Thursday, March 25, 2010

Something New that is Very, Very Old

I have just added a new line to the historic reproductions section of my shop. They are nalbinding needles. Now, you ask, what is nalbinding? Nalbinding, also spelled naalbinding, is a an ancient form of knitting done by the Vikings that carried on through Medieval and Renaissance times. It is also known as single needle knitting.

A variation of nalbinding became popular again in the late 20th Century and was then called toothbrush rug making. The techniques and stitches are the same.

A series of loops and knots form the stitches and one who knows this ancient art can create hats, mittens, scarves, socks, and more. Once the technique is learned this knitting goes quickly. Unlike traditional two needle knitting, short lengths of yarn are used rather than a continuous skein. There are many free sources on the internet to learn the stitches including videos that show close up what to do to teach yourself this art.

Who wants nalbinding needles? This art has become popular amongst Renaissance and Medieval living history reenactors and members of the S.C.A., as well as hobbyists and crafts artists who are looking to express themselves in a unique way.

The needles vary in size. This one is a little more than four and one half inches in length and is 3/8" wide. This needle is made of American Maple - a renewable and durable hardwood. The grain pattern of maple is distinct and this piece shows the beautiful striping. The needle is sanded to a silky smooth finish and is then hand-rubbed with oil and polished to glide through the stitches - which is highly desirable in nalbinding. This needle is a pleasure to work with. The eye of the needle shown has been sized to accommodate all common sizes of yarn.

If you do nalbinding or would like to start, come to my shop at Etsy - qbranchtld - and take a look at the fine handmade needles that I have to offer there.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

My Workshop - Part 2

This article picks up from Part 1 last week -

The garage here is a one and one half car garage. Not sure what half of a car it will fit, though. We did not really keep our van in there - it was too tall. And there was no point in keeping the little car in there though we tried at times. (blocked by the van on the driveway anyway). This would have to be a two part plan. To make the garage work we had to come up with more room for the cars, and, besides, we were tired of dealing with trying to back out to a four lane main street. We had a circular driveway installed. I don't like to mow grass anyway, so the lawn would not be missed. That took most of our finances for the moment and it took two more years to get to the next and most important phase of the two part plan - finish the garage. Convert it from a bug-invested garage with some beams that were rotting at the base to a nice, comfortable and usable workshop. I took a lot of time figuring out what I wanted. How many electrical outlets would be needed. What the lighting should be. How to keep the overhead storage and increase it if we could so that the Christmas ornaments still had a place to be and I could have storage for lumber. I knew of a contractor from work and called him in. No problem! I gave him the plans and all I had to do is sit back and watch it go up - "in less than two weeks!" Two weeks turned into two months. The man that he put in charge of the bulk of the job liked to work on his own schedule. There would be several days that he was expected that he was no where to be seen. Then he would come and put in a half day's work. The job was taking the entire summer and we had a road trip vacation planned at the end of the summer. "Go, don't worry - it will be all done when you get back." Reluctantly we went - and it was done when we got back but not exactly as we expected. Nothing major but there was some substitutions of the agreed upon garage door and such. After a few threats and some money taken off the final bill my workshop was complete.

I started right away moving my small woodworking machinery and tools up from the basement and into my "Shop". No longer would it be referred to as the "garage" but now it was the "Shop" or the "Workshop". "I am going out to the "SHOP"!", I would yell to my wife. Her answer was and still is, "Be CAREFUL!". She knows me well.

Of course, with a nice new and larger shop, those little machines would not longer do - but nothing was purchased until I purchased my lathe. It actually was a birthday present bought for me by my wife. It had to be ordered by the store and when it was time to pick it up with had them put it into our van and wondered how we would lift it when we got it home. We ingeniously devised a collection of tables that stretched from the van to inside the shop - through the garage door that we knew should remain as part of the structure. The tables led all of the way to the lathe stand that was purchased at the same time. I assembled the stand and we got the lathe up onto the first table by pushing and then pushed all of the way inside to where it would come to rest. Of course, as so many things go, when we opened the carton to start to get the lathe out we found that the cast iron base was cracked! We closed the box and started pushing in the opposite direction. My heart in my throat - as I come THIS close to having my lathe. We called the store and told them to expect us back immediately and they better order another lathe right away. Happily they said that they just happened to have another (?) and we should come and exchange it. Which we did. Of course, now we had to push the new carton out of the van, onto the tables, and over to the stand. Finally, it was there - in my shop!

I will not go into the learning process now, but with the help of some books and videos I discovered that I was a natural on the lathe and was producing nice pieces rather quickly. When you have a lathe, you learn that you really need some large and powerful machinery to go along with it to make the best use of it - along with the specific collection of gouges and chisels that you need to "do it right".

It will probably not surprise you that my workshop is now full to the brim with machinery and tools. There is no place really to put anything else and what is there is all on wheels so that it can be moved into the center of the garage, pardon me, shop to work with. I love that shop.

What we had not figured on when we had the shop built was climate conrol - not for what is inside, but for me. It gets to be over 90 degrees F in the summer and down to 2o degrees F in the winter. There are about three months in parts total through the year that one can actually go into the shop and work comfortably. The summer months have been handled with the addition of a through the wall air conditioner which to the surprise of the installer was the first that he ever installed in a garage. Heat in the winter is not so easy. I tried a lot of different types of space heaters - a radiant heat dish that looks like a satellite antenna that did nothing but make my legs warm and an electric oil filled radiator that did little to fend off the freezing cold inside the shop. I eventually found a radiant heater that attaches to the ceiling that gives off a nice heat if it is pointed in your general direction. Two of these, each placed at different sides of the shop pointed to the spots that I work the most do the job as long as it is not TOO cold outside. Having never figured on these, if two tools and a heater are turned on at the same time - the fuse blows. Only a problem when I want to run the dust vacuum while I am working. And of course, don't put both heaters on at the same time if there is any tool running because that puts me in the dark too.

But I love my shop. And this winter it has been too cold for those heaters to keep up. And the snow piled high from the the house to shop door does not help either. I have not been in the shop for any significant time now since November. I tried one day in February when I needed to make a lucet for Etsy - just having sold a walnut one with none to replace it. It was sold cold that I could not feel my finger going too close to the sanding machine and caught the edge. Nothing serious but annoying- and once my fingers thawed from the cold I could really feel those two little cuts!

Ah, but the Spring is almost upon us and soon I will be able to go inside my shop again. I will be able to clean up and re-organize my shop again. In the cold it has been leave all behind and get back into the house quick. A big mess results that way -which is waiting for me to put it back the way it was and is supposed to be. And maybe, just maybe I will be able to start working on those projects that I have been thinking of doing as I have watched the nasty weather come down all winter.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

My Workshop - Part 1

This has been a hard winter. With all of the snow, the rain, and the cold I have not been able to get into my workshop to work for months. My workshop is outside of my house in what was once the garage.

When we got married we intended to move right into a house, but the house market and the interest rates on mortgages at that time - this is over thirty years ago - was not going to allow that to happen. We moved into an apartment and stayed in that apartment for ten years before we found "our" house.

While we were in the apartment there was no way that I could have a workshop. The neighbors upstairs and to the side of us were unhappy enough that we are "night people" and stay up beyond the hours that most do. It is not that we make a lot of noise, but the television is kept on and the walls are not what they could be. This was an apartment complex that did not permit children, but the people upstairs eventually had a baby and we used to hear, through the ceiling, the little guy in one of those little walkers on wheels scoot from one side of the room to the other. As he got bigger they had to move out of their three rooms and then there was no more scooting upstairs - not that we minded. It was kind of funny following the little guy's movements back and forth. Anyway - no workshop in the apartment. We were doing craft shows back then - with our inventory stored in the living room. My wonderful wife was doing most of the work with her MA Bears (tm), quilted pillows, and baby quilts. I was doing small handwork - but it really was not satisfying my need to create. I took up gourmet-style cooking and would put my creative energies into the kitchen. It impressed a lot of relatives and friends. I could not wait to get into a house.

Back in those days, before there were infomercials and home shopping networks on television, there would be info presentations in the shopping malls. Companies trying to sell a gadget would have a representative set up on a stage in the center of a mall, gather a crowd, and put on a "show" to let you know how wonderful this gadget was and why you absolutely needed to have it. I bought my first punch needle set at one of those presentations. Never then did I think that it eventually would become a business for me designing patterns at Pop Goes the Needle. But what would really get my attention was the ShopSmith man. He would come to the mall to show off the invention of the century - a complete woodworking shop in one machine. The ShopSmith company is still around but the pitchmen at the malls are long gone. I just loved going to one of those demonstrations. To lure you there they gave away hardcover books about woodworking that were, of course, all about the ShopSmith, but applied to any woodworking equipment and were full of techniques. IF I could not do it, I could at least read about it. Well, the ShopSmith man would make it all look so easy. This is a LARGE shop tool - maybe six or more feet long - and heavy ("but look how easy it is to move around on wheels!"). What always got me was when he set up the machine - it converts to five different tools - to become the lathe! A lathe was a tool that none of us in junior high school (what is now called middle school) industrial arts woodworking class were allowed to touch. It was TOO dangerous we were told for the likes of us. I always wanted to try a lathe. I would watch in fascination as the ShopSmith man would cut away at that spinning block of wood and produce - a dowel! Amazing! Even the cabriolet leg that he could make on the machine converted to a bandsaw in just five cuts of a piece of wood was as exciting. In seeing my enticement, he always said directly to me - take one home with you tonight and you can be doing this tomorrow! No, I live in three rooms with very close neighbors and thin walls. I don't think that they will like me converting the living room to a woodshop and making noise on a ShopSmith. No, I just had to wait.

Eventually we found and could pay for a house. Of course, in the ten years that this took houses went from $60,000 to $170,000 and interest rates were over 13% for mortgages by then. But we bought a house that has possibilities. Converting the garage came a while later. I first filled the basement with small woodworking machinery. This house has half of an unfinished basement and that part consists of the furnace, the heating oil tank, and the washer and dryer - but there is a little space around and in the corners to fit the smallest table saw, band saw, jig saw, radial arm saw, and drill press that I could find. What I had never figured on was some way to catch the dust that I was creating and not only was this a problem for health (which I never realized at the time - after all isn't the smell of fresh cut wood and sawdust wonderful) but also was not a friend to my furnace which was getting clogged. Still no place for the lathe - and I knew that the wood shavings put out by even a small lathe would never be able to be dealt with in the basement. It was time to look elsewhere.

End of PART 1
Next week - Part 2

Thursday, March 4, 2010


We have an interview for you with an artist you takes what is old and makes them new and exciting again. Come with me and meet

Here is our interview with the artist, Jillian -
(lack of capital letters is Jillian's)

Briefly describe what you make?

i illustrate images on porcelain or glass wares. i typically find vintage pieces, but sometimes am able to find out of business vendors in my local area who are liquidating. i like the idea of combining my art with function and making something interactive.

What mediums do you enjoy working in most?

my favorite medium to wok with is using pen and ink on paper, followed by ceramics or glass. i love the way it feels holding a good ink pen, i get excited about it and i could talk about pens and paper for long enough to make people question my sanity. i also love photography, and work part time as a photographer.

How long have you been creating craft?

i have been illustrating for myself and for gifts to people i know my entire life. some periods more frequently than other periods. i opened my etsy shop in late october and have been have been focusing on vintage wares since then.

How did you get started?

i debated for a long time. i was uncertain if i was making the right choice and if my work would sell at all. i have a wonderful supportive family and figured i would open my etsy shop to see what would happen. i told myself that if i only sold to family members for the first couple of months, i would take the hint and focus on building my photography work base instead of selling illustrated pieces. i opened my shop and quickly realized i was making the right choice regardless if i was a popular seller or not. i loved it and knew i had to keep doing it for me.

Where does the name of your shop come from?

22 pages is a literary reference from the book catch 22 by joseph heller. i feel that the paradox of a catch 22 is more frequent than most people realize and i try to envision myself moving gracefully through those paradoxes as gracefully as turning the pages of a novel.

What would you most want people to know about your work?

it's all original and done by my hand. i've tremendous respect for people who use stock images or who mass produce their original images in their own projects. i realize that can be every bit as challenging and rewarding as what i do. for me, i love the idea that every piece i make is varied . i love the slight imperfections that seem to be rare in a world of ever growing perfect printed font and sharper than anything graphic designed images.

What words of advice do you have for other artists?

there is so much about a blank paper or canvas that is intimidating. it's price as well as it's lack of failure or flaws. it can be compared to the images and ideas of what we are supposed to achieve or what society expects of us each individually.
learn that it's ok to mess up once in a while, it's ok to not be perfect and we don't always need to improve or get better with every project. holding patterns and regressions are fine and they can often lead us to other places we wouldn't have otherwise found.
i can't believe how long it took me to start putting my art out there. i had put so many expectations in my work before i started, it was challenging to begin. it wasn't the bank papers fault because that's what blank things do, they reflect what is standing right in front of them.


Come take a look at 22pages - and leave a comment to let Jillian know what you think!