Thursday, June 30, 2011

Making a Viking leather slipper

I think being in between major projects is dangerous for me. Because there I am at about 1 AM, wandering through the internet, and I run across a site like this one: . It has a pattern for a Viking era pair of shoes, made from a single piece of leather. The original that it is based off of is evidently in the Museum Of Cultural History at Novgorod. And I think, "Hey! Cool!! Period shoes. I bet I could do that. I think I even have the materials pretty much on hand..." And next thing you know, I'm cutting away, making myself a pair of leather slippers for the first time.

Here's what I was up to...

I printed out the pattern from the web site, and blew it up on the copy machine until it looked pretty close to my foot size.
Then I used a scrap of soap to trace the pattern onto my leather. What kind of leather? Um...thick enough to wear well, but still thin enough to be flexible. It just happened to be in my stash, so I really have no clue.
I cut out two pieces of leather.
I used an awl to poke needle holes in the zig-zag part that will be the front of the shoe, according to the pattern. I used spare pizza box (I've got teenagers) under the leather so I didn't poke holes in my desk, too. And then I went to bed because, well, 3 AM already.

Fast forward to this afternoon. I used that scrap of soap (I really do like it better than tailor's chalk) to mark the location of the lacing slits.
I used the awl  poke starter holes, about 3/16 (I eyeballed it) away from the edge of the leather.
And then I used an exacto knife to cut the slits, large enough for my lacing to poke through.
Ok, back to the toe. I used waxed linen, and laced through the holes in the zig-zag...
...and then cinched that up to form the front of the shoe.
Then I sewed the seam from the toe down the top of the foot.
The toe looked like this when I was done.
Then I worked on the heel. I folded the shoe in half, and sewed up the heel...
...stopping about an inch from the top.
Now, I cut about 6' of leather lacing, and put the mid point of it back up at the toe seam.
Each tail was woven in and out down the sides to the heel.
I found it easier to use a very thin pair of needle nose pliers to poke the lace through the slits.
Once I got the lacing all in place, I put it on and pulled on the lacings. It cinched up like a draw-string bag around my foot.

I decided that I wanted an insole, to add a little more protection from the ground. Luckily, I happened to have a scrap or two of my handspun/handwoven wool fabric left from the tunic project ( I washed the fabric on hot to felt it up as much as possible, and then stepped on it and cut around my foot.
There. Two insoles. I zig-zagged around the edges with my sewing machine, just to make sure they wouldn't ravel.
Then I inserted the insole into the slipper.

It still felt a little bit like a bag wrapped around my foot, so I put it on, laced it up, and dunked my whole foot into the sink. I'm currently letting the slipper dry on my foot, so it will mold itself better to my body.
But, not bad! (Do you have any idea how hard it is to get a good picture of your own foot, though??)

So far, I'm pleased with the results. I'll need to actually wear it around and see how comfortable it is, but it looks like it should be a nice light weight indoor shoe.

Um...I guess I had better make the second shoe now. Back to work!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Historic hand spun, hand woven tunic based on the Bocksten Bog Man's outfit

I'm part of the Society for Creative Anachronism, a group that studies the Middle Ages and Renaissance by doing it. I displayed this costume at an event we had today. It is finally done! It has been a long time in the making.

First, I spun the yarn for the over tunic:

I dyed the dark blue weft yarn with indigo at the Griffin Dyeworks Retreat:

I wove the fabric:

And fulled the fabric:

I sewed the under and over tunics based on the Bocksten Bog Man tunic. (The under tunic is linen.)
I used these directions among others for inspiration:

The trim at the neckline is a finger loop braid:

And the belt is finger woven:

It is done!! And it is surprisingly comfortable to wear. The full skirt swirls out beautifuly when I spin around. And it will be wonderfully warm when I go to outdoor winter events with the group.

This one, I'm proud of.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Silk Ties: product development

I've been working with my prototype silk ties again, trying to find the best method of dyeing them. I'm using silk tie blanks from Dharma Trading Company, and their Setasilk silk paints. (See this entry:

The tie on the left was disassembled prior to dyeing, and the interfacing was taken out. Then, after dyeing, I sewed it back together. The silk is cut on the bias, and it stretched a bit out of shape in the whole process, so I had a hard time getting the ends to line back up again.

The tie on the right was dyed all together, which made it easier to get the pattern in the right place. However, the edges ended up kind of wavy in the dyeing process.

I wanted to make sure that the dyes could stand up to cleaning, so I sent the blue tie to the dry cleaners. The picture above is taken after it got back. If you look at both ties, you can see that there isn't any noticeable fading of color intensity after cleaning. And on the plus side, most of the waviness seems to have evened itself back out.

I'm going to have my husband test drive both ties, to see which method of dyeing gives the most wearable result. But right now, I'm leaning toward dyeing them all together, and then running each one through the dry cleaners before putting them up in the Etsy shop. I've almost got a salable product!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Tutorial: Finger Weaving, Beginner's Diagonal Weave

I was wandering around the internet the other night, and came across various pages that mentioned finger weaving. It is a method of weaving/braiding that doesn't need a loom, which intrigued me. I wanted to make a belt for a costume I am putting together, so I decided to give it a try. I used the instructions here: , and the video here: to get me going, and then just played it by ear from there. I'm not sure if what I did is the 'right' way to do this, but it worked. I have a book or two on order that should give me some more pointers.

So, here's what I did:

 I figured out how long I wanted to make my belt, and measured threads 4x that long. I'm using some super bulky 'Cozy Wool' yarn to learn on, and measured 4 light and 4 dark threads. I lined up the ends, and folded the yarn in half to find the middle point, then looped that middle point around a handy desk drawer handle with a lark's head knot. Then I tied a stick to the handle, and wrapped the yarn around the stick, alternating colors.

 Then I separated the colors out into upper and lower threads. The color of the right most thread is the lower threads. The space in between the colors is the 'shed', where the active weaving yarn goes through.
Here's the start of the first repeat: I held the yarn in my left hand, with my index finger separating the two colors into a shed. I picked up the right most thread with my right hand.
 The right most thread went through the shed, and out the left side. I'm holding the yarn in my right hand now, again with my index finger in the shed. My left hand is pulling the weft (the active weaving yarn) all the way through and out the other side. This yarn gets parked up separately to the left for a moment while I change the shed and...and...Huh. The weaving takes two hands. The camera takes a hand. Can I take pictures with my feet? Heh. Nope. Hold on...

 Ah ha! I knew I had teenagers for a reason. I wove a bit while my daughter got down here, then handed her the camera. Ok, back up a little bit. I'm going to take it from the beginning of the repeat again. I've picked up the right most thread in my right hand, while holding the shed open with my left.
 The weaving thread goes through the shed, and out the other side, while my right hand is holding the bundle of warp threads.
 Now, I need to change the shed. I'm going to transfer the warp yarn in order from my right hand to my left hand. The threads that were on the bottom go on the top, and the threads that were on top go to the bottom. My index fingers are keeping the opening for the shed.
 Like this.
 Keep working my way across, making sure to take each thread in order.
 Once I get the shed changed, I separate out the two colors and tug gently to tighten up the previous stitch.
 Then I hold the bundle in my right hand again, and tug gently on that last weft thread. This tightens everything back into place and keeps the edges even.
 The previous weft thread gets added to the bundle in my hand, becoming a warp thread again.
We're back to the beginning. I pick up the right most warp thread...
 And turn it into a weft thread, pulling it through the shed. At this point, I sometimes use my fingers to comb out the un-woven threads that are hanging there, to clean out any tangles.

 Now, you're back to changing the shed. The sequence is: weave the right most thread through the shed to the left side, comb out the tangles in the dangling warp threads, change the shed, and tighten things up.

 When I needed to stop, I separated out the top and the bottom groups of yarn, and chained them up crochet style. Each bundle got looped over the hanging stick, and the active weft thread got draped over separately. That made it easier to find my place when I went back at it.
Here's my finished belt. Not bad for a beginning piece!! I just knotted the ends to make fringe to finish it off.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

I made the front page of Etsy!

A set of my juggling balls was included in a circus themed treasury on the Etsy shop. That treasury made the front page of Etsy. I made the front page!!! Yes, I'm excited. This is the first time that has happened for me.

I am so doing the Happy Artist Dance over here! (That involves lots of silly jumping around, wiggles, and squees of joy.)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Silk ties: using Setasilk instead of Dye-na-flow

Back in May, I made an attempt to hand paint a silk tie from Dharma Trading Company. I used their Dye-na-flow silk paints, and was only somewhat pleased with the result.

I was going for the dramatic organic shapes that I had been getting on my silk scarves, but this type of silk paint didn't seem to react as well to the salt technique. So, the next time I ordered scarf blanks I decided to try out a different type of silk paint. It came in, and today I've been giving it a try.

Here is the Setasilk that I decided to try, as well as the tie blank, the silk salt, and my sumi brush and watercolor tray.
For this try, I first spritzed down the back of the tie with water, so the colors would run together. Then I painted the back of the tie.
When I flipped the tie over to do the front, some of the dye from the back had run around the edges.
I spritzed the front with water, and painted it. Since the Dye-na-flow gave disappointing results with the silk salt, I really salted this one down. I also noticed that there were some lines where the dye from the back had come around front, so I added more salt to those parts to try to blend them in.

Boy, does this dye react with the salt!! Much more so than I expected. Kind of a cool effect, but a little over the top.
Also, those lines at the edge of the tie never blended in. Hmmm...
So, I tried it again. This time I spritzed the front of the tie with water before doing the back, so the paint wouldn't hit a dry edge as it came around. I also used much less salt.
The results were much, much better. I ironed the tie to heat set the paint by sandwiching the tie between a pressing cloth. Each section was ironed for 3 minutes.
Ah ha! That was the result I was going for!! Vivid colors, blending together, with the salt pulling the paint into interesting, organic shapes. I'd call this a success...but...
...there is still a problem. Even after ironing the heck out if it, the tie won't lie down flat. The edges have gone wavy. I'm suspecting that the issue is that interfacing didn't like getting soaked in the painting process.

So, attempt #4 is going to involve deconstructing the tie before the painting process, and then sewing it back together again afterward.

I'll get this yet! Has anyone else experimented with painting silk ties with the salt technique? Any pointers? Am I on the right track?

EDIT: Taking it apart, dying, ironing, and re-sewing seems to work. I'll make another blog post on that once I see how this tie fares at the dry cleaners.

EDIT 2: Dry cleaning the ties seems to solve the wavy issues I was having, without having to deconstruct the tie. Success!