Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A question for you

A question for you all...

As you may or may not know, my day job is as a model for college and museum life drawing classes. That means that I take off my clothes, and sit very very still while students try to make drawings and paintings of me. At the beginning of the semester, we're lucky if the resulting charcoal smears are vaguely human shaped. By this time of the process though, some of the figure studies are showing quite a bit of promise.

Here's the question. Sometimes the students let me take snapshots of their drawings. I have a tendency to post the pictures in my own portfolio, with their permission. Would it offend folks if I also occasionally shared them here? It is a creative endeavor that I am a partner in, and as such I'd like to be able to talk about it. But there is no 'cut' to put the images behind, like there is in live journal.


Just for giggles, I'm adding a line of pinback buttons to my Etsy shop. Here are the two that went in tonight. I've got ideas for more to come!

Come to think of it...anyone have any pithy, original fiber arts related sayings that should be buttonized? If I like it and can use it, I'll send you a free button as payment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Basic Fighter's Tunic

I have to admit, sewing doesn't really inspire me. I don't wake up in the middle of the night with the plans for a new sewing project jumping around in my brain, demanding to be let out RIGHT NOW, like happens for some of my other art forms. But still, I've learned how to do it. I've even taken a couple of classes on sewing and pattern making at the local community college, just to figure out how to do it right. Mostly, this is because of my involvement in the historical recreation community. For some reason, the local Wal-Mart doesn't carry much in the way of fashions from the 1300's, you know? You can't just run out and buy this stuff. It all has to be hand made.

So, I learned to sew for myself, and my family. It is easier to get just what you have in mind for a costume if you make it yourself. And every now and then, I can get talked into hiring out my seamstress talents. Like in this case. One of our newer sword fighters asked me if I could make a basic tunic to go over his armor. He wanted black, mid-thigh length, and his other colors were navy blue and white. This is what I came up with. It is made of a sturdy bottom weight, and all the seams are reinforced. There is a slit up the sides for mobility. I added a sturdy navy blue and white trim so he wouldn't split the side seam up further--that is one of the first spots to usually fail in this kind of tunic. Then I added the same trim to the front neck slit for the same purpose, and to the arms just for decoration. I didn't continue the trim all around the neck line though, since the bottom of his helm would rub against it and rip it up pretty quickly.

(The trim amuses me. That pattern, in heraldic speak, is called 'embattled'. Now, how perfect is that for a fighting tunic?)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A silk I'm not sure I'd collect...

Fascinating! Since I do textile artsy stuff, I keep my eyes open for what other folks are up to. I found this article this morning: . It is about some folks who have made a gorgeous, golden brocaded cloth...out of spider silk. Can you imagine! It is beautiful, and terribly strong. But I'm not sure I'd want to go into spider farming any time soon.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Twisted fringe again

A while ago I did a little tutorial on how to make twisted fringe. For that project, it was easier to twist the fringe with my fingers as I went along, since it was a relatively thick yarn and only took a couple of twists for each fringe. But this time I'm making the fringe for a belt woven out of cotton crochet thread. I could do it by hand...but it is ever so much easier with the right gadget for the job. And I am all about fiber gadgets! In this case, I'm using a Leclerc fringe twister. It is basically two alligator clips attached to bent metal rods. The rods are spun by rotating the top piece of wood.

Here's how: Separate out an equal number of threads, and attach the clips to the ends.

Rotate the top piece of wood, which spins the clips and so twists the threads together in their separate batches. Count how many times you rotate the handle, so your fringe is consistent.

Undo the clips, and tie the two bundles of thread together at the ends.

Let go. The bundles will twist back on themselves, making a stable fringe element.

And here is the finished belt! This was card woven, which I'll get into another time. But it makes for a very strong, sturdy band. This one is 5 1/2 feet long, not including the fringe. That makes it a nice length on me to tie around the waist. I'll probably end up donating this one to a gift basket, or to the prize box for the local SCA group.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stenciling class

My local SCA group has an arts night every first and third Thursday of the month. If someone knows something, they put together a class and share it. Otherwise, we sit around with our various projects and spend the time comparing notes and chatting. Tonight was one of the class nights. Lady Nastas'ia Volkovicha led us through the process of making stencils, and then using them to make matching t-shirts with the local group's 'war dragon' symbol on it.

First thing we did was to trace the war dragon onto poster board, and cut it out. I started out using a sharp pair of scissors.

I quickly found however, that an exacto knife worked much better for the detailed part of things.

We sprayed the back of the stencil with quilt basting spray, and stuck it down to our t-shirts. There is a piece of cardboard inside the shirt, so the paint doesn't bleed through to the back layer. Then, we used some cheap foam brushes and fabric paint, and pounced the paint on straight up and down.

Then back outside to spray glue the second part of the stencil. This is Nastas'ia, our fearless leader for the evening. She is spraying outside, so the glue fumes don't make the rest of us even sillier than we usually are.

We carefully placed the other part of the stencil over the (dried) red paint, and pounced in the white. This took a couple of coats, as the yellow kept bleeding through the white.

A handy hair dryer sped up the drying process.

After it was safe to touch, the stencil came off, and we used fabric paint straight out of the container to outline the pattern.

Finished shirt! Start to finish, less than three hours. The paint needs to sit for three days now, so it will cure and become washable.

This was really, really easy. My mind is spinning with possibilities...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A bit of this, a bit of that...

It has been kind a scattered couple of days here in the studio. I've had family members home sick, and I've had a touch of it myself, so time (and brain power) to focus on any one thing has been kind of hard to come by. But I took measurements for an over armor tunic that one of the local SCA fighters has commissioned. I scrubbed down another gourd, with the intent of turning this one into a candle holder. And I made up a set of felted juggling balls, to fill a request. The lady in question wanted a set of four balls instead of the set of three that I usually make. I was more than happy to put it together for her. In fact, here's a picture of the set in process.

Hmmmm...Can you tell which ball still needs the most felting work?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Prototype incense burner

The thought process went like this...

On one of the email groups I'm on, for my local SCA chapter, they're talking about Halloween and carving jack-o-lanterns as a contest. Except, since pumpkins are new world items and the SCA tries to recreate the life and times of Medieval Europe, they're talking about 'gourd' carving. Well, one of the ladies asked if she could bring an actual dried gourd to work with.

That sparked my interest. So I went bopping around the internet, looking for information on gourd lanterns. I found this page: , which has some incredible work! I want to try that. It looks simply like poking holes in the gourd, like the tin punch I used to do awhile ago. (Wouldn't that be cute with light bright pegs?)

Then when I was in the shower this morning--don't all the great ideas come to you in the shower?--I decided that the same technique might work great to create an incense holder. Since gourds are flammable, you'd have to place a dish inside to hold the cone incense. Hmmmm...

I popped out to the shed, and grabbed a small gourd. (Ok, I got dressed first.) I wrapped it in a wet towel to prep, then ran out to my local Asian supermarket to pick up a couple of the little dishes that are used for mixing sauces for sushi. Back home, I set to work.

Three or four hours later (not counting time in and around sick kids, sick husband, cooking, grocery shopping, etc), this is what I came up with:

The walls of this particular gourd are on the thin side, so this one is not for sale. But as a prototype, it is working really well. It is currently living on top of the piano in my bedroom, making the whole room smell absolutely lovely. I'm going to burn several cones over the next while, to make sure everything is in order. Then I think it will be time to make some more of these!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Gourd, part 3 (finished work)

Ok, I know these aren't the best pictures. But it is the middle of the night--getting on toward morning actually--and I just now finished up this gourd. I'll get better shots when I have some natural light to work with, but I couldn't wait to share with you all. I'm so pleased with the way this one turned out!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The 'Red Hat' Shawl

I know you're all waiting with bated breath to see the finished gourd tonight, right? (Hey, a girl can dream...) Well, it isn't quite done yet. I spent my work time today popping over to my folks' place instead. Mom was making home made corned beef for sandwiches, and wanted to experiment on me. I'm not about to pass up her cooking!

So, while I was there, I got her to model a shawl for me. I usually use my daughter as a model, but this particular shawl is aimed at the 'Red Hat' ladies, and she is just a wee bit young still. So, here are shots of my Mom being a good sport.

You all missed some good food!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Gourd, part 2 (work in progress)

Today was day two on the decorative gourd. I started the day by popping over to the Bead Museum (, with the goal of visiting their store for a few focal beads to add some bling to the top of the gourd. While I was there, I had to go through the museum too. I wish they allowed photographs! Oh my, was there some beautiful work present. And historical beads, dating back to thousands BC. I think my favorite was an ancient Egyptian mummy face, peyote stitched of faience beads. I did a recreation of those faces for an arts competition several years ago, so to see one in person was a huge treat!

I found my beads, then came back home and got back to work on the gourd. Here is what I've been up to this afternoon:

I decided the base of the gourd needed some definition around the rim. Gourds respond pretty well to wood burning, so that is what I used. That completes the bowl part of the gourd.

Most of the decoration goes in the lid. I started by drilling holes in the lid.

Then I grabbed some waxed linen, in a color that blended with the dye work. That got strung through the holes, making a web.

I prestrung the beads while I was warping my gourd. Once I had the warp in place, I started weaving over/under, around and around the center where the waxed linen crossed.

Once I got the circle big enough, I sewed on a stone disk and a large hollow brass bead. This serves as a handle for the lid.

I lost a saw blade's width worth of material when I was cutting the gourd open, so the lid wasn't sitting quite right. I added a rim treatment in black waxed linen. It is both decorative, and makes sure the lid won't fall into the bowl.

Tomorrow, I continue the weaving on the top. I'm planning a kind of free form weave, in red, black, and green waxed linen. We'll see how it turns out. This part I kind of play by ear, doodling with the thread and making it up as I go.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Gourd, part 1 (work in progress)

It is a new month, which means I feel like starting on a new type of project. And since the heat is starting to break enough that I can work outside for a half hour or so at a time, I figured it was time to break into the gourd stash. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to find a gourd grower that was going out of business, and was unloading stock. I literally filled my van with dried gourds, and have been slowly working my way through the piles since then. My shed out back is stuffed!

Anyway, this morning I trotted out to the shed and grabbed the first gourd that came to hand. I took it inside, wrapped it in a wet towel, and let it sit for an hour or so to loosen up the dirt and waxy coating that is on the outside of the gourd.

After the gourd had soaked for awhile, I took a copper kitchen scrubby to it. It took a bit of elbow grease, but I removed the waxy coating.

Then I took the gourd out to the garage, and put on my breathing mask. You don't want to get the gunk inside a gourd into your lungs! I cut open the gourd, scooped out the insides, then spent some while sanding things out until I had a nice neat inside.

Back in the studio, I dyed the inside of the gourd with dark brown leather dye.

Then I grabbed four more colors of leather dye, and had fun with the outside of the gourd.

I left the gourd to dry for awhile, then came back and buffed the excess dye off with an old towel. That towel will never be clean again.

My daughter snapped a picture of me buffing the gourd.

After I had the excess dye off, I sprayed three (four?) light coats of matte clear finish on the outside of the gourd.

And now, my canvas is ready. Tomorrow, I get to play with the finishing touches. Maybe some wood burning around the rim? Or a waxed linen wrap? I want to attach that stone disk and metal bead on the top middle for a handle. And I think some teneriffe weaving in waxed linen on the top might look spiffy. Maybe with some extra beads strung on the warp threads. Hmmm... Still pondering.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Garb and eye candy

I'm about on the way out the door to my weekend trip. I'll be seeing kings and queens and knights in shining armor--what a lovely time! Just wanted to poke my nose in here a moment to show you all how the garb from yesterday's tutorial turned out:

Also, since I haven't given you much reading material today, why don't you wander over here for a moment: ? There is some nice Etsy eye candy on display. (Of course, I'm a little biased, since she chose one of my shawls to be included in her plaid display.)

Ok, back to packing. See you all next week!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Tutorial: Inserting Gores

I'm involved in the Society for Creative Anachronism, which is a historical recreation group that studies the Middle Ages and Renaissance. We've got an event coming up this weekend, and I decided that I needed new garb for it. I've been making an under/over tunic set, based on the instructions here: . The resulting outfit is surprisingly comfortable, with a full swishy skirt, and takes less than 8 yards of fabric for complete set. I have four other outfits made on this pattern that I wear when out camping with the group. But those are out of plain fabric, and I decided that I needed something a little nicer this time around. So this time, the bottom layer is black linen, and the over tunic is a teal brocade. I'll try to get photos of me in it, once I get it done.

Of course, I have to finish sewing it first. This is a long dress, with fullness in the skirt provided by gores. The directions for inserting the gores simply say, "Sew cf and cb gore into cf and cb slits. (May be easiest to sew the points in by hand.)" Now, when I was learning this dress I tried and tried, but had a heck of a time getting a triangular gore to fit into a slit in a piece of fabric without bumps and wrinkles! I finally found directions that made sense to me here: .

Now that I figured it out, I thought I'd share. Here's pictures of how I did it:

Cut your slit in the base fabric, but stop when the slit is about two inches shorter than your gore. Mark a spot about 5/8" up on the slit line, on the right side of the base fabric.

On the wrong side of the gore, mark your 5/8" seam allowance.

See the X where the seam allowances crossed? Line that up with the mark you made on the base fabric. Right sides are together.

Pin the two spots together, catching as little of the fabric as possible.

Rotate the gore, so the edge of the gore and the edge of the slit line up. Pin.

Starting a couple of inches back, hand sew on the seam allowance line up to the pinned X. I put a couple of tiny reinforcing stitches at that point.

Now, carefully cut the slit in the base fabric the rest of the way, up almost to the mark you made. There should be a couple of threads left uncut.

Rotate the gore, and line the other edge up with the other side of the slit. Again, right sides together. Pin.

Continue hand sewing down from the point, until you have an inch or so done.

Peek at the right side of the fabric. Did you get it right? Excellent! Now you can machine sew the rest of the gore into place.