Monday, March 18, 2019

I made shoes! Again!

That's right, I had so much fun making the shoes originally that I wanted to try again. And this time they're much more professional looking. Mainly because I had a professional teaching me. I took the Cordwainer Shop shoe course and made these beauties:
It all starts with a pattern. These are the original tin patterns used back in the 1920's by the Cordwainer Shop family. Molly came to the Adirondack Folk School fully equipped with patterns, lots of leather, soles, lasts, and expertise. We picked out our leather, traced the pattern, and got cutting.
Vamp, tongue, and quarters
It's amazing how different the techniques were from my previous shoes. Those were a simple pattern with machine stitching obviously made for soft materials. Add a sole or not. Up to you.

These are real shoes and it shows. The process doesn't use a sewing machine at all. It's all hand-stitched. Or laced. You know.
The quarters and cowhide ling 
Lined and ready to lace
Our hands got a real workout punching all these holes 
Juggling three pieces to lace together quarters, tongue, and vamp
Stitching on the sole
Fitting onto the last
Shoe making art
Proving I made them
Burnishing tools. Used a propane torch to heat them. 
One last down, one to go
Ready for baking
Buffing to a shine

It took us 4 days to make our shoes. And I took everyone's home one night to bake them (I know!). Once the shoe is assembled and put on the last you need to do a slow bake to fit it properly and tighten everything up. I found it interesting that the shoe was actually too tight before baking but fit perfectly after. I would have thought the leather would shrink. But the last is critical to the fit and provides the perfect amount of stretch.

I took great notes and fully intend to make some more shoes. I've already got the leather selected and I've ordered supplies. And even if they're not this specific style, I'll be able to use the techniques I learned to make other shoes. I think sandals and ballet flats are in my future.

Friday, March 15, 2019


We're fortunate enough to have some eagles that reside by the dam near us. It's just a few miles up the road and we look every time we drive past.

This time we got lucky and actually caught some pictures of this one.

It's amazing how huge these birds actually are. We saw another one flying over a field not far from here. Not sure if there is a nest back in the woods or if it was just hunting, but it brought us to a full stop in the car while we watched it fly out of sight. 

We don't see them very often but when we do? It's worth a moment to pause and just marvel. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Pottery studio at home

The pottery wheel is all set up at home and we're starting to use it. Of course it becomes obvious as we use it that there are some tweaks that we need to do in order to improve it's functioning. Those will come along though and in the meantime we'll have some fun with it. 

Starting a bowl
Widening the base
And now a cup
The room gets great sunlight and even the evening light is good with the two overhead lights I'd installed back when it was my project room. I wish I could say the same for the new project room upstairs! Definitely need to do some improvements in that area.

Monday, March 11, 2019

I bought a loom!

After my weaving class in January I started looking at various online sites for a loom to purchase. I wanted an 8-shaft floor loom. Preferred a Macomber simply because that's what I'd used in class and I had a sense of familiarity with it. 

It quickly became clear that although there were many, many 4-shaft looms out there on the used market, 8-shaft looms were more rare and much more expensive. I was searching multiple sites, multiple states, and willing to travel. Ultimately I found a woman selling a Bergman countermarch on Facebook Marketplace and we started a conversation on how to get this rather large and cumbersome piece of equipment/furniture from her home in southern Virginia to my place in northern New York. 

Fortunately, we discovered that her son lives in DC and so does our niece. She was willing to meet us! How cool is that??? We loaded up the dog and headed off on adventure.

Half an hour on the road and there was a weird noise under the truck. We pulled into a parking lot and Chris made like super-mechanic and got us going again.

This is not a good sign...
We made good time to DC and had a nice visit with Rachel and Bob (and Huck!).
They remembered each other
After a bit of back and forth as to the best place in downtown DC to make the exchange we ended up in front of the Federal Reserve Building. The reasoning? It's Saturday and would be quiet this time of week. The reality? Only one parking space available on the street. So we blocked the driveway into the Fed. Sure, makes sense to me.

Note the many signs warning not to stand or park...
It was freezing cold and windy but everyone was very good natured. Fortunately that included the DC patrolmen who stopped by to see what we were up to. And do you know - they asked if they could help lift the loom into the truck because it looked heavy? Incredibly friendly. Fortunately we didn't have to take them up on the offer.

I got a mini-demo of how the loom was tied up for transport then Bob and Chris put it up in the truck.

Explaining how it's tied together
They managed just fine
We wrapped it up well and made it home without any incidents.  Then it was time to get it set up!
Long drive home

Friday, March 8, 2019

Sewing slippers

This is another Twig & Tale pattern. I bought several patterns at Christmas so you'll hopefully be seeing more finished work based on those. 

These are slipper boots and come in two options - short like these and tall (knee height). The pattern is quite straight forward and comes with access to videos that help make the steps clear. I hope the vest patterns I purchased are just as well written. 

Although they make suggestions for ways to upcycle materials (sweaters, jeans, etc) they recommended an easy to use fabric option for your first pair. Just to make sure you understand all the steps and don't add fabric-related complexity to the initial learning curve.

For the outers I chose some fleece that I had originally purchased for my Mom during her illness. We didn't get a chance to make anything out of it before she passed away so it came back to me when we were cleaning out the house. The inner fleece layer is leftover from a project that I had made with her while she was sick (a hat and scarf set). So both layers have a bit of special meaning to me. A nice way to start a project I think.
Pieces and parts
It was a fairly quick sew with minimal difficulty. 
I do want to make a padded insert for them. Right now they are just two layers - a wool insole and a leather sole.
I used some cute segmented yarn to crochet ties for the tie-backs and there is just enough give that I can stretch them over my heel when putting them on. This tension helps keep the soft boot in place when walking. The pattern recommended elastic but I like how this looks better.

I wore them like this for a while but ultimately folded that top edge over to create a lower profile. More slipper than boot actually. Very comfortable and I'm really looking forward to making some out of salvaged clothing. I've got some excellent thrifted woven wool jackets that will work perfectly.

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Pottery Haul

Pottery class is over and we got quite a haul! We completed nearly 50 pieces in those six weeks and are really pleased with how it all turned out. We got teased a bit that we concentrated too much on functional stuff as opposed to art, but I like some function with my form. And since I'm not fond of dusting, anything that's not useful enough to get used regularly doesn't really fit my lifestyle. 

Anyway, here is most of it:

So many things!
Lids that serve as sipping cups (vessels still at studio)
Coffe cups and drink glasses for Chris's band mates
Whiskey dram glasses
Artist paintbrush set
Accidental stacking bowls
That are tiny. Love these things.
Mini pots
Another ring bowl
Chicken bowl for chicken eggs
The vessel
Cup and saucer
Spice or ring bowls
We've still got a few things at the studio that are waiting for bisquing, glazing, and final firing. Most of my pieces were very small - saki cups, whiskey cups, ring bowls, spice bowls, etc. Chris did coffee cups, cereal bowls, toothbrush and soap dishes, and even a fermenting crock (still at the studio). We loved getting back into this and now that the wheel is set up at home we'll be continuing to throw.

Monday, March 4, 2019

Making Chris a pottery apron

Before starting our pottery class Chris asked me to make him an apron. He wanted something that would be comfortable to wear, provide protection from wet clay, and that would allow freedom of movement while at the wheel.

We did some on-line searches and found some great examples of pottery aprons that were split down the center. The best ones overlapped while standing, but separated when you sat at the wheel.

We went to our local fabric store and I had Chris pick out some fabric. I recommended a mid-weight denim or twill so that it would hang well and stand up to washing. I also recommended a light oatmeal color that would hide the clay well.

He went with black.

I didn't have a pattern so used an old apron that fit him well to trace out the top of the apron. Then I mocked up the overlaid leg pieces and started fitting them to him. 

The old "two pencils taped together" trick for seam allowance
It took a few fittings but eventually I had a shape and size that he liked.
So dapper
It stays closed when standing but when sitting with your knees spread (as you would at a pottery wheel), it separates enough to be comfortable but still provides protection for your pants.
Needs a wheel there, doesn't he?
And here you see what it looks like after a few weeks of use.
Really should have chosen the oatmeal color.