Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bobbins in her hair...bobbins everywhere!

Not only do I make bobbin lace, I also make bobbins I use to make the lace. A few months ago, when I was showing off a pair of birch bobbins I’d made, a couple of my friends thought at first that they were hair sticks. Since I’ve always thought that the beautiful spangled bobbins I use are just as elegant as the lace they make, I was inspired to make a pair of hair sticks based on the design of my bobbins.

The components of the Spangled Midland style bobbins I use are: the thistle top, the neck, the…well, I’m not sure what the technical term is, but we’ll call it the handle, and the spangle. The neck is where the thread is wrapped, the thistle top is shaped to facilitate a special knot that holds the thread in place, yet is easily unwound when needed. The handle is the part of the bobbin that is picked up and moved to manipulate the thread, and the spangle serves as a weight to provide proper tension on the thread, keeps the bobbin from rolling around on the pillow, and looks pretty. Bobbins are almost always used in pairs, but the pairs generally are not identical. I like to use coordinating bobbins as my pairs to start, although depending on the design of the lace, the bobbins are frequently mixed up into different pairs by the end of the project.

For the hair sticks, I decided to make coordinating sticks with no attempt at making them identical. I selected oak, since I’ve had some sitting around for a while, but hadn’t gotten around to cutting any of it yet. I determined that the decorative portion of the hair stick should be based on the handle of the bobbin, complete with spangle…trying to incorporate the neck and thistle top seemed unnecessary.
It’s a little tricky to turn a long, narrow spindle, so I generally start at the tailstock and work my way toward the headstock, so that the narrowest sections will be closest to the stability of the chuck. After turning each stick, I sanded it down through several sizes of sandpaper, down to 1000 grit for a very smooth finish. Cutting off at the point is always an adventure…I usually end up using a skew chisel from my miniature tool set one handed, while loosely holding the stick with my other hand. Spinning objects have a tendency to go flying when set free, and I prefer not to damage either the item I just finished turning or my parent’s car, which is parked very close by (I did mention my lathe is in my parents’ garage, right?). After the cut-off, I sanded the point.

Back at home, I treated the sticks with tung oil, wiped them, and left them overnight. Well, longer than overnight, actually. I turned the sticks on a Saturday. I prefer not to do anything work-related on Sundays, so after I woke up Monday morning, I lightly sanded the sticks, then rubbed on a second coat of oil. By the time I got home from campus, the oil was dry and the sticks ready for the next step—spangling.

First, a small hole had to be drilled across the end of each stick. I used a small rotary power tool (like a Dremel, but off-brand) with a drill bit larger than the brass wire. Next, I cut a length of wire and threaded it through the hole. In order to allow the spangle to move freely, and also hide the connection, I arranged the beads on the wire, with the stick hanging in the middle, so that the when the ends are fastened together, the join could be slid inside the largest bead. Just as the sticks were made to coordinate, but not match, the purple beads on the spangle also coordinate without matching.

Ta-da! Lace bobbin inspired hairsticks!

Oh. And I have short hair and no personal use for hair sticks.

1 comment:

Heidi said...

Those are so pretty, they kind of make me miss my long hair. I wonder if I can figure out how to use them in my shorter hair...