Happy Halloween

Well, just as I was getting all into my wax ring models, I realized I had to get down to business on my Halloween costume before a community trick or treat event  on 10/21 that I volunteered for. The good news: I had it half-done. Sort of. Remember this crazybusiness?


I made that a good three years ago and never got around to the rest of it. So, thanks to my buddy Pinterest, I found a diagram and some basic–really, really basic–instructions for making a Viking coat. The bad news: this was written for someone who knows their way around a sewing machine, and while that kinda-sorta was me years ago, I’d forgotten it all. Actually, that’s not quite right. The sewing machine is the easy part. The measuring, the cutting, the pinning, the marking, the ironing, the seaming . . . so many steps with their own little quirks.

helpI did have help, though.

It all took more time than I anticipated, and though it’s got an amateur-hour quality to it, I got it done with no major problems. The only real alteration I made was to shorten the coat to a tunic (and not cut the front open); if I were to do this over next year with better fabric (yeah, right) I’d make it just a bit longer, because I forgot that actually having a, you know, body tends to make tunics shorter than you think.


Accessories weren’t difficult: I got a belt from the thrift store, a ring featuring a skull with a giant axe through it from Six Flags Great America a billion years ago, my husband’s gray sweat pants, furry slipper-boots from the Kmart that’s going out of business in our town, and as for a weapon . . .

lilmjolnirOh, Li’l Mjolnir!

My riveting hammer just didn’t seem mighty enough. The fly-by-night Halloween store in my neighborhood had a Marvel licensed Thor hammer, but it was 20 bucks so I said screw that and bought a giant plastic broadsword for 10 bucks instead.


My favorite comment of the evening was probably from the kid who was all, “I know what–who–I know what that is! It’s like from the dragon–How to Tame Your Dragon movie.” And my least favorite was probably from the boy who grabbed my hem and was all, “Is this a dress?” Hands off, kid.

As for sewing, I can’t tell if I never want to do it again or if I want to look through some old patterns I have and get busy on something else! Truth is, this isn’t the time to get involved, and by the time it is, I’ll have lost interest, so farewell again, my sewing hobby.

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Filed under crochet, sewing, yak yak yak

Lazy Chain (and other news)

I had several ideas for making my own chain for this piece I’d been carrying around for a while, but in the end I bought a couple lengths of prefab at the local bead store, twisted them together, popped on a clasp, and called it done.


The copper bit was a piece I fished out of the studio base metal recycle bin ages ago and hammered up. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to do with it, until Bob gave a me a couple of white bronze horned toads he cast years ago from some ready made wax models. I tried one out and the pieces went together perfectly.


from 2013!

So my big thing lately has been an attempt at a Sydney Lynch-esque box bezel for a beautiful, faceted rutilated quartz stone I bought at the gem and mineral show last year. It was quite the challenge, as I needed to make a step bezel inside to keep the stone in place. This wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the stone were, say, round or perfectly rectangular, but all four sides have a bit of a curve to them, and making a perfect fit was a challenge I kind of failed.


I made both inner and outer boxes from two bent pieces–think L7–soldered together. Only, the inner bezel slipped, so you can see the corner doesn’t meet up properly. And, somehow in all the soldering, the corners of the outer bezels popped open just a bit (and no, trying to fill them with solder didn’t work, and by that time I had got the bail on with a ton of sloppy, extra easy solder, and trying to fix one would just make the other melt and fall off again . . . you get the picture.) The upshot is, I totally could set this stone right now if I wanted to and have an adequate piece of jewelry that no one would really notice the flaws of. But I think the stone deserves better. And I think I learned a few things on this one. So, when I have the energy and drive again, I’ll just do it over. And better.

One last thing on my bench–actually two things. Wax rings I’m carving all by myself.


So far, so good. I found a good tutorial in an old issue of Art Jewelry magazine and I’m following it step by step. I’m more invested in the ring on the left with the lapis stone; the one on the right I’m using for practice, just in case I do something stupid (and I did, once, accidentally start carving the outer edge before it was time and that messed up my ability to measure other areas a bit.) If things continue to go well . . . ah, but I won’t jinx it. I’m just having a really good time working on jewelry lately, which hasn’t been true for a while.

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Filed under metals, necklace, practice, ring, soldering, stones/gems, wax carving

Feeling Better, or: Something Old, Something New


A couple weeks ago I made a trip to the local bead store to do a little impulse shopping (actually, there was one thing I needed . . . and I’ll get to that in the coming days . . . ) and these are some beads I took home and strung up. A bit more expensive than I usually do, but I really liked the iridescent daggers and thought I’d just go for it. I like to have beading breaks in between classes, although this time around we had studio time every single week right up until fall session started.

And speaking of studio time, I’ve decided it’s time. Time to learn how to do this.


Hoo boy. I’ve heard that it’s good to always be a novice at something; keeps the brain sharp. Well, here we go. I tend to suck at subtractive processes–I can add bits together to make something, but to see it in a block of wax and carve away the excess? No, I don’t have any innate abilities there. But maybe I can get some experience. Anyway, I’m excited. The project is a very simple ring and surely I can’t . . . no, I won’t jinx it.

And in other news, I hit the annual gem, fossil, and rock show and scored (among a few other things) these beauties, which remind me of nothing so much as vintage 1970s art:

stones1pretty sure that bottom one is a sunset from an old Sesame Street cartoon

I’d like to sit down and draw up some sketches for what I could do with these stones, and as luck has it, it’s now October, which you might know as #Inktober. I’ve been meaning and meaning to get back into drawing again, but my efforts have been sporadic and my hand has gone to crap. Really, I’m terribly out of practice, and my writing/drawing hand is now just my mouse hand and it shows. So, every day this month, I am going to draw. Maybe not always with ink. Maybe I’ll just doodle or do exercises some days, I don’t know. I’m not going to bother posting them anywhere. I just need to do it and be that person who draws again.

And one last thing I’ve been doing: I set aside the crafty business books for a while in favor of some guides with titles like “Art and Fear” and “Staying Sane in the Arts.” So far they’ve been very helpful for me in deciding what I want to do and how I want to go about it and how to get and sustain the mental energy I need to accomplish this. More on that as I go.

And more posting in general. I might go back to, indeed, posting my works in progress instead of waiting until something’s finished. It seems to keep me going some days when I don’t feel like it.


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Filed under beads, casting, drawing, necklace, stones/gems, yak yak yak

Sand Casting in the Sand*

I’ve been a touch burned out lately, or bored, or just avoidypants because I need to get out of my office job and find a new one and thinking about going for it and selling jewelry like a Real Artist instead seems alternately like a great idea and an awfully stupid one.

But enough about me, I spent some time in class learning a new thing: sand casting.


The sand feels like brown sugar and smells like Play-Doh. You smush it into half of the two-part circular mold, place the object you want to cast (in my case, a “coin” from a game), fit the second circle on top (there’s a groove on both so you can line them up perfectly, which is important later), and tamp more sand in there, being careful not to shift or rock the piece. Oh, I forgot–that white dust? Mica. It’s a release, so you can get the two halves apart again. Just brush it on your object and the bottom sand with a paintbrush and you’ll be fine.


So when you have your two parts separated again, you can turn your attention to the top piece. Here I’ve used a hollow brass rod to make the pour spout for the  metal. And I’ve used a soldering pick to make vent holes around half the coin. I didn’t do the world’s greatest job on this, and consequently the edges of my repro coin didn’t come out as smoothly as they should have. It’s hard to think in reverse, but remember you can always grind away excess metal, so scrape away the sandy bits and make sure you’ll get enough metal around the holes.


On the reverse side of this top piece, carve out a funnel shape on the pour hole (I used an X-acto knife for this.) Make it good and wide. Put the two halves back together, lining up the grooves I mentioned before so top and bottom match up like they should. Now–if your two halves aren’t a tight fit (anymore), you may want to put a band of tape around them. I didn’t on my first try, and pouring the pewter made them come apart and my coin ended up looking like when you overpour a waffle.


Here’s the big reveal! A nice pewter knockoff. Although I’ve cut off the excess metal bits and ground down the edges (so easy with pewter) I haven’t quite finished it yet, and maybe I never will. I understand I can use black acrylic paint to make it antique looking, and I suppose eventually I will.

But first I should really get back to looking at job ads. Ugh, art and craft breaks just don’t last long enough.

*Robin Sparkles

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Filed under casting, experiment

Finished Business

As 2016 winds down, I’ve been making strides in finishing up some projects and ideas that I had set aside for . . . oh . . . two years or so? Three? I’ll start with the one I’m most excited about:


This little everyday-wearable copper beauty is made of washers. Hardware store washers! I hammered and stamped and domed and drilled them back in summer class my first year of real jewelry making:


And now that I finally have a chain I like, and the patience to make some jump rings, well, it’s all done now. Three years later.

Here’s another thing from that era, me playing around with links made with some lovely glass beads from my local bead shop:


They are finally necklace material now.


And while this, technically, isn’t something I started and stopped years ago, I have been meaning to do it for some time.


The (aluminum!) chain is Sam’s Chain from Spotlight on Wire, something I’ve done before and wanted to revisit in larger link form. The beads . . . well, I’d hoped to wire-wrap them back in the day, but meh.

And now back to new things, as summer 2016 draws to a close and I need to clean up some silver pieces I made in class.

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Filed under beads, necklace

When QBert was Q*Bert and Asterisks in Search Terms Weren’t a Thing

I started–and soon abandoned–a stashbust crazy quilt style knit blanket three years ago. This week, I decided to pick up the needles (and acrylic yarn!) again and get to work on something I always wanted to do.


Intarsia is not my favorite thing, and the instructions I’d been trying were troublesome as far as adding new threads goes. With the help of some better YouTube videos, I got off to a new start last weekend and had my Q*Bert square made in a jiffy. Or, almost a jiffy. I screwed up a few times and had to re-do some rows (reading charts is also not my favorite thing), and managing all those yarns–ugh.

scrapghan2Mother of God.

Yeah, weaving in all those ends took an entire two-hour knit night with the group, and I didn’t even notice until then that I had somehow carried one of the orange yarns from Q*Bert’s butt to the top of his head instead of adding in a new yarn. Or did I? I tried to follow the yarn to see if it was just an end I mistakenly wove in the wrong place, but I don’t think so. More to the point, I’m past caring. I don’t think I’ll continue with intarsia unless it’s for some brief detail with two or three bobbins at most.

And now that I’m done with socks for a while, as I’ve said before, maybe I’ll get back on this afghan and make more squares. I’m nervous about the reverse side, though. Maybe I’ll use the bajillion skeins of black and white that I have to make a backing afghan and just stitch them together back to back or something, because most of the squares I’m doing definitely have a wrong side nobody needs to see.


And just how I’m going to get all these different squares stitched together nicely is .. . a project for another day.


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Filed under afghan, knitting

The End of an Era

I am, at last, heartily sick of socks. Why, I’m almost not excited about finishing these bad boys.



This is the Mystic Spiral sock (which I’ve done before) in some special yarn indeed. It’s hand-dyed from String Theory Colorworks and the colorway is Luciferin, which I fell in love with the second I saw it a good year or so ago and knew I had to do something crazy with it. And this pattern definitely fit that bill. I was pleased to find that after posting these on Ravelry, Caitlin from STC herself came across them and posted them on her patterns and ideas page.

And now I’ve had more than enough to do with socks, and will be returning to some other knitting projects. Maybe. I might go easy on the knitting for a while; I’ve been getting some pain in my left thumb that I can’t quite explain, except that knitting, metalsmithing, and moving 10-pound files around at work all day probably had a lot to do with it.

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