Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Very Long Button: Finishing

Way back in May, I promised a post on finishing the super-long button used on Anya's breastcollar.  We have already seen the tightening of that button, here.  Yes, it's been a long dry spell:  things have been busy in the interim!  But pictures for the finishing were already taken, waiting since May as well.  In an attempt to jumpstart my little tack shop, which really is perking along (thanks everyone for their patience and prayers), I thought finishing would be a good subject with which to break my drought.
These pictures were shot through a magnifying glass, which explains the curved edge sometimes seen.

These terms, "tightening" and "finishing," are words I'm using for my own convenience.   Like so much of braiding technology (and model tackmaking!), there isn't really a standard terminology.  I was influenced by Gail Hought and Tom Hall, not to mention the great pioneer Bruce Grant.  I had to have some means of distinguishing the various steps I use to make a miniature braided button, so I borrowed and invented.

Finishing is the art of securing the thread ends in such a way that they don't pull loose and can't be seen.  You gotta fix 'em, hold 'em and hide 'em.  You sure don't want to bulk up the button in doing so;  but the absolute worst thing that could happen is they'd pull out somehow.  "Know when to hold em, know when to fold em."  Just tying ends together adds terrible bulk, but merely tucking under doesn't quite hold them; and how I hate glue!  The skill of finishing could be the heart of the TSII's one-ninth-scale model braidwork.

When we last saw this button, after tightening, it looked like this:
Note there are two colors, light and dark (black and light blue in this case) with the light being the interweave and the dark being the foundation.  Although the picture doesn't show it well, there are two lengths of ends to each color, short and long.  I use a short (about an inch) end to indicate the standing (or dead) end, and a long end to indicate the working end.  This reminds me which is which, and what direction they were headed in.  That turns out to be critical!

It doesn't really matter which end finishes first.  Neatness and convenience weigh in at this stage: whichever presents itself best and most clearly.  Look for flattest in relation to the lace (it's much harder to finish around corners or over edges).  It's convenient to me to do each color separately; for example, here, blue and blue then black and black.

One of my secrets is the right tool: a sharp needle.  Even if a blunt was used for the braiding, I'd switch to a sharp for finishing.  A blunt needle will not pierce thread half so easily, smoothly and controllably as a sharp.  Each thread needs to feed back into itself: to become one with itself.  Miniature magic happens when the fibres of the thread 'grip' and help hold a pierced thread in place. This is why piercing is such a bad idea while braiding, yet is perfect for finishing.  At this scale, I can just barely control the piercing!

Beginning with the long end of the interweave (the light color), I aim the needle back into and underneath the button, in the direction that thread came from.  The needle goes in first without any thread.  I thread the needle after I'm satisfied with where it's going.

Note how the needle emerges inside of (buried within) a light color pass.  It could just as easily have gone into the pass above the one it did;  two or three passes up from the end of the button is ideal.  I would not have used the end pass (too shallow an angle of attack, and not enough thread to hold).  Four passes up is too steep an angle for my taste, and risks bulk.

To finish this button it is necessary to re-thread the needle four times, once for each thread end.  This dictates the length of the shortest end:  long enough to re-thread the needle with.  I can't tell you how many times I've gotten short ends too short.  Then, you push the needle through as far as you dare, lick the little stub end of the thread, manuever eye and thread like crazy and hope you've got steady hands.
Here I've pulled the long end of the interweave through.  I've said many times finishing is where, having avoided piercing for the whole of braiding, you get to pierce on purpose!!  It's very satisfying!

Now for the short end of the same color.  In this photo the needle is already threaded.
Note again how the needle comes out within a pass of the intended color:  the light blue.  I seem to be devoted to the second pass of interweave up from the end, as a place to emerge.  Thread the needle with the short end and pull... and let the thread slip out when through.
And the light blue is finished!
Tension, of course, matters:  too much pull and you'll get wrinkles and bulges.  Too little tension and you'll have leather showing and loops sticking up.  You should have gotten a sense of even tension while braiding; the same gentle but firm tug will do the job here.

Now for the black, the foundation button ends:
This photograph caught the needle threaded.  Threading the needle beforehand is fine when the end is long enough, of course; this is the working end.  The needle emerges embedded in the black, right next to where it emerged before.  Pull the thread through and lift off the needle.
Only one more end to go!
In this photograph I've changed the angle of view, but not that of attack.  Here is an example of finishing close to an edge: the needle is mashing down the leather a little, under the button.  So long as the leather doesn't get pierced, finishing across an edge will work -- it just takes more patience.  Now it's the short black end's turn.  The direction of travel is back along the path it came, which is the standing, or dead, end.
Finished!

Alas, no pictures exist of the next step:  clipping the ends.  Some skill is required here, but mostly everything depends on the sharpness of your scissors!  Cut the thread ends flush, and throw them away.  Try not to cut the button itself.  Ideally the button thread fibres close over the exit points and nothing can be seen.   At this scale and with these materials, less than perfect often does just fine.

I have neglected to mention the true final step, coating.  Fray-Check to the rescue.  It's a funny thing but after all that work the thought of more steps is anathema.  Still, coating and sealing is very necessary -- one must think of archival purposes.  Tissarn's Hackamore used nail polish, and while it darkened the colors a bit more than Fray-Chek I like how it's held up.  I usually use Fray-Check and sometimes use nail polish.  This is probably a whole 'nother post subject.

I have chosen the longest button on this breastcollar because it was the easiest to photograph and show everything.  It's a 21P 4B with 9 rings.  The principles of braiding, tightening and finishing apply to any length button in this scale (Breyer Traditional) made of cotton and cotton-type threads.  Naturally this implies there is a limit on how small one can get.  Indeed, I have a "smallest button" in my collection of button formulae:  it is the 4P 3B. 
But more on that later.


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