Wednesday, March 29, 2006

More on the satchel

The satchel was finally completely dry when I checked on it today so I applied the first coat of Neat's foot oil that I am using as a finish to it. I was happy to see that it did even out to color of the satchel like I had hoped it would. I also discovered something interesting, it doesn't smell strongly of vinegar like the other pieces I've used the iron oxide dye on. (I make the iron oxide by leaving steel wool to dissolve in vinegar and it definitely imparts a strong smell to the pieces I've used it on.). I'm guessing that soaking the pieces to make them easier to sew twice rinsed out the vinegar. On the second soaking it also appears to have leached some of the tannin and iron out of the leather because the water was black after a few hours of soaking.

I'll check on it tomorrow to see if it needs another coat of the oil and then all I have to do is cut out the strap, get it dyed, finish it with the Neat's foot oil and then lace it on. That's something I can easily do this weekend.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Satchel construction II

Yes, I actually got it put together, above you can see back and front views of it sewn together.

This was the most difficult part of the project for me because I decided to try something new and sew the gussets in the way John Waterer had indicated it was don on the original satchels, with the raw edges turned in. This is a common method of construction when working with garment leathers where you can turn the item inside out, sew it and then turn the right side back out. I couldn't do that with my satchel because it is made out of heavier tooling leather so I had to force the seams to turn in. I did this by sewing the back edge and gusset together, then sewing the gusset loosely to the bottom of the satchel and tightening the seam as I shifted the gusset so that the seam folded in. I then sewed the gusset to the front of the bag in a similar way, sewing loose seams for a few inches, stopping to tighten the stitches and repeat until I had the seam done. I repeated the same process on the other side. The thread shows because it was so dang hard to tighten and you can see the awl holes, but I got it done and I did it the way the original ones were done. Next I'll be putting Neat's foot oil on the satchel, cutting out, dyeing and finishing the strap and lacing it on.

Overall I'm happy with how it's turned out so far. I'm absolutely thrilled with how the tooling turned out, that went much better than I had expected. The sewing turned out OK. Not my best, but pretty good considering I was doing a rather difficult new technique. The only thing I'm wishing I had done differently was to make the front flap longer. Not bad for such an involved project.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Satchel construction trial run

I made a go of trying to get the satchel sewn together today. It took quite a while to get it soaked down and I ended up sewing the bottom of the gussets and the front on one side together and then took the seams back out again a couple of times. I also realized that there was no way to get the seams to turn in nicely with the thickness of the leather. I took a break and went back to read the Waterer article and discovered, buried in the caption discussing the seams, that the edges were skived to a bevel. So I dug out a skiver and trimmed the edges down and touched up the dye. I'll give it another try tomorrow night. The good news is that I've punched the sewing holes already, so it's just a matter of getting the pieces soaked down and sewn together.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Bracelet update

I wore the bracelet I made for the competition today and realized a big problem. One of the charms was sliding over some of the beads and then getting stuck which left the wire the beads are strung on exposed. I ended up restringing it tonight and using two 3 millimeter beads on each side to keep it in place and it solved the problem. I got a lot of compliments on it, so I'm hoping I can work out some all silver ones for the store. The next project is to try to come up with a name for it so it's easier to write about.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

And now for something completely different

I haven't worked on the bag the last few days. Part of it was frustration with the uneven dyeing and the rest was that I did something dumb and shoveled the walks yesterday. My hands weren't doing too bad tonight so I sat down and worked on the bracelet I'm going to enter in the beading competition at Fire Mountain Gems. It didn't work out quite the way I expected, but I like it. I'll have to see if E can help me get some good pictures of it and my Thor's hammer bracelet when he gets back in town so I can post them here.

The only problem is that I had planned to try to make one or two of the all silver bracelets for the business and I severely underestimated the number of small beads I would need for this bracelet so I have to buy more now. Thankfully I already have the clasps and charms so it shouldn't be too expensive.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fun with rusty vinegar

OK, I've gotten the main bag piece and the gussets dyed. None of it has worked quite the way I wanted it to. I forgot to wipe the bag down with denatured alcohol before I started dying and then the dye did not work the way it usually does. Iron oxide dye is just steel wool dissolved into vinegar, it reacts with the tannin in the tooling leather to create a grey-black color. The color change is usually immediate, but on this leather it took longer mainly because it just wouldn't soak in. Thinking about it, I had the same problem with getting the water to soak in when I did the tooling. That means it is going to be a pain to get it wet enough to wet form and sew together. I'm probably going to have to put in a bucket and leave it to soak. I guess next time I need to get the more expensive leather to work with since it would be better quality.

I'll try to get some pictures once everything is dry and post them.


I just checked on the pieces and there are areas that have dyed unevenly and look like water stains on the main bag piece. I'm starting to get very discouraged at this point because it seems like after a great start with how the tooling turned out, nothing else has worked out as well. My only hope now is that the neatsfoot oil that I'll be using for a finish will even everything back out.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Er, hello. . .

Yes, I finally decided to start this second blog to talk about my projects. Of course that means I lose the majority of the material I talk about in my normal blog right now, but I think I'll cope.

My current big project is making a reproduction of a medieval Irish book satchel. I finished up the tooling on it today and took some pictures of the tooled portions before I dye it.

This is the tooling on the back of the satchel. It is based off of the design carved on one of the stones in Dunfallandy, Tayside. The design has been deeply engraved into the leather using a wooden stylus. This is comparable to two of the existent examples of these satchels. Below is a picture of the front panel which is based off the design on a cross at the Kirk of Norham, Northumberland. The design on the front flap is the same as on the front panel.

The next step will be to get the side gussets and strap cut out and all of it dyed. I will be using an iron oxide dye which will turn the tooling leather a grey-black color that should darken up to black when I add the finish.