Big Bead Blowout

So, I got a request from a friend for some earrings for her mother-in-law’s Christmas present. I went digging around in my stash and found some carnelian teardrops I always wanted to wrap with wire and did that. I practiced a bit with some damaged and/or super cheap stones first, so in the end I was able to do this reasonably gracefully:

carnelian2

I think she’ll like them, but I also wanted to do some alternate things–and why not. I’ve certainly got the materials.

desk

Lots and lots of materials. All over the place. (And a new work bench, did I mention this? My husband made it for me last month. I absolutely love it.)

I spent a lot of time digging up beads and findings and wire and whatever else, moving things around and trying to pair this with that. I forgot how difficult it could be to come up with something that actually works physically, practically, and aesthetically. I’ve decided that until class starts again in mid-January, I’m just going to play around with all this stuff I’ve been accumulating and actually make things without worrying too much about what I’m “using up” and whether I’m just wasting it. (Honestly, a lot of it isn’t great quality anyway, so why not have fun?) I need to get that creative mindset back. So far, I’ve got these going on:

earrings1I stamped these washers, what, two years ago?

earrings2Bought a bunch of Swarovski beads & danglies three years ago . . . 

earrings3And went nuts over little silver-over-pewter beads that, in truth, tarnish easily and weren’t worth buying.

Aside from that, I’ve got something going on that I’ve been meaning to do–a project from a book that I actually made a copper piece for some months ago. I’ll get to that next time.

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Christmas Comes Early (or, Oh Yeah, That Ring)

Remember this stone? From when I tried making a ring back in . . . May, I think?

cherrytigereyetriplebandWell, it sure is a ring now! This is my second attempt, which I got soldered together back in October/November class. I’ve been sitting on it ever since, until I could get together an order of tools that would included a burnisher and bezel pusher, which I needed at home. And speaking of ordering and at home, I’m now the owner of my very own Foredom flex shaft! Yay Santa! I’m still learning about how to use all the accessories, and I’ll probably be spending some time playing around with bits of scrap metal to see what I can do. (Not to mention touching up this and a few other silver projects that could stand to have imperfections taken out.) I’ll say this, though: so far, I’m really liking the 3M radial bristle discs. I used them to shine up this ring (i.e. take off the post-pickle whiteness it had) and was impressed with how they get into the hard-to-reach places. But enough about my new toy.

Here’s a recap of what I did with this ring, since I’m not up to digging through seven months of posts just to link to them:

tigeriron

Here’s the stone, a bewitching piece of cherry tiger eye from a grab bag of cheap cabs. (Note: cheap cabs are nice, but often poorly cut. This one’s a bit asymmetrical, actually, but not in a way that caused any problems.)

melty

Ha ha, my first attempt at a bezel for this stone: 28 gauge fine silver that I just couldn’t seem to solder to the backing . . . and then I melted it. Just as well, since I decided 20-something gauge sterling would be much stronger and better for a big ring.

ovalring1

My first box bezel and a ring shank. I did get them together, but the resulting look was really meh, so I reheated to make the pieces fall apart again. Well, they did, but . . .

bezelhuh

I lost/melted/burned out some solder in the join there. Later, my teacher advised me to try filling it in again with a bit of wire solder, which I did, although by that time I had already started making another setting for this particular ring. This filling-in business actually worked really well, and I did eventually cut the flat part out of the shank in the above picture, fit and soldered it to the box, and saved it for an interesting ring idea which I hope to have finished by the end of the month, because (spoiler alert) it’s pretty cool.

Meanwhile . . .

threerings

I got my heart set on a triple band, so I bought some half-round wire and made three rings (the two outer are slightly larger than the inner.) Now the real challenge: how on earth could I hold these in place while soldering them together on the underside? I had to get some advice from the Aspiring Metalsmiths group on Facebook (which I highly recommend joining, if you’re into this stuff.) The best way seemed to be: slightly sand down the edges where the rings meet, and stick the rings in a dish of sand, leaning together just the way you like them, and solder. Fortunately, there was a dish of sand in the studio for just such a purpose, and I was able to make this work. (Important note: wear your safety goggles. Seriously. As I was heating up the rings, something (a grain of sand? A tiny, stray bit of charcoal? I don’t know) made a fizzy sound and then went flying directly into my eye. I felt it, but it didn’t do any damage, fortunately. That was all the warning I needed.)

After all that, it was just a matter of filing down the tops of the bands flat and getting the box bezel on. That was a bit harder than I thought it would be to do straight and evenly, and in the process I somehow made the bands less evenly spaced than they should have been. So–whaddaya gonna do, it’s student work. I’m still crazy proud of this ring, and all the trouble it took, and all I learned. I’m already thinking of my next multiple-band ring, and I bet I could do a better job this time around.

cherrytigereyetriplebandIt’s wonky, like me. <3

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He Skirt, She Skirt, Christmas Tree Skirt

That’s a pretty dopey title, but (1) I did make a skirt of sorts this month, and (2) any excuse to use this awesome 60s fashion photo is all right by me:

He-SkirtHe Skirt by Dorcus

And while we’re at it, let’s throw in a little Jacques DuTronc!

Okay now. My project, based on the Retro Ripples Skirt in a 2009 issue of Crochet Today, is a miniskirt for my 4ft. Christmas tree.

christmastreeskirt

It’s “mini” because I started with fewer stitches (73, although I think 83 would have been perfect) and made fewer rounds than the pattern called for. I also changed it up a bit by making it almost entirely white (on Ravelry, though, there are some real stunners with lots of stripes for a truly retro look.) My goal was to use up a ton of old sport weight acrylic my mom gave me years ago, and I succeeded in that by using a double length throughout. I also got rid of a bit of very old green and red worsted weight Red Heart, so I’m happy. And I like to make at least one holiday thing every year if possible, so that’s done.

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Old Ring, New Ring

As you might remember, I was working on jazzing up the 20 gauge hammered band I made last year in beginner’s class. It was a bit uneven (first time I ever used the cutting shear, what can I say), the seam was awfully visible, and I just never loved it. So, since this round of classes was all about bezel practice, I decided to slap a stone on it. Well, not slap: do a good job on. So I rolled out a strip of 20 gauge sterling in the rolling mill (it was probably about 22 gauge in the end) and got down to work.

teardropringbigNow this, I love! The stone is probably a smoky quartz (it came from an inexpensive grab bag of cabochons) and it gave me a bit of trouble. The bezel I made was just perfect . . . until I soldered it and found it was now just a bit too small. I cleaned out the inside of the bezel box with files and grinding tools, and that worked just fine. I made sure it it had a good 45 degree angle around the rim and a neat, subtle notch at the point. After that, my problem was actually moving the metal, because this ain’t no 28 gauge fine silver strip.  This is hard.

I didn’t have anything at home that would really do a good job, but in the studio I found a nice bezel pusher (it looks like a small square rod of steel with a wooden handle on one end.) I put the ring into a vise (with protective leather on each side!) and held down the stone with some fingers while sort of holding the pusher in place with some other fingers and gently hammering with the other hand. It was a bit awkward, getting at all the sides, but I went back and forth and got it done. (I don’t know if it was strictly necessary, but I’ve read that it’s best to set the point first, so I did that.) After that I used a burnisher to get the edge smooth and nice. I definitely want to get both of those tools for home, not to mention one of those vise clamps with a ball socket so you can get at all angles more easily. Ah, someday.

Here’s the way the band originally looked, by the way.

firstring

It still has some tool marks and such on the inside, which I will take care of in January when I (fingers crossed) have my very own flex shaft at home. If not, I can do it in the next round of classes, especially since the studio just received a donation of a bunch of flex shafts–enough to have one at each of the ten benches now. Yay!

 

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Come On, Kayleen

Well, five months, three audio books, who knows how many movies and t.v. shows and . . . it’s done. I am done with the Kayleen Pullover.

kayleen7Whew! There are a few areas around the seams and such I wish could have been smoother (literally smoother–worsted weight cotton shows up lumps and bumps like nobody’s business) but overall I think it went well and looks fine. (Blocking might help, too.) It was harder than I thought this “simple” pattern would be, but challenge is good.

Just for a laugh, look how much yarn I have left. Boy, did I cut it close!

kayleenscrap

I understand it’s good to keep a bit of leftover in case of repairs in future. Maybe even wash some of it every time you wash the sweater, so it ages at the same rate. Not a bad idea.

Before I move on, I just want to share a picture of me knitting with my old kitty, Mongo. He hadn’t been in great health for a while, and his time to pass on came this week. As difficult as it could be to knit with a cat in your lap, I often made an effort to let him do it because I’m sure the warmth was good for his old bones.

meandmongomcgeeHe’s been a part of my life for ten years and I miss him. Maybe I’ll make a piece of tribute jewelry for him soon, I don’t know.

 

 

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Bars and Vs, Smiles and Frowns

If you have any idea what that title means, you have obviously seamed a sweater before.

It’s not hard to do, but there are things to learn, and so I’ve procrastinated a bit on getting down to the set-in sleeves of my Kayleen pullover. Seriously, I had to search around the web and learn horizontal-to-horizontal seaming, horizontal-to-vertical, vertical-to-vertical (oh wait, that’s just good ol’ mattress stitch!) and all THAT was just for the stockinette side. The front of this sweater is reverse stockinette, so . . . ? Turns out it’s not hard to seam, but you have to pay attention to which stitches you’re picking up (and how cute: those that curve up are smiles, and those that curve down are frowns.)

So, here’s where I am today.

kayleen6All those ends . . . all those ends to weave in . . .

I’m not 100% sold on how those seams look, but I do appear to be doing them very neatly and in accordance with the pictures in the pattern (note: pattern is no help in matters of seaming.)  I’m a bit afraid that (1) left will not match right and (2) I’m going to run out of yarn before I can do the applied I-cord around the neck and sleeves.

Still, there’s a certain meditative concentration to this that I like, constantly focused on just where to put the needle next. I . . . think I enjoy it!

kayleen5My idea of fun these days.

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That’s More Like It

So, I was annoyed and upset the other day by my mistakes and lack of progress. I wasn’t sure if I should, but today I decided to go ahead and at least finish the riveted bead ring I was working on. I couldn’t remember where I saw it, and so couldn’t find it again, but there’s a tip out there somewhere about slightly repositioning a drilled hole that’s off-provided you started with a too-small pilot hole–which I actually did, hooray. So, using a drill bit that matched the rivet wire, I kinda “pulled” the hole a little bit more towards where I wanted it. It’s still not perfect, but it’s not as horrible as I feared. When I get my flex shaft for Christmas (fingers crossed) I am going to make a point of practicing drilling until I get good at it. Until then, I have this:

beadring2

All the lessons I learned from bad riveting paid off, because I did really well on this one, so I’m happy about that. Now all I have to do is clean and polish up the band in class, but it’s going to be a while until I get to do that (or even update this blog), so I thought I’d post now. Besides, my mood is now improved 100%. Guess I like a challenge.

I want to make another one of these with a pretty red agate bead, but I think I might follow a different pattern next time. This ring was based on a project from this book. It’s good, but I think I want to try something a bit more complex. I came across this video yesterday while finding some awesome help from another Soham Harrison video, and I think I like it better. The ring goes all the way around the finger and the bead sits atop that.

BTW this is my 200th post! Not bad for someone who was playing around with ideas of making crochet thread jewelry nearly three years ago.

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