Monday, 16 November 2015

Artificial Stiffener

I don't normally use any artificial stiffener for my felt hats.. I just make it thick enough to have the required substance, and work it hard to make it as stiff as I can.  But I did start thinking and wondering a few months ago, after making the Rincewind hat. It had such a wide brim and was artfully tattered about the edges.. it would of been nice to have a good stiffener to keep it exactly how I wanted it.  And maybe to add a bit of extra strength to help support the weight of the sewn on details on the crown.  What's always put me off using any artificial stiffener is the possibility of changing the texture and character of the felt..  this would be a big no no for me.  

WELL.. all these thoughts were lurking in the back of my mind, when I spotted stiffener for sale from a felter who has a shop on Etsy..  And she uses it for her own hats!  You can't get a better recommendation for a product than seeing it happily used by a fellow felter so I decided to give it a go.  

The product is called Solvitose and is from Zavesfelt in Lithuania, and I believe it is made from starch.  It comes in a 100g packet - I mixed 2 teaspoons with 200ml water and it  made plenty so this pack will last a long time.  Once the powder absorbs the water it becomes a sort of smooth wall-paper-paste consistency.

I put the left over solution in an old preserve jar..
not sure how long it keeps once made up, guess I'll find out
I decided to test it on this hat with a determinedly wonky brim!  

Please excuse the horrible photo!
Using a sponge I dabbed the stiffener solution all over the under side of the brim, pushing it down into the dry felt.  Then stood it on a towel to dry, I was a little concerned that it may become 'glued' to the table top.  

Light objects weighting the front of the brim down
It took a couple days to dry, after the first day I separated it from the towel (it did stick just a little so I was glad I'd used it).

Nice straight brim.. much better :)
The thing I am really happy about is the effect on the felt - it hasn't really changed the texture or character!  The feel of the treated side is just a little different, but not enough to worry over, it still has a soft touch.  And as you can see the brim is much better behaved now :)  I don't plan to use stiffener regularly on my hats, but I do think this is a very useful tool for a felters stash :)

Monday, 9 November 2015

Under the Beech Tree - November

We're well into November now - but I did remember to take my photos right at the start of the month :)

Changing leaves and light quality
We had a very foggy start to November.. a week where it barely lifted, as you can see from the second photo showing the misty higher branches.  Some days/nights visibility was about 20/30 feet and at night no lights were to be seen.  Very suitable and typical weather for the time of year.  The fog did clear in time for Bonfire night though, and standing on our hill top balcony we watched all the fireworks in the valley :)

Gemstone - Topaz
Flower - Chrysanthamum

Anglo Saxons called this Wind monath - because the strong winds start to blow (very appropriate) or Blod monath because it was the time when they slaughtered cattle.

I love this poem..

November by John Clare
The landscape sleeps in mist from morn till noon;
And, if the sun looks through, 'tis with a face
Beamless and pale and round, as if the moon,
When done the journey of her nightly race,
Had found him sleeping, and supplied his place.

5th of November - Bonfire Night
In 1605 a group of unhappy Catholics decided to assassinate James I King of England, by blowing up the Houses of Parliament with him and his Government inside.  It's quite an involved and very interesting story, complete with modern conspiracy theories (aren't there always lol) that the plotters were pawns of James' chief advisor in a bid to make James eradicate Catholicism completely..   
Anyway, there were 14 known plotters.. 

Image of a contemporary engraving of the plotters
They managed to hide 36 barrels of gunpowder in a cellar of the House of Lords.  Guy Fawkes, the explosives expert, had remained in the cellar to light the fuse but was discovered while he was waiting by a group of guards.

Guy Fawkes was taken to the Tower of London and tortured using 'whatever means necessary' by order of the king to get information.. eventually he gave up the name of his co-conspiritors.

Guy Fawkes signature on his confession
The near illegibility of the signature stands testament to the horrors inflicted on a body.

The conspiritors were hunted down, some shot trying to escape were the lucky ones, others were briefly imprisoned in the Tower before being convicted; hung, drawn and quartered - as Guy Fawkes himself was in January 1606.

King James ordered the people of England to build great bonfires and celebrate on the 5th November.  The bonfires originally had effigies of the Pope burned upon them.  Over time that changed into burning Guy Fawkes upon the fire.  Also fireworks became part of the tradition. 

There's a very old rhyme..  
' remember remember, the 5th of November, gunpowder, treason and plot'

When I was a little girl it was a common thing to see children with a 'guy' out in the streets asking for a 'penny for the guy'.. it was as common as trick or treating is now.  

I've never been comfortable with the Guy Fawkes effigies.. I think because even as a child I thought he'd been through such an awful ordeal that I couldn't help feeling sympathy that he should be trotted out year after year to be hated and reviled instead of left in peace (though in truth the 'guy' has lost meaning to most these days).  I don't want to dance to that old tune..

I can't believe that this is my penultimate Under the Beech Tree post..  one more month to go, will the tree be bare?