Monday, 22 September 2014

Of grandparents and glasses...

Don't you just LOVE Sylvanian grandparents!? They seem extra cute and extra cuddly in their worldly, wise ways... But, the one thing that sets grandparents apart from our other dearly beloved critters, is the one thing that has caused me so many sleepless nights in the past: Glasses.

The first version of Sylvanian grandparents, came with tiny little wire-bent glasses, like my Wildwood grandparents above. I could never really figure out which way was supposed to be up on these and always end up removing them because they look just plain silly to me. :(

Next, we got plastic glasses, which I adore for their ease of use and the fact that they have a very definite "up" and "down".

But, some of my grandparents didn't come with glasses at all - Which incidentally are EXTREMELY hard to find on Ebay... - so I had to improvise and make my own in the end. :-)
I have been working on a project to make critter-sized glasses for my Sylvanian Families and Calico Critters these past few weeks.

I used steel wire from the hardware store and went with a thickness that I could easily bend and that looked good on the critters in my opinion. (Yes, I did take a critter along to the hardware store to test the wire out... and yes, I did stand there bending little bits of every roll of wire to test how tough they would be to work with...)

I did some tests on paperclips and beading/jewelry making wire as well, but I found the paperclips to be way too hard to bend into shape and the jewelry wire didn't hold its shape well enough when handled.

The first few prototypes didn't go all too well, but I finally managed to find a method that I could replicate with ease and I will try to show it to you here. 

To make your own glasses for visually impaired Sylvanians, you will need the following:

  • Steel wire
  • Two sets of needle nose pliers
  • Side-cutter / Wire cutter
  • A round pencil - Pink unicorn topper optional :)
  • Epoxy glue (I used steel epoxy, but any type works)
  • Sanding paper / emery board
  • Paints / Nail polish
  • Something to stick the glasses into while painting
  • Something to cover your work area while painting
  • Q-tips / Earbuds

I start off by cutting a length of wire, about 10cm long. Then, using your pliers, measure roughly 2,5cm of wire and bend a 90°  angle at the 2,5cm mark. Don't worry if your wire isn't perfectly straight, it will bend as you go and you will straighten it all out before painting anyway.

The next part is the tricky bit. You will need to wrap the wire tightly around a round pencil / dowel stick to shape the round "lens" part of your glasses. The 90° bend is likely to bend a little flatter while you are doing this, but just bend it back when you are done. Bend the wire all the way around the pencil one and a half times, so that you are left with a double layer of wire on the one half of your circle and a single wire on the other half. (I usually use the double layered parts for the bottoms of my glasses.)

Bend the 2,5cm of wire sticking out, back to form a 90° angle to your wire circle. (Apologies for the horrible image quality. I found it quite tricky trying to hold the wire in one hand and still keep the camera still in the other...)

Now that you have your first "lens", you need to bend the wire to form the nose piece. Because most of the critters have quite large, wide noses, I have decided to go with a wide band over the nose. This can easily be adjusted by bending the nose piece closed if you need to later on.

Using your pencil, bend the wire in the opposite direction as if making another circle right next to the first circle. This circle only goes half way around and does not form a full circle.

Now you will need to bend a third circle, starting from the end of the half-circle that we just made. Once again you will need to go around the pencil one and a half times, to reach the spot where the earpiece needs to go out from.  (Remember to keep the double wire on the bottom, single wire on top!)

Lastly, you will need to bend the earpiece back at a 90° angle, and cut the remainder off at roughly 2,5cm to match the other side. Try to align the earpieces so that they both leave the round circle frames at the same spot on either side of your pair of glasses.

*You can make glasses with only a single layer of wire, but these are flimsy and don't hold their shape too well when bent. You might need to bend the two layers of wire on the bottom of the glasses closer together when you are done, since they might be difficult to wind tightly enough otherwise.

You can leave your glasses like this if you like, but I didn't like the sharp edges on the ends.
To fix this, I used epoxy glue found at the hardware store. It has two components that you mix together to form a glue. This glue sets solid in a matter of minutes and sticks to almost anything!!! 

I used Pratley Steel  Epoxy on mine, but that was just what I had on hand and does not make much of a difference to the overall outcome. Mix the two glues together according to the manufacturer's instructions and apply them to the ends of your glasses. You will find that the glasses stand up fairly well when placed down on their "lenses".

I used a q-tip to smooth the glue out and shape it around the wire with my fingers. When the glue is dry, you might want to sand out any rough or sharp edges with an emery board or sanding paper before painting.

This set of glasses has already been sanded down and is now ready to be painted.

I used an old piece of packaging foam to stand my glasses up while painting them, but blobs of play-doh or Prestik will also work, just as long as you have some way of keeping the painted areas from touching anything while the paint is drying. 

To paint the glasses, I used Tamiya's model paints, mostly because I already had them on hand from my Canal Boat project. Before deciding on the model paints, I also had good results with nail polish, although I needed to use more layers to get a good cover. The nail polish also chipped off easily, exposing the wire underneath and needed to be touched up if you want to handle the glasses.

I painted my glasses in two batches, allowing enough drying time between coats so that the paint would harden. I used q-tips to paint with as well, simply because the brushes had some difficulty painting the round wire all the way around. I could press the wire into the q-tip slightly to get a good coating all the way around.

My finished product looked something like this. 

If you have paint blobs forming on your glasses, you will need to remove them with clean q-tips before the paint dries. (See Mr. Moss's lens on the right for an example) If you do have paint blobs that you missed, you can always sand that part down and re-paint it again later.

This method of making glasses works well for most critters and I find that by bending the middle "nose" section of the glasses, I can fit them onto almost any critter's face without much problems. I also later decided to make some of my earpieces slightly longer to fit better on critters with larger heads. (Like the old bear molds etc.)

So, there you have it! DIY glasses for little critters. Enjoy! :)


  1. I just won the Dale grandparents from eBay, scan't wait to try this out!

    1. Great stuff! I love the Dale family - they all look so innocent and cuddly. :D

    2. I agree! They are so cute, one of my favourites definitely :D I have the four figure family (and twins) but they are way up in the border of Scotland because we have a holiday house there :) So my Dale sheep family will have to communicate by letters for now XD

  2. Thanks for such a precise tutorial Sands! I have made glasses for my elephant granmother, I used jewelry wire. I wanted to make black ones, and have been looking for good black jewelry wire, but haven't found one. I didn't realise I could paint them :o

    1. Aww, thanks! I had trouble with the jewelry wire as it didn't hold its shape very well. I could only find a very "springy" wire in our local stores., so I went over to the hardware store instead.

  3. Wow, wow and again: Wow! :D You've done an absolutly amazing job!!! The glasses look gorgeous and so realistic! I'll definitly try this out, because, well, I love my Sylvanian grandparents :D. They are, besides the babys, the cutest villagers :D, so they deserve more fancy glasses:).

    1. Aw, thanks! I think the grandparents look very nice with their new glasses on too.

  4. Thank you so much for this tutorial!! You make it so clear and easy to follow! I have a few grandparents with the plastic glasses but I want to "make my own glasses so I can "create" my own sets of grandparents (they are quite expensive otherwise!) and some glasses for the smaller ones too! Thank you!

    1. My pleasure! I have been working on this one for quite some time and the photos were taken over a couple of weeks because I just couldn't get them them focused right and showing what I needed them to.

  5. Hi Sands, Nice tutorial--thank you very much! Your glasses look great! Have you received my emails? I was worried that something terrible had happened, but now that I see this post I'm breathing a sigh of relief! Have you changed your mind? If so, not a problem. Just let me know--thanks! xo Jennifer

    1. Thanks so much for your email, Sands! I'm pleased as punch! xo Jennifer

    2. :( Sorry for making you stress out! Things are beyond hectic trying to work both jobs, be the mommy, keep the house clean and laundry done and still have time for everything that I love doing in-between. I have managed to work on your little critters today and they are looking cute as can be. Just taking a quick break now to get dinner ready - yup, at just after 7pm I am already late. Thank heavens for leftovers!!! Then it is back to work on them. :D

  6. Lovely tutorial! I think I prefer your glasses over the plastic ones! I hope to try this out soon!

    1. Thanks! I like the colorful little plastic glasses, but the older wire glasses were never my favorite... I never could figure out which way should be up or down on them!

    2. Yes yours are much better than the wire ones for sure, the old wire ones are a bit small and ill-fitting in my opinion. Yours show off their eyes while still giving a granarent like warmth. :) I would like to try making some to create my own Moss Reindeer grandparents, since the grandparents are so hard to find! ;)

  7. Great tutorial! I especially love the gold one! Yes, I agree SF grandparents are super super cute! I love all of them even if I'm not exactly fond of their regular families