Wednesday, May 21, 2014

spotty belt

MMMay'14 Week 3 - narrow spotty belt
completed May 20th

Another week of MMMay and I have made another belt. This time I have had a play around with pattern. The salmon-y coloured spots are the natural colour of the leather and I dotted them on using a masking fluid. I then dyed the belt black and rubbed off the dots to reveal the pattern.

I had planned for this belt to be blue with a silver buckle, but it seems my blue leather dye has leaked/evaporated and I didn't have enough, so I went for black. I didn't have any black leather dye either but I did have black edge ink which has a gloopier consistency. Not being the right material for the job, the outcome isn't ideal but at least I know that for next time. 

The buckle and loop were cut off a vinyl belt I found in a charity shop. The rivets are from my stash.

I clustered the dots at the ends and spread them out more evenly along the centre of the belt. I was going for a bit of a random look but I think next time I'll do a more consistently sized dot.

Happily, it goes quite nicely with this pussy bow blouse which I found on a previous trip to the same charity shop in which I found the belt buckle. And all for less than a fiver.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

a tale of two pendants

So this is what I made in week two of Me Made May...

...a silver vegtan leather tangram pendant.
completed My 12th.

For this year's Me Made May pledge, I wanted to focus on making things using my leather stash. I also wanted to experiment a bit and use the materials in interesting ways which is why I spent MMM week 2 having a play around with making a necklace.

This is one of those cases where I set out with an idea in my mind of what I wanted to make and ended up with something completely different. Originally, I had set aside some lovely muted bronzy leather with the idea of making a sort of roman headdress-esque laurel wreath necklace but the more I played with it, the less I liked it. 

While I was wondering what to do next, I remembered I still had some of the silver vegtan leather I used for my tessellated leather fabric for my installation in Window 135. Vegetable tanned (vegtan) leather goes through a different tanning process to the kind of leather that is used in clothing, shoe uppers, etc. It is more rigid and is therefore used for leather soles as well as belts and saddlery among other things. I knew that if I used vegtan, the pendant would hold its shape well (as my previous experiments with the laurel-style necklace had been a bit floppy) although using a rigid silver leather took me away from the organic flowy look I had been going for and into a more hard edged geometric style. 

Enter the tangram. We played with this puzzle at school when I was a kid. I liked the idea that from one set of shapes, a vast number of designs and silhouettes could be made. I think it's a good analogy for crafting - you start off with a fairly basic material be it leather, fabric, clay etc, and yet the possibilities for what that material can become are seemingly endless.

I drew up a template and used it to cut my design in leather. I had thought about staining the edges of the pendant black to make the silver pop even more, but I preferred to keep them natural to show off that it was in fact made of leather. I finished the edges using gum tragacanth to make them smooth, added a jump ring and a fine chain which was in my stash (and luckily happened to be just the right length), put it on and admired my handiwork, and wore it out to Mr B's birthday lunch.

It was only when I sat down to blog about it last week that I realised my mistake... that big triangle should be two smaller ones! Haha! I even looked up the tangram design while I was drawing my template and *still* managed to get it wrong!

So here's version two!...

(amended) silver vegtan leather tangram pendant 
completed May 16th

raw edges finished off with gum tragacanth

Problem: crumpled top. 
Solution: get the iron out distract everyone with a big shiny pendant!

Of course I could have continued to wear the original pendant, I had enjoyed wearing it on its inaugural outing, but once I realised my mistake, all I could look at was the space in the middle of the triangle that should have had a line through it! And who wants to be be wandering along merrily only to have passersby whispering behind their hands "tsk, her tangram is wrong!"  Not I.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

mystery braid belt

First make of MMMay'14 - mystery braid belt.
Completed May 6th.

I have made a plaited belt before (in fact I have made a couple for others too which I haven't blogged about) and while I like my first one, it is small - made to wear on my natural waistline, and I wanted one to wear more on my hips. I also wanted a belt in this natural, neutral tone. Basically I wanted this belt and this belt to have a baby!

I had wanted this belt to be a bit narrower, around 3/4", but I only had 1/2" or 1" buckles in this nice antiqued brass colour and I didn't think a silver coloured buckle would look right.  For my MMMay pledge I wanted to work from my stash so rather than sourcing a new buckle, I went with the 1". 
Using my strap cutter (that cross-shaped wooden tool handily marked as 'The Strap Cutter') I cut a 1" strip from my roll of vegtan leather. There's the resulting belt blank in the top right. I have my buckle (from a selection at J.T.Batchelors), rivets, a smaller thinner strip of vegtan which will be the loop bit, as well as the necessary tools - clicking knife, slot punch, awl, dividers and hole punch.

Here I have punched a slot for the buckle, holes for the rivets and for size adjustments. I have skived the end to reduce bulk when folding it around the buckle. I have also divided the width into three (marking the lines with the dividers) and cut the plaiting strips with my knife.
To be honest, deciding on the length and the hole positioning was a bit of a guess as I wasn't quite sure how much length was going to be lost due to the plaiting process. I did make a mockup belt first, tried it on and then added an inch to the length of the plaited section.

I also finished all the raw edges prior to plaiting, first with gum tragacanth (more about it here) using the wheel to round off the edges of the ends of the belt, and just rubbing with my fingers to smooth off the edges of the strap section to be plaited. Once it was dry I wiped on a thin coating of Resolene to protect the leather, making sure the edges of the plaiting section were coated too. This natural vegtan is very prone to showing up water stains and other marks, and the Resolene gives it a protective coating. I then buffed it with a cloth to a nice soft sheen.

And finally, the plaiting! As mentioned with my first belt, the technique is tricksy because only the middle section of the belt is plaited, the ends are solid. I waffled on in that post saying how you have to start plaiting from one end and un-plait from the other, and that surely there must be a logical way of doing it. Well there is! Watch this handy video and in under two minutes you can learn how it's done!

The finished product. A little bit wider than I would have liked but it is crisp, has a nice flow and the leather makes a pleasing creaky noise when I put it on! It has already been out in the world for a slightly damp dinosaur viewing and picnic in Crystal Palace Park, and I know I'm going to get a lot more wear out of it this summer!

Hooray for mystery braids!