Last week we said things about demon devices and how sometimes you just have to shove a demon in a blunderbus and get on with things. This led to Mark Hayes feeling moved to shove a demon in a blunderbus and take photos.
Mark is an excellent chap, and one of the Gloucestershire steampunks. (He’s not actually residing in Gloucestershire, but this seems to be a minor detail really).
Erek Vaehne suggests lotus stems as raw material for fabric. What could possibly go wrong?
LOTUS: Lotus flower fiber from the root of the lotus plant has been used for centuries to produce rare fabrics used in hand-spun scarves. The process, in which the stems of the lotus are cut and twisted to expose the fibers, is however time-consuming. The process produces a luxurious fabric that feels like a combination of silk and raw linen. Lotus fabric has unique properties — it is naturally soft, light, breathable and antibacterial. Cambodia-based Samatoa Lotus Textiles reports the Lotus plant is believed to have healing abilities, and wearing a fabric made using the fibers lotus fibers may have healing effects curing the wearer of headaches, heart ailments, asthma and lung issues.
There was a man in the pub. Yes, I know no good outcomes ever follow from an opening line about buying something from a man in a pub, but I traded one of my little cows for a sack of beans. The man in the pub said that they were lotus beans and that I could eat what they grew and make coats out of the stems.
Now, coats are hard to come by, especially ones that aren’t thin at the elbows, greasy about the shoulders and entirely the wrong size. So the idea of a bean that would grow me a coat seemed really clever to me. I thought I’d go into business, selling bean coats.
So I planted the beans, and took care of them, told them stories of an evening and laid out circles of broken crockery and pine needles around them to protect them from curses. Beans are delicate like that.
They didn’t grow me any coats though. I watched them every day, waiting for that first coat bud to show, and when I got my first buds I was so excited. Such a wonderful, jolly colour. But when it opened up it wasn’t a coat at all, it was this funny looking fish thing. A bit like a spiny whiney badger faced black bean, only more scaley. Pretty, mind you. Didn’t try to bite me.
So I’m trying my hand at making shoes out of fish leather instead, I reckon that’ll be dead popular once I can get rid of the smell.
This week, Erek Vaehne takes us into the fabric potential of mushrooms.
MUSHROOMS: The technical process of making fabric from fungus or mushrooms is known as bio-fabrication. This process is basically making the fabric from the growing part of microorganisms like mushroom root. However, the interesting thing is that this process has shown the relationship between fashion and biology, and how fashion comes very close to biology. For lab production, different treatments (like lighting, temperature, humidity, essential oils & other organic techniques) have to be applied for the nutrition and growth of the mushrooms with the help of a petri dish. After 2-3 weeks, they are ready for harvest and marinated with another liquid, and then taken out and placed in the circular 3D-shaped mold. And eventually, through drying, they are transformed into garments. The advantage of this ‘MycoTex’ fabric is that the garment is made without sewing. So, this process can reduce production time and cost. Different fungus mycelium can give different appearances and hand feels for the resulting products. This eco-friendly mushroom fiber has some unique properties that are not found in other sustainable fibers. Some of its notable features are:
1) Fabric made from the mushroom fiber is non-toxic, waterproof and fire resistant.
2) Clothing made from this fiber is very thin, flexible and comfortable to wear.
3) The ingredients made from this fiber are antimicrobial and suitable for sensitive skin.
4) Mushroom fabric is strong, breathable and durable.
5) Requires less water for production.
6) It is an environmentally friendly and 100% biodegradable fiber.
So there was this one autumn when food was scarce and I ended up making a lot of bad choices about toadstools. Hunger doesn’t lend itself to being sensible. I ate grass. I ate things I found on the beach – we all did that. I ate all the kinds of seaweed that everyone agrees really aren’t for eating even if you boil them for a week. I wandered about in the woods and I found some toads, and some toadstools, and something green and yellow that might have been snakes, or eels. I don’t know how you tell.
It’s not a certainty it was the toadstools. I ended up with the overwhelming urge to make trousers. I had very strong feelings about the things I was supposed to make trousers out of – toadstools featured heavily, as did moonlight, seaweed and some rather sinister flowers that I thought better of putting in the toad, toadstool and maybe snake stew. It would be fair to say that as trousers, they failed to perform many of the key functions associated with that kind of garment.
I’m not sure it mattered. Not given what happened at the library, which we do not speak of, to protect the guilty. As hunger-induced madness goes, it was fairly mild.
Erek Vaehne suggests that feathers might be suitable for making clothes for islanders:
“FEATHERS: Chicken feathers are composed mostly of keratin, the same kind of protein found in wool. The researchers are specifically interested in their barbs and barbules, the stringy network that makes up the fluffy parts of the feather, which may have a similar feel on the skin as wool. “More than 4 billion pounds of chicken feathers are produced worldwide per year, about 50 percent of the weight of which is made of the barbs,” Yang said. The researchers investigated the physical properties of these filaments and found they possessed a sturdy honeycomb architecture containing tiny air pockets, which make them extremely lightweight and resilient. They could possibly serve as an improvement over wool due to their low cost, light weight and excellent heat and sound insulation, Yang said. However, he added they are not ready to make fibers from chicken feathers yet.”
Simon Erstwhile Jones sits in a small shed on his family farm, chewing feathers. He has been doing this for some years now, and if he ever stops or leaves, no one else sees him do so. If the pile of feathers runs low, he becomes agitated and starts to assume his Owl Man form. To stop this from happening, a team of children take it in turns to gather feathers for him. Fortunately, the feather chewing is a slow process, and chicken feathers are usually in good supply.
He chews the feathers carefully, taking them one at a time. When he is done, he spits them out again. For most of that first year of chewing, his family simply provided buckets for him to spit his outpourings into, and then emptied those soggy remnants into the midden.
Temerity Jones is the person responsible for inventing the second stage of the process. There is now a small and less slovenly shed close to where Simon Erstwhile Jones sits and chews. In that second shed, buckets of chewed feathers are emptied out, and there, Temerity hammers them. It is an intense process, involving not only the chewed feathers, but Temerity’s famous seaweed tonic – that never knowingly proved useful in any other scenario. The feathers are beaten into flatness. The tonic is applied, and the feathers are beaten again.
What results is a solid sort of fabric that you would not voluntarily wear against your skin. It does keep the rain out though, and repels insects, and people. And chickens. Chickens most especially.
Erek Vaehne has been exploring the kinds of things islanders might be able to make clothes out of. This week, we explore coffee…
“COFFEE GROUNDS: Fabric made using discarded coffee grounds is one example of an interesting textile innovation. Two companies are offering such products. Germany-based sneaker brand Nat-2™ recently debuted a sneaker that smells like coffee made using repurposed coffee grounds. The sneakers feature up to 50 percent recycled coffee grounds depending on the style, which produces a smooth and fine texture, according to the company. The type of coffee used varies upon sustainable availability. Taiwan-based Singtex Industrial Co. Ltd.’s S.Café® yarn is made using coffee grounds. The patented yarn manufacturing process maximizes the functional performance capacity of the coffee grounds. Singtex’s technology combines the processed coffee grounds and polymer to create master batches before spinning it into yarn. The company reports the yarn offers excellent natural anti-odor qualities, ultraviolet protection and fast drying times up to 200-percent faster than drying times for cotton.”
However, it was only a matter of time before the good people of Hopeless stared mournfully into their especially hairy coffee mugs and wondered. Could there be something better to do with the hair than putting it in our mouths? The sensation was unsettling at best, all that waving silky threadiness, even if it did give you a lift, of sorts.
Hairy coffee can be harvested quickly, especially if grown in large, open trays where it gets more room and light. The threads are best harvested at about eight inches in length – longer than that and they are too fragile for use. It takes great care and patience to spin them into a more substantial yarn, but it can indeed be done. Thread can then be woven or knitted at need.
At present, this is a highly experimental fabric type. There are three known hairy coffee jumpers at large on the island. They are said to be warm and very soft, but you should not wear them at night as they will make you go down to the sea and sing filthy songs to mermaids. At least according to Idris Po, who assures us this is why he was recently found doing so. Until further research has been undertaken, it may be safest not to make blankets out of hairy coffee threads. But then, we’ve been saying for a while that hairy coffee probably isn’t safe to drink and yet people see hairy coffee and continue to be willing to imbibe it.
Erek Vaehne has been exploring the textile options for islanders. Clearly, salvaging fabric from shipwrecks was never going to provide enough material to keep everyone comfortable and decent. So, where does cloth come from on the island?
Erek suggests stinging nettles (which are native to Maine) as a possibility.
STINGING NETTLES: The stinging nettle is a plant that most children avoid at all costs because brushing up against the underside of the leaves causes a nasty rash. However, the fabric made from stinging nettles is perfectly safe to wear and has similar advantages to hemp without hemp’s associated legal issues. Despite its protective armored exterior, the fibers inside a stinging nettle plant are surprisingly ideal for textile production. The fibers are pliable and a good length to be spun into yarn. The final woven fabric is similar to linen but much stronger. Its strength even increases when wet, making it ideal for more structured garments. It blends nicely with other fibers, which can help to add softness and increase longevity when needed. Kenya-based Green Nettle Textiles was a winner of the 2019 Global Change Award sponsored by the H&M Foundation. Stinging nettles are easy to grow and conserve biodiversity, maintain mountain slopes and provide habitat for insects and animals. Green Nettle’s product range supports plans to offer work for more than 200,000 small farmers across Kenya.”
Nettle textiles were primarily the work of orphanage children back when Reverend Witherspoon was in charge. He firmly believed that the soul benefited when the flesh suffered, so sending small, unhappy children out to pick nettles suited his purposes well.
However, over the years it became apparent that members of the Chevin family often develop immunity to nettles over time. This has led to the Chevins taking on the fabrication of nettle fabric. So far, the Hopeless, Maine Scientific Society has come to no definite conclusion about what else Chevins may be naturally immune to. While not considered to be the wisest of families, there have been no volunteers for poison testing at this time.
We’ve had early sightings of Hopeless Tarot recently as sets from the kickstarter move out into the world. Thanks to Bob Fry for sharing photos with us.
Art on the cards is a mix of existing Hopeless material, plus new pieces especially for the set. The tarot part of the project is entirely down to Laura Perry –who approached us a while ago to suggest the idea. Laura had already done a really interesting Minoan Tarot set which you can find over here – https://www.minoantarot.com/
Our suits are crows, tentacles, flames and night potatoes!
Steampunk maker and creator Andy Arbon is making a spoonwalker nest! It’s a glorious work in progress…
Andy tells us… “the spoonwalkers have discovered this long-abandoned cutlery case in the corner of a cellar on the island and made it their home, laying three eggs. The nest is made using spoons in the same way a bird would use twigs, so if you have lost your teaspoons the chances are they are here. The eggs begin to glow green shortly before hatching. Practically this is part finished, I still need to add a mother spoonwalker and make a few improvements to the painting on the eggs.”
Next to last in the series of These Our Revels, which started with a concept from Hopeless, Maine and has been brought into the world by a concerted creative effort lead by Fiona Sawle and Nimrod Lancaster. This stunning eerie photo was taken by Gregg McNeill of Darkbox Photography during the Sanctuary event.
Gregg has this to say about this plate-
” I love this plate. Exposure time was a trim 4 seconds because it was taken out doors, under a marquee, so lots of ambient soft UV light. It’s only the second time ever I’ve made portraits outside at an event. ”
There were additional challenges due to the weather conditions that day, and their Marquis nearly blew down overnight.
Steampunks in general, and our people in particular are absolutely bloody amazing.
Darkbox Photography have a patreon which can be found here. Please do support their work!
Hello people (and others) Here we continue the story of how an image from Hopeless, Maine was made real by Nimrod Lancaster Fiona Sawle and others in the steampunk creative community. Part one can be found here.
On the making of the masks and outfits
Nimrod made one version of his own mask, but two of Fiona’s
The body of each mask was Fosshape but the attached parts around the edge were mainly EVA foam sheet. plus two of his were wooden dowels. For the edge of Fiona’s I used two layers of EVA foam with stiff wire in between to make it stronger and pose-able. The top spike on his was 3D printed as was his medallion. The glass cabochons were painted using nail varnish and then Mod-Podge behind to give strength. The Fosshape was coated in liquid latex and then acrylic paints mixed with latex were applied over that. Fiona made her handbag from scraps of fabric left over from the outfits. The fabrics were sprayed with Dirty Down spray in various colours. The shells dangling from Fiona’s mask were collected from the beach in the Bahamas in February. Nimrod’s mask also has dangling sharks teeth. Thin black fabric was glued behind the eye and mouth holes. The tentacles are removable for ‘ease’ of storage!