Hats, Hats, Hats for Career Girls!

Originally published May 25th on my first blog, then Oct 1, 2015 on the more recent blog, and now here.

I discovered in my attempt to research fillets and barbettes, that  if you Google “Barbette” you come up with images of a drag queen from the 1920s.  Not exactly what I was looking for, but interesting nonetheless.

The next hat I made was a pleated fillet.

Directions I used from http://www.caitlinsclothing.com/

Step 1

Measure your head with a tape measure and add 1″.

Step 2

Set the tape measure on its edge on a sheet of buckram, so that it arcs from the selvage of the buckram to the cut side, straddling a corner. Using a pencil, trace this line.

Step 3

finding the radialMeasure from the corner of the buckram to a few points on the line to get an average measurement. Use this radial measurement to get an even circle-segment drawn on the buckram.

Step 4

Decide how tall the fillet should be. A good height is 2.5″. Add this number to the radial measurement, and again trace the curve onto the buckram.

Step 5

join the seamCut the buckram and join together at the short edge to make the fillet.

Step 6

To cover the coif with pleated fabric, cut out a strip of fabric twice your head measurement, and twice as wide as the fillet is tall, plus seam allowances. Iron this fabric into pleats before applying to the fillet.

Step 7

pleat the fabricPin the pleats onto the middle of the fillet’s band, all the way around. Carefully fold the pleated fabric over the top and bottom. The pleats may expand or contract because of the angle of the fillet. Pin securely, then baste the covering together on the inside of the fillet.

What goes underneath is the same smaller coif and a barbette.

After a bit of experimentation, I also made a St. Brigitta cap.  I’m not entirely happy with the fit–I think it’s too big.  I’ll have to keep experimenting.  I know I should have tucked all my hair into it, which would change the shape of the hat, too.


Out of the Dye Pot: Tansy & Alum

Originally published Oct 9, 2015

A couple of years ago, I was all anxious to try natural dyes.  I got a bunch of onion skins and made some lovely yarn!  I got some tumeric and made some more lovely yarn!  (Which is fugitive, by the way, so it fades over time).  I also tried a tansy dye project to see what would happen.  I picked tansy ragwort as well as common tansy to see if there was any difference, I tried the leaves separate from the buttons.  I even tried splashing a bit of ammonia into the dye bath…but I can’t find any of the images or results from that project.  I’m starting over and I hope to try other locally found things, like algae, apple leaves, and more, as well as ordering some other dye stuffs, like brazilwood, indigo and woad.  I also want to try to use some different mordants–all I’ve ever used so far is alum.  I found that it’s pretty easy to do iron, but it takes a couple of weeks to prep, so I’m going to work on that in the next week or so.

Today’s dye project was common tansy!

As the weather grows colder, I knew that if I wanted to do any tansy dyeing this year, I had to jump on it quickly.  I dropped the middle kid off at Scouts and found a bunch of tansy along the roadside across the way.  This is actually my photo…not a stock photo stolen off the internet.  Sometimes that scuzzy phone camera actually takes a good shot now and again!  Now, you should note that this is *common tansy* (Tanacetum vulgare), not Tansy Ragwort, (Senecio jacobaea), which is also amusingly called “Stinking Willie”.  Both are considered a noxious weed in Washington state, so there is no problem with me picking it along the roadsides.  (Then again, Himalayan blackberries are considered a noxious weed and no one is doing anything about those except happily picking the berries in August and September and cursing loudly when they snag their ankles on one of the runners.)

Here is the yarn I started with:  100 grams of KnitPicks Bare wool/nylon.  I usually prefer to use 100% wool yarn for these projects, just because it takes the dye so much better, but this is what I had on hand.  My plan is to use it to make some socks for SCA wear.  I prepped it by soaking it in a couple gallons of water with a half jar of alum and a quarter jar or so of cream of tartar (about 2 oz of alum and 1/2 oz of cream of tartar).

I ended up picking a grocery sack full of flowers in just 10-15 minutes.  I tried to avoid putting any leaves in the stew, thinking that it might turn the yarn a little more green, which even the stems may very well have.  Here are the buds simmering in the water.  I let it sit on the warm stove for about five hours.

Yarn test color–before and after
After posting it on Facebook, several people asked me why I was drying spaghetti on my faucet.

I took the very wet wool and placed it gently in the dye bath.  I removed most of the flowers before putting it in there, but I think next time, I might find a nylon or net bag to put all the vegetable matter in so I can easily remove it before putting in the fiber.  There are a few sticks and leaves still in the yarn.

In the end, it turned into a rather nice butter yellow–a little bit of the brown tones in it, but still quite lovely.

I soaked the yarn in the resulting bath for about an hour, keeping it warm, but not boiling.  Boiling can do horrible things to the color, like leave splotches on your yarn.  That’s not a good look.

The fun part of this is that it’s fairly easy to do, none of the ingredients are extremely toxic (although I wouldn’t recommend eating the tansy), and be sure to wash your hands after handling it.  It had been used as a medicinal herb in Medieval times, and is occasionally used on salads in some cultures, but the plant’s medicinal property, thujone, can cause miscarriage.  It is also a very effective insect repellent, and the herb can cause hallucinations, spasms, convulsions, and even death in large doses.  I have to admit that after making the dye in my kitchen with the windows open, I had a stomach ache and felt a bit queasy for a couple days.  So I would recommend using rubber gloves when handling it and use in a well-ventilated area.

Out of the Dye Pot: The Beginning of My Dyeing Journey

Originally posted Oct 13, 2015

Finding out how to do natural dyeing is part math and lots of chemistry.  After much scratching of my head, figuring out how much I have in dye stuffs vs. fiber and how much of the chemicals (alum, iron, etc.) to mix in to make a mordant….well, I kinda threw it out the window and said, “That looks about right!”  Unfortunately, that means I won’t be able to absolutely replicate what I did, but that’s not the goal just yet.  As a beginning alchemist, I’m happy getting any results at all!

I started my dye projects several years ago with onion skins.  I was at the grocery store early one morning and looked around the produce section for some dinner stuff.  I walked past the onion bin and said to myself, “What a mess!  Look at all those onion skins!”  Then the light bulb went off and I said, much more excitedly, “WOW!  LOOK AT ALL THOSE ONION SKINS!”  I grabbed a clear produce bag and started picking out all the skins and stuffing them in.  The produce jockey came over and said, “Thanks for doing my job!  What are you going to do with those?  Make soup?”  And I said, “No!  I’m going to dye yarn!”  We chatted for a few minutes and the produce guy said I could have the skins for free.  Later, I discovered that they normally don’t do that, so later when I’d gather skins, I’d also grab an onion and throw it in so I’d pay the “poundage” for the skins (which weigh virtually nothing).

I used alum and cream of tartar to dye all my first pieces, starting with a very bulky wool yarn that was 3-ply.  I un-plied it to make 3 regular size skeins of single-ply (yes, they were too beefy to be sock yarn; almost the weight of Cascade 220).

That onion skin yarn is on the left.  Going to the right, it is followed by tumeric (very fugitive–see how it’s fading in several spots?), Common tansy heads, Ragwort tansy (just to see if there was any difference), common tansy leaves (a bit more green), and some mysterious thing that I can’t remember.  Granted, the colors are not very pure and may have had not had the right vegetable matter to yarn ratio.  That will likely come with time.

All of these used alum and cream of tartar as the mordant and were done in 2010, so even though they’ve been in a box for several years, you can see that they’re mostly colorfast (with the exception of tumeric).

Out of the Dye Pot: Dogwood Fruit & Lessons in Chemistry

Originally posted Oct 14, 2015

It came to my attention the other day that my neighbor’s dogwood tree is producing fruit.  I’m sure I noticed before but never thought to ask anyone about it.  So, doing a little research, I found out this is a Korean Dogwood variety, and it turns out that that fruit–besides being edible–*supposedly* makes a nice dye stuff.

The sources that I saw online (which I think may have just been quoting each other) said that the berries themselves would make a lovely blue-green yarn.  Unfortunately, they didn’t say what kind of mordant they used*, so it was time to do a little experimentation.  I first mordanted my yarn with alum and cream of tartar.

*They also didn’t mention that there are several different varieties of Dogwood that produces fruit, including one that grows a blue fruit, that, like the Oregon Grape, may create the blue hues.

I picked up a bunch of berries off the ground and off the tree as high as I could reach (there are still plenty I couldn’t reach), and put them into the dye pot.  I let them simmer for a while, which made a rather orangey-tomato-red colored sauce.  I took a sample of yarn and dropped it in there just to see what color it would be.  It came out not blue or green, but a slightly orangy yellow.

Top yarn: the orangy-yellow Dogwood fruit yarn. I dunked into vinegar after pulling it out of the dye pot, which brightened the color just slightly; the white yarn is the undyed yarn, just for color reference; the other yellow is the common tansy yarn, again for a color reference.

A few days ago, I found a reference to making your own iron mordant by taking 2 parts water, 1 part vinegar and placing them into a glass jar and adding rusty nails.  “Well,” says I, “Let’s do that and see what happens!”  I found some rusty nails (thanks to a kind neighbor) and dropped them in the jar with the vinegar and water.  The recipe says you need to wait a week or two, but I didn’t have that kind of time for this project.

So continuing on with the experimental part, says I, “what would happen if I added iron to the bath?”  So after a couple hours, I shook the jar and poured most of the contents into the dye bath with the yarn.  I probably should have started small and added more later, but I figured it was a weak compound having only been sitting for a couple hours.

I checked the yarn a few minutes ago and looking in, it looks like grape jelly.

The yarn, on the other hand, looks like rather blah grey.  Not blue.  Not purple.  Not green.  Blah.  Maybe heather grey…just a hint of blue hue.

I will let it dry a bit and see if the color improves, but so far, you can color me unimpressed.

Out of the Dye Pot: Rhodies and Iron

Originally posted Oct 16, 2015

I thought I’d try a couple more dye experiments before the weather gets too nasty.  I hope I’ll be able to do some of this outside since indoor dye stuff can make you feel ill…as I learned from the tansy experiment.  Tansy has been used as an insect repellent, and when you cook it, it concentrates the smell and makes it difficult to tolerate.  Nausea is a side effect.  Yep.  I was feeling a bit queasy.

So today’s experiment comes from this article that I found:  http://www.allfiberarts.com/2011/how_dye_rhododendron.htm, the use of rhododendrons for dye materials.  It just so happened that a knew a lady who owns a house with some 50 year old rhodie plants in the yard.  I went over there and, not knowing how many I’d need, I trimmed off a sack full of leaves from the tree in the front yard.

Referring to the instructions, I cut up a bunch of the leaves, most into 1″ to 2″ pieces, putting them into a mesh bag to keep the yarn and foliage separate during the dye process.  This bag I set into a pot of cold water.  The smell was getting overwhelming, so I placed it on the deck overnight.  I only used about half the leaves that I picked.  I may try a second dye bath with a different mordant later.

Many leaves and flowers tend to result in a yellow yarn, which gets kind of boring, so I wanted to try for a green.  Using the instructions, I followed them to make an iron mordant.  Taking my rusty nail water, I poured about a cup and a half of the iron water into a bowl of tap water and set the wool yarn into it (about 100 yards taken off a large skein). [Yes, this plastic bowl is designated for dye stuff…never mix dye stuff and food stuff!]

To be continued….

Yawn!  Ahhh!  That was great restful night!  So I left the leaves soaking in the water overnight on the deck.  I peeked at it and it looked like a green-brown soup.  Not attractive, but it looked like it was doing something.

In order to avoid having the smells and the potential toxic stuff in the house, I decided that I’d use the grill outside.  I set the pot on the grill and set it on medium to get it warmed up.  Later, I set it up to high.  Since the lid was open, I was losing a lot of heat and it was pretty cold outside, so to compensate…even though the directions said to keep it under 200 degrees–so not a full boil.  I left it on the grill for about an hour, checking on it periodically to make sure it wasn’t boiling, and at that last check, I realized that there was no heat.  Ran out of gas.  Ah well, best laid plans.  I moved it inside and let it simmer on low for 30 minutes or so with the windows open and the vent fan on.

I took the yarn and drained most of the iron liquid off and gently set it into the dye bath.  I poked it with the spoon and put the bag of leaves on top, letting it simmer some more.  After about an hour, I took my first peek…

It’s going green!!  I let it sit for another hour or so, checked again, but it looks like it’s not getting any greener.  It’s drip-drying on the deck and appears to be a light olive green.  I love it!

I let the leaves steep all day and mordanted another 100 yards of wool in alum.  I dropped that in the pot, just to see if it would come out yellow…unless some of the iron residue is still in the pot, then I may end up with something green or green-yellow.  We’ll see what the morning brings!

Beads! Beads! Beads!

Originally posted Nov. 30, 2015 on my old blog.  Many thanks to my brother, Mike, for setting up this new blog site so photos will stop disappearing.


I have been working on making beads for the Known World Kingdoms over the past few weeks. This is a project that was taken on by the An Tir Lampworkers Guild several years ago. Twice a year, the lampworkers make 21 beads for each Kingdom in their Kingdom’s colors. 20 of those beads go to that Kingdom’s Queen, and the last one goes to the Queen of An Tir, who will have a string of 21 different beads. The Royals of An Tir then present these necklaces at the two big events in North America–Pennsic War in August and Estrella, the big one in Arizona in February.

Several years ago, I started by making one strand of beads for one kingdom. Then I did two kingdoms for a couple years as I gained confidence in my skill. This summer’s presentation in July had four strands made by me due to a shortfall in volunteers. This time around, the organizer who has historically done quite a lot of work, is ill, so I’ve been doing more to help pick up the slack.

I’m now working on the seventh kingdom (out of 20). I’m not as happy with this 6th Kingdom, only because good purple glass is difficult to find and make pretty. The Thai Orchid tends to look a little muddy. The Grape Ape looks a little too pastel. Pastel Purple looks pink. I’m thinking that the purple clear glass might be the way to go.

Here are the finished Calontir beads. I make a couple more than I needed, so I can pull out the ugly one…you can decide which one is the ugly one. There are several unsatisfactory ones in the bunch. I may make a few more just to have more options and give away the rest. I’ll give it a day or two to see if anyone else volunteers for another Kingdom before I start on more. The deadline is quickly approaching!

In the meantime, I’m also making and selling beads for the Bead Mama’s cancer bills. It’s not the medical stuff that needs covering, but all the other stuff–food, rent, utilities…you know, the luxuries. With a group of volunteers, we were able to cover some of these expenses and have promised to send her a small monthly stipend to help her out. It’s good to know that when things get tough, you’ve got friends to lend a hand.

Bead count is now at 8 Kingdoms:

I would like to stop now…I have other crafts and activities that need to take precedence.