Monday, March 30, 2015

Neck Coolers as Site Tokens + Largesse


Neck Coolers make awesome gifts, largesse, and site tokens for people in the SCA - or really, any other group that spends a lot of time outside in the hot summer sun, especially when mixed with exertion (armored combat, rapier combat, archery, equestrian, Habitat for Humanity/volunteering organizations...).

What is a neck cooler?  It's a long tube of fabric that has "magic crystals" (the watering crystals put in the soil of potted plants, found in the garden section) sewn into pockets along its length.  When soaked in cool water, the crystals absorb water and swell up.  Worn around the neck, the cooler slowly evaporates water over the course of hours, cooling the wearer.

I raided my stash of scrap material to make these last year as largesse, and again recently as site tokens for the Pentamere Academy of Defense (with help from the event steward, Brigida, and another fencer, Aalis).  I heard from a couple people that they were the most useful site tokens they've ever seen!  The site tokens (not pictured) were made from simple white muslin, which then had a sword stencil spray-painted onto one end (to reference the Academy of Defense).

I'm a huge proponent of site tokens that are useful, by the way.  These, along with my small cedar satchel site tokens I made for 12th Night last year, are not only cheap and easy to make, but usable beyond the event.  I love it!

Here's how to make them (adjusted from this website's instructions):

  1. Cut strips of fabric, roughly 44" long by 3.5" wide.
  2. Fold them in half lengthwise, and sew down the long side - don't close the ends!
  3. Turn the tube inside out.  I turn them very quickly using the safety pin method.  I also found a video on turning them with a stick, made by the Barony of Cynnabar's own Genoveva von Luebeck!
  4. Iron the tubes flat.
  5. Sew a zigzag stitch across the center of the tube, sectioning it in half.
  6. Put 1/4 teaspoon of magic crystals into the tube, on either side of the center stitch. To make sure the crystals get down to right next to the middle stitches, put your 1/4 teaspoon into the tube all the way down to the middle, scrunching up the fabric, and then dump the crystals right in the center before pulling your teaspoon back out.
  7. DO NOT USE MORE THAN A 1/4 TEASPOON.  It will seem like nothing - I know! - but they really do swell up like crazy.
  8. Sew zigzag stitches 4" away from the center stitch line, trapping the magic crystals into 4" pockets in the middle.
  9. Put 1/4 teaspoon of magic crystals next to these new stitch lines (1/4 teaspoon on each side).
  10. Sew zigzag stitches 4" away from the outer stitch lines, trapping the magic crystals into two new 4" pockets.  You should have four pockets total, centered, each with 1/4 teaspoon of crystals inside.
  11. Finish the ends however you want!  I simply turned the ends inside a little and secured them with a zigzag stitch.
  12. Add any decoration you want - spray paint the ends with a design, etc.

Additional tip: whenever making a large batch of these, I chain-stitch them as I go - meaning, I still stitch one of them, backstitch, and then put the next one right up next to it in the presser foot and start the backstitch on the next one without cutting threads between them.  Then I just snip the threads between the batch when I'm done.  It's much quicker, because I'm not stopping to snip threads for each individual cooler at each step.  It also saves thread, because there's no ends to cut between them - the thread goes immediately from the end of one stitch into the beginning of the next (with maybe a couple millimeters of thread in the middle).

You can see one that's been soaked and used above - the middle sections are all puffed up. They get very full on just 1/4 teaspoon, believe me!

You can also package them up inside little baggies, with a simple label with instructions on it: Soak for 10 minutes in water and wear around neck to cool down - so easy!

Anyone have any other cool ideas of useful site tokens?  I'm always looking for inspiration! ~Birke
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Custom Guitar Straps

I made two custom guitar straps last week!  Ever have that most beloved piece of equipment that is falling apart, and you just can't find the suitable replacement?  Having it custom made will solve that problem.

Bill's favorite guitar strap was perfect: the curve fit over his shoulder and around his body at just the right angle, unlike straight guitar straps.  

The guitar-pick holder wasn't something he ever used, so I left that off the design.  The rest, though, was re-created to match the original in shape and function.

Every bit was hand cut, crafted, and polished by me in my studio.

Have a beloved leather item in need of repair or replacement?  I can make it!  I can even incorporate parts of the original piece into the new item, so that the magic stays with it.  I love making one-of-a-kind pieces by putting patches and bits together.  Contact me with any questions or suggestions!  ~Kell

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Shoe Heel Repair

Another shoe repair!  This one had some serious damage to one of the heels.

As you can see, the right heel was completely worn through.  Not only that, but it was worn through where it touched the ground.  This required more than a simple patch.

I added patches of strong black leather to the back, reinforced with two rows of stitching. These helped the back of the shoes retain their structure.

The hole in the right heel was stitched closed.  To keep the stitches from quickly being worn through from contact with the ground, I added a hard leather piece to the bottom of the shoe.

The leather was specifically shaped in size and thickness to match the defect in the heel. The edges were shaved down so that the sole of the shoe remains a similar thickness throughout the overlap.

These shoes should last a lot longer now.  :)  As always, contact me for details on commissioning your own repair or custom leatherworking project.  ~Kell

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Monday, March 23, 2015

Blog post tomorrow!

For those looking for the regular Monday blog post, it's been postponed until tomorrow.  See you then!
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Thursday, March 19, 2015

Fits Like a Glove

I've been using these as my rapier gloves for over four years now.  In fact, these gloves are the very first piece of rapier gear I made.  I didn't realize that making your own gloves was odd until I showed up with them and everyone started oohing and aahing - it just seemed like a place to start.

They've served me incredibly well these past four years, and they will continue to.

Before they could, though, I had to repair them last week.  Can you tell where I parry blades the most?

The outer edge of my left palm is covered with cut marks from parrying blades, and those impressions have finally given way to holes.

Thankfully, repairing patchwork gloves is a fairly simple, though time consuming, process. :)  What do you do when one patch wears out?  Replace is with a new one!

These were very carefully built on my hands, flexing them every which way as I made them.

They fit so well that once I start to fence, I try my best not to take them off: it takes a minute to wiggle in and out of them once I start sweating.

They are still incredibly comfortable.  The outside is fairly supple, from being re-oiled many times. The suede on the inside is not as soft as it used to be, after having been soaked with sweat over and over again for years.

Someday, the leather might die entirely, but I hope that's still a long ways off.  I'm going to keep using these until I can no longer oil the salt-induced brittleness out of them, repairing them as I go.  They took a looooooooooong time to make, so it's not a project that I am in any speed to add to my list again.  Plus, I like that I'm still using a piece of my very first fencing gear.

Here's a ton more pictures, because I think these are nifty and fun!  Enjoy!


aka Birke die Jägerin
Order of the Cavendish Knot
Rapier Marshal
Pentamere Rapier XO of the Dragon Army of the Middle Kingdom
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Monday, March 16, 2015

Alternating (Stripes) Pick-Up Inkle Weaving

I have shown many examples of my pick-up weaves on this site, but all of them have been in the baltic (basketweave) style.  There are many different kinds of pick-up weaving, though I've only tried three of them.  This post is on another version of pick-up inkle weaving: alternating pick-up, which I sometimes just refer to as "stripes pick-up."

I learned how to do this from the fabulous tutorial, Beginning Alternating Pick Up for Inkle, by Heather Heroldt at Heather's Pages.  She walks you through every step, from warping the loom to every picked up and dropped stitch, with great charts and pictures.  

The photo above is of the band of stripes pick-up that I made, largely inspired by Heather's tutorial.  I have laid out each section of the weave showing you both sides next to each other, so you can see how different it looks on each side.

This is the only alternating pick-up weave I have made.  They look amazing, but my brain doesn't like picking out the patterns from stripes as much as it does from a checkerboard (as in the baltic method).  To give you more of an idea of what this type of weaving can accomplish, I'm going to link to beautiful weaves others have made!

Here are several from Pandala's Arts:

The stripes method of pick-up weaving can be easily adapted to make block letters for writing, or make complicated pictures of animals and more.  It can be very versatile, in the right hands.  :)  Enjoy playing!

What kinds of weaving are your favorite?  ~Kell

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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Wooden SCA Box

Almost three years ago, DeForest and I had an awesome Saturday spending 3 hours going through our neighborhood garage sales.  One of the items I found was this great wooden box!  It now holds my everyday SCA items, separate from the garb chest behind it.

It was a little beat up and dirty.  I gave it a thorough scrubbing and polished it with some mineral oil.

The random fishing gear it came with!

On the side, it had this great old-time stamp for California asparagus.  I love wooden boxes, and the vintage wording on the side made it especially cool.  The problem was that I couldn't think of anything I really wanted to use this box for at home - I kept coming back to the idea that it should be for SCA things.  The text on the side didn't fit with the SCA time period, though.

I waffled on this for a couple indecisive years, until my friend Heather finally told me to just paint over it with my heraldry.  I'm so glad I followed her suggestion, even if I was a little sad to paint over the vintage font.

I used simple acrylic paint to cover the end of the box with my heraldic device.

Inside, it now holds my various day-to-day SCA needs.  And a cat.  Always a cat.

Gnome decided this morning that whatever Mom was doing, she was doing too.

Inside there are the things I put on my belt for every event: my pocket watch belt pouch and my belt knife (also has my device on it).  My heavy iron viking cloak pin is in there, and various fencing doodads (tape, sand paper for removing burrs from swords...).

In one well, there's my linen hood, my belts, and my cadet scarf.  I wear these at every event I go to, and it's nice to have them separate from the large cedar chest which holds all my garb.  No more digging for the little things, or forgetting them!

The other well holds my feast gear - a couple wooden plates, bowls, mugs, and utensils.

All the small SCA things, together in one place!  Makes them so much easier to find and organize this way.

One last picture of Gnome!  I tried to get her to pose looking at the camera, but her diva heart was having none of it.  :)  ~Kell

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