I’ve never felt the urge to sign up for Twitter before, but recently I needed an account to send a specific tweet to Derren Brown, who had requested random words for a show… it’s not really important.

What is important is that I got a Twitter account.  It’s here.  It’s a bit bare at the minute but blog updates, work-in-progress pics and random artwork will be going there, and with a convention booked every couple of months for the rest of the year, it will hopefully be a bit more interesting soon!

nymsig

Advertisements

Skyhold Casual – Part One

My Inquisitor’s casual Skyhold shirt has been the bane of my life for the last six months or so.  I’ve gone through three different patterns and multiple tweaks, and I think I have four versions of the shirt in varying stages of completion packed away in my sewing box, having discovered some fatal flaw with the fabric or the fit.  In October, I thought I was virtually finished.  I had painstakingly hand-sewn meters and meters of piping, sewn the body together, finished the bias tape around the hem and down the front, messed about with the edging for the armscye and my sleeves were ready to be sewn on.  And that’s when disaster struck.

All of the pieces fit perfectly individually, but once the sleeves were sewn onto the body, suddenly nothing came remotely close to fitting.  I took the sleeves off again, double checked the fit, pinned the sleeves on and after carefully checking again, I sewed the shirt back together… and it still didn’t fit. So I took it apart again, scratched my head in frustration and packed everything away in my craft box to take with me the next time I went to visit my mother.

My mum is a very talented seamstress and has a small business making re-enactment clothing and equipment so when I drove down to housesit for a few days, we had a look at the shirt together when she got home.  We decided to start from scratch – new fabric, new pattern, new bias tape and piping.

Everything seemed to be going well, until I came to attach the sleeves again.  The problem seemed to be exactly the same one that I’d had with the previous pattern and I couldn’t see any reason for it.  The pattern had been made to measure and the two of us had triple checked all of the measurements.  I had allowed a generous seam allowance so that the finished shirt wouldn’t be too form-fitting but also wouldn’t be a shapeless sack.  I couldn’t wrap my head around why the shirt fit so well without the sleeves, and the sleeves fit my arms perfectly while unattached or pinned on, but once sewn into place kept on causing problems.

I unpicked the sleeves yet again, double and triple checked that all of the parts fit nicely on their own, pinned the sleeves on and checked again.  Everything seemed fine, so I spent another evening stitching them back on only to find that the fit was even worse than before.  On the fourth attempt, I managed to achieve a fit that wasn’t perfect but also wasn’t causing the shirt to bunch up, and with November’s MCM Birmingham at the end of the week, I decided that it would have to do for the time being – I would enjoy myself at the convention and see if I could fix whatever the issue was before the next one.

As it turned out, I ran out of time and planned to spend the drive to Birmingham sewing the clasps and embellishments onto it, only to find that I had packed the shirt, the buttons and the clasps but my miniature sewing kit was missing in action!  I ended up wearing a blue long-sleeve tee-shirt under my Hunter coat instead, and while I had lots of kind comments, I was really disappointed.

Things got busy over the festive period and I got distracted by other projects, so I didn’t get the shirt out again until this week.  By some miracle I have managed to lose just over a stone in weight since my mum and I took the last set of measurements, so I could actually do with taking it in a little bit.  But the problem seems to have been that something somewhere in the sleeves must have been a fraction too tight and it was throwing the entire fit, which now appears to have resolved itself!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Scale Maille – Part Three

I’ve finally finished the first piece of scale maille for my tabard, so tomorrow I’ll make a start on painting it and see how it turns out.  I did initially start by painting the individual scales, but they were too light for my airbrush (even with Blutac on the underside to weigh them down!)  and I kept dropping them when I tried hand-painting so I decided to have a go at painting them once they were secured together.

Cutting the scales is the most tedious part but the knitting goes surprisingly quickly.  I’ve got about 2ft 3in of maille and the knitting has taken me about six hours.  Don’t ask how long cutting out all the scales took!

IMAG0900

A number of people have asked for a guide to how I made it, so here’s my…

How to Knit Foam Scale Maille

I’m using A3 sheets of 2mm craft foam (about 80p each in HobbyCraft), 4.5mm needles and some navy blue yarn that I had left from an earlier project that’s a good match for my fabric.

I used an office holepunch for my first attempt at putting holes in the foam, but I found the scales weren’t really large enough to hide the hole and the yarn underneath, so I used my knitting needle instead to make a smaller hole, slightly further to the top.

IMAG0728

The foam only needs a little bit of heat before it will hold a slight curve. The pattern is four repeating rows so, for the narrow width I wanted for the Regalia of Weisshaupt, I worked on just enough scales to do a few rows at a time.

IMAG0731

IMAG0733

 

As I want my maille to be narrow strips, I cast on seven stitches which has given me a width of two and a half inches. To give me a bit of length to secure the bottom of the strip to my tabard, I knit two rows before starting to add scales.

It’s ultimately a basic garter stitch with scales added every second row. You need two stitches to secure each scale, so the repeating pattern is:

  1. knit, scale, knit, scale, knit, scale, knit
  2. knit the whole row
  3. knit, knit, scale, knit, scale, knit, knit
  4. knit the whole row

Once the first stitch has been knitted, push the right needle through the next stitch as you would to make a new knit stitch, then slide a scale over the point, with the curve to the outside.  Loop the working yarn around the point of the right needle, then gently pull the needle tip and the working yarn back through the hole in the scale, and through the stitch on the left needle.  I found the foam ripped quite easily if I wasn’t careful here, so I lost a couple of scales while I found a technique that worked for me.  Secure the scale with the next stitch.

Once you reach the end of the first row (make sure it ends on a stitch, not a scale), knit the second row all the way across.  The third row will have scales on alternating stitches to row one, which gives the diagonal pattern.  Knit the first two stitches, then add a scale to the third.  Follow the pattern of scales and securing stitches until you reach the third stitch from the end of the row.  Add a scale to this one, secure with the next and add another knit stitch to finish the row.  Knit the entire fourth row.  Once four rows were done, I adjusted the scales slightly so that they lay how I wanted them.

That’s pretty much it.  Once you’ve reached the length you want, knit two rows before casting off.  The scales will move a little bit, so you can adjust them to sit neatly.

Painting begins tomorrow, so if it all goes horribly wrong I’ll have some pictures to share!

 

Make-up test: scars

After a Blight, battling the Archdemon and a decade of Grey Wardening, I thought that my Hero of Ferelden would probably have some interesting scars and some dramatic stories about where they came from.

It’s been a lot of years since I last did SFX stage make-up and back then, I would have spent hours painstakingly painting scars to make them look something vaguely like 3D.  While trying to work out a way that I could make scars work without having to get up at the crack of dawn to paint them, I came across Mehron’s rigid collodion and it’s become my favourite tool in my make-up box!

 

Mahariel's scar 01

Mahariel's scar 02

This scar will, eventually, bisect Mahariel’s vallaslin and end at my hairline.  I’m planning to make a start on vallaslin tests over the weekend (if I get time around finishing my first piece of scale maille!).

Scale Maille – Part Two

Meet Bran.

10560272_10152799014965712_8431997848924036699_o
Cat-burglar extraordinaire

Bran is my Bengal and is possibly one of the most curious, clever and determined animals I have ever come across in my life.  He always takes great interest in whatever I am crafting, especially if it includes yarn.  Yarn is possibly the most tempting and prized of all things in his eyes.  When it comes to getting his paws on a length of yarn (or better yet, a ball of yarn!) he will use every ounce of his cunning and isn’t afraid to resort to brute force when necessary.

Why am I telling you about my cat?  Because after finishing my scale maille test on Thursday evening, I took great care to put everything away safely – unused scales, yarn, knitting needles and scissors were all packed away into a bag and hung up out of reach of cats.  My scale maille sample was tucked away in a cupboard where it could lie flat and, convinced of its safety, I went to bed.

In the morning, my husband showed me the sorry remains of my scale maille.  The yarn was gnawed on, wet from being dunked in the cats’ water fountain and covered in cat hair.  Scales had either fallen off as it was dragged from room to room or were pulled off.  Fortunately, all of the scales were whole, if a little chewed upon and torn, so he hadn’t actually eaten any.  After the hours of research and failed attempts, after my glee at finding a technique that worked and the time I put into actually knitting it, I was absolutely gutted.

On Friday night, I settled down with season two of Life on Mars and started again.  As the scales will be fitted to my tabard, I started thinking about how to go about how to shape the maille to fit the taper of the bottom edge without having to cut into it.  Eventually, I came up with a pattern that worked with the scales and created a slope which will (hopefully) fit against it.

IMAG0720

IMAG0721
Armor upgrade – Night Fury Scale Maille: +4 dexterity; +7 cunning; +50% faster movement when equipped in stealth; +20% fire resistance; +35% electrical resistance
IMAG0718
And the back

The scales won’t be staying black (I just happened to have black foam on hand when I started cutting more scales) but after attempting to airbrush individual scales and finding that the damn things are so light that they just blow away (even with Blutac stuck to the underside for extra weight!), so I decided that for this test I would try painting them after knitting.  We’ll see how well it works (or how badly it works, as the case may be!)

 

A number of people have asked for step-by-step instructions in order to make their own foam scale maille, so I shall get photographs as I work and put together a write-up of my method this week.