What to do with washers?
For a DIY project – I won’t bore you with that – we had to buy 50 each of two types of washers from Screwfix when we only needed four of each. They’re stainless steel and therefore shiny-shiny. I set to wondering what crafting purpose I could put them to. There are numerous ribbon and washer necklace tutorials on the internet but they don’t much appeal to me. Maybe a single washer would be OK, stamped or painted, as a pendant. I may make something like that. But in the meantime, inspiration struck when I clumsily broke a keyring.
We’ve had all of the 1970s softwood windows in the house replaced since we’ve lived here. The new windows have key-operated locks, which means that each room has its own small keyring so that the window key is always to hand. These keyrings need to be reasonably attractive as we generally leave them out where they can be easily found, including by visitors. One of the bedroom ones was made from a small ceramic plaque with a kiwi on it – the bird, not the fruit. I think it must have come with a New Zealand guest at some point. Anyway, I dropped that keyring as I was opening the window the other day, it hit the radiator on the way down and broke in two. Which means I need a new keyring.
As I was looking at the leftover shiny-shiny washers and considering their crafting potential, I suddenly realised that the larger washer has a similar outside diameter to a wine cork. And on one of our wine visits in Bordeaux last autumn, I spied some rather nice key fobs for sale, made from the chateau’s corks. I didn’t buy one. There’s an endless supply of wine corks in this household and I had in mind that I’d make something similar when I got home, then promptly forgot all about it. Until now.
In a kitchen cupboard is a 1988 Krug champagne cork from the bottle we drank to celebrate the millennium. I don’t know why we’ve kept it for the last 15 years, pure sentiment probably, plus the fact that we don’t often drink vintage Krug (more’s the pity). Champagne corks, of course, are cylindrical like any other cork, albeit of a larger-than-standard diameter, and given time out of the bottle they revert to their original shape. After 15 years our Krug cork is still not back to being a cylinder (it’s bottom right in the pic), but it’s well on its way. The current diameter of the bottle end is not much bigger than my surplus penny washers, and I think a washer makes a nice covering. It would make even more sense as a covering for an ordinary cork, to help disguise the damage done by the corkscrew.
I also have a small stock of the decorative end caps that are frequently found on Cava bottles and occasionally on sparkling wine from other countries too. Some of them are just too pretty to throw away, like the Leonardo da Vinci “plans et machines” one that came off a bottle of Champagne we bought from a producer in the Côte des Blancs. I’ve never found a use for these caps because they are quite an odd shape and the designs on them typically go right to the edge, meaning that trimming them to a more circular shape would be a shame. But I found a Cava cork in a drawer (why do I keep all of this rubbish?) that I could stick the da Vinci cap onto to make another keyfob.
I bought the little copper split rings and screw eyes for some leather key fobs I made a couple of years ago – I only needed the split rings but I couldn’t find copper ones for sale on their own anywhere locally. These heart-shaped key fobs were my first laser cutting project, made in the FabLab at Keighley.
The rings and eyes combo is sold for hanging pictures. They come in silver, brass and copper finishes and they’re quite cheap to buy. I used some more of them later to make wine glass charms.
The finished keyring would be a good present for a wine lover, and you’d have the perfect excuse to buy a bottle of their favourite wine.
A cork can be removed without causing it any damage by using a “butler’s friend” – if you don’t have one, you could try using a couple of prongs fashioned from any slim pieces of springy metal you might have lying around, maybe from an old steel rule.
I made a leather case for my BlackBerry several years ago. There’s a tutorial on Instructables. Unfortunately, I’ve lost the case. We had a tidy-up at New Year when we had some friends over for a drink and it hasn’t been seen since. I’ve searched through the dustbin, without success, so I’m pretty confident that it is still somewhere in the house. But it’s got to the point where I need something to protect my BB when I’m carrying it around and stop it dialling random people. I’ve started work on a new case, which should mean that the old one shows up any time soon.
Case no.2 is made from a Fair Isle-patterned sleeveless sweater I found in a charity shop. I threw it in the washing machine on the cotton cycle every time I did a cottons wash until it was nicely thick and felted, then used it to make a felt corsage. I kept the leftovers of course – I keep everything – and there was enough to make a simple phone case. You can tell what it used to be, but it got a whole lot smaller in the felting process.
I’ve bound the opening edge with linen to strengthen it, as it’ll get a lot of wear. The binding came from an early 20th Century peasant’s smock I bought in a Provençale vide-greniers market (a bit like a car boot sale, but with infinitely superior vintage linens if you’re lucky) for €1, an absolute bargain because I’ve made lots of things out of it and it is tremendously hard-wearing linen. I positioned a slim neodymium magnet inside the slip-in case, sewing it in place with a scrap of polyester organza ribbon which I’m hoping will be strong enough to last. The magnet puts the BB in sleep mode when it’s holstered, helping to conserve battery life and preventing those random phone calls. The case isn’t quite finished, there’ll be finished photos next time.
Preparing to make a laptop case
Talking of gadget cases, I’ve been meaning to make a slipcase for my new laptop ever since I got it in October. It is slim and white and needs something equally stylish. I want something like this covetable MacBook sleeve by Joli Originals, but I don’t want to pay that kind of price. Or any kind of price. Not when I have some suitable white leather bought from Fabworks, and some green felt and matching linen thread that I found at the Harrogate Knitting and Stitching Show in November.
The thing that’s been putting me off from getting started on this laptop case is the fact that there’s a distorted/missing area of leather in one corner, as you can see in the photo. I bought this white piece, along with a dozen or so others, very cheaply – I think I paid £12 per kg but it may have been less. They are scraps and offcuts, in a variety of qualities, hence the good price. Fortunately, one of the other pieces is a very similar weight and quality of hide, in a bottle green colour. Which means I can replace the distorted/missing corner with green leather, line it with green felt (which will be visible at the edges of the case), stitch it with the green linen thread and it should look pretty darn hot. Maybe green straps too, if it needs them to keep the laptop secure.
The join where the green corner fits into the white leather needs to be a butt seam, the leather is too thick for anything else and too soft to skive away some of the thickness. That presents two problems for an inexpert leatherworker such as myself: how to cut the pieces in such a way that they fit together perfectly; and how to sew them in such a way that the seam is attractive yet reasonably strong, given that the soft felt lining isn’t going to provide much strength. Well, today I have done a trial run with some scraps, and they’ve gone well. I’ll sew the seam on the machine, the prospect of punching holes for hand stitching, given the need for different spacing on each side of the curved join, is just too daunting.
I’ll post some more pictures when this project is more advanced, but for now here are my two samples.
The one at the bottom has no permanent backing to the seam, it was just held together with masking tape on the back to keep it in place while it was stitched. The other one is backed with the peasant-smock linen, stuck down with double-sided tape. It gives a firm, stable seam but is perhaps a little thick and may be noticeable in the finished slipcase. I may try again using a strip of lighter weight fabric, perhaps something like polycotton sheeting that is both thin and strong. The writing on one of the test pieces is to remind me of the stitch settings – I know I’ll lose them if I just make a note on a piece of paper.
I cut the leather by laying one piece over the other, both right side up, and holding them in place with a strip of double-sided tape where the join was going to be. I then cut a curve freehand with a craft knife, through both layers. I was pleased to find that the double-sided tape could be peeled off without leaving a mark on either the face of the leather or the suede side. I wasn’t looking forward to the cutting process beforehand, I was convinced it was going to be difficult to cut through both layers at once and produce a well-fitting join, but it turned out to be surprisingly easy. Of course, cutting, and sewing, a longer seam well is bound to be harder, but I now feel confident enough to tackle it.
My glove reached the divide-for-the-thumb point early in the week, which meant I could try it on properly for the first time. I find it’s always a bit hit and miss before that stage, it’s too hard to judge whether it’s a good fit until there’s a hole to put my thumb through. I concluded, reluctantly, that the hand section was too wide. I think the problem was that I’d been striving not to make the Jacquard stitch tight, with its 2–stitch floats and just 4 normal stitches between them. I’d over-compensated and produced a fabric that was at too loose a tension. But I like this fabric, it has just the right blend of elasticity and firmness, so after ripping out back to the end of the cuff I have re-knitted the hand on fewer stitches.
I reached the thumb separation point for the second time last night and, thank goodness, the glove is now a good fit. I’m going to have to re-think my plans for the fingers, they may need fewer stitches than I was expecting, but I don’t have to worry about that just yet.