scale

On New Year's Day I started crocheting cotton boxes for my washroom. They're part of an ongoing get-tidy project I have on the go, they are being made 100% from stash, and I'm tired of having to dust things like my makeup bag and the spare bottles of shampoo.

As I was working on the first box, I learned that I'd won a prize in a charity raffle I'd entered a few weeks before. The prize was an assortment of cosmetics, and it came in a very nice black basket woven with strap material. I decided to crochet a lid for it while I was at it. This was the result:


The lid is natural-colour, worsted-weight dishcloth cotton single crocheted with a 4.5mm hook. The beaded edging is size 11 seed beads crocheted with perle cotton on a 0.6mm hook. The basket is 19cm per side, for a total of 76cm. There are sixteen motifs per side, so sixty-four in total, plus an extra orange picot to complete the repeat. There are seven red beads and four orange beads per motif, so that's a total of 708 beads (448 red, 260 orange) just in this edging.

One of the red circular motifs is about the same size as one of the lid single crochet stitches. It's been a little weird switching back and forth between the two.

The first box is done, but I'm still working on its lid. It will have a beaded edging as well, but in a different pattern:

This has been nice, easy work (even the beaded edge, really, although its tiny black stitches get finicky). Really, though, I need to get back to the socks for Cheshin.

The box idea came from Erika Knight's Simple Crochet, and the beaded edging from Midori Nishida's The Beaded Edge.


wire crochet: the power of letting random into the mix

Last Saturday I took a wire crochet class with Laura Sultan at the That's Women's Work art gallery. I've fiddled around with wire crochet on my own a few times, which mostly meant I'd used up a lot of wire and got nowhere.

During the class we learned how to make a wire and bead necklace using one of my favourite design approaches: something that is more complex when finished than it was to actually make. It's one of the best things about DIY — a dollop at randomness at just the right time in the process creates something that's both unique and aesthetically pleasing. Basically, you give up total control and let the universe have a hand. That's something that factory-made jewelry, clothes, and other items are never able to replicate, and it's why DIY is still so important in a factory-transformed world.

All right, so what did we do? We learned how to chain stitch wire with beads, and then weave strands of beaded chains together to create necklaces. At the end of the class, my strands looked like this:





I finished the ends with short lengths of chain and a clasp at home, which created this finished version:
The really cool part (besides learning something new) was that everyone else's work used different beads and different coloured wire, and in each instance it totally transformed the work. It's similar to what happens in knitting when Kaffe Fassett's Persian Poppies "rules" get worked in different colourways.

Besides getting to see how dramatically different one construction method looks with different materials combinations, the class structure gave us a lot of time to talk about different ways to work with the technique, the effects of different colourways, and other things which are essential to jewelry design, but often get lost in classes because all the attention is being focused on the working, not the designing.

We got spoilt with tea and fancy baked goods, and in the second half with wine. It was a very full two hours in more ways than one!

Laura teaches this class, classes on chain maille, and others on a regular basis. Check out her Meetup group for details.

DIYers are batshit

So, what do you get up to on Friday nights? Watch a film, maybe? Have a cuddle with your boyfriend/girlfriend/both?

This is a DIY blog, so you already know I got up to no good.

Tonight, I was playing around with ground glass and industrial chemicals, all in an effort to make something pretty.People who like to make their own stuff are all batshit the same way.

But you have to understand. I started making a bracelet, but needed a clasp for it. The clasp I wanted (a five-loop slide clasp) wasn't as easy to find as it should have been, but the helpful bead shop clerk suggested these 5-to-1 connectors. Great! Just the thing!

But you see, they had a part in the middle for a cabochon, and I couldn't find any to match the bracelet bits I'd already made.

So I ground up some glass in my mortar with my pestle, putting a small plastic bag over top so bits of glass wouldn't go everywhere. Safety first!
You can see a bit of the bracelet in the top right. It's a blend of blue and white-blue beads, so I made a 50:50 mix when I ground them up.

Next, I mixed up some Ice Resin, spooned the ground glass into the cab part of the connectors, and then dropped Ice Resin over the glass with a toothpick. The resin picked up the glass bits and I had to sort of roll the resulting mixture around to get it to stay. The final step was to drop extra bits of ground glass onto any connectors which looked a bit light on colorant. Here are the connectors with the resin curing:
Tomorrow I'll check them for sharp edges and file them with my new jewelry files if I have to. It's just a touch of colour, but it will be nice once the beaded strands are added. I have enough for a couple of bracelets, a necklace, and a couple of earrings.

I wonder what it's like just to be happy buying whatever's available without changing it up.


finally

Some things you get to right away. Other things you don't.

I am the proud owner of a quartz bracelet that was custom-made for me. Each big piece of quartz represents a full moon — there are thirteen in total on the bracelet, or a full year's worth. The jewelry artist added in some small round quartz beads in between some of the quartz chunks to make the chain long enough for me (she joked those represented the eclipses).

One day at work, when I was in the washroom, I flexed my wrist when the bracelet was mostly down around my hand and one of the links broke. Luckily I was able to find the one chunk of quartz that fell off and the two halves of the bracelet.

That was over five years ago.

I'd already been making my own jewelry for a while by then, but wasn't very comfortable with making wrapped loops, and wasn't sure I could do the fine work required to make a new link for the broken piece. But I bought different types of wire, figuring one or the other would work. I even brought the bracelet to a local jewelry shop that claimed they did "all kinds of repairs" (they made faces at it and went back to talking about custom engagement rings with another customer).

I've started to plan out repairing it myself several times, but I'd get as far as pulling out all the different kinds of wire I'd collected, determine that none of them were even close to the wire used in the bracelet, and give up.

Then, last night, I was reading a back issue (September 2008) of Canadian Beading, and came across Cheryl Laakes's Victorian Gothic Cuff pattern. The pattern calls for you to string beads onto a head pin, make a wrapped loop, and then clip the head end off the pin and make a second wrapped loop.

When I pulled out some spare headpins I had, they were a little thicker than the wire in the bracelet, but a lot closer than anything else I'd seen.

It took three tries, (remember, I'm more into working with beads than wire), but I got it to work. The result blends in a lot more than I thought it would, and because I had to wrap six loops instead of just two I'm now more confident about my abilities to wrap tiny lengths of wire with special pliers.




The box highlights the replacement link. In the background you can see a leftover headpin and some of the tools it took to get this to work.

It's weird —I'm so happy about getting to wear my bracelet again it's almost a non-event. Mostly I want to be sure to change the wires on the matching earrings...

how to fight back when things suck

I've been trying not to whine about it too much on-line, but since the last week of this April I've been having problems with my shoulders and upper back (hence the long gap between blog posts, amongst other things). Since I'm not very good at just lying down and watching TV, I got bored very quickly, despite the pain. As soon as things started getting better, I was looking for ways to make stuff without disobeying my chiropractor and sabotaging the healing process, but which would help me from getting stir-crazy as well.

The main problem is in my left shoulder, which is the "power source" when I'm knitting, so that's been out until recently. I crochet right-handed, though, and I knew I could do that whilst reclining to support my neck and head, so I tried that.

I've been learning all sorts of things.

The first thing was that I need to learn to adjust crochet patterns the way I do knitting patterns. I made this lace cardigan:

There was something out of whack about the original sleeve length. I have longer-than-normal arms, but the original arm length went well past my knuckles (and yes, I was getting the right gauge). I took out two rounds of shells — almost three inches —to fix that. The waist/peplum is in the wrong place (see how the bottom three rows of shells run in the opposite direction?), but since I plan to wear is just buttoned at the bust, that's okay. The button, incidentally, replaces the ribbon closures called for in the pattern. It's still girly and less of a pain to take on and off.

I wanted a non-jacket that would let me look pulled together when it was wiltingly hot outside, and I think this fits the bill nicely. The yarn, incidentally, is Patons Grace mercerised cotton fingering weight, and since most of the stitches are trebles it worked up quickly.

I also learned a form of bead crochet:

My mum gave me the multicoloured pendant bead a while ago, and I had this idea of putting it on a spiral rope for a while though. For some reason I have a hard time stitching spiral ropes. I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong with the stitching part, but this loop crochet method works up faster and is easier to work. It's hard to see in the photo because the seed beads are black, but the results are similar to a Russian spiral. Each loop has four size 11 seed beads and one 4mm coloured bead. I arranged thing so that the blue and green beads alternated in one spiral path, and the red and orange beads in another. The pendant had its loop and fringe added while it was still separate from the main necklace rope, and the peyote stitch loop has to be that big to accommodate the pendant.

This is one case where I really like having the pendant at the front, although of course it could be worn "backwards" with just the rope part showing in front and the pendant hanging down the back, too.

I'm really inspired by this beaded crochet stitch. I've even got two more things on the go using the same stitch — all to be made in a reclining posture, of course.

creative challenge-type stuff

I've been going through another period where there's lots of things I would like to start, but even more things I would like to finish. One of the things I would like to finish is de-cluttering my apartment, and if I'm going to do that, I have to be able to put away most of my beading trays.

The finishing of the necklace in the photograph to the right marks the clearing of yet another tray. As an added bonus, the only non-stash elements in it are the two large silver beads and the clasp.

There were two challenges with this piece: first of all, most of the beads are shades of pink. I hate pink. I hate pink so much that I was considering just tossing the beads (they'd been acquired through gifts anyhow), but then the ever-stylish J-A pointed out she liked pink, and if I wanted to experiment she'd be willing to receive the results.

The other problem was that the pink beads were all around a size 6, but not ever evenly produced. Almost all of my beading is done with size 11s, with some faceted beads and drops thrown in. J-A likes chunky styles in necklaces, but these beads weren't chunky enough.

I really do hate pink, but I am currently knitting a jacket with lots of pink in it. It's Kaffe Fassett's Red Diamonds pattern, and the trick with that particular stash reduction attempt is to choose yarns that sort of talk around red. I have pinks, plums, roses, maroons, and all sorts of colours that are close to a true red without actually getting there. I have lots of reds and scarlets and crimsons too, but the point is that because they're all thrown in together, all of a sudden pink has a place in the spectrum. If it wasn't there, the colours in the jacket would be too strong and strident.

Fassett has a much more elegant way of putting it, but I call this the principle of "sucky colours working if you put enough of them together." I tried the same thing with the beads, making the peyote-stitch tube that forms the centre part of the necklace first. I just worked it until I ran out of the anthracite beads. The tube has relatively little flex in it — the curve you see in the photo is about the maximum. Fortunately, its own weight encourages it to curve to the maximum when it is worn.

Then I worked the two herringbone bands out of what was left of the pink beads. They're just this side of being tubular — four beads around. The herringbone tubes are very flexible, which I tried to show in the photo.

After that it was just a case of attaching everything. I didn't find any large-size bead caps I liked, so I got the big silver beads instead and just gathered the ends of the beaded tubes as tightly as I could. It works. I did put some small bead caps on the tops of the herringbone tubes to help centre and attach the clasp.

Overall I think it works. This is the first piece I've done entirely on my own, from scratch, without a pattern or photo to give me an idea. Beaders tend to come up with cutesy names for their work — beading magazines even seem to encourage it — so I'm coming up with a name for this one. I'm calling it "Ethnically Confused." It has elements that can be found in the beading traditions of Africa, Eastern Europe, Central America, and Asia, yet the colours are straight out of a North American shopping mall. If I'd done it in turquoise and coral, or ebony and tiger-eye, I'm sure J-A would have had people who don't know any better asking about where it was from every time she wore it. Instead, she gets to have something that does not scream hand-made either from the "a friend of mine made this for me" standpoint, or the "some women making appalling low wages in a faraway country made this" standpoint. I'm not even sure it's not ugly, but people can make of it what they will.

As for stash-busting, you can see from what's left in the tray that I still have lots of pink beads, although not nearly as many as I started with. A lot of what's left are odd sizes or don't have properly reamed holes, so I think I'm going to only keep the cherry-red ones and the petrol ones (lower left corner on the inside and outside dish groups, respectively). The rest can go in the garbage. I made my creative challenge and I'm happy with it — time to move on to other things.

bling!


Usually I don't like beadwork that is too over-the-top. I admire the artisanship that goes into making elaborate neckpieces (if it gets big and artistic-looking enough, it's a "neckpiece," not a "necklace"), but I wouldn't want to wear them.

The Ice Blossoms bracelet (sorry, subscriber-only) is about as rococo as I would ever want to get with jewelry I would actually wear. Even though I decided to use cheap acrylic crystals instead of the Swarovski ones called for in the pattern, the thing is still plenty heavy and drapes nicely on the wrist. The original pattern calls for seed bead fringes around the centre stone in each main motif, but I thought it was ornate enough without them.

I've been making so much stuff in my usual blacks, reds, and purples lately that I decided to branch out a little and make the bracelet multi-coloured in lighter colours. I like the results, but would also love to see it done in more Gothic colours: all jet black, or dark red crystals with amber seed beads. It would probably look good in the cobalt blue that's currently popular too, or the earth tones that are popular in the beading world right now.

The thing I like the best about wearing the bracelet is that the big main motifs are flexible, so they curve to fit your wrist. This is a lot more comfortable than a similar bracelet would be made of same-sized pieces of metal.

Most of the beading is a variation on right-angle weave. You backstitch your way through making different loops, and then frame them in more beads to stabilise the loops and keep them all on the same horizontal plane. The blue beads closer to the clasp were not in the original pattern; I added them to make the bracelet a bit bigger (normal-sized bracelets fit my wrist exactly with absolutely no ease).

I found these ornate toggle clasps for $2.50 for ten clasps. They go great with the ornate style of the bracelet.


More beading stuff

I finally found a way to get seed beads back into their bottles without losing half of them into the carpet. Teaspoons are too big for the job, but if you can find a little souvenir spoon, they work great! They're small enough to fit into the standard medicine-bottle style of seed bead containers, but big enough to scoop up a decent amount of seed beads at once:
Finally, a reason to collect those spoons.

a learning experience


Rypan Designs seems to be taking over my entire beading life. Since they seem to be pretty good, maybe that's not entirely a bad thing. I just finished making this vintage-style bracelet based on one of their kits. The kit uses size 8/0 seed beads; I used size 11/0s because I tend to use size 11/0s for everything. It makes for a narrower, more delicate chain. Arguably I could have stuck with the 8/0s and made a wider chain that probably would have suited me better, but I liked the smallness of this when I was done.

The black beads in the photo aren't really black. They're clear but very dark brown and kind of remind me of Coca-Cola. I meant to buy black and at first I wasn't sure about the choice, but in the end it somehow makes things more vintage-y and I like the effect, especially since the petal beads are matte and the centres are metal-lined.

This is the first time I have worked peyote stitch and gotten it to wind up looking like peyote stitch, instead of a very sloppy and ill-formed herringbone stitch. Making the side petals (the parts of the daisy that stick out from the main ribbon of stitching) work took about eight tries, but eventually I was able to form them consistently.

I seem to have a thing for beaded daisies at the moment. I'm currently working on a modified version of a Bead & Button download (first search result; it's a subscriber-only download, sorry), using those size 11/0s instead of the 15/0s the pattern calls for. The photo will probably be up eventually. The current bracelet-in-progress has a ladder-stitch base of bugle beads. The daisies float on their centres above the base, which makes them sort of bobble-headed, but in a nice sort of way. I'm looking forward to seeing how the finished product works out. The thing about working these daisies is that you have to expect and welcome some variation into each motif — unlike other stitches, it doesn't work if things are too uniform. Which is good, because the inexpensive beads I insist on using won't give uniform results no matter how well I stitch them.

Things I've finished lately

I've been having trouble finishing DIY things in the last few months. Not finishing, the part where you seam and darn in ends — that part is enjoyable, and means the bulk of the work is over if you've done the job right to begin with.

No, this is more like: getting an idea, diving into the stash, rummaging amongst the needles until I find the right size, casting on, getting 50-80% done... and then repeating the same process from the beginning. It's getting to the point that I'm "missing" some needle sizes because all the available pairs have half-finished work hanging off them. Not good.

I think it might finally be coming to an end. Not only do I feel like finishing things, but I actually am finishing them. Some things are more finished than others:

Unintentional beaded flowers

Note: these are made from seed beads. They are sitting on the wrist rest of my laptop in the photo. Think small and finicky.

I couldn't sleep one night, so I decided to look through pattern books I already know well —I find the photos pleasant, but because I already know the material, it's boring enough to make me sleepy.

On this particular night, I was looking through a copy of Bead & Button and found the instructions for these seed-stitch flowers. All of a sudden I had this brilliant idea: to make a lot of seed-stitch flowers, sew them over a wire frame with seed-stitch mesh in between, and make a funky lampshade for the bare light bulb in my laundry room!

The ideal would have been to write the idea down and go to sleep. Nope. Couldn't. So I got up around midnight, pulled out my beading stuff, and got the pink-pearl flower with the burgundy centre done around five AM. I would have been done early, but this was my first attempt at brick stitch and the thread got so tangled I had to start over after completing just one petal. The burgundy flower with the turquoise trim went more quickly.

No, I never made the lamp shade, although I did pick out some lampworked beads from my stash so that I wouldn't have to make several dozen flowers just to cover one light bulb.

Dishcloths

I've been needing new dishcloths for a while, so these were intentional. Usually I just do the cast on three stitches, do an eyelet edge increase 'til it's wide enough, decrease back to three stitches kind of dishcloths, but I liked the 1950s factor on these spiky petal ones (think starburst clocks and things knit sideways in short rows to make a circular shape). They are dead quick, and somehow only use about half a ball of standard dishcloth cotton. The green one is made from Bernat, the blue and yellow ones from Lily Sugar 'n' Cream, and the multi-coloured one is an attempt to use up the leftovers. I still have another leftovers one on the needles, and it looks like I'll have enough yarn and then some.
One thing I am irrational about: dishcloths must be reversible. The multi-coloured one bothers me a bit because the colour changes aren't the same on the other side (physically impossible in knitting, of course, although one can minimise the effect). If you graft these to finish them instead of seaming per the pattern, they're almost exactly the same on both sides.

French Girl cover jacket... and other stuff

I've been really getting into the designs in the French Girl Knits book. They're all seamless without going to convoluted lengths just to be seamless —the seamlessness is worked sensibly into the design. I made some mods to my version, but since none of the photos I took of this this morning turned out, that will have to be another blog post. This one has run long enough!