28 March 2011

Washington Midsummer Renaissance Faire - Promo Video Released!

The bouncy, loudmouthed fool in the leather mask atop the parapet (and elsewhere) is my humble alter-ego Calabash.

27 March 2011

A Pause for Storytime

Written & Read by Neil Gaiman

23 March 2011

The Worshipful Company of Glovers Museum Collection is Online!

Speaking of gloves, this wonderful link comes to us via the folks over in the Tudor Discussion Group on Facebook.  So many pretty things to look at.  Most of them are sadly 17th century, but there's a good deal from the Jacobite period and (my wife hastens to remind me) more examples of early European knitted gloves than I've ever seen in one place at one time.

The Worshipful Company of Glovers of London

The Glove Collection and its Catalogue

Tell them I sent you!  (It won't get you anything, but it might confuse them long enough while they try to place my name that you can get a good look around...)  Cheers!

21 March 2011

De Boekbinder

I've dinked around with bookbinding a time or two as you might remember and one day I'll get my studio back and get back to it (after completing the long-promised leather wet forming lesson, of course) but this... this is divine.

19 March 2011

A Glover, Not a Fighter

Still doing remodeling and still don't have access to my workshop because it's being used to store the things that would normally live in the rooms we're revamping.

So... let's talk about gloves.

Gloves like the ones Shakespeare's dad made were probably less fancy than most of the ones we have in the Victoria & Albert museum, most of which came from the wardrobes of nobles and the crustiest part of the upper crust.  The rest - such as we have - live on in fragmentary bog finds, shipwrecks like the Mary Rose, and the marginalia of Joris Hoefnagel's maps.

Paintings of the renaissance show a variety of cuts and decorative techniques, including the same pinking and slashing techniques used on other garments.

Marginal characters from Nonesuch Palace engraving by Joris Hoefnagel

As a longtime leatherworker, I have the skills and tools to make a pair from scratch... but they're a finicky sort of thing with a lot of handsewing and overall a bit of a pain in the butt.  This is confounded a bit by the fact that Washington's faire season falls in the hottest part of our summertime (as do many others), so I rarely need gloves with a costume.  The mornings are wicked cold around here though, so from time to time...

All of which makes it a mixed-bag spending anything like the money and time necessary to make a decent and attractive pair suitable for the time periods in which I work.

Eventually, I'll be getting around to making my own, but for now, I needed a pair of gloves that looked okay from ten paces away and won't detract from whatever costume I happen to be wearing at the time.  It was time for a cheap alternative.

Which is when I remembered a costume party awhile back, where my friend Patrick dummied up a pair of gloves for his bomber pilot costume by dying a pair of standard workgloves a darker shade of brown and turning back the cuffs.  They looked pretty good, all things considered.

And then I said to myself, we're remodeling.  We have a lot of work gloves lying around right now...

We buy them bulk, actually.  Nice deerhide  leather work gloves in threepacks from Costco.  So I grabbed a pair of scissors and a hole punch and started changing them from workgloves circa 2011, to something approximating the right protection for a renaissance hand.

Maybe even a  steampunk glove, who knows?

Feibings "Cherry" leather dye and a hole punch

The biggest change was re-cutting the cuff in a crenelated pattern
similar to what you can see in the Hoefnagel engraving above.
I'm reasonably happy with how they turned out.  The dye job was still wet in that photo (I'm wearing a vinyl glove inside there) so the colors will even out over time and then we'll apply a wax or finish to polish them up. 

For something I may wear a couple of hours a year?  They're perfect.

13 March 2011

Leather Goods from the Mary Rose

I found this great blog that is positively laden with great discussions and essays and experiments in period leatherworking.  Cream of the crop for me was a lengthy gallery of pieces salvaged from Henry VIII's lost ship the Mary Rose.


11 March 2011

Weathering the Leather

I remember the debut of Indiana Jones & the Raiders of the Lost Ark.  I was too young to go see it on that first round of the theaters, but I remember most that almost overnight, new-looking things became passe... especially leather coats.

There was no way I could do this without taking at least some inspiration from the illustrious Doctor Jones.

According to the extras on the Indiana Jones DVD set, the original coat for that movie was bought new and then distressed in one night sitting around the pool at a hotel on the eve of filming.  As I recall, the costumer, Deborah Nadoolman, used a Swiss Army Knife that she borrowed from Harrison Ford and a wire brush to make the jacket look like it had fallen to earth from orbit.

And the rest was cinematic history.

The good Captain may not be an archeologist/adventurer/tomb robber or whatever, but has been throwing himself out of airships with a jet pack strapped to his back for some time now and his jacket has taken a beating.

Talk about action garb.
The paint job isn't finished, but it has been completed to a point where I needed to weather and distress the jacket before continuing further.  So I took a brillo pad, a Swiss Army knife, a bottle of isopropyl alcohol and an assortment of sandpaper and went to work on the thing.

It was nerve-wracking for a little while.  Leather jackets are expensi... oh, yeah, I bought this at the thrift store.  I wonder if beating it with rocks would make it look better...

I started by putting on the jacket and marking in chalk the creases and wearpoints.
All of the seams were given a thorough dressing-down using steel wool and rubbing alcohol.
The damage to the Gears-eye should flash happened when I put the jacket on and somersaulted
down the driveway.  I love it and decided to leave it that way.
I paid special attention to places the jetpack harness would wear, up around the neck and shoulders

Some minor touch ups might be required, but only a little. 
It's a balancing act... Worn is good.  Worn out is bad.

10 March 2011

A Pewterer At Work

I claim no skills at metalworking beyond the most basic, but I know enough to be impressed by this.  

02 March 2011

Painting Phase II: Finishing chequered flag & left sleeve

Painting continues.  Note that weathering will follow, which explains why some of the coverage was allowed to be a bit mottled...