Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Kingdom Award Badges - New and Improved with Cutwork/Filigree (with pictures)

As you'll have seen from my most recent post, I'm starting the process of working on developing some new leatherwork skills with the end goal of recreating 15th century (ish) Islamic filigree book covers. There's lots to do, but I thought I'd get started by working on my cutwork/filigree skills.

When I'm working on this kind of skill development, I prefer to do it by doing something useful, rather than just wasting leather doing samples. So I thought about my project from several years ago, where I developed tooling patterns for the various award badges. So I'm upgrading my award badges to version 2.0 - now with cutwork.

Much like with the tooling versions, I started out with the easiest one first - the Maiden's Heart. It's a fairly straightforward pattern with large areas of colour. I then moved on to the Order of the Wain, again because it has a fairly straightforward colour pattern that lends itself well to cutwork.

I started out by marking the line pattern onto a wet round of leather, the same as I would for tooling. However, instead of using the swivle knife next, I actually cut out pieces of leather to create blank areas in the pattern. In the case of the Maiden's Heart, I cut out anywhere that should be blue on the pattern, while in the case of the Order of the Wain badge, I cut out the white areas.

Here's an example, using the Maiden's Heart:

The original book covers have a layer of paper or silk under the cutwork leather to have the colour that shows through. I didn't want to use paper since these could get wet, and I didn't have the right colour of silk so I went with cotton for the purposes of the badge.

Here it is over the blue cotton fabric (although looks a bit closer to purple in the light of my work desk in the basement):

Then of course I have to paint the alternating colour on the leather. That's also a period practice, lots of examples of painted leather on tooled artefacts. Many of the books have either dyed leather or colour accents applied to the surface of the leather (often goldwork). 

Here's the Wain badge at the painted stage:

I cut the fabric in a round to match the shape of the leather and paste it down onto a round blank piece of leather the same shape and size as the top. I then paste the cutwork piece on top so that the fabric is sandwiched between. I also cut out a strip of leather about an inch wide and the length of the circle to form the belt loop at the back. I then punch the holes around the edge of the circle and sew it all together using some light leather as trim (since otherwise the edges of the circle would be pretty messy.

Here's a picture of the two completed badges (with a ruler as per Her Excellency Lucia's request to see the scale of the item).

So a pretty good start. They are much quicker to make this way than with the leather tooling so that's a big advantage. They do use a bit more leather though, so there's a bit of a cost trade-off for time.

I plan to experiment some more with the other badges since they'll require a bit more thought about how to do the patterns with the cutwork. I'm also thinking of scaling down the pattern so I can do the badges smaller. That wasn't feasible using the tooling techniques because my skills just weren't there (at least with the more complicated badges), but at least for these two I could probably drop the size by half and still be doable using the cutwork. It might make the badges more wearable for people, as right now they are a bit big (for my preference at least).

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