Tuesday, 15 October 2019

"Abandoned Manor Cigar Box" How-to Part One

Hi, servus and thanks so much for stopping by!

The last weekend over here was quite grey and foggy and I had a sore throat and a bit of a flu-ish feeling, so I stayed inside and indulged on some massive Tim Holtz Village dies crafting fun.
I have already shared images of the finished project on facebook, but promised to do a write up with steps images and explanations of the how-to over here. ;)

My manor is a house that has grown over the years and with the generations who have lived in it. In my imagination it started with a British cranky aristocrat by the name of Percy Bitterswick (who had Dutch ancestors) who inherited a lot of money and bought an abandoned old chapel in the area of Gloucester to turn it into a house to live in and there pursue his cranky newly-rich habits.

It soon turned out that he needed more space and also heating the old masonry wasn't easy and quite expensive - so he added the main part of the building - the manor with the tower. From there he was able to pursue his ornithologic hobby ;)

After his death his nephew Philby Bitterswick inherited the place and needed more room for his wife and children - so the manor needed some additions....

...and the generation after that added the south wing...and so on...you know how it is with these manors that have grown over time...

In the fifties the fourth (or was it the fifth already?) generation of Bitterswicks decided to move to a country where there weren't so many rainy days and so the manor has been left to oblivion and decay since then (as the Bitterswicks didn't first want to sell and once they finally wanted to the manor had already been a victim to humidity, mould and rotting....


As a single post might get ridiculously picture- and info-heavy, I have decided to split the write up of the whole process into two blog posts with the second part being shared throughout the next days (if everything goes as planned)...so stay tuned if you want to follow me through the whole process of literally "building" my Abandoned Manor on a cigar box.

What I really like about Tim's Village dies is the fact that you can combine all of them in countless different ways to create your own dream-manor (or several if you like).


I used the Sizzix Village Dwelling, Village Brownstone, Village Manor, Village Additions, Village Fixer Upper, Village Rooftops and Village Bungalow BigZ and BigZ L dies and also the Cobblestones Sizzlits die to build the whole manor and the pathways leading to the main and old chapel entrances. These are all designs by Tim Holtz and I think that his incredible imagination as a designer and crafter and his love for everything vintage and playful just ring through with these!!!

I've been buying the coordinating dies over the last two to three years and now that I had also managed to lay hands on the Village Addition dies set, my imagination suddenly ran wild...

I already did a spooky manor two years ago (which you can check out over HERE) and my sister, my niece and I also used the Village Dwelling to create some houses for a little Christmas village last year... and as you will see I am rather a person who loves to put a lot of love and labour into detail...so it will rather be "Tim Manors" just once in a while, but then I really love to go wild with what I have and what is possible with these...and I can see A LOT of ways to combine these dies to create manors of all kinds (and all stories)...so for me buying them all is definitely worth it (as I can still see myself do these houses in my seventies...;)

I know...two and a half days of crafting sound a lot...but actually I was so captured by the magic of the dies that spread from the moment the die cut house parts had all been glued together and already gave an impression of what the finished manor could look like...from that moment on I couldn't stop and also my will to spend even more time and effort on the details got even stronger.

I've used an empty cigar box (a gift by my wonderful friend Alexander who is a tobacconist and always thinks of me instead of throwing these away) as a base to put my manor on - so I can not only have the manor as a decorative piece but also use it as a storage for letters maybe or important ephemera for example ;)
As the whole finished manor with the panels and shingles on is still incredibly lightweight, opening and handling the box lid is no problem at all.

I have taken images of the glued together and assembled elements from all sides so you can see (and so I can use it as a reference in case I want to do another copy) how I have combined the pieces ...which is better than just giving a list I think - but here it comes as well:

I've die cut and used...

from the Village Brownstone:
1 main corpus (= two times the house's sides)
1 roof
3 chimneys (you can instead use the chimneys from the Village Manor set)
6 arched window frames
1 circular window frame

from the Village Dwelling:
2 times the main corpus (= two house sides...they are on the cutting plate already, so you die cut these in one  go.
   They also look different!)
2 house roofs
1 door step
1 porch roof

from the Village Manor:
1 main corpus
2 narrow roof sides with round window
2 wide roof sides
3 chimney pipes
4 fence pieces (follow instructions on the die for how to cut these apart and use them on the manor roof)
2 circular window frames
1 porch (+ use the porch roof you've cut from the Village Brownstone dies set)

from the Village Bungalow:
3 dormers + roofs
7 windows with shutters
6 window frames

from the Village Addition:
1 porch + roof
3 additions + roofs (one will be shortened to fit underneath a window...will explain that later)
3 window frames

from the Village Fixer Upper Thinlits set:
1 bay (I die cut this piece from lighter kraft paper so it was easier to fold as it is quite small and fiddly)

from the Village Rooftops:
approx. 25 strips of the middle shingle design

(optional) from the Cobblestone Sizzlits die I
cut one strip and used some of the tiles (will be explained with the finishing touches)

 Other materials used:

I used two sturdy brown DIN C4 size Kraft packaging envelopes  (a beautiful way of re-cycling packaging material ;) and one sheet of heavier Kraft paper (the latter to create my bay from).
I also used the "Lumber" 3D - embossing folder, black archival and opaque white stamping ink, blending tool, a cutting mat, a ruler and a cutting knife, tacky glue, black acrylic spray paint, Distress Stain pumice stone and left over scraps of black crafting paper.


For a larger view click on the images. 

Five of the six larger arched window frames were cut smaller to use them as chapel windows on the sides. Three on this one and two on the opposite side.

As you can also see in the picture I used heavier black paper to cover up any open areas that came from putting the different house elements together in a different way than they are originally meant to be. For example I have moved the Manor part from the roof's centre to one side - this way I had one opening (that normally sits on top of the porch roof) left uncovered.

I randomly cut off part of the chapel roof and used some quickly (cut by hand) strips of left overs from the Kraft envelopes to "build" part of a roof framework.

This image shows how that was meant to look once the manor was finished:

I also cut some roof openings in other spots like this very small one close to the manor tower...

...and the one below the dormer on this side:

This image shows the one element from the Village Addition set that I cut slightly shorter so it fit underneath the first floor window:

I also glued windows with shutters to the manor tower where there originally were no die cut openings. The more windows the better! ;)

And you can see where the cute little bay from the Fixer Upper dies set went.

The images should have helped with knowing which part went where...

I did NOT glue all the three house elements together as that would of course have made painting and adding the panels and roof tiles a lot harder. I also left the manor tower separate instead of already gluing it onto the roof of the Village Dwelling house! 

The final assembly was only done once I had done all the shingles, roof tiles, painting windows, adding acetate window panes and all the other fiddly stuff...so for now the pieces stayed like this:

To quickly prime all the house parts I used a Carbon Black DecoArt media Mister - the fastest way to get paint into any corners and gaps!

Time to create my own wood panels! I used brown medium weight Kraft paper and ran four sheets through my Sizzix using Tim's "Lumber" 3-D Embossing Folder.

Then I used a blending tool and opaque white stamping ink (an old left over I found I had almost forgotten in a corner on my shelf and that hadn't completely dried out) and added a thin layer of white to the very top of the embossed wood grain texture.

Using a cutting mat, a steel ruler and a precision knife I cut the finished Lumber sheets into strips (not aiming for exactly the same width with all the strips!).

These were cut to size and blended with Jet Black archival stamping ink around the edges (yes - each one separately!) before I glued them in place with tacky glue (which dries incredibly fast).

I made sure I didn't glue them all in place too neatly - some should look as if they had gone loose and slipped a bit.

The good thing with the many shutters was that I didn't have to measure the length of the panels exactly as their ends got hidden behind them!


Well...I think that's more than enough to take in for starters. And after two and a half days of happy crafting I' m afraid my household calls to be kept - or to be taken up again to be more precise ;)

Watch out for the next part! I will try to get all the steps and images out to you within the next days (maybe even tomorrow if I find the time...)! I will reveal how I've made the broken window panes...

...the pathways, the tiny windows on the sides of the additions...

....the doors and traces of moss or lichen...

...the painting of the shingles and the dried out lawn texture on the cigar box lid...

..plus some tips and tricks on how to measure and cut the panels for all the corners and narrow areas most effectively.  ;)

If you already have any questions so far, please, use the comments function of this post - I will check that regularly and will try to help as good as I can ;)

To be continued...

Hugs and happy crafting!


  1. Oh my goodness this mansion is such a feat of creativity! I think it definitely looks as though it has gone through multiple renovations and additions and all the details of disrepair are perfectly done! I am in awe of all the attention to details and just the sheer awesomeness of this! It is so well done Claudia!

  2. It's wonderful and I want to do something similar. How do you make the houses taller than the dies cut then?

    1. I do not make them taller, I just made one of the additions a bit smaller by cutting away about 1 cm around the building's sides. It maybe looks taller - but actually I have combined the die cut elements in their original size - only some moved to the side on the roof instead of in the center and such. Hope that helps. xx

    2. I guess you could even make them taller = higher by adding a strip of cardboard around the base of the houses' sides...does that make sense?

  3. Holy cow!!! This is absolutely out of this world. One of these days I am going to attempt something like this. Your work is always an inspiration to me. Thank you ever so much for sharing your work with us.

  4. Thud! OK, Claudia, now you've gone and floored me! What amazing details on your mansion of disrepair! I am speechless...Good Golly, girl! SUPERCALEFRAGELISTIC is what it is!

  5. Wow, wow and wow Claudia!!!!!!
    I absolutely adore your version, your village created from scratch is simply really amazing!!!!
    I made one manor some time ago, will share it as soon as I can... but much more modest and limited.
    Happy crafting and week-end, thank you for sharing your wonderful process, you're so talented.
    Corinne xxx

  6. Every detail of this is fabulous, and love the torn shingles and shabby feel...so perfect. I of course pinned!

  7. just wonderful. Some great ideas about the roof


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