Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Gazing at stars

Back when I was working on the maven meld project, I bought a lot of tutorials, but some of them got put to one side when I had finalised my design. Well recently I've had flu, and to keep myself sane, I thought I'd do some beading... So I dusted off the tutorial for the star gazer bangle, by Heather Collin. It can be purchased from her artfire store, here.

The bangle is right angle weave, which is my new favourite stitch. It was actually quite a big thing for me to learn RAW, I'd had so many attempts at it in the past, but never really 'got it'. A well written tutorial by Ella Des got me out of my 'I can't do it' rut, and now I love it!

So, this bangle, it should only be attempted if you actually know RAW, as it doesn't explain how to do the stitch, just how to use it to construct the bangle. The diagrams in the tutorial are excellent, and are a brilliant visual explanation of how to make it.  

This isn't a quick make though, you need to dedicate a good few hours to it, but it is totally worth it!  I have now made two and a half of these beauties, and they both look so different, due to the different beads I used.  The first one is much more of a day bangle, made from matt opaque beads, with a couple of rows of gilt lined beads, and finished off with agate and turquoise.  
The second bangle is more of a night time piece.  It is matt black and galvanised silver, finished off with Swarovski crystals in a dark grey AB. I've actually been wearing them both together for the last few days, and even though the looks are very different, they do work well together. 

I'm working on a third bangle at the moment, I've chosen the beads to hopefully end up with a piece of jewellery that looks like it's made of ice. It is being made from crystal, AB crystal and silver lined beads, and I plan to finish it off with some swarovski crystals and pearls. I will post a picture of this when it is finished.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Alot of Crochet

Hello blog-readers... sorry about the serious lack of posts over the last month or so - I've started a new job, and it's very tiring!
Back when I first started blogging, I posted about an Alot that I'd made. 

The Alot is a fictional creature - click here for an explanation.
My Brother-in-law, Tim, introduced me to the Alot, and ask me "can you build me one of those?" (meaning, could I make him one from crochet).  As the Alot is the figment of someone's imagination, there wasn't a crochet pattern out there for one, so I set about designing one, and this is what I'm going to share with you today.

Here is a crochet Alot...

And here are the instructions for how to make one!

·         Wendy Origin Woolie (Shade 1407) 2 x 100g balls
·         A small amount of beige yarn (DK)
·         A small amount of black yarn for embroidering mouth
·         White felt
·         Safety eyes
·         Toy stuffing
·         8mm crochet hook
·         3.5 mm crochet hook
·         Yarn needle

Using Wendy Origin Woolie and 8mm hook, start at head end
Ch 2 to start
Rnd 1: Work 6 sc in first ch [6]
Place marker in first stitch for beginning of rnd, move marker up each rnd.
Rnd 2: Work 2 sc in each st around [12]
Rnd 3: *Work 2 sc in next st, sc in next st, rep from *around [18]
Rnd 4: *2 sc in next st, sc in each of next 2 sts, rep from * around [24]
Rnd 5: *2 sc in next st, sc in each of next 3 sts, rep from * around [30]
Rnd 6: *2 sc in next st, sc in each of next 4 sts, rep from * around [36]
Rnd 7: *2 sc in st, sc in each of next 5 sts, rep from * around [42]
Rnds 8 -17: Sc in each st around [42]
Rnd 18: Sc2tog, sc in each of next 17 sts, (sc2tog) twice, sc in each of next 17 sts, sc2tog [38]
Rnd 19: Sc2tog, sc in each of next 15 sts, (sc2tog) twice, sc in each of next 15 sts, sc2tog [34]
Rnd 20: Sc2tog, sc in each of next 13 sts, (sc2tog) twice, sc in each of next 13 sts, sc2tog [30]
Stuff body firmly with toy filling
Rnd 21: *sc in next 4 sc, Sc2tog* rep from * [24]
Rnd 22: *sc in next 3 sc, sc2tog* repeat from * [18]
Rnd 23: *sc in next 2 sc, sc2tog* repeat from * [12]
Rnd 24: *sc in next sc, sc2tog* repeat from * [6]
Rnd 25: sc2tog, x 3
Finish off.

Using Wendy Origin Woolie and 8mm hook
Ch 2 to start
Rnd 1:  sc 7 in first ch [7]
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each sc [14]
Rnd 3 – 6: sc around [14]
Rnd 7: sc in next 10 sc, turn [10]
Rnd 8: sc2tog, sc in next 6 sc, sc2tog, turn [8]
Rnd 9: sc2tog, sc in next 4 sc, sc2tog, turn [6]
Rnd 10: sc2tog, sc in next 2 sc, sc2tog, turn [4]
Rnd 11: sc2tog x 2 [2]
Rnd 12: sc2tog
Finish off
Stuff firmly with toy filling up to Rnd 7.

Using Wendy Origin Woolie and 8mm hook
Ch 2 to start
Rnd 1: sc 8 in first ch [8]
Rnd 2: 2 sc in each sc [16]
Rnd 3 – 4: sc around [16]
Rnd 5: sc in next 10 sc, turn [10]
Rnd 6: sc2tog, sc in next 6 sc, sc2tog [8]
Rnd 7: sc2tog, sc in next 4 sc, sc2tog, turn [6]
Rnd 8: sc2tog, sc in next 2 sc, sc2tog, turn [4]
Rnd 9: sc2tog x 2 [2]
Rnd 10: sc2tog
Finish off
Stuff firmly with toy filling up to Rnd 5.

Using Wendy Origin Woolie and 8mm hook
Ch 2 to start
Rnd 1: sc 8 in first ch
Rnd 2: 2sc in each sc [16]
Rnd 3: *2 sc in first sc, sc* repeat around [24]
Rnd 4: *2 sc in first sc, 2 sc* repeat around [32]
Rnd 5: *2 sc in first sc, 3 sc* repeat around [40]
Rnd 6: *2 sc in first sc, 4 sc* repeat around [48]
Rnd 7-9: sc around [48]
Rnd 10: *sc2tog * x 6, sc around [42] (this makes the chin for the head, and will be referred to as the bottom of the head)
Rnd 11: sc around [42]
mark bottom half of head with stitch markers.
Rnd 12: sc in bottom half of head, hdc in top half of head [42]
Rnd 13 – 14: sc around [42]
Finish off.
Cut two circles of white felt, and cut a small slit in the centre of each.  Insert safety eyes through the slits and fix to the head.
Stuff firmly with toy filling.

Start: ch 2 using beige yarn and 3.5 mm hook.
Rnd 1:  5sc into 1st chain [5]
Rnd 2:  2sc in first sc, 4 sc around [6]
Rnd 3:  2sc in first sc, 2 sc around. Repeat. [8]
Rnd 4:  8 sc around [8]
Rnd 5:  2sc in first sc, 3 sc around. Repeat. [10]
Rnd 6:  10 sc around [10]
Rnd 7:  2sc in first sc, 4 sc around. Repeat. [12]
Rnd 8:  12 sc around [12]
Rnd 9:  2sc in first sc, 5 sc around. Repeat. [14]
Rnd 10: 14 sc around [14]
Rnd 11: 2sc in first sc, 6 sc around. Repeat [16]
Rnd 12: 16 sc around [16]
Stuff firmly with toy filling.

Sew head, legs and horns to body.
Using black thread, embroider an unhappy mouth, and then sew a pointy tooth made from white felt to the top of the mouth (see photo).

I would love you to send me pictures of your Alot if you try making one... I've made 3 now, and the pattern has been adapted as I've gone along... I think I've got it right now, but if you notice any mistakes, please let me know.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Diddy Becs

I must apologise for not blogging for so long... going through a change in jobs is pretty darn stressful!!  It has kept me from my creative endeavours, and means I've not had much to share with you all.  Until now, that is!
I have been crocheting a doll for quite a random purpose.  You see, I am very fond of my current manager, and he has frequently said "what I am going to do without you?" over the past 4 weeks, so I decided to make him a little reminder of me - a 'diddy Becs' doll!  Kind of like a mini-me, but crocheted!
I have to give credit where it is due, as I based the body of my doll on that of one designed by Michele Wilcox.  The pattern can be found here.

So, I sat down with some beautiful bamboo acrylic and started to crochet myself from the top down, using nothing but single crochet (with increases and decreases in the right places).  It's a well written pattern and was easy to follow.  I love amigurumi, so it was good fun to make. I decided not to go the whole hog and crochet the underwear into the body, especially as this is a gift for a man... I felt it might feel slightly inappropriate!  So, the head, body and arms were made in a beige bamboo acrylic and I decided that instead of making trousers for the doll (no idea how I'd manage that anyway!) I'd just make the legs from black acrylic!

Now I had to decide what top/dress the doll should wear - this was an easy decision to make as I have a rather unique green dress/tunic that I wear to work - it's very distinctive, and is unmistakably me!  I had a yarn to match too... but it had to look like my tunic, so of course, there was no pattern to work from.  I started crocheting a tube, starting at the bottom of the tunic, working up, tapering it as I went.  I stopped when it was the right length under the armpits of the doll, and the rest of the tunic was crocheted onto the doll, which was really quite fiddly!  To make the yoke of the dress and the start of the sleeves, I stitched around from the back until I met the arm, chain stitched a strap over the arm and joined it at the front of the dress, and continued around making a strap for the other arm.  I then worked one row of single crochet to finish off the yoke.  Then to make the sleeves... they were just single crochet tubes worked around the arms, and finished off at the wrists.  The points at the bottom of the tunic were just worked in single crochet rows, decreasing one stitch per row to make them taper.
Now to make the doll look like a diddy-Becs... hair and facial features...  The hair was more time consuming, and took a lot more yarn than I thought it would do.  I used a gorgeous chocolate coloured cotton/bamboo mix, which is a little darker than my hair currently is, but is a very close match to a colour I had for a very long time.  I have a rather asymmetric hair cut, so at least I didn't have to get it to match perfectly on both sides.  The hair was made by cutting lengths of yarn, inserting a crochet hook through the stitches in the head, and pulling the folded yarn lengths through, and forming a little loop/knot to hold it in place.  The eyes, I have to give credit to a good friend for - she suggested I made eyes from beads, as I'm well known for my beading at work... I had been planning to embroider them, but beads was a much better idea.  The other thing I was told I had to include was a BIG smile... so out came the pink yarn!!

Any representation of me without jewellery would be completely wrong, so I made a little beaded necklace from an earth-tone bead soup that I have been waiting for inspiration to strike with... it went so well with the colours of this doll, it seemed perfect!!

I also wear glasses at work - this was going to put my wire-work skills to the test!  But I managed to make a pair that look relatively like my work glasses, although mine are black, and these are silver... I didn't have any black wire in my stash, but never mind!
So, this is me, with my Diddy-Becs... I just hope my manager likes her, and she reminds him of me, and all the cheeky, things I've said and done while he has been there.  But mostly, I just want her to make him smile!

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Day 2 at La Vidalerie

Day two at La Vidalerie, it was all about sawing, sawing, and a bit more sawing!
We were set a challenge to design something to make from metal - which would have curves, straight bits, and could be made from a sheet of metal.

Before I continue, there is something you should know about me... I am a hopeless romantic!  Anything mushy, or sentimental, I just love it.  So, with this in mind, I decided to make a jigsaw piece pendant, actually, I decided to make 2, which fitted together... with my initials, my boyfriend's initials and the date we met stamped on them.

As with any type of metalwork project, it's best to practice with copper first (so much cheaper than silver!), so I have actually ended up with two pairs of jigsaw puzzle pieces!
I've had a bit of experience with with sawing before, but only sawing jump rings... I did know the basics like hold it lightly, don't push on the saw blade etc, but I've never sawn sheet metal.  

Karen gave me some tips, such as leave the protective plastic on the metal, don't draw your design on the plastic, it'll just rub off... put an easy-peel sticky label on the metal, and draw the design on the label instead.  

So, this was the product of my first attempt...

As much as I loved these, there were a few problems with them (hence why you always make a copper prototype!)... I didn't like the font I chose for the initials, I messed up the order of my number stamps, and ended having to use a 4-digit format for the year, when I only wanted it to be 2-digit, and finally, the orientation of the puzzle pieces was wrong!  yup, you guessed it, I'd drilled a hole in one of the pieces that fitted into the other, so they would never fit together nicely.  Lesson learned, I got on with making my silver versions:

This shows how I cut it in a step-wise fashion... it's a good idea to start with the fiddly little bits, so in this case it was the cut out on the left hand side, and then the bottom part.

This shows the other side of the silver (complete with protective film and sticky label!) but it also shows where I started sawing next.  One thing to remember is that it is highly unlikely that you'll be able to cut out something like this in one go, and that you're probably going to have to take the blade out of the saw and move to a different starting point.  I did exactly that at this point as I couldn't go any further as the size of the silver sheet meant it wouldn't fit inside the saw frame for me to finish the inside of the curve.

Once I'd managed to get all the way round, all I had left to do was to cut along the join between the two puzzle pieces.


I made sure I marked where the two pieces join so there was no risk of me accidentally getting them the wrong way around again!  After removing the sticky labels and filing down the edges, it was time for the stamping and drilling.

This goes to show that the pieces do actually fit together, and what they look like when they're all shiny!  The one with the chain on is currently around my neck, and has been admired by many people, including a waitress at a restaurant on Friday night.  The second puzzle piece is on a temporary chain for my darling... I'm going to be getting him a more manly chain for his birthday.  But he loves it, and has worn it every day so far!  

Oh, and he has NO excuse for forgetting our anniversary now!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Silversmithing and PMC at La Vidalerie Part 1

Last year, I went on a short break with my Mum to learn some wire-work and chainmaille.  We went to a little place in the Aveyron in France called La Vidalerie.   Run by a couple, Karen & Tim, it's a very friendly, beautiful place to go, very relaxing as you're looked after well, but also seriously educational!  Karen is the teacher, and Tim cooks, and is re-building the rest of the 300(ish) year old farmhouse.  Well, the thing is, I enjoyed my holiday last year so much, that I decided that this year, I would go back!  This year though, I went on my own, for a week instead of a few days.  

Right, enough of how beautiful the place is, and on with the jewellery making... I decided that it would be fun to learn something I had never done before in the field of jewellery making, so I thought - silversmithing, that sounds like fun, and while I'm playing with precious metals, why not try precious metal clay, too!

I arrived on Sunday afternoon, Tim picked me up from the airport, and in the evening, I had dinner with Karen & Tim - Tim is a very good cook!  On Monday it all started in earnest with a croissant and coffee, and straight on with the PMC.

I was a complete PMC novice, I knew nothing, but with Karen's tuition, and her tips on seriously planning what you intend to do with the clay before you take it out of the packet, I managed to make some really pretty things.

PMC is done in several stages, first, rolling, then cutting, texturising and adding embellishments.  The next part is leaving the clay to dry to make the 'biscuit' stage, this is when you can file off any rough parts, and if you're feeling brave, drill it.

At this stage, it just looks like pale grey clay, but the magic happens when you fire it.  There are two ways to do this, with a kiln, or with a blowtorch (which is a LOT more fun!).  After firing, it still doesn't look too special, but it's nothing a good brushing with a brass brush and some burnishing or tumbling doesn't sort out.


These were my finished results.  The hearts had fine silver wire added in the clay stage, but after firing, they become 'part' of the whole and fuse together.  After they had been fired and polished up, I drilled holes and added jump-rings and ear wires.  The ear wires were hand made... a design I came up with to complement the shapes of the silver diamonds.  I just love the colour of the orange CZs, they're so pretty and sparkly.  They did get slightly darker during the firing process, and they're held in by the silver clay - it contracts about 10 % when it's fired , so as long as they're well pushed in, they stay in place.

I have to admit - this didn't all take place on the Monday... they clay needed to dry out over-night, and I only fired a couple of pieces at a time - keeping something red hot with a blow torch for 2 minutes (whilst concentrating on not melting it) is quite hot and hard work, you don't want to do too much at once!

Monday afternoon was a bit wire work... the other lady who was on holiday with me didn't arrive until just after lunch on Monday (she booked her flight for the wrong day!), so we started off with something simple.


These are elegant little earrings - silver and flourite, and copper with chrysocolla.  Cute and fun, and best of all, easy to make!

We also did a bit of wire-wrapping... this was really fun to do, and I will certainly do this again. 

I have plans for this piece of turquoise, it's going to turn into the focal for a longer-length necklace, with a load of rich, sparkly dangles hanging from the bottom of it.

And that was it for day one... I retired to my (gorgeous) attic room for a fabulous nights sleep, safe in the knowledge that there was more learning and creating the next day!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Melding with the Mavens

Well, after several weeks of planning and around 30 hours of beading, I have finished my piece for the Maven Meld challenge.
And to show it off, I've finally got around to buying some proper jewellery display equipment!    Purchased from ebay, I bought a display bust in white leatherette, and a matching bracelet display rack.
So, here is my new bust, with the finished challenge piece for the Meld:

Showing the detail of the necklace:

Please do have a look at the other entries for the Bead Maven Challenge - on their blog, or their facebook page.

I'm very excited about the bangle rack though - as I love making bracelets, being able to show them off properly at last is great!

Friday, 9 September 2011

Confessions of a craft widow!

My wonderful boyfriend has written a piece for my blog... this is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me, so please read it, and Tim and I would love to hear your feedback, whether you are a crafter like me, or a craft widow like Tim!

Confessions of a Craft Widow!
I thought I would write a quick blog message for all you creative types from the perspective of your partners, boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, other halves, bits on the side, significant others or whatever else we are known as! Or as I would call us: “Craft Widows!”
I am a typical bloke who works hard and likes his sleep, his food and his sport (not necessarily in that order)! I like to watch rugby, football, Formula 1 and can even stretch to watch golf or occasionally tennis!
Now when I first met Rebecca she said she liked to crochet, bead, create wire work and make a bit of jewellery. She said she even had her own website. I thought this was very “cool” and very impressive. I thought my colleagues at work and my friends and family would equally think this was very good!
When we started “dating”, Rebecca had told me she had done the occasion fair or party event to sell her jewellery. This too I thought was very “cool”! Since we have now been together for coming up to ten months Rebecca has done miraculous things. She has sold bits of her creations in a shop she has taken over for a day, sold things in a small art centre, held a jewellery party at her old flat, bought a table and a gazebo to sell things outside… and she has! She has created load more necklaces, bracelets, rings, ear rings, cuddly toys and much more besides.
Rebecca has set up her own Twitter account; she has re-branded her website, advertised on Facebook and Twitter. She has launched discount days and weeks, even made her own blog page and one of her designs has appeared in a magazine! Rebecca has done far much more than I can ever write here and I am sure I have missed so much but it is truly incredible.
Now I have tried to crochet and slowly trying to bead but the more I do, the more I realise how amazing Rebecca is at fitting in all that she has achieved in the last (coming up for) ten months! This and she fits in a full time job (as do myself)! I tell my colleagues, friends and family about all that Rebecca is doing and they ask me how she fits it all in.
I started off this blog to moan about how much it takes up of Rebecca’s time and she has no time for me. However when I have come to writing it all down I am utterly amazed that she does seem to have loads of time for me still. I love going to her house on Friday nights after work and seeing what creations she has made that week. Rebecca even fits in coming to see me one evening a week!
My colleges, friends and family ask me what it is like being a “Craft Widow” and as much as I think it would be “cool” to moan about how she never has time for me … Rebecca always does! Plus with the amount of wirework she does and has done makes her hands very strong. This is ideal for a strong massage after a stressful week. People ask me what it is like and I have to say: “I wouldn’t have it any other way!” Rebecca is amazing and incredible and I would be honoured if she would put this on her blog!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Melding more beads

A few weeks ago I started beading a piece for a challenge for Bead Mavens... the challenge was to 'meld' two or more tutorials written by the Mavens.  
I started off with Heather Collin's satellite beads, making them from black, teal and grey beads with sterling silver accents.

I beaded up three of these beautiful beads, the third (not shown) has silver bi-cones instead of rounds.  My plan was to then incorporate these beaded beads into Nancy Dale's Trellis Necklace.  This was where I got stuck - it was nothing to do with the tutorial (which is very well written and beautifully illustrated), and was entirely to do with getting my head around how I was going to get these two components to fit together!

This evening, I sat down in my studio with the determination to get a bit further on with my meld... thankfully, I managed it!!  After linking the first two of my satellite beads with a length of trellis rope, I took a picture...

The beaded bead on the left is going to be the focal point of the necklace, with its silver bi-cones and extra flashes of teal, it is bracketed by two slightly smoky looking faceted rondelles, the beaded bead on the right has smaller, haematite-coloured faceted rondelles on either side.  Encouraged by my progress, I carried on beading sections of trellis rope, and added the final beaded bead, and more faceted rondelles.

It doesn't show too well in these photos, but inside of the light grey AB trellis is a RAW rope made from matt black and teal 11/0 Tohos.  The trellis is made from 15/0 Miyuki seeds.  

I carried on beading as the sun went down (hence the shadows in the photo above) and added some further trellis sections.  

I'm actually really enjoying the way this is turning out... it is definitely a challenge though. Part way through beading this evening, I came up with an idea to make this into a long necklace (instead of a standard 18" one), which was going to be tremendously assymetric, with the beaded beads on one side, and bezelled agate rectangles on the other... it may still turn out that way, but as I only have two weeks to finish this before I head off to LaVidalerie for my holiday, time is of the essence!
Is anyone else out there Melding?  I'd love to hear about your progress if you are!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Every cloud has a silver lining

Yesterday, I bought a beading kit.  It's not something I've done for years, but it caught my eye when I was wandering around Hobbycraft.  I really don't normally buy kits, they're usually over-priced, but the design of this one was something quite special.  This is what it looks like:
The Beadery, Designer Style Selections Pendant Necklace Kit
The kit contained a cab, beads, findings, needle and thread and instructions.  The cab isn't in the picture below.
For the sake of fairness, I'm going to discuss this kit in two parts... the instructions, and the beads/kit.
First off, the instructions:  These were excellent, the design is pretty, the instructions were clear, well presented and well explained.  I didn't agree with their suggestions to put glue on knots instead of weaving in the ends, but for an inexperienced beader, that is OK.
Unfortunately, that's about all the good things I have to say about the kit.
The beads were of a shockingly poor quality, totally irregular in size and shape... and I'm sure I'm not just saying this because I've become accustomed to the high quality of Japanese seed beads.  Also, the large, pale-blue lined beads were just a horrible colour - not at all similar to the photo on the front of the kit.  The needle supplied with the kit was totally inappropriate for the type of beading too... it was one of those 'big-eye' needles, which are only really good for stringing, and not for bead work like this.  Also, I've no idea why there were ear-wires in the bag of findings... there were no earring instructions!  Another problem I had was with the thread - it was a spun thread, not woven, so it tangled and twisted up really quickly... so quickly in fact, I quickly gave up and used my own Nymo.
By far and away my biggest problem with the kit was the cab.  For the design, the cab was not of the correct dimensions.  
Although I beaded with my usual crazy tension, the netting was just too baggy/large for the cab.  The pattern started off at the back, and ended up having to cover quite a large part of the curved front, just to keep it from falling out.  I can't even bring myself to photograph it to post on here, because it looks like one of the most terrible pieces of beading I've ever done!
I am really on the verge of taking the entire kit back and asking for a refund... Has anyone ever taken a kit back to a shop because of this sort of problem?
It is possible to make beautiful things with the pattern though...
This picture is of a stone cab (can anyone tell me what stone? Please?), and the bezel is made with a mixture of Toho and Miyuki seed beads in sizes 11/0 and 15/0.
With the help of some of my beading friends, I've decided that it needs a beaded rope to go with it, and that rope is going to be a 7 drop beaded netting rope... once I've beaded it, I'll add a photo!

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Holiday Fun

I know that strictly, this is off topic, but I wanted to share some of my holiday photos with you all... Last week I went to visit my best friend (and her husband and baby), and then went to visit my family for the rest of the week.  It was a lovely, relaxing week, spending time with my family and boyfriend, doing a bit of the tourism thing in the south east, the highlight of which was a trip on the London Eye.  
Now I fully admit that I am not a big fan of London - too many people, most of whom are only thinking about what they're doing, and not the people around them.  I know that sounds like a  sweeping generalisation, but at heart, I am a country bumpkin, and cities freak me out.
So... the London Eye... I'm scared of heights, I'm slightly claustrophobic... it would be fair to say I was a little nervous, but it was an amazing experience, and I would recommend it heartily.  It was a cloudy day, but that didn't ruin it at all.  I surprised myself by being totally taken by the houses of parliament... a gorgeous building, it just inspires wonder - especially at the skill of the crafts-people who built it.
I took one photo of the houses of parliament which I am immensely proud of... especially the fact that it is so crisp, there is no reflection from the inside of the pod, and I even managed to get a nice red London bus in the foreground!
I love the way the style of the architecture of the houses of parliament contrasts with that of Battersea power station.
There was a lighter side to the trip to London...
This was the penguin outside the London Aquarium... it was very cute!  
Tim and I had some fun chilling out at my parent's house, the weather was quite nice, and it was just nice to be somewhere peaceful!
And we also had a nice time on a very windy beach where my Nan lives...
Holidays are great, aren't they?? I can't wait for my next one... a week learning silversmithing and precious metal clay!

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Beading up a Meld

Tonight I started work on a project for a challenge, a beading challenge, organised by the Bead Mavens.  It's called the Maven Meld, and the idea is to make a piece of jewellery based on two or more of the tutorials written by the Mavens (a group of top class beaders, who design the most beautiful beaded jewellery).
So, I've been giving this challenge a lot of thought... like, several weeks thought - which is quite unusually for me; normally I just start beading and see where the beads take me.  Basing some jewellery on two other people's tutorials is much more difficult than it first seemed!  Normally I never stick to patterns, and add a little twist of my own, but actually getting two patterns to meld seamlessly was really tough.  
I've decided to base my design on the Trellis Necklace by Nancy Dale, and the Satellite Bead by Heather Collin.  It's going to be like a Pandora-style piece, with three satellite beads on a trellis rope, all based on my favourite shades of green, and grey with silver thrown in for good measure.  I've made two of the satellite beads, the third is going to have different shaped silver beads, to make it stand out as the centre bead.  

I'm not sure what the plan for the trellis rope is, but it is going to involve the teal, the matt black, and its going to be accented with the light grey AB beads.

As it all comes together, I'll keep on posting... 

Monday, 8 August 2011

Teaching my boyfriend to bead - Part 2

So, after the first beading lesson, Tim was up for more!  On Sunday we sat down to continue with the RAW bezel he started earlier in the week.  Again, Tim only had the sticking power for an hour of beading, but he did complete the second (more complicated) row.  
Tim does have quite a skill though... he only needed a couple of pointers, and I think the only thing that drew his attention away from it was the football... but... he is a boy after-all!
On the other hand, I sat and beaded my afternoon (and evening) away and finished another beaded pendant and rope... I really have entered into a love affair with RAW... I can't believe it was once my nemesis!  
I just love this cab - it's a gorgeous soft grey shell jasper, and it goes so well with the victorian shades of soft peachy-pink and light grey.  And it's all finished off with an assymetric heart-shaped toggle clasp.  I wore it to work today, and I had a number of very positive comments... I wore it with a pinky flower print top, so it was the perfect combination!
My next project is going to be similar, but made with yellow-jade (a pale greeny-yellow colour), and actually 3 cabs of decreasing size.  I'm quite excited about how it's going to turn out.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Teaching my boyfriend to bead

I like to bead... I also like my boyfriend (that's a slight understatement... I love him loads actually!), but up to now, they have been separate 'likes'... until yesterday that is!!
Yesterday, my boyfriend asked me to teach him to bead!  :)
This is Tim, isn't he pretty??  Tim's usual hobbies are similar to most blokes... he likes watching football, rugby, F1, he likes to read and go out walking, and now he likes to bead!
Last night, after dinner, we sat down together at the dining room table, with the following things each:  bead mat, needle, thread, beads, cabs.  The aim was for me to teach Tim to make a beaded bezel for the cab using right angle weave.  Those of you who know me, know I have only recently learned RAW myself, but I found it simple enough, so I thought it would be a fun place to start a beading adventure.  
It turns out, Tim is a good student!  (well, except for when I tried to teach him to crochet... big fail!)  Lesson 1 was less than an hour, and in that time he made a piece of RAW long enough to go around his chosen cab, and joined the ends together.  His beadwork is really good, with a nice, even tension.
Tim's verdict is that beading is fun!  He said it was quite relaxing, almost meditative, and his exact words were "I can see how this could become addictive!"
All I can say, is bring on the weekend!!  We've got a whole lot of beading planned!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Rainbow Bright

Not so much chatter about the 80s cartoon character, but colour - and more to the point, my relationship with colour!
Those of you who know me well know that you will hardly ever see me wearing blue (I have two blue tops, and one of them is technically turquoise - that's the extent of my blue wardrobe!).  Tonight, I wanted to carry out a little bit of a colour experiment, which is a bit of a thinly veiled attempt to re-organise my seed bead and delica stash.  I thought it might be interesting to lay them all out in colour and size groups, and this was the result!

So, I've noticed there are two colours noticeable  by their (almost) absence... blue, as expected, and red, which surprised me!  I have lots of brownie-reds, but nothing scarlet, crimson or otherwise properly red.  The other surprise was the large number of goldy-bronze beads... I'd always considered myself more of a silver person, but I guess I like gold colours more than I thought!  

Part of the incentive for looking at these colours was down to some semi-precious cabs  I ordered, a whole kilo of them!  They came in all sorts of colours and sizes, but they were all oval.

I'm thrilled at the number of green and grey stones (mmm, favourite colours!), but the cherry quartz ones have left me a bit stumped!  I love them, don't get me wrong... but they're red!  I've no idea what to do with them!  The part of me that uses logic, says red and white beads would work well as a bezel, but as you can see, I don't have (m)any red beads.
This is the point where I'm asking for help... how can I combine the beads I have with the cherry quartz (the red cabochons)??  Any other ideas for colour combinations for the other stones would also be greatly appreciated... as much as I love beading and jewellery design, colour is still the thing I struggle with most.  This year I have turned a corner with my colour combinations, but it's still something I need to work on.
Oh, and before you suggest I buy some red beads, the whole point is not buying any more beads in an attempt to save up for my jewellery making holiday in September!

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Big beading day (followed by curry)!

It is not often that I feel the need to talk about food, however, this evening has been such a culinary delight, that I thought I should share with you!
After a rare Saturday spent beading with my recently acquired kilo of cabochons, and £30 of Toho beads, my lovely boyfriend and I decided to go out for dinner.  Tim had spent the afternoon in bed with a nasty cold, leaving me several hours to bead my little heart out, and newly refreshed, we decided that a curry would be good (as Tim would actually be able to taste it!).  I knew just the place to go to... it's not the closest, or most convenient area of town to get to... in fact, it's in a little shopping area in a housing estate called St Andrews Ridge.  The restaurant is called Abbey Meads Indian Restaurant and Take Away... I'm sure it's actually one of the smallest restaurants in the UK - it has about 5 tables.  
It's worth the drive though - the food is incredible!  It's one of those places where you can tell the food is cooked completely from scratch from the freshest ingredients available... they'll even cook you things that aren't on the menu if you ask.  
As soon as you walk in, you know it's going to be a special dining experience, you're guaranteed a warm welcome by the immaculately dressed and well spoken waiters... I've eaten there more than a few times in the past, so one of the waiters knows me by name.  After a couple of poppadoms, I had a chicken roshni, one of the most garlic filled curries going, and I accompanied it with a garlic naan (no chance of me being attacked by a vampire tonight!).  Tim had chicken korai, served sizzling hot, with rice and a naan.  
Not only was the food it's usual high quality, the chicken was succulent, and plentiful, in fact, I've come home with a little take-away box with some left over roshni and naan for dinner tomorrow!
I know that food is technically off topic for my blog, but it was such a great meal, I had to share it with you all!

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Handmade Swindon

Yesterday was the re-launch of HandmadeSwindon, formerly The Handmade Market.  It's run by a group of local artists, designers and craftspeople, whose aim it is to promote all things handmade.  Instead of being at the postmodern, the old post office in theatre square, we took over one of the vacant shops in the Brunel Arcade, the main shopping centre in Swindon.  
Hannah did an amazing job of organising things, and when I arrived at 8am, I was one of the last ones to be there to set up.  I was given the spot by the door with the words "we wanted to put beautiful jewellery by the door to entice people in."
This was the view of our shop from the other side of the shopping centre, that's me, in the white trousers!   There were 11 of us selling our wares; three of us were selling jewellery, two artists, three textile artists, two paper-crafters, and a lady who sold sock-monkeys and was painting faces.
My little stall was by the door, next to Sarah-Jane, who was selling her art.  
I think I did pretty well, I sold 3 bangles, 3 bracelets, 2 pairs of earrings two necklaces and took one commisssion.  I've no idea how many cards I gave away either... hopefully that'll generate some income too!
I'll keep you all posted on the date and location of the next market!!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Frustrations of a Beader

Recently, I've been working on a new piece of bead work, it is comprised of various elements which need joining together.  Today I have been joining two of these elements, and one of my beads broke.  Needless to say this is frustrating, but it wasn't in the element I had just made, it was in the element that was already joined to other parts.  Normally, I wouldn't let this sort of thing get me down, but it takes about an hour to bead each element, and due to the way I've connected them, I now have to take 3 of them apart (and when you consider I've only made 4, this is not good!)
I suppose that as I have a real passion for tiny beads, this sort of thing is inevitable.  And seeing as I have recently pondered on facebook if it is possible to get beads smaller than size 15/0, I imagine that it's a problem that I'm going to suffer from in projects to come! I really should invest in some finer needles!

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Westcoast Beads

Yesterday I got a package of beads in the mail... I was very excited, I'm always interested to see what sort of goodies will arrive from a new supplier that I've not bought from before.
Westcoast beads and jewellery, have this brilliant idea - they sell a selection of beads, grouped together called 'Beads of the Month'.  It's not a subscription thing, you don't have to buy them every month, but it is a collection of beads, gemstones etc that go well together.  They even come in a lovely plastic pack, with some design ideas to go with the beads.
I decided to buy the July beads of the month, and was lucky enough to get the last pack!  They're lovely shades of pinks, reds and greys, and included:
8mm Pink Aventurine rounds, Oxblood and bamboo coral rounds, 4mm firepolish crystals (pink and blue-grey) 3.5 mm Garnet glass rondelles, 20 pink Lucite flowers, and 30g each of silver lined clear and grey Toho Triangles 8/0
The triangles totally lead themselves to some herringbone beading, but tubular, spiral, or flat, I'm not sure yet.  The larger gemstones I may well just thread... I've not done any stringing for a long time, and it'll be good to have something like that in my jewellery box (yes, I do occasionally bead for me!).
But what I'd really like to say about these beads is how great the quality is!  They are totally beautiful!  You know how sometimes you order a strand of gemstones on the internet, and what arrives is really not the same quality as was photographed... well this did NOT happen on this occasion.  They are all just lovely, and the service was great too.  I was emailed to let me know there would be a delay of a couple of days with posting, and they even sent me a strand of haematite rounds for 'liking' their facebook page (although I can't promise they'll do that for everyone!).
In summary, this seems like a wonderful way to build up your stash and to experiment with beads and gemstones you wouldn't usually turn to for designs.  August's beads are amber and green colours, they look beautiful, but the tumbled chips and nuggets just aren't my style, so I won't be buying them... but I will be going back for more, probably very soon!!

A Retrospective Part 4

Several exciting things have happened in the past couple of days... I sold my first tutorial on Etsy, I finished Alot v2.0, I managed to get the promise of free beads, just because I liked a company's facebook page at the same time as placing an order.  Unfortunately, I didn't win the EuroMillions jackpot, but seeing as I didn't buy a ticket, I haven't lost anything either!

So in October 2010, I went to France with my Mum for a week to learn some wirework and chainmaille techniques at a little place called LaVidalerie, and I was asking Karen Sarll, the owner, how she went about getting her jewellery designs published in magazines.  She told me it was easy, and all I would have to do was send a prospective email to a magazine, and they would say yes or no depending on whether or not they liked my design.  I was so sure it couldn't possibly be that easy, but it turns out I was wrong! Either that or I was actually quite lucky.

Now I'm not usually one for making new years resolutions, but I did this year, and I decided that I was going to try my hardest get get one of my designs published.  After spending quite some time perfecting a technique for making beaded bezels for pretty stones, I sent a photo of a piece to a magazine called Beads & Beyond, asking if they would be interested in it as one of their articles.  To my absolute astonishment, they were interested, and they would actually pay me too!!

Well, the time has come, and the August edition of Beads & Beyond magazine has been published, and not only is my design in there, but it is mentioned on the cover!  (oh yes, I rock!!)  I've not seen the magazine yet, but the front cover is available to view here.

The design that can be found in Beads & Beyond is for my beaded bezel ring/pendant... these are pictures of the pieces I sent them for their professional photographers to play with (I'm sure their photos will be better than mine!).
The "seeing stars" part of today's missive is in relation to a tutorial I bought yesterday, by the amazing Jean Power.  She's a beader extraordinare, and we share the same love of geometric shapes in beadwork.  I bought her Geometric Stars tutorial, the design actually won awards when she first entered it into competitions.  So I had a go at making a couple of these beauties, one in silver and black, the other in red, pink and crystal.