Wednesday, 19 March 2014

My next research project - the concept

A while back I posted following a conversation with Mistress AElfwyn, where she asked me what my next project would be now that I'm almost done the formal portion of the leather dyes. Of course, I expect the leather dye work will continue for a long time, but I had posted some ideas of what I could work on next.

Then, a couple of weeks ago I ran into AElfwyn again at the local leather store, and she asked me a question about how I did my leather tooling. After showing her my technique using a swivel knife, we had a bit of a discussion about whether that would have been how it was done in period (using cuts as a basis for the tooling pattern).

So, the discussion has been sitting with me since then (with a few more brief exchanges with AElwyn thrown in about the topic).

And of course, I can't just leave a question like that floating out there without a solid answer. Based on the two books I have on hand it looks to be true, but I think this calls for a research paper. :)

So, here's what I'm thinking:

Research paper on specific decorative techniques that would have been used at various periods, along with possibly work on identifying the specific tools that can be documented to have been used.

Step 1: Online research to see what else has been done by others. This includes reading the Floriligium and other online resources. Will want to do my own cross-checks on anything but could give me a good idea of primary and secondary sources to check. Should also check research journals for relevant materials.

Step 2: Documentary search of sources identified in step one and review of materials.

Step 3: Museum research to look at artifacts to determine evidence of techniques and tools used (This would be a good time to do another trip to the UK to see them up close). If can't go in person, perhaps contact museums with significant leather collections to discuss if they have done any similar analysis.

Step 4: Analysis and writing up of research, and any follow-ups necessary. Probably for submission at a future Kingdom A&S.

So I figure that'll take me what...2-3 weeks. :) OK, maybe not.

I can then turn my research into a period leather tooling class to fit in alongside my Intro to Leatherworking I taught this year, and the period leather dyes class I plan to develop this spring. A pretty good triumvirate of courses I think.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Gulf Wars Gift Basket Contribution (With Pictures)

This post was written in advance but now that everyone is headed back from Gulf Wars I expect it should be safe to post without revealing any surprises.

At the major SCA wars, it's tradition that the various royals exchange gift baskets. Often these baskets are made up of various items made by the populace of the giving kingdom. We know in advance which kingdom's royals will be receiving the basket, so we often keep that kingdom's heraldry and colours in mind when donating the items.

This year for Gulf Wars, the recipient of Our Majesties' gift basket is Trimaris. Over the past couple of months, Her Majesty had placed a call out to the populace to for items for this gift basket.

Avelyn had the idea of donating a starter set of silk banner supplies, so we pulled together a quick collection of various colours of silk dye, along with some gutta.

I wanted to do something a bit more personal, so my contribution was of course a leather item. After some discussion, I came up with the brilliant (note: some sarcasm implied) idea of doing one of my rapier sheaths for the gift basket. Now, this isn't itself such a bad idea. The problem was that it took me so long to decide what to contribute that I'd left myself very little time to make the sheath. I basically only had a couple of weeks between when I made the decision on the sheath and Practicum (which was the last event I would see Her Majesty before she left for Gulf Wars).

For those that haven't seen one of my rapier sheaths, they are fairly time and resource heavy to make. The core of the sheath is a plastic plumbing tube that will help protect the sword from bending in transport. I then cover it with leather, which is tooled and dyed as appropriate.

There are now only five of them in existence (I have my original prototype, I gave one to the Barony when I stepped down as rapier champion, Lady Thora received a special one as a going away present and there's one in Dragon Dormant with the winner of the Border Spat tourney I ran two years ago). In all, they take probably anywhere from 10-20 hours of labour to make (actual work time, not including drying time etc.), depending on the complexity of the leather tooling and whether I have to develop a carving pattern or its something I've made before. They also require a particularly long piece of leather since you need a single piece that covers the length of the sheath - in this case about 3 1/2 feet long).

I wanted to tailor the sheath for Trimaris, so I also developed a carving pattern for their populace badge (thankfully their badge is an easy design - Thank You! to whoever designed it) and custom mixed a blue dye that would be the appropriate colour for their heraldry.

All in all I think it turned out pretty well. I hope Their Majesties of Trimaris like it, and that it will work for whoever ends up with it. I attached a little card with my contact information so who knows, they may even be reading this post some day (if so, Hi!!! Hope you like it).

And now, to the pictures:

Monday, 10 March 2014

Proof that I do stuff unrelated to leatherwork (with picture)

Lately most of my A&S work has been related to leatherworking, but every once and a while I do actually do some stuff in a completely unrelated area.

Something we've been meaning to do for a while now is work on our own banners for events. Most of the rest of the members of Talfryn have their own banners at events, particularly when we camp at Trillium War or Pennsic. They're lovely heraldic silk banners and they look really awesome.

Last year at Practicum, Avelyn and I took a silk painting class and over the last year we've been accumulating stuff to do it. I had ordered a starter kit from one of my suppliers for my leather dye pigments, but we've also discovered that our local art supply stores carry the stuff as well.

So, this weekend while Avelyn and Emelote were working on other A&S projects, I decided to do a sample sheet of the various colours so we could figure out which ones we want to use for our banners (there are 3-4 different shades for most of the colours and we didn't want to buy a huge supply of them until we knew which one was the right shade).

The image below is the colour chart before I fixed the dye and washed out the gutta. I used the black gutta so the lines separating the colours would stay in place. I've applied the colours in order of their numbering by Pebeo (the brand we can get locally), with the blank spots for colours we don't currently have in our collection, mostly because we wouldn't really use them (like salmon pink). We may want to get some of the browns though and test those, since we may need them for some pieces.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

The Ongoing Challenge of the Period Blue Leather Dye

The last piece of my Kingdom A&S puzzle is the blue dye. For those that have been following along, this has been a bit of an ongoing saga, with multiple attempts at various recipes.

This past week I made yet another attempt at getting the dye to work. I used the first recipe I tried from the Plictho, which is basically a mixture of indigo, water and gum arabic. Based on the input a received at QPT, I adjusted the recipe process by:

  • Grinding the indigo finer using a mortar and pestle
  • Using distilled water instead of just filtered tap water
  • Soaking the leather in alum water for a full 2 minutes instead of just a quick dip
  • Soaking the leather in the dye for 30 seconds rather than painting it on.
All of these changes got me absolutely no further than I was before, at least with the veg tan leather. It gives me a bit of a tint on the surface but it just rubs right off as soon as I touch it with a damp cloth.

Just for a test I did try the dye on a piece of the alum tawed leather that I ordered from the states. It seems to have worked much better, and doesn't really rub off at all. I suspect this is one of the dyes that was originally for tawed leather and that's why it isn't working on the veg tan.

As a last ditch effort, I took a piece of veg tan and let it soak in my dye jar for a full two hours, just to see if it made any difference. It didn't really do much, other than collect some of the sediment on the leather (which rubbed off pretty easily as well).

I think this recipe is a write-off at this point. I may try one more attempt at my second recipe, which uses strong vinegar, but I'm not particularly hopeful. If that doesn't work, I'll have to try some of the more challenging recipes that involve stronger chemicals like lye. But that probably won't happen for Kingdom A&S.

Still, I do have four colours working now (red, green, yellow and black), which isn't a bad project I think.