Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Making Bracers/Vambraces/Gauntlets Part 4: Inserting Grommets/Eyelets into Leather without a hole punch, Dyeing Leather with Shoe Polish

(All parts of tutorial listed on this page)
See tutorial part 1,and  part 2, and part 3
FINISHING (Grommets, Dyeing)
Note the kind of "weathered" look. I achieved this with fabric dye and shoe polish. (plus some ill fated salad dressing) See below.

How to insert grommets into leather without a Hole Punch.
  1. Using an exacto blade, and a pencil to insert 1/4" eyelets without a hole punch.
  2. First, cut a (small!) slit where you want the eyelet to go. 
  3. Then force a pencil through it, underside out. 3x. It should feel difficult, as the leather stretches. Then send the pencil through the 4th time, from the leather side (this pushes the leather in). 
  4. Now insert the tall side of the grommet from the leather side. I used a pencil to help push it through.
  5. Then flip it over, and using a fingernail or the tip of the pencil, poke all the unruly threads down around the lip of the grommet.
  6. Now put on the shallow side of the grommet.
  7. Put it on the eyelet "anvil" and hammer the "tool" part onto it, making sure to rotate the tool while hammering.
  8. DONE.

Re-dying leather bracers.
To change the color of the leather, dye can work, but it kind of hangs out on top and rubs off. (I used RIT dye orange).  I didn't like the look of it alone, and it seemed to come off to easily. However, it works very well underneath shoe polish. I had greenish brown leather, and I wanted a warmer brown leather, so I rubbed orange RIT dye on all of them, and then rubbed them all down with brown shoe polish and brown shoe cream after I was done quilting them. I liked the uneven color, it gave more depth. If you want even color, shoe polish it before quilting.

I had a bad experience with hand-made conditioner (salad dressing, basically vinegar and olive oil). It blotched and stained funny. I guess if you want darker stains on it to look weathered, then go for it.

The 5 part tutorial is here.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Making Bracers/Vambraces/Gauntlets Part 3: Assembling the Bracers, How to make thin leather into thick leather (or at least act like it)

See Tutorial Part 1 and Part 2 here 

The 5 part tutorial is here.

Assembling the Bracers
STEP 1: Cut out your pieces
You will now cut out your bracer pattern in leather, in your 'sandwich filling' quilting medium (batting or felt or fleece. I found felt to be a bit stiff for me, and batting to be too expensive, so I used fleece. A fleece blanket actually...), and in canvas/broadcloth etc whose color roughly matches your leather. I was using brown leather, and I used a brown twill canvas that was already somewhat broken in (my favorite skirt in college...).
Leather, Canvas, and Fleece

Now I found that trying to assemble all 3 pieces together at once meant pieces shifting around, etc. which is a pain. Especially since even if you rip stitches out of leather you have a little trail of needle holes.
It saved a lot of time if I quickly sewed the filler/fleece to my bottom canvas piece first, so to make the next step simpler when I sewed it to the actual leather.

Ta-Da, Fleece sewn to canvas.
 Note, if your fleece sticks out a bit past your canvas, trim it to the canvas. Its like, we don't want the sandwich filling to be coming out the middle (especially in my classy bright blue) so we want the top and bottom sandwich pieces to be bigger than the filling.

You'll want to put the "right sides together" which means, the side of your leather you want showing, against the canvas side. So on the outside you see the wrong side of your leather, and the fleece. It's like sewing a pillow case. And like a pillow-case, you'll want to leave one side open so you can flip it inside out.
I sewed across the wrist, down one side, across the bottom, and stopped at the other side.
Note, I left one side open.

Now, we'll flip it inside out, (or rather, right side out).

Ta-da...now we'll sew down the open side.

Now its looking a lot more like a bracer. But note in the picture below how "puffy" it is, it looks like a sleeping bag, and not like a thick piece of leather.

Puffy sleeping bag effect.

This is where you make it look like a thick piece of leather. It will now behave like one piece, and less like a puffy sleeping bag with the opening sewn shut.

Top-stitched all around the edges.

No more puffy effect. Acts like a thick piece of leather.
 This technique works with thin leather for everything, even making hauberks out of thin coat leather. The trick is in the topstitching (and quilting does it even more) in anchoring the thin leather to a thick base, so it bends like its thick (and doesn't shift and wrinkle)
I should have used it more in Josh's Faramir 1.0 hauberk, instead I left it at the 'puffy sleeping bag stage' and so while the thin leather was attached to canvas, it wasn't anchored, and thus still shifted around and wrinkled when my son pushed on it.
Here, it looks great, because there's not little toddler putting stress on it.
Here, you can see how its wrinkling---because I didn't anchor it to the canvas properly. Thus when Isaiah stuck his hand there, he could get the leather to still wrinkle and look thin. If it were anchored better to the canvas, it would not have wrinkled.

In the next post, we'll cover quilting the leather, putting in grommets (without a hole punch...who has 1/4" hole punches lying around their house?), and weathering/dyeing it.


First off, use the thin cheap(er) leather to quilt. You don't want to be forcing hauberk thickness of leather through your sewing machine. You can (with grit and determination) hand sew the thick stuff. Killing your sewing machine is not worth saving a little time. Test on a scrap, if your sewing machine sounds like its straining, don't do it. (Also, thick leather won't quilt very well anyway)

I CANNOT STRESS THE IMPORTANCE ENOUGH, OF USING A BIG NEEDLE. Thinner needles will bend (especially with all the layers of fabric, quilting etc) and cause you all sorts of tension problems. SO. NOT. WORTH. IT.
You can get a pack of sewing machine needles(6 needles) from Walmart for 2 bucks. There will be some size 11 (quilting cotton), some size 14 (jeans), and some size 17 or 19 or something (I forget).
I never paid much attention to needle size, and spent a lot of frustration on bent needles and messes of thread that ensued. This size 19 (or 17?) one has lasted me through 8 sets of bracers without bending so far. So much time saved.

Another thing sewing with leather (if it isn't all suede-like) is that the 'waterproof' side has friction issues with my presser foot. I could probably get some fancy foot that would fix this, or sew with a layer of tissue paper, etc, but all I did was sew with my cloth side up, and my leather side against the face-plate (which didn't have as many friction issues.)

I fiddled with stitch length, I liked something between 8 and 9 stitches per inch, it seemed to give a darker 'line' and thus seemed a tad more like tooling. (But not so tight that you essentially perforate the leather, and make it tear easily). Figure out what stitch length you want on a scrap, with the proper layers of quilting.

A NOTE ON QUILTING: It is essential that you don't quilt the lines too close together, or the design doesn't really have space to "puff" and look 3 dimensional. I found that when I quilted lines closer than 1/2" apart, the whole thing just went flat and boring.
Also, the design seems to puff up more as you vigorously rub it with shoe polish on a cloth when you are done quilting. If you don't want to dye or polish it, just rub it with a cloth at the end. It helps the whole thing fluff up and look cool.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Making Bracers/Vambraces/Gauntlets Part 2: Sewing the underbracers, How to Quilt Bracers, and a Lacing Ring Solution

The 5 part tutorial is here.

Making Under-Bracers. (Part 1 on drafting the pattern here)
Behold! Quilted underbracers!!!

I will post a full tutorial on making quilted bracers at some point, but for now here are some tips.

To make comfy underbracers, I used a bottom layer of flannel, an inbetween layer of polarfleece, and a top layer of faux sued fabric. (can buy at Hobby Lobby with coupon for $6/yrd , or buy faux suede shirt from a thriftstore...) You can make at least 5 sets of underbracers out of a yard of fabric.

Trace pattern onto broadcloth/flannel layer (the bottom layer) on the right side (so you can see it.) Sew the pieced together by stacking them bottom layer-top layer-in between layer (because you are essentially making a sleeping bag inside out, you are going to flip this thing inside out) Sew down all sides but one, then flip it inside out so the top and bottom layer are showing and the in between layer is in between. If this confuses you, check out part 3 of the tutorial where I show this in gory detail.

Quilting Tips (retracing steps like drawings in 1st grade, backtacking to keep unsightly unravels, have needle deeply in when pivoting, manually controlling to get where you want)

USE BIG NEEDLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (16 or 17 in those little walmart packs. NOT a wimpy little 11 or a 9 here...this isn't thin cotton dresses)

Lacing solution. I didn't want there to be edges, or leather cord stuck onto your arm. Its not comfortable. Spiral lacing works (as well as x-lacing) but I didn't want any leather cord sticking onto the forearm.
 I wanted the edges to overlap, and the lacing to hold it down smoothly, and there to be room for it to be adjustable.
Hence I made by own lacing rings and sewed them on, at least an inch from the edge, giving a nice bit of overlap.
See, no uncomfortable leather cord sticking to your arm on the underside.

How to make your own lacing rings.
Supplies: 18 gauge steel wire, pencil, wire cutter, 2 sets of needle nose pliers, hammer
1.Wrap the pencil with the wire. Slide/wiggle/pull it off.
2. It will look like a demented slinky. Merrily cut through it with the wire cutters.
3. Now use the needle nose pliers to readjust the ends of each 'jump ring' so that they meet better
4. Hammer them to make them sturdier.

You'll want to sew them on with a thick thread, ideally thicker than the slit in the jump ring, as jump rings have a habit of working themselves free if the thread is thinner than the slit. Using all 6 strands of embroidery floss or yarn (with a yarn needle) should work.
Sew the rings on,  nicely in a row, with overlap from the edges..

This is the underside (the comfy flannel part that touches your arm). Here you can see the underside of the quilting.

TA-DA. Underbracers that look like suede but are much much cheaper. And are very comfortable.


 They are super comfortable. I wore them all day on bare arms and barely noticed.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Making Bracers/Vambraces/Gauntlets Part 1: Drafting a Bracer Pattern based on Vambraces of Gondor

(All parts of the tutorial are listed here)

Step One: How to Draft Bracers.

In this post, I draft a pattern for the Bracers of Gondor.

So, I always wanted to make bracers, especially since I had been planning for ages to make Gondor Bracers for Josh's Faramir Ranger outfit, and Link Bracers for Josh's Link Outfit.
Sadly, I have no experience with tooling leather, and a very very limited budget.

Then I stumbled across Andrea Schewe's tutorial for her pattern for making quilted bracers on the internet, and was greatly encouraged. While they're a far cry from the Vambraces of Gondor, they look pretty cool, and sewing is something I know how to do.

I drafted my first pair on what seemed cool to me. I used canvas, felt, and broadcloath since it was just a test (all from my scrap box).

I felt awesome, but they kept crawl up my arm toward my elbow. I decided it was from my hand flexing backwards, pushing on the point.
See how it restricts wrist movement.
 And even worse, they uncomfortably stabbed into my upper arm (See below)
Restricts wrist movement, and pokes into upper arm.
These are both not nice things to happen in combat, shooting arrows, etc. Especially when they are made from stiff leather instead of fabric.

I had copied the the cool wrist point from the Bracers of Gondor, but on further study of those pictures saw that the point was resting below his wrist. (see below)
See how the "point" rests well below his wrist line.

So I decided to make a pair with a straight wrist, with a hand guard attached to it. I also decided to make them a little longer to keep them from crawling down my arms.
[insert pictures]
They were pretty awesome. The handguard rested a little too close, inhibiting my hand from bending backwards easily, but this is easily fixed by cutting both the wrist length, and the handguard at shallow U's where they meet, about a depth of 1/2"
[insert picture]

So they were awesome, they didn't crawl down, but I found (wearing them all day) that they hindered my movement as well, when I bent my arm about, doing things, they cut into my upper arm.
They were too long.
[insert pictures]
It was uncomfortable and I couldn't imagine wanting that in combat.

So I went off to the internet to do my research.
After studying lots and lots of pictures, this is what I found.

Bracers are a lot shorter than they look. They weren't as long as I had previously thought. They are made so as not to hinder the elbow when bent. They are even shorter on the underside.

In this shot of Faramir, note how the bracer's point comes well below his elbow, even as he bends his arm it barely comes to the joint line. Also note how the "tip" at the wrist rests below his wrist line.

See here, the underside of the bracer is even shorter than the top side, coming very well below his elbow

Here again, we see where the bracer ends in relation to his elbow. Note that there's a gap between his upper quilted pauldron, and his bracer, to give better movement at his elbow. This is a Ranger Outfit after all, light armor, sacrificing protection for movement, speed, and stealth.

Here again, we see how the underside of the bracer is even shorter than the topside. It maximizes movement

Here again, see how Faramir's Bracers underside compares to the topside
 After looking at tons of pictures, I decided that the underside of my bracer had to come at least a fist-width less than the measurement of my inner foream measured when my arm is at a 90 degree angle.
(This is important. How you hold your arm changes the measurement. Unless you plan to walk around wearing your bracers on your arms held out stick straight)
I also came up with some rough approximates of the dimensions of the the bracers of Gondor.
(I am counting the brown/grey underbracer and black overbracer together, since they are always worn functionallly as one piece, and the black overbracer worn without the brown/grey underbracer would give significantly less protection to the foream)

Here's a diagram for the measurements.

You'll also want to take the visual width of your fist. Make your hand into a fist, and measure across the knuckles at the widest point, with a straight ruler, to see how wide it looks. This is your visual fist width, which you'll use to get the dimensions for your Bracers of Gondor.


This will be your "base pattern" bracer. You can make overbracers with gaps in the lacing, your can do all sorts of stuff to it to modify it. I would suggest making at least one set of "underbracers" with the base pattern, to get a feel for how to do it, before trying other fancy stuff.
Here are more pictures of other kinds of bracers, which follow the same rules, that the bracers need to be atleast a fist-width away from your arm joint. Also, the unlaced bracer is wider than it is tall.
These beauties by the RiverPath on Deviant Art http://theriverpath.deviantart.com/
Note how it ends well before the elbow. Link's Bracer's by Aradani Costumes

See also, how this ends well before the elbow. The hand piece visually lengthens the look of the bracer. Thorin's bracers by Rassaku on Deviant Art http://rassaku.deviantart.com/gallery/

Note, to get longer bracers, the angle changes. The underside is still kept short (atleast a fist length from bend in arm) but the bracer keeps extending to look longer on the 'topside'. Warrior Greaves from Viking Shield.

Note again, how the bracer is even wider than it is tall, because the laced up opening is techinically part of the width.

Last of all, a way to get the long bracer look. This is a picture of Jedi Elf Queen's recreation of the metal vambraces of Haldir's Archers. They really capture the "long bracer" look, seeming to come to the elbow. Note, that the armor curves steeply down, preserving the short inner-foream length (at least a fist-width from the joint) while flaring out at the elbow to look long. I'll post a detailed tutorial on re-creating "long" looking bracers later.

All the parts of the tutorial are listed here.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Making my room like Rivendell: Elven Interior Decorating part 1: DIY Elven Lantern Ideas

UPDATE: Lamp made here, still working on more lamps and the banners...

So I've been into this nesting syndrome thing, and as always, want to make my rooms beautiful.

I think I'm going to make this (on posterboard) and rig up some sort of lighting in front of it. Maybe I'll string white Christmas lights around it, wrapped up in some old chiffon curtains. Or something.
Maybe just an electric candle near it. Or something.

Or maybe I'll have another go at Elven lanterns. We be cheap right now, so I think I'll start with white cloth stretched over a frame from wooden dowels kinda like this one...
This is a legit nice shadow lantern by Helen Hiebert

I'll just slip the posterboard behind the fabric, to get that gorgeous white on white look of Helen Hiebert's Shadow Lantern.

UPDATE: I found a helpful link on how to do cardboard shadow lanterns

OR I'll do a moroccan/elven looking cut out on posterboard, perhaps sprayed with metallic spray paint, and overlay it on the fabric. To look kinda like this.
Ofcourse, Mine will be sitting on a table, with an electric candle on the inside. Perhaps when I get better with wires and things, it wouldn't be too difficult to mount a night-light type of light (the kinds you pull out of those little ceramic Christmas houses) on the inside, and then hang the whole contraption off a wire that you can string the electrical cord through.

Being of cloth and posterboard, (or even, wood cut out), thus flammable, I shall not entrust real fire to the insides of it. Perhaps if the fire was in a glass container like these jar candles from dollar tree....but still. I'll stick with electric first.

OR maybe I'll put fabric paint on it, and make it a sort of shine-through banner...

This could be done fairly easily with fabric paint, minus the script.
Perhaps even with real inks, as you wouldn't need to worry about washability.
If you were going to do that, you could even paint whole designs on it....

I think I'll start with making my room Rivendell.
  1. Some form of Elven lantern lighting. I was originally thinking of glorifying a string of white C-9 Christmas lights with paper-lantern like creations, but I think the electric candle in the cloth/paper/wood lantern on a little shelf (wood + L bracket) would be better for now.
  2. Some Elven-esque Hangings on the wall. Embroidered banners would be awesome, but as a stand in I think I'm going to do painted posterboard banners, to get a feel for size and color etc. 
  3. Some Scripture Hanging type of thing. Written with my caligraphy dip pen in Carolingian Miniscule, because it looks like Elvish. I think Tolkien would approve. I'll probably end up using a chisel-tip sharpie. I think he'll understand.
  4. Crucifixes. Whenever I draw pictures of Rivendell, they end up in the room. One sketch I did, I left it in, till I'm going to finish it and then erase it. It had to be there for the mood. I still haven't finished the drawing, and I don't know if I'll be able to erase it. My subconscious thinks it belongs there. I think its a mix of how he described Rivendell's architecture (white plaster with dark beams) sounding like an old church/monastery, how Rivendell is a refuge where you go when you're sick/running from enemies (like Medieval Monasteries), and full of books and old relics of things (Medieval Monasteries) and how Elrond is a healer/literary guy/knows a lot---kind of like a Bernard of Clairvaux or something. Plus, the Elves always made me think of Saints. (I know they've got major issues in the Silmarillion. Well, plenty of the saints had major issues too. Black riders run from them, when they're singing about Elbereth Gilthoniel. QED.)
  5. I need to clean it.