Frugal Fenella’s Studio on a Shoestring: A next-to-nothing Norikoshi

Let’s face it: conservation doesn’t come cheap. Whether you’re a student, an independent conservator or one of the ‘99%ers’ amongst institutional studios, you need to watch your pennies. So The Gathering is here to help. In our new regular series, we show you how to skimp, scrimp and penny-pinch without sacrificing the quality and workmanship that make you a hero conservator!

This one is not pretty, and it doesn’t look as “zen” as a real Japanese Norikoshi, but unless you have a spare £115 or so this will get you by.

It costs almost nothing to put together and is a true steampunk sieve. I strain my own paste with this, and it does the job pretty well, but you have to be light-handed, as with the real Norikoshi.

So, “What is it?” I hear you ask. Well, I’ll tell you: it’s an embroidery frame, or embroidery hoop. I was going to give this one to charity – I had finally decided after ten years that it was unlikely I would ever use it. So there it stayed, in a carrier bag, ready for giving to Oxfam. Being frugal, however, giving things away sticks in my craw a bit, so I had one last look at it and had an idea. Setting up my own studio might have given me extra creative juices. I bought some polyester woven textile – eBay sells pieces of silk screen fabric really cheap – and set to work making myself a paste sieve.

You have to cut the mesh a good two inches larger than the outline or circumference of the embroidery frame, then fit it around the frame’s smaller hoop. This is then slotted into the larger hoop and you can begin tightening, pulling evenly all the while on the fabric equally and gradually, tightening the hoop with the screw tightener.

At some point, you will have the weave so tight that you will have to tighten the adjusting screw on the hoop with some pliers or screwdriver, until the mesh is as tight as a drum skin. Then you are ready to go.

Be gentle as you squish paste through: this is no industrial sieve, but you will see for yourself that it does the job well enough. What is more, I can vary the width of the straining weave so that I can have a really smooth paste using a closer weave.

You can buy a larger hoop if you wish – a 12 inch (30 cm) one. There are lots on eBay, and any haberdasher supplies both wooden and plastic versions, but do get a sturdy one, as you are going to need it to last under tension. The polyester fabric can be bought anywhere – you can even use net curtains if you want, just don’t say I told you to!

Ciao,

Fenella

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