Thursday, 27 December 2012

New Pouch Design - With Pictures

As mentioned in my previous post, we spent a good chunk of our time-off for the holidays planning and working on SCA stuff in the basement.

I like the way Avelyn put my work into perspective. I spent a good part of the week discovering many ways not to make leather dyes. After all, it's period to bodge things together and use trial and error to figure out what works and what doesn't...right? :)
Rather than continue to beat my head against that wall, I decided a change my plan of attack and work on something else for a while.

Since I still haven't heard from the museum about my stick purse, I'm going to work off the artwork I have and some of the information in Purses in Pieces to come up with a pouch design that will work. I can adjust the measurements etc. once I know the specifics.

The pictures below show my first attempt at a mock up, using some leather bits I had lying around.

The little flap over the pouch is seen in some of the artwork and one of the two extant examples has them. For example, here's some artwork from the 1500's showing a stick-purse with coloured flaps:

It's often round, but I gave it a bit of a different shape, just for fun. The little toggle on the top is what keeps the flap down, and is just made from a piece of leather rolled in on itself and attached to the pouch.

The pouch itself has a slightly wider mouth than the base, which is a pouch shape that was seen in period (according to the drawings in Purses in Pieces).

The idea would be that about four of these pouches would be attached to the central stick, and I would have little pouchlets on the front of each pouch for additional coins.

Once I figure out any fine-tuning, I may do another version with veg tan that's closer to the weight of the goatskin I bought for the project. I can use some modern dyes and mix up some appropriate colours so I can get a sense of what it will look like too.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Blue Leather Dye - Attempt Number Two

Since my powdered gum arabic came in before the holidays, I decided to make another attempt at the blue dye this week while I was off work.

I followed the same process as previous, boiling down the indigo and then adding the gum arabic before letting it cool and letting the pigment settle.

Unfortunately, much like my first attempt, it just won't stick to the leather. It just wipes right off the surface at even the slightest hint of moisture.

At this point I think my original suspicion may be correct, and this recipe may just not be workable. The water is clearly taking on the blue colour but I just can't get it to transfer that colour to the leather itself or bind to the leather at all.

I'm thinking it has something to do with the leather itself. Maybe the process used to tan the leather in period introduced something that would allow the dye to sink in or stick. Short of using one of the tanning recipes in the Plithco (which just isn't practical for me), I think I'll have to write it off for now. Which is a shame, because all of the other blue recipes use heavier chemicals, which I don't want to deal with until I can setup outside in the spring.

I've also started the process of getting a green and a red dye going. Not sure how well they'll work either. The instructions for the red are rather confusing so I'll probably have to try a couple of times before I figure it out. The green is also a bit of a concern because all of the recipes use fresh buckthorn berries and the ones I have are dried.

Guess there's more trial and error to come.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Another Leather Dye Update

The elves did another fabulous job for me. My order of dying materials from New York came in yesterday, just in time for Christmas. Guess what I'll be doing over the holidays. :)

I'd ordered my powdered gum arabic, along with my ripe buckthorn berries (which are for making a green dye).

Shipping from New York City was about $12, which isn't too bad. And it didn't get held up very much at all at the border. The payment went through on my credit card on the 12th and it had arrived by the 19th.

This is all good news because this is the only supplier I've found that carries the ripe buckthorn berries.

With the gum arabic in hand, I'll also be able to do another attempt at making my blue dye, and see if it works better this time. Fingers crossed.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Update on Blue Leather Dye

I've searched the city for powdered gum arabic with no success, so I ended up ordering it from a US pigment distributor along with my ripe buckthorn berries. Hopefully they won't take too long to get here. I could have probably gotten it from another more local company (I did find an online store near Toronto that carried it), but since I needed my buckthorn berries anyway I figured I may as well tack on the gum arabic at the same time.

In the meantime, I got impatient and did a bit of an experiment using the liquid stuff from Michael's.

The challenge with using the liquid is there's no indication of the concentration. Is it mixed at a 2:1 ratio? 3:1 ratio? More? So, when my recipe calls for an ounce of gum arabic, I really have no way of knowing how much of the liquid to use. I ended up just eye-balling it, which is always a good way to go with chemistry. :)

I boiled down the indigo dye as instructed, then added my gum arabic. I then let it settle overnight so the indigo sediment settled. To get a decent coating without too much natural colour showing through I needed to do at least three layers, but I suspect that would vary by batch.

The colour is very much a blue, but when I apply it to the leather it gets very dark. You can see the blue tinge but it really depends on the light. In some light it looks like a dark grey or even black.

It also didn't bind at all to the leather. I was able to use a damp paper towel and almost completely wipe the colour off the leather, after it had dried. I was worried this might be a problem with this recipe, since every other recipe using indigo I've seen requires a strong chemical like lye to break down the indigo. It could also be because I used the liquid gum arabic, maybe it wasn't strong enough. From what I've read, the gum arabic is supposed to act like a glue and help bind the colour to the surface, so its certainly possible. I'll have to try again when I get the gum arabic powder.

Even if the next batch binds better to the leather, I'm not entirely sure I like the colour. It's just not "blue" enough in my books. There are a number of other recipes in the book for blue, including one that calls it "light blue", so I may need to keep experimenting.

Me waiting for the watched pot of indigo to boil
This is the finished dye. You can see the blue on the glass is pretty nice.
In the light of the flash the dye looks black-ish but in normal light it is a dark blue.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Special Delivery - Dyeing Supplies

I got home from work yesterday (Monday) and discovered that the elves had been by early and delivered my shipment of leather dye materials. This was exciting as it wasn't scheduled to be delivered until Wednesday.

I had ordered a small sampling of some of the materials I need from a company in Vancouver, in the hopes that they would be good. That way I don't have to deal with currency exchanges and getting the stuff across the border.

As a start, I ordered some indigo (blues), some brazilwood (red) and some green buckthorn berry extract (yellow). The only key ingredient they were missing was ripe buckthorn berries, which make a green colour. I'll have to order that from the US.

Here's a pic of what came in:

I'm super impressed actually. Not only did it arrive early, but it came with printed copies of their instructions on how to use the materials (at least, how to use them for fabric dyeing). I think I'll be using them again!

So last night, while Avelyn was doing some sewing, I went down and started translating my recipes into usable instructions. I've got the indigo recipe ready to go, since that is my next project.

But, I couldn't resist doing a quick experiment with the brazilwood, just to see how the colour would turn out. I mixed a small amount of the brazilwood dust with some water, which is the first step in my recipes anyway. If the leather gets a colour anything like the colour in the water, I'll be really happy. Here's a pic:

Brewing a bit of a brazilwood extract.

Before I can do my indigo dye, I need to track down some gum arabic powder. All I can find at the art stores locally is pre-dissolved liquids used for mixing with paints. I've tried the local bulk stores and most of the natural foods places, so my next try will be at the Middle Eastern grocery store. If not, I'll have to order some and get it shipped, which will delay things a bit.

I'm also having problems translating some of the terminology in the book. I know what "lime" is, but I can't find a definition of "live lime". Same thing with lye, what's "sweet lye" and how is it different from just plain old "lye"? And of course, I still need to figure out the eternal question of how long is a Paternoster as a measurement of time.

Oh well, guess there's still more to learn! :)

**** On an unrelated note, we also ordered a silk painting starter set from the same store as my dye materials, so we can start working on banners etc. over the holidays.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Next Agenda Item - Blue Dye

Now that I have a lovely period yellow leather dye that I can use, my next project (maybe over the holidays) is to experiment in figuring out a blue dye. Since our Canton colours are yellow and blue, they'll be important colours for me to figure out.

I have what looks to be a fairly easy recipe for a blue dye, but its a bit odd. Most of the other recipes that use indigo call for lye to be used. That's even the case with fabric dyes and more modern web resources I've found.

I'd prefer to avoid using lye, at least during the winter when I can't go outside or in the garage to have better ventilation.

This recipe doesn't use anything like that, it basically just has indigo, water and gum arabic. That makes me sceptical, but I figure its worth a try.

I know I can get gum arabic at Michaels, and I've ordered some powdered indigo, which should be arriving this week (I've also ordered some green buckthorn berry powder that I can use to try another yellow recipe - why not since I was placing an order anyway).

If the blue works out OK, I'll probably use the blue and yellow for my stick purse. That way we can test it out at a Canton event and it will be colour coordinated.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Leather Geekery at Fight Practice

Avelyn wasn't planning on fighting at practice this week, but we did go out anyway, with Lone Star chips and salsa in hand. She needed to pay her annual site fees for the practice, and we wanted to bring out the lamellar armour for some of the more experienced fighters and marshals to take a look at for input.

Overall, it went over pretty well. We need to trim some of the leather back a bit in a couple of places around the arms (which I figured) and we need to check it with her gorget to make sure her spine is fully covered. Otherwise I'll need to add some extra plates at the back or something to make sure.

The general feeling was it's nice and light, but we'll need to see how it feels with the padded gambeson before she'll know if it gives enough protection.

I also got talking to Mistress AElfwyn on the side about Kingdom A&S and such. Turns out this year she didn't get asked to judge my project (even though she had something crazy like 15 projects to judge) and she wasn't sure who had looked at it.

It also turns out that she's done some experimenting with the leather dye recipes from the Plithco (she even has an actual copy), without much success on any of the colours. She was very interested in the fact that I got a nice yellow out of the one recipe, as she's had trouble getting anything but various shades of brown. I was able to pass on my process, so hopefully that will help. She certainly seemed interested in the results, as well as the idea of applying the dye hot.

I also talked to Shahid about his leatherworking setup, so when I go over for A&S day this upcoming weekend I'll take a look and see if he has what Catherine will need to work on her quiver project. If that's the case it will make things easier since I won't have to haul my gear out for her to try.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Armouring Weekend

This past weekend I spent a good chunk of my time working on Avelyn's lamellar.

We'd bought the plastic lamellar plates a couple of years ago and I had started to lace together the plates back then. I had the general shape of the armour done and had attached buckles on it, but didn't get any further. The problem we ran into was that the armour needs a padded gambeson and it was going to be hard for me to fit the lamellar without it.

As a result, the laced-together plates have been sitting in the basement for a while now, lonely and forlorn.

I picked it up again a few weekends ago and attached some temporary shoulder straps so that I could put it on Avelyn and check the fit. We decided it needed some fine-tuning because the plates were interfering with her arm movements. However, I had to scale the plates back so much that it was going to leave large opening with no protection. That's where leather comes in.

This weekend I took the measurements and cut out leather pieces to form the upper torso and shoulders of the armour. I then riveted it on to the top of the lamellar and looked at attaching the pieces at the shoulder.

I made a few mistakes, like:
  • Laying out he pattern wrong for one of the pieces so that half the leather is good side out and the other piece is bad side out. (Groan).
  • Measuring the shoulder strap length wrong so that I ended up with the armour hanging too low (it basically added an extra 4 inches to what it should have been).
  • Fixing the shoulder strap length to find out that the neck hole is now a neck slit and doesn't fit around Avelyn's head.
Ahh, the joys of trial and error and working without a pattern.

Once I shave leather off the neck hole so Avelyn can put the armour on, I'll see if I corrected the shoulder strap problem. I can then permanently attach the pieces together. I'll probably re-enforce the shoulder straps with an extra layer of leather, since that's where shoulder and arm armour will be hanging.

I can then look at the arm holes and areas where the leather is overlapping and trim it down a bit more so that it isn't interfering with her movement.

I'm hoping to have it ready for her to take to practice in the next couple of weeks to get input from the marshals and experienced fighters, with the goal of having it ready to test out for real at practice early in the new year.

Of course, we still don't have the padded gambeson ready so hopefully that won't throw the whole thing out of what.