Sunday, October 26, 2008

All you ever wanted to know about tipi poles...

Phone the captain of your local pub quiz team. E-mail Mensa to prepare them. Arrange for Norris McWhirter to visit your house with the Guinness World Records team. Erm...actually, scratch that one as I think Norris might actually be living out his time in the Angel Records department at the moment. Anyway, whatever you ever wanted to know about tipi poles, you can find out here. Boy is that information going to be useful. Well, when I say useful...erm, to me it will be, to you? Quite interesting? Certainly not lethal unless you start caressing a chainsaw and plan a weekend marathon. Moving on.

What we are talking about here are 'loom poles', thanks to my new friend Blue Evening Star. For my first kid's tipi, I reckon I need about 12 feet of poles here and have been a little worried about what wood to use and where to get it from. I wanted to get this right so that when I move to a proper size tipi, I sort of know what I am talking about.

So, what to do, who to ask - well, I decided to go to the experts, people actually making the lovely triangle tents and see what they recommend.

First up, Wolf Glen Tipis. They go for poles that are, "... cut from local sustainably managed plantations, using timbers such as Norway spruce, Sitka spruce and Scots pine when available. The straightest poles are selected, hand stripped and sanded to a silky smooth finish." Sounds good, we're off to a good start here.

Address: Wolf Glen Tipis, Williamhope Cottage, Clovenfords, Galashiels, TD1 3LL,
Tel: 01896-850390

On to Hearthworks. They say, "...Tipi poles are selected from local sustainable pine forests and at present we use mainly Spruce poles. For a Tipi of 18 ft diameter the poles are cut to an average length of 25 feet and can be finished with linseed oil." So, pretty similiar which is always good. Must get me some linseed too. That does sound tasty. Wonder if its lucky ground nut oil? Will my tipi smell like a pizza restaurant?

Address: Hearthworks, 14 Lambrook Street, Glastonbury, BA6 8BX
Tel: 01749 899521

Last of all, its Albion Canvas. They say their poles are, "...locally sourced and sustainably managed Douglas fir which is peeled, sanded and protected with a double coat of linseed oil." Okay, okay, just stop I get the message. So, I need some sort of pine or fir and a ton of linseed oil.

Address: Albion Canvas, Unit 146 Anna Mill Business Park, Wrangaton, Devon. TQ10 9HQ
Tel: 0845 456 9290 (local rate) or 01364 649101

So, now we have a type of wood that the makers use in the UK, where on earth can I get me some? Not really the sort of thing my local DIY superstore is going to stock. Looks like I am not alone in my search too.

"We supply sticks and poles from local woodlands ranging from peas sticks and beanpoles to yurt poles and tipi poles to ships masts and whole trees. These can be prepared or in their natural form." Great, where do I sign?!?  Well, I have e-mailed so hopefully this will bear some fruit but I just have no idea how much this is going to cost me and I would quite like to be able to grab my own from somewhere. Without being arrested or shot for trespassing. Or wood rustling, whatever its called.

Come on ebay, get me a bargain old buddy...

Yikes! Well, I suppose these are hand cut lovely Douglas Fir which does sound nice. I just kind of wanted to go and grab some from a wood somewhere myself. You know, hug a couple of trees first in a forest full of birdsong and fell some beauties. Maybe some of my American cousins have some better ideas...

Or maybe not. I just want to meet Nancy now, today, and pop round for tea under her tipi.

Closer to home, I think this should do the trick. Have sent a few mails off and will await some useful, cheaper and fluffier timber-based replies. Will post some updates here when I hear back. Oh, and will let you know what the taste of linseed oil is like too. Toodlepip for now. Chainsaws set to stun.

p.s. have just found out that London Zoo have their very own tipi up. Well, they did when Google found them the other day. Might pop up and see if I can **borrow** a pole or two without them realising. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Building Tipis and Yurts by Blue Evening Star

One of the great benefits of being laid up with CP is that I have time for some reading I hadn't got around to. First on the list is this book by, well, erm, Blue Evening Star. It certainly makes a change from reading another Andy McNabb so I dived in. Here is what I have learnt:

  • The word tipi means home, from the Lakota language
  • To cure the hide used to make tipis, heavy fires would be burnt in the tipi the the cover turned around to proof the other side
  • Tipi poles, called lodge poles, were either dragged on sleds when a group wanted to move camp or later on lashed to horses
  • I need to find some "bonded, dacron-coated, polyester thread in size 16" to sew my tipi together - god knows if the Pfaff can cope with that stuff!
  • Tipis were rarely smaller than 10 feet or larger than 25 feet.
The main meat of the book was the plan it contained and the sewing instructions which followed. What I have got to work out first of all is what size of tipi I want to make. That last point kind of worried me as I was hoping to make a small child-size one first of all, then make the big kulhana tipi after that. The first one would probably be way before 10 feet, more like 6 feet, so I might have to make up my own pattern. Me. Yes, me. Mr I'm-about-able-to-sew-on-a-button, having to make my own sewing pattern already. Be afraid. Be very afraid. Especially if you stock bonded, dacron-coated, polyester thread in size 16 as I am coming for you now (even with my CP). Time to go back to the pencil and paper I think, wherever that is...

Pfaff 297 to the rescue - fabric sewing test mission update

Crikes, almost killed Blogger there trying to upload this lot of photos...will maybe have to stick to putting them all onto my Flickr or Picasa groups instead (maybe the latter as I think, actually, that's where all these photies end up - will have to check).

Anyhoo, back to the post. I was wondering about which sewing machine to use to get all this huge weight cotton together for my tipi. From some searching around houses, I unearthed a couple of beautiful treddle sewing machines which might have been able to do the job. However, my Mum then offered her electric household machine, the very one that had made all those wonderful Clothkits clothes from the past - how could I refuse! When it emerged gleaming from its beaten old cover, I discovered it was a Pfaff 297. Erm, yep, not a model I particular knew, but if it has survived god knows how many years in her household, it was hoping it was going to be okay for my tipi and that I wouldn't be ruining the family heirloom.

First up was the 9oz fireproof duck cotton inner...yes, not quite your conventional crafting fabric but this is Big Hairy Crafting! Ahem, anyway, I was quite sceptical the machine could take it. According to various books (of which more later), I am either going to have to master a Flat Seam or some sort of French Seam. Whichever I can figure out first, its still four layers of cotton to go through here, in a couple of stages, which is probably not the sort of thing you would do everyday with your machine really. Like I would know. 

As it approached the machine, like the gladiator entering the arena, rather than get crushed under a tiger, the machine just punched straight though it. Machine 1 Cotton 0. On to the 120z.

Now this stuff is h-e-a-v-y. When I tracked some down in my local crafting emporium, itself something out of a Sherlock Holmes book (definitely not the next Guy Ritchie movie - please just stop now Mr R! I know the divorce is coming up soon, but don't murder a classic while you are waiting for that decree nisi to come through), I only bought a metre's worth just to do these experiments on and to get a feel for the fabric. One metre of 12oz and one of 9oz almost killed me on the way home via the Tube. Must find a closer London craft shop to me.

After the 9oz test, I was feeling confident for the 12oz but still a tad worried. I wasn't sure if the smoke I could smell was eminating from my Dad's pipe as he stood feverishly near buy, in case a technical repair was needed, or whether it was leaking out of the Pfaff's motor but we went for it anyway and surprise, surprise all was actually quite well. Here are the results:

The 9oz is the one on top and the 12oz is the one on the bottom. A bit messy but pretty good huh! The Pfaff managed to creep back into its cover and wasn't squealing too much and my Mum seemed pretty pleased too, even if she got a bit carried away with the zig zag seaming on the second example (possibly one too many vitamin tablets there I think). 

Now I have the sewing machine sort of sorted out and the material chosen, I still need to get my wood sorted out to be stripped to dry over the winter and then make the templates from the pattern I have chosen. And fit in Christmas. And hoover. Its going to be a lonnnnnngggggg week.

Oh and yes, for those eagle-eyed among you, that is a copy of The Crafter's Companion in it which has some great ideas in. Once I have Project Tipi out of the way, or if I have time before Xmas, I might be able to use my left overs and sample bits of cotton to fashion something together - watch this space.

P.s. you may also want to update your virus checker as the latest news is that I have chicken pox and have had to lay up my needles for a while. Well, Queen Bee thought I was pretending to have man flu to start of with and is now busily joining my spots up with a pen to make interesting patterns (pictures not available). Anyone with any cures, do let me know.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wood...huh...yeah...what is it good for?

Absolutely everything really, including support my tipi up as it happens. The first version I am trying to get together at the moment will probably be about 6 feet tall...its amazing actually how everything in the world of crafting seems to be in imperial measurements, like going back in time to shopping at Diagone Alley (apologies to HP fans if I have the spelling wrong there). 

The material I am using is 3 yards wide, or 9 feet or 118 inches. Erm, hello? I was born after decimilisation you know...everything should have some tens in it somewhere, I am just sure of it! :-)

Anyway, I need to find some wood soonish so I can strip the bark off and get it out to dry before next summer. With my old coppicing head on, thanks to a lot of hedge laying with the B.T.C.V., I reckon a couple of good Hazel or thorn pleachers should do the trick. What? Never pleached at all before? Okay, check out this video below for more info. I should warn you, it is a bit chainsaw heavy as these guys are contractors - I tend to prefer a handsaw as you have a bit more control and don't go so quickly, hacking things off before you are ready. 

So, all I need to do is go out into the wonderful world below, get my wood goggles on and start looking for things 6 feet tall...or 182cm according to Google if you prefer the modern metric way.

London fabric and craft shops on a Googley map

Updated 18th October - yep, its a big seller on the interweb tubes...well, at least one person had a look at it, so I have started to add a few more things to the map. Let me know if you have any more suggestions - thanks!

Yep, I know its not perfect but its a start. I wanted to try and get all the shops in London I could find on to one Google map. Its a work in progress so if I find any more, I will whack them back on this page so I can remember what and where they were.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Choosing a sewing machine - what a pfaff!

For those following *my first project* in the world of crafting, I have finally found the material to make tipi v1.0 - sewing it together is the current problem. As my lovely Mac didn't come with any USB stitching equipment, it was back to square one here. Forays around my parent's house turned up a few beauties though, a Singer and a Pfaff machine which could be useful.

These all look bomb proof and so sturdy, they were probably used to sew houses together in the 1820's or something. At least I won't have to buy a new one as it looks like quite a complicated mess really, according to John Lewis, but Argos seem to be selling loads these days.

They both seem to have quite solid needles and also lots of room to pull material through, which is probably handy when you have god knows how many sheets of cotton to sew together. As soon as I get to try either of them out, after a quick bit of guidance, I will let you know how I get on and post up some pictures of what I can get out of these retro lovelies.

Make do and mend in the credit crunch

I suppose everything was much better 'in days of old'. Mars bars were definitely larger, policeman were taller and older and more things were hand made. My Mum's gran lived with them for many years and was a constant stream of knitting, as was her Mum who gave me a lovely green and white striped scarf for middle school. So ambitious was her knitting, it kept at least half my class warm as it curled around a small tribe of us huddling in the playground in winter. 

Anyhoo, I missed that whole make-do-and-mend thing which does sound like a much better way than the whole pay-nothing-work24hoursaday-vietnam production process which we seem to have at the moment.  

(see North Tyneside Libraries site for more details)

What is impressive I think is that the good old US of A has stolen a bit of a march on the UK. How they managed that when we have the Womens' Institute and even knitted breakfast cereals I will never know, but good on them for that. Hand Made Nation is now out as a movie or you can catch the original blog written by Faythe Levine. I was a bit taken by their sew pattern on Etsy so thought I would come up with my own version for the UK, with slightly more tea.


Comments please. As soon as I have worked out how to sew, I'm going to give it a go. Especially as my lovely old pair of Howies jeans gave up the ghost at the weekend so need patching together - you cannot die jeans, I love you! Ahem, I mean they fit really well, that's all.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Project Tipi - getting it together

Having found a lovely fabric to work with, 12oz duck cotton, actually getting it together is my next challenge. This is made trickier for only a few reasons, namely that:
  1. The last thing I sewed together was a toy mole when I was eight years old
  2. I only have my hands to use
  3. I have no idea what a flatseam is
  4. My chosen fabric weights a ton...and that's only about a metre of it.
Going back to the pattern, this is looking tricky...

The problem is that if I have to fold the fabric as in the diagram at the bottom, like some sort of corrugated tent origami, its going to be about a mile thick. Its at least 5 layers I reckon. That must require some sort of industrial strength javelin needle and a thread like rope.  The actual seem looks okay according to Candi but I am just not sure.

I think I might have to Queen Bee's sister about it, to see if her machine is industrial strength. If not, I think I will go and find myself an ebay bargain least Chris M likes a bit of sewing when is not singing so all might not be lost.

My first craft project - finding some tipi fabric

Deciding on my first crafting project was always tricky. Predictably for a BHC ® , I didn't choose something in pink or related to a handbag (although actually, I might be trying to do a bag from the Queen Bee once I have worked out what on earth **stabiliser** is...). Typically, I chose something large and complex, the opposite of what I probably should have done, typical male then I suppose!

Anyway, project tipi. I have always been quite of an 'outdoors' sort of person, tramping across Dartmoor in the rain many a time. The problem when you are over six feet, is that most of your life in tents tends to be horizontal rather than vertical - no more! Welcome to the world of the t-i-p-i. 

Glastonbury in 2005 brought me wondeful delights of a whole field of tipis which just looked great. I will dig some photos out when I work out which of my old dead computers the images are stuck on (2005 bearing year 1 B.A. or Before Apple) . They do look great though, all lined up together, pointing to the sky like some sort of celestial car park of camping.

So, a tipi it is then. List of things I might goes:
  1. Background reading
  2. Some fabric
  3. Some trees
  4. A pattern or two
  5. Some flat seams
Starting at the top then, after reading a guide or two, I realised the first big bridge to cross was material. Yep, its fabric time. Seeing as I don't have as many cattle as I might have liked too, my Queen Bee not coming equipped with any major animal dowry to speak of, traditional hide was out.

Next came cotton. Naively, I thought there were only a few different types and weights but boy was I wrong. First of all, I was wondering whether I could get my hands on any second hand large sheets of canvas or cotton, a bit like theatre backdrops or something. There don't seem to be any serious outlets for these so its probably down to having the right connections in Theatreland which unfortunatley I don't.

So back to cotton. Fireproof, 8oz, 10oz, pre-weave, post-weave, the list just went on. Like most things, I decided that I just had to go and see some. Luckily there are a few shops that exist online that can send you out samples, thanks go to Point North and Russell and Chapple there. That certainly helped me decide on some lovely 12oz duck cotton, but as I was going to need such a large amount of it, I thought a personal visit to a shop might help. So off to Brodies I went...
© mondoagogo for this lovely pic

As its in the middle of Theatreland, they are quite used to large orders and have absolutely huge rolls of fabric. The larger the fabric, the better for me as there will be less stiching involved. Anyway, I bought a metre or so of a 12 oz and an 9 oz fireproof cotton - picture coming soon - so I can work out how to stitch it all together...part 2 I think. 

Thursday, October 9, 2008

When you know somebody loves their crafting...

Check out some of the images towards the end here, just great. I must get around to sorting out a tattoo for me. I was always thinking of it for my thirtieth, but maybe for my fortieth now...will probably have more sagging flesh to cover by then (is that a bad or good thing). Anyway, check out the images below and let me know what you think.

Kaylah has some really great projects on the go...check out her latest and if anyone knows where she found those great bits of fabric, I must have some like it now!

It comes by post, its in a kit and it was invented in the 70's...and its not rubbish!

Yep, its back, hello and hi di hi to clothkits who have triumphantly returned.

Why am I on about these? Well, I suppose its because its probably one of the earliest memories I have of wearing something that was **home made**. Now I know that Stateside everything is hand made nation this and that, but I like to think that we Brits were doing it years before, in particular, my Mum.

The thing I remember from Clothkits was a lovely pair of blue dungarees, tough as old boots so I could run through trees and not ruin them. The piece de resistance, was this wonderful rainbow badge stuck above the central pocket, not disimilar to the current logoo for the DCSF actually. It was probably the bright colours that stick in my mind the most. Mind you, like most recollections of childhood, I am sure the old rose-tinted specs make things seem better than they were. Must ask my Mum about them as I get they were a real pain to make!

The trouble with these kits is that, well...
  • nobody really has most people don't have time to make things
  • they are actually quite expensive, around the same price as clothes from shops, so the thrift factor isn't really there
  • its all for girls...well, mostly female, with only a few things for boys so Drone is going to have to wait a while for one 
I couldn't even find my old dungareers on the archive section, though might see if its immortalised in an old family photo album.

The family behind the kits of dreams, as I like to call them, now run the lovely Gossypium eco-fashion chain so are still in the world of lovely and careful to find a nice dungaree pattern and a sew on rainbow badge - let me know if you find one before I do!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Hello all...not quite sure what to say as usual apart from the fact that the big hairy crafter is back! Well, the only previous outing was a toy mole I stitched together, aged about six, with some help from my Mum, but that still counts! This is to lovingly document my foray in to the world of crafting. I need to find some more male companions here to balance up the crafting world, which does seem to be quite female. Not that this is a problem, as everyone has been very friendly, but it kind of helps expand the range of projects bringing a few men on board. A case in point? My first project...the tipi - more soon.