Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday Activities

It's been an intense couple of days. Saturday was Not Good, and we'll just leave it at that. I've been processing it elsewhere, with people who've been through this kind of thing. Earlier today I looked at Bob and said, "Am I ever gonna get better?" And he said I was doing fine, right on schedule for where I am, and yes, I'm going to get and feel better. Today, the solution for feeling like crap was what it so often is -- pray to be relieved of fear or resentment or whatever it is, and then get on and do something. Anything. I didn't WANT to do anything, and I didn't feel like I had enthusiasm, excitement or energy for anything, but that doesn't matter. I do have one project I really wanted to be Finished, so I started with that. It's a knife sheath, a commission, for a friend who's a biker and wanted something in black leather, with fringe to match his leathers, for a folding knife.

I've never done a sheath for a folder before, and it presented construction difficulties, and I've never done fringes before either. I made a sandwich of thin, 4-ounce leather, with an insert of black-on-white watersnake skin. You have to cut a hole for that, and cut the snakeskin, and put a piece of something soft, like chamois, cut the same as the hole but a little smaller, behind the snakeskin to pad it and make it flush with the top of the sandwich, then glue it all in place and stitch around it. I've done that before and felt competent there.

But straight knives are narrow and this folder's over a half-inch deep. I made the back out of heavier 9-ounce leather, about a quarter-inch thick, with a strap on it folded over and stitched down for a belt loop. That's common and straightforward too. The tricky part here was the welting. I thought I'd be using two layers of the 9-ounce leather, plus a third of 4-ounce, cut for the fringe, and I got all that done, and then realized it still wasn't deep enough inside. I had to cut a third layer of the 9-ounce leather. And I'd already glued the other two layers to the back, and tacked on the front and cleaned up the sides on the belt grinder -- so it wasn't just a matter of tracing. I got a little stuck there, and left it for a few days.

Today, I cut that third layer of welt, glued it up, and the whole welt was, near the top on one side, narrower than optimal. I had to drill holes through all that leather, which was an inch or more deep by then, 3/32" holes, about 3/16" on centre (5 to the inch). and an 1/8" in from the edge. The holes are good on top, but that grinding I'd already done had left the bottom edge a little rounded. The stitches will hold, but they're through the rounded edge on the bottom, and that doesn't please me aesthetically. Or professionally. I couldn't adjust them because of the welt being too narrow. After I got the holes drilled, I saddle-stitched them. Took a LOT of thread. Saddle-stitching, you put a needle in each end of a length of thread and thread it through a hole. Then the needle on the back of the sheath goes through the next hole to the front, and the needle that was on the front in the first place goes through the same hole to the back, so you've got one on the front and one on the back again. Each stitch took about three inches of waxed cotton cord.

I have the COOLEST vice for holding things while I sew them. We saw someone using one like it for filework on knives last spring, and Bob came home and made one for me. I like filework, and it looks like I'll have time to learn some this winter, but it works great for a lot of other things too. Sewing that saddle-stitch needs two hands, so you need your work to be clamped. This is made out of a trailer hitch ball in a piece of pipe, so you can swivel it in all directions, then tighten the screws to hold it still. I'll take pictures another time -- it's too dark now and my flash isn't so hot.

After the sewing was done, I dressed the edges, cleaned the sheath of fingerprints with rubbing alcohol, and got the first coat of black dye on it. I don't know that I like the fringes very much, but I'm really pleased with the rest of it, now the dye's on it. It needs another coat of dye tomorrow, then buffing, a clear coat and a second buffing, and I'll take it to the guy I made it for, and hope he likes it. Pictures of the done thing tomorrow -- those light issues again.

The gluing today was all contact cement, so there was standing time every once in a while. I put the kittens in the former flying squirrel cage, where we keep the cat food now. The runty little black one (my favourite) found his way into the food right away. His sister spent a lot of time climbing the trees in there. The pictures I took of them in there didn't turn out well -- kittens WON'T hold still for pictures. But here's one of the calico on the front steps -- I really like this picture. We gotta name these guys soon -- they're six weeks old now.

And we haven't seen a hummingnbird for a couple of weeks, but the feeders are attracting the red wasps that are as big as Sea King Helicopters, and lots of yellow jackets too, right near the house. Aubrey screams whenever she sees one, which leads her to show me how loud she can scream, and that wears a little thin. Today, I took down all the feeders and cleaned them to put away for winter. I said, "These smell AWFUL," and Bob thought it was because the stuff had fermented, but it wasn't that kind of smell. When I took the last one apart for washing, I found it had become a yellow jacket trap -- there had to be two dozen drowned ones in there. Ugh.

Friday night or yesterday, I forget, I finished this pair of mittens. Here's the hat, just started, to go with them. I love this wool -- I love the colours, and it's soft and beautiful, and machine washable on delicate in cold water. Crystal Palace's Mini Mochi. I hadn't realized this particular colour (Bossa Nova) was quite so pink/purpley, or I'd have picked something else for the girl they're meant for. Well, we do the best we can. I've got the same wool in a different colourway for another little girl -- Intense Rainbow. Soon's I get this hat done, I'll start her mittens. Oh, except tomorrow I've gotta take some time to knit some of these stars, but in pale yellow. Tomorrow's my mother-in-law's birthday, and I'll mail half-a-dozen or so to her for her Christmas tree.

The bottom line is, today's finishing a lot better than it started. My final triumph was just a little bit ago. The bathtub plug's not been fitting, and you can shower, but a bath runs out before you can get wet, hardly. I'd said I'd use a crochet hook and fish out the hair I figured was stuck in there, but I forgot. Bob had wanted a bath before bed, and I finished the dying (leather, not personal) and went and stuck my finger down the drain to see if I could fish out whatever was in there. Easy-peasy. Turned out there was a little circle of clear plastic in there. It had popped off the centre of the hot water tap handle, and got stuck, so the plug couldn't turn. Pictures of the finished knife sheath and the vise tomorrow or Tuesday.

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