Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mica Tiles

I've been trying to find a way of simulating old items made of horn (medieval windows, lanterns - 'lant-horns' - , viking drinking horns for quaffing ale, hunting horns, spoons, bowls, etc). In medieval times the outside sheath of cow horn was used just like we use plastic today - it could be cut, heated and shaped, and was waterproof and semi-transparent.

My attempts to make this with polymer clay failed absolutely. No surprise there :)

In my search I've found an interesting product. This is mica, which can now be bought in nicely packaged pieces. Mica is a natural product which can be split into thinner and thinner layers, depending on what you want to do with it. The colour is darker when it is left thick. The thickest piece in this pack is almost 1mm thick, and it splits/delaminates into at least 10-12 tissue-thin layers.
It has interesting natural patterns in it, which make me think it is a reasonably good old fashioned window glass. On an angle it is quite wibbly like old glass. It can look a little like brittle plastic, but it's still nicer than perfect acrylic or perspex.

This Mica Sheet pictured can be bought online in some scrapbooking websites, also on eBay.
Evidently it can be cut with scissors, diecut, punched, stamped, inked, embossed, heated, gilded, painted, etched and stained to resemble coloured glass - I'll have to try this last bit . . .

Anyway, to the point - the company which makes this, USArtQuest, also makes a product called Micacraft Sheet which is reconstituted mica - and this is an orangey 'horn' colour, and it is also able to be heated and bent (you can't bend the ordinary mica sheet). So when I get around to buying some I'll let you know if it works :)


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Make your own leadlights

There's a mini hobbit dwelling somewhere on my 5-year plan. Well, the second five year plan, since it's five years since I first thought of it . . .
This means round windows. And interesting leadlights to fit them.
Most of the commercial round windows available don't look right, or don't open, or are the wrong size.
I've been reminded how satisfying DIY is when I saw the quirky fab doors that the clever ladies Janice, Wendie and Michelle make.
So I thought I'd share with you my hobbit windows so far. This is a quick tutorial on making simple leadlights to suit whatever style or size window you want.
You'll need some smooth black cotton thread. Polyester thread won't work. (Very dark grey thread would look a lot better, but that involves dyeing which I haven't done yet.)
Anyway, black thread - some suitable threads are: DMC coton a broder #16 or #25, - DMC fils a dentelles #70, - DMC perle cotton #5, #8 or #12, - knitting cotton, - fine crochet cotton, - DMC Cordonnet Special #20, #30 or #40, - old fashioned thick sewing cotton.
(DMC 6-strand embroidery cotton might work, but tends to flatten when stiffened.)

Prepare the thread by stiffening it. Soak it in a mix of 1 part PVA glue to 1 part water, then squeeze dry by pulling it through an old lint-free cloth (an old hanky is good), and lay it flat and straight to dry.
In this project I used DMC coton a broder #25, with the heavier DMC perle #5 for the frame.
Draw your leadlight design (in red in the photo) to fit your window. This one has a frame, which is optional.
BTW, elongated diamonds (rather than square diamonds) seem to add height to a room.
Draw a line about 1cm out beyond the frame or edge of the design. Now extend all of the red leadlight lines to meet this (the blue lines in this photo).
Lay the pattern on a pinboard (mine is polystyrene), then lay a piece of stiff plastic on top of that.
Now stretch the stiffened cotton thread along all the parallel lines in one direction, as in the photo. Put pins wherever they are needed to hold the thread in place.
Change direction, and work the parallel lines going the other way. This time, use a crochet hook to weave them under and over alternately - this strengthens the structure.
The weaving completed.
Gluing the threads at all the intersections. I used Aleene's Tacky glue for this. Insert a strip of waste paper under the threads as in the photo, and using a toothpick dab glue into each intersection. Blot the excess glue with a lint-free cloth (a paper towel will leave white fluff) then pull the strip of paper out. Using the paper makes sure that you don't get glassy residue. Use a fresh strip of paper each time.
After each row, readjust the threads to sit accurately on the pattern and let them dry. Then glue the next row. Work until all the intersections are glued and dry.
Stretch the frame threads into place in the same way. I found that just simply turning the corner made the threads bow out, so I extended them outwards. It's starting to look like a rat's nest :)
In the photo all the frame is there and all the strips of waste paper are in place ready to glue the frame.
(If you do the paper one bit at a time you run the risk of shifting the previous threads out of place while you do the next, and the glue drying wrongly.)
Glue quickly, blot it, pull out the waste paper and re-arrange the threads into their correct place.
Make sure that all threads are accurate on the pattern before the glue dries.
When it's dry, pull the pins out carefully (one at a time, holding the threads down with your finger). Gently ease the structure off the plastic so it doesn't pull out of shape.
With very sharp scissors, trim the edge close to the frame, and here's your leadlight!!
Now it has to be attached to your window. I cheerfully admit that I haven't done this yet, but it would need a glue which works on both plastic (window acrylic) and cotton.
Glues that don't work are - PVA, Crafter's Pick, UHU.
I've tried a sample, and found that Judikins Diamond Glaze works well, and Grrrip glue works, but not quite so well. No doubt the amazing glue-anything, viciously stinky, carcinogenic stuff like E6000 would work a treat but I refuse to try them as they make me very ill!
I think that just gluing it at the very edge would be enough, or even only in the corners if your window is small.
If you have made your own window frame, maybe a very thin edge strip of wood or stiffened thread would hold the leadlight in place. If anyone works it out I'd love to hear from you :)
Different shapes and sizes. This technique only works with simple grids - if you want circles and tricky Tudor designs, I think the best way to get them is to bribe a lacemaker to make it for you.
This is a page from an old book I found.

Making the actual windows, which should have come first, now I think of it - frame, hinges, glass, etc, is on the two year plan . . . :D


Friday, February 11, 2011

In print again, twice!

Instructions for how to make my mini floor runners are in Doll's House and Miniatures Scene magazine #199, January 2011 :)))
This post is late as my copy of the magazine arrived very late - I think Planet Earth postal systems are routed via the moon sometimes :D
And my Finnish Lakehouse appeared in the Finnish Miniatures magazine Nukkekoti - I feel a bit odd (but flattered) about showing this in Finland - what's that saying "taking coals to Newcastle"?

I still haven't got my mini-mojo back, it's probably in the post, haha!! :D