Escape into a shiny happy village
By Ellen Margulies
See this tiny pink and purple house? That’s where I live.
It is actually a model replica of my real, non-glittered house which has touches of purple on the door and window trim but is not, sadly, a glitzy pink house. Not sure how my neighbors would feel about that anyway, but it’s the sort of thing that would make my heart go pitter-pat. There’s even a little cat silhouette in the window.
My sister Karen made it, as she has turned out to be quite the tiny architect, or architect of tiny homes at least, in her spare time. What started out as a yuletide craft project and sister-bonding time a couple of Christmases ago turned out to be a kind of a fail for me but has morphed into a seasonal obsession for Karen. I did attempt a couple of houses in the beginning, but there are some foundation-buckling issues and for someone who is not good at cutting or drawing a straight line, ehrm, well, let’s just say the exacting window-work made me cuss.
We were inspired by the German-American putz houses (which by the 1960s were made in Japan, of course) that decorated our Christmas tree growing up. We always loved those tiny, shiny houses, and we rediscovered, around the same time in the Age of Pinterest, that people were making their own. Karen may claim she stumbled upon them first, and that’s fine because she’s SO GOOD at making them that I’m going to let her have that one. After I gave up, Karen kept going. She’s made models of my parents’ home, her home, friends’ homes and a variety of schools, churches and mid-century modern stuff. She loves it, and who am I to discourage anyone from gifting me with handmade glittered awesomeness?
You can find really great templates online here, here and here as well as all over the aforementioned Pinterest, dozens on Karen’s and my shared board alone. I gave up on all but the aesthetic touches, but Karen has learned a lot of tips and tricks along the way, which she agreed to share with you, our 9.75 million blog readers (that’s just an estimate; margin of error is plus/minus 9.75 million…).
Here are Karen’s tips if you’d like to attempt your own Putz house:
The right tools are a must. You’ll need a good straight edge, possibly one with circles for detail work; a very sharp utility knife for which you should change the blades frequently, especially when doing detail work; a metal ruler; and a self-healing cutting mat.
When you download your templates, trace them onto good, heavy paper like Strathmore Bristol. Some people say to build these houses out of cereal boxes. We tried this at first, but the cardboard is a bit shoddy and tends to bow and buckle when glued. You’re going to be happier using card stock or heavy paper.
Avoid spray adhesive; that stuff goes everywhere. Ailene’s Tacky Glue works well, but you can use any white glue that dries clear.
When you first glue the house together (before glittering, btw), you will have to hold the house together for a few minutes with a clothespin, paper clip or document clip. When it comes to roofs, you may have to just hold it on by hand.
Here’s how your workflow should look: cut, paint, put vellum in windows with double-sided roller tape, assemble walls, then apply roof. Once everything is dry and all embellishments like shutters are on, then glue to base.
Gluing the house to the base is the last step. To mount your house on a base, run a bead of glue along the edges of the house, and press down gently. You’ll want to hold it there for a minute or two.
To decide base size, which is often not included in the template, figure out what you want on it. A fence? Go a bit larger. A tree or two? See how far they should be from the house. Use common sense and plan your yard beforehand.
Heavy-duty art board works best for a base; it’s a bit thicker than poster board. Cut the size you want, then take a piece of glitter paper (you can buy it by the sheet, and these also make fun roofs), cut it the same size as your base board and attach it with a generous amount of glue. Sign the bottom of your piece before attaching the house.
You can buy bare trees and glitter them yourself. Pre-packaged wreaths tend to be the wrong scale, so you can cut them down to size by snipping it near the top center and squeezing it into a smaller ring. A bit of glue or bow re-positioning will do wonders.
Be smart: Glitter over folded paper so you can funnel unused glitter back into the bottle.
Patience, patience, patience. Mishaps happen. You may get hangers when you try to cut a window frame, or paste your roof on wonky. Take a deep breath. Re-cut your windows; take the roof off and re-glue it to your liking.
When you assemble your house, don’t strive for perfection. Most of us will end up with imperfections, and that’s ok; just enjoy what you do.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our 12 Days of Christmas creativity blogs. We’ll be back again next week, and every week after that, with something new to kick your creative tendencies into gear!