Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crocheted Snowflakes

A couple of my good friends really, really love winter - so much so that they named their firstborn Snow (love her and her name!).  So when I saw this book, 100 Snowflakes to Crochet, I knew exactly who I needed to make some for.

Here are four of the crocheted snowflakes, before they are blocked and hardened.

I love how the rainbow crochet cotton turned out!  All of these were made with size 10 crochet cotton.

The book included a diagram to block them on.  I traced it four times, covered it with plastic wrap (to not glue the snowflakes to the paper), and taped it to a cardboard box (so pins could be stuck into it).

I dipped the snowflakes into a mixture of half water, half clear Elmer's glue before blocking. This made them stiff and more durable.

One of them is blue, Snow's favorite color!

They took about a day or two to fully dry.

I'm so happy with the results!  Hope everyone is having a fantastic winter.  I'm looking forward to my friends' annual winter party this weekend.  Last year it had just snowed heavily - with perfect snowman-making snow - and I made a snow dragon! =D  It was awesome.  Have a great weekend, everyone!  ~Kell
Continue Reading...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Custom Unique iPod Case

I am very hard on my electronics.  My first three iPods died, two of them within warranty, but the last one not.  Upon buying my fourth iPod, I decided to do something about this: I designed my own custom iPod case.  I've had this iPod for 5 years, and it's still going strong.

I purchased a simple buckle clip, so that it could attach to whatever I was wearing (my clothes often don't have pockets).

It's the second piece of leatherwork I ever made, after the patchwork leather shoulder bag.

A mixture of velcro and a strong clasp (found at a thrift store) securely hold the iPod in place.

A thick lining of fleece is sandwiched inside the leather for cushioning.  Yes, I've dropped this many times, and the iPod still works.  :)

Originally, I took the black iPod-holding piece off of another cheap case, as I didn't then have the leather skills to make my own.  Now, I can make these custom pieces myself, hand-shaped and dyed.

My iPod lives a long life, and stays fashionably hidden in a one-of-a-kind piece of leather patchwork art.

Contact me  to commission a unique case of your own to protect your valuable electronics in style!

Continue Reading...

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Sheepskin Mittens

Sheepskin is amazing.  These mittens stay warm even when sopping wet from playing in the snow for hours!

As you can tell by the darker color of the fingers, I've gotten a lot of use out of these mittens the last two winters, since I made them.  These were fairly easy to make, and are the warmest pair of mittens I've ever had.

You can make mittens like these, too, with the Convection Mittens free pattern made and shared by Katie of the blog Foxflat.

It's a really simple downloadable PDF for making mittens out of felted wool and fleece.  I simply made it out of sheepskin instead.

If you do make it with sheepskin, there are a couple items you need: an awl for poking holes in the leather, a tapestry needle, and artificial sinew (or some heavy duty thread).  Use saddle stitch for strong, lasting seams.  If you've done any hand-sewing, you're probably familiar with running stitch - the simple up-and-down stitch that creates a dashed line. Saddle stitch is when you make a second running stitch, opposite to the first one, filling in the gaps in the dashed line to create a solid line.  Each hole now has thread going both ways through it, with the seam reinforced on both sides.

I made my mittens long.  I often keep the cuffs turned up, for ease of pulling them on and off.  If I know I'm going to be out in the cold for a long time, though, I unfold the cuffs and stuff the long arms up the arms of my coat, creating a tight seal between my coat and the mittens.  My hands and arms stay nice and toasty warm!

Though quite bulky, I can make a blunt fist - there is some mobility with them.

For cold winters, these really are the best.

Contact me about commissioning a pair!  ~Kell
Continue Reading...

Monday, January 19, 2015

Patchwork Leather Shoulder Bag

If I remember correctly, this patchwork leather shoulder bag is the first piece of leatherwork I ever made, about six or seven years ago.  The wonderful Oh Susanna's Leather was selling bags of leather scraps at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, and on a whim I bought a few of them.  Years later, I have a studio full of leather scraps and I'm still making awesome things.  :)

I love this bag.  As with most of my leather creations, I let the scraps inform the ultimate shape of the piece.  Pockets were made where they fit well in the leather.

There are two outside pockets on the front of the bag.  The one with a snap perfectly fits my wallet, and the zippered pocket holds a deck of playing cards.

On the edge of the bag is a tall thin pocket that fits my cell phone.

Below we start looking inside the bag.  A small snap pocket on the outer rim easily holds things like coins, lip balm, and other small items that otherwise get easily lost.

A leather strap across the width of the bag holds my water bottle upright when it's set in it. This strap is also flexible enough that when there isn't a water bottle, it kind of folds to the side so bigger items can still fit inside the bag.

On the inner side is a larger zippered pouch, keeping things like my key ring, small notebooks, and pens separate from the rest of the bag.

The flap is long enough that it still covers the top of the bag, even when it's bulging with items.

Six or seven years after creating it, I still use this bag regularly.  It's has needed some minor repairs a couple times, as I stitched it with running stitch, instead of the much stronger saddle stitch that I use on all my leatherwork now.  I love my leather messenger bag!

As always, I take leather commissions.  Contact me for more information! ~Kell

Continue Reading...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pewter Casting

Last April, Master Phillipe de Lyon taught a class on pewter casting at the SCA event It Takes My Child to Raze a Village (an awesome event where children are the stars).  It turns out that you can do simple pewter casting with very inexpensive materials.  I thought this was really quite amazing, so I took notes!  There are even some photos and a video that my friend Heilve snapped with her phone throughout the class.

  • Pewter can be melted on the stove top, provided you're careful about not spilling metal on the burners.  To melt it, you need a pot you don't eat out of, and a burner to melt it on.  You can also use a camping burner or crafting burner/hotplate.
  • A metal spoon (with a higher melting point than pewter!) to ladle the molten pewter
  • A few cuttlefish bones, found at pet stores (birds sharpen their beaks on them)
  • Pewter: Look through garage sales and thrift stores for pewter candlesticks, plates, etc.  British pewter often has a small triangle engraved/stamped onto the bottom of the item.  You can also try to cut the edge - I'm told pewter will cut, while aluminum won't.
  • A small flat wooden block (maybe 6" by 4")
  • Small chisels
  • Leather apron and welding gloves
  • A small clamp
  • Wire cutters and files
  • Small metal piece you want to make copies of (or creativity to free-hand a mold)

Making the Mold

The mold will be made out of the soft flesh of the cuttlefish bone.  First, you need to flatten the area on the soft side.  Do this by rubbing the flat wooden board against the bone.  Make sure you do this over a trash can - the dust smells like fish, and isn't something you want drifting around your home!

Once you have a flat surface (needed to make a tight seal with the board later, so metal goes into your mold and not everywhere else), take the piece you want to make copies of.  This could be a small buckle or pendant.  Push that piece firmly into the bone with the wooden board, making sure that your mold is angled so that gravity will pull metal into all parts of it (the bone will be held vertically when the metal is poured).  Alternatively, you can use your chisels to free-hand design a mold.

Don't put the bone flat on the table while you carve or press, though - the bone will crack. These unfortunate ones below cracked when handled poorly.  It's best to buy several cuttlefish bones, in case this happens.  (They are also only good for a few castings, before they start to fall apart.)

After your piece is molded into the bone, you need to carve the spru.  In the second bone above (with the cross pendant), you can see a funnel-like channel carved out from the mold to the top of the bone.  This channel is called the spru, and it is where the metal will flow into the mold during casting.  Make sure this channel is large enough to hold all the metal that your mold needs, as it will be poured very quickly.

When your mold is ready to go, clamp it tightly to the wooden block, put on your leather apron and welding gloves, and melt the pewter!  If I can get it to work, there should be a short video here that will show you the metal pouring process (though the video might still be sideways...).  The takeaways of this process:

  • Hold the mold over a piece of leather.  The metal that misses the mold will fall to the leather and harden quickly there.  The leather might get slightly singed, but that's better than singeing the countertop.
  • The molten metal will develop a film on top of it.  Use the ladle to push aside the film until you get a dipper full of smooth metal.
  • Simply pour the dipper full of metal into the spru at the top of the mold, quickly pouring it all in at once.

Wait a couple minutes before opening the mold, so the metal has time to solidify.  Then lift the cuttlebone off the wood block, leaving the metal on the block.

The last thing you need to do is use wire cutters to cut off the spru, and files to get rid of any remaining metal burrs.

It's really that simple!  Young children (~elementary school age) learned how to do this entire process in the course of an hour, with a little help from parents, and went home with tiny metal pieces that they had made.  I have some pewter pieces sitting around, waiting to be melted into something cool... what should I make?  What would you make first?

Continue Reading...

Monday, January 12, 2015

Winter Glove Repair

One of my favorite pairs of gloves started falling apart last winter.  I believe strongly that we throw away too many things in our culture, and I was determined to fix them.  It worked beautifully!  In this post I will show you how you can fix this problem yourself, or you can always commission me to fix them for you.

The before picture above shows just how bad the gloves were doing - holes in the first two fingerpads were growing, and the thumb hole had grown so large that the outer layer was hanging off the thumb entirely.

The first step in fixing glvoes is to sew down the existing holes, as they tend to gape open. Pick any color of thread or embroidery floss (it will be hidden in the end).  While wearing the glove, sew the gaps as tight as they want to naturally go.  The edges don't need to be touching, just tacked down.

Cut out small pieces of leather in the shape of the desired patches.  Take an awl and poke holes evenly around the edges of the leather patches.

The sewing is most easily done with a curved needle.  You want to wear the glove while sewing the patch on.  This prohibits you from sewing the back of the fingers to the front (sewing them shut by accident) and means they will be the correct size when finished.

I use artificial sinew to sew on my patches, as I do with all of my leatherwork, but you can also use heavy duty thread or thick embroidery floss.  Saddle stitch would be very difficult to do here, so use a backstitch, which is similar in strength.  Each stitch starts one hole back and goes forward two holes.

If it's too hard an angle to get the needle to come out directly through the second hole, let it come out underneath the leather patch to the side (coming out of the glove below the hole you want it to secure).  Pull the thread through, and then pull the needle up through the hole in a second motion.  Then you can backstitch and start the next stitch.  Repeat until finished!  Tie off the ends beneath the patch (between the patch and glove), weave the ends through the glove a bit to hide them, and then snip them.  This completely hides the knots.

The fingers felt a touch tighter at first, but loosened up quickly to be comfortable again.

Enjoy your gloves, which should last much longer now!  They're practically new again.  :)  ~Kell
Continue Reading...


Follow The Author