Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Today's crafting has gone slowly. So far, the only thing I have to show is the completion of the basic stitch work of the cross stitch pattern that has been keeping my sanity together for the last couple of weeks.

There's still an awful lot of detail work to be done, but I'm delighted to have gotten this far on it.

And now to the shops, to buy a few bits and pieces so I can get some work done on my day garb bodice!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

To make up for an illness earlier in the year, I decided to take this week off from work to catch up on a few things. Mostly this has involved catching up on sleep so far, but today I got re-started on my day garb. 

I say restarted because I'd already gotten my sleeve cut and the sewing on them started. It's slower, but I'd decided to do this day garb outfit completely handsewn, just to set myself the challenge.

The sleeve are cut from a small piece of red wool I had in my stash, and are lined with a red taffeta to enhance the colour. This wool will also form the trim on the bodice of the dress, and I'm hoping I'll just have enough for that purpose.

For the main dress, I have a beautiful, soft, steel grey wool I purchased from a friend in the SCA. The picture on the right shows front and back bodice pieces cutout, with their linen lining. I don't want to make this bodice as stiff as my court gown bodice, but I'm unsure yet how I'll give it a little more body. Another layer of linen perhaps?

The design itself is based on a number of working women portraits from Italy in the late 16th century. In these portraits, the ladder laced front was still popular, though the bodice was squared rather than pointed.

Monday, 26 November 2012

So, I managed to get my fan completed for the SCA event at the weekend, only to find that there was after all, no A&S competition. But a fan with such a beatiful set of plumes is just begging to be used as a tickling tool. And yes, many noses were tickled!

So, to continue from where I left off, when the papier-mâché layers had dried (I left the fan sitting on a wire rack resting on the radiator to help things along), I coated it with three layers of shellac to provide a waterproof and toughened finish. When this layer was dry, I gave it a brief sanding to even out any creases left in the paper layers. Unfortunately I wasn't quite diligent enough in this step, and a few creases are still present in the finished fan. I think I may have to ask Santa for a device that can do the sanding for me. Just one coat of gold paint on top of this was sufficent to give an even coverage.

Next, with help, I drilled 9 holes into the top of the fan to accept the full length Ostrich feathers I had choosen to use. In this step, I had to take it very slowly, as I didn't want to split the balsa wood, or drill down too far. I used a hot glue gun to secure the large ostrich feather in the drilled holes. Leaving the feathers as they were creates a section of fan that is too thin on fluff to be attractive, so I took apart a section of cockscomb trim and glued this into place in front of the ostrich feathers. As the quills of the trim was much smaller, I was able to use a small craft sissors to punch holes. The picture to the left shows the feathers in place and the initial gem placement to match the portrait.

The next step was to take away from some of the "stuck on" appearance of the gems, and give them more of a "set in" appearance. If I was to recreate this fan, I would take the time to carve settings into the wood, but as the gems were already in place, I used some black epoxy putty which I painted gold when it dried to imitate jewel settings.

So to finish, I added a line of small stick on pearl drops around the upper edge of the handle, and it was complete. Looking at the finished handle, I can't help thinking of gingerbread, but that, I think, is not entirely a bad thing.

And just a final note to say, despite what I thought myself when I was making this, the fan works quite well for its intended purpose. While the usual edge on, back-and-forth fan motion doesn't work, using the fan flat and sweeping in on and off ones skin, creates a nice draft by pulling the warm air away from one. I'm also given to understand that this also creates a nice draft for the person sitting beside one.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Even when I'm feeling down, it's good to keep going on something, no matter how little I get done.

For the past week I've been working on a cross-stitch called Barnyard Kitties, a kit I've started well over a year ago, then put down because working with a brown palette on a black fabric wasn't as interesting as I thought it might have been....

This weekend, I allowed the annoyance of not having an A&S entry for the SCA event next weekend bubble over and I finally thought of something I could get done in time.As part of the Realm of Venus competition, I made myself a flag fan. But I still coveted a feather fan. Something big and fluffy that I could sit proudly in court with and fan gently to catch peoples attention or tickle their noses with...

There are many Italian portraits with flat fan, but few of them show details of the handles. So I turned to this portrait of dear Queen Lizzie from 1590 to base my design on. 

The top of the fan, where the feathers emerge, looks to be gilt, embellished with a large ruby, pearls and diamonds. This, I thought to myself, is doable. Especially as it's an idea that's been percolating in my head for quite some time now.

To start with, I purchased a set of wooden utensils from Ikea for less than €2 to make my base with. I selected the wooden fork from this set as the handle shape appealed to me the most, sawed off the tines and rounded off the top.

 Before the cutting started, I traced around the fork onto paper, and used this as a guide for the fan shape based on the above portrait. Unfortunately, the shape I made here was a little too wide for the piece of wood I had, so I had to redraw it with the side swirls just a little tighter to the body. And forgot to snap it. D'oh! Thus started an evening of forgetting to take most of the pictures as I went, so at this point you'll have to engage imagination mode. 

Tip: when you're not confident of drawing the complete fan design, then just draw half. The design above is literally all I drew. For the next step I used my light box to flip the image so I could be sure that both sides of the fan would match. This image I traced onto a 10mm piece of balsa wood twice and cut it out. I swear, next time I have to work with wood, I'm investing in a fret saw.

With the balsa cut, I then hollowed out a section in each piece to fit the wooden fork core, to add strength to the piece. So far, so good. Though balsa has a nasty habit of pretty much dissolving in wet conditions, or absorbing vanish like a sponge, so I needed to add another finish. This is where my previous playing with mask making comes in.

I decided the perfect finish would be to cover the pieces with a Papier-mâché layer, and finish it with a tissue paper layer. When this dries, I'll give it a coat or two of shellac, and when that dries I'll be left with a surface hard enough to sand, which should provide a lot of resilience too.

To finish it off, I'll be drilling the top of the fan handle to insert the ostrich feathers I have on stand by, paint it with gilt and decorate with glass gems (much as I'd love to be able to use the real materials all round, glass it is). I'm concerned that I won't have enough feathers to make it look truly extravagant, but that's always something I can fluff out in the future.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Another week, another lack of progress. I could cite disappointments, such as realising I won't have my Italian gown finished in time to submit it to the A&S competition I was hoping for, but really, it's because I've hit a low mood. Low moods and productivity are not usually happy bedmates, and I don't believe in forcing myself to work on projects when there's no urgency to them, as there's a chance I'll only end up hating them.

But even without progress on my own projects, I've started putting together the kits for the basic felt making class I'll be giving at Yuletide University in a couple of weeks. When that weekend is over, I'll post a breakdown of the kit along with a tutorial for how it was done.