Thursday, April 30, 2015

Red Fret Pick-Up Inkle Weave

This beautiful weave of a red fret is made of silk and cotton.  The white is a gorgeous silk generously given to me by Dillon ap Dillon, an amazing tablet weaver in the Barony of Cynnabar.  The red fibers is crochet cotton size 10, purchased from JoAnn's.  I love the contrast of the shiny silk with the slightly larger red yarn!

The red diamonds are in place to keep the floats between the frets from being too long. The pattern is the same one I used for my purple fret weave in this post.  It's amazing how different the weave can look with a different color and type of yarn!  I wove this as a gift for a friend who has a red fret in his heraldry.

Below is the warping pattern.  I warped 6 threads of white for a border (three heddled, three unheddled), followed by 13 red threads separated by 2 white threads each time (red white white, red white white, etc), and then 6 more white threads after the last red thread to complete the opposite border.

Without any dropping of threads, you will see a checkerboard pattern of red threads.

To create the pattern, drop the threads marked in pink, and pass your shuttle above the dropped threads in the shed.  

Enjoy your weaving, and share you adventures with me on Pinterest!  ~Kell

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Monday, April 27, 2015

Yoga Mat Holder from Old Pants + Strap from Old Belts

First, I want to welcome anyone who has found my website through meeting me at Penguicon this weekend!  It was lovely to meet all of you, and I'm happy to answer any questions you have about leatherworking, weaving, sewing, or any of the other things you see around this blog!  Please check out my tab about leatherworking commissions.  I love making custom creations for people, and doing repairs, mundane and bizarre alike.  I am also slowly working on merchandise for an Etsy shop (around searching for a part-time science/engineering/admin job, doing custom leatherwork, and lingering recovery from grieving - another topic I'm glad to talk about, with anyone who needs it, as we keep too much hidden in our culture).  Please contact me with anything you want created or repaired!  I also blog twice a week (usually Mondays and Thursdays at noon EST), so come back often.  :)

Today's post is about yoga equipment.  I started doing yoga about two weeks ago (so I know next to nothing, besides the fact that it is HARD, ach!), based on my doctor's recommendation that I need more core strength to get rid of my lingering back pain from pulling a muscle last summer.  (What is this getting older stuff?  I don't like this part of it...)  I already had a yoga mat, from doing it a wee bit a few years ago, but I wanted a way to easily carry it as I walk to the yoga studio a few blocks from home.  I also wanted a strap to use at home, to occasionally do some of the poses taught to me in classes.

I made both of these for very little (under $5 each).  

I made the yoga mat holder from an old pair of pants that were sitting in my scrap bin after they had ripped too many times to repair them again.  It was so easy!  I cut a straight line up from one pant leg to the waistline, and sewed it shut into a long tube.  The top was already a drawstring waist, so I altered it so the drawstring came out twice on this half of the waistband (since the other half was cut off and is back in the scrap bin), and tied it off.  The top is now a simple drawstring opening.

The mat holder also has a built-in pocket, from being pants.  It's easy to carry my keys with me to class.

I cut off the bottom hem of the pant leg, as it would be too bulky when folded in the next step.  I gathered the remaining material, folding it over a few times, and sewed part of a leather belt to it.  The leather belt was found at a thrift store (Value World, in Ann Arbor, often has a lot of belts available) for under $5.  Before sewing the belt to the material, hold up the belt to your body and figure out how long the various halves of the belt should be for it to fit comfortably as you walk.  Then cut the belt at the points where you want to connect it to the holder.

I sewed the other part of the belt to the back of the drawstring top.

This project took less than an hour to create, and the only real price was for the thrifted belt.  It's comfortable to carry, looks pretty good for such a quick project, and has a built-in pocket for holding keys!

I also made my own yoga strap.

I bought four cloth belts from Value World for $1.10 each.  I probably only needed three - this strap is very long.

I cut the ends off of them, leaving the rings on the widest one and the finished end on another one.  Then I overlapped them ~half an inch and zigzag stitched them together.

These belts are slightly stretchier than the yoga strap I've used at the studio, and the double rings don't hold it closed as well - it will slowly slip through the rings with enough pressure applied in a yoga pose.  To fix this, when I'm in the correct pose, I tie a loop with the extra length below the rings - no more slipping.

Now for the adventure in trying to photograph me using the yoga mat holder!  I'm still not very good at photographing myself...

From this angle you can see the holder on my back...

Smile at myself for the camera! 

Oh, hey, light!  That's a thing.

Now that I'm done laughing at (with?) myself for my inability to take these photos...  I hope you learned just how easy it can be to make simple yoga equipment, says the person who knows next-to-nothing about yoga (yet).  So far the stuff is working!  :)  ~Kell
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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Coat Leather Detail Repair

I got the chance to repair this awesome coat this week!  I love learning how to do new things, and this type of repair job was something I'd never done before.  A lot of the leatherworking I do is figuring out how to create new designs and fix items I've never seen before - it's so much fun.

This great trench coat had a number of faux leather details.  Most of them were holding up just fine, but the original side corset lacing panels were quite shoddy.  As you can see below, the faux leather just wasn't strong enough and the panels were ripping a lot.  They fell apart even more as I was removing them from the coat.

I replaced these panels with ones made from real leather.  I like to re-purpose leather scraps and found leather items as much as possible, because it helps our environment to try to re-use what we already have.  The leather for these new panels came from an old leather jacket that I'd cut up to use for parts.  The contrast between the new and old panels is quite remarkable!

The new panels are set into the seams of the coat and are topstitched down, both for style and for extra strength.

Not only is this coat now repaired, it is also upgraded.  :)  The side corset lacing panels I made are better than the original ones ever were, and this coat will continue to be awesome for a long time to come!

If you have any custom leatherworking or repairs you want done, please contact me!  ~Kell
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Simple Homemade Boot Stand

Catskill Mountain Moccasins suggests that you store their leather boots hanging up, so that the leather can breathe and last longer.  I have no idea the validity of this concept (that letting leather have more contact with air will lengthen its lifespan), but it doesn't seem like a bad idea.  The alternative is to let the boots sit in a clump on the ground, with the upper leather portion slumped over, and that does seem like it would at the very least add creases and unnecessary stress to the leather over time.  Another plus to having a boot stand is that it's now very easy to let them hang to dry when I re-oil them, or when they get damp from the rain.  

To have a place to hang my boots without putting any stress on the leather, I made this very simple boot stand.  It was incredibly easy to make from scrap wood I had lying around.

I took a piece of rattan that was too warped to be made into a decent SCA sword, and chopped it to be a little taller than my boots.  Then I cut a scrap piece of wood large enough to balance the boots, about 5" by 10".  I sunk long wood screws into the bottom of the wood and up into the rattan, with some wood glue for added support.  Very easy, and very useful!

And a pretty close-up picture of my beauties.  I still adore my boots made by Catskill.  If you have leather gear, make sure you take good care of it!  Building simple stands to let them breathe and hang without stress is one way to do so.  ~Kell
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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Repairing Boot Toes

A more complicated shoe repair!  My knee-high Catskill Mountain Moccasins are my babies - they are the fourth most expensive thing I own, after my sewing machine, laptop, and car, and worth every penny.  They are incredibly comfortable, being custom-fit to my feet and legs.  They are my fencing boots, general SCA shoes, and also just all around "I want to look awesome today" shoes, so they get a lot of wear and tear.  I also have a habit of not picking up my feet very high off the ground (yes, Mom, I still remember you telling me to pick my feet up... and I still don't), and have scuffed holes in the toes of my beloved boots.  If you're curious, I have owned these for about 6 years now.

The holes were too close to the edge of the shoes to slap a simple patch on.  I couldn't just stitch the hole closed, because 1) that's not waterproof and 2) I would just scuff my way through the stitches soon, anyway.  To repair these shoes, I completely removed the soles and midsoles, formed another piece to cover the toes to match the style of the rest of the boots, created and attached new midsoles, and then resoled them with modern soles.  I'm going to walk through that process, along with my mistakes, below!

A lovely close-up of the hole in the toe.  That hole goes all the way through, and the other shoe was quickly growing a similar hole.

If you remember from my post about resoling my other pair of Catskill Mountain Moccasins, these poor shoes were horribly butchered at the shoe repair store in Ypsilanti, MI, with the stitching between the midsoles and leather soles being cut.  I took my boots to the shoe repair store at Briarwood Mall in Ann Arbor, and they did manage to make a fix that has held up well over the past three years since the botched re-soling.  Unfortunately, their method was to willy-nilly stitch through the entire thickness of all the soles, which added more holes to my beloved boots.  (Seen a few pictures down.)  Custom-made shoes like this really should be repaired through people who will take their time and do it the long way, but that way is also expensive.  Catskill Mountain Moccasins charges (at least as of last year) $230 for a completely re-done midsole, and that price is a valid price.  I would charge a similar one, as it takes a long time to do this the right way.

I carefully cut through the stitches in the bottom of the sole and gently pulled off the midsoles and modern soles.  Next, I took out my Catskill Mountain Moccasins shoe pattern that they so wonderfully give back to their customers - don't throw it away!!!  By having this shoe pattern already made, custom fit to me, I didn't need to make a new one.  I took the existing shoe pattern for the top of the shoe, and cut out pieces to overlap the toes.  The seam allowance was expanded to be ~3/4" - 1" (I forget exactly), so that they could curve all the way around the existing toe and sole.

The leather I'm using is a thick, durable oil-tanned leather, by the way.

I carefully matched up the markings around the edge of the pattern to the holes in the sole, counting and pounding the right number of stitches into each curve.  The oil-tanned leather was wet-formed around the toe, so that it would stretch appropriately as I stitched it and form the right arch over the finished toe.

Below, you can also see how the botched modern re-soling added a lot of extra holes into the bottom of my shoes.  I even had to stitch closed a region, where the holes had ripped open into a centimeter-long wound.  I will never take my custom shoes to a modern shoe store again, at least not without very careful and explicit instructions about how they are constructed so that the midsole stitching isn't cut open.

I was very careful while stitching to try to only stitch into existing holes.  This was very difficult along the toe region, as it is hard to maneuver inside the toe of the boot, even with my small hands and a hemostat.  I was mostly successful in not making new holes, though I know I made a few new small punctures.

After sewing on the toes, and stitching the lines across the top of the boot, I sewed on new midsoles, again using the existing holes.  This time, I cut midsoles out of the same thick oil-tanned leather I made the toe covers out of, instead of veg-tanned leather.  My feeling is that the midsole just needs to be made out of a strong, durable leather, and both of these fit that definition.

The modern soles were still good, so I removed the old midsoles from them with a mixture of acetone and then sandpaper (to scrape flat and smooth the few bits that didn't want to come off with acetone).  This was done inside my fume hood!  Please don't breathe acetone fumes, if you can help it.

Now, here is where I made a mistake and learned something valuable about barge cement and how glues work.  Barge cement mentions that for more porous materials, you may need to add two coats of barge cement.  My first thought: well, if I pre-wax/oil the leather, it won't be as porous, so two coats won't be necessary.

After soaking an olive oil/beeswax mixture into the midsoles (which I use to oil/waterproof my leather shoes), I added barge cement, waited 20 minutes as usual, and clamped it all together for 24 hours.  (All in the fume hood!  Barge cement is bad to breathe, and is denser than air so it will sink to the ground.  Please be safe.)

Then: the modern soles peeled right back off.  After doing some more reading on the barge cement website, it states that there shouldn't be any oil on the surfaces.  Not only does barge cement not bond properly with oil, soaking into the porous material probably also makes that bond stronger, and I blocked that by adding the wax/oil to the leather.

After a few panicky moments, I figured that if acetone removes barge cement, it probably would also remove the other wax/oil.  Acetone is not great for leather, so I don't recommend this as a regular solution, but I didn't want to re-sew on new midsoles and I hoped that one application of acetone wouldn't hurt the leather too badly.  (Besides, I figured if it did ruin the leather, the midsoles were replaceable.)  I painted a couple coats of acetone onto the leather midsoles - yes, with a paint brush! - and then let it air dry for a half hour.  

Then I added barge cement again (you can see it curing above, glistening), re-clamped it, and anxiously waited another 24 hours.

It worked!  The soles stayed on this time!  So, for those using barge cement: don't make my mistake and oil the leather first.  Just put on the second coat of barge cement. Also, yay learning by doing!

The last thing to do was cut out new fur insoles and shove those into the shoes.  Easy-peasy.

My newly repaired boots!  All ready for lots of fencing/marshalling at Grand Tournament of the Unicorn this weekend, at the first ever Tournament of Defense!  Can't wait for SCA history to be made.  =D

The bottoms are already coated in mud, as I couldn't wait to put them on and try it out.  So glad to have my boots back!  Enjoy the rest of the photos, and have a great weekend! ~Kell/Birke

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