Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Armour Projects - A List

So, at Kingdom A&S, Avelyn was the subject of a Royal order to get her armour fixed up so that she can get back on the field.

So, with that in mind, we have some projects that need to get finished:

Lamellar armour: (made from plastic so not technically a leather project but I am making the straps and such out of leather). The main torso section is done but Avelyn needs to finish her padding for underneath it so I can finish the sizing. We'll also want to test it out to make sure it gives her enough protection. I'm not entirely sold on the thickness of the plastic. Back-up plan is to find someone to make steel plates for a new coat of plates so she can return the one she borrowed from Constance.

Shoulder/Upper arm protection: I was originally going to make the shoulder protection out of lamellar but will need to see how that will work once we can get it on Avelyn. We have her current lacross pads that can go under any upper-arm protection so lamellar could work I suppose. Would be worried about the tops of her shoulders though.

Legs/knees: Avelyn is looking into ordering some new knees, so we'll need to reconstruct her leg armour and probably her kidney belt that I made. I'm thinking metal strips backed by leather is the best bet. I think she was planning to build some of the leg armour into her fighting pants, so we'll have to see how that will work. Needs to be easier for her to armour herself up however we end up doing it.

That's the bulk of it for now I think. May be other projects as well but I'll update as they come up.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Pictures - My Kingdom A&S project

As promised, here are the pictures of my pouches from Kingdom A&S. As a bit of a pre-explanation, the main difference between the two pouches is the way the mouth of the pocket is formed. On the first pouch (the red one), the piece of leather that forms the pocket simply ends before you get to the flap, forming the pocket. In the second (black/grey one), and more documentable pouch, the front piece goes up past the flap, so I sew the three layers together and a slit is cut into it to form the pocket.

I actually like the design of the second one better anyway. It would help keep items in the pouch better given that they don't have a buckle and strap to keep them closed. It would also be harder to pickpocket.

So, here we go:

The first pouch which I didn't use:


The second pouch, which is the one I entered into Kingdom A&S (Notice the slit cut in the front pouch to form the pocket):


Update from Kingdom A&S

Well, I made it through my first Kingdom A&S. Fortunately, I approached it as an opportunity to get some feedback on how to improve, rather than entering hoping to win, because the lady who won the studio arts division (which is the category where leatherwork is listed) was amazing. She'd made several leather bottles, and also brought in semi-finished ones as well as the wooden moulds she'd made to shape them so you could see the process. They were really impressive. It was also really intimidating because her project was right next to mine on the table. Talk about contrast. Turns out she was the Pentathalon winner from last year, so she's obviously hard-core!

I think to summarize the comments I got, the pouch was structurally sound, it worked well as a pouch and my research was solid. We had a bit of a discussion around why the design would have been good for use in period, which was nice.

What I was missing was some refinement on my technique. I need to work on cleaning up the lines, making sure my cuts are straight and clean, and working on my stitching. They also gave me some tips on materials that would be more period.

I definitely think I made the right choice in scrapping my first attempted pouch, which was much better constructed but not accurate from a research perspective. This is Kingdom A&S after all, and I just couldn't put forward something that I knew was wrong.

I think at this point in my A&S career I'm just into making functional objects, rather than the ornate stuff that tends to do well in competition. I think that's why I really appreciated Aelfwyn's comment that it's nice to see a simple, well made project entered at Kingdom A&S. I might argue with the suggestion that it was "well made" given some of the things I think I could have done better, but I appreciate the point. It'll be interesting to see their comments on the judging forms.

The truth is if I had wanted to enter a stronger project I could have easily done a pouch design that I was more familiar with. I've made a number of falconry pouches that I know how to do well. That wasn't the point. The point was to expand myself and try something I hadn't done before, and then get suggestions on how to do it better. With that goal in mind, I would say it was a success.

Pictures of both versions of the pouch will follow in the next couple of days.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Update on Kingdom A&S

So, you know how I said I was done my Kingdom A&S project. Well, not so much.

I did finish a project that I was planning on using for Kingdom A&S, but I just wasn't happy with it. The pattern that I was using (from Period Patterns #93) just didn't match with my research (primarily from Purses in Pieces) and because the level of documentation that came with the pattern wasn't great I was feeling nervous about submitting it to Kingdom A&S for judging.

Since I have Purses in Pieces, and Goubitz includes all kinds of diagrams about how the pouches would have been constructed, I decided to scrap my previous project and do a new one that more closely followed what I have in my documentation. Seemed like the proper thing to do.

That's not to say that the pattern from Period Patterns isn't accurate, but I just couldn't find enough supporting information showing the construction was correct. Plus, from a structural perspective, it seemed like things would be falling out of the pouch - never a good thing.

So, last night while Avelyn was trying out Skyrim on the PS3, I retreated down to the leather cave (AKA the basement corner where my workshop is set-up) and finished off my second attempt at my project. I used some of the new green-ish leather that I bought (it actually looks black or dark grey in some light).

It turned out OK. I'm still not entirely happy with it, but that's just the perfectionist in me I expect. The stitching isn't straight, which annoys me, but the pattern makes a lot more sense. For a beginner level project, it should be fine. At least I know my research is solid.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Leather carving

So, I've decided to sign up for a five-week leather carving class being offered starting in January by our local leather store. I've been wanting to start learning some decoration and ornamentation techniques to make my projects a little nicer, so its a good opportunity. It also means I'll learn to use some of the gear that Avelyn bought me for Christmas last year that I haven't really been using.

Of course, so far most of my projects have been using garment weight leather so carving wouldn't really be helpful there. But I can see doing some heavier-weighted pouches, belts etc. I could also experiment a bit with carving hardened leather for armour, archery bracers etc.

If I do start working with heavier leather I'll probably need to work on some different stitch types, plus get some more specialized equipment. I'm working pretty basically right now with straight needles, an awl and a rotary punch.

Anyway, hopefully the class will be interesting. I may be missing rapier for those 5 weeks (rapier may be moving to Wednesdays, which is the same day as the course runs).

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

New Leather

So I was at an all day training session yesterday for work, and it just happened to be about 15 minutes from our local leather store. Since I can't usually make it there on weekdays before they close at six, I decided to pop over during my lunch break.

I probably spent about 20 minutes combing through the shelves. I was hoping to find some leather that I could use for making pouches. I want to experiment a little bit but don't really want to use the really nice (and expensive) red leather we bought in Hamilton, and the rest of the leather I have at home is either too heavy (bought it for armour making purposes for Avelyn) or much too light for the style of pouch I'm working on (garment weight pig skins that work really well for some pouches but don't provide any structure).

I was struggling to find something that would work when I stumbled on a great find. I found a 23 square foot skin, probably about 5-6 oz, in a nice faded green. It was on consignment, so I was able to pick it up for super cheep, which means I won't worry as much about it if my pouch experiments don't work out. But, if it works, they will still look good.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Kingdom A&S Project complete

So, I managed to find the time the other night to finish off my project to be submitted for Kingdom A&S. It's a fairly basic pouch style, without any real ornamentation. But, it's functional, based on a period style of pouch and completely hand-sewn. Not the complex project I had hoped to do, but at least its something.

I used a pattern from my Period Patterns #93 (Bags, Purses and Pouches ( as the starting point. I think next time I might enlarge the pattern a bit though, the pouch is pretty small for functional use (although my documentation says they were made in a variety of sizes and shapes depending on the person).

I used some of the really nice red leather that we picked up in Hamilton this summer, probably about 4-5oz. I suspect the tanning process was modern (Chrome tanned) given the colour and softness of the leather, but for a beginner level project that's fine.

I've started pulling together my documentation. So far I have about 6-7 links to online images from period illuminations showing un-ornamented pouches like this one, without a buckle or strap (they most often had a strap to keep them closed from what I can tell but not always).

In addition to my links to period images, which I will print out, I also have Purses in Pieces, which has several pages of information about the history and use of this style of pouch. There's also some illustrations and pictures of archeological finds. I'll also have to check the documentation in the Period Pattern set, they sometimes have relevant information about the patterns (although probably all pulled from Purses in Pieces originally anyway).

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Latest News - Kingdom A&S

Well, it still looks unlikely that I'll have anything ready to submit for Kingdom A&S in November, but I've at least started work on a project that I could enter in either the beginner/intermediate category. It's much simpler than the other projects I was considering, but it's practical and I can maybe get it done in time.

I've cut out the pattern I need to use, chosen the leather (I would have preferred to use a couple of different colours but I don't have any pieces that would match that are the right type of leather - oh well), and just have to start cutting out the various leather bits and start hand sewing. Maybe I'll have a bit of time over the long-weekend, we'll see how things play out.

Otherwise, the Kingdom A&S site is up and running, the fall issue of the Chronicle is out and I've been spending most of my A&S time lately working with Emelote trying to plan future feasts and event food. I've bought so many period cookbooks lately, it's taking some time to go through all of the possible recipes and pick out ones to try.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Update - Kingdom A&S Project

Alas, it would appear the chances of having the time to do a project and supporting research for Kingdom A&S are slim to none at this point.

Real life has bitten me in the ass, and the past week + has been a write off. Given that I'm just starting work on building the site for the event (mock-ups sent to the Autocrat for review) and I have two issues of the Chronicle due between now and then (next issue is in a couple of weeks and another one would be do either for Kingdom A&S or Feast of the Hare), it's not looking promissing.

I did do some research into what project I might be able to do, but creating something specifically for entry at Kingdom A&S isn't a project you want to half-ass.

I suppose I'll wait and see how things go with the various projects, but my hopes are slim.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Kingdom A&S - To Enter or Not to Enter?

So Kingdom A&S is coming up in November and is being hosted by our Barony (I'm actually working on the web site for the event as we speak).

I don't really have any projects underway other than my shoes, which isn't at a stage where I would be entering it into any sort of A&S competition. I haven't entered anything into a competition before, mainly because I don't really care for the judging etc, but I could probably use some constructive input on some of my work to give me an idea of what to work on.

I have tons of research from our trip to the UK, with lots of pictures of leather artifacts we found at the various museums, so there's no shortage of projects I could do. I also have lots of pouch patterns, plus my new books with patterns and historical information. It just comes down to time and desire I guess.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

New Leather - Hmm, what to make of it

Well, it's been kind of a crappy week around here. Haven't really had any time to work on leather projects as I had hoped to do while everyone was at Pennsic, but we did get to visit a friend in Hamilton on the weekend. While we were there, we made a pit-stop at her Laurel's leather shop (Tundra Leather in Hamilton) and picked up some new leather. It's always nice to stop in at new leatherworking shops, although I can never seem to leave without buying more stuff. (This time it wasn't my fault,  Avelyn was enabling my hobby).

The first piece is a really nice Ealdormere red, full skin (about 40 sq ft), about 4.5 ounces. We discussed it and it would be good for pouches, shoes etc. Avelyn got really excited by the idea of making shoes with it. :) If only I could figure out how to make them.

The second piece is about 14 sq ft and probably 2-3 once in a really nice plum colour. Could make a nice pouch, maybe parti-colour if I can find some leather than has the same weight to it.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Making Turnshoes

So last night I started my newest leather project, making my first set of period turnshoes. I'm following the instructions from The Complete Anachronist issue 140 (The Basic Craft of Turnshoes). To be honest I'm finding that the instructions aren't terribly clear, but I don't know if that's just me because I don't know the terminology he's using. I may have to go a different route if I can't figure out what he's telling me to do.

Anyway, last night I started making my shoe pattern. To do this, I'm supposed to put on a double sock and then tape my foot (he's very specific to use masking tape, as other types of tape will stretch and change the shape of your pattern). I then mark specific points of my foot before cutting the top sock layer off with the tape attached.

I got myself all taped up and all, but the marking instructions were confusing, so there were some steps where I was just guessing what he meant. Eventually I got it all cut off and when I took it off and stuck it to a piece of construction paper, it looked something like a shoe pattern, but it's not the same shape as the picture in the book. (It may be because I couldn't understand some of his instructions, not sure). I'm not sure how this is going to affect the final shoe.

I expect this is one of those things that I'll just need to work on until I figure out a technique that works. Once I know what I'm doing, I'll be able to make the pattern pretty easily. The other thing I figured out is that this method of making a pattern is really hard to do on yourself, at least without help. I may need Avelyn to help with the next one.

Unfortunately, the other pattern making method he suggests is carving a last out of wood that is shaped like your foot. I think that's a bit advanced for me, not to mention time consuming.

Next step appears to be transferring the pattern to fabric, and adjusting it to reflect the particulars of the shoe being made (ie a pointed toe rather than just the shape of your foot). I'm not sure if I'll move on or see if I can fix the tape shape.

Monday, 18 July 2011

My Library

I've started gathering a number of leatherworking books to hopefully help me with my projects. Some of them are SCA specific (Complete Anachronist issues on specific types of projects) but a number of them are historical research books, or just general leatherworking titles.

Here's some of the titles:

Museum of London Highlights (pics of leather artifacts in the collection)
Coloring Leather by Al Strohlman
Stepping Through Time by Olaf Goubitz (drool-worthy book on historical shoes, with many illustrations)
Purses in Pieces by Olaf Goubitz (similar to Stepping through Time, but for purses and pouches from 16th century Neatherlands)
Shoes and Pattens by Francis Grew  and Margrethe de Neergaard
The Art and Craft of Leather by Maria Teresa Llado i Riba

Plus Complete Anachronists on making gloves and turnshoes, as well as two beginner leatherworking issues with objects like boxes, drinking vessels etc. (don't have the issues handy at the moment to list them).

We've started logging all of our SCA related books into a social media tool called LibraryThing. We're up to over 200 books so far. I've tagged leather related books with the tag leatherwork. You can see our library at

Sunday, 17 July 2011

My First Post!!!!

Well, here we go! I've resisted creating a blog for a while now but I thought this would be a good way to document my ongoing leatherworking projects as part of my hobby in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

To date I've been mostly doing simple leatherworking projects - pouches, belts etc. But I'm starting to look at getting into some more complex projects, so documenting what I'm doing and my research seemed like a good idea.

Having just gotten back from our trip the the UK, I've got a bunch of project ideas, most of which are well beyond my current skill level. We saw some awesome examples of period shoes, leather scabbards and knife sheaths, and even leather clothing. So, I've got lots of things to work on while I try to learn the skills to recreate some of those items and I'll try to chronicle my progress here.