the miss thistle society : make a miniature stone hearth

Penelope T. Littles

She has been speaking to me for a long time. Little whispers of her origins, her tidy house, her hearty ancestors.  This is what I know about Miss Thistle.

I’m sure she cooks on an open hearth and has a cozy spot by a window for sewing and correspondence and daydreams and tea.

Thistle P. Littles, Green Valley. Morning, Mountain Shadow

She tends a medium size garden and keeps chickens and goats and bees. And she has sweet miss-matched china – passed from aunts and grandmothers and friends.

My way into Miss Thistle’s world is the hearth. Your tiny rag doll might need a hearth too.

miniature stone hearth tutorial

It’s not hard to make. And before we dive into how I want to tell you about the next Miss Thistle Society project: her mismatched china. I have a trick that makes it pretty easy and spectacularly fun to make her tiny hand-me-down plates and cups. Look for that next week.

doll house plates

paper clayYou probably have most of the things you need for her dishes, except maybe the clay. I use paper clay – this is my brand and you can get it here  (The Miss Thistle Society gets a tiny commission if you purchase through this link).  I use it for lots of things but I always buy the small size because it does not store well after opening.

To make the hearth you will need:

  • paper egg cartons
  • light cardboard
  • elmer’s glue
  • mat board (or a thick cardboard (not corrugated)
  • exacto knife and scissors
  • masking tape
  • spackle (  Find it at any hardware store – I like Fast ‘n Final Lightweight Spackling)
  • craft paint
  • brushes – a variety of sizes
  • toothbrush
  • a sponge and a soft rag
  • fine sand paper

And you will need a hearth. A shape to work on.  I made my shape out of foam core and mat board. It’s assembled with hot glue mostly. So many burns…  And I made a giant hearth – you don’t need to. A small one is sweet and quick to make.

This tutorial is concerned with making the stone finish but I will offer a couple tips on making your foundation shape.

make the hearth opening

The easiest thing to do is start with a box (a sturdy corrugated box).  The box above is about 6 X 9 inches and 1 and 3/4 inch deep.  Mark the opening and use your exacto knife to cut all the way through the lines marked in red and score (just cut the surface of the cardboard) the lines marked white.  Fold back the sides to make the inside walls of the hearth.  Glue the hearth walls in place and cover the scored areas and edges with making tape.

If you make your own shaped foam core is great  – choose white or black.

Whether you build the shape or use a box, re-enforce  the corners (inside) with little triangles of mat board glued in. A few in each corner will make everything stable and sturdy.

I’m demonstrating the stone texture on my huge hearth. Cut shapes from grey cardboard and tear shapes from a grey paper egg carton (the flat parts) to create a little variety in texture and edges. Glue them to your structure with elmer’s glue.  I made my structure out of black so you could see but it does not matter – white grey or brown is fine.

cardboadr stone hearth

Cover the entire structure (I left a small section of my hearth un-stoned because I have a wood mantle I want to add). Let the stones dry in place. 

coat the surface with spackle

Use a plastic spatula to spread a thin coat of spackle all over.  It helps to have a damp sponge to smooth a little as you work.  Use the spatula to press spackle between your stones and scrap of excess off. Don’t try to perfect the texture – we will sand it when it’s dry. That will be quite dusty. That’s another reason not to make a huge hearth. Cover the entire surface and let it dry completely.

miniature hearth covered in spackle

Use fine sandpaper to sand your hearth. You want to sand away hard edges and lumps but leave a little texture. This is very dusty – I kept my vacuum near by, used it often and wore a dust mask. I hate dust.

miniature stone hearth paint colors

I used a combination of acrylic paint in tubes and inexpensive craft paint, all water based. You will also need a toothbrush for splattering, several paint brushes and a palette to mix paint on (an old plate is great).

Mix a light color for grout and several gray and umber shades for stones. They should be darker than the grout color.

miniature stone hearth -sanded

* note – I made the inner part of the hearth separately and glued it in and spackled the seams before sanding.

Use your toothbrush to spray a fine splatter all over using the darkest stone color thinned with water.

miniature stone hearth - painting the stones

Use a medium size brush to paint your stones. A variety of colors works well.  Mix a little paint with water to thin it on your palette. Paint a stone with your thinned paint and then dab it with the damp sponge to remove brush stokes and mottle the surface.

Experiment with the consistency of your paint to get an effect you like.  The color should be a little translucent. I like the way the spackle grabs the color and absorbs it. You don’t need to be terribly neat.

When all the stones are painted and dry apply a translucent wash of the grout color thinned with water.  Work in small areas applying the wash over the surface and then dabbing it off the stones.

When the grout wash is complete and dry go back and define some of the stone edges. Brush on a little thinned paint (it does not need to match the stone exactly) and then dab it with the damp sponge to blend.

miniature stone hearth = pencil lines

And finally use a pencil to highlight some of the bottom and side edges – not every stone – here and there.  Draw a pencil line at the edge and then smudge with your finger.

miniature stone hearth diy

The end!

If you make miniature masonry I’d love to see. You can use this form to submit photo. And check back next week for the tiny dish tutorial.

24 Comments

  1. Ann, this is so darling! I love this and thank you so much for the tutorial. The magic of paper clay and cardboard and imagination. I cannot wait to see how you make those delightful handed down china.

  2. Jane Miller

    Thank you so much for all the creative items you dream up…I love them all!

  3. Sondra Salgado

    Thanks for the tutorial, Ann! Can paper clay be used as paper mache modellIng clay? I’m interested in making some tiny animals. Thanks! Sondra

    • Hi Sondra – I love paper clay – and yes it’s great for modeling little things. And when it’s dry sanding with fine sand paper can make a very smooth finish. It takes paint well too.

  4. Thank you so much for sharing! I can’t wait to try this for our dollhouse – I have been trying to glue stones together to make one but it is too heavy and keeps falling apart. This looks to be just the trick!

  5. Elizabeth McGee

    I am being pedantic but the cardboard looks light brown to me not “grey” …do you use the same cardboard for the hearth shape and the flat stones?
    Love your work
    Thankyou
    Elizabeth

    • Hi Elizabeth – It is an umbery grey. It’s the light weight cardboard you often find in packaging and a variety of neutral tones could work.

      For the structure I recommend – easiest – a cardboard box (corrugated) or foam core or mat board for building your own.

  6. This is really sweet and wonderful! Your creativity is so magical and inspiring. Thank you.

  7. Bett Cooper

    Dear Ann,
    I so enjoy reading your blog and you are so generous in sharing your creative process with us. I did notice your comment on burns from using hot glue. I always use snug fitting vinyl gloves when working with hot glue and it has been very helpful is protecting my skin. Of course, the gloves take the burn and have to be replaced, but my skin is not so easily replaced!
    Thank you for your inspiration.

  8. Your posts always make me so happy to view them, and “visit” with you in your home/studio. Now I’m invited into Miss Thistle’s home too! Absolutely delightful !

  9. Annwood – There is a book I have read and re-read hundreds of times, that I first found in an old used book store for $1.00. I have since collected as many copies as possible, and have given many away – and it strikes me as I read what you write that you may very much like the book as I have. It is a total joy. Charming and very “nesty”. The name of the book is “Greenwillow” and its author is B.J. Chute. Goodreads rates it with a 5 star rating. If you get a chance, please check it out. You will be charmed, I’m sure!
    I made a bunch of your mushrooms for a mycologist buddy I have, as a birthday gift. I put them in a handturned wooden bowl on a bed of dried moss.

  10. Thank you so much for the introduction to the Miss Thistle Society! I’m in love already. I’ve been gathering the various supplies, at least in my head, to make sure they are accounted for in the house so perhaps I can begin to build a hearth stone this weekend. I appreciate everything you share and look so forward to the little miss-matched plates.

  11. sally stanley

    Oh my!!! This is just about the cutest hearth I have ever seen. I can’t wait to see the dishes.

  12. Ann this is sooooo inspiring !!!!!

    one question I have – is Spackle what we over here in UK call plaster of paris (used to fill in wee holes in walls etc?

  13. Wow, Ann! This is awesome, and so within the reach of anyone who can dab paint and cut cardboard. Thank you!

    warmly,

    Beth

  14. Oh this is just fabulous! I’m so excited to make it for a papier-mâché doll I’m working on. And your plate tutorial will be perfect as I’ve just made her a papier-mâché kitchen dresser out of a cereal box. I adore your imagination and skill Ann – thank you so much for sharing!

  15. Susan Hebert

    Ann,

    What did you use to make the mantle? Is it just painted? It looks 3 dimensional

  16. Oh my goodness, this is so adorable, inspirational, valuable and imaginative! It has been my dream to build a tiny Irish cottage someday and your post will be so helpful toward that project!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *