Saturday, February 24, 2018

Sombre colours

I bought this fantastic linen yarn on a cone. It was quite fine and I usually like chunky yarns to knit.  But I love linen and this was a good price so I bought one kilo (about 2 ounds) in a natural white colour because I wanted to dye it and then knit a sweater.

I wanted sombre colours, grays, browns and some purple. My dye materials were Logwood which I had stashed away somewhere and i had tried to use in a soap once. It didn't work. At first there was this incredible purple colour in the soap, but it disappeared right before my eyes.

I also had some Alkanet root that I had bought off the internet and then I went and dug up the root of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) that grows just about in every ditch one can find around here and dyed with that.

The result is what you see in the photo. At first the Logwood purple was just way too bright for my taste and clashed violently with the other muted shades. But Logwood is a fugitive dye and fades with time. It does so quite quickly, so the result was quite pleasing.

I used the yarn to knit a waterfall sweater from a pattern off the internet. That is a very comfortable sweater, but the fronts were a too large for my taste. But that doesn't matter because my daughter has borrowed the sweater and I'm not likely to see it ever again :).

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Icelandic National Costume - The Vest

There is a saying in Icelandic that to have a choice is to be in pain.  I felt that way when it was time to make all the choices necessary to start to make the vest for the costume.

First you have to pick a colour for the body. For the 19th century costume, there is a choice between red, blue or green. The vest is outlined with a border of solid colour and under the silver "milla", there is a lining, often in tartan pattern.  On the back were either velvet ribbons flanked by gold or silver trim or lace. The lace was always bobbin lace made of wool. The colour of these could be almost anything. And then there is the embroidered part on the front "baldýring" which I have done. So, quite a daunting task to make all those decisions. And that is just for the vest.

Then there is the apron! It can be striped or plaid. Even a solid colour, although that is less common. Some prefer woven wool, others want silk. And the choice of colours is pretty unlimited. I made an apron of fine wool that I wove in a stipe. The yarn was all natuarrly colour by me, I only wish I had had the patience and talent to spin the wool myslef. Maybe the next apron will be all mine. Women would have had more than one apron, so there are possibilites og changing the way the costume looks. I've finished the apron, it's pretty easi to make. Weaving it took a bit of time, but it was fun. The vest still has quite a ways to go. Thankfully the skirt is always a solid black, so no hard choice there. It is a challenge to try and make it all look good, without it being a wishy-washy, matchy-matchy or horribly gaudy.

The 20th century versions of the national costume are easy, but also not as interesting and not as authentic in my opinion. They were deliberatly designed by an artist, Sigurður Guðmundsson, who invented three new versions of the old Faldbúningur because it was falling out of use. He designed the new rather flamboyant Skautbúningur, which I find rather OTT. The 20th century versions of the Icelandic costumes are always black with either gold or silver filigree embellishments, but no embroidery. They also have bobbin lace at the back, either in silver or gold thread.

But I wanted the more colourful older version of the upphlutur and as usual I need to make things suitably difficult for myself. I decided to dye the cloth for the vest myself. Not in the least because I wanted it blue and the "accepted" medium blue fabric is in a  too bright and inauthentic colour for my taste. It is a colour that never existed before synthetic dyes and the available dark blue is just plain ugly, in my humble opinion.

I wanted indigo from woad, which is lighter in colour than the indian indigo. And I actually wanted a medium blue colour, rather than a very dark blue. I had never dyed cloth before, but it turned out beautifully, somewhat to my surprise. The fabric is twill woven wool and I managed to find a natural coloured fabric that I could use. I had cut up the pieces into the smallest possible ones to be able to cut the pattern later and then I used a seriously big pot that I got at a charity shop. I dipped the pieces 2-5 times each, one back piece, one piece for straps and then two pieces for either side on the front. The two front pieces I dipped at the same time to make sure they were the exact same colour. What I feared most was to get an uneven colour and also that the pieces would be different colours. Noticably lighter or darker, but I managed to get them to match perfectly by dipping the last two pieces one more time. And the colour was absolutely even. It did dry to a slightly lighter colour than I expected, but I love it anyway. Purists will say that it is too light, but I disagree. There are a few "accepted" colours for the vest and the blue that they "allow" is a colour that is purely synthetic. That colour never existed before the late 1800's. But my light blue from Woad certainly did. Admittedly, dark blue was more higly priced in the olden days. But light blue was more easily obtained.

The oldest surviving complete Icelndic costume is one that is in the Victoria and Albert museum. That costume has a rather light green velvet vest, so that is another colour and fabric that is officially "allowed". Historically it is difficult to be certain what colours were used the most since there aren't really many survivers of vests that are of an earlier date than the late 19th century and by that time black was very much in fashion.

For the lining of the vest I used a cotton fabric that I found in a Danish company and had quite some trouble to order it online since they didn´t accept credit cards or Paypal. I think I sent them cash in an envelop in the end. The fabric is a copy of one that was printed between 1830-1850 so although much of what is used today is either striped or plaid I can have my flowers and proudly state that it is authentic to the period.

Then I had to choose something for the back. After a while I came to the conclusion that it would take me too long to learn to make bobbin lace myself and settled on velvet ribbon. The only problem is that the are only available velvet ribbons are made of nylon or polyester! For my 18th - 19th century costume?

I don't think so!!!

So the internet rescued me, again.

I did try to find 100% silk or cotton velvet ribbon, but all I could find was silk and rayon, reportedly from the 1920's. I had planned to use green and ideally find a white or very light colour so that I could dye it myself. But I couldn't find a light colour and I couldn't find any green velvet borders of the right width so I bought a yellow one. The yellow colour was a lot stronger than I expected, but thankfully it wasn´t waterfast so it bled profusely when I washed it. After washing out a lot of the colour I redyed it with the lichen Parmelia saxatilis and got a beautiful golden colour. I love the result. It's probably much better than if I had found a green velvet.

The edging is a scarlet red wool that I dyed with Cochineal and tin. That was supposedly the finest red in the olden days. A dye book that was published in 1789 says:

"Fire scarlet is the finest and brightest colour in the Art of Dyeing. It is also the most expensive, and the most difficult to bring to perfection".

I got a really strong scarlet much to my surprise. It took quite some time to dye it and at first all I got was an insipid pinkish colour. I kept adding more cochineal and more tin and more cochineal and more tin... until suddenly this glorious colour appeared. I didn't see it happen. I just turned my back on the pot and then... there it was. Bright scarlet red.

I haven't finished the vest yet. It is a lot of work and much of it requires hand stitching so it takes time to do. But I do love what I have so far. The national holiday is on June 17th and it would be great to have it finished by that date. I've had that thought for 3 years now, so who knows, 2017 may just be the year to make it happen.

But for that to happen I also need to make up my mind about the type of Mylla (the silver/silver gilt filigree jewelry closure) I want to use. And being me, I want to make them myself. I've almost worked out what kind of design I want. I'm going to make something that I haven't seen before, but very much in the older tradition of Icelandic filigree silver. I'm rather excited. I need to make sketches before I forget. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, January 5, 2017


I have had to rethink my life quite a bit lately so I thought it fitting that my blog should reflect that.

I've changed the way it looks. And I'm showing my face. The look of the blog is more "Now". It's cleaner and more streamlined. With fewer elements. Like my life. It has been in limbo, like this blog for quite some time. With something looming and no one quite knowing what the outcome would be. Or when it would be clear which direction life would take. But now it has been decided for me. My life is going to be a more streamlined life. With fewer elements. I've lost the biggest part of my life, but there still is much left to live for and much left to be thankful for. But the loss will be there and I, as so many before me, will have to live with it. On my own. I've no idea how to go about it. My profile description needs to change. It used to say: I have two daughters, two dogs, one son in law and one husband. Now it needs to change to: I am a widdow, I have two daughters, one son in law, one granddaughter and one dog.

It's been a while since I've written a post. Not because I stopped doing stuff. The words just didn't come anymore. I have many saved drafts and I have continued to take photos of almost everything I do. I have no idea if anyone actively follows my blog anymore and that's ok. I always wrote it for myself, to be an archive of my exploits and an outlet for me to express myself. And to be honest, in the beginning it was all about getting in touch with the soaping comunity. I really wanted to learn to make soap and I was so happy when some of the women I had been following and learning from started to comment and follow me. I felt I belonged to a community. It was a nice feeling. I still follow them. Those who are still blogging.

But I have many interests as well and those have taken up much more of my time in the past few years. I have been making my own yoghurt, sourdough bread, and various fermented food. I have learned to wash, card, spin, weave and dye wool. I've started silversmithing, something that was a part in my fine art education many, many years ago. I'm working on making my Icelandic national costume and that is almost finished. I always have a few unfinished knitting or crochet projects. I'm still an avid DIYer and have to admit to a few works in progress there too. I'm still interested in gardening, but haven't tended it as well as I used to. But I use my blog every time I bake one of my favorite cakes and I also use it to look up my soap recipes. And yes I'm still making soaps. I just can't go back to the commercial kind. And I make facecreams to use myself. It's just for me now, but occationally I give some away.

I have put a lot on hold, but only temporarily. This year needs to be different from the last two and my blog may be one of the ways to help me relearn to live life. I made the decision to continue the blog. Maybe not as frequently as I used to, but I want to keep doing it. I need to add some recipes to it and document some more of my processes and adventures.

I am preparing for some major changes in the coming months. It's going to be strange but that can also be said of the last two years. It's the beginning of something new. Who knows what, only time will tell. But I do know that I want to continue with my hobbies and interests and I also do hope to find the time to write that book :)

You'll be first to know when that happens. Happy New Year :)

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Icelandic National Costume - Baldýring 2 - embroidery, using silk Part 2

I came across some written instructions for making the traditional embroidery "Baldýring" the other day.  It's from a course like the one that I took, except we didn't get a handout.  I got permission to copy it from the woman who had it and it's been really helpful to put into words the second half of this tutorial.  I have also updated the first post, where appropriate.

Unfortunately there wasn't any description of how to make the shapes, so I will attempt to describe that.

First you need to draw the individual shapes so that they can be cut out.

Use a fine line Sharpie and thick mylar to trace each shape once.

From this drawing all the shapes will be made, so be careful to trace accurately from the original pattern, but only once for each shape, even if the shape is repeated several times.

Cut out all the shapes, taking care to follow the lines carefully.  Nail scissors with a pointed end, preferable curved, work best.

Use old fashioned carbon paper to copy the shapes onto parchment, or if you can't find that, acid free cardboard. I used a thick blunt needle to trace, but an old dried out ballpoint pen works fine.

This time you need to make the correct number of shapes for each border. In my case, for example, I made 6 leaves for each border, 12 in total. Be careful to use a steady hand. You want all the shapes to be the same dimension, as much as possible.

It makes sense to keep the shapes for each side separate. It can also be good to label each one with either L for left and R for right. And often the shapes are given numbers. Just make sure you can tell them apart somehow.

Now the shapes need to be slightly padded.  We were told to use vlieseline interfacing, which I have to say, bothered me a little.  I think that the older method of doing this, is to use felt.  And I'm sure that in the olden days it was felted Icelandic wool.

But after thinking about this for quite some time, I decided to just go with the flow and use the vlieseline.  It is very important to use acid free material, as the silk will just be eaten away by acidic material in a few years.

Be careful when you attach the padding to keep the padding on the right side so that the shapes are mirrored for either side.

I used rabbit skin glue to attach the shapes to the padding.  After the glue is dry, you need to trim the padding and file the edges of the shapes.  An inexpensive diamond nail file works a treat.

You need to make sure that the same shape on each side are the same, so work on the left and right  shapes at the same time. Match them up (mirror them) and file them to the same size and shape.

Lastly file the padded side at the edges to make them slightly rounded.

The next step is to sew the shapes down onto the velvet.  This is done with black thread, a needle nr. 9-10.

The shapes need to be sewn very tightly to the velvet. In the photo the sewing is too loose.

There is a pattern as to how best to sew each shape down.  The points are sewn with a sharp V, but the rounded shapes need several straight lines, as shown.

Be aware that the rounded shapes are much harder to do evenly in the final embroidery than the pointed shapes.  Take that into consideration when you choose your pattern.

Althought the photo is out of focus I wanted to show how even the embroidery can be when an expert does it.

This was sewn by our teacher as an example, but she did tell us that if we look closely at many of the old costumes in museums, we will notice that not everyone was good at this.  That made me feel a whole lot better.

It is usual to use three tones of the same colour for each leaf.  It gives life to the embroidery and is very characteristic of silk baldýring.  In order to cover the bottom of three leaved shapes, small sequins were used, sewn on with small metalic spirals.

The silk is sewn with a black thread so that the silk is only on the surface. This is done by securing the silk on the back and sticking a needle treaded with the silk through to the front. Always starting from a point in the shape. Remove the needle from the silk tread and leave it hanging, moving the silk from side to side as you sew the silk thread tightly down with regular black thread.

Once the middle of the form has been reached, secure the the end on the back and start from the opposite point. Remember to change colours as needed. There are usually 3 tones of the same colour in each shape.

Here is a short video that may be helpful to understand how this in done.

The silk tread is held across the shape and sewn down with a back tread on the opposite side. Always stick the needle up close to the shape, almost slightly under it and at a slight angle outwards and then down over the silk on the same side. Be careful to make the silk tread taught while tightening the lack thread.

When sticking the needle down, over the silk tread to fasten it, point is inwards (under the shape) and tighten and bring the needle (with the black tread) back up on the other side. Bring the silk thread over the shape again and sew down as before.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Japanese Indigo - That Irresistible Blue

This spring I sowed some Japanese Indigo. I have done that once before, but only really got one plant to live, but this time I had about eight healthy plants.

They got off to a slow start in the cold and wet Icelandic spring, but once I figured out that I really shouldn't expect a summer and covered them with fleece, they took off and turned into a vigorous bunch.

I harvested them all at the same time in fall and dyed some Alpaca wool with the thought of giving it to my daughter who wanted to make a simple garter stitch shawl.

Here is the method I used. A tutorial of sorts.

I cut the plants, stem and all and take them home.

I remove the leaves from the stems and chop them finely. I do this immediately after I get home. The leaves do not keep well and can not be dried.

I stuff the leaves into a jar and pour fresh water from the tap over the leaves. I put the jar in a pot - I always put a washcloth in the bottom of the pot - and heat it gently to 50°C / 120°F.

Then I sieve the liquid and squeeze out every last drop from the leaves. This time I actually felt that there was more colour left in the leaves, so I pout some more water on the leaves and heated them again. Just to be sure that I got every molecule of indigo into my dye liquid.
The resulting liquid was dark, dark blue. I was thrilled.

Then it is time for the stick blender to add air to the solution.

This developes the indigo, although it is in an insoluble form.

So the next step is to make the indigo water soluble... adding hydrosulfite or spectrality or colour remover.

I sprinkle about a teaspoonful over the surface and wait 30-45 minutes to see if the liquid turn to yellow. If not I add some more.

Here I had moved the dye liquid to a pot so that I could be sure to keep the right temperature.

I most often put the pot in another pot and heat that. This way I can control the temperature better.
When the liquid turns a green yellow I can carefully add the wool while I am careful not to introduce any air into the solution.

I am careful to have wetted the wool really well before. That means I let it sit in water at least an hour before I dye it.

And with wool and indigo, I make sure that the wool has been sitting in water that is the same temperature as the indigo solution (which is 50°C). I any air into the solution.
I let it sit for 10-20 minutes to get a dark colour. Shorter time for a lighter colour.

Then I pull it up gently and watch the magic transformation.

It very quickly turns a lovely turquoise colour, but that is short lived.

The colour soon developes into the indigo blue.

I shake the wool to air it properly. Then I let it sit for at least the same amount of time that I let it sit in the solution to fully develop the colour.

And then I re dip the wool or put another skein into the dye liquid until all the colour is gone.

The colour gets progressively lighter. But all of them beautiful.

It is very hard to get the japanese indigo to flower in the northern hempishere. But I still have one plant left that I took inside. It hasn't flowered, and I may just cut it down soon and dye from it.

It's such a lovely blue.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Orange for fall

Orange really isn't my colour at all.  I look like death warmed over, if I attempt to wear it, while my daughter on the other hand, simply glows.  But it is a beautiful vibrant colour that is both happy and energetic. And it is the undisputed colour of fall.

I didn't set out to make an orange soap.  I have been wanting to do a yellow one since early this year.  I was longing for spring and wanted the warm golden yellow that I got from Annatto once.  So I infused Annatto seeds and expected them to turn the oil a golden yellow overnight.  It didn't. I'm still waiting.  Then I thought of the left over unrefined palm oil that is in my cupboards and decided to use that.  I just had to try palm oil once so I bought it even if the environmental effects are questionable.  Since I bought it I might as well use it up, there is no reason to waste it.  

And then, as I was selecting my ingredients I looked at the infused rhubarb oil and decided to blend it in and see if I would get orange. So thus this orange soap. It was fall after all.  

It is a rather small recipe, 500 g / 18 oz. 5% super fat, water 38% lye 70 g / 2.5 oz (but run through a calculator be be sure)

Coconut oil     26%     130 g / 4.6 oz
Rapeseed oil   20%     100 g / 3.5 oz
Lard                20%     100 g / 3.5 oz
Palm oil          14%     70 g / 2.5 oz - Unrefined yellow
Olive oil         10%     50 g / 1.8 oz
Cocoa butter     4%    20 g/ 0.7 oz
Castor oil         3%     15 g/ 0.5 oz
Sunflower oil   3%     15 g/ 0.5 oz - Rhubarb infused

The water was yellow from infusion with Weld, a well known dye plant. I added Sweet orange, Ylang ylang and Litsea cubea for scent.  It traced really quickly and I had to jam it into the mold.  It also heated up quite a bit so I threw it into the freezer after I decorated it with some dried plant material that  was lying around in the kitchen.

It has cured now and it looks like a really nice hard soap.  The lather is rich and creamy and soft.  I have found that the soaps that I put lard in are my favorite soaps.  I also like to put a bit of castor oil, so that I can use it for my hair if I want to.  And that makes for a nice soft lather.

The soap has retained it's orange colour except on the top which has turned a bit pink.  The Rhubarb will not be subdued :).

Friday, September 5, 2014

Black Currant, Red Currant, Ginger and Mint Jelly

I made some red currant and black currant jelly, but really thought there was so much colour and goodness left after I had boiled the fruit and sieved it. So I added some wtaer to both and boiled them again, this time with a little piece of ginger and a handful of mint leaves.

I let it steep for a while, sieved it and added sugar. For 1 liter (about 1 quart) I added a bit less than 1 kilo (about a pound) of sugar.

I used a candy thermometer and boiled it to 104°C / 217°F and then poured it into canning jars. Let it cool. Close the lid and store in the fridge.

It turned out delicious.

Amazing how we always tend to think of everything as single use. Now I have my traditional Red Currant jelly, a traditional Black Currant Jelly and this great new experiment that I got for not a lot of trouble and leftover used berries that were on their way to the compost heap.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Rose and Orange Blossom Cream

I just suddenly got the urge to make a cream, so I did.  And now I have the softest extremities imaginable.  I haven't made a cream in ages.  No special reason for that.  I think it was that I made so many infused oils and started to use those straight on my face and really liked that.  But this evening I was surfing the webpages that I have in my Blog roll on the right and came across Curious Soapmaker's Rose essence facial cream recipe, all pink and pretty.

So, like scratching an itch, I immediately dove into my cupboards to dig out the cream making stuff.  I resisted the strong urge to add everything but the kitchen sink and chose just one additive, Allantoin, which is a nature identical substance that is derived from the roots & leaves of the Comfrey plant.  I love Comfrey and grow it in my garden.  It has loads of medicinal benefits, mostly due to that wonderful substance.  I have tons of other stuff, but the appeal of the Rose face cream was it's simplicity, so I restricted my use of ingredients this time.

Being, of course, completely unable to follow other peoples directions, my recipe is different from hers,  but I started out with the same proportions as she did: About 20% oils, 6% emulsion wax and 74% water phase.  The proportions changed as I weighed my ingredients because I didn't have as much of as I wanted of the Rose water, but I improvised and added the Orange Blossom water and selected my favorite (at the moment) oils and other ingredients.

The exact recipe (as far as I remembered right after I made it (my process tends to be very organic, I use whatever strikes my fancy at the moment I make things)) is as follows:

Oil phase:
Argan oil               22 g / 0.77 oz
Borage oil             10 g / 0.35 oz
Evening primrose   8 g / 0.28 oz
Peach oil                6 g / 0.21 oz
Lanolin                  4 g / 0.14 oz
Oils total: 50 g / 1.76 oz

Emulsion: I used CreamMaker wax from Making Cosmetics 15 g 0.53 oz

Water phase:
Rose water                      30 g (that was all I had) / 1 oz
Orange Blossom water    90 g / 3 oz
Glycerin                          10 g /0.35 oz
Water                              20 g / 7 oz
Allantoin (from Making Cosmetics) 2 g / 0.07 oz
Water total: 152 g. / 5.3 oz

Preservative: Potassium Sorbate 1 g / 0.035 oz

I knew I wanted the oil phase to be mostly Argan oil.  It's simply lovely on the face as well as the hair.  And then I found the Borage oil and Evening Primrose, both of which are very nice.  I wanted to add Lanolin since I'm not allergic to it and it's just the best softening ingredient for the skin.  This much I know from spinning raw wool.  I just love the way my hands get all soft from the Lanolin in the wool.  The Peach oil I used to fill up the quantity.

I dug out the rest of the Rose water I knew I still had from the Italy visit and weighed it, only to be slightly disappointed there wasn't more of it.  But I quickly decided to use Orange Blossom water since I love that scent and I had some sine my last time in Paris.  And I wanted to use Glycerin. I like that as a humectant. And then I filled up with water so the scent would't be overpowering.  I didn't have any beetroot powder, but I had beetroot, so I cut of a small sliver and put it in the water phase along with the allantoin and the preservative.

Then I heated both the oils and the water up in a water bath and whizzed it together using a stick blender.  I added quite a bit of Rose Maroc essential oil which I had in a diluted form (5% with coconut oil) and a little bit of Neroli oil until I liked the combination of the two scents.

I now have several weeks supply of the loveliest light and airy pink face cream which I put into the two wonderful Onix cream jars my little sister gave me for Christmas.  They have been begging for something luxurious and this cream just fits the bill.  I put the rest into two small metal jars and three plastic pump dispensers ready to go to the gym with me.

And now I really want to make a soap to go with that cream.  Since I almost used all my Rose Maroc oil I guess I'll use some Rose Geranium or maybe Rosewood.  And since it begs to be pink, it would need to have Rhubarb root oil...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The embroidered velvet - Baldýring

One of the most beautiful parts of the national costume is the embroidery. Embroidery is used extensiely in the oldest form of the costume, Faldbuningur.  There is a large flower border on the skirts, although it was also known to make them without embroidery, but with velvet lines instead.  The embroidery can be of two different types, Skattering and Blómstursaumur.  The latter is a special Icelandic embroidery stitch, very pretty, but I do not know the origin of the other one or if it is known in other countries.

And then there is the embroidery on the velvet borders of the vest, and on the jacket of the Faldbuningur. That is always done in an embroidery technique called Baldýring which is known as Gold embroidery in English.  In the older costumes it was done either with gold and silver thread or with silk.  I love the silk myself because it is so colourful.

I took a course in Baldýring and I am making the border for the vest.  It is not an easy technique to master, but I found that sewing the twisted gold threads down was fairly easy.  The Baldýring itself is not and I need to practice a whole lot before I can tackle the real thing.

Making the borders is quite involved and I want to write it down so that I do not forget it.  And also so that others can know how to do it.  I really think it is important to share knowledge, especially about old handwork and methods because they might so easily be lost.

So here is the start of a tutorial for making the velvet borders.  Since I am making the 19th century version, it will mostly talk about that, but I will put in notes about the differences in that and the 20th century version when appropriate.

The borders themselves are made from 3 layers, 2 good quality fabrics and a parchment or cardboard :

8 cm x 25 cm - Black cotton velvet
5 cm x 25 cm - Acid free light to medium stiff cardboard (it must be flexible) or parchment which is what was used in the old days
5 cm x 25 cm - Thin white cotton material

Cut two of each, one for the right side and one for the left.

The needles that are used are very fine needle nr. 9 or 10 for the Baldýring itself (the same type that as is commonly used in quilting). And also a nr 7-8 for general sewing. And a very large needle for the gold twisted threads.

The borders for the 19th century vest are 4-5,5 cm wide, the length varies slightly with the size of the vest, but it should be cut around 25 cm long.  It's finished length depends on the vest on which it is eventually sewn.

For the 20th century costume, the border is wider, about 8,5 - 10 cm, depending on the chest measurements of the woman. The length is the same.

The thin white cotton is stitched to the cardboard around the edges. This can be done by hand or machine. There is no need for a seam allowance.

Mark the direction of the nap with an arrow, so that you don't get confused and make sure to have the two borders, left and right, facing in the same direction.

The black velvet is faced right side down (away from you), and the nap facing up.

The white cotton/cardboard is then placed on top of the velvet, cotton side facing up.

Center the white cotton/cardboard sideways (horizontally) on the velvet. The length should be equal for both pieces.

The edges of the velvet are wrapped around the cardboard and the velvet is pinned in place.

Make sure you do not pin into the cardboard.

Stitch the edges of the velvet to the white cotton, using overcasting and taking care to stitch only the white cotton and velvet.

Do not puncture the cardboard itself.
Next you need to cut out a piece of thin paper to be 8 cm x 30 cm. Architectural tracing paper works really well.

This paper is wrapped around the velvet and stitched in place with a running stitch, this time going through all layers, puncturing the cardboard.

This paper serves to protect the velvet from getting dirty while being handled when embroidering.

The last step before you can start the actual embroidery is to stitch the line drawing of the flower pattern in place.

Be careful to leave enough space above the pattern, at least 4 cm.

The line drawing is traced onto a thin mylar type of paper.

The stitching is done with a running stitch all the way around the rectangular shape and also around the shapes to be embroidered, through all the layers.

And now you need to make another one, with the drawing mirrored.

There are a number of patterns one can use and a multitude of colours, so the choice is not easy.  I went through a whole lot of patterns before deciding to draw my own.  Some of the patterns are quite old, while some of them date from the early 19th century.  But that is the subject of the next post.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Spring in the North - So much better.

I've been like a mad woman in the last year or so, taking courses in all kinds of strange things.  Mostly old handiwork.  This is not typical of me.  It's kind of not at all like me.  I have always told myself that I can't be taught.  I'm too impatient and arrogant to take instruction from others.  Or so I have always thought.  But it turns out that I can actually listen to what others say and learn from them.  Of course I knew that.  It's not like I haven't learned everything I know from other people.

I spent last weekend with eight women in the north of Iceland, at an agricultural college learning to weave on a warp weighted loom.  This is the old looms that basically date from the stone age and were used right up until 1750 in Iceland.  By that time, weaving had, in Europe, long since become a matter of Guilds and was the domain of men.  Except here, where the vertical loom was found at every farm and women wove every piece of cloth that was used.  And all the yarn used to weave was spun on a drop spindle too.  Right up until the 1750 there were no spinning wheels in use in this country and no horizontal looms.  So it may come as a surprise that this method of weaving has almost become lost in this country.  But now there are at least 8 of us, who know how.

Maybe it doesn't matter that the old ways of doing things get lost.  Some people don't seem to mind.  Maybe most people don't mind.  I don't know.  I have no idea why this had started to matter to me.  But I feel privileged to have been a part of the small group that got to learn this.  And it's not that I was chosen or anything.  I just happened to hear about this course by chance and immediately got interested and signed up.  They needed six people, but had to cancel because they couldn't fill the spaces.  Even if I offered to sign my mother up if needed.  So I kept telling everyone about it.  In the end they had a waiting list.

This really is a most satisfying way to weave.  The loom doesn't take much space.  One can take it down and put it up again, without finishing the piece.  Something that can not be done in the modern looms.  The construction is quite simple and it's not really hard work, although progress is undoubtedly slower than on horizontal looms.

We wove with tufts of "tog" to make a type of cloth that was used in Viking times as a warm and waterproof outer clothing.  It made for a shaggy fabric that hippies would have been proud of in the sixtees.  But my little piece may end up as a cushion cover one of these days.

It took about 7 hours to set the looms up and then the going was slow since we were two to each loom and had to co-ordinate our weaving.  We all did pretty different pieces, some using the natural sheep colours and others using natural dyed wool.  One can weave quite complicated pieces on this loom, twill being the very traditional Icelandic fabric that was so well known in the olden days and was exported in large quantities.  Twill uses 3 shafts on this loom, but we only used one shaft and did a pretty basic basket weave.

I fell in love with this type of weaving and I'm almost planning to build a loom in the garden.  They really look quite good, rustic and solid structures made of sturdy branches and woods.  It would make for a really cool garden sculpture.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I Hate Winter

Did I ever mention that?  I'm not sure that I did.  Winter here is quite all right up until New Year's day. Then it gets really depressing.  Even if it starts to get lighter, the weather is miserable and I think it's worse with the light.   In the deep darkness of winter it makes sense to crawl into bed, light some candles and just snuggle and then put up Christmas decorations and celebrate.  But you kind of expect the lighter evenings to turn into warmer days.  But... No!  It's not happening.  Not in March. Winter here doesn't leave until mid to late May or like last summer, June.  We had frost almost into the middle of June and after that it just rained.

The old Icelandic calendar only had two seasons, Winter and Summer.  It makes sense in this climate since there really isn't any spring or fall.  There is just that small window of opportunity when growth bursts forward and desperately tries to set seed.   It hardly deserves the name summer.

The best way to ignore the miserable weather is to draw the curtains, light a few candles and knit.  I have been working on this triangular lace shawl.  It's a fairly well known traditional pattern, called Þórdís, and is available for free on Knitting Daily.  I had originally intended to make a shawl called Halldóra, from a wonderful book, Icelandic Handknits but after frogging that from the 19th row about 6 times, I gave that up.  The pattern just didn't seem to stick in my mind.  I was getting so frustrated that my daughter suggested this other one and I like it even better than the first one.  Both are very much traditional Icelandic shawls.

In the olden days all women used shawls instead of sweaters.  They were most commonly triangular and quite big.  Not always as delicate as the one I am making, the daywear would have been quite plain and the women would wrap them around themselves and tie the ends at the back.  Sunday best, would have been spun from the silky tog, or the soft þel into very delicate creations.  The finest of which one could draw through a finger ring.  Or so the stories tell.  I saw a few of them hanging in a museum last summer and they looked so etherial.  I especially loved the green colour and knew I wanted to dye the yarn myself.  And I knew that I wanted light and delicate colours for my shawl, even if I have seen some really beautiful ones in the natural sheep colours, both greys and browns.

I haven't knitted much lace patterns before and I have to say that it does make sense to use lifelines and A LOT of stitch markers.  I didn't at first and that resulted in some frogging.  So I have learned my lesson.  The yarn I used is Love Story, a lovely single spun Icelandic wool made by a lovely french woman who now lives in Iceland. It is a combination of the þel and tog and is such a lovely, lovely soft and delicate yarn that it is a plesure to touch it.  Helene, a former lawyer, is a textile designer and has done great things with the Icelandic wool.  She has a blog, The Icelandic knitter and a webstore.  I love everything she does.

I did dye the yarn myself and I have to admit that I am absolutely in love with the colours.  I used cochineal for the pink, woad for the blue and green (with weld) and then Parmelia saxatilis for the yellows.  That yarn has the wonderful smell which I love.  That is the main reason  used that colour.  Just to get a small whiff that will last as long as the garment.  I dyed this yarn at the same time I dyed the silk for my embroidery.  I had plenty of dye left over from those tiny amounts so it made sense to do that at the same time.  I was really pleased with the outcome.  The colours just make me smile and give me the promise of a spring that will surely be here soon.

Sombre colours

I bought this fantastic linen yarn on a cone. It was quite fine and I usually like chunky yarns to knit.  But I love linen and this was a...