Board, not Bored.

I’ve been preparing some boards for mounting Samplers recently. The first one I did (seen in the pictures) came out pretty good. The second one (no pictures) came out even better! I didn’t get step-by-step pictures of the process, so I’ll try to describe it without getting too boring.

The process is time-consuming, tedious, and (pardon the expression) more than a little anal-retentive. First you measure the piece you will be mounting – in this case a Sampler that is roughly the size of legal-size paper. Then you cut a piece of 8-ply archival board that is 1/4″ in. wider and taller than the piece. Note: 8-ply archival board takes a LONG time to cut by hand with an exacto knife.

Board1Then you have to choose the fabric you’ll be using to cover the board. I don’t know all the details, but I know that fiber content is an important thing to factor in. You also want to find the color that will look best behind the piece. You want something that will match but won’t make the designs “disappear”. After trying out several different shades of beige and tan, we picked out a nice light beige cotton.

Preparing the fabric is important so that you minimize damage to the piece, and also so you don’t make yourself crazy trying to pin away the wrinkles. “Preparing” in this case means washing and pressing. There are many ways to do both, but I was limited by my supplies so I washed the cotton in the machine with Cheer (the only detergent I had) and dried it in the dryer (without dryer sheets or fabric softener). One risk of using a detergent with “brightening” effect is that it often puts a coating on the fibers that gives it the appearance of brightness. This can change how the color looks (not good for precise color-matching) and, in general, the fewer the chemicals touching the piece, the better.

As for pressing, the best option would be to press the fabric between two pieces of glass. Unfortunately, I don’t have any large pieces of glass that aren’t windows at my place, so I had no choice but to iron it. I made sure not to stretch the cotton as I ironed – I wanted the warps and wefts as close to perfectly straight as possible.

After the cotton was ready to go I wrapped it around the 8-ply board and started pinning. The idea is to tighten, pin, then tighten and pin some more. This took about an hour to pin (and then it still could have been tighter.) First I did what you could call the “center back” Board2seam. I then had to stitch it closed, which is hard to do when there are a zillion pins in the way. I made tiny “invisible” stitches with a tiny curved needle. It took a little while for me to get used to the curved needle, but I think I’m getting the hang of it now. I did the same for the “side” seams and stitched them as snugly as I could.

Like I said before, the first one came out OK, but on the second one I was determined to make it even tighter and make my stitches even smaller!

Perhaps I should take the fact that I care about this sort of thing as a good omen. I could be heading in the right direction…

Conservation and Costuming

I finally posted more pictures on my Flickr page (see right).

Since my last post I’ve done a bunch of conservation stuff and it’s very exciting! Lately, though, I’ve been helping Cara organize the studio and make it more habitable. It’s a good time of the year for all that cleaning and organizing, but I’ll be glad when it’s done!

Before the cleaning I got to make some supports for socks and belts, make some padded hangers, and put together a box of hats. (I’ve got pictures of all these things on my Flickr page.)

The padded hangers were pretty simple. I took a big wooden hanger, wrapped strips of felt around it and stitched it down all nice and tidy. Then I wrapped cotton around the whole thing in a clever way that resulted in only one seam along the bottom edge (not shown in the pictures). It’s kinda tricky to wrap stuff evenly around a slightly curved triangular object! The pants-hangers were much easier since they’re just rectangles.

The supports for the socks and belts consisted mainly of cutting rectangles out of special thick archival board. I cut little slits into the board so I could lace some twill tape through it that could be used to tie down the objects, which were first wrapped in tissue paper and Tyvek.

The hat box was fun, though I injured my shoulder while cutting the archival board for the dividers. I think this can safely be attributed to the rather dull exacto blade I was using.

Anyway, I cut out boards to make walls and had to make them interlock with each other so they would stay in place. I was pretty proud of my precise cutting and the fact that I cut things out correct usually on the first try. Go me!

Then I had to build little “nests” out of acid-free tissue paper for the hats to sit in and get proper support. I wrapped up the tassels on the graduation caps in tissue paper and finished off the box with a layer of tissue paper on top that tucks in on the sides all neat and tidy.

Cara tells me that the ultimate goal in conservation is to make things neat, tidy and “precious”. Symmetry, precision and little ribbon bows are the key tools to be used in this aim. Clearly, this is not a field for those lacking proper anal-retentiveness.

Tyvek, Continued.

I finally took some artsy string photos for this blog. See the new header? I have a couple others that I’ve cropped to fit there, and I’m not sure if this is the one I’m going to stick with. We’ll see how it goes.

I’ve made a lot of progress on the garment bags in the last two days. I was really worried about it at the end of last week because I hadn’t really started on them yet. I was still working out the kinks on the first two bags, but by the third I had a system. I can make one in about 45 minutes now (down from 1 hour). I’ve got 8 out of 13 done so far. I’ve been making four each night, and I’ve only got 5 yet to go, so I might push to get them all done tonight, or I’ll do 3 tonight and 2 on Friday. The first night working on these bags I listened to Irish music. Last night it was techno, and I had a Disco night the other day while doing some chores. I wonder what I’ll pick for tonight’s theme?

Here you can see a garment bag I’m in the middle of sewing. This is when the bag gets horribly wrinkled. I’m not really sure what I can do about this. I might try laying all Sewing Garment Bagthe bags flat and pressing them under a large board with books piled on top. It might not help, but it will make me feel like I’m doing something about it.

I brought my camping table in from the car so I’d have a bigger table to lay the bags out on. At first I was laying them out on the floor, but it’s really hard on the knees and the back. I was going for my gardening knee-pads (thanks Dad!) when I realized I had another table I could use (duh!)

Here are the garment bags laid out all pretty on the table (below). Notice the bedsheet I’m using to keep the bags nice and clean (it’s floral, and from Grandma B!) In case you’re wondering where on earth I managed to set up another piece of furniture in my Finished Bagsapartment, it’s up against the bed next to the door (where I set up my drying rack on laundry day!) To the left of the table is the new floor loom (pushed up against the Gold Chair), and just to the right (out of frame) is the table I eat on (when it’s available). I seem to be having a problem with furniture redundancy in my apartment! Fortunately, the table is pretty  easy to fold up and put away. Of course, I don’t have anywhere to put it away, so it’s currently leaning against the kitchen doorway.

Science Was Never My Strong Suit.

Yesterday I looked up Tyvek on the internet. It’s pretty interesting stuff! It’s made from science and air can go through it, but water cannot. You’ve probably seen it wrapped around new buildings that are still under construction. It’s also used for express mail envelopes and HazMat suits.

Tyvek looks and feels kind of like weird paper. I say “weird” because it kinda feels plasticky, but not really. You can’t tare it, but scissors cut through it like air. It wrinkles really bad too.

Why was I looking up a such an unnatural fiber? (A rare occurrence for a medieval textile enthusiast, I assure you!) Because I have been hired to make a dozen custom-sized garment bags that will be used for the long-term storage of some costumes from a popular TV show of the 1960’s. You use Tyvek for this because air can circulate around the costumes, but dust can’t get in. (Dust is the enemy!)

Also, if I do a really good job on the bags, not only will I get paid a little better, but this will increase the chance of me getting more work from this person (so it’s kind of like a take-home test). I’m kinda stressing about it a little, but I’ve done one so far, and it went OK. I’m pretty sure I have enough time to get them all done by the 19th, too. But that’s how I’m going to spend my Friday night – working! (And doing my laundry, and the dishes…)

Spinning Sheep

Here I am, in possibly my cutest Halloween costume yet!Kim the Sheep

It was really hot and kind of itchy, but everyone really liked it! And that’s not my sheep – it just happened to be in the room.

I made the costume entirely out of things I already had in my apartment (except for the face paint and the Velcroe). The fake sheep fleece was left over from when I made my Thermorest slip cover. It was already sewn up one side like a bag so I just kept hacking and stitching until it fit me. I had to add a triangular piece down the front because it was still too narrow to fit over my hips. The wrist and ankle pieces are just scraps though the head piece took a little work. I must be one of the few remaining SCA costumers that hadn’t made one of those white bonnets that tie under your chin. But that’s what I Spinningdid, more or less, to get the fit I wanted for the sheep hat. It took a bunch of tries to get a good fit, and in the end it was still a bit wonky, but what do you expect from a hat made of polyester sheep skin?

Also, I couldn’t resist pulling out my drop spindle and practicing my spinning.

Everyone thought it was hilarious! Lots of fun was had by all! But next year I need to plan a cute costume that is more appropriate for the local weather.

Sheep Zen

I’m still working on the look of the site. I’ve got a few things I’d like to see, and I’m going to try and come up with a really nifty textile picture for the top at least. I’d also like to have a place on the sidebar for textile links and such. We’ll see how much hacking I feel like doing!

Wednesday I went over to Cat’s house to learn to spin (drop spindle) and it went so much better than I thought it would! I don’t mean that I thought hanging out with Cat (aka “Eilidh”) would not be awesome. I thought learning to sping was going to be a long grueling process that I would hate. I’m not really sure why I thought that. I guess because the last couple of times I’ve tried spinning it was grueling and took a long time.

Turns out spinning IS really fun! Especially if you have a really good teacher who shows you the secrets. The “secret” is to prepare your fiber! And having good stuff to work with makes it even easier. ^_^

I mostly worked with some blue roving that Miriam sent me (thanks Mirm!). I suspect that this roving spent some time in a dyebath (aka “crockpot”), which would account for the pretty blue color, but would also explain the slight felting. It didn’t seem to matter though. Cat and I pulled it apart and fluffed it up and it seemed to work just fine. I mostly spun worsted yarn with the blue roving, but Cat let me use a little of her alpaca fiber too and that was SO easy to spin! It was almost spinning itself. Cat also showed me how woolen yarn is spun and how it differs from worsted. So educational! ^_^

If it sounds like I’m really smart, it’s because I double checked my vocabulary on Wikipedia. I remembered the differences and how they’re made, but I couldn’t remember which one was worsted and which was woolen. ^_^;; But now I know!

I also got to try combing for the first time. It was surprisingly Zen. I say “surprisingly” because it was like “WHACK! Zennnn….” No, I didn’t injure myself. I stopped mid-sentance and went “Woa.” And then there was harp music and butterflies and sunshine.

Perhaps I exaggerate a little, but it was still really groovy.

The combs you use for this are basically wooden handles with GIANT nails sticking out of them at a 90 degree angle. You put some wool on one of them and comb it off with the other. And then you back the other way, and keep doing this until the fibers are going the same direction. I swear, it’s very zen.

In other textile news: I’ve been invited to a Halloween party on Sunday, so I might have to whip up some sort of costume… I’ve got an idea of what I’d like to do, and it’s totally adorable. And a little silly. I’ll post pictures! ^_^

New Loom Pros & Cons (But Mostly Pros)

I just got an 8-harness Schacht Mighty Wolf floor loom for $500! It was bought in 1987, but hardly ever used. It has the stroller attachment too, so I can roll it around my apartment all by myself! It also came with a shuttle and some bobbins, heddles (the good kind), a raddle, a 36″ reed, lease sticks, and a warping board. He didn’t have the bench, but all of these things plus the loom would cost over $2700 brand new today. I would feel a little bad about talking him down from $600, but he was really happy that someone who was going to use it was buying it (and weavers ain’t exactly rich, you know?)

So why did I get ANOTHER floor loom?

First, this loom is superior to my old loom in many ways. It has 8 shafts (my old one had only 4, which means this new one can do many more weave structures), it’s not nearly as heavy, and it folds up to a depth of only 18″. (This is very important if I want my friends to help me move ever again.) True, it has a slightly narrower weaving width, but I rarely use the full width of my old 45″ Leclerc anyway.

Second, I’m going to sell my old loom as soon as I’m done with it, and this was a great deal that I just had to grab.