Wednesday, December 16, 2009

oak bench put together but unfinished

Finally! On my very last shop day of the year I managed to finish building my white oak bench. All that is left to do is finish it. I doesn't look much different from the first picture I posted, does it? I assure you that in person there is a great difference!!

My goal in making furniture is to make stuff that can take abuse, where dings and scratches are "character" instead of damage. The way we live in my house, furniture needs to be that way. That means I don't want to put a dark finish on it that will show bare wood if it gets a deep scratch. I am considering fuming it with ammonia in the way that some original Arts and Crafts furniture was made. The original Arts and Crafts era crafters fumed with ammonia to create the aged look they so admired in ancient furniture. If it makes the wood dark enough I won't have to stain it at all. First I am going to experiment with some of the scrap pieces left over from making this bench. If I like the results I'll use the process on the bench. If fuming doesn't turn out well then I'll use a more conventional stain, just not too dark. Either way I hope to have the results posted here next month.

I'll be starting on another piece of furniture next month, something for my living room. I've been planning all along to build all new furniture for my living room but only now am I getting started. This month I am giving away virtually all the wood furniture in my living room; I think it will motivate me to work on my long-delayed furniture projects.

LESSONS LEARNED from this project: Make every cut, every step of a project as perfectly as possible. It saves so much time/effort/frustration as you progress. I made many mistakes with the first bench I made that I spent a lot of time fixing towards the end of the process; I didn't do as much of that this time and it was so much better that way!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New project with brick stitch

I am trying brick stitch in a different way than my usual - this is wool yarn (2 strands of Paternayan) on 14 count canvas. The color choices are modern, but then so is the project - my boyfriend's Christmas stocking. The stocking will have a variety of stitches, this is the only brick stitch (so far). Since I have a Christmas deadline expect to see the finished product by then. I like this wool embroidery so much I may do a cushion as my next project.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Natural Pigments on sale!!

Right now Natural Pigments is having a sale. Buy one item and get the second item 50% off. Good for stocking up on things used a lot, such as gold leaf. Or get together with a friend and buy items you both want. Enter code b50X2nd. Sale ends on 29 November at midnight Eastern Standard Time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pattern #7 and some comment responses

There were some interesting comments on my last post. Here are the comments and my responses:

From Laura Kathleen:
"This pattern definitely caught my eye, as I charted the same motif while charting Russian patterns from towel ends. I wrote about it on my blog here.

I wish I knew enough about the history of the two styles to connect them, though it may just be a coincidence from working with geometric patterns."

Laura Kathleen - yes, your Russian pattern #7 and my German pattern #7 are identical, except for the stitches used. Coincidences abound...

From Elina (and I really enjoy your blog):
"What a lovely pattern, that no 7. I tried looking for the instructions on the blog, but for some odd reason couldn't find it, altough I found patterns #6 and #8. Could you please point me in the right direction?"

Elina - sorry, I haven't posted #7 yet. I'm about to correct that.

From Krista:
"That is interesting - it's like the one in Wymarc, only smaller. Very cute! Doing these in one color is fun, but be prepared for 1) getting sick of the color and 2) having people not notice the embroidery."

Krista - both true statements. As for the pattern being like Wymarc #4, it is true that they are very similar. If you look at lots and lots of these embroideries you'll see the same or similar patterns over and over again. What I like about that is that I feel like I can vary the colors or I could vary the pattern and it would still be plausible for the period. I feel like it gives me some freedom if I should ever wish to make a period plausible pattern instead of trying for reproductions. It also allows some freedom in color choices.

I was holding back on publishing Pattern #7 but I think I might as well post it. It was the most challenging to create so far; it is more complicated than many of the other patterns and the source photo was a challenge as well. I am using this pattern for the front and back panels of my reliquary box (one is shown almost finished in the photo above).

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Embroidered reliquary box, fourth panel started

This is the motif from Pattern #7, with only the main color filled in. The fill colors are white and yellow. There are a total of four side panels; the sides are Pattern #2 (seen here and here), the front and back are Pattern #7. Actually, I think it looks interesting as it is and I'd love to see it as a white-on-white embroidery. Someday...

Sunday, November 1, 2009

One last picture...

My cartoneria skeletons at night. They looked really good. I'll have to do more for next year...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Almost ready for Halloween

A picture of most of the front:

A detail picture with skeletons in the window in the background:

As shown in these pictures, much of the Halloween decor is in place. I still have the front porch to decorate a bit and lights to put up, but that's it. I think the paper mache is really attractive but doesn't make as much of an impact as I would like considering how much work it was. Oh well, making the crosses last year was also some work. Next year I'll have the fruit of three years of work. It will also look more cool with the lights and fog, with spooky sound for atmosphere. I hope you like it and I'll be back to medieval topics again next week.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oak bench at rough cut stage

In my last session at the woodworking shop I made this progress. All the pieces for the bench are now roughly cut except for the stabilizing brace not started yet. I love the bandsaw!!

Next up will be making the brace, making the mortise and tenon joints to hold the brace, routing the top, and fine-tuning the fit and shaping the edges of the apron and legs. But most of that will have to wait until woodworking class resumes next month.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

cartoneria crown of lillies

In the previous post you can see this crown in the wet newspaper stage. I made it to perch on my head but after I finished it I realized that since it doesn't sit around my head I need a way to hold it in place on my head so it doesn't fall off. It is very firm, not flexible at all, although I could drill into it if needed. Ideas, anyone?

P.S. The pumpkin is approximately head sized so that's how it looks sitting on my head. Cool, as long as I don't move much.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Cartoneria factory

OK, Aelia, here you go - pictures of cartoneria! The complete process is not documented (maybe later) but here is enough to get an idea of the process. It's a pretty cheap project: old newspaper, grocery bags, bailing wire, flour and water cost practically nothing. The only supplies that cost any money were the acrylic paints and gesso.

First, make desired shapes out of crumpled newspaper and masking tape. If items will be strung together or have wire in them for support put them in at this stage. Trying to do it later is very difficult.

Next, make the paste. Here I put 3 tablespoons of flour into 2 cups water and stirred thoroughly, getting out all the lumps. Then I put the pot on high heat and cooked, stirring constantly, until the mixture began to bubble gently. I then poured it into a bowl and waited for it to cool off enough to handle with my fingers. The glue is most pleasant to work with when it is still warm, so it's best to make it right before use.

Wet torn newspaper, glued in four layers, is torn into smaller bits and applied to the newspaper and tape base. Here is a crown of lilies in progress:

and a pile of bones and a dragonfly:

After the newspaper dries, apply a layer of brown paper (grocery bags or cement bags work well). These are two stylized skulls and a rose:

After the brown paper dries a layer of gesso is applied. Then the items are painted. The gesso and acrylic paint I used was cheap stuff because I am making a lot of items. The low quality paint really makes a difference but that much good quality paint would be very expensive! I used an off-white color for the bones because plain white just didn't look right. The items in this picture are skeleton parts mostly and they're not all quite finished with painting.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

New woodworking project

In my last post I showed the lumber I bought for a couple of projects. Here is the first project started. It will be a little bench, similar to the one I made before. It was always my plan, if the first bench turned out well, to make a second one out of better (and more expensive) lumber.

This wood is 5/4 (five quarter, meaning that it is 1 1/4 inches thick) flat sawn white oak about 10 inches wide. I purchased 11 board feet milled S2S 1E (surfaced on two sides, with one edge) for about $50. (length x thickness x width = board feet) This is definitely more expensive than the 3/4 inch poplar I used for the first bench.

The board had a knot in it which I did not want to use but I knew I could get the lengths I needed while working around the knot. As is generally the case, I cut a few inches off the end of the board where it was split a bit. Always take this sort of thing into account when planning how much lumber to buy for a project or you'll buy too little and have to get more. I wanted the entire project to be made from one board. The color of the wood will match exactly, the grain is the same, and it seems like a more period approach.

I chose flat sawn oak instead of quarter sawn because I wanted the finished width of the wood to be 9 inches without piecing, which it just isn't possible to get from modern lumber yards (if someone knows of such a place please tell me!). White oak is less easy to find where I live than red oak, but I like the color better and it is closer to the European oak used in period. It is still not the exact same species but it is as close as I can get.

The photo above shows the apron of the bench roughly cut out with a band saw. I'll further shape and refine with hand tools. I am basing my design on several medieval era examples as shown below ( was the starting off point for my research). I drew a template for the apron on brown craft paper, then taped that to my wood and traced around it on both apron pieces. Then I cut them out.

Next I will repeat the process for the sides of the bench but that will have to wait until next week. I won't be back in woodshop class until then.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

mmmmm.... lumber

At some point, perhaps before Christmas or maybe not until next year, I'll post a picture of some of this beautiful white oak marvelously changed into a piece of furniture. One piece of it will be a medieval seat, most of it will be part of an Arts and Crafts bookcase. It is filling my car with a wonderful sweet smell, I love it!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Crafty Challenge #1 received

This is my first finished Crafty Challenge project. I was just waiting for Eleanor Deyeson to let me know she received her gift before I posted pictures (didn't want to ruin the surprise!). Here it is, a needlebook embroidered with naturally dyed silk and wool pages and lining, plus a little pocket on the inside. The pattern is my Brick Stitch Pattern #13, which I charted months ago but have been waiting to post until I actually used it to make something. It is one of my favorites! I'd love to see this in orange and green as well, maybe another time.

The ground fabric is 32 count linen embroidered with a single strand of silk.

On a side note, I think I will post some pictures of the non-medieval crafting I've been doing lately. That's where my efforts have been lately, and I feel badly about letting so much time go by in between posts.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Crafty Challenge gift on the way

My first Crafty Challenge gift is in the mail. I will post pictures as soon as I hear that the recipient received it.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I am working on my own website

I am working intermittently on making my own website, As someone who has almost no html/website experience (other than this blog), it is a very steep learning curve. I have never used Dreamweaver before so I am starting from scratch. Eventually I plan to have a site with a page with all my patterns and a gallery of both my work and the work of others who do brick stitch. So, if you have photos of anything that fits and you'd like to see it on the future website, let me know and I'll put your photos in my "Gallery" file to be added as I figure out how.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Brick stitch pattern #19

Since it's been a while since I posted a new pattern, here one is. The source is a hanging from Isenhagen, dated to the 14th century (Kroos, item #66). The full size of the hanging is 120 cm high by 315 cm wide. I don't know the original colors, but it appears that white stitches were on a natural linen colored background, and some of the linen was left unstitched. In the pattern on the left, I indicated the unstitched areas with a beige color. In the pattern on the right I used colors that are period appropriate but not known to have ever been used together in this pattern; I just thought it looked pretty and wanted to provide an alternative to the white. This pattern was used in the original embroidery to fill the halo of a winged bull.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Reliquary box, third panel finished

I will have to make a total of six panels for the embroidery covered box I am making, and here is number three. It is for one of the sides, and the two sides are identical. Did I really last post about it nearly a month ago? It almost felt like I just started it.

Now I think I will take a little break and make something fun. Meanwhile, in addition to my medieval-focused arts and crafts, I continue to work on my cartoneria and that is what is sucking up much of my time. That has to be my main focus since I have a deadline.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

New skill - turning wood

Last weekend I took a class on wood turning and made this bowl and mallet in class. I've long admired turned objects and thought that some turned wood items would help with my medieval kit. Of course, the use of modern lathes powered by electricity and modern tools made of high speed steel is not very medieval but I prefer them to their period counterparts. I will hopefully have access to a lathe next month so I can try out some more turning. It was easier than I thought, although the inside of the bowl was difficult, and it was also fun.

The wood I used was black acacia that was gathered by the class instructor a couple of weeks ago when the city cut down a tree across from the shop (how fortuitous!). There is nice variation of color between the heart wood and the sap wood that looks very striking.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Another needle roll by Aelia of Sinister Stitches

Aelia chose pattern #16 to make a needle roll because she liked the first needle roll so much. I really like the colors she chose, very close to the original. She used Splendor silk (spun silk) on 32 (?) count even weave linen. She did the embroidery and wove the cord for the ties, and I stitched everything together for her. I'm so glad I got to see this in person because it is really beautiful and it makes me want one for myself. Too bad she is giving it up for a gift basket. The lucky recipient is sure to be thrilled!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What I'm working on now

Much of my spare crafting time these days is occupied by cartoneria, or Mexican paper sculpture (paper mache). I am taking a class to learn to make sculptures and working in my free time on what will be (I hope) an elaborate Halloween display. The only hope I have of success in this endeavor, given how elaborate I would like it to be, is to start now and work on it constantly.

This means I have less time for needlework. However, I continue to plug away on a long term brick stitch project: an embroidery covered reliquary box. I haven't posted about it before because I don't want to show too much until it is further along, but I wouldn't want anyone to think I am not working on anything. Last month I entered my unfinished box in my very first A&S competition in the category of relics and reliquaries. I couldn't stay for the whole A&S so I missed the awards announcements and since I never heard anything I figured I didn't win, but last night I found out that I won! Hooray!!

I am using my brick stitch pattern #14 for the sides of the box. I have finished one side panel, the front panel, and have started the top and second side panels. This is a picture of the second side panel in progress.

If you are intrigued by cartoneria then check out the website of my instructor, Ruben Guzman, at www. He has some very nice sculptures.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Brick stitch pattern #18

The information I have about the embroidery in this photo is "German embroidery 1300" so other than that I have no information (that I know of) about the original hanging. It looks like it once had some color but it is badly faded. I chose this pattern because I like interlocking patterns and it is yet another variation on basket weave. The original looks as if the area where this pattern was used was all the same color, probably white, but I show it in a variety of colors to provide alternatives.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Brick stitch pattern #17

With this, my 17th pattern, I am now one third of the way towards my goal of 50 patterns. This pattern is taken from a hanging circa 1290 - mid 1300s showing scenes from the legend of St. Margaret of Antioch. Unfortunately I only have the black and white picture so colors are speculative. The light color is probably white. I had a lot of fun playing with the colors for this pattern, and since so many patterns in embroidery of this period were repeated using different color schemes you could change the colors up a bit and still have a plausibly period color scheme.

One of the disadvantages of making all these patterns is that I do not have time to make examples of all of them, although I hope to someday. This one is definitely in my top five of favorites so far so I'm sure I'll get to it eventually.

Below are some of the ways I played with color for this pattern:

Monday, July 27, 2009

One cuff finished

I promised myself that I would not do any more brick stitch until I finished one of the pair of klosterstich cuffs I am making. Here is the first one, I think it is charming and I hope it looks good when it becomes a cuff. Not sure how to attach to sleeves that button up.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Brick stitch pattern #16

This is one of the bigger patterns, and I've always liked it. When I first started embroidering I liked it but didn't think I could ever do it. I haven't yet, but now that I made the pattern I know I could do it.

Photographs of the original can be found here. It is listed as late 13th century Spanish in origin, with woven straps terminating in turk's head knots (as often as turk's head knots show up in these types of purses I really should learn how to make them). The colors look to be light yellow, a deeper gold color, and dark blue or maybe purple? Taschen did a beautiful reproduction of the embroidery which can be seen here, it is really enviable and drool-worthy. He also published a really nice pattern. I made my own using the photograph both for the sake of completeness with my own patterns and as a technical challenge. My pattern is very slightly different, almost unnoticeably so. I'm not completely happy with it but I am tired of looking at it. Check out his pattern to compare.

In the picture I set the pattern on a tiled backround of the same pattern. The original isn't made quite this way, but imperfect photograph and wear obscure the rest of the pattern. I may attempt it another time.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Someone used my pattern to make a needle roll

How wonderful, someone used one of my patterns! It is so nice to have proof that I didn't post all those patterns just to amuse myself. This is Pattern #6 executed in Splendor silk on linen by Aelia Appolonia of Sinister Stitches. Her embroidery turned out really beautiful, didn't it? I love the colors!!

Aelia likes to embroider but feels her finishing skills are lacking so she asked me to make the embroidery into a needle roll with kumihimo cord. I did as she asked but set her up with a second maru dai and made her learn how to make a simple four bobbin cord. She agreed that it really is easy! Hopefully I have sold her on the idea of doing more kumihimo.

If anyone out there makes something from one of my patterns I would love to see a picture and (with permission) post it on my blog.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Klosterstich cuffs progress

Irregular and slow, progress nonetheless...

I like this better as I get more of it done; I think it will look great when it is finished.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Painting progress

The last time I posted about this painting it looked like this. I'm not done yet, but obviously I made a lot of progress. Successively lighter washes of colors and layers of highlights brought me to this point. Then I was dissatisfied and put the painting aside for a few days. Seeing it on the computer screen helped me identify some of the problems. When I work on it again, hopefully within the next week, I'll try to fix the problems as well as continue forward. We are our own harshest critics, aren't we?

The approximate size of the painting is 7 by 9 inches. If you click on the picture for a larger image you can see the gritty texture of the paint.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Klosterstich cuffs

Here is the beginning of my progress on a pair of embroidered cuffs. I've been wanting to make something embroidered in klosterstich for a while now. I used elements from some German klosterstich tapestries to come up with two designs, shown below:

I then transfered my chosen design to linen and inked the designs:

And here is my current progress. It is going fine so far but I think as I practice more I will get better. I am using Medici wool thread with two strands on the needle. I have a small supply of it I would like to be rid of so I am trying to use it up. The Medici is very nice but I think it is too fine for my purposes and I would rather use naturally dyed colors if possible.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A simple chemise

It's not very exciting, but it is finished. This is a basic linen chemise. I actually did not have a chemise appropriate for my medieval period dress and I've been wearing it without one (!). It is entirely hand sewn using linen thread with French seams.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Egg tempera painting on panel, the painting of an icon

WARNING: This is an image intensive post!

I spent the last week at an intensive icon painting workshop and painted this icon of St. John the Forerunner (aka John the Baptist, "Forerunner" is how he is often referred to in Orthodox Christianity). The workshop was presented by the Prosopon School of Iconography, a school founded in modern times but based on the techniques of 15th century Russian icon painters, including the famous Andrei Rublev. Techniques learned in the workshop included gilding over clay bole and various techniques in working with egg tempera paint. I also experimented with texturing gold after my gilding did not turn out as smooth as I wanted (make sure the bole is totally dry before gilding!). I am looking forward to doing more painting!

Here is the step by step process (I forgot to take pictures of the bole application, gilding, and etching):

Base coat of all colors (roskrish)

Dark lines painted in

First highlight

First float (look what this does to the face!)

Second highlight

Second float (still a bit damp when the picture was taken)

Reemphasis of dark lines, border painted, inscription painted (although this should more correctly be within the inner frame, not at the top)

Final highlights, white border on halo, highlights for eyes, all finished painting!

To finish, the painting will be sealed with a linseed oil mix called olifa. But I must wait a few weeks until the egg is thoroughly dry to do this.