June Socks, Right on Time

Although my knitting has slowed considerably what with the new job and all, I got these done in time to keep up with my one-pair-a-month year of socks.


Looks like I made the foot a touch too long. It can be a bit hard to judge with the afterthought heel, and I always want to err on the side of too long rather than too short.

So what’s next? Well, I brought almost all of my sock skeins to my friend Kristi’s house this week, and between my swift and her ball winder, we got them wound up.


Interesting how different a colorway can look from skein to yarn cake. I actually like some of the ones I didn’t like so much better than the ones I thought I loved. (Of course, I learned a lesson about expectations in the socks above, in which the colors seem a bit muddy and muted now.)

But I did neglect to bring one special skein which I bought online after falling in love (I’m generally not the type to do this.)


This will probably be my next project. It will be both simple and Totally Awesome, in a 1980s kind of way.

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A Job and a Commission


Well, I now have a job! So my life lately has been all about adjusting to that. Plus, the new cat is still being a crazy shelf ornament who won’t come down, and my husband was away on training for a week, and it feels like laundry never ends . . .

. . . but I got this commission done for a friend who saw one of these somewhere and wanted one. I feel a bit iffy about it because I think the original was better. I might tweak this a bit before I hand it over.

And that’s about it, except to say I might be taking casting again in July, if enough people sign up for it (yes, Bob is back.)

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The Leaf at Last



So I finished this up yesterday, although I gave little evidence here that I’d been working on it off-and-on for six months:



This project is a mash-up of two things. First, it’s a lacy leaf pattern I found in Jewelry Craft for Beginners (1974), a book I have had since childhood. It’s not the greatest guide by today’s standards, the equipment used in those days was questionable (hello, asbestos), and most of the projects were just . . . ah . . . typical of the era, but the book had a certain charm, especially the hand-drawn illustrations. I always liked this leaf template, which was meant for plique-a-jour enameling (think stained glass, with enamel in every little cutout space.) So, ever since I started metalsmithing in earnest, I’d been wanting to just make the leaf in copper. Getting a flex shaft last winter made the idea even more appealing, because I could easily drill a hole in each cell and saw them out at home, at my leisure. Which I did.



I also made a matching leaf shape from a piece of brass I’d used in the rolling mill, which had a bit of texture on it. I started thinking about how’d I’d rivet the two together, and then I got interested in the pendant on the cover of my new favorite jewelry book in the whole wide world, The Complete Photo Guide to Making Metal Jewelry. This features a copper piece and a brass piece riveted together, with tubing spacers keeping them a bit apart. That seemed nifty, because that way the lacy top would make some pretty shadows on the brass below. So I sanded and polished these two up, and stuck the copper part in the oven at 500 degrees for some 10-15 minutes to get a nice magenta/green going on. I thought I should seal both pieces right away with some spray Krylon–well, I ought to have waited.* Riveting tends to make dings, no matter how careful you try to be, and I should have waited until that was done and the dings polished out. But anyway.



The riveting itself made me nervous–imagine screwing that up, after all this work–so I dug up some small discs and some tubing and gave the concept a shot.



Making rivets is a bit of a pain, as you have to get the pieces exactly the right size, and I didn’t have the right drill bits and had to order some, guessing the exact size I needed, but . . . no big deal. Just fuss, and ordering, and waiting, and getting busy on other projects. After months of sitting on this one, I decided to finish it up last night.

Because these holes are so teeny–smaller than my center punch–I used a tiny, tiny bur to just barely divot the center of each black spot where a rivet would go. Then I was able to drill on the marks with no skittering. These holes were just a touch too small, so I reamed them out a bit with some diamond-plated burs (new toy!) until the rivets fit.


Did the same with the brass piece (taped the two together to make sure they were exactly the same) and now, the fun part: assembly. I picked up a great tip from The Complete Photo Guide . . . hold the rivet in your pliers, and hammer one end to spread the metal a bit (do NOT have anything under the rivet; do it over the V in your V board or something.) Now you can put them in the holes of your bottom piece, and they won’t fall out (from the bottom, anyway). I added tape under mine, just to make it easier to get the whole thing over to the anvil.



Did that make sense? Hope so. Because now you put your carefully-measured, annoying little tubing spacers on each of the rivets (they should be of a diameter that fits outside the rivets perfectly) and finagle your top piece over those. If all goes well, and you didn’t drill anything a little off, you can start whacking the rivets with the spreading end of a riveting hammer. Once you’ve got them all going, you can flip the piece and start doing the same to the back . . . back and forth, back and forth . . . until it’s all neat and together, at which point you switch to the square head of the hammer and whack them all down one last time.

leafdoneAnd there you go! I screwed up a bit on one spacer . . . just the tiniest bit smaller than the others! . . . but besides that, not bad for my first time! I’ll have to get a brass chain for this.


*Also, in the end, I’m not sure I like the shiny-shininess of a glossy finish. Perhaps I ought to have left it unsealed and open to tarnish, but that magenta is just so darn pretty.


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We’re All Anxious Here

This week I’ve been preoccupied with job interviews, business casual shopping, and a new cat situation, so jewelry has been off the table (hmmm, literally) and knitting has been going at a slow pace. I did, however, finally start something I’ve been wanting to do since Stitches Midwest 2013: use my first/favorite sock yarn:


I have to admit I’m a bit “over” this yarn; it’s a lot busier than I thought it would be. That’s why I’m doing the simplest sock possible. I tried something a bit more fancy and it just . . . ugh . . .

froggedI’ll be sure to try this pattern with a mellower yarn, though.

I’m really liking the toe-up socks, mainly because I don’t have to deal with the tubular cast on. And I’ve gotten better at the figure eight cast on. Somehow I need to work TBL on the top row and not the bottom to keep the stitches from getting twisted. Well, whatever, it looks good.

castonThe markers were for the star toe on the pattern I rejected; not my favorite toe, either.

Last weekend I paused this project to whip up a little something for a potential new friend. A kitty friend. It’s been about six months since old man Mongo shuffled off this mortal coil, and I’ve been feeling the need for another cat. So we went down to a local shelter and picked one out, a two-year-old girl kitty with black fur and big round yellow eyes. She was sweet in the kennel and let me pet her and rub her belly, so naturally I fell in love.

And so this.

intarsiaMade with love and catnip. Lots of catnip.

This is my first intarsia project, a technique I’ve been wanting to give a try. It took some fiddling to get going because the written instructions I had were not that helpful. As it turns out, all you really need to know is that when you change yarns, you twist the old with the new. When you first add a color, the end hangs in front, but after that, all the changing action happens in the back. And it can get a bit fussy, like at the top of the heart where it changes from blue to fuscia to blue to fuscia to blue again–all separate strands.

intarsiaprogressBobbins? We don’t need no stinkin bobbins.

Turns out this isn’t my favorite technique in the world, but it’s good to have in my toolbox of skills.

As for the kitty, well, we brought her home a few days ago and she’s too petrified to play with it. Or eat. Or come out of hiding. She was a feral cat who took some time warming up to the volunteers at the shelter (at which point she did become one of the resident cuddle bugs.) I can’t even show you a picture of her because I literally can’t get one. But . . . it takes time, and I’m doing my homework on anxiety in cats. I think I understand. All this interview business has had me crazy stressed because I’m the shy type too (spent a lot of time this week reviewing my old standby, How to Control Your Anxiety Before Your Anxiety Controls You by Dr. Albert Ellis–highly recommended.)

So . . . we’re both going to survive, no matter what. Our systems just don’t believe it yet.

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Chain Chain Chain, Chain of Fools

And here it is, my very first chain!


It needs a touch more polishing to get rid of the after-pickling whiteness, and there are a few solder blorps that need to be ground down, but I’m in no hurry to do that. I’ve learned a good trick for getting myself to work on lazy days: tell myself, oh, just go downstairs and polish up that bracelet for like 15 minutes. Three hours later, I’ll still be working on things I’ve left unfinished. (I’ve mentioned it before, but this project is a variation of this tutorial, and a very good learning project indeed.)

There’s not much else to report on the jewelry front, because I’ve been busy trying to line up a day job for myself and I get worked up with all kinds of crazy anxiety when I have to do grown-up, real-world stuff like that. (But I did it. I did it, and I have an interview next week. Maybe I’ll be able to afford some fancy-pants goldsmith hammers soon, after all!) In fact, I’ve been so worked up, I hadn’t even planned out a project for class last night. That’s OK–I’m a big fan of unstructured playtime for kids of all ages.

First thing I did was to run some base metal through the rolling mill with a variety of texture-producing materials.


My intent was to texture copper pieces, sandwiched between plates of brass (to protect the mill from “picking up” the texture) but as a nice bonus, the top sheets of brass also took on a crisp, clear texture. (The bottom pieces tend to be faint and blurry and aren’t nearly as attractive–but can be re-used, so there’s that.) I used fancy hole punches with card stock to make the stars and maple leaves; a piece of aluminum mesh I found lying in the scrap bin for the bits on the lower left; and a bit of textured ribbon for the brass on the lower right. (Yes; that’s brass. I annealed it with the torch, which tends to redden it up a bit. I’ll have to “super pickle” it with some hydrogen peroxide to get it brassy again.) I’m particularly liking the domes I made with the copper leaf pattern. I can’t believe I didn’t know this already, but recently Bob showed me how to make big domes properly. There isn’t a punch in the studio big enough to dome a large disc without warping or pinching the sides, so the thing to do is to use a big, big hardware store hammer with a large ball on the end. Hold that against your metal in the dapping punch, and hit the hammer end with, well, another hammer. That’ll do it!

Another thing I did, because I had the time and why not, was to fuse some silver scrap bits together. I’ve heard that fine silver is much better for this than sterling, and I believe it, but I used what I had.


I’m thinking maybe I could make a few more of these and link them together for a bracelet . . . or maybe just toss them into the crucible for a casting project someday, I don’t know. It was fun, anyway. The trick is to get the surface shimmery and a bit melty, but not too much.

And the last thing . . . well, this might be a fail. I don’t know yet.


I read about solder inlay in a Tim McCreight book and have been wanting to try it. So I stamped up this copper piece I never used for something else with some leafy stamps and got to it. It’s . . . hard to control, though. When the solder flows, it flows. And just because you’ve got one bit done doesn’t mean it’ll stay put when you move on to the next. I’d hoped that just using flux where I wanted it to go would stop it, but I think the whole mass of solder and flux just went crazy. Soon I’ll clean this up and see what I’ve got. Not optimistic, though. Well . . . maybe?


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Here there be Dragons

Or, at least, a dragon.


This little dude is a pendant that I just finished up for my sister-in-law. She had shown me a picture of something similar a few months ago, asking if I could make it, and I agreed to try my hand. I changed it up a bit, though, because I didn’t want to steal the design and because I thought, frankly, I should do the mountain a bit smaller (it was more prominent in the original, needlessly so.) For the most part, I’m very happy with how it turned out.

Here’s my original sketch:


And here are the pieces after I cut them out and did a bit of filing. Note the angle of the bail lying there next to the dragon’s head; this is an idea I picked up from Bob. Solder that onto the back and you have a bail that is small and unobtrusive, but you can fit the damn clasp through there. Neat trick.


I did most of the work on this at home, though I had to texture the mountain in the studio (nice forming hammers are still a bit beyond my budget) and get the pieces sweat soldered together. I was nervous about that, but it actually went really well. Even if you end up with solder blorps, if you’re careful, you can melt them and sort of drag the solder where you want it to go with your flame, because it will want to flow where the heat is. I got the main parts done in two shots, and then the bail in one–I thought; a very small bit of it didn’t anchor down. I could’ve left it, but chose to add a smidge of easy solder and do it again. Now it’s fine.

I struggled with the surface a lot, though. The tumbler left it with a very shiny surface, kind of flashy in a way I can’t imagine my SIL liking. Plus, I had trouble getting a nice, uniform darkness on the mountain with silver black (I also tried liver-of-sulfur, which didn’t quite get me a uniform blue.) In the end I gave the whole thing a satiny finish with my radial bristle wheels and called it a day. I think the residual silver black around the tail sets it off from the mountain quite nicely . . . although I do see one spot I should fix up a bit. I never can stop fussing.

Anyway, since I mentioned Bob, he came by the studio last week, not exactly out the woods, but feeling better, which is good. I spent most of the evening at the soldering table, doing the tedious work of getting my very first chain together. It’s not quite done, so I’ll go on about that later.



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Good Enough

Let’s just pretend I have the ends all weaved in and done.

goodenoughJust like we’re going to pretend I cleaned the cat hair blobs off the doormat before taking the photo.

I’d also like to pretend I had enough blue to finished the patterned area, but I didn’t. That’s okay; these are just around-the-house socks for the winter, and a stashbust to boot. Mostly, I’m just happy I had enough green yarn, because I cut it very close, with only about two feet left in the end.

Now I’m going to leave off the sock-making for a while and get a crocheted mobile done for a friend. The good news is, I only have to crochet the pieces, and she’ll do all the sewing together and finishing.

But right now it’s like summer weather, and yarncraft is just the last thing I feel like doing, so: later!

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