Sunday, January 29, 2012

My most useful accessory

It's not much to look at, but this odd shaped little piece of leather is one of the most useful things I own. is the guard I wear on my finger whilst Clicking.

'Clicking' is shoemaker-speak for cutting-out-leather-pieces-using-a-really-sharp-knife.
On the left there is my clicking knife. I've had it since 1999 and it started off with a longer, hooked blade, but years of sharpening has left it short and straight, but still effective.

This is how I hold my clicking knife. 
I extend my index finger so that the tip of my finger is next to the tip of my knife. This way the knife feels more like an extension of my body, and I am always aware of exactly where the pointy end is!

There can be a lot of pressure on the index finger as the hand pushes down on the knife and draws it through the leather. I wear the leather guard to stop the blade digging into my finger. Without it, there's the chance that the blade can damage the nerves and tendons of the finger.

Such a handy little piece of kit!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Something out of nothing...

It's not quite spinning gold out of hay, or even making a silk purse out of a sow's ear, but it is something out of nothing.

This necklace is the culmination of a number of different ideas and influences:

It is a result of browsing the advanced style blog and being inspired by those amazing women and realising that although I wear necklaces everyday and favour large and interesting pieces, I could always go BIGGER!

It was inspired by this irregularly faceted agate (?) bead necklace I bought at an antique market along the canal near my friend's place in Milan...
...which I need to re-string.

It was inspired by this folded and faceted photograph...
...spotted in Window 135 in New Cross

It was inspired by a dream I had about faceted wood...

But mainly it is the result of wanting a new necklace (but not wanting to spend any money).

So, during a slow day at work recently, I decided to have a go.

My first experiment was with a small off-cut of wood. Using the big sander at work, I ground off corners and edges until I had a randomly faceted block. I sanded it lightly then drilled a hole through it and rubbed it with a bit of oil to finish it off. 

After making a couple more wooden beads, I felt like I was using materials that were actually quite useful at work for making heels etc, so I looked around for something else. Then I spied some really properly useless offcuts that were destined for the bin - it was bits of glued together leatherboard discarded from making stacked heels for a show that requires horseshoe-shaped heels. (Leatherboard is to leather what chipboard is to wood - it is leather fibres that are glued and compressed together.)
stacked leatherboard heel
the horseshoe cutout offcuts.

as before, I ground each offcut into a randomly faceted block and drilled holes through them. On the longer beads I had to drill in from each end hoping that they met up in the middle. I actually lost a couple of beads to wonky drilling (and killed the drill bit too).

first attempts.

The leatherboard ended up with a nice finish - varying from pale to dark brown depending on the direction of the cut, as well as how hot it got against the grinding wheel. I took them home and gave them two coats of PVA glue to give them a bit of a reflective shine. 


I wanted to add a little lightness, so I added some little faceted glass chandelier beads and a larger chandelier drop I had lying around (well, you never know when you might need them). I strung it up a few times till I was happy with the composition.... 

et voila!
...a chunky, slightly Wilma Flinstone-esque, faceted bead necklace made from offcuts that were destined for landfill, and bits and pieces I already had lying around. 

Thursday, January 19, 2012

War Horse

     photo source

Field Boots for War Horse

We at Theatrical Shoemakers made quite a few pairs of boots for War Horse - directed by Steven Spielberg with costume design by Joanna Johnston. Most of them were field boots for Tom Hiddleston, Benedict Cumberbatch (pictured above wearing his), Patrick Kennedy, Rainer Bock and a couple of riding doubles. We made some front-laced boots for Niels Arestrup who plays the Grandfather and some slip-on shoes for Celine Buckins who plays Emile. Although I didn't take any photos of them, sorry.

We were also given pairs of old work boots that needed to look like they had been worn out, repaired and re-soled many times, so we ripped off the old soles and replaced them with multi-layered, slightly wonky leather soles, and bashed in some hob nails too. Again, no photos of these either.

To make up for my lack of War Horse photos, I though I would share with you some process shots of some similar WWI boots I made for my husband a few years ago (back when he was my boyfriend). These were a birthday present and were the first pair of shoes I made for him. He's a bit of a time traveller and this was the style of boot he asked for.

I had never made boots like this before, but this is a style from the Theatrical Shoemakers period catalogue, so Keith (the Patterncutter) whipped up the pattern for me...
Upper pieces cut and ready for closing. The pale pieces on the left are lining pieces.

Halfway through closing (thank you to Lenny for closing these for me)

Uppers and straps stitched and ready to go. Leather insoles moulded to the lasts and trimmed. Leather heel stiffeners (the crescent shaped things on the right) cut and skived.

Blurry shot of the lasted upper.
Lasting is the process of pulling the upper around the last (the foot shaped mould) and attaching it to the insole. The tacks around the forepart of the shoe are removed and the leather is glued to the insole. The tacks around the heel of the shoe stay in place.

A strip of stitched leather called Randing attached to the feather edge of the shoe, Felt filler added, all glued and ready for attaching the sole.

Mr B's World War One Officer's Boots.

Leather insole, leather heel stiffeners, leather soles, stacked leather heels, layer of rubber on sole and heel. Excess strap yet to be trimmed back.

I think this is a clever design - the inside leg tucks into the outside leg and the straps go in through a slot in the outside leg, exit through a slot on the inside leg and double back on themselves to buckle up on the outside.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

World's smallest potato!

Back home after Christmas and before heading away to hang out with friends in Liverpool for New Years, we realised we didn't really have much in the way of food in the house. So I headed out onto the balcony to finally dig up my long-neglected potato bag to see what, if anything, I might harvest.

At first it looked promising, but after washing them I found that most of the spuds were duds (unsurprisingly, as I had not looked after them very well) but there were enough good ones for dinner, including these little babies...
I might start farming pea-sized potatoes. I think it could really catch on!

And speaking of potatoes...
Look at this little guy go! 
It's nice to have something lush and green growing inside while things are cold and grey outside.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Hand Made Christmas

==== Hello and Happy 2012 to you! ====

Before we launch ourselves entirely into this brand new year, here's a little look at some of the things I made for gifts this Christmas...

For my mum:
This dish that I decorated whilst on this lovely lady's hen do.
We went to a pottery painting studio where I discovered that you can use lace as a stencil. The woman had a whole basket full of beautiful lace to choose from including this one with the trees and birds motif.

To celebrate mum's brand new kitchen I made her a set of six napkins using some lovely Japanese indigo fabrics I found at The Cloth House on Berwick Street in Soho.

with some lovely contrast stitching because... why not?!

I followed this tutorial for making mitered corners.

For my Brother-in-law:
I picked up my knitting needles for the first time in ages and whipped up this short scarf - to be worn like a (knitted) cravat.

More neckwear, this time for my Brother-out-law:
Made following this tutorial.

And for Husband:

Some gentlemanly slippers.
These were inspired by a beautiful pair of slippers we made at work for a film (which I will tell you about once the film is out!) 
The upper is a burgundy and gold-ish velvety stripe upholstery-weight fabric with navy blue grosgrain ribbon binding. Lining is burgundy suede and i made a quilted felted-wool sock to make it extra cosy. (The sock is the bit of lining that covers the insole and is what your foot is standing on. It usually has the brand name/size etc printed on it.)
I made a prefinished sole in leather with a leather and leatherboard heel to give a stripey effect to match the upper.
*Thankyou to Keith and Lenny - the Patterncutter and the Closer (the Closer is the proper job title of the-guy-who-stitches-the-shoes-together) at work for their roles in the creation of these rather dapper slippers.

Here's to a thoroughly excellent and exciting new year! Cheers!