Bush Tucker and Inspiration

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Yesterday was a very special day when I learnt from one of the best.

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Ro Anderson from Whole Larder Love showed me and a bunch of others how to forage for mushrooms on the forest floor.

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We identified Slippery Jacks, Saffron Milk Caps and Blewit mushrooms.

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I got to use my favourite old Buck Knife to pluck the mushrooms, whilst walking many miles listening to Ro. It was fascinating and inspiring hearing his stories on self sufficiency, hunting, fishing and gardening, not to mention his wealth of knowledge on mushrooming.

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After collecting baskets full of mushrooms, Ro performed his magic and prepared a heavenly feast in the tranquil woodland setting.

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Combining butter, Ro’s own olive oil, homegrown herbs and garlic, pimentón, homemade chorizo, homemade 12 day cured bacon and a dollop of mascarpone cheese, the mushrooms were divine.  I was in heaven with every mouthful.

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We toasted turkish bread rolls over the campfire, and were served the mushroom culinary delight on the rolls. It truly was the tastiest bush tucker I’ve ever had.

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We finished our feast with some slow cooked lamb leg which melted in your mouth. It was served in a roll with fresh picked rocket from Ro’s garden, local cheese, onions and chilli sauce. It was a party for the taste buds, the flavours were awesome. I rolled out of that forest completely satisfied.

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After the day in the forest I’m inspired to create some awesome belts and accessories for fathers day presents, celebrating the the Aussie Bushman.

Cheers to Ro, you’re such a fungi!

 

 

How do you plait a leather belt?

I hear you ask…

Maybe not, but I thought it was interesting… It’s a big, long, time consuming process that I am fascinated by. I should introduce myself, I’m Charlies wife so you can call me The Stockman’s Wife! (I do go also go by the name Little White Dove ’round these parts.)

Charlie is busy plaiting up orders at the moment, so I thought I would pop by and show you some of the processes he goes through to make a leather plaited item. I’ve been taking photographs of Charlie at the different stages of plaiting for a while, with this post in mind… I hope you enjoy!

THE HIDE
This is how the Kangaroo hide arrives. A very large piece of leather indeed. Sitting on top is a whole hide cut into one very big long strand.

the tool
I know this looks like some weird kind of contraption that you’d probably want to throw out on hard rubbish, but this is the cutting tool. It was handmade by the lovely old guy, mentor, and friend of Charlies who taught him how to plait, Rod Moore.

CUTTING
It takes great skill and a lot of practice to cut leather like this. Once you get a strand going, you just keep pulling it through, going around and around the hide.

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I know it’s hard because I have tried. Not very successfully! It’s so easy to just chop of the strand or make it too skinny. The idea is to adjust the width of the blade according to what you are making (ie belt, necklace, whip, watchband etc – they are all different widths), then cut the whole length in one go… without breaking it… easier said than done for a novice believe me.

HIDE AND CUTTER
The roo hides come with their own stories… You can see the scratches and war wounds on the hide and get a bit of an idea of how tough life was for the roo. Sometimes if the scratches are too deep you have to cut that bit out otherwise it will weaken the strand.

BEVELLING
Next step is the bevelling and stretching. Once again this old hand made wooden tool was passed down to Charlie, and is probably as old the cutter, at least 30 years old. It’s very basic but does the job. Bevelling the underside of the strands creates a neater flatter plaited product. Again, super hard to do without cutting right through it. I may or may not have ruined many long strands trying to do this!

BEVELLING A WHOLE HIDE
It’s best to bevel and stretch the strands in a big open space, where you can walk backwards long distances without running into anything. We often go crafting in our fave gardens where Charlie bevels his little heart out whilst I crochet.

THE TOOLS
If it’s raining, Charlie will do the bevel and stretching in stages at home. We end up with a lot of little scrappy bits of leather, which if left outside, make great nests for the birds.

WAXING
After bevelling comes waxing. Old candles never go to waste around here as Charlie uses them to run up down the length of the strands in preparation for plaiting.

MORE WAXING
The waxing process makes the plaiting smoother and easier… making the strands more pliable.

PLAITING
Finally, the plaiting can begin. After measuring out the length of the item being made, working out the number of strands to plait a particular pattern and create a certain width, then the long strands are cut into the correct lengths.

MORE PLAITING
Plaiting requires very strong hands, and thumbs in particular, to smooth out the plaits as you move along the item. This is a belt in the making and it takes hours and hours to just plait the belt, so you can imagine the time involved to create a belt from start to finish.

It’s an amazing process don’t you think? I liken it to seeing a ball of yarn turned into a blanket or hat or scarf. In fact what we do is not that dissimilar – we are both knotting/interweaving long strands of something. I admire the patience it takes for Charlie to get the plaiting stage. I just pick up a ball of yarn all ready to go, but that stage for Charlie is at the end of a long skillful set of process, that most people don’t know about. Which is why I thought I would share it with you. I hope you enjoyed it? Do let me know in the comments below if you did, I’d love to hear from you!
Cheers,
The Stockman’s Wife.

Hides, Rings, Buckles & Belts

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I just received new Roo skins from the tannery and have been busy cutting strands and edge beveling. This process is all done by hand with no mechanical stranders. Systematic, painstaking patient efforts result in great leather strands that produce beautiful crafted belts.

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Also managed to go to a leather wholesaler to buy buckles and rings recently. It was a great day, I was like a kid in a lolly shop! I’ll have one of those, and two of those, and one of those.

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I have quite a substantial collection of buckles now, including this one, an Aztec calendar.

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This is an R.M.Williams longhorn buckle. I already have this buckle on a belt in my Etsy shop, but I’m happy to make a custom order with this or any of my buckles. I love using R.M.Williams buckles, the quality is outstanding.

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My wife bought me these ornate buckles on her trip to Paris last year. She tells me they are from a really old buckle & button shop in the artist district, Montmartre. She’s put in an order for a belt with one of these buckles already.

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So what has been produced lately in the craft studio is a range of traditional plaited stockman belts, mostly with rings, some even spanish laced. This belt is American Plait and it’s quite narrow.

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Ring belts were worn by Jackaroos who were on horseback all day. These belts don’t cut into your hips and are very comfortable.

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This is a flat plait. The Jackaroos would usually do a flat plait as it’s the most economical plait.

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This one is the double edge plait, it is double the thickness of flat plait which means it uses twice as many strands. You can identify this plait by the natural edge the pattern creates.

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This patterned double edge plaited belt has spanish laced rings. I think these laced rings complement the plaiting nicely.

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I enjoy creating different patterns using two colours of leather and various plaiting patterns. This one is a double edge plait and it creates a diamond effect.

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This belt is just a classic, black on black. Love it.

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These belts have real character with the crocodile crown buckles. I reckon it looks gutsy!

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I like to plait a ridgeback belt to go with the crocodile crown buckle as the ridge imitates the rises in the crown.

All these belts will be available in my Etsy shop soon. If you wish to order a custom made belt with any of the buckles you’ve seen I’d be happy to make it for you. You can email me at stockmanleathercraft { at } hotmail { dot } com

Back to the cutting board for me.
Cheers
Charlie.