Monday, September 29, 2014

Roman buttons, an experiment which our plucky heroine is having fun assisting/collaborating with Sharon Rose, who is doing research on what was used to fasten the upper edges of Roman tunica; my task is creating various options that she can then try in various iterations as experimental archaeology.

Eight small discs sawed from brass sheet, then the edges filed smooth and slightly rounded.

After annealing the brass discs, the next step is to dome them using a dapping block

To turn the domed circles into buttons, brass wire was bent to a shape that would be stable while being soldered in place on the concave underside, and still allow the buttons to be stitched in place

Eight finished lovely shiny buttons, ready to become a decorative addition to a Roman womans garb, to fasten together the upper edges of the tunica; I was looking at some of the sculptures and think that this size is a pretty good match as far as diameter goes

...and the reverse side, cleaned but not polished. I use large pipe cleaners to store and transport shank buttons, it keeps them tidy and together as a set

Thursday, September 25, 2014

may we have your signature please...

Though our plucky heroine is not very fond of life in boxes, structure does help, at times, to show the how of a plan... I thought it might be educational fun to try and fit my very non-standard wardrobe into the "boxes" of The Vivienne Files "Core of Four" wardrobe plan*. Now I don't do traditional separates in my wardrobe; my own signature "look" could be described as somewhere between Japanese and Scandinavian-style lagenlook in a specific limited palette of colors. My current style could be described as "urban fairytale", and is feminine but not at all frilly or fluffy (think more like Tasha Tudor and not Gothic Lolita).  My most typical clothing is a workaday pinafore dress, worn with an simple underdress with three-quarter sleeves, both with flared skirts and large pockets, often with various forms of subtle textile embellishment, on my head either a wide brim hat or a head-kerchief, and sturdy footgear. In colder weather I add layers, in summer I either wear just the dress, or switch to my hot weather popover loose dresses.

wardrobe planning, ala Vivienne...
black lovechild pinafore
black vertical pique pinafore
black polkadot dress
black dress w Jen buttons ?
denim pinafore
dark indigo denim pinafore
blue on blue stripe linen dress
bluegrey ikat dress
black/blue pinstripe dress
black/grey/blue stripe dress
black/white ikat dress
black/white seersucker dress
multi-brown japanese dog dress
brown dress ?
grey dress ?
grey dress ?

INTEGRATION aka accessories, and ideas about small improvements...
Fox Paws handknit scarf is waiting on the ordered yarn arriving, have started a small sample to get some sense of the scale of the pattern and the new techniques. I must find my Noro shawlette!! that one is my most favorite of all, and the color is discontinued; fingers crossed that it will show up as decluttering continues. My everday purse/haversack is currently a black/grey plaid Dakine daypack, which now has a broken main zipper, and needs replaced anyway with a somewhat smaller and better fitting EDC bag. I am good on everyday shoes, have black and dark grey Keen oxfords as well as black wintertime boots. Not going to put a lot of attention on new jewelery, as most of what I have works really well. I would like to possibly set the acorn sample enamel as a brooch, as the colors work superbly with my current plan.

Have been doing a bit more each day to make progress on my wardrobe refurbishment project, with cutting out sewing kits of new dresses, thinking quite a bit about how much is enough and how often and many to make each year to replace the clothing too worn to repair. Given my eightfold plan, sewing about a garment a month, maybe slightly more than that, would be enough to keep the clothing in good condition, once there are eight in each of the major categories. Currently that is not the case, but this will be remedied over the next months... Two friends have come up with a cunning plan to act as my sewing assistants, an offer that I find both intriguing and astonishing; I shall have to think of some particularly nice way of thanking them!

If each year I sewed three new dresses, three tops, two pinafores, and an assortment of other garments as needed, that would be enough to keep my closet full and in good repair. I wear my clothing until it is too worn to mend, and would find a closet with eight pinafores, eight dresses, eight popovers, eight blouses and the outerwear needed (wool coat, raincoat, and a scattering of cardigan sweaters) combined with a dresser holding eight each of long sleeve tops and tees (and unders and socks) to be most lavish and delightful. I may add in a few more sleeveless "slip-dresses" to add another layer in the coldest weather (the one I have gets worn very often in the darkest months), and possibly a pair or two of loose pants for potential occasions where dresses are not ideal (I am remembering a particular beach trip). I have a few more dressy clothes for the very rare occasions those are needed, and a pair of silver Birkenstock sandals to go with...

* this post from The Vivienne Files not only is an example of her fun "start with art" option for selecting wardrobe colors, but also one where she goes into a bit of detail about how the "core of four" concept is intended to work. My own wardrobe is structured differently, but I enjoy her blog very much anyway...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014


in which our plucky heroine digresses back to metal and glass for a moment...

There was some online discussion this week about using sterling instead of fine silver, for enameling. In both my own work and when teaching, I feel this is counter-productive, as the cost difference is minimal, compared to the effort needed to deal with the copper content in the sterling. What I have read is that you need to treat sterling in the same way you would treat copper, because the surface oxidises (turns dark) in the same way that copper does. If you depletion-gild the sterling then the outer surface would react more like fine silver. Using fine silver means that oxidation is not a problem because it (fire scale) doesn't happen on the surface. Fine silver and copper interact differently to different enamels, so sterling would have its own characteristic ways of reacting which you would have to learn. Sterling has a somewhat lower melting point than either pure silver or pure copper. In addition, if doing cloisonne, you would need to be careful about the fine silver wires touching the sterling surface. It is just so much simpler to use fine silver from the beginning, to avoid the hassles.

This is a piece I made back when I was beginning to learn enameling; we were taught to use copper as the base substrate. I took out of the kiln *just* as the eutectic action was in the middle of dissolving the wires... I had almost finished the enamel when this happened. I was able to salvage the work by creating a different pendant design, that worked with the changed enamel motif.

It was meant to say "enough is as good as a feast" and believe me bending those tiny little letters was not easy! The enamel is about 1 1/4 " across at the bottom edge. This is why I mostly never use copper as a substrate when doing cloisonne, the very slight added expense precludes a lot of heartbreak!

melting point copper: 1,981°F (1083°C)
melting point fine silver: 1,763°F (961.8°C)
melting point sterling silver: 1,640°F (893°C)
melting point eutectic formation: 1,450°F (788°C)

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday miscellany

in which our plucky heroine is very very naughty...

I ordered these yarns from KnitPicks; they will become Fox Paws, a way to bribe myself to do less desirable activities, like chores and the ongoing decluttering, with the promise of treats...

In addition, there has been much thinking about wardrobe planning, about how much is enough, and about making clothing as replacement pieces for the garments that wear out. (will admit that 'tis difficult to decide "this is too worn to wear any more" when it is a beloved but well worn dress, hence the dreadful wardrobe malfunctions) Given the desired eightfold wardrobe concept, have been thinking a lot about how long it takes for something to get from brand new to that state, and here is where my starting to record sewing projects online has been a real help...

Sunday, September 21, 2014

a Sunday bouquet

The only upside, as far as I am concerned, with our very hot summer, is that my black figs are actually ripening. The green ones do ripen, occasionally, but the black figs are my favorites as far as flavor. Next spring I will try air-layering the black fig, so as to have TWO black fig trees, and then plant it in a different spot in the yard, because hey... more yummy figs! It would be great to eventually have enough to dry some for the rest of the year.

Though I have had a moratorium this year on bringing in new fabric, I do make exceptions. In January I found two lengths of black and white handwoven ikat at Goodwill! Almost seven yards (3 of the large pattern and 4 of the jaspe), though only 36 inches wide, but still at what works out to about $1.30 a yard, I am not complaining. My first thought was to use the fabric for something like a tunic or a pair of pants, but those are not favored everyday wear, dresses are...

The challenge was combining the two fabrics in one dress without it looking like the Patchwork Girl of Oz.  (indeed this is a somewhat frequent problem, while I have a LOT of fabric, it turns out that I don't have a lot of  actually have very few dress lengths of fabric. It was not possible to find six single dress lengths. This will make sorting out and culling the stash slightly easier. Slightly.)

After much sketching, the design that seemed appealing was to use the plainer fabric for the body of the dress, and the more highly patterned fabric for sleeves and a hem band, and add in a bit of bias around the neck and above the hem band... to me this has just an echo of the old-timey Old West "theme" this collection seems to be developing, in the pattern on pattern aspect at least.


just when our plucky heroine was feeling all useless and unwanted, this comment from my online friend mrs.eccentric on Stitchers Guild brightened the whole day, nay probably the whole gorram month, in reflected appreciation:

Do you know that every time i do a google search on 'Lagenlook' or "Ivey Abitz" a certain someone always peers out at me from the image results? Yes, it's you Ms. A!!! frankly i think this is the most enchanting aspect of the computer age. I know for me it's very hard to find inspo as my style is so specific and eccentric, as i'm sure is the case for you. You have the added burden of being the inspir-er, and leading all us poor sheep.....we can follow you, but you must take the lead from your own inner light. We wee sheep be rooting for ye

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Saturday snippets

Well that was interesting, in the Chinese curse way; today in the mailbox, another one of those yearly "what will your Social Security benefits be if..." letters that come once a year. I read them, of course, though the numbers in either section are not cheerful. Last year, my income was the same as it was in 1977. No wonder my life seems like a struggle sometimes, in the late seventies that amount of dosh went a lot further! My life now is living proof of the axiom that "we have done so much for so long with so little, that we can now do anything with nothing"...  Not to say that I have "nothing" in my life, I have wonderful family and friends, a house over my head with hot and cold running water and all the accoutrements, and I am alive to enjoy these things!

I have been putting off and putting off sewing myself some new clothes, for reasons of no mojo (and/or because of my own issues about how I look...) This has become an issue itself, since I've a very small wardrobe indeed even in the best of times*. My grey chambray pinafore, and my jordan almond popover dress both suffered grievous wardrobe failure this week, having become so threadbare that they tore apart. Fortunately this happened at home, and not, say, while I was riding on transit, or on my bike halfway to the grocery store.

Therefore our plucky heroine must simply get to filling in those gaps. I've a good selection of cotton dress lengths of fabric, and it looks like the overall theme for this go-round will be stripey, since a lot of them are stripes or ikat of various sorts. My plan for the weekend is to cut out six TNT dresses, and make "project kits" for myself, so that I can get them done with a minimum of fuss. As an incentive to self, have ordered four yards of extra dark overdyed Durango denim - I've long wanted a dark denim pinafore, and replacing my worn denim jacket would be a great thing as well. Seems like the overarching theme of the new wardrobe additions will be vaguely Old Western... with the denim and the woven stripes. In addition I ordered some yarn for the Fox Paws pattern; the colorway will be my usual (darks+taupe/grey+indigo), but adding a subtle turquoise accent, just to be a bit different. Might see about setting one of my sample enamels as a brooch, to go along with the theme... but for now, must get back to the cutting table and start the work!

* My current wardrobe: note areas missing and vital clothing that needs replaced. The ideal is to have enough clothes to wear for a week before laundry must happen; to achieve this, there need to be close to eight dresses (autumn/winter/spring) and eight popovers (summer)

1 grey cave horse indigo/black layered blue/multi hawaiian CORNFLOWER
medium denim indigo nightsky batik black knit embroidered slip cropped black knit
2 bad girl black black bleach print black print lawn black/grey polkadot black lovechild overall jordan almond leafy * *
3 grey floral
black/grey crow * BLUE/GREY
black linen cobalt linen * *
4 bang said max black/grey stripey t-neck * brown japanese dogs black vertical pique blue microcheck linen * *
5 blue stripey cloud black/white winter t-neck * * grey corduroy * * *
6 dk blue leopard black plain * * dk grey linen * * *
7 brown acorn brown celtic wolf * * BROWN CORDUROY * * *
8 black square lace grey zip neck * * grey chambray * * *
BOLD is wearing out - italic rarely gets worn - strikethrough is worn out

Friday, September 19, 2014

all the week long

Look it's a teeny tiny baby rosemary (sidewalk penny for scale) - if it stays alive over the winter and puts down roots, it will become a good addition to the herbs here - my intent is to find it a nice sunny spot to live, and to keep it well pruned so it will not turn into the Giant Rosemary Of Doom! (there was a huge one here when I moved in, of the reach out an poke an eye variety, but it was toooo big, so I gave it away, as I had been told that it was too overgrown to cut back) What I want is a nice modest size one that will be decorative and useful at the same time...

This has been a week of weird weather forecasts... Less than a week ago, we had a "volcanic activity statement", and this week, the weather forecast is for "areas of smoke"! Most assuredly, the smoke from the 36 Pits Wildfire is not doing anyone any good, and the smoke in the air here, though nothing like closer areas, was enough on Sunday to turn the sky an odd color and to leave me with a wheezy sore throat. Nonetheless my most sincere wish is for safety to those fighting the fire and for all the people more directly affected. There are wildfires all over the west this fire season.

Have been sick on an off all week, so not as much as usual accomplished. Discretion being the better part of valor, have decided not to go to Summits Coronet, as staying home and resting seemed like a better smarter idea. My acupuncture treatment today feels like it is helping, as are the sea-bands. Hopefully a few more days will put the inner heroine to rights, but just in case I do have an appointment with my GP next week. In the meantime, my plan for the weekend involves short periods of useful indoor activity, alternating with rest; tomorrow is forecast to be in the low 90's again...

I really wonder how far I walked on a daily basis in years past, when walking was not only a joyful activity but less of a struggle... I took it as a personal challenge when my 80 year old Mom got a pedometer from REI to start walking more. The tiny little thing I got is not even noticeable in my pocket. I did test it out several times to make sure the step count was accurate, and it seems to be...

Well that was interesting, my first day with the new pedometer, and even on a sick day, I walked almost 6,500 steps, which is nowhere near the "recommended" 10,000, but not shabby either. Second pedometer day: total steps = 10,029, or over 3 miles. Not bad considering I still am feeling quite puny. On the other hand, it was relatively cool and pleasantly grey most of yesterday, which helps a lot! Today was hot and sunny, so I suspect that the totals for today will be less...I am enjoying the challenge aspect of having it in my pocket though.

September SMART goal challenge
1 tunic muslin for B carport cleared yardwaste bin
2 gown muslin for M shelves in SCA closet 5 yardwaste bags
3 2nd Pegasus embroidery herb planter improved funky red dresser
4 2 very tiny
Roman enamels
housefront plantings
mulched and weeded
old baby stroller
from garden shed
5 * disassemble and clean
venerable box fan
clay flowerpots
6 * *  4 Goodwill bags
7 * ---------- 2 paper recycling
8 * ---------- 1 paper recycling
9 * ---------- ----------
10 * ---------- ----------
11 * ---------- ----------