bookmark_borderBanner for Kieran

More catching up on projects I did months ago, here’s a banner I made for my friend Kieran MacRae. He changed his heraldry recently, and needed to rebuild his stock of tabards and banners from scratch. I decided to pitch in because I could.

Per pale and per chevron purpure and argent, a chevron counterchanged Or and sable

The fabric is some white linen I had in stock. The color is all “textile color” paint, which is more like a liquid pigment than the paint I normally use on linen. It soaks in and doesn’t change the hand of the fabric as much. It only works well on light fabric, though.

bookmark_borderBanner for Shirin

I actually completed this banner back in June and gave it to her at Pennsic in August, but I never posted about it. Maybe I didn’t want to spoil the surprise before, and then forgot to post after? Anyway, my friend Shirin al-Susiyya was being elevated to the Order of the Laurel back in May, so I decided to make a banner for her as a gift.

Azure, a bend dancetty between two dragons segreant argent

The fabric is some nice navy blue raw silk. The paints are acrylic fabric paints. It took me a little longer than I was hoping, so it wasn’t finished in time for her elevation, but she has it now. Some words on process:

First, outline in chalk

A good way to get repeatable complex shapes (like heraldic animals) if you are bad at freehand art (like I am) is to print out a picture of the shape at the exact size you want it. Then, cut around the outside of the template, place it where you want the shape, and trace around the outside with chalk.

After painting the shape, pencil interior lines

Fill in the basic shape with a coat or two of paint, then cut the template apart so you can use the pieces to trace out the interior lines in pencil. You can probably freehand some of the smaller details, but sometimes I get pretty small with my template pieces.

Finally, paint interior lines

Then, use a fine brush and some black paint to outline the shape and ink the interior lines.

I’ve used this method a bunch of times, and it really produces good results for me. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for setting the paint!

bookmark_borderEmbroidery Frame

One of our friends is really into embroidery. She has taken classes all over the place, gotten certifications from international guilds, and all that fancy stuff. For larger-scale projects, she has acquired a couple of oak embroidery frames. These are great, but it turns out they are not big enough for some of the projects she would like to attempt. Woodworking friend to the rescue!

Pieces for two frames

Each frame has four pieces. The pieces for the original are the shorter ones above. The pieces for my larger version are the ones below.

The pieces with the big mortises and the round middle portion are the rollers. You stitch the ends of the fabric to the twill tape along the rollers, and you can roll very long pieces of fabric up and work on them in sections. In the picture, I have not yet attached the tape to the rollers.

The pieces with many small holes are the stretchers. They fit through the mortises, and you put pins into the holes to keep the rollers separated and under tension.

Here is what the frames look like when they are assembled:

Assembled embroidery frames

You can see how much more workable area my copy provides. The pieces for the original frame are about 30 inches long, so she can work on panels about 2 feet wide. The pieces for my copy are 54 inches long, so she can work on panels about 4 feet wide. That is 4 times as much working area! I tried to make all the pieces interchangeable, so she will have even more flexibility.

Her original is made from oak. My copy is ash, which is a little less dense than oak but still strong, and less expensive. I started from a 1.5″-thick slab about 5 feet long, planed it down to the 1.25″ thickness I needed, and then rip cut the pieces I needed off of that. All the corners are rounded off with various router bits to make them more pleasant to handle.

The through-mortises in the rollers are rectangular instead of rounded, because I used a chisel mortiser and not a router. I had never done “rounded beam with square ends” thing before, so I had a little trouble with that, but I don’t think the problems are structural just cosmetic. I did get the hang of it eventually, but the first batch are a little shaky. I used the original stretchers as drilling guides for the new stretchers, so the holes are evenly spaced. I put two coats of Osmo PolyX on all the pieces as a finish. It’s the first time I have ever used PolyX, and I’m pretty happy with the results.

I did eventually get the tape for the rollers. I was just using a manual staple gun, so it was quite a lot of work to put a staple every inch on both rollers. My lines of staples are little crooked, but not too bad.

Twill tape stapled to rollers

Before anybody suggests it, no I will not make and sell these. I was happy to make one as a favor for a friend, but this is somebody else’s design I’m outright copying. I could probably come up with my own design if I needed to, but it would be pretty different.

bookmark_borderWarping Pegs

Many braiders who choose to work in silk buy premeasured bundles of silk threads. These bundles are usually designed to produce braids that are a good length for the obijime braids worn with formal kimono.

When sweetie and I braid, we are often aiming for other lengths, or specific colors that it is more economical to buy in bulk on spools. Then, we measure out our own bundles. Traditionally, this would be done on tall warping stands called bodai. We use a kind of mini-bodai that clamp to the edges of a table. I have made a few sets of these in the past, but I just made a nice set for Sharon.

Cherry Mini-Bodai

They are made entirely from cherry wood, except for the screws that attach the pegs to the bases, and the hookie thingies of course.

I bent the metal rod in a 4″ metal brake that I had to buy a 4″ bench vise to use. It was super easy doing it this way. The bends are exactly where I wanted them and used the mechanical advantage of the vise instead of brute force.

With the “2 and 1” pegs that i normally make, if you have a 4 foot table you can measure out 4′, 8′, and 16′ warps fairly easily. By making this “2 and 2” set, she can now add 12′ and 24′ to her repetoire for those longer or more complex braids.

bookmark_borderRoyal Eboshi

My sweetie made some fancy Japanese garb for the current Sovereign and Consort of our SCA Kingdom. She did all the work on both outfits except for one part. Eboshi are kind of my thing, so she let me make eboshi to go with his outfit.

Three Eboshi for King Arnthor

From left to right there is a soft linen nae eboshi, a tall linen hikitate eboshi, and a tall mesh hikitate eboshi. So far, I think I have only seen him wear the mesh one, but I think it is always good to have options. Here’s what the completed outfits look like:

These outfits probably would look awesome even without a hat, but the eboshi really sets the mood, I think.

bookmark_borderAchievement Unlocked: Takadai

I have been meaning to acquire a takadai braiding stand for years. They can be expensive, so I have been waiting until I decided that I was getting bored with marudai braiding, then I would probably make one. Braiding teacher Shirley Berlin broke the news to me several months ago that I would never really get bored of marudai kumihimo.

More recently, a friend of ours decided that she was ready to get rid of some surplus braiding equipment. She asked me if I knew anybody who was looking to buy a takadai, and quoted me a very good price.

So, I decided to bite the bullet and get started. Once I got it assembled, it looked like this:

Ready for setup

The piece of bamboo resting diagonally across the lower arms is the beater sword used to tap stitshes into place. The pegs on the left and right upper arms are mounted in koma that slide along slots in the arms. At the top of the takadai is the tori. Lower down is the roller and standing vertically is the long metal pin that secures the roller.

To set up the takadai, you measure out a sufficient length of material and a sufficient number of threads of material for your braid. The definition of “sufficient” will vary based on the braid you are trying to make and the material you are using. (I measured out 34 55″ long threads of white 30/2 silk yarn and 32 55″ threads of black.) Then you tie a leader cord to the roller, pass it up over the tori, and tie it to the gathered end of your material. Then you separate out threads of material and wrap most of it around tama bobbins. (I wrapped two threads on each tama, so 17 white and 16 black.) Lastly, you hang strands over the koma, one tama per peg, on both arms of the takadai. (I started with all the white strands on the right, and all the black strands on the left.

Working a braid

To work a braid on this setup, you create a “shed” on one side of takadai by pushing some threads down. (I was making a simple weave braid, so my pattern was just alternating over (down) and under (up).) Then, you wedge the sword into the takadai so that it holds the shed open. Next, you pass the topmost strand from that side through the shed, and make it the bottommost strand on the other side. While you remove the sword and close the shed, use the sword to beat the point of braiding and tighten the braid. Repeat this process on the other side. Keep repeating this side to side and a braid will start to form.

Braid forming on the takadai

When a koma at the top of an arm is empty, move it to the bottom of that arm and slide the other koma upwards. If a tama is getting to close to the arm, unwrap it six or seven inches. If the point of braiding is no longer over the round stick that holds the sword down, crank the roller a little to wind up the leader.

Braid getting long

Eventually, the braid will get long enough to wrap around the roller itself. Keep going. By this point, I was doing one full iteration (with the material returning to start position) about every forty minutes, making about 2.5 inches of braid.

Leaders starting to show

After even more time, the tama leaders will start to peep up over the edge of the koma. Now you are in the home stretch, but you are far from the finish line. Keep going until you are almost out of material.

Finished takadai braid

My braid came out 25 inches long and about an inch wide. You can see how the black and white strands pass back and forth through each other and themselves. Not bad for a first braid!

bookmark_borderBento Lunch

I’ve been making these bento lunches for a few years now, but for some reason I have never posted about them here.

Bento Lunch 2022.10.18

Upper left: pickled daikon, pickled cucumber and peppers, pickled carrot, pickled ginger with yukari, simmered taro

Upper right: Shredded cabbage with dressing, topped with salmon flakes, black sesame seeds, and seaweed flakes

Lower left: Mushroom rice with roasted shiitake mushrooms

Lower right: Tofu with soy sauce and togarashi spices, imitation crab meat with spices

I have to do quite a bit of prep work on the weekend to be able to put these together in ten minutes in the morning, but it is fun and tasty.

bookmark_borderMore 16-Tama Braided Cords

I recently finished up the sixth in a series of braids that will be used as cords for award medallions. Basically, they are necklaces from which you can hang a pendant. They all have ring-and-toggle closures made from aluminum jump rings.

6 Black-and-Gold Baronial Medallion Cords

Most notably, the leftmost braid in the image is of a pattern that I have never braided before. One of the 8-tama braids in Jacqui Carey’s book Creative Kumihimo that is not expanded into a 16-tama braid later is 8J, the Yatsu Sen pattern that is also used for the Yatsu Rai braid.

This made me wonder what the double-8J braid would be like. So, borrowing the mechanic used to expand 8F (Edo Yatsu) into 16T (Keiruko no Himo) to wit –

This creates a lovely braid with smooth 4-ridge rounded faces, and flat edges. I still have to sit down and work out the colorway grid for this braid, but I think my first try is quite attractive.

There’s a few different ways I think I can work a double-8J braid, so I will have to keep working on these double-8J patterns until I feel like I have them all figured out.

bookmark_borderMark 2 14th Century Toolchest

Took a second swing at this project. Here it is up on sawhorses in my workshop/garage:

14th Century Japanese Toolchest

It’s huge! It’s 4.5 feet long and a foot wide. It fits in the trunk of my car ok if I fold the rear seats down, but it’s way too big. Probably at fault is my desire to use 1by8 for the sides. To keep the length in proportion to the height it’s just way too long. Maybe I’ll try again sometime with 1by6 instead. That would make it only about 40 inches long by my reckoning. Compare the image below with the original painting.

Toolchest with Lid Askew

I’m also pretty sure I should be making my battens narrower, and probably from the full 3/4″ thickness of board instead of my 1/2″ planed-down thickness. As a bonus, here is an image of all the tools I needed to construct this Mark 2 chest, stored in the Mark 1:

Tools to Make a Toolchest

There’s not much you need, really, to build a simple chest.