Yes, the Sod House will eventually have a roof, when the time is right. I believed that the right time had come, but when I sat down and thought about it, I realized that at least two things had to be accomplished before the roof could be raised. Those two things were simple things. Easy things. Which is probably why my mind had skipped right over them and gone straight to the top of the house. But I was right, in a way, because if this were a Real Life sod house, the roof would indeed have been in place before those two simple things needed to be done. But sometimes the miniature world sends us all topsy-turvy, and we must put carts before horses. So I hitched up the horse behind the cart, and, as could be expected, everything began to go wrong.
A Simple Dirt Floor: What's So Hard About That?
Rarely did a sod house have a wood floor, because of the scarcity and expense of lumber. Sometimes the prairie grass inside the sod walls was cut short and left in place, and for a while, until the grass wore away, it had the effect of soft carpeting underfoot. But most soddies had a dirt floor that was scraped, smoothed, packed, and tamped until it was as hard as concrete. Sweeping was the only care necessary; and if the floor became dusty, a little water could be sprinkled on to settle the dust. I decided to try to replicate a concrete-hard dirt floor by spreading on a layer of drywall compound and painting it a dirt color.
But the floor seemed almost too smooth. I stippled on globs of thick paint, hoping that as it dried, the globs would remain in place.
Instead, the globs gradually flattened out, leaving me back where I started from, except with an extra layer of paint.
So I tried again by adding smears of drywall compound.
I found a bag of brown ballast (fine) in the model railroad section at Hobby Town that seemed a perfect dirt substitute. I wanted just a faint sprinkling of loose dirt on the bumpier spots of the floor. But when I sprinkled it on over glue and let it dry, the material looked too granular, and was a completely wrong color.
With a putty knife, I scraped off the whole mess. This was exciting: the floor had changed from worse to worst in sixty seconds flat!
I decided there were maybe too many bumps, so I sanded down the drywall compound until the floor felt smooth again.
I repainted with the original color; but all that sanding was in vain. The bumps hadn't disappeared afterall.
I rummaged through my drawer of "aging" materials and found a container of taupe eye shadow that I just knew was going to be the perfect thing to achieve that loose-dirt look. I scraped the eye shadow into a small cup and mashed it up until it was smooth and powdery. Then I applied some glue in small random patches and sprinkled on the eye shadow, which instantly was no longer taupe, but a sort of tobacco brown. I cleaned off all that mess and repainted.
And that's where I've left my concrete-hard dirt floor, until I come across something that looks like taupe-colored dirt. And why, you may well ask, doesn't she just go out and dig up some Nebraska dirt and try again with the real thing? The answer is, that's exactly what I plan to do as soon as (if ever) the temperature climbs above freezing and a foot of snow melts off my dirt.
Simple and Easy Smoke-Stained Curtains
I knew that hanging curtains would be very difficult if I waited until there was a roof to impede my movements and my working light. I chose a soft, lightweight fabric, sparkling white, so that the meager light entering the soddy wouldn't be diminished by the curtains. The curtains aren't necessary for privacy in the vast emptiness of the prairie - but they are necessary to add a touch of softness to the sparse soddy interior. I cut the fabric to the correct measurement, then turned under and glued the raw edges, leaving a wider rod pocket at the top.
I made pegs from the ends of toothpicks, although they're barely visible in this photo. The pegs will be inserted into the wall to hold the curtains. Twine was threaded through the rod pocket and wrapped, then tied, around the pegs.
A closer view of the pegs and twine. The excess length of twine will be snipped off before I hang the curtains
I dipped the curtains in a mixture of glue and water, pressing out the excess mixture.
The curtains are shaped and pinned in place to dry before adding the tie-backs.
I used one of my smallest drill bits to drill holes on each side of the windows where the pegs will be inserted.
After adding the tie-backs to the dried curtains, I dabbed glue onto each peg before inserting it into place in the drilled hole.
So far, so good! The curtains hang naturally and will block only a bit of available light from the window. This is the southeast window.
This is the southwest window. The cookstove will be nearby on the west wall. The wall will be smoke stained. The ceiling will be smoke stained. I suppose the sparkling white curtains won't escape the smoke stains, so realistically I should stain them up a bit. It's also quite likely that dirty rain water will wash in from the top of the window, so a few water stains would add another touch of realism.
So I pretended to be smoke stains and dirty rain water stains, and I stained and stained, a slight bit more on the west than the east side. I used a soft brush and did all the staining with the curtains in situ. I thought that I was being very moderate in applying the stains, but when the curtains dried, I was appalled at how really filthy they looked! This will never do; the hard-working, homesteading woman of the soddy would be mortified to have those curtains hanging in her house.
I took the curtains down and tried to cover the stains with white paint, which transformed worse to worst, just like the floor fiasco.
So I started all over again with a fabric that isn't sparkling white.
Dip in a glue/water mixture, then shape and pin. This fabric is heavier and doesn't shape as easily or hang as naturally. It also weights down the twine so that the curtains sag a little, but that does seem more realistic to me, since twine isn't rigid.
That's All She Wrote
This is what I have to show for a LOT of time spent on the soddy: sagging curtains and a recalcitrant floor. But I'll conquer the floor yet, and I've decided to let the homesteader take care of her own curtains; she has a sewing machine, and I'm sure she's a better seamstress than I am. So all is well, and I've finally got the horse and cart in their proper places. I'm very eager to get on to the NEXT THING - the ROOF!
I was actually laughing out loud as I read this post Marjorie! :DReplyDelete
I has an all too Familiar ring to it.... !
I don't know if you have considered using a glue and water spray fixative to secure the dirt for your soddy's floor. Railroad modeller's have probably been faced with the same problem regarding how to duplicate compacted soil for their dioramas so if all else fails, look to them!
But may I say that I LOVE the homespun gingham curtains although I FELT your pain when you tried to stain the white ones - so sad because they were very pretty but I think that their replacements are even BETTER! Far More Cheerful and they draw the eye in towards the deep sills of the windows and BEST YET....
they'll effectively hide the smoke and the grease ;D
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Using a mix of fine sawdust, Wood glue and water, is this the look you are seeking? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XyHxWKiVcSYDelete
Hi, Elizabeth - At least we can laugh about all the mix-ups and mess-ups that happen, frustrating as they may be! I love the idea of a glue/water spray fixative, and I've never tried it. That's now on my list! I'm also much happier with the gingham curtains. I initially wanted to hang solid red curtains, but I knew how dark that would make the soddy, so I chose the white instead. But when that didn't work out, I came across the red and white gingham and wished that I had thought of that in the first place! I appreciate your sending along the YouTube information; I haven't looked at it yet, but the sawdust, glue and water mixture sounds like a great possibility! Thank you!Delete
:D I thought the link might be of interest is because the product after it had dried was very much like totally compressed soil with different light and dark tones naturally occurring. Good luck with whatever you decide to do Marjorie, as I know you WILL prevail in the end! :DDelete
Yo también me he reído a medida que iba leyendo tus peripecias con el suelo! Eso de intentar e intentar algo que tienes en tu cabeza y no lograrlo,parecer que ya lo tienes y al final...no es así! Cuantas veces nos ha pasado???ReplyDelete
Pero nada,a esperar al deshielo y a seguir poniendo un suelo al gusto.
Las cortinas lucen bien bonitas en las ventanas.
A por el techo,seguro que sale a la primera y si no..a la segunda,ánimo!!
Hello, Pilar - You're right that there is much frustration in having a clear idea in my mind but being unable to make it work out the way I want - but I'll keep trying to get that floor right. I'm glad that you like the curtains; I'm much happier with the gingham fabric - and perhaps the homesteader won't need to wash them as often as the white ones! Thank you for stopping by.Delete
It is such a shame the forces of miniature did not cooperate. First of all, keep at that floor. It might not be where you want it...yet...but looking at the se pictures you are well on your way to success. As for the curtains, the white ones were pretty and again it is a shame they were ruined, but I think the new ones may be more realistic in that they would keep out more of the elements then the delicate looking white ones.
Just hang in there, I know you will find the perfect solution to get everything just right...you always do!
A big hug,
Hello, Giac - Thank you for the encouraging words! I will keep working on that floor - it's stubborn, but I'm more so, and I hope I'll eventually win out. I can see the finished result in my mind's eye, and I know there's a solution somewhere. I was sorry to ruin those nice white curtains, but it all worked out better in the end - the gingham ones are definitely more suited to the soddy, and they'll be much easier to keep clean!Delete
It always seems like the things we think are going to be so easy are the ones that end up teaching us the most!!! I am glad you didn't lose heart, and even though I love the white curtains, I love the gingham curtains more for the soddy because it brings my mind right to pioneer times!ReplyDelete
Marilyn had a great way to make dirt floors using a tutorial published in Dollhouse and Miniatures Scene. Here's the post:
Might be worth a test run!
Best of luck with the roofing and have fun making the interior look as though it really would all those years ago!
Hi, Jodi - You've spoken a great truth about the things that we expect to be easy; I hardly gave a thought to that floor because it seemed almost irrelevant in its simplicity. Was I ever surprised! The change in curtains definitely worked out for the best; I agree that the gingham brings an immediate image of the rugged pioneering spirit. Thank you for suggesting the dirt floor tutorial; I haven't had a chance to look at it yet, but I'm excited - and curious - about it! I appreciate your help.Delete
Te habrá costado Marjori, pero al final no cuenta el tiempo sino los resultados y el tuyo es perfecto para tu casa de la pradera, me encantan las cortinas de cuadros, ánimo para el techo que seguro te quedará genial pues te has documentado mucho. Besos:-)ReplyDelete
Hello, Rosa Maria -Thank you for your encouragement; it's sometimes hard to be patient when a project doesn't turn out right the first time - or even the second or third time! But I'll work on that floor until I do get the results I want. I'm so glad that you like the gingham curtains; I'm satisfied with the way they turned out, after getting off to such a bad start. Now the roof is waiting, and that's going to be an interesting project!Delete
Hi Marjorie! I am in agreement with the others that as pretty as the white curtains were... they were "unrealistic" for the conditions! Your homeowner would have been spending too much time and energy trying to keep them white!!! (Think of the mud that would form from the dust and thundershowers that surely blew through those windows!) The gingham is cheerful and authentic to the era and provides a bit of color at a time when color was fashionable! I think they are perfect! As for the floor.... didn't you just say the homeowners had to beat and scrape and water their floor all the time??? If so... then what you are doing is just perfect! LOL! All you need to do is beat it just a little more! (I am sure the housewife was never satisfied with her floor!!!) So clearly you are doing everything the right way and this is going to be another of those awesome mini environments when you get done!! I really can't wait to learn about the roof!!! :)ReplyDelete
Hi, Betsy - I think those gingham curtains were really meant to be; the white ones were apparently created in a moment of madness! I'll save the rest of that fabric for another tamer, tidier environment. I appreciate your encouragement regarding the floor. I have a few more ideas to try out to get the effect that I want - but I will also give it another good beating! It may not help the floor, but I'm sure it'll do me a lot of good. Meanwhile, the roof is waiting, and I'm eager to get started!Delete
This was a great post and we all learned from your experience! ( even though it may have felt painful for you) Good luck with the dirt floors. I have never really had any experience with them and I look forward to seeing what you come up with. If the curtains don't work out, then you might try shutters? Keep up the good work - TroyReplyDelete
Hi, Troy - Yes, that was a rather painful experience - and it isn't over yet! I'm actually looking forward to experimenting further to achieve the look that I want for the dirt floor. I really need to have the floor finished before I can get very far along on the roof, so I need to keep moving. I think I'm satisfied with the gingham curtains, although I wish that I had used that fabric first instead of wasting time and material on those white ones! Thanks for your input.Delete
I know you will win the war with that floor lol. The white curtains were pretty but the homeowner would probably have to wash them a lot and they would wear away faster than the very lovely red and white ones so you have saved that poor woman some washing :D. Thanks for all the great information.ReplyDelete
Hello, Maria - Thanks for your vote of confidence! The war with the floor will go on a while longer; I have several ideas to try out before (I hope) I can declare the war won. I agree that the gingham curtains will be much easier to keep clean (or at least to keep looking clean) than the white ones. That homesteader has to work hard to get her laundry done, and I'm glad that I haven't added to her work load after all.Delete
Dear Marjorie, Oh the trials and tribulations of a miniaturist. My thoughts are reflected in the previous comments. Just consider the white curtains as a mock up for the very successful and cheerful gingham. I am sure they would have been made from an old skirt or left over fabric.ReplyDelete
In my recollection of dirt floors it seems they do end up being very smooth and somewhat shiny. Perhaps the ones I have seen had access to clay.
All in all a funny post and levity is greatly appreciated these days.
Hello, Janine - Yes, I think you're right that the white curtains were good practice for making the gingham ones. I didn't need to remake the wood pegs or redrill the holes, and the twine was easier to thread through the rod pocket and secure to the pegs the second time around, so I started out one step ahead. Now if I can just get ahead on the floor! I like your encouraging comment about remembering smooth and shiny dirt floors. I probably should have let well enough alone with the original smooth floor instead of pursuing that vision of "a little loose dirt." But at least I like the challenge; I can hardly wait to see what I do about that floor! Thanks for stopping by.Delete
OH NO! How frustrating to spend so much time working on minis and have the issues you had! However, I do think your gingham curtains are the better choice (But I hope you are saving them to use them somewhere, someday, in some project! If not, I have a hunting cabin and the owner doesn't care about washing curtains so dirty ones fit right in! LOL). Your dirt floor looks pretty authentic to me: I image they had different shades of dirt and lumps throughout the years. But I know you are a perfectionist so you will keep on fussing until you find the absolutely perfect floor (I like your idea of just using dirt; or if that fails, I always use used tea and coffee grinds - just make sure they are fully dried out!) Can't wait to see what you come up with --- I'm looking forward to the floor and the roof (such opposite ends of the spectrum! LOL). - Lori K.ReplyDelete
When I said, "I hope you are saving them to use them somewhere..." I was referring to the white curtains, not the gingham. I didn't word that very well. Oh well, like the Die Hard character says: "I only speak two languages: English and Bad English."Delete
Hi, Lori - I do seem to make as much backward progress as forward progress in my mini projects! And I do, honestly, plan ahead and map out my course and write out construction time lines and work out the proper order of things. All for nothing, it seems! But then, I'm in no hurry, so no doubt I'll just keep on doing and undoing and redoing until I finally get it right. I would like to get the floor right soon, though, because any further progress is stalled until that's done, and although there is no hurry, there's still some impatience to get on with the next thing. I appreciate your very encouraging words about the floor's authenticity, and I'm going to keep that in mind now as I try to at least get back to my starting point! And yes, I knew which curtains you were referring to - your wording was fine. I laid the filthy white ones to rest in a safe place - maybe to use for a spooky Halloween theme?Delete
With a little extra curtain like that, a room looks more attractive and beautiful to look at.ReplyDelete
Thank you for the idea ...., inspired me ..
Hello - I'm happy that you stopped by to check out the Nebraska Sod House. Thank you for your nice comment; it's a pleasure to know that you've been inspired by the sod house curtains!ReplyDelete
I felt your facepalms through my iPad Marjorie and oh boy, have I been there. Your white curtains were so pretty, it’s such a shame when something is going so well and then at the last hurdle we ruin it. However, we do have to sometimes call time on the efforts to resurrect the piece and start again. As pretty as they were I agree that the gingham is much more appropriate for the application and the pop of colour will add so much to what I imagine will be quite a rudimentary dwelling. The lady of the house will be pleased. Keep persevering with the floor you will get there in the end. I have seen the glue and water spray fixative used very successfully.ReplyDelete
Hello, Sam - Thank you for the encouraging words! Those white curtains were such a disappointment, but I do agree that the gingham ones are the better choice, so that worked out for the best. I'm continuing to work on the floor, and it's looking better. Not great, but okay. I'm still considering using real dirt now that - finally - the snow has melted and the dirt is exposed. That will entail the use of the glue and water fixative, so I'm eager to experiment. I hope the lady of the house will appreciate my efforts!ReplyDelete