Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Beeswax polish. I understand it now.

I have finished applying the beeswax polish to my niddy noddy. It feels and smells beautiful. It gleams. I am very happy with how it's turned out.

But the understanding part? Let me explain.

When I first searched for a recipe, there were many options facing me. Some used beeswax and turpentine, others used beeswax and olive oil. Some used beeswax, turpentine and olive oil. Some even included soap flakes. Scenting any of these recipes was optional. But the thing none of these recipes explained was what any of these ingredients did. Now, this may be already obvious to someone who has made more of a study of woodworking than I have, but here's what I learnt.

My beeswax polish, using just beeswax and turpentine, turned out to be the consistency of just soft butter, which made it perfect for rubbing into the wood. I used my fingers to apply the wax mixture for that extra hint of tactile experience. Also, being a newbie, it was helpful in identifying the parts of the wood I'd missed. The smell of the polish when I first opened the jar is very strong, and smells very much like Vic's vaporub. This is why I thought at first that the neroli oil I added wouldn't be strong enough.

When applying the oil at first, it seemed a little sticky, which may have just been a sign that I was applying too much at once. It is very important to use a lint free cloth to rub in the polish; this means a cloth not likely to lose threads or fluffs when in use, like some duster cloths are prone to. And what I learnt was that the turpentine acts purely as a solvent, and evaporates away to let the beeswax and neroli soak into the wood. My finished niddy noddy, which had 4 layers of wax applied to it, has a beautiful soft feel to it, and a faint, sweet scent of oranges.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

The other day in work, I found myself in a dilemma. I'd finished my knitting project that morning on the bus, and now lunchtime had rolled around and I had a pattern and an unwound skein. What on earth was a crafting obsessed girl to do? Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

How to Wind a Centre Pull Ball of Yarn using Office Supplies {1}

The yarn I'm winding is these pics is Jitterbug "Raspberry". To be honest, this is the second ball of yarn I've wound this way as, typically enough, the first time round I didn't have the camera with me. Lesson learnt, I hope.

So, to start with, I snipped the threads holding the skein in place, and after separating the start of the skein, I wrapped it around both knees. It's important to maintain tension on the skein while you're winding it, so you'll need to spread your knees enough to maintain that tension.
Note: The skein in going just around my bent knees, it is not going under my legs.

And this is where the office supplies come in. Using a couple of plastic cups, trap the start of the yarn between two cups.

With the yarn trapped, start winding! I starting straight on to build up a little grip, that started winding the yarn at an angle so it would stay tidy. The important thing here is to make sure you wind the ball good and firm, so as long as you're doing that, how you're winding shouldn't matter too much.

And voila, one wound ball. I tried to get a pic of the inside of the cups, which have compressed slightly with the pressure of the wound yarn, but it's not come out very well, so I'll spare you the eye strain. The tail lying to the front on the ball in this pic is from the end of the skein, not the promised centre pull end.

But remember that trapped yarn from the set up? Just gently pop the cups up from the centre of the ball, and there it is!

And this is my finished centre pull ball of yarn. For the last ball I wound, I had wanted to start a pair of socks, and given that I like knitting two socks at the same time, I was also stuck for a weighing scales to seperate the ball into two equal parts. Winding the skein like this meant I could use one centre pull and one outer pull to knit each sock, which, inceidently, were the Kiertoradalla from my previous post.

Happy Knitting!

{1} Yes, I was on break when I was doing this.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

I have very much been bitten by the knitting bug. There's something about the colder weather coming in that brings it out. This week saw the completion of two pairs of socks. The first were the Skew socks I mentioned a few weeks ago, and the second were from a pattern called Kiertoradalla, available on ravelry.com.

These socks were delayed by a week after I made a mistake in the instep, and by another step when the kitchener stitch heel join (no one said there would be grafting!) got mucked up. It took me a week to both work up the nerve to correct it and be bugged enough to want to do it.

The top picture shows the mistake I made. The bumps in the centre line of knitting in the picture shouldn't be there. When done right, grafting, or kitchener stitch, is invisible from the lines of knitting around it. Clearly I was not having a good day.

I dislike kitchener stitch. Every knitter has a different mental block and mine is on this stitch technique. Even using the nelkin designs instructions, which are the best I've found, especially with the cute little printable chart, I cannot always get my head around it, as the evidence shows.

The picture on the bottom is the amended stitching. Still not perfect, but it's close enough for now. And they're very comfy socks.  

The Kiertoradalla are also slightly off perfect, though I have to mention, this is most likely my own fault as I started with a needle size bigger than the pattern called for because I didn't want to wait until I could get to a yarn shop. The result is socks that are comfy and warm but a tiny bit loose. I'm hoping some wear will help break them in to my foot shape. Impatience, thy name is Debbie.

In more niddy-noddy news, I picked up some pure turpentine on friday, meaning I could finally get around to making my own beeswax polish. After all, if I'm willing to go to the effort of personalising my niddy-noddy, I may as well go to the effort of a special finish for it too.

A google search turns up dozen of recipes for beeswax polish. I reviewed a few then decided to make mine with 10g of beeswax, which I melted in the microwave, and 25mls of turpentine. I also added 20 drops of neroli to take the edge off the strong turpentine smell. A stronger essential oil would probably have been better, but well, I took what I could from my stash and impatience, thy name...

I made up only a small amount as I don't anticipate needing a lot of this at any one time. I anticipate the wood of the noddy drinking in the first few coats before I'll have a buffable coating. Just as well I'm not actively spinning at the moment.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Another busy week so again, not much done.

Went to a household day yesterday where I was mostly teaching, so didn't get much done myself. I did however get started on a pattern for my partlet which was so successful I've decided I need to drape it instead, and I started sewing a saccoccia, an Italian pocket, for an SCA friend. The picture to the right is of the lining, the outer fabric is the same as that used for my court gown, a burgundy taffeta. I'm hoping the lady in question appreciates the lining I picked out for her.


But in good news, my niddy noddy finally tuned up!

For the uninitiated, a niddy noddy is tool used to wind skeins of yarn from bobbins after spinning. I've been looking for it for a while, not being an organised person, as it was the reason I originally bought the wood stain I used to dye my wooden buttons a few posts back.

The stain mixture has a shelf life of 4-6 months, so I broke it out again and the above pictures show the noddy before staining and with one coat of stain. Like the buttons, it's likely going to need 2 or 3 coats to bring up the colour nicely, but it'll be very worth it to have a personalised spinning tool.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012


I'm about ready to eat this project.

It's not that it's difficult. And it's not that I dislike it particularly. But it's at that arkward stage that every project reaches, where no matter how much work you do on it, it seems to be going nowhere. 

This, in case anyone is wondering, is the second cutwork sleeve from my SCA Italian court gown. I didn't get the embroidery completed for the competition, but I've been slowly working away on it since then, so get it completed for mid-November.

I've tried counting the number of shapes left to finish, but when that number went
over 30 it ceased to be an exercise in

*deep breath*
Time to pick up the needle again.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

"You have nothing to be worried about. I'm here to help."

And the plague doctor mask is finished!

It's not perfect, but for my first attempt at leather mask making, I'm quite pleased with it. It fits my face nicely and I think it will lend itself well to being modified for future incarnations.

I've sewn up a simple muslin cone to hold the flowers and spices that will form the very last part of the mask. I've decided on a mix of carnations with cinnamon, cloves, and possibly some nutmeg, but I won't be mixing that up until a day or two before the event, because I want the flowers to be as fresh as possible and the event is still four weeks away.

And now to write up my documentation... ugh, the curse of the blank page....

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

After a weekend of fun and excitement, learning new sword fighting techniques and the occurrence of injury (not mine and not serious thankfully, though I did have to drive an unfamiliar car on a four hour journey home), I'm finding myself still quite shattered. This has meant that I've made very little project progress, but on the other hand, I've done plenty of research.

The picture on the right is Paolo Caliari's 1560 Portrait of a Woman and was my primary inspiration for my SCA court gown. Well, it start out as inspiration, but somewhere along the way I felt myself drawn to wanting to recreate it. Details like the sleeve cutwork and the necklace and brooch I've already completed, but I still have to teach myself bobbin lace and improve my reticella needle lace to make the cuffs and camica trim.

I plan to submit the gown as a whole as an A&S entry towards the end of November. That will involve completing a few more details and just one more piece - the partlet. It can be hard to see in this portrait, being almost sheer and with the lines of pearls covering the edges, but enlarging the image shows a simple embroidery pattern of stem stitch lines and stitched holes. I've selected some off white chiffon from my stash and have the pattern pieced out in my mind, so now I'll just have to find time to start it.

In longer term research, I've started looking into soap making in the pre 17th century. The first step in this is going to involve making my own lye, and for that I'll need hardwood, preferably apple wood. I've contacted a local fruit supplier to see if I can tickle their interest enough into supplying my needs, but if that fails, a friend has offered to let me ransack his wood stack. One way or the other, this project has a green light.

And in a last minute find of chance, I came across this beauty on the fabulous Anéa Costumes website. When trying to decide on garb for fencing tournaments, I decided on a plain style of Venetian trousers, but I was lost for a doublet idea until I came across a line drawing of a leather jerkin from the late 16th century in Florence in Janet Arnold's Patterns of Fashion v3. Line drawing are all well and good, but seeing the extant examples really adds flesh to the bones. And this picture is the jerkin! I'm delighted to have come across this (even while kicking myself that I didn't think to check Anéa's site sooner).

I had some beautiful fabric put aside for this project, but on seeing this example I'm wondering if I shouldn't make it of leather instead? Or maybe I should make two, one for the fighting, and one for looking fine when entering and leaving the field.