Laser-cut Finnish ‘bead hangers’

Three different sizes of the same wooden 'bead hanger' cut on the laser cutter.

Three different sizes of the same wooden ‘bead hanger’ cut on the laser cutter.

A while ago you might remember that I made a single bead-hanger based off a 9th Century Finnish design, cast in pewter. I still haven’t had the chance to make a second to be able to wear it, but after having access to the laser cutter at a nearby Maker Space, I decided to see about making them in wood for a totally different project instead…

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Beothuk’s photos from Coronation

As mentioned in my previous post, like at Twelfth Night, I wasn’t able to take much in the way of photos at Avacal’s Coronation and the Kingdom Arts & Science Championships because I was swamped trying to do other things. Luckily, one of the local photographers (Beothuk)took MANY amazing photos, and published them publicly online.

All photos are direct links from his Flickr feed – if he removes them, they’ll break here. All copyright his.

My Finnish Iron Age costume

I opted to wear my Finnish Iron Age costume for my presentation (using my early attempts at the coil-embellished apron and necklace while the updated, more accurate versions were on display for the judges to touch and feel). For Court in the evening though, I swapped out and wore the updated versions. Beothuk got a few photos  (I didn’t get any!)
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Court was pretty much hilarious all the way through – I don’t think that there was a single time I wasn’t laughing.

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Finnish coil-embellished apron (part 5: grid motif)

Completed grid ornament (small). It's about 2cm long

Completed grid ornament (small). It’s about 2cm long

In my previous post I showed off the corner fan-shaped motifs for my coil-embellished apron. Today I’ll show how I made the grid motifs which are a square or diamond (depends on if they’re displayed on point or not).

Small ornament

Divided and undivided strips of coils

Divided and undivided strips of coils

The grid-style ornaments start out by stretching out divided sections of coils. More about that in my previous post about finishing coils. I used the small-diameter coils for this work. The original extant aprons and mantles used more than one size of coil for embellishment.

The small grid ornament took eight strips of five coil bundles, and four small coil pieces.

The small division areas work to line up the coil strips and let me thread the linen yarn through the coils to fix them together. (below) I used a double strand of linen yarn, and left a long tail at the beginning of the work.

 

Lining up the stretched-out coils and matching them up

Lining up the stretched-out coils and matching them up

In the extant photos of coil ornaments, the little crosses are visible between the coil bundles, showing that this is how they were made.

Stringing on the coil strips

Stringing on the coil strips

After threading the coils into shape, I went through and smoothed the edges of the coil strips. I found this hard to do when the coils were loose, without distorting the coils, but once they were strung up this was much easier.

Just going through in one direction makes the ornament a bit `floppy`, so I also went back and went through the grid in both directions. This results in quite a sturdy ornament. I also finished the corners with small coil sections.

Completed grid ornament (small). It's about 2cm long

Completed grid ornament (small). It’s about 2cm long

I left the working yarns on the ornament after weaving them through the coils to attach the spiral motif to the apron.

Large ornament

The large square/diamond grid ornament was made in the same manner, except I used 14 strips of coils 8-bundles long. (Below)

Large coil ornament being placed in the middle of the apron

Large coil ornament being placed in the middle of the apron

Finnish coil-embellished apron (part 4: corner motifs)

Completed decorated apron

Completed decorated apron

I made a number of different motifs for my Finnish coil-embellished apron, including four fan-shaped motifs for the corners of the apron.

My first attempt I used braided linen yarn, and the larger diameter brass coils. I followed the design from one of the extant pieces, but didn’t like how it came together as much as I liked the style I’d previously done.

I decided to continue with the larger diameter coils (because the coils on the border of the apron are also the larger variety) but opted to use the linen yarn as-is instead of braided, so that I could pass through the coil work more times to shape the motif.

Beginning a fan-shaped corner motif

Beginning a fan-shaped corner motif

The corner-motif starts with kind of a coffin-shape, using two long pieces and three short pieces. The total fan-shaped motif required 10 small pieces and four long pieces.

I left the yarn tails used from stringing the coils to sew the motif onto the apron when it was ready. Two needles was very helpful to string the coils, because I could work from two sides, rather than having to work from one side to the other.

Finnish coil-embellished apron (part 3: Coiled border)

Completed decorated apron

Completed decorated apron

In my previous post I showed how I made the coils for my Finnish coil-embellished apron. In this post I’ll show how I made some of the embellishments.

Coil-embellished apron border

Materials

The first thing I did on my apron was to hem the top and bottom edges. In period the fabric was woven with woven-in tablet weaving at one edge, and was woven to size, with tubular selvages. I don’t have the ability (or loom! or space for a loom!) to weave my own fabric, so I chose purchased wool fabric in an undyed wool colour. I wanted something fairly substantial to be able to support the weight of the coils without drooping. I pre-washed the fabric to full it slightly, making it even more dense and sturdy.

Another documented option to finishing selvage edges on the Finnish mantle is the blanket stitch, so I decided to do this on my apron as well.

Period examples have wool thread for the finishing and to sew on the coils. It looks that in some ways the wool was fingerlooped together to form a cord, but was still very fine. I knew I’d need something smooth (to go through the wool as well as to go through the coils), strong, and in different colours. I tried a number of options using wool for this including:

  • A wool-silk blend lace-weight wool
  • A wool lace-weight wool
  • A wool medium weight wool, unplied
  • A silk-bamboo sock-weight yarn
  • A sock-weight linen yarn
  • A lace-weight linen yarn
  • Lace-weight linen yarn braided together
  • Wool pulled from the selvage, used straight
  • Wool pulled from the selvage, with two strands plied together on my drop spindle.

Not all of these were successful. The medium-weight wool, unplied as well as the selvage wool used straight shredded when I tried to sew with it. The silk-bamboo is obviously not a period alternative, and also got very fluffy with the coils. The wool-silk blend wood, and linen yarns all worked well. The selvage yarn plied on the drop spindle worked well, but was very time-consuming, and I didn’t feel it was a good use of my time.

Braiding the linen yarn created a nice firm cord for threading the larger coils, but I thought it would be too thick for the small coils or for sewing onto the apron.

Using a blanket stitch to hem the top and bottom of the apron with blue linen yarn

Using a blanket stitch to hem the top and bottom of the apron with blue linen yarn

Because of these factors, I decided to use the thinner lace-weight linen yarn for the majority of my project. I had this in red and blue – red for sewing on the coils (red yarn appears to be the main colour used for the coils) and blue for hemming (blue seems to be a popular colour in Finnish clothing). I also used the lace weight 100% wool for hemming the long edges, since I couldn’t find the right colour in linen.  I wanted this hemming to be less noticeable so that the coils would stand out more.

Top and bottom hems

As noted above, I used blue linen yarn to hem the top and bottom edges with a blanket stitch. I think that the fabric is dense enough that I didn’t have to fold it, but I opted to fold the fabric to give a sense of the density of the tablet-woven or tubular selvages from period.

I used two marks on my thumb to keep the stitches even – thanks Pinterest for the idea!

I flipped the hem from the top to the bottom, since the apron will be worn with the top flipped over the belt.

Side hems

Version 1

The reverse of the first attempt of the side hems. (With some selvage yarn that I would try for the next attempt.)

The reverse of the first attempt of the side hems. (With some selvage yarn that I would try for the next attempt.)

I started off by doing a bit of a loose running stitch to hold the hem in place, and then went straight onto attaching the large-diameter coils (24 gauge wire) with the red linen yarn – also using a blanket stitch. This looked beautiful from the front, but the spaces between the blanket stitches was too long on the back. I ended up removing this entirely.

Version 2

Trying out silk thread for stitching the hem

Trying out silk thread for stitching the hem

I tried a few alternatives to finishing this edge. I tried the selvage yarn – but this broke far too easily. I tried plying the selvage yarn, and while this worked fine for doing a blanket stitch on this hem, I decided that the work involved was more than I was willing to do. I tried a silk thread, (left) which looked ok, and blended in reasonably well, but I decided it wouldn’t really work either. I ended up using the 100% lace-weight wool in a colour that matched the fabric very well.

The plied selvage yarn, straight off the drop-spindle!

The plied selvage yarn, straight off the drop-spindle!

Attaching the coils

Once the sides were hemmed with the wool yarn, I was ready for the coils. I chose the large-diameter (24 gauge wire) spirals, cut to 2 centimetres long and finished (as per my previous post about finishing). I still did the blanket stitch, using red linen thread, but basing my length between stitches on the width of the spirals.

Completed decorated apron

Completed decorated apron