Friday, 28 September 2012

I know now why I was putting off the next step of the plague doctor mask. It was the part that was intimidating me the most - setting the glass lens.

I shaped a piece of leather in the manner of 14th century glasses and soaked it overnight to make it more pliable. I could believe the difference the soaking made, it was so easy to shape the leather around the purchased glass discs. It's just a shame I procrastinated while sewing, meaning the second eye piece, the one on the right, had mostly dried out by the time I sewed it down. The eye pieces I think will need a little more shaping to finish them off, though I'm wary of trimming too much and having the lens fall out of their settings.

So now the mask is mostly done! I'll need to apply straps and buckle to secure the mask around my head, possibly with another across the top of the head for comfort. Plague doctors of the 14th century believed in the strong scents of flowers like roses and carnations, herbs and spices, or even vinegar soaked sponges to keep at bay the miasma or bad air that was believe to cause disease. The nose will need a muslin bag I think, as I don't want to end up with cinammon scented rose petals trapped for all time at the end of the nose.

And now it's time for me to get in a little quick baking, because home baking always makes long car journeys go quicker. Especially when they involve getting up at stupid-o-clock in the morning on a saturday.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Winter is coming. It's time for socks.

Well, ok, it's not quite winter yet, but it has turned into a very soggy autumn. And with the return of the cold weather, my sock knitting mojo has returned. It's very hard to think of lovely thick, warm, woolly socks when the weather is too warm for boots. And in Ireland, that's as warm as it gets most of the time.

The pattern I'm working on is called Skew, published by, and my using my very favourite sock yarn, Jitterbug by Collinette. The colours are fabulous and it produces such warm and cosy socks! It may also have been the first sock knitting yarn I used, thus reserving its special place in my affections. The pattern is just starting to get to the interesting part, but thankfully is straight forward enough to still be workable on public transport.

Also, I'm am trying to work through my quite extensive stash these days, with an aim to completing projects without having to buy anything extra. Project one was completed this week, a "sit upon", a simple cable pattern Outdoor Seating made with left over yarn, backed with upcycled oilcloth, as the kids are saying these days. The result is a delightfully fully springy mat, which I can see accompanying me to many an event.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Ooh, it's been a rather busy week. Funny how those can sneak up on you.

Thursday saw the shire's A&S meeting. It was a quiet turn out and I got a little more progress done on my needlelace and on my sleeve embroidery, though both are such slow going I'm feeling driven to start a new project, just to keep the interest up.

But today was HandmAid, a craft day in aid of the DSPCA. I signed up to a wheel spinning class with a friend, as while I have my hand in for spindle spinning, wheel spinning is something I very much wanted to try. And spin I did!

The class was taught by two wonderful ladies, and with everyone in the class more than willing to help others, we were all soon in our socks and tredling away. 

I got to try a silk merino blend (the pink/brown yarn on the left) and a pure wool top (it's green, really, on the right).

It was terrific fun. The only downside now if I can see it being some time before I can afford to buy my own wheel, and the the desire to do more wheel spinning, it burns!!!

But it wasn't all temptation unfulfilled. I came away with a very nice haul from the trade and cake stands, so I should be kept entertained and distracted for a little while yet.

Monday, 17 September 2012

Saying It With Cake...

Occasionally I like to rely on my natural talents and thank someone who's done me a favour with baked goods. My baking may never win any awards for finesse or presentation, but it is, so I'm told, consistently tasty.

With my car being off the road for over 2 months now, I've been relying on a cousin for a few lifts. So this evening I made him a fresh cream victorian sponge by way of thank you. I was in no mood to wrestle with greaseproof paper, so I decided to use a more traditional method of preparing my tins. This involved coating both tins with an even layer of soft butter. Then I sprinkled a spoon of flour into the tins and rotated the tins until the butter coating on the base and side were covered with a film of flour, as shown. It's important to make sure there's no gaps in the covering or any uneven butter patches which may affect the batter.
And it turned out beautifully! Even edges, no burned fingers trying to peel off red hot paper! Finished off with whipped cream and a little icing sugar, I hope my cousin enjoys it!

Friday, 14 September 2012

This week I had that most frustrating of experiences - a dead end interwebs search. I was searching for an Edwardian era walking skirt or corset skirt of a particular style, but despite bringing to bear my personal researcher and asking a community of dressmakers: no joy. It's forced me to realise the internet does not have everything. It lied to me. 

So I took the only resonable course of action and bought more fabric than I strictly need right now. Some people buy comfort food. I buy comfort craft. And ice-cream.
The purple brocade is a stretch fabric, but I plan on using it for a sew-along I'll be starting at the end of the month. The green fabric is taffeta, my absolute fabric fabric. At 4 metres for only €20 I couldn't pass it up.

In the mean time, work on the plague doctor mask has been progressing nicely. I have the beak assembled and have learned not to store arkward shapes like spools of thread there anymore. The glass circles have arrived, so all that's left is the shaping of the last face piece. I've been reassured that the stitching I've been using is period (pre 17th century), so very shortly I'll have to start putting together my documentation.

Monday, 10 September 2012

The rest of the weekend passed and I did indeed manage to start on my A&S project. A leather plague doctor mask.

Behold my elite leather working set up with high tech binder clips.

I used a cream leather from my stash and an imitation sinew that I've been looking to use for a while which goes beautifully well with the tone of the leather. I pre-pierced the sewing holes with an awl and have been sewing the seams in what I could best describe as a variation of a butt seam.

The first part of the nose seam was hard going, but after a completely necessary ice-cream break, my hands remembered what they were doing and got properly into the swing of the stitch. I should be able to complete the lower part of the nose and hopefully the glass circles I've ordered for the eye pieces won't be too much longer about arriving.

This mask may well end up being a prototype so I can learn the method before I remake it, this time paying proper attention to the historical methods.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Today was a day of taking a slow tour of some of Dublin's bookshops. In the manner of all crafters I intended spending nothing, but came home with two bags of books. My haul included gems such as Punto Tagliato Lace by Nenia Lovesey, which calls into question what I've learned about 16th century lace making techniques thus far, and Pillow Lace by Elizabeth Mincoff and Margaret S. Marriage, a find which delights me not least because with a publishing date of 1907 the book is over 100 years old! Later on, thanks to the eagle eyes of my companions, The Great Italian Painters From the Gothic to the Renaissance from SCALA and a beautiful hardback of The Black Death by Philip Ziegler became mine. I forsee many happy nights of research ahead of me.

And now for a little bit of eye candy. I made up some felt a few weeks ago, attempting to make a pouch. It didn't quite work out, but I ended up with two A5 sized sheets of lovely soft felt. I finished sewing this up last night, finishing the edges with 4 strands of embroidery cotton and plaiting 9 stands to make a closure with a couple of pearlesent buttons. I'm not sure yet if I'll add any more embellishments to this, but it should at least serve its primary purpose, and stop the camera from turning itself on while in my bag.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Lo, the cufflinks arrived and the buttons were created. I admit, I did give in and added even more red dye to my solution and gave the buttons one more coat of stain. I'm much more pleased with the result now.

I used a coat of liquid wax to help seal the buttons then fixed the wooden disks using hot glue, applied carefully to the wood, not the heat-sucking-metal cufflink. Honest.

I'm very happy with the finished shrug. I put in on after taking this picture, and I'm still wearing it. It's so warm and cosy.

While the shrug project was in stasis for want of a postal delivery, it was time to move on with other projects. One of the next events I'm looking forward to is Mediveal Dead II, hosted by the SCA Shire of Eplaheimr, an SCA event that combines the best of historical feasting and battles with ghouls and zombies. I knew instantly what I wanted to make for my Arts and Sciences entry, and when a friend suggested I attend the Feast of the Dead as a plague victim, I thought it would round out my project nicely.

Using a tutorial online I made up some latex prosthetic boils and sores, which, combined with some more grease paint on the day, should help me look suitably disguisting on the night. The A&S project I'm hoping to make a start on this weekend.

At the Dun In Mara Shire A&S practice last night, I made progress on my needlelace.The lace is destined to become a lavender pillow for my garb box and I have some fine cotton gauze to back the linen with. The outline of the shape is completed now, which means I need to finalise my design ideas for this piece.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

When the competition was over, and I had my final update submitted, the first thing I did was to be quite ill for a week. Stupid throat. The first thing I wanted to do was continue with the crafting. I figured I could continue with the work from the costume or I could start something completely unrelated.

So I did the sensible thing and began knitting a pattern called Passionvine Shrug by Andrea Marquis. I finished up the shrug last night and set it to blocking. It argued with me a bit about being stretched out to its full size, but it was worth the fight to see the design "pop".

The shrug is designed to be closed at the ribbing with lapel style pins, to give various style options, so I decided to make up my own closures.

This involved some wooden disks picked up from a craft store and some spirit soluble dyes to make up my own wood stain. I used approximately 4 times as much red dye to blue, and dissolved the dye with some blonde shellac in methylated spirits.

The result was a blue toned purple that I think is as close as I'm going to be able to get it to the yarn without too much fuss.

My final snap shows the buttons with two coats of stain, definitely looking a little on the blue side. I'll leave them overnight to ensure they dry out fully, then give them a liquid wax coating to keep their texture, and in a weeks time when my ebay purchase arrives, attach them to cufflink blanks. And vóila, shrug completeness.