Monday, July 27, 2015

Dyeing at Sturbridge

A couple of months ago, my husband and I vacationed in Massachusetts.  We had a lovely hotel room for a week outside of Sturbridge -- and spent two wonderful days at Old Sturbridge Village.  On the one day we went it was their Wool Days.  One of the activities going on was dyeing.

Now, Sturbridge represents a village in the 1830s, well after the time my usual historical recreation studies, but watching the dyeing process here certainly added to my overall plan of understanding "all things string."

There was a table displaying some of the natural dyes used, some wool both dyed and undyed and some yarn from the dyed wool.  This day they were dyeing wool.  They explained that at the time (1830s) one had to balance dyeing the uncarded, unspun wool verses the extra fee at the carding mill for taking wool with color.  The mill would have to clean the equipment both before and after carding dyed wool, and would therefore charge an extra fee.

 Here are some of the natural dyes they had on the table. Of course, I was so sure I would remember them all.


I think this was calendula (marigold)

 These two I don't recall. 


 Pretty sure this is the oak gals (left)





This one I remember, cochineal. The interpreter poured some out for me so I could get a better shot. (right)




 The interpreters explained that they soaked the wool in water so that when it was added to the hot dye pot it would not felt up.   This is not light weight work! The set up for the dye pots was truly impressive.  Not sure which of us was more excited by it -- me or my husband.  




The dye pot they were working with was sage with iron for mordant.  It was explained that iron would make the color of the dye "more so."  Here it is bubbling away.


Another area of the village has a permanent dye exhibit, with more examples of natural dyes. Below are photos of some of them, with yarns dyed with them.   

There were a number of other activities for wool days, including sheep shearing, with shears rather than modern equipment, picking and cleaning wool and carding.  I got to try carding and was dubbed "a natural" and got to keep my bit of carded wool.   












Monday, July 20, 2015

Making a workroom into a studio

It started last year.  I was treating my work room like a junk room.  It was a mess.  Fabric was everywhere -- mostly not on the shelves that took up a very large portion of the room.  It was hard to move around and finding a given thing that I wanted was a daunting task.

Just a portion of the disaster zone
I decided it had to be changed.

I determined that the first thing that had to happen was to change the existing shelving.  It held a lot, but in such a way that what it held was difficult to get to, and really took up too much space. The supporting uprights tended to block access and the corner layout blocked half of each of the only two walls with an expanse (the other two walls are taken up by windows (front wall) and closets).

After looking at a number of options, and being otherwise in the middle of making the house "all things Ikea" I decided on the Algot shelving system at Ikea.  One of the biggest attractions to me of this system was that shelving could go all the way across the wall, without supports sticking out into the room to hamper access.  A variety of shelf sizes and baskets and hooks was also attractive, allowing for flexibility of design -- both to start and down the road.

After a number of hours playing with the design, I came up with a design for a wall of shelves, and plans for moving some of the furniture in the room.

I also knew that there was no way that the existing stash of fabric would all fit on the new shelves -- nor did I really want it to.  Clearly, I was holding "someone else's stash."  Thus, as I emptied the old shelving I began the process of identifying "other peoples' stash."  I also decided that if I was going to do this thing, I was going to do it right.  Every piece of fabric was pulled out, measured, folded neatly and a hang tag pinned to the piece with as much detail as I could manage (width and length and what I knew or guessed of the fiber content), and determined to be either "yup, that's mine" or "nope, that's 'someone else's'."

Trust me, this is actually progress
Ultimately, I had over 7 of the large blue Ikea bags of "someone else's stash."  Selling that off at approximately $1 a yard paid for the new shelving, with some left over toward the new pieces for the living room as well. It took a while, but finally the room was ready to have the old shelving taken down.  The "keep" pile filled my cutting table, plus a couple more of the ubiquitous Ikea bags (one just of white linen!).  The old wooden shelves were taken down and the work began to install the Algot shelves.

It's a pretty simple procedure, on paper -- place a suspension rail (or in this case, three of them), and hang the uprights from it (them).  Using shelves to set the position of the uprights, screw them in place.

My most excellent husband -- climber of ladders and driller of holes.

The first four uprights in place

Finally, it was time to start putting on the shelves.  


Here it is with most of the shelves in place, but one more trip to Ikea was called for for more shelves to fill that space on the right. 

Oops, cut off the top shelves in this picture.

The shelves have been filled, my antique sewing machine placed and regular sewing table positioned. There's even a space for the full cutting table sized rotary mat to be stored -- the sewing table holds it firmly in place. 

Some table clearing yet to do 

Love the nice deep shelves on the right.  
A few more evenings of putting things away and setting things up, and here is my new work room studio.  It has already been a fantastic experience to walk in, get what I want, do what I need to do and leave without having to move everything three times to do it.

The view from the door. I can now place the cutting/ironing table in the middle of the room where I can walk around it.....





Or it can go against the wall between the windows when I want the floor space. That wall may yet receive a different treatment, but for now it holds a couple of shelves and a hang bar for items I like to have handy when I'm working on the table. 


Not quite all the yarn fits in that cedar chest... I'll have to work on that. 




Here's the whole wall of shelves. My  serger will sit on that antique sewing machine desk. With a few changes of the items on the bottom shelf I would be able to open that sewing machine, but I don't really need to right now. The fabric pretty much sorted by type and/or plan.  




 This is the main sewing wall.  The ceiling fan light doesn't give off much light (need to address that, for sure), but an Ott and a small LED lamp will boost illumination in this area. Yup, that's my warping board on the wall to the right.  Hanging on the hook is one of the large plastic rulers I have, the rest will go there too.
Lots of nooks for storage are in this layout. That's the travel case for my sewing machine hiding behind the swing out on the sewing table. 

So, now the bulk of my former work room/junk room is now a studio.  I look forward to producing lovely things from it.




There are still some things to be addressed, of course, Here's a view of the other end.

At the bottom of the picture are books which need new homes, but that may be waiting until the replacement of living room book cases (there will be more space when that is done).  Those three closet doors are hiding a bit of a mess (though the middle one is in pretty good shape).  They hold most of the embroidery, knitting and weaving supplies -- threads, needles, even my table loom. The right closet is shelves that need to be inventoried, weeded and some organization. Hanging from that hook are unfinished projects -- and perhaps I can let *some* of those totes to too.

To the far left of those closets is a built in desk which needs a good weed (it has been kind of the recipient of items I didn't know what to do with), especially since a laptop usually lives there, which may be replaced with a desktop.

There's a fair amount of stuff around the house to be brought up and integrated, but now that should be fairly easy.  There will be updates -- and in an effort to keep me focused on keeping it organized, occasional photos.






Monday, July 13, 2015

Laurel Cloak for Asa

My husband's apprentice sister, Asa in Svarta, was recently honored by being elevated to the Order of the Laurel.  (For those not in the SCA, this means that a very good friend was honored with a very special award).

I was pleased to be able to step forward to do the embroidery on a cloak for her. A simple "blanket" style cloak was chosen.  Mutual friend Rainillt provided the wool fabric -- and being a better artist than I she also drew on the simple laurel leaf vine design, modified from extant Viking era embroidery examples. 

I began by outlining the entire design, using DMC Medici wool in stem stitch.  The small blue nodules were also done in DMC Medici.
The outlining, and the start of the leaves

Hand dyed (using natural, period dyes) Persian weight embroidery wool was provided by Thora Sharptooth in two greens and a lovely yellow.  At first I was concerned about using the heavier weight thread with the lighter crewel weight of the red and blue, but ultimately they seem to have worked well together.  The larger laurel leaves were done with the darker green using "Bayeux" style laid and couched work.  The smaller leaves were done in stem stitch using the lighter green and the yellow was used to fill in the stem (again with stem stitch).


Stem stitch outline and fill

One of the laid and couched large leaves


Recently, I got together with Asa and we determined where she wants to have the pin go. When she has lived with it there for a little while and decides it is right, I'll make eyelet holes (or, if it needs to move, we'll do that).

Asa prefers not to be photographed, so the model here is Asa and John's Laurel's husband Reijnier Verplanck (with help from puppy Hoshi).







Next week -- the unveiling of my work room studio. 


Monday, July 6, 2015

Some changes -- and future plans

Last week was my return to this blog.  I have also combined my "Historic textiles" and "Modern textiles" (Shuttle Needle) blogs here in one place.  Across the top are links to the labels for my "main categories."  Every post will have one (or more) of those. That list may grow a little, but not by much.  Over to the right is the entire list of labels I use.

My hope is once a week posting, on Monday evenings.  Why Monday?  Well, it gives me the weekend to come up with a topic, and it's something to look forward to Monday for -- and I hope it will become something to look forward to.

While talking about plans, here's my current "on deck" list of projects, some or all of which will be discussed in future posts.  A number of these are for people, so my descriptions may be a little vague, and there won't be progress posts -- but a few are actually for me, and there may be progress posts.

Historic and SCA items

  • The Marshall Hanging.  This is the name I've given to my slowly progressing Bayeux Tapestry based piece.  Slowly progressing because it is large and requires a certain level of time available to make getting out the apparatus for working on it viable.  It does have a goal now, though, of late Spring 2016, so there may well be some progress posts on that.
  • Medallion for a queen.  No progress posts on this one with an end of summer deadline. This will be a little more portable, though not "toss in my bag and work on at lunch." level of portable.
  • Motif(s) for a friend.  A slightly earlier deadline, but more portable, this will probably be my work project once started. 
  • Fancier garb for us both.  There should be a post shortly about the over gown I recently finished, and I have some actual plans for the lovely linen and silk I own, now that I can find it (see below).
Modern Stuff
  • Work room for Kandy.  This project is almost complete -- at least for now.  Possibly next week's post will be the great unveiling.  I've been re-doing my work room gradually.  The new shelves are up, the furniture has been moved around.  All that's left is to finish putting stuff away. 
  • Salto gloves -- a pair of fingerless mitts I started on vacation which have been on hold at the very end until recently. Just received the additional yarn needed to finish binding off and do the thumb on the second glove -- this will be a post pretty soon. 
  • Vest for Joe -- This one is done but for the blocking and putting on the buttons.
  • Yellow alpaca shawl -- a knitting project that I've been looking forward to.  I bought some beautiful yellow alpaca at Rhinebeck last year and am itching to get to knit it up.  
  • Clothing for work.  Ok, this probably *won't* be blogged, but I really need to make some more skirts -- and maybe even take the info I learned on making a pattern and work on some tops, too.  Hm, maybe it will be a blog post... wait and see. 
There will also be some posts about pieces I've done in the time since this was an active blog, posts about research, teaching posts.... I have lots of ideas of posts, and several started in "draft" just waiting to be finished and scheduled to post.  If I get way ahead, maybe I'll make it a twice a week thing -- but for now, check back Monday evenings.  




Monday, June 29, 2015

Better by Hand

Sometimes, hand sewing is better. Both my husband and I wear coifs with our SCA garb.  now, I can buy coifs -- there are several sources for nicely made ones -- but that can get pricey, especially for something that is basically a simple item. A number of years ago I picked up a pattern for a three piece coif -- two side panels and a middle gusset.  It's a pretty simple pattern. 

The one drawback of this pattern is that it requires a very long seam attaching a straight piece to a curved piece.  Curved sewing on the sewing machine is ... well, lets just say it is not my strong suit.  For this reason, the whole wardrobe of coifs I envisioned did not come about.  

Fast forward to late last year.  I was packing up to attend an event, and realized that I was without a portable piece of hand work.  As I stood in my work room contemplating this problem, I spied a piece of white linen just about the right size to cut into pieces for a coif (it takes 6 -- four sides and two gussets -- to make the lined coif we both prefer).  I quickly cut out the pieces and made sure that needles and linen thread were in my basket and we headed out. 

During that event, I pinned the pieces together (two sides to each gusset -- and even managed to get them all pointing in the correct direction) and started sewing.  After completing the first seam with a simple running stitch, I decided that I wanted finished seams.  With no iron at the event, I carefully finger pressed the seam I had just completed open.  I was particularly pleased at how well it opened, with almost none of the puckering such a curved seam generally has on the machine.  Since the coif was to be lined, I did not fold under the seam edges, but simply tacked them down with a running stitch.  Since the thread matches the fabric, that stitch barely shows on the right side.

Over the next few weeks whenever I wanted something to do with my hands I picked up this coif, gradually stitching and finishing all four side piece to gusset seams.  I think pinned the two pieces right sides together and sewed them all around -- remembering to leave an opening to turn.  Once I turned the coif right side out I carefully stitched closed that opening, then topstitched all around the edge. 
Top stitching resulting from seam finishing


My husband is pretty happy with this coif.  I never did put tie cords on it, and there are some changes I'll make on the next one, but this certainly proved to me that sometimes hand sewing is the better choice. 



Side view

Back view

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Tiny stitches?

It was a bad week for textile work and thought.  I did a little embroidery (got the double running portion of my travel piece, discussed here, done) and nothing in the way of research or study.

Instead, I will talk about a piece seen in a museum, more or less randomly from my photos. The more-or-less random selection is Fragment at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It is a 14th to 15th century wool applique from Islamic Egypt. The museum's info does not indicate what it is or where it was used.  The threads at the top make me thing that it was maybe inset in a larger piece. What I find really striking is the size of the couching threads.  When we do applique today, we take little bitty stitches so that they don't show.  But even in this piece they don't show much, until you get pretty close.  

From a distance it looks relatively neat.
 Then, when you get a closer look, you start to really see those couching threads.
Finally, up close, the threads are quite obvious (as are the overhead lights in the study room in the glass over the piece). 







When a piece is going to be seen only from a distance (a banner or a hanging maybe), perhaps the important thing is to get it done and have it secure. 

Something to think about... as I make my tiny stitches to keep my work neat.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Not always red.

It is true, of course, that many examples of void work embroidery are red (including the two I've already discussed at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, here and here).  In fact, red is such a predominant color for "Assisi" work that some manuals will specifically say that it is always red.

Not so.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has on display a fantastic piece in blue and yellow. Yup, blue and yellow. Blue outlines and defines the figures and yellow fills the ground.  It's a lovely large piece and I visit it every time I'm up there.   It is this piece (accession number 51.61.2).  Trust me.  The photo on their website is black and white, but the piece is in blue and yellow silk on linen

Every time I visit the piece I find something different to enjoy.  The fat little putti, the lovely leaves, the stems, the fringe on the bottom and one edge.

One visit my husband found me bouncing, just a little bit -- kind of rocking up on my toes and coming back down.  I had just realized that I could identify at least three different "hands" or embroiderers' work in the piece.  It is a large piece (53 1/2 inches long),  and this suggests that it was done in a workshop.

So, if you have a chance to go to the Met, go to Gallery 503 and visit my favorite piece.

Why, yes, I have taken many pictures.  Here are a couple:
Taken at an angle next to the case, showing some of the length
The bottom left corner, showing the lovely fringe
A section of the leaf design, look at those darling animals