcloth atop it and weighted it for several days. That ceramic hand is one of two bookends, a Christmas gift made for me by old friend and former teaching colleague Margie Marsh many years ago. They are hollow, but with a cork-stoppered opening. I filled each with sand and for many years they have served as great bookends (upright) until needed to weight something.
The lower floor had become somewhat warped, as well, but I figured not enough to be observable once the furnishings were added, so I left it. I decided I did not want the border that we had applied and removed it.
By the way, you will notice in the plastic bag a white piece with wood slats from the original workshop- that was the original ceiling. I can't remember now exactly why I did it, but I removed the beams. I guess they just did not work for me.
I added the porch railings and the porch roof, and my confidence and enthusiasm restored, decided that it would be better to have the house furnishings glued in place and the house glued to its base before adding on that staircase, so I put the house aside to work on the contents.
I wanted to duplicate as closely as possible what would have been in one of the Sunday houses of that period. The last time we had been in Fredericksburg I had taken exterior pictures of the Sunday houses as we prowled around town. One furnished house was in a museum complex, and although we could not go inside, I took pictures through the windows. I also had taken pictures of a kitchen in the museum building, as well.
I began gathering items from my stash to see what I already had. I remembered that these little houses were also used when someone was ill, or going to school in town, etc., so that could affect what was inside. Also, if people lived there through the week, too, that would also influence what I could put outside, as well, like flower beds or a garden plot or whatever. And, of course, there needed to be a well and an outhouse ....
Fortunately, several pieces of BPF worked perfectly for the time frame. The original Sunday Houses for the most part had fireplaces, but for space purposes I decided to use a BPF iron stove in the kitchen. Also, the original upstairs sleeping lofts were for the children, with a bed for the parents downstairs. Because this house is so small, I couldn't work it out with the bed in the same room as the kitchen, so decided that in this German family there would be two beds upstairs, with the adults still agile enough to climb the stairs. lol
Here is a picture taken looking inside through a window in Fredericksburg. I wanted to duplicate those beds. The original real Sunday house I saw there at the museum had a bed in the main room, and the ceiling was lower on the sleeping loft. This little house, I realized now, has a higher ceiling and a regular bed will fit up there, so that makes it easier to rethink how I am furnishing the main room.
Here is my version of Papa and Mama's bed, using a little brass bed that has been in my stash since probably the early 80s. I had that material in my stash.
The heavy extra covering and matching pillow are actually made from a paper cocktail napkin! (I will have a page soon on working with paper as fabric.)
Children usually slept in pallets on the floor in these tiny dwellings, and the second bed visible through the window suggested to me that it might be one for a grandmother so I made it extra plump and cozy.
The linens on this bed are made of Kleenex tissue. To form the feather bed, I glued two tissues together around the edges and placed a very thin layer of fiberfill on top, then turned them right side out. I used my iron to press the edges a bit.
I followed the same procedure for its long pillow cases, but they have a real lace edging. The quilt and pillow cover are also made of paper and were in my stash, probably from a swap or as a tote bag gift. I wish I knew who had done them. I refolded and shaped the quilt, gluing it into a natural look. I also reshaped the pillow by putting glue on the back and while still damp pressing the edges down.
Here is a replica of a real bedroom in Fredericksburg with a glimpse of its brass bed on the left, and the washstand in the center of the window that I wanted to duplicate as much as possible. (I made a shaving mirror like this one but it got lost somewhere as I worked on the last stages of the house.)
I was working on these furnishings after the Christmas holidays and noticed a Christmas napkin. Impulsively I opened it out to examine each section to see if there was a print I might use.
The white section on the back of this paper napkin reminded me of the white huck towels my grandmother had and I needed some for both my washstands. It worked beautifully to duplicate their texture.
Here I have added the towels (more are in the downstairs washstand) to the bedroom table in progress. The wide lace trim, popular among the Germans in that area, is laser paper lace actually glued to a piece of Kleenex, which is the right scale and weight. That's a BPF bowl.
I have now added the matching pitcher, which I have painted with roses, along with Mama's Bible and a small oil lamp.
Later I added a ladies' face cream jar and the waste water jar underneath in the finished house.
It took a while, deciding what accessories I needed to fit the historical period and then figuring out how to make them. (This is the base of my lamp to the left of my work tray.) Since there were no closets, my house's occupants needed some storage, so I considered a version of a German "shrunk" (which turned out to be too big for the space). Certainly trunks were used and fortunately I had three in my stash.
I also knew they used to hang things on pegs on the walls and spent considerable time making hats and tiny bonnets, and faking coats and other clothing articles that would be hanging on individual pegs or on a wall peg rack. I lost a couple of bonnets and scarves that were originally hanging here ...
This wonderful quilt rack with its birdhouse and plant was in my stash. Unfortunately, I can't recall whether it was a swap or a purchase. If anyone knows who it was made by, please contact me.
I worked with a piece of graph paper to plan each room's furnishings and as I got each possible piece ready, I added it to the drawer of possibilities.
The original Sunday house had a rectangular table, but my interior was so small that I decided a round table would be more workable.
I wanted to use this piece of fabric for the tablecloth, but it was not pure cotton and was totally resistant to all my attempts to manipulate it. Even after I coated the back with glue and pressed the folds in place, they just kept sproinged back out. Looking around in desperation and exasperation I spotted the plastic top of a gumball machine container. I pressed it down over the table and voila! It fit perfectly. I removed it, sprayed the tablecloth heavily with hair spray and manipulated the folds as best I could and plopped the cover over it again.
I left it to dry over night and finally, it worked! I used my small sharp scissors to trim the edges to make it even on all sides. I am saving that gumball container for future desperate moments with round table covers!
The chair cushions match the curtain swags and bench cushions.
This little hutch was a swap by Ann Cunningham (who fortunately signed the back so that's why I know). I began furnishing it with items in my Accessories box and took a diagnostic picture.
Oh, ick! First of all, the doily is WAY too off scale. Secondly, the blues don't match in the plates and the painted tea set (and I notice a white cup and saucer have disappeared! Thirdly, the wooden lid on the flour canister is way too thick. I LOVE the look of the ham, though, but I think it belongs somewhere else ....
Well, back to the drawing board.
This is much better. I've replaced the brass brad knobs with white pulls. I added items to the top, including a covered serving dish, a candlestick and a cutting board. The red bowl and the spots of red in the plate echo the red of the canister lid and the striped honey pot. I replaced the plates with a large platter and two blue plates which echo more closely the blues in the teapot.
Instead of the over-sized doily I have used a wide lace more in scale and accurate for that period. Although still a bit large, it is less obtrusive.
In this picture of an actual kitchen, you see the wide lace used in the cupboard to the right.
I noticed a quite large trim inside another china cabinet in Fredericksburg, too.
I duplicated an old red coffee pot (a plastic piece that I painted and grunged) and using findings made a hot water jug like ones I had seen.
Must be early morning, as here on the the stove top is a pan of eggs being scrambled, along with some coffeecake fresh out of the oven.
Since these little houses were only used for weekends, most of the time ready-cooked food would be brought from home and there would probably be only basic staples like coffee (top shelf), flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and pepper. I had a cute little coffee grinder but also lost it during the latter part of the process when I was picking the house up and turning it this way and that. So, I figure these folks would grind their coffee at home and bring some in from the farm. lol
I can't believe how difficult it is to find these tiny quarter scale accessories when they drop in the floor. I think there is some kind of Floor Gremlin with long arms who reaches out from under my rolling carts to grab them and stow them away. Hmm; I feel a new character coming on ....
That "glass" bowl with the rounded top looks a lot better in real life. The two round jars are beads, and the tin salt and pepper shakers on the bottom shelf are jewelry findings. I created the labels for my canisters and canned goods with my graphics program.
For the rectangular baking powder container I glued the label to thin red craft foam and cut to fit (looks orange here).
For round containers this tiny I leave the labels in a strip, trim everything I can around the edges, and curve them by holding them in the palm of my hand and running a thin paint brush handle back and forth.
The strip of labels is glued onto the straw and then cut apart to form the canisters.
I dripped glue into the open top of the straw to give it stability and let it bulge up to form a cap. I repeated this process for the canned goods but used different sized straws. I also waited until the glue was almost dry and then pressed down to give the top of the cans a flatter surface, then painted the tops silver. I did not have room on the shelf for the coffee and tea canisters, so saved them for another setting. I used a coffee tin label from the early 1900s for the coffee tin on the top shelf. For it I used a bead.
Here I am trial fitting the kitchen pieces. Still thinking about what to use on top of the pie safe.
I kept the BPF pitcher and berries and added another basket. That flour bag was a swap item.
I decided there was room to add a basket of kindling (match sticks and trim wood) between the dry sink and the stove. I put a coat of stain over the basket later. You practically have to stand on your head and have a magnifying lens to see this in the actual room, but I know it is there. lol
This blurry picture is a view through a window at the musem Sunday House, showing the bed and a framed sampler hanging on the wall. I decided I needed to duplicate that sampler or find something similar.
After I was satisfied with where all my basic furniture pieces were going to go, I did some research and used my graphics program to make frames for several similar German pieces like that sampler to hang on the walls.
The embroidered Lord's Prayer in German hangs on the wall over the bed.
Visible in real life, but hard to get a picture of.
On the other side of the room is this example of German paper-cutting (cutting silhouettes with very sharp scissors), called Scherenschnitte. My daughter Dana did some wonderful real-life scherenschnitte when she was a young bride. I have a little teddy bear picture at our place in the New Mexico mountains, and a wonderful larger framed rabbit from those days that is usually atop one of my china cabinets.
This scherenschnitte reads:
Der hochste Gott
Disz haus bewahr
Vor wasser feurer
Und aller gefahr
The online translation came out this way:
The supreme god
This house shall preserve
And of all dangerous
My good friend Elly in Amsterdam translated this for me:
"May the Highest God
Protect this house
From fire, water
And all danger"
Thank you, Elly!
I decided this piece will hang on the wall over the desk.
This piece of neeedlework is a young school girl’s embroidery practice while she learned her ABC’s. The fanciful design includes traditional patterns and the Tree of Life. It hangs over the pie safe in the kitchen.
These plates will go somewhere, I thought. (I can't recall now if I used these or not.)
I decided to work from the top down, gluing things into place, figuring I would need to be holding onto the bottom floor while I maneuvered things into the upper interior.
At this point I was not feeling happy about the upper floor. Having the floor paper cover the front edge this way made it look way too thick. And look how dark it is! You can barely see inside.
Here I am measuring to make the cuts to bring some light in.
Here it is with the center cut away by my ever helpful husband. Much better, and makes me understand why most kits come this way already. You notice I started tearing away that ugly edge that resulted from folding the wood floor paper over.
In those days, people didn't really have closets as we do now. So Papa and Mama have a trunk on the wall beside the doorway, Grandma has hers and the children have a trunk at the foot of Papa and Mama's bed. These trunks would probably contain extra winter quilts and a few pieces of basic clothing, perhaps each person's Sunday church-going outfit. (By the way, those pretty Go-To-Meeting hats were made by Laura Miller, I believe.)
In addition to the framed needlework pieces, a picture of Oma and Ompa on their wedding day has been added over Grandma's bed.
Of course, there needs to be a place, also, for baby's cradle, and a rocking chair beside it.
I purchased a pair of these chairs on Ebay. The old quilt tossed on the rocking chair arm is actually a paper printie.
Okay; now let's move on to the lower floor.
Here are some individual pieces finished and temporarily placed in the front room. (I was always knocking something over in that small space!)
There was no inside running water in those days; the pump was outside and all the household water had to be brought in. This washstand by the door kept water handy for cooking and for hand and food washing. There's a bar of homemade soap on the edge of the wash basin. (I later replaced that blue pitcher with an oil lamp.)
I wanted to keep the curtains simple so as not to obscure the windows and make the tiny room any darker so planned the curtain to just cover the top frame. I decided on a simple swag like those from the past, and used the same print that is on the bench.
After measuring the windows and marking the dimensions on wax-paper-covered graph paper, I smoothed a thin coat of Tacky glue onto the back of the fabric and then used pins to help shape the swags. I sprayed with hair spray and let dry thoroughly. Using my smallest sharpest scissors I trimmed away threads and made the sides even and then glued the swags to the very top of the windows.
This little bench was in my stash. I made the cushions with old business cards covered with my curtain fabric. I have forgotten now what I used to add that polka dot edge to the seat.
I painted the BPF lamp, made the books and the fruit, and added the Sherenschnitte, which appears blue here, but is actually black. Frankly, this all looks so much better in real life than in this picture!
Papa works on his accounts at this little desk.
This is a real account book in the museum in Fredericksburg.
Here is my handy hand book end weighting down the trim under the porch roof.
I planned to use a 6 inch high glass dome, so made my base from 1/4 inch foamcore. I also had to add some wood underneath the stair landing to make the outside support posts fit snugly.
I used a model railroad ReadyGrass vinyl mat in Desert Sand for the first time for the base because it resembles dry, stony soil
Here I have marked where the house will go. I used my stain pen on the supports for the staircase, and that wash is for the railroad scatter stones.
One of the things I knew I wanted to add was a water pump since there would have been no indoor plumbing at that time. I am not absolutely sure, but I think this was the real water pump where Helen Keller and her Annie Sullivan made her breakthrough into the world of language. I used it as my model.
I wanted to use the BPF water pump but needed to make it a bit taller. There on the edge of the table in a small plastic box were some tiny pieces that came out of a discarded electronic something, thanks to my husband who had asked me if I wanted that stuff.
A little rubber bit looked promising so I glued the pump on top of it and painted it black and it worked. I rubbed eye shadow over the black and the pump now has a metallic look. A tiny metal piece from that same electronic whatever became my tub. It had a hole in it and I dropped a sequin center in and it worked perfectly to cover the bottom. I added a few drops of glue to suggest water for "priming the pump."
I spotted a small piece of very soft makeup sponge on the table (boy, I have a lot of bits and pieces lying around waiting ... lol) and that's what I used for my "slab" of limestone. Cut slightly irregularly and pressed down to suggest stone, with a dirty water wash and some dry brushing with beige and grey, I felt it pretty closely matched the picture above.
I am mulling over what to put under the outside stairs. I can see a dog lying there taking a nap in the shade - maybe a couple of chickens that wandered over from a neighboring house ....
When I glued the house onto the round base it didn't seem like there was any room left at all. I had to give up my plan for the little outhouse.
Here I have added my front stoop - another limestone slab made from the same piece of sponge - and I am preparing to add the coffee grounds soil tor my flower beds.
Railroad scatter makes the "limestone" rocks that outline the flower beds. I dumped a couple tablespoons of the scatter into a condiment cup with a black wash, then dipped them out onto a folded paper towel to dry. I thinly dry brushed beige and tan paint on them while they were still on the towel.
After they were glued in place, I used more of the wash to blend the colors and then added fine green landscaping foam here and there to suggest grass growing up around them. I like to "bury" these elements with different layers of soil and grass so that they blend into the ground.
I was going to make red hot poker flowers like some in one of my Fredericksburg pictures but decided they would be too much with the hollyhocks. All the flowers I used were purchased at a Chicago International in 2011. I can make flowers, but in this scale I am happy to buy fine work like them.
After the flower beds were done I used miniscule amounts of the foam to suggest grass here and there and to sort of outline the paths to the back of the house.
The bench and chair were purchases at the Portland NAME SmallScales Convention in 2012.
It wasn't until after I started taking final pictures that my story began forming in my mind. I kept going back and forth between as-it-was-then and present day. With my invention of Sharon Schnitte and her B&B I was able to do both.
Having lost the instructions, for years I tried to find out who the original designers of my little house were. When Carolyn in Katy Texas posted pictures of her Sunday house, I wrote her:"I looked at it closely and it reminds me of The Scherenschnitte B&B, a Sunday
House I finally finished not long ago; one that was started many years before.
Yours has siding, mine has a stone facade; your staircase is on one side, mine
on the other; mine has a porch railing, yours does not; but there is a strong
resemblance between the two houses.
I would really like to be able to give attribution to the two women who
presented my quarter scale house - their first one, I think they said - at a
Southwest Mini RoundUp quite a few years ago. I think it was in Albuquerque.
Over the years I lost the information that contained the presenters' names.
You wrote that the house you won was made by Doris Alderman. Is she the one who
designed it? Do you have contact info for her?
Having seen your house, I am wondering now if we were offered a choice between
the wood and the stone finishes? I wish I could hear from others who were in
that workshop. I have always wondered if anyone else finished their Sunday
Anyway, congratulations again on your lovely Sunday House! These little houses
are treasures, both in real life and in our little constructions."
and she sent the following:
Thank you for the lovely post. I love all the Sunday houses in Fredericksburg so when I saw this I just had to have it. It was the prototype for an all day workshop at the SAM weekend in Temple (TX) last year.... Doris lives in San Antonio and is in my sister Frances' mini club. Inching Along. I believe Doris said she had done a half scale or maybe it was 1:12 scale Sunday house in the past and it was her go by. I would have loved it to have been stone since so many houses in that area are.
And then I received this post from another member of that club, Sandra Manring:
"I will put in what I know about the Sunday houses, although I am not sure it has anything to do with yours Wanna. Back in 1996 Minjo McKinney, Victoria Conti and myself went to Fredrickburg TX to measure and photograph Sunday House for a project that we were going to do in Half scale that fall in Giddings with a group that normally got together at Lake Livingston. Armed with a camera and a measuring tape the 3 of us went to several Sunday houses in the town to get specifics for the project. For some reason I can only find a couple of pictures of 2 houses we looked at but know we took many more In the late fall (November) 15 of us gathered in Giddings TX at the farm property which belonged to the family of someone in the group and started making our half scale version of the house. Minjo was the person in charge and had cut out all the house walls and all the wood stuff. Well I just talked to Minjo and she has an old book of Texas houses which
contained some info and pictures on the Sunday House we actually did....this is what started us on this theme.....Minjo remembered there were several houses in a park in Fredrickburg where we took measurements and photos. We almost finished the houses but didnt get any landscaping done so we met later in Tomball Tx to do this part.
Hopefully today I will get some pictures scanned (before digital ) and get them on S&T.
Doris Alderman was part of this first group as there were many more trips to Giddings which I didnt attend when the groups made many old Texas Houses in Half scale....Stephan F Austins house, the Old Kitchen at the Rose Emporium and the Star Mansion to name a few."
and Carolyn responded,
"Sandra, that sounds like what I had heard but you have much more details. I had emailed Wanna privately and told her what I knew and gave her Doris' email in case she wanted to contact her. Doris is aware of what I did with it as I sent
her the same photos I posted in S&T. Carolyn in Katy, Texas."
"Sandra, I do remember Doris mentioned they based the 1/4 scale Sunday house on a 1/2 scale one someone else did. You are probably correct about what you remember.
Frances in Texas."
Sandra, looking at your photos, it does look like the Sunday house Doris built was modeled on these as they look very much the same.
On July 16, 2013, several months after I put all this on my website, I was looking for something totally different and came across the handout from the original workshop, and there were the names of the two instructors - De-Vonna Clark and Melody Swauger. Thank you, ladies, for starting me on the path to the Scherenschnitte B&B. I love it!