Thursday, 12 March 2015

Drachenwald A&S Exchange

So, when I went to the leather working workshop, what was it I did on the Sunday? 

Well, last year I took part in the Drachenwald A&S exchange for the first time.The format is simple; you get a form to complete with details such as your society name and device (if any), period of interest, favourite colours, etc, all details to help your recipient decide what to craft for you. My recipient, Lady Mylla O'Reilly, a 16th century bourgeois Flemish woman, had an interest in sewing and a preference for an autumnal palate, so I decided to make up a sewing kit for her with items that could conceivably been made of a middle class woman's sewing box. I based my items on findings from the Thames River, reasoning that there would have been reasonably regular trade between England and the Netherlands, and it was likely they'd be using the same tools, without too much in the way of regional variations. 

To start I carved a simple apple wood awl, and made up some felt which would form the leaves for the planned pinbook, and as a place to keep all the hooks and eyes together.  

I've found that hooks and eyes abounded in the 16th century. From woodcuts which clearly show the presence of hook and eye closures, to the rusted findings from sunken ships, these seem to have been a common closure option. I made up these using 0.8mm brass wire, which were hammered to work hardened the wire. The hooks were hammered flat and folded into shape after. The pins I made were also made with brass wire, but this time using a slightly heavier gauge, 1mm thick. The coils I made separate to the pin shaft, and hammered them flat onto the pin when I was hardening the wire. The points were sharpened on a file, and the pin was sanded lightly with fine sandpaper. I had meant to try the period method of using ground pumice to sand the pins, but my tub of pumice chose just the right moment to go missing...

The pins were displayed in a pinbook with four leaves cut from felt, and an outer of leather which was painted with the recipients (newly approved) heraldry, and sealed with a beeswax-olive oil finish.

I made up a bakers dozen of embroidered buttons, using brown cotton embroidery thread over wooden beads, using a variation of a detached buttonhole stitch over eight spokes on the buttons.

But the pride of the work box was the leather components, as well as the pinbook, there was a simple (purchased) snips and snips case, and a pouch for a piece of beeswax, all stamped with the same simple pattern. And I also crafted a leather needle case. 

The case was formed by stitching wet leather around a piece of wood, with a rubber mallet being used to help flatten out the seams after sewing. The outer piece was sized and stamped before being sewn into place, which took up most of my Sunday at the workshop, and with the deadline fast approaching, had to be completed that day. When all the leather had finally dried out, for which I allowed about a week, it had shrunk and very much tightened around the wooden form that I'd used. It order to remove this, I screwed a screw into the wood, and using pliers and brute force, managed to pull the wood out. Now, annoyingly, this left the inner leather case a little loose, however when I put in the fingerloop woven cord for the case, this made the fit nice and snug again. The case and other leather components were then dyed with commercial dyes to give a uniform look and sealed with a likewise commercial dye so I could be sure the dye wouldn't bleed when the leathers were in use.

So with gift completed and put into a purchased woven basket with a piece of white linen to help keep everything secure, I posted it away and waited anxiously to see if it would be on the mark. And I'm very pleased to say it was, and my recipient was quite pleased with it.