Willa’s Reading Corner

2 Apr
Head on shot of the open book/Altoids tin, showing a diorama of a tiny library with reading chair, fireplace, table, window, and bookcases full of books.
Here it is!

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I was making a tiny tiny library, and I teased later that I would share something I had made for a friend once she received it. She has1, and here we are.

Be warned that this post will be image-heavy.

I had a rough idea of the scene I wanted to create. Lots of books in large bookcases, a comfortable reading chair, with a handy table for more books, perhaps a drink. From there, adding a fireplace to keep the room cozy was a given, and so was a window open to a dark, moonless night.

It all started with the bookcases.

Open Altoids tin holding tiny crooked bookcases on either side of a fireplace, with a tiny reading chair and side table on the desk in front of it.
At least the scale is right

I had drawn a basic outline on graph paper, just to give myself an idea of the proportions of all the elements I wanted in the scene. Two different types of coffee stirrer sticks serve as the uprights and the shelves of the bookcases. The first try, as you can see, was mostly a failure because the fireplace was too wide for the space I had allocated for it, and the space between shelves was too narrow for anything.

Two sets of tiny bookcases, still empty, displayed side by side. The one on the right is pretty crooked, the one on the left is square.
There’s progress!

The second attempt is much better. I changed the configuration, centering the fireplace between two bookcases of the same width. This new unit is narrower, which gave me space for the reading chair on one side. Later on I added a third, narrow bookcase to go on the opposite side of the tin.

The reading chairs are both made of thin chipboard, the kind used in food packaging. The one in the left was then covered in brown paper (from a fast food paper bag). Later, I covered it again, with paper treated to simulate leather, and used cotton string, painted brown, as piping.

The empty bookcases, fireplace, mirror, chair, side table and window, laying flat on the table. Part of the open Altoids tin is visible on the side.
Most of the elements are here!

I ended up making a third fireplace, because the sides were still not quite parallel in the second one. All fireplaces were made from popsicle sticks, which are thicker, to represent the more solid stone sides of the fireplace, with toothpicks used to simulate round carving on the facing of the sides and the mantel.

Originally I wanted to have a painting hanging above the fireplace, but then thought that a mirror would also work. The frame is made from thin strips of chipboard, painted gold, and the mirror itself is cut from a drink can, the unpainted side out. The window is made in a similar fashion, only the black color is from the can itself, the strips of cardboard are painted brown, and the lock is a tiny bead.

Then came the books.

A clear plastic pill holder, full of 1/8in books with real pages.
First batch of microbooks!

With that much shelf space, I needed a goodly number of books. I started by painting swatches of that same paper bag in different colors, using metallic markers with good pigmentation. I cut strips and scored them to form the very thin spines needed for books this small, and then glued the strips to the edge of phone book pages, putting some weight on them while letting them dry. Once dried, I cut the strips from the phone book, and then the individual books.

The skinny bookcase laying on graph paper, with a pile of books 1/8in or smaller on the side, and a ruler.
Filling them with books was so much fun!

Eventually, I had enough books to start gluing them to the shelves. I decided early on that the lower third or so of the bookcases would be cabinet doors, which I made by painting some more thin chipboard, using more of the same tiny beads as pulls.

My hand holding a skinny 2in tall bookcase filled with books, shown from the back to highlight the real pages.
You can see the individual pages.

This part was fiddly as hell! Some of the books lost pages in the process, and a few were too tall to fit properly in the shelves, but I eventually loaded all three bookcases with a respectable number of books. I am pretty enamored of how they look as a whole.

The three bookcases, all filled with books, laying on graph paper with a ruler for size comparison.
Apologies for the weird angle, they are all the same size.

I had planned to have a Menorah on the mantel, but I could not manage to make one small enough to fit, so I used a few beads to simulate candles on silver candle holders, and bits of thin wire painted red to simulate flames. They are a bit too large for the scale, but they were too darling not to use.

Miniature book cases, with books, a fireplace, two candlessticks, and on the floor, a miniature Menorah
Getting there!

Then came the tin itself. Not that Altoid tins aren’t cute enough as-is, but this is a diorama of a library, and a gift for a friend, so.

I made a book.

Overhead shot of a hardcover book closed with a strap.
Here it is!

The covers and spine are made from yet more chipboard, doubled up to get the thickness and rigidity I wanted, and covered with brown paper bag paper treated to look like old, stained leather.

Holding the strap open, showing the tiny magnet embedded on the front cover of the 'book'

There are magnets both on the cover and the strap, and they make a solid closure for the book.

My hand is holding the 'book' ajar, revealing it's a tin but not showing the interior

I couldn’t find a way to show the mechanism that holds the covers in place when the book/tin is closed but allows the front cover and spine to move out of the way when it opens. Suffice it to say, it was something I had to figure out as I was putting it together, and I’m so pleased with how it came together!

Close up of the inside of the Altoids tin, dressed up as a tiny library, showing the fireplace with two silver candlesticks, a mirror, with two bookcases on either side and a small round table with books.
I really love everything about this scene.

The ‘logs’ in the fireplace are pieces of the thinnest wood stick I could find in the yard. Like the candlesticks, they are just a bit too large, but anything thinner was too fibrous, not wood.

Close up of the inside of the tin, right side, showing the reading chair in front of a bookcase, with a simulated dark window behind it.
I love the window showing dark outside, but I wish I had added drapes of some sort.

The chandelier was made by gluing a few of the same tiny beads used before, to form the ‘chain’ from which the larger painted bead hangs. The medallion or base glued to the ceiling was made by gluing three layers of plastic ‘confetti’ (the kind that sometimes comes in greeting cards) together, painting that and the small beads black.

Close up of the inside of the tin, left side, showing a skinny bookcase on the side of the tin
I love that skinny side bookcase

I could not find a way to make a mug small enough to fit the scale, so I had to console myself by putting a couple of books on a little round table next to the reading chair.

And there you have it, a pocket-size library fit for a fellow reader.

~ * ~

1 Her reaction as a screenshot

Screenshot of tweet from @willaful: "@HerHandsMyHands OMG OMG OMG! That is the most amazing thing anyone has ever made for me!"
She does like it!

13 Responses to “Willa’s Reading Corner”

  1. selacarsen 02/04/2021 at 8:33 AM #

    I love this! And I love that you’ve found something to make that fulfills your creativity!

    • azteclady 02/04/2021 at 8:41 AM #

      Thank you!

      I have five projects going right now, and plans for a bunch more, and all I need is time and space to make them.

      Is that how it works for writers? All the stories and characters bursting to become?

      • selacarsen 02/04/2021 at 8:52 AM #

        On the best days, yes!

  2. willaful 02/04/2021 at 4:08 PM #

    I’ve been beaming for two days and showing my treasure off to everyone! It was much admired at zoom game night. My kid tried to open the cabinets. 😉

    (Too bad about the menorah! That was so thoughtful of you.)

    • azteclady 02/04/2021 at 4:26 PM #

      You have no idea how happy your joy makes me.

      (And I have not given up on the Menorah, though I doubt I can make one at this scale)

  3. Lori 02/04/2021 at 5:06 PM #

    I am agog. The books are brilliant. And seeing the pages and all, I mean those are little tiny books. That’s so freaking cool. And may I say that the menorah is awesome. You are amazing.

    • azteclady 02/04/2021 at 5:11 PM #

      Thank you! ::hug::

      (I had to grab each book with tweezers to put them in the shelves. There was cursing in several languages.)

  4. shallowreader 20/04/2021 at 9:35 PM #

    This is amazing and so thoughtful!

    • willaful 20/04/2021 at 9:36 PM #

      Aren’t I the lucky girl!

      • shallowreader 20/04/2021 at 9:40 PM #

        Oh my! Yes you are! I’m soooo enamoured by it!

  5. KeiraSoleore 20/04/2021 at 11:12 PM #

    This is stunning !! What talent!

  6. Kaetrin 22/04/2021 at 2:12 AM #

    Oh that’s fantastic Willa! How wonderful.


  1. on the off-chance someone is reading this who isn’t a Twitter friend.. | A Willful Woman... - 20/04/2021

    […] out this absolutely amazing treasure a friend made for […]

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