Sunday, 26 August 2012

Carving Project - Maiden's Heart Badge

As you may recall, after finishing my pattern for the Ealdormere populace badge I decided I wanted to work out carving patterns for the various award badges both for Kingdom and Baronial awards. Since I'm still learning, I decided to start with the easiest ones first, so this weekend I worked out a pattern for the Maiden's Heart badge.

I'm happy enough with the carving portion. I think I need to improve the depth of some of the tooling to get a better 3D effect but otherwise it turned out the way I was expecting. I think I still need to work on the dying though. The blue is too dark and the yellow needs some additional layers I think to make it the solid colour I was hoping for. The dying is a bit rough around the edges too but I was just testing the design so I wasn't being as careful as I would if it was going on an actual project.

I experimented with doing a white coating under the yellow and it seems to have worked to make it brighter. Not sure if that's what I should do with the blue, or if I should just mix up a lighter blue. I may need to experiment and see what works better.

Anyway, here's the picture of the badge.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

New leather has arrived

I took a chance and ordered some new leather from Tandy online. I don't usually like to order leather that way - I prefer to actually pick it out myself so I can see any problems before buying. But our local leather store doesn't have what I was looking for and Tandy was selling it off. They aren't going to carry it any more for some reason so I decided to buy a couple of pieces while I still could.

The leather I got is 2-3 oz veg tan goat. My theory was that the goat would be much softer for my stick-purse. Zeli's does have 3-4 oz cow but it was a bit stiff, so I was hoping the goat would work better. Since its veg tan it should still take dye well and could even be tooled in theory.

Boy was I right. It just came in on Friday (it was ordered on Thursday so that's crazy fast). It's super soft, and as long as it takes the dye well it's going to make a really nice project. They only had one piece left after filling my order so I'm tempted to get the last piece too.

The sad part is I'm going to get spoiled working with this stuff and then I won't be able to get it any more. I wonder if I asked for it if Zeli's could find some?

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Period Leather Dyes

As I mentioned in my previous stick-purse post, I've decided that I'm going to need to figure out period leather dyeing techniques for my project. This has led me to do some research into the area of period leather dyeing - what would have been used, what colours were available and what resources might be out there.

Given that I know absolutely nothing about dyeing or period pigments (whether for fabric, leather or illumination) I'm a little bit out of my element. However, I found a leatherworker in the UK who does all of his own dying using period dyes. His work is really awesome and if I can get even close to the colours he's doing (particularly the reds and greens), I'd be thrilled. He also has a good summary of his process, which gives me an idea of what will be involved. Here's the site:

So, first step is probably to figure out what materials I can use to do the dying itself. I'll also need to figure out the mordants I can use.

In the link above, Karl Robinson references a book called "Plictho de Lare de Tentori ...." by Gioanventura Rossetti as the source of his recipes. Avelyn and Emelote are working their library magic to see if I can get a copy through the local universities or inter-library loan.

I also found this web link from a fellow SCAdian who, in addition to the Plictho, also refers to a second book called "The Secretes of the Reverende Maister Alexis of Piemount". He also published some of the recipes from this book. Here's the link:

Ideally, what I would like to do is find out which materials are appropriate and then purchase them rather than having to extract the pigments from the natural source myself. There are a number of retailers who carry natural dyes and pigments so I really just need to figure out which ones will work with leather, and which mordants to use.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Stick-Purse Project - Next Steps

Now that I'm back from Pennsic, it's time to start thinking about the next steps for the stick-purse project.

First, I think I've pretty much settled on not trying to get the project completed before this year's Kingdom A&S in November. I want to really do a good job so that I go from the beginner category last time to OMG that's awesome this time. :) To do that, I need to do some more work. Plus, this year's event is in Brampton, so we're unlikely to be able to go anyway. Hopefully next year will be closer to home.

First, I think I'm going to e-mail the museum to see if I can get some of the dimensions for the various pieces. Mistress Elizabeth's purse looked right based on the pictures I've seen, but I'd like to be able to document the dimensions of the handle and individual pouches and pouchlets, just to be thorough.

Second, I've decided that if I want to go for the OMG factor, hand dying the leather using period pigments is going to have to happen. Fortunately, I was able to get Lyda excited by the idea of combining her leatherworking and illumination interests to investigate the topic with me, so hopefully we'll be able to figure out the method fairly easily. I've already sent her some info with some period dye recipes so hopefully it isn't too different from what she uses for illumination.

Third, I'll need to do some practice with the leather braiding that goes over the handle. I've never done that before so if I want to get good results on the stick-purse I'll need to play with that technique a bit. Mistress Elizabeth recommended doing your own strips rather than buying the pre-fabricated leather laces, so my lacemaker will be getting a work out.

Once all of that is done (or at least once I've heard back from the museum) I'll start doing a fabric mock-up to check my methods and make sure it will all work. I can then use the fabric pieces as patterns for the leather. Zeli's, our local leather store, does carry light weight veg tan (about 3 oz) and I know Tandy online carries 2 oz goat and calf. I may order a couple of different types of skin to test it out and see what will work best for the project. I can always use light weight skins for other projects, so it won't go to waste.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Wrap-up: Pennsic 2012 Leather Classes

Well, we have returned from Pennsic with all digits intact and are now working through the pile of laundry. Unfortunately, I didn't make it to as many classes as I had planned. The mixed bag of weather, plus the fact that the buses were even less reliable this year than previously, meant I spent a lot more time in camp than usual.

However, I did make it to my two top priority classes, which were both on our first full day on site.


Given my interest in this piece and my plan to make one for an upcoming Kingdom A&S, this class was my top priority. It got a surprisingly large turn-out given how strange and obscure the stick-purse is. I suspect at least a handful of people really didn't know what the class was about until they got there and were just attending based on their interest in leatherworking or pouches.

The class itself was interesting because we go into discussions around materials. There were people with woodworking and metalworking experience attending, so we discussed the nails that would work best for this project.

I also got to see Mistress Elizabeth's completed purse up close, It's very cool. She's used a mixture of tan and dark brown leather.

It was also very cool that Mistress Elizabeth referenced this blog and suggested people check it out for additional resources. If anyone from the class is reading this -- Hello! :)

Overall I think it was a really great class and it was nice to meet Mistress Elizabeth. I hope she enjoyed teaching the class.

I'll do a separate post about my next steps for the project, based on this class and the other class I attended.

Period Leather Tooling

Immediately following the stick-purse class I scooted over to a tent in the next row for my second priority class, period leather tooling. The teacher was a professional leatherworker from the Midrealm named Lord AEric Orvender.

I mainly wanted to take this course to find out if the techniques I learned from the class at Zeli's are historically correct. The good news is they are. YAY! Essentially the techniques I learned all date back to period - it would just be the patterns being carved that would have been different based on the time period and culture. There's apparently a section in my Knives & Scabbard's book that talks about period stamping tools. I'll have to check it out.

We also talked about proper leather casing, which apparently is not what they showed us at the Zeli's course. And we talked about leather dyes, including the fact that period dyes were probably made form the same materials as illumination inks. This has lead to a bit of a eureka moment and Lyda and I are now all keen do do some experimenting which will eventually tie in to my stick-purse project.

All in all I got exactly what I was hoping for out of this class and everyone was able to ask a lot of questions. Since I was there mostly for knowledge rather than learning hands-on technique it was perfect for me. It was also funny that there were a number of Skraels in the class. I counted at least six of us.

Artists Row

Artists Row this year held two leatherworking days. The first day was on the day we were setting up camp, so I wasn't able to make it. The second day was Wednesday of war week so I wandered by with Avelyn as we were running some errands but didn't stay as I didn't have any projects to work on at the time.  Next year I'll have to remember to bring something to work on at war.

Other Leather Bits

Avelyn says that the draw-string pouch I made for her worked out well and was a good size, but the draw string is a bit stiff. I didn't quite gauge the amount of space needed for the two leather laces in the draw-string so I'm not surprised its hard to pull. I may redo it when I have a chance.

I was also asked to work on a new project for Lady Eluned. Her twin girls are getting to the age where they are interested in SCA activities, not just coming to events and playing with their friends. One of the girls has taken up archery, but Eluned can't find a set of finger tabs or glove that will fit. She's asked if I could make a small archery glove for her. I think I have a pattern for one, so it should be easy enough to down-size it.