Thursday, March 25, 2010

A medieval waxed tablet

With much gratitude to the waxed tablet links on I conducted some research into making a waxed tablet. There are variations in the number of leaves in the tablets; I chose to use the fewest number, two, because the end result would be less bulky and also easier to construct.

I chose quarter sawn white oak as it is the most similar to European oak commonly used in the period, has pretty grain, and because it is quarter sawn is more stable and less likely to warp.

Different colors were used to mix with the beeswax in extant tablets including black, red, and yellow. I decided on red because I had a large amount of the pigment, thought it would look good, and work well enough when written upon.

The linseed oil and wax finish is a period appropriate finish and looks very good. This was my first time using linseed oil and I was extremely pleased with the result. The oil really brought out the beauty of the wood grain. I am now completely sold on using it in a finish and looking forward to trying it under shellac. Here's what it looks like in full sunlight:

Here is a little photo essay showing my process and progress to date:

Monday, March 22, 2010

Brick Stitch Pattern #20

It's been too long since I made a new pattern! This pattern is my 20th, bringing me 40% of the way to my goal of 50 patterns for the A&S 50 Challenge.

Once again, the source of the pattern is a German religious wall hanging. This one is dated to both 1290/1300 and the mid 14th century. Here is the detail I used:

Since the photo is black and white and I have never seen the original I have to invent the colors. I played with using a different number of colors. Maybe you can get an idea of a way to put them together with other patterns (the way the three colored motifs are stitched together below is a hint)?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Brick stitch cushion

Stymied by my long wait for the yellow thread I ordered to finish my embroidered box project, I decided to start something else. I am getting quite a collection of brick stitched articles, but they are all purses, needle books or needle rolls. They are also all silk and must be cared for carefully. Therefore I am going in a different direction and making something designed for harder use, which is why I chose wool for my thread. It is a cushion designed to be placed on my new bench.

For the pattern I am not copying one specific extant piece, rather I am using elements from various pieces.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Oak bench finished (well, just about)

Here is my new bench in all its glory. It is patterned after numerous 16th century examples of benches. It is made from flatsawn white oak (because I couldn't find quartersawn of sufficient width where I live), fumed with ammonia, shellacked with 3 coats blonde and 3 coats orange shellac. I may put a final coat of varnish, or just wax it, I haven't decided.

The color isn't what my original goal was, but I like it well enough. I didn't think to use linseed oil before shellac, but tried it after on another project and it really made a difference. I think all future projects will have linseed oil before shellac. The shellac went on so smoothly and beautifully, it hardly needed any smoothing when I was done. I enjoyed using the shellac and the easy cleanup, I can see myself using this almost exclusively in the future.

The use of shellac is not period so it is not a true medieval finish, but I will be using this piece in my house and I wanted something that didn't have much upkeep. Also I am a novice woodworker and finisher and every project I plan is to build up my skill set so I can make furniture for my home.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Needle roll from Pattern #8

I'd like to teach another brick stitch class, and to that end am planning on stitching more of the patterns I made. Eventually I would like to have examples of all of them. This little pattern was easy to stitch and the needle roll is small and quick to make.

The finished size is 3 inches long and 2 1/4 inches high. The embroidery took between 5 and 6 hours, with another 2 or 3 hours to weave the cord and sew everything together. Materials were 28 count linen, and single strand Aurora Silk in undyed (white), indigo, and cochineal (purple) dyed by my friend Renee of Solar Colors and a green of a similar silk thread from the store.

As much as I liked making this, I can only have so many needle rolls. Some of the other patterns will be made into purses and other things.