a sneak peek at miss thistle’s house and tips for building with cardboard

cardboard doll house in progress

 It’s flexible, free and easy to work with, I’m a fan of cardboard and it’s the perfect material for a house for miss thistle.   The house was begun a year – or two? ago and then stayed stuck. Stuck in over thinking, indecision and architectural correctness. It needs the right spirit and that spirit kept slipping away in the effort. 

A couple days ago I put a deadline on it – there had to be a finished structure by the end of the week.  The time limit was motivating and got my wheels turning, I stumbled into a secret ingredient that solved lots of problems – gummed paper tape.  

brown tape over cardboard house edges

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It’s a thick brown paper tape with adhesive on the back that you moisten to activate. I used it to cover edges and seams – it adds strength and stability to my quick, messy build and fills in pretty big gaps. I ended up putting it over every gap, seam and edge.  I’ve used this tape before for tacking down watercolor paper but never in this way.  It is awesome. *You can get it here (This is an affiliate link – meaning I get a small commission if you purchase through the link).

A couple tips for working with it – use a sponge to dampen the adhesive – don’t dip the tape in water. And if you’re pushing it into a corner seam, crease it first. I also used it to cover the edges of some of the windows and door opening. This was kind of a pain so I switched to masking tape for the little areas.

The main downside to working with cardboard is it warps and gets soggy when painted. I’ve got a few suggestions for avoiding that:

Use wood glue. It sets up quickly and has a nice grab almost right away. I used tons. Hot glue works too but I’m pretty over burning myself.

Cover the raw edges of the corrugated board. Use the aforementioned paper tape or masking tape. The paper tape has a nicer surface.

Laminate. It makes a huge difference. Laminating two pieces together makes a much sturdier and warp resistant structure.  Wood glue is perfect for sticking them together. I laminated the front and floors. I wish I had done the sides too but I think it will be ok.

Paint in thin coats and don’t add water. I’m using latex paint and dry brushing on a super thin layer as a primer. When the whole thing is covered in that I’ll start adding color, decoration, etc. Always in thin layers. Plus I want to retain the “cardboardness” for this house.

lifting out the removable floor

And a building tip – I used clothespins to support the second floor. I wanted it to be removable to make decorating easier. The clothespins are taken apart and wood glued to the walls. They are adorable miss thistle size beams.

I’m on fire for the little house now. So excited to do the fun decoraty stuff. I tested out a few of the tiny things inside and it all feels just right.

house on my table - ready to paint

Are you building a tiny doll world? There are lots of tutorials for furniture and accessories on the miss thistle society page, including the hearth, rug, stove and pot above.

Stay tuned for more cardboard house updates!

 

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42 Comments

  1. Lara Mijatovich

    decoraty! You are a soul sister for sure! This is a great project. What do you mean by laminate? fuse two layers of cardboard together with glue or tape or whatever?

    • Yes- exactly – two layers glued together (plenty of glue) is way stronger.

  2. Carol McElroy

    Adorable! I love the tip about the brown tape. I love your newsletter, Ann, and I always learn so much. Planning a four month trip to Nova Scotia and I already have my fabric cut out for my little dolls.

  3. Mona Roberts

    So much adorableness here with the technical tips for paper constructing–ideas are zipping around in my head. Love the gummed tape solution and have a “lifetime supply size” roll. Thanks! Can’t wait to see what you and Miss Thistle do with her home.

  4. Jill W Chapman

    Oh, I just love it!! You’ve gotten me excited about making one for myself. I’ve made two dolls so far with the intention of giving them to my grand-daughters, now I will have to make more just for ME. Making something so small has been intimidating but with your great instructions and inspiration I have overcome it. Thanks so much for sharing. Looking forward to more of your wonderful and fun work.

  5. Oh my goodness the house is so great and a good idea…I love your newsletters they get me going to work more on my so many projects…lol thank you…Gabrielle

  6. Ann Whitaker

    How I love, love, love this! Thank you for the tips on your own experience. Love your newsletters, too!

  7. What a lovely little cottage. Brilliant tips, too, and I wish I’d known them before I made my cardboard houses! Oh, well, there’s always next time.

  8. I love this so much. I love your house/studio and the wood furniture with it’s patina

  9. Rachel Whitworth

    What a wonderful little house.You’ve designed it so perfectly! Love those little peg beams for the second floor.

  10. Oh Anne, you are so talented,, i love this little house. It’s adorable. I hope to make one someday. Thank you for all the cute things you share!

  11. Ann, that little house is so cute and beautiful. I love your newsletters as you inspire others to create fascinating objects, out of ordinary everyday materials, that can be so rewarding and uplifting. Thank you

  12. Patricia Wehner

    I absolutely love it!! Is she going to have one of your cute little wire beds? ❤️

  13. Oh my! It is autumn here in New Zealand and with a soon to be four year old boy on the property with an imagination as big as the sky I can see some inside fun together. That is if he will stop being a dinosaur for a while!

    • Heather M

      LOL we have a 2yr old grandson that is frequently a dinosaur also. Just make him a house for his dino toys!

  14. Donna Hedgepeth

    I have to chime in. Love the doll house. Super cute. You are quite right about laminating two layers of card board. If you ask/look around at Sam’s Club, they have large flat pieces of cardboard that come in between different items. I got several one year and glued two together with just plain Elmer’s glue, glued on aluminum foil and seemed the edges in bright pink duct tape. I made a set of two to use as sun shades for my car. I got tired of the store bought sun shades falling down and falling apart. My car gets super hot where I work and it did the job. Going on 8 years and they are holding up great. I really didn’t think they would. So have been pleasantly surprised. I enjoy your blog so much. I am hoping to be more artistic in retirement. Thank you for the inspiration.

  15. Sue Hunt

    Thanks so much for your tips and inspiration. I need to set myself a deadline to make a little house to surround some old dollhouse furniture that was my mother’s. (There is even a tiny quilt that was made in the 1940’s by my grandmother!)

  16. Hi Ann, I like how the corrugated cardboard lent some texture to the walls. It’s a nice effect.

  17. Helen Blake

    Thank you Ann. Love working with cardboard too. When laminating I place one piece at 90 degrees to the other and it makes it even sturdier. I have a stack of it and look forward to seeing what it will end up as.
    I just love your quirky patterns!

  18. Miss Thistle’s house is gorgeous! And I can’t tell you how many times I have searched for paper tape and not found it. And now suddenly, there it is! I love to use it when shipping packages at Christmas as well as in making things. I love how it works up and shapes things. Good thinking!

  19. Absolutely fabulous! Very creative Ann, There is some NOT SO HEAVY white cardboard available at Michaels. This can be pasted together to make it more solid. I have used it in the past to construct some Ornaments.

  20. Thank you so much for your inspirational ideas. They call to the ‘child’ still left in me. Can’t wait to see the finished house.

  21. Gorgeous! Cardboard is one of my favorite mediums, I made my daughter a replica of George Harrison’s guitar for Halloween of days gone by. She kept it for years – might still have it!

  22. I haven’t used gummed paper tape in a long time but it sounds like a good crafting tool for my arsenal. I use adhesive backed paper tape lots of the time. I buy it at my local shipping store. Try it sometime. Does not need moistened.
    You are so full of ideas and never cease to amaze me! Thank you for being so generous with your talents!

  23. Jane Miller

    Simply love your house..can’t wait to try one for my Miss Thistle and the Kitty. Love your penny rug as well. You are awesomely talented.

  24. Oh how sweet. Love miniature anything. Love getting your emails. I have your crow pattern and am looking forward to making one or two or three or four. I love crows and ravens.

  25. Patty Brenner

    Absolutely adorable! I was obsessed with doll houses and their furnishings well into my 20’s, and then life got in the way. Now I’m in my 60’s and rediscovering the joy of miniature things. One thing I remember from all those years ago was using broken egg shells to mimic stone. You glue them to the surface and then paint or stain as desired. They have a nice slightly curved surface to mimic stones. I also crocheted many ‘hearth rugs’ from small crochet thread. My cousin and I would look for acorn caps in season because they made perfect wood salad bowls for the dolls. Thanks for bringing those sweet memories back, and thanks for sharing Miss Thistle’s world with us 🙂

  26. Ms Sam Nicholson

    I have been trying to figure out how to build my own dollhouse and you have given me fantastic ideas. Thank you so much! I have so much fun making all of the crafts that you generously have shared with us!

  27. This little house is just delightful! Although I probably won’t ever take on such a project I am most grateful that you shared your process. To me this is one of the most interesting things about creative work. The most important thing you shared for me as an artist who doesn’t get enough work done, is that you set yourself a timeline. I need to do that more often!

  28. Sue Allen

    Your creativity and the details you share are so inspirational. Kudos to you for persevering with Miss Thistle’s house. It’s going to be so adorable, like all your creations. Thanks for sharing and motivating all of us to be fulfilled through what we create (or copy!).

  29. The house is so adorable! I look forward to progress updates and the final unveiling! It makes me want to drop everything and start making. Now I just need to figure out how to function on less sleep to free up more time to make all the home furnishings.
    Thanks so much for sharing. Your newsletter and IG are treats for my creative soul.

  30. It’s so cute! A friend and I once wrapped ourselves up in cling film them covered our torsos in Gum Strip (What it’s called in the UK) and waited for it to harden them we had accurate body forms to make dresses with! It’s really versatile stuff as you say :o)

  31. O man. Girl you got me going!
    My mice are still living in the cigar box.
    I have been questing for a home for them for years. Years!
    The first cardboard structure I made was rooms like a TV soap opera set to model fire hazards in elementary school. I used that setup of four rooms for my Barbies for a while.
    My mind has gone back to that experience searching for the right house for the mice.
    She (Tilly) had a little meltdown when he (Marcus) wanted to buy a $60 car at the Shelby Museum in Las Vegas. She put her foot down.
    “No! We cannot afford a $60 car when when we are still living in a cigar box!”
    So you have reinforced the passing idea of using my early Jr Fire Marshall model for their home.
    Thank you! I have been enjoying your work for years ❤️

  32. Hi Anne, hope all well. Thank you so much for all your hard thinking and work! I have been overthinking too but about a little house and voila it has appeared! It is so much more beautiful than l had imagined mine to be, so well done.

    Thanks again
    Deborah
    Victoria Australia.

  33. It also helps if the corrugate inside the carboard runs at 90 degrees to each other. It makes it super strong if you want to stop it sagging or bending. I have built 5 layer carboard structures in this way that can support children when building double decker forts inside the house.

  34. How adorable is this?!!! I love it! a hint on the cardboard laminating (if someone else hasn’t posted it already) if you lay the corrigation running in opposite directions for each of the two layers it’ll make a very much stronger piece! 🙂

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