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



  1. You are so clever, Glenda! I actually had the same idea (independently) some months ago and made a big soggy mess when I tried it out so I am really impressed to see how you have made it work.

  2. That is brilliant Glenda. Thank you for that tutorial. I know I will use it.

  3. What a great tutorial Glenda :)

    Victoria ♥

  4. Brilliant, especially for smaller scales! Thanks Glenda.

  5. Great tutorial Glenda, very clever way to make windows, I just have to give it a try someday. Brilliant :)

  6. Thank you so much Glenda for sharing !

  7. And now I am all in tears! ;D Why oh why I have no talents in my hands like you have? It is a fab idea and a great turtorial! Thanks a lot!:D

  8. Splendid tutorial Glenda. The patience you must have to do this!

  9. Jeg er meget glad for, at du ville vise hvordan man gør! 1000 tak!
    Knus fra Eva

  10. What a fantastic tutorial Glenda! thankyou :o) I lol'd at your 5 year plan... I can relate to that as I operate in a similar time frame! I'd love to try this tutorial out and I have a roombox this would be most suitable for... perfect! just not sure WHEN I shall get around to it though... hopefully long before the 5 year thing tho LOL

    and thanx for considering me 'clever'... tis all smoke & mirrors mate! I have trouble with my own shoelaces sometimes so I'm sure that string & glue will totally flummox me!!! hahaha

    I'll let you know how I get on x

  11. Great tutorial, Glenda! I think it canbe modified to make other stuff as well! Thank you!

  12. Thank you for this tutorial - clever idea. And if there is no other way, I'll wait another five years to see that hobbit house... ;O)


  13. How clever Glenda! I have always loved the look of leaded windows both in RL and mini. I would love to see your Hobbit House with these windows!
    The technique you've worked out looks very realistic...and it is inexpensive, which is always a plus!

    If you don't want take the time to go through all this process, however, you can use the lead tape golfers use to make the head of the club heavier. It's very thin and flexible, cuts easily into very thin strips with a craft knife and straight edge and is already adhesive backed.

    Thank you so much for sharing your technique. I know putting together such a nice tutorial is time consuming and it is much appreciated!

  14. Gracias por este gran tutorial, tienes ideas brillantes.
    besitos ascension

  15. What a fabulous tutorial Glenda, I hope you enjoyed putting it all together. I love these sort of ideas as they are ingenious but inexpensive - miniaturists need all the help we can get in that way!

    I will certainly give this idea a go, buying the ready made sheets is surprisingly expensive considering what they are and they are not very nice. I think the thread adds a nice texture to the window.

    Once again thank you so much for sharing your expertise.

  16. how smart!!! Thank you for a wonderful tutorial Glenda- I think this may be fun to use when I eventually start my witches house...that's on MY two year plan-lol :)

  17. Many thanks for this tutorial!
    I'm not sure I have the patience.... But I'll try.
    I like the iron fence pattern!
    Thanks Glenda

  18. Great tutorial ,very clever ;-)!Thank you for sharing it .Jeannette

  19. I am really playing catch up here but Glenda what a genius idea.

    I've played with the golf tape but found it rather fiddly...I misty try this method :-)

  20. Fabulous idea! They look great!