The Furniture has arrived!

Today I received the shipment I for which I have been waiting. It’s a little amazing that such tiny packages can hold one up for weeks.

Here’s what I received:

A couple of bottles
A rectangular table
A work table, with a shelf
Two stools.

The first thing to do with chipboard kits is to CAREFULLY separate the pieces from backing. Keep your exacto-knife handy for this. You don’t want to tear the pieces as you separate them.

Next, you will want to wipe down the sides of each piece with a dry paper towel or plain tissue. The lasers used to cut the chipboard leave soot behind which can make a mess. They mention this on the website, and there will be more soot than you would imagine from such small things.

Once the soot is off, I recommend gently sanding the edges of each piece. It gives a cleaner edge and makes your finished pieces look more professional. I like to use the sanding pads shown below, but you might find something you like better.

You may be wondering why I have 8 leg pieces instead of four. These will be glued together in pairs which will add thickness to the legs and make them sturdier. Glueing them will be my next step.

Here they are glued.
You can see that they are now the right size to fill the holes.

While the glue dries, I will paint the other parts. I’ve chosen a warm brown acrylic paint for the furnishings for the lab.

And here is the completed table:

I’m debating if I need to do a transfer of rough wood for the top of the table. I’d like to, but I’m not sure how well it will show up when the table is covered with lab equipment.

Either way, it will have to wait as it appears, for the first time ever, Pinterest is down.


The Reed House

When I first got into miniatures, I was excited by all the kits that were available for the person just starting out. I looked at hundreds (yes, that’s not an exaggeration) and picked ones that were inexpensive as I was in Graduate School and pretty broke, even though I was working full time (classes at grad school cost a minimum of $4000, per class. It is not easy to come up with that kind of cash every four months). Sometime, I will put up some pictures of my kit projects.

The Reed Dollhouse was designed by Jean Nordquist and I fell in love with it the second I saw it. It was out of my price range at the time, but when the quarantine started it seemed a good time to shell out for it.

In the kit you get the precut unpainted wooden pieces, full color directions (in English, thank heavens. Another time I’ll tell you about a kit that came with only Chinese directions). And all the lithographs you need to finish the house, exterior and interior.

Here’s the exterior of my completed Reed House. I kind of wish I had done the base in green or gray, or perhaps some tile….

The outside of my reed house came out pretty good. Though I think I might need some plants next to the portico and possibly a brick or stone path leading to the door.

The interior of Reed House has two rooms. Based on the provided wallpaper, they are a parlor on the top floor and a kitchen on the bottom floor. I decided that it would be fun to do all the furniture and details in paper to go with the lithography provided by Jean Nordquist designs.

As it turns out, in that time period, paper toys were very popular. They would publish dolls and furniture in the newspaper, even. The Boston Sunday Globe published some cute ones.

Selection from the Boston Globe.

There were a lot more choices than I thought there would be. Ultimately, I chose these two sets from McLoughlin Bro’s Paper Furniture set From the 1890’s. Obviously, I didn’t use all of the furniture, which I scanned and printed on card stock.

I also used the cat from a sheet from the Universal Toy and MFG Company.

I got the food from yet another set, shown below:

Here is how the interior of the house looks:

The only thing in the house that is not made entirely of paper, is the floor lamp on the top floor. I used a tooth pick for the base of the lamp. Also, both the lamps do light up with tiny 3mm LEDs.

This was a really fun little project and I thank Jean Nordquist designs for the kit.

Back in the lab.

Today, I chose the floor for the laboratory project. I try to keep things consistent with the time period in which I am working. I chose this light wood floor, because the interior of the clock is so dark, I need to create a little, not too much, lightness. Mad scientists need to be able to see, too.

Pretty realistic, right? My thanks to the people at

Here is the flooring mounted on a piece of cardboard that I cut to fit the inside of the clock. I cannot, however, install it in the clock yet because I have no shellack. Tomorrow, I will run out to the drug store and get some hairspray to use as a fixative.

The hairspray keeps the ink from my printer from bleeding and adds a little gloss to the paper. I don’t recommend it for wallpaper. But wood floors look cool when they are shiny. Tiles do as well.

Also, I got an email from Alphastamps today. My latest order is finally on its way! I will have my lab furniture soon.

It’s a process.

I spent a long time in my actual lab today, so I wasn’t too keen on building another when I got home. I thought I would talk a little about my process. I mean, if you want to call it that.

My first step is always to choose a container. This defines the space I have in which to build and usually ties in to the theme of the scene I am building.

I bought these two birdcages at Michael’s craft store when they were on clearance.

The silver one was originally going to be an Easter scene, complete with an egg hunt, but I found the pattern for the tiny bedding and I couldn’t resist it.

The black was was going to be New Orleans or Halloween, which morphed into the tea room, so that one stayed pretty much on point. Though, the fact that I was playing “The Room, 2” on my iPhone probably influenced some of my decisions on that one.

One of my favorite games. Atmospheric, absorbing and challenging.

If you like puzzle games and you haven’t checked out “The Room” and it’s sequels (Fireproof Games), you are doing yourself a disservice. Also, if more of you buy the games they already put out, maybe they will make some more. It seems like “Old Sins” came out a long time ago.

But I digress.

Once I’ve chosen the container, the next thing is to plan the scene. The boudoir started with the cross stitched bedding as I mentioned above and the room evolved out from there. The Tea Room came about because I really wanted to use that wall paper. I mean, come on, it’s skulls.

Once I’ve chosen a theme and a container, I can purchase any supplies I might need and start customizing, which is, of course, the fun part. As I am waiting for a shipment from Alphastamps which contains the bases for my lab furniture, I plan to start with the floor and the lighting.

Lots of things can be printed for free from the internet, often in several scales. Those that aren’t offered in the scale you want can usually be manipulated by computer to be smaller or larger. Use a lot of printables and you will get very good at two things: using the image editing software on your computer and eyeballing things to be in scale with your scene.

Google and Pinterest will be your friends in this endeavor.

One last thing: not one single miniature scene, whether I used a kit or made it from scratch has ever looked the way I originally planned it would when I was done. Some changes are small and some are huge, but they all veer off from the plan. This is one of my favorite aspects of this craft. As a scientist I spend my days following strict guidelines and protocols, and most other crafts I do involve following patterns with a known outcome. I enjoy the fact that I can allow the scenes to grow organically from a tenuous idea.

Too much time in the macrocosm

Today was basically a waste of time. What started as a quick $100 car maintenance appointment turned into 3 hours at the dealership, in a mask, getting very little work done and the need for a $1000 repair and a return trip on Monday.

When I finally got done with the car, I had to have 3 (yes, 3) video chats and then spend an hour on the phone with Verizon getting a landline set up. Then laundry. Being an adult is stupid and it leaves very little time for making tiny things.

I did get a little work done. I am in the process of creating a miniature tiger skin rug based on a pattern from this book:

Ms Dodge writes great books for amateur miniaturists.

Here’s the rug, in progress:

I’m using 32 count linen and DMC embroidery floss, both of which can be purchased at your local craft store or online. I suggest picking out floss in a store as the colors don’t necessarily appear true on a screen. For those of you who are not stitchers, “count” in embroidery fabric refers to the number of stitches that can be done per inch. In this case, 32 stitches per inch. This is useful because it becomes really simple to determine how big a piece will be when complete. If you are stitching a rug that is 100 stitches by 80 stitches, you simply divide the number of stitches by your thread count to know exactly how many inches your finished piece will be. In this example, your rug would be about 3 inches by 2.5 inches.

Here’s an extreme close up of the fabric.

Each stitch goes over one thread in the fabric. They are very very tiny. I recommend a size 26 tapestry needle because it won’t stretch the holes in the linen. Also, I recommend at least a 3X magnifier. I use these, made by Kikar, because I can attach them to my glasses (sexy, I know). You may prefer the kind that is attached to a head band or a positionable magnifying glass.

My magnifiers, or cheaters as I call them.

That’s it for now, my cat Johnny, is informing me that it is time for his dinner.


The mad scientist’s lab.

Today I am starting work on a miniature steampunk laboratory. The scene will be built inside this antique clock, which I bought on EBay.

The clock has a cool looking back door:

And a fairly spacious interior:

Though, as you can see, I will need to create floor that is level with the bottom of the door. I’m considering whether or not I want to add a flight of stairs up to the door, but that decision can wait until the piece is nearly done. Also, considering how dark it is inside, lighting is going to be of particular importance.

I already have a collection of miniature lab equipment. Not all of which will make it into this scene. I prefer to have too many pieces so I can make design choices as I work. Most of these pieces were purchased from Alphastamps.

I love Alphastamps because they have a huge variety of collage, scrapbooking and miniature supplies at very reasonable prices. The only downside is that their shipping is extremely slow. It can take a week or more before they ship an order so supplies can take a week and half or more to arrive.

While I understand that they are likely very busy dealing with orders from people like me, who are still “sheltering in place”, waiting for necessary supplies can be a severe test of patience. The order I am currently expecting contains the chipboard pieces I intend to turn into lab tables.

I really like the tiny titration vessel, which is hand blown glass, which I purchased at a miniatures convention in Sturbridge, MA.

You’ve probably also noticed my high tech work surface, consisting of a paint splattered piece of cardboard I cut from the side of a box. I have yet to find a surface that works better for me since it is the cheapest way I’ve found to protect the top of my oak desk.

That’s all for now.

Quarantine is boring.

Hi everyone, or no one, as the case may be. I’m Andrea and I’m a professional biologist and an amateur miniaturist. Very amateur. But as we here in my home state are still “sheltering in place” I hit a wall with boredom today and decided to start this blog.

Maybe it will be fun to watch me learn how to do something creative, which is not necessarily my strong suit. Until recently, I have been working solely off of kits, but I’m now branching off into my own ideas. Things could get interesting…

This is my first completed solo piece, made without a kit. I did all the stitching myself.