Monday, March 29, 2010

A treasure trove

I was camping this weekend at an SCA event, when a dear friend who knows of my fiber interests gave me a hand written treasure map. At X marks the spot, there were 4 lawn sized garbage bags to be found. My husband and I left the camping event, and went hunting.

We came back with the 4 bags. The next day, we started dividing them up. One bag was broken open, and shared out amongst about a half a dozen folks still on site. One bag went up north to Ered Sul, the Flagstaff chapter of the SCA, to be parted out there. The other two came home with me, and are in the picture above.

What was in these bags?

Wool! Lots and lots of wool, straight off of the sheep. The story goes that these are either from Rambouilett or Suffolk sheep (probably not full breed). There was someone in the area who raised the sheep, but decided not to sell or use the wool this year. When they sheared the sheep, they simply bagged the wool up and put it out for the garbage man. Their neighbor rescued it, put it at their own curb, and told my friend in the SCA about it. My friend dashed out, squished two bags into her car (to be taken down to southern AZ and divided up amongst fiber artists there), and realized she didn't have room for the rest. So she wrote out the treasure map, and sent me on my quest. Whee!

Today I broke into my two bags, and skirted the 5 fleeces that I found inside. I'm going to keep the brown fleece, and one of the white fleeces. The other three got put into 4 bags, and will go to new homes before too long.

Isn't this beautiful stuff? Looks like I'm going to be spending the next couple of days washing fleece!

(If you are local to Phoenix, and would like some wool, let me know. Two of the four bags are already spoken for, but that leaves two more people who could share in the bounty.)

EDIT: The bags are spoken for. Now lots of people get to play, too!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

More Viking wire weaving: internal beads

Ok, so this is kind of cool. I've been exploring the various things you can do with Viking wire weaving recently, and my wire mentor Letitia told me how to integrate beads into the weave. Basically, you string a bead when you're about to make a stitch. When you put the rough weave through the draw plate, those beads are smushed to the inside, and end up encased in the finished weave. This I had to try!

So, for this practice piece I picked up some cheap 'beading wire' from Walmart this afternoon. I did discover that the gold tone is only a coating, and that the coating will scratch off if you handle the wire too roughly with the pliers. So I'm not going to use this wire in a higher quality piece, but it was good enough to practice on. First I did a sample with seed beads. They were visually lost in the finished product. Then I tried a sample with green glass 'E' beads, which are basically larger seed beads coming in at a size 6/0. That worked better, but the green didn't have enough contrast to really stand out from the surrounding wire. So I grabbed some black E beads, and made a choker length necklace.

This I'm pleased with. The beads give an elegant but subtle variation on plain chain. I can foresee experimenting with different sized beads, different gauge wire, various number of loops in the weave (this was a 5 loop weave), and a variety of color combinations.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Viking Wire Weaving with a peyote stitch slide bead

It has become something of a running joke over here that "Everything is better with beads!" Which is based on the fact that sooner or later, I'll find a way to work beads into almost any craft I do. But really, the Viking wire knitting that I learned to do last week is a craft that just seems to beg for the addition of beads, don't you think?

So today I made a chain out of a finer gauge wire. It was 26 gauge non-tarnish silver Artistic Wire for the chain, and the same wire in 20 gauge for the end caps. Then I dug into the stash of beads, and found a couple of colors of Delica seed beads that seemed to go nicely together. A bit of experimentation with the pattern, and I came up with a nice big two color spiral, made with tubular peyote stitch. The finished necklace is 18" long, and is very comfortable and light-weight.

By the way, have I mentioned that the lady who got me started with this is an evil influence? This afternoon, she told me how to get beads to weave into the inside of the chain. I think I want to try that next...

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Tutorial: Viking Wire Weaving

I hang around bad influences. My friends get me to try all sorts of stuff that I wouldn't even think of on my own. But you know, it is kind of fun!

In the most recent case, a dear friend of mine has been teaching Viking wire weaving anyone who will sit still long enough to look at what she is doing. Viking or Norse wire weaving (also called trichinopoly), as suggested by the name, dates back to the Viking era. ( Through my friend, I ordered directions and a small kit from Tom Kassens, and I was off and running.

To learn the technique, I made a practice bracelet out of some scrap copper wire I had lying around. Once I posted a picture on my FaceBook, I had folks ask me if I was going to do a blog tutorial. So I started a matching necklace, and took pictures. Mind you, I'm nowhere near an expert. But this technique is easy enough that even beginners can come out with wearable pieces of jewelry.

Here's what I did:

craft wire in two sizes
a wooden dowel (or fingers, or allen wrench)
a draw plate (make one by drilling different sized holes in a board)
wire cutters

For this necklace, I made a 5 loop chain. You can experiment with more or less loops. To make a starting anchor, take a length of your wire, and wrap it around your fingers the right number of times.

Twist the ends of the loops together.

Spread the loops out evenly, and kind of squish them into long ovals. It will look kind of like a flower.

Now, bend the petals around your mandrel. I'm using a wooden dowel that has a rounded end. It also has a slight indentation in one side up near the end, to make it easier to pass the wire under the loops as you get weaving. I have a friend who just uses her fingers for a mandrel. I've also seen folks use an allen wrench in a vise, for a more stable work surface.

Cut a working length of wire, somewhere between 18" and 3'. Secure one end by winding it around the twists in your starter flower.

Bring the other end in one loop and out the next door loop. With the mandrel in my hand coming towards me, I was working from right to left.

Pull the wire through, and tighten up the resulting loop. I found that I was most comfortable feeding through the wire by hand, then using a pliers to tighten the loop. Now, move to the next petal to the right, and make another loop with your working wire. Continue around, until you are back to your first working loop.

On your next row, you are going to insert your wire under the X made at the base of your loop. Snug your wire into place with pliers again, but be sure you leave enough room in the weave to get the next pass of wire through. Continue around, building your chain loop by loop in this manner.

You will run out of wire quicker than you think. I've found two ways to add the next length of wire. The first way is to insert the end of the new wire back the way you just came with the old wire...

...then bend the ends down, and hold them in place while you continue looping around. When you get back to the ends of the wires, work over them so they are in the inside of your weaving. After a few rows, snip the remaining ends.

The second way is to twist the old and the new wires together while you are between loops. Again, continue on with your new wire, and make sure the ends are hidden inside your weaving.

After you've gone through several lengths of wire, it is time to think about finishing your piece. For my choker, I made my rough weave 9 inches long. Obviously, that isn't long enough to go around an adult neck. But the magic happens next.

Using pliers, hold on to your original wire flower as a handle and pull your rough weave through the biggest hole in your drawplate. Then pull it though the next smaller hole. Keep going until you can't easily get it though a hole. This will lengthen your finished chain, and at the same time decrease its diameter. The chain becomes more flexible, and little irregularities get lost to the eye.

My 9" of chain became just over 15" long, which is a great choker size for me. If your resulting chain is too long for your finished product, you can unweave some of your work. It isn't really possible to add more at this point though, so be sure you have enough rough weave before you draw it out.

Carefully snip off your original starter flower.

You can finish your chain in several different ways. In this case, I chose a simple wire hook and eye clasp. Take your thicker wire, and make a loop in the end. Thwap it with the hammer for a bit to work harden the wire.

Stick the end of your wire down through the middle of your chain and out the side a few openings down. Pull it down, until the eye you just made is settled against the end of your weave.

Take this wire, and tightly wrap it back up toward your eye.

Take the end of your wire, and stick it down through the middle of your chain, and out the side underneath that coil you just made. You might have to use an awl to squeeze open a pathway. Use your pliers and grab the end sticking out, and pull the wire down tight, making sure not to kink up the loop as you pull it down and in. Snip off the end of the wire flush to your chain.

To make the hook side of your clasp, fold another wire over, wind the short end around the long, and snip off the short end. Thwap it with your hammer to work harden the wire.

Fold the double wires over into a hook shape.

Add this hook to the other end of your chain the same way you did the eye.

And here you go! A lovely choker, ready to wear. I've got it on right now, and it is light weight, flexible, and comfortable. I think I'm ready to move up from copper to silver wire next...

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Modeling and wire weaving and socks and...

I've been kind of scattered in my focus this past week or so, but that doesn't mean I haven't been busy. Lets see...I've spent quite a few hours modeling for life drawing classes. The weather has been nice enough here that one of the classes had me put on a costume, and we went outside. The picture here is one of the hour poses we did. Sitting in the sun, listening to the bird song, and smelling the perfume from the nearby orange grove in bloom made the time go faster than normal. Lovely day for it!

I've been cranking out socks on my antique circular sock machine. This pair went to a lovely lady in Maryland. She sent me a thank you note today, to let me know that she got them and loved them. How cool is that??

A dear friend of mine is a bad influence. She's been teaching everyone how to do Viking Wire Weaving. This dates back in Norse regions to before the year 1000. I made a stab at it today, and made this copper bracelet. Keep your eyes open--I've started another piece, and have been taking pictures as I go along. There will be a tutorial before too long.

And my sister was in town this past week. She brought me three yards of the most lovely green fabric. It is just the absolutely perfect match for the "Emerald Laurel" hand carved pendant that I bought from Epaul Fischer last fall. ( This one is going to sit in my hind brain for a bit, but I am starting to see the most wonderful 1500's costume in my head. There isn't enough fabric for the whole outfit, but maybe if I pair it with the bolt of suit-weight black wool that I have tucked away...

I'm off of modeling for awhile, so I should have time to be even more busy in my studio. Time to play!