Helen Campbell.

The American girl's home book of work and play online

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The ox is not only a yielder of flesh, but his skin provides
leather. The sheep gives mutton and wool ; the tree, fruit
and wood. And, following up this thought, we may find that
there are minor and secondary uses in almost all that man
rejects. In Roman days the seaweed was called by Ter-
ence vilis alga, the * worthless ; ' but now it has a double
value, as manure and for iodine. And, to come to a prac-
tical illustration, let me show what can be done with the tin
cans which are to be found on every lot around every town,
and, indeed, wherever man has been.

" Most people know that leather of any kind, if soaked for
some time in warm water, becomes very soft indeed. In this
state it may be worked almost like putty or paste. When it
dries, it becomes hard again, retaining any marks which have
been impressed on it. If soaked in alum-water, it becomes
still harder. Now, if we take a sheet of leather, soaked and



soft, and draw upon it a pattern, and then indent the back-
ground of this pattern with a stamp or punch, the pattern
will, of course, be in relief; while the background is de-


pressed a little, and, if the stamp be rough, it will be corru
gated. That is to say, it will bear a close resemblance to
any ordinary panel-carving in wood, the ground of which is
generally indented so as to make a dark relief to the shining
and elevated pattern.

3 io


" The tools needed for this work are few, cheap, and simple.
It may be even elegantly effected with only an ivory paper-
knife and a stamp made of a stick of any hard wood, the end
of which has been cross-hatched with a penknife, like a com-
mon office-seal. But for better work a small wheel of metal,


the size of a three-cent piece, set in a handle, like the well-
known 'pattern-wheel,' is the best to run pattern lines or
outlines with ; while the stamp can be made of steel for
thirty cents.

"It is also advisable to have a pattern-wheel, which is like





a spur set in a handle, and which is commonly sold by every
shoemaker's furnisher for twenty-five cents. Now, suppos-
ing that the sheet of leather is already soft (having been in
water for at least twenty-four hours), spread it evenly on a
board, and lay upon it a design drawn on paper. Then, with
the pattern-wheel, trace the design through on the leather.


The points of the spur or rowel will go through the paper,
and leave dotted lines on the leather. Then, with the ivory
paper-knife or wheel, draw the outline. Then, with the
stamp and a hammer, indent the background.

" Now, if you have an empty round tin can, we will suppose




that this leather will exactly fit it. Take a piece of tin, or a
slip of thin, flexible wood, and make of it, as it were, the
handle of a bucket. It may go either within or without the
leather cover. Cut it broad where it touches the tin, and
narrow at top. Then cover the can with shellac-glue, or
glue into which either nitric acid or a little glycerine has
been infused to toughen it ; or, if you cannot get these, use
common glue, or tragacanth, or dextrine gum, and paste the


leather firmly on. If you prefer it, the leather may be
pasted on the tin, and the pattern worked on it while there.
In this case, the work will be very much facilitated by fitting
into the can a round cylinder of wood. This will oppose a
resistance to the hammering, and render the indenting easier.


There should be such a margin to the leather as to lap over
the edge, and cover the inside. This must be cut into strips,
so that one may lay on the other. Also leave sufficient to
turn under, and cover the bottom.

" It is not difficult to carve wooden handles, which may be
fastened on these tins with screws, and the whole covered
with leather. They may be fitted to bases turned of wood,
and then ornamented, and used for flowers. Even if covered
with only plain leather, and supplied with turned lids, they
are practically very useful as receptacles for many objects.
Any tinsmith or tinker will, for a trifle, solder a tin handle
on a can. He can also fit the end of one inside another, and
solder it, thus doubling the length of the can.

" The pattern may be raised in very deep relief by cutting
it out of thick pasteboard, and putting it under the wet
leather, or between the leather and tin ; then press the
leather down on the mould with fingers and a sponge, till it
is in shape, and finish with the stamp.

"By similar ornamentation with leather, square biscuit or
cracker boxes may be converted into really elegant recepta-
cles for many objects. In some cases, canvas or brown -hoi-
land, and other textile fabrics, may be substituted for leather.
The canvas or linen may be very well ornamented by paint-
ing on it with the dyes sold for tapestry painting. A very
practicable and useful dressing-case, lunch-box, or other box
for travelling, may be made of an empty biscuit-box, neatly
covered either with leather or canvas. They are in every
way preferable to those which are made of wood.

"When the pattern is stamped on the leather, its effect
may be greatly improved by painting or staining it either with
black dye or lignite ink. Raynald's French ink also answers
the purpose of a dye for leather, as it will not rub off. Very
fine effects may also be produced by cutting out patterns of


colored leather (such as scarlet, orange, etc.), gluing them on
the brown ground, and tooling, or running the edges with
the wheel. The leather used to cover the tins may be skiver,
or split sheep, costing from twenty-five to fifty cents a skin,
or russet, of a better quality, costing from fifty cents to
eighty. Colored leather is retailed at about one dollar a

" Tin cans covered with vellum, or very thick parchment,
which has been soaked and stamped, exactly resemble carved
ivory cups. The stamping may be made by cutting a die in
any hard wood."

The demand for decorative leather of every sort is steadily
increasing. The "illuminated leather," made by one firm
in New York, is considered by the best judges finer than
that imported from France or Belgium, as it does not crack,
and is much more flexible. It is greatly used for ceiling and
wall decoration. Oxhide is preferred to any other, both for
walls and furniture.

Many of the fashionable chairs to-day are covered in what
is known as Spanish hide; which, however, unless really
antique, comes either from France, Italy, or Belgium, and is
manufactured in imitation of the Moorish designs which were
introduced into Spain in the nineteenth century. From
Spain, the art of leather-working travelled to the Nether-
lands during the occupation of the country by the Spaniards ;
and so, in Flemish specimens, we find constant trace of the
Moorish influence in which they really originated. These
Flemish designs are usually florid and highly colored : those
which are more purely Moorish are geometrical, and lower
toned in color. The most expensive of all leather is that
imported in the rough from Cordova : it is much used for
screens and panels, and Flemish designs wrought upon it
are especially effective. In early days artists whose fame


was made did not disdain to paint upon this material, and it
entered largely into the decoration of palaces and large
buildings at the time of the earlier renaissance. Although
it has played the part of all fashions, and been from time
to time almost lost sight of by the general public, it is safe to
affirm that there never has been a time when the lovers of
the beautiful have not sought to express ideas in this mate-
rial. It is extremely durable, and has more to recommend it
for the purchaser than for the man whose bread and butter
depends upon selling it, for the reason that a house once
fitted up with it may be considered as needing little resto-
ration. The same is true, of course, of chairs ; and the
durability of leather-covered furniture is one of its greatest
recommendations. Trimmings for leather chairs whether
the material is plain, embossed, or painted vary according to
taste and the dictates of fashion. Just now, oak, mahogany,
and ebonized cherry are most in demand. Workmen for
embossing leather must necessarily be skilled artisans. As
a rule, they are found among English or Americans, although
some Germans are employed in the business. The latter
are good at imitation, but slow to originate ; and, while they
follow directions with great accuracy, they seldom aspire to
any thing like originality. American girls have attempted
this work only in one or two instances. But the same talent
that makes a skilful designer comes into play here ; and it
is not only a beautiful and satisfactory, but very profitable,
industry, by means of which a handsome living is insured.




THESE, too, have fallen under the ban of the many who
prefer a sunflower in crewel to the most perfect imitation of
nature. But a rosebud exquisitely modelled, or a spray of jas-
mine looking as if that moment picked, and put in the little
vase before you, can never be any thing but really and truly
beautiful, no matter what the critics say. It must be a per-
fect copy, however ; and wax flowers have a use far beyond
any ornamental one, in that whoever does good work in
them must be intimate with every position of the plant on
which it grows, and learn the characteristics of each petal
and stamen. The outfit required for wax flowers is a rather
expensive one, but the tools last a lifetime if properly taken
care of.

The imported wax known as Madame Scheiffles is the
best, as it crumbles less than any other when worked. The
thin wax, called " single," is only ten cents a dozen sheets :
"extra double," for thick leaves, is about twenty cents a
dozen sheets; and the variegated or "mottled," the same.
In addition to the wax, there will be needed powdered colors,
which cost from fifteen to thirty cents a bottle (carmine,
which is the most expensive of all, being forty cents), and a
set of camel's-hair brushes. Poonah brushes are twenty
cents more a dozen than others, which run from twenty cents
to a dollar a dozen ; veining-brushes being five cents apiece.
Moulding-tools come in sets, about a dollar a dozen ; and steel


pins set in glass, and tweezers and folders, cost from five to
fifteen cents each. Very small sharp-pointed scissors, a
good penknife, spatula, and color-saucers or a palette, wire
of different sizes by the spool, frosting, arrow-root, sprig-
moss, etc., will all be needed, and can all be had at the stores
where wax-flower materials are sold ; the whole outfit costing
from ten to fifteen dollars.

The first process is to take the patterns of the flower you
intend to copy, in its various parts, beginning with the petals
of the corolla. Perhaps the white camellia is as easy as any
flower to model, and more tractable, under fingers unaccus-
tomed to the delicate handling required by fragile blossoms,
than many more simple flowers. One hint may be given
about the camellia, the rose, and other double flowers with
a quantity of petals, that the object must be to give its
effect as a whole ; and that, while any peculiarities about the
flower should be imitated exactly, any natural blemish, such
as a stain, or crumpled or withered leaf, should be repeated.
Allowance must be made for the difference of material. No
wax can be so thin as the petals of some flowers are, and,
moreover, in the natural flower every part fits into its place
without cement ; while in the waxen model a little piece
must be allowed for affixing each petal to its position. Every
petal of a flower composed of a great number of petals,
therefore, could hardly be modelled, and many are hidden
from sight by the outer ones ; but the position of the petals,
whether placed exactly behind or between the inner ones,
the number in each circle or row, etc., must be carefully
noted and copied. Lay the petals you wish to copy on
paper, and, with a small poonah brush slightly dipped in
paint, touch the edges all round, so as to leave the size
of the petal depicted on the paper, as in Figs. 113, 114.
It is the most accurate mode of copying it, giving all its



irregularities of form exactly. In cutting the wax out from
this paper pattern, a little piece must be allowed at the point
for fixing the petal on the stalk. Care must be taken to
have the lines of the waxen sheet running upwards, and not
across the petal : therefore the up-
per part of each paper petal must be
placed on the narrow part of the
sheet, and the wax cut round it with
a pair of sharp scissors. If the sheet
is brittle, it should be warmed a little
with the hand before it is cut ; and the scissors may be
slightly wetted, so that they may not drag any of the wax
away, and make an uneven edge. I give patterns for one
white camellia, to give some idea of the number of petals
required, and their shape ; but I must repeat, that there are
scarcely two flowers to be found exactly alike, and that,
when practicable, they should be modelled from life.

FIG. 113.

Fir, 114.


For making a white camellia, cut out five petals of Fig. 9,
five of Fig. 8, twenty of Fig. 7, three each of Figs. 6, 5, 4,
3, 2, and i, and three of Fig. 10, the outer petals (all in the
medium white wax), three of Fig. 1 1 in lemon wax, and three
of Fig. 12 in light-green wax, for the calyx.

Soften the wax by holding it in the palm of the hand for
a few minutes, and then rub the white bloom thoroughly on


both sides of the petals, leaving only the point untouched
where it is to be affixed to the stalk (the bloom destroys its
adhesiveness). The first six sets of three petals are to be
slightly tinged with the palest yellow powder about a third
of their height from the points. This may be either rubbed
on over the bloom with the finger, or put on with a sable
brush, dry. It must be shaded off at the upper part ; the
deepest color being laid on at the lowest part of the petal,
in the centre, and graduated so as to fade into the white
part. This is to be the rule in coloring most flower-petals,
to shade the deepest color gradually into paler tints towards
the edges ; because in the real flower this effect is given by
the shade cast by each petal on the one lying outside it.
The three outer petals (Fig. 10) will require a dash of green
powder up the centre of the petal, and a tinge of pink on
the upper edges ; and the petals of the calyx will need a
little brown marking to give the discoloration generally to
be found on them.

Mould the twelve smallest petals with the smallest curl-
ing-pin, first passing the knob round the edges of the petal,
so as to fine them off, and then rolling it round the
centre, in the palm of the hand, to hollow it into
the shape of a spoon. Lay the pin all along the
centre of the petal so as to crease it. This should
be its shape when moulded. Figs. 5 and 6 are not
to be quite*so much curved ; and 7, 8, and 9 are to be turned
back, with only a slight depression in the centre, which may
be given by the pressure of the thumb. All are to have
a crease in the centre. The three outer petals and the
calyx-sepals are to be hollowed a little, in the same way as
the smaller petals of the flower.

Cut a piece of the thickest wire for the stalk of the
camellia. Cover it with a strip of white wax for about three-


fourths of an inch, and bend it back. Then roll more wax
round this doubled wire, softening it, by holding it at a little
distance from the fire, till a solid bud like a rosebud is
formed. This is to be covered by the first three petals, and
the other small ones are to stand up round them ; each petal
being placed behind and between the two inner ones. A
little pressure will cause the points of the petals to adhere
to the foundation-bud and to each other ; but, to secure them
more firmly, narrow strips of wax must be laid on round
each row of petals, about a fourth of an inch wide, and
moulded into them with one of the wooden moulding-tools.
The rows of five petals are to be affixed in the same manner,
taking care that one is always placed behind and between
the two inner ones, and also that it is placed sufficiently
high to be visible a little above them, so that the flower may
increase in width regularly. The three outer petals will
not, of course, be visible in front of the flower ; but it must
be nicely finished at the back with these and the sepals of
the calyx, put on in the same manner with strips of green
wax. The wire stalk must be covered also with strips of
pale-green wax, cut so as just to enclose the wire, and cov-
ered with other strips, moulded smoothly with the moulding-
tool. The stalk should be slightly bent, so as to place the
blossom in a natural position, and two leaves bound on, at
proper distances from it, on opposite sides of the stalk.

There are two or three methods of making leaves ; but for
the generality of flowers the following is the best : take
two sheets of green wax (to match the upper and under sides
of the leaf in color) ; place a stalk of middle-sized or fine
wire, covered with the narrowest strip possible of wax, be-
tween them, long enough to be firmly attached to the flower-
stalk. The camellia, being a thick-leaved flower, will require
middle-sized wire ; and, if the wax be very thin, a third sheet


of wax may be laid underneath the others. The real leaf
which is to be copied must be laid upon these ; and the wax
must be cut out exactly of the right size, with the wire, of
course, in the centre of the leaf. Press the wax leaf against
the real one firmly, and hold them at a little distance from
the fire, so as to soften the wax sufficiently to receive the
perfect impression of the real leaf laid upon it, on its upper
side. When this is obtained exactly, and the wax leaf is
embedded in the other, they should be dipped into cold
water, and the real leaf may then be easily removed from
the wax impression, the edges of which are to be cut into
the right notches, and rolled into fineness with the knob
of the smallest curling-pin. The wire leaf-stalk must now
be covered with a narrow strip of wax, and fastened to the
flower-stalk in its proper position ; the front or upper part of
the leaf being always placed against the side of this, and
bent into the right shape afterwards. The leaves may
require a little more binding to secure them to the stalk,
and this may need other strips of wax to make it thick
enough. Then it must be brushed over with a little liquid
brown paint, made by rubbing down a little of the brown
powder, and mixing it with very thin gum-water, with the
palette-knife, to represent the brown wood of the stalk, and
the flower is completed, unless a bud is needed ; in which
case, three or six of the smaller .petals must be cut out in
lemon or pale-green wax, according to the size and color of
the bud desired to be copied, bloomed and tinted in the
same manner as the flower-petals, moulded, and affixed to a
small bud made on a stalk of middle-sized wire, like the
foundation of the flower, and pressed closely round it, so as
to form a solid bud. This must be fastened to the flower -
stalk in the same manner as the leaves, and will probably
have to be put on first, as the buds are generally close to the
blossoms of the camellia.


Variegated and red camellias are done in the same way ;
the former having stripes of pink powder and carmine upon
the white petals, rubbed on (or, if slight, laid on with a small
sable brush), and the latter colored throughout with madder,
pink, and carmine, and shaded according to the colors of
each petal. Bloom will not be required for this camellia.

The white jasmine is very easy of execution ; but its blos-
soms are so small, that they require very delicate handling.
The five petals may be bloomed and tinted at once on both
sides by mixing a very slight portion of the lightest yellow
powder with the bloom with the palette-knife. Then they
must be moulded with the curling-pin,
and placed round the pistil. The sta-
mens are not visible. The back of the
flower must be finished nicely, and a
strip of white wax rolled round the
upper part to make a smooth tube,
FIG. 117. WHITE JASMINE, which is to be painted pink with a
liquid paint and a poonah brush. The
calyx is cut out in one piece (Fig. 2), and tinted at the top
of the sepals with brown paint.

The leaves are in threes and fives on a stalk. They must
be modelled from the real leaves, in the manner described
for the camellia-leaves, putting the finest wire between the
sheets of wax for the stalk, and, of course, putting the leaves
composing one sprig together, before the stalk is attached
to the flower-stalk. The edges of the leaves and the stalk
should be tinged with brown paint, put on with the poonah
brush ; or a slight tinge of carmine over the green will give

the same effect.


The white pink is very easily and accurately modelled in
wax. The petals are bloomed on both sides, and slightly



tinged with green in the centre of each petal. There are
five of each (Figs, i, 2, 3, 4, 5), which are put round a stalk,
from the top of which spring two long white stamens, curling
back, as in this figure.


The petals lie exactly behind each other (five in each
row), and must be securely bound to the stalk with strips
of wax ; some being bent, and twisted forward, and some
curling back. They are often irregularly shaped ; and these
irregularities are best copied from the original flower, as
they add much to the natural appearance of the wax model.
A little frost may be dusted over the flower when finished.

The calyx, of green wax, is lined with white, or with a very
light shade of green, and the lining allowed to appear just
above the points. Four small scales are put on
in pairs, at the bottom of the calyx ; and the
whole is spotted with brown paint. Buds are
formed by closing the calyx over a foundation-bud
of solid wax ; and the leaves (if any are required)
are cut out of a long strip of blue-green wax
doubled and creased. They need no wire, but should be
rubbed with bloom ; and a little frost should be sprinkled on
them to give the powdery appearance of the real leaves.

The plcotees, and several of the carnations, can be mod-
elled well in wax. The former must be sprinkled with white




powder, instead of bloom, and painted with liquid paint, after
nature. And the striped carnations should be made in the
same way, in white, or yellow, or orange-colored wax, accord-
ing to the ground color of the petals. The clove-carnation
cannot, I think, be copied effectively ; but, if the attempt is
made, the petals must be brushed over with crimson powder,
painted with a mixture of carmine and ultra-marine, and
with a little sheer carmine afterwards. But they will always
lack the bloom of the real flower, and look dead when placed
by its side.

All mixed powders, it may be as well to say here, must be
well rubbed together with the palette-knife, so that they may
be thoroughly incorporated before they are put on the petals.


The common pink china rose is one of the easiest roses
to model. Five petals of Nos. i, 2, 3, 4, and three of No. 5,
will be required. They are to be cut out of the medium


white wax, and bloomed on both sides, leaving, of course,
the points untouched. They are then to be colored by
rubbing rose-madder into them ; beginning in the centre, and
shading the color gradually to the edges, so that the deepest
color is to be in the middle of the petals. In most roses,


the inner petals are altogether deeper in color than the outer
ones ; but this rose is an exception, and the outer petals have

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Online LibraryHelen CampbellThe American girl's home book of work and play → online text (page 20 of 28)