Saturday, 15 October 2011

Green Man

Ever since the Dwarven Battle Bonnet came out I've been wanting to do a Green Man bearded bonnet, and I'm delighted to announce that the pattern has finally gone live.

Its been designed so that the pattern as written will give you pretty much the green man pictured here, but like my other charater masks, the idea is that you give your imagination free rein and once the basic framework is in place, have fun adding additional leaves, berries, creatures or other embellishments.

I'm working on a 'Treebeard' Ent version as I type, same basic pattern, but with trailing branches and leaves rather than the more classic arrangement seen here. I'm having so much fun with this!

The pattern is available on my Ravelry page for $3, which is about £1.95 There is still time to knit him before Halloween/Samhain, just right for a seasonal stroll in the woods.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The Victorian Soap Project

As many of you know, one of my main research interests is the investigation and reconstruction of early soap recipes,  partly to record the facts for a book which will eventually get finished, but also so that I can put selected recipes back into production to allow re-enactors and other interested parties acess to soap which is made as closely as humanly possible to the original ingredients and methods, but which also complies with modern safety and quality standards.

This makes each bit of research quite expensive, so I'm trying out Crowdfunding for the current part, which is looking at Victorian gentlemen's shaving and toilet soaps.
Investors can put in as little as £1 and I have set up a system of rewards/repayments for larger amounts. If anyoen is interested, or knows anyone who may wish to assist with this project, the Crowdfunder page is here:

Please help me spread the word about this, its not a huge sum as research projects go, but I need to raise the money to cover the certifying chemist's fees and some additional research material and ingredients to allow me to get this stage of the Historic Soap project up and running.
Thank you!

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Tough Love Spiked Wristlets

I'm slightly embarrassed at how long its been since I last updated this blog, in my defence its been a very busy summer. I've been very lucky to have had a good number of hat commissions through, but I've also found time to work on some new designs.

Here is the latest one. This is 'Tough Love', and its a remarkably simple to work wristlet in sock yarn. The soft spikes lend themselves well to the use of shaded or variagated yarns, and it may be embellished with beads for a bit of extra sparkle at endges and on the spikes. One wristlet should take about 18-20g of sock yarn, so its a good way to use up leftovers from a sock project.

As with all my patterns, its available through Ravelry, and this one costs just $3

Sunday, 3 July 2011

a Romano-British weekend

We've just rolled in from a very pleasant weekend at the Roman Legionary Museum in Caerleon doing various Romano-British things as part of a Roman gladiators weekend. The weather was spectactularly hot, so lovely in many respects, but I must confess to feeling a bit pink round the edges now.

Still, it was perfect dyeing weather, so lots of fleece and yarn got turned into various pretty colours, and as always the woad bath was a huge hit, people love seeing the colour oxidize from yellow through green to blue as the air hits the wet skein, and I did the other classic dyes weld and madder to round out the basic palette.
Gareth worked on some repousse projects (I know there should be an accent in there, I can't work out how to do it sorry!), he had loads of small apprentices, lured to the punches and hammers and raring to wallop pieces of metal for as long as he could cope with them.Annoyingly I haven't got a picture of his finished items, but will try to update this post later, suffice to say, my shield is looking shinier than ever with two new repousse decorations :)

One last picture, the gardens at the museum are looking wonderful at the moment, really evokes the right feel, and I couldnt resist getting a photo with them as a backdrop.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Woad dyed yarns and some caps

I've been doing a bit of woad dyeing this last week and have been particularly pleased with the results. In this instance I started with woad powder as I have no woad in the garden currently, but otherwise the method is much the same as if you were starting with woad 'tea'.

Two loads of yarn later, here's the results. The yarn on the left is a naturally very pale grey which came out beautifully slate blue with the woad, and on the right the larger skein was a natural creamy white wool that has taken the colour very evenly and is a glorious glowing blue.

I couldn't resist knitting some up right away, the two Monmouth 'labourer's caps' here are in the natural pale grey and the slatey blue, and have been through a hot wash to full them, which is always a good way to check that your dye is stable on the fibre :)

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Knitting for a Regiment

This week I have mostly been knitting Kilmarnock bonnets, with the help of my ever long-suffering mother (thanks mum!) who did the knitting on two of them, we managed to get an order for six bonnets finished in time for them to go to their regiment to wear at the Waterloo re-enactment next weekend.

Here they are drying on my garden steps, they just need one last steam blocking, and they will go in the post first thing on monday morning.

Monday, 9 May 2011

Tudor Felting, Fulling, Spinning and Knitting

Gareth and I spent saturday at a very enjoyable Elizabethan revel in Guisborough (North Yorkshire) held to celebrate the 450th anniversary of the local college. We took some of our goodies along to trade, but mostly we were there to demonstrate various Tudor fibre arts.

Gareth spent his time working on felting and fulling:

I did some spinning and knitting, working on a stocking on fine wires and a hat on heavier wooden needles, with comparison needles in bone available for inspection. I didnt get any pictures of me at Guisborough, but this one was taken the week before at St Fagans, spinning outside a cottage built in 1544. I'm looking a bit pale and puffy in the pic, sorry about that, was in the process of going down with a mild lurgy of some sort.
All in all its been a very busy and enjoyable couple of weeks, we've met loads of lovely people and had some wonderful conversations about life in Tudor times. I've come home to lots of stocking orders, so that should keep me out of mischief for the rest of this week.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Alternative Corsetry and Crafts Weekend

It gives me great pleasure to advertise this UK based creative weekend, these courses are run by a friend of mine and I'll be there helping out with projects and techniques.

11/12 June 2011
Alternative Corsetry and Crafts Weekend

  • Need room to work on your latest project?
  • Fed up with crawling round on the living room floor to cut out large pieces of fabric and wish you had access to a really large table or a vast amount of floorspace to lay things out on? We have a whole barn to use to set out big projects.
  • Want to learn simple embellishment techniques for costume and jewellery?
  • Fancy getting to grips with the history and mysteries of corsetry?
  • Need access to a sewing machine, overlocker or knitting machine for a couple of days? Want a hand from experienced seamstresses to finish a project?
  • Want to try silk painting, feltmaking, have a go with a Victorian sock machine, or just enjoy browsing our extensive library of costuming books?

Come along to our alternative making and modifying weekend and have a great time getting on with your existing projects or trying some new techniques.

All food and accommodation (camping barn or bring your own tent) included, expect good farmhouse cooking, plenty of homemade cake, and cosy evenings round the woodburning stove (feel free to bring your own alcoholic drinks, endless tea, coffee and herb teas provided).
Price just £85 per person (arrive from friday evening, depart sunday late afternoon)

Located on a beautiful Welsh smallholding in Carmarthen, easy to reach by road, rail or bus
To book, visit
This will be a very relaxed and friendly weekend, catering for everyone from 'make do and mend' vintage fashion interests through historical costuming, steampunk or alternative streetwear.

The same site is also running several excellent value Fibre Retreats this year, aimed at those who want to get away from it all for a few days and be marvellously fed whilst working on their spinning, knitting, crochet or dyeing (or any other textile based craft) projects.

It would be lovely to see a few of you there!

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Kilmarnock and Hummel Bonnets

I've always got several 'new' hat projects on the drawing board, in some cases spending months or years looking at surviving portraits and where possible extant examples whilst working up numerous test versions in order to work out a pattern that I feel gives an appropriate interpretation of a historic style. A recent request from a re-enactment regiment encouraged me to get a move on with a couple of styles I'd been looking at for the last year or so, and get them polished up into a functional hat.

Here are my latest two projects, I've been working on Kilmarnock and Hummel Bonnets for Napoleonic period Highland Regiments, and I think I've got these just about right now. The plain blue Kilmarnock bonnet pictured below is a little shorter than most of the ones I've been working on, they usually need to be about 6inches tall, (but I rather like the shape of the shorter version as well, and its a better picture than my taller ones, hence its inclusion here.)

There are some great portraits that survive showing Hummel caps in wear, I found this collection particularly interesting, note how variable the size and number of the dice (checks) round the hat are? There are also surviving Hummel bonnets in several museum collections, so I was able to balance portrait and physical evidence when coming up with my version.

I never consider any of my patterns to be a final version, there is always the chance that I'll get to examine a 'new' extant hat in a museum collection or will see a portrait that I havent seen before, or in the case of military headgear, be directed to a set of regulations and supply guidelines that will help me make small modifications to continually increase accuracy and appropriateness for use in historic impressions today.

I gather that Deb Pulliam did an article on Hummel bonnets for Piecework a few years ago, but I havent yet been able to track down a copy, will be interesting to see if she has any additional details that will help me polish my versin even further. Will update in due course if I ever manage to get hold of a copy to have a look at.

In the meantime, if you know anyone that might be in the market for a new bonnet, point them at the shop site (

Monday, 7 March 2011

'Templar' style headdress

Gareth and I have just finished this headdress and thought we'd show it off. The Templars and circlet are in hand forged and drawn brass and bronze wirework, and the goffred veil is in linen. I suspect ideally the veil needs remaking in a finer weight of linen, but overall we're really pleased with this as a first run at this type of headdress.

There does seem to be a few different things that this style of headdress can get called, so if anyone has any good evidence for it being called other than 'templars/templettes' please shout. This one is based on evidence from a number of effigies and church brasses dated from the 1360-s to about 1415. To the best of my knowledge there are no currently known surviving physical examples of these, again, would love to be pointed at them if anyone knows otherwise.

Friday, 18 February 2011

Dwarven Battle Bonnet- variations

When I brought out the Dwarven Battle Bonnet pattern a couple of years ago I had no idea it was going to appeal to as many people as it has. Clearly its not just me that firmly believes that everyone needs a silly hat in their lives.

One of the really great things about having the pattern out there being made by all sorts of people is seeing the variations on the basic pattern that people come up with, and it is a pattern that lends itself well to being modified slightly to create different character looks.

For example, here's one I made for a client last week, its got a spangenhelm/spectacle helm variation made simply by adding extra strips to frame the eye area, and 'rivets' added to the helmet by knitting a basic bobble at intervals, and hey presto, a completely different look for not much more effort.
If you have a look over on Ravelry at the projects page for this pattern, you'll see variations with horns on the helmet, different beard treatments, all sorts of different yarn choices, and lots and lots of really fantastic photos of people in their battle bonnets. I love creating hat patterns :)

If you fancy trying it out yourself, the pattern can be bought via Ravelry for just $3.00

Saturday, 5 February 2011

General Carleton of Whitby Hat

Every now and then I get a chance to make a historic hat that is glorious in its slight daftness. The cap from the ''General Carleton of Whitby' (sunk 1785) is just such a hat, its nigh on as close as you can get to a bobble hat in re-enactment :D

The original is very faded, so the use of the madder stripe is my interpretation- it may have been another colour, but I'm generally pleased with the overall effect. Three shades of undyed wool and some madder dyed, very very lightly fulled, just enough to allow the thrums to settle into the form seen in the original, without any fulling at all they look too fluffy and odd. Based on examination of photos, sadly I didnt get a chance to see the original whilst it was in Whitby last year.

I did have a quick look at the pattern offered in 'the Yorkshire Mary Rose' by Eleanor Clapp when I was first planning this hat a few months back, but a few details in her version seemed at odds with what I felt I was observing in the photographs, so I worked this one based on stitch numbers and structures I could count on the various published images of the hat. I'm not for one moment saying her pattern is necessarily off, just that without the benefit of seeing the original hat in the flesh I chose to work with what I could explain with the information available to me. On the whole I'm very happy with this as a first work up of the hat and hope very much to have a chance to develop my interpretation as I come across more details of this hugely entertaining hat.

Original hat here: ... %20hat.jpg
My version here: