So, remember this little experiment from a couple months ago?


It wasn’t quite all I hoped it would be, so I took it apart and tried again. My main goal was to have the ability to spin the cylinder beads, because they remind me of prayer wheels, and that’s kind of cool. Tight rivets made that impossible, and the bead holes are too small for tubing that would make it work better. So, after about a week of sketching ideas at work during the receptionist’s lunch hour (when they make me watch the phone), I came up with a more horizontal idea using balled headpins. And it worked!


Everything here is just wiggly enough that the beads can be turned. Setting the middle bead presented a challenge, because I couldn’t take a torch to the top end of the wire (or could I have? I don’t think the beads would have liked the heat. Also, the wire is 18 gauge, so . . . a lot of heat to ball it up.) I made it a flat rivet, which looks all right. The bars were scraps I found in the classroom bin, cut down, cleaned up, and hammered with a screwdriver and nail punches for a little texture. I was going for something a bit irregular and ancient-looking, rather than the perfectly thin and straight side bars in my first design. So yeah, I think this one’s a keeper.

One last class tonight for the year, and I may have some things to post after the holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Go Fish

I can’t believe this is finally done.


So I started talking about this way back in September (Way back? Seems a lot longer ago than it really was) and, obviously, I’ve worked it out since then, one frustrating but ultimately rewarding step at a time. To recap:

Here’s an impression of the koi design from the hilt of this sword–in gold-colored Sculpey.


I made this mold nearly a decade ago, with the intent of pressing another piece of gold clay into it to make a pendant. It worked, but looked like a plastic piece of crap (and I can’t find it to show you anyway.) So I squirreled it away somewhere and didn’t think about it again until I was looking for a new casting project to attempt. BINGO.


I know this is a lame photo (and kind of looks like lungs, no?) But it’s the result of multiple attempts to get a perfecty-perfect wax mold from the Sculpey (which is not the world’s greatest material for this. I’d have been better off getting some flexible silicone mold making material.) For a while there I was obsessing, making more Sculpey molds, each more disappointing than the last, and then making wax mold after wax mold until Bob caught me at it and told me to just sprue a couple of them up, already, and see what I’ve got. Yeah. I needed that.


And here they are after cleaning and cutting off the sprues. Bob was impressed–I think he had low expectations. I was depressed–I had higher ones, and a vision of really nice, even, crisp-edged ovals. Well, maybe I could have done that . . . maybe I still could, if I improve at this stuff. But in time, I came to like what I got, especially the bottom one. The top has a funny wax-blorp upper left corner that I may work on with diamond-plated burs and/or engraving tools. Maybe I’ll make a bracelet with it . . . but that’s another day.


Now for the setting in a wire rim. This turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected, because I made An Amateur Mistake. Before I sprued up the molds, I ought to have run the backs over a file a couple times to smooth them out, nice and even. Did I? No. They were wavy and blobby. So I had to file them down in metal form. I went back and forth from the lathe, and it its big old sanding disk, to a 12-inch bastard file, over a period of an hour and a half to get the back flat. Not how I want to spend class time, but it was my own fault, and definitely the kind of mistake you make once and never make again. And in the end the back was flat and smooth, so THERE.

Setting was not too hard. I put some yellow ochre on the fish just in case the solder wanted to blorp up there and ruin the details, flipped it, and soldered the wire rim on from the back. Then I had to get the bail on–always tough for me when it’s a tiny bail on a big chunk of metal, because the bail always gets hot first and the solder jumps up on it instead of joining the two parts. The trick is to keep the torch on the big part and try not to directly heat the little–took a few tries, but I got it. The only real problem, in the end, was that I seemed to lose some solder from the join at the bottom of the wire rim. I think, with all the heating and reheating, it flowed again a little . . . and away from the edge. Grrr. I’m not going to futz with it, though.

So, a little Black Max and into the polisher it went–but that took off more of the black than I wanted and left a shiny grayness that didn’t really show off the design (I liked it best just after casting, a bit dull and with a perfect black fire scale.) Had to bring it in again after cleaning up a little solder blorpiness on the back at home, and painted the blacking stuff on the front again. Buffed off some detail, and finally! It’s done.

Done, and ready for a teacher/student exhibition  that goes live tomorrow. It’s not my very favorite piece, and I might have preferred to submit something that was totally my own design and not an impression literally copied from something else, but for the theme of the exhibit, I needed something that had to do with Bob’s help and influence. And this definitely, definitely fit that bill because I needed his advice every step of the way.

And now I can’t wait to see it in the gallery!

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Scarf Break

Last time I talked about knitting, I believe I said I was done with socks for a while. So I made some scarves.

This is one is made of Noro Kureyon, a worsted weight yarn I ordered online some 3 or 4 years ago for a specific shawl. Well, it turned out not to be a good yarn for that pattern, so it sat around until I found the Directional Scarf from Lion Brand. And here it is!


Pretty sweet all-triangle entrelac, although it’s been so long since I’ve done one of these that I forgot to dump the long-tail cast on in favor of a make-as-you-go one (hell, I don’t even know what that’s called or where I put the printout.) Anyway, here’s one of the most irritating things about this yarn, its tendency to go from very thick to very thin:


And one more: this was a skein of homespun given to me last Christmas by my knitting buddy Kristi:


It’s a simple two-in-one half double crochet stitch from one of those old Harmony guides.

And now I’m back to socks. I’ve frogged these because they never quite fit, and this yarn was too damn expensive to waste like that.


So that’s that, blah blah, and soon I’ll have an awesome casting project to talk about. An awesome, awesome casting project.

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Filed under crochet, knitting, scarf

I Made a Thing


I post so infrequently these days, it probably seems like I’m not doing much, but I am. I just do a lot of things at the same time, and since I decided not to post about them until they’ve been finished, well, I can go a couple weeks between posts.

Anyway, this is a pendant I designed a couple weeks ago when class started up again. I wanted to (1) do something unique; (2) use up some scrap; (3) set more than one stone in a piece, (and tiny stones at that!); and (4) do a lot of tricky soldering for the sheer practice of it. Well, I’m not 100% happy with what I ended up with, but I learned a lot, and that was the point.

Here’s a reference shot of what I came up with after spending some time fiddling with tiny silver bits that were rattling around in my scrap tin (and two red agate cabs from my stash.)


And here’s what I had after half a class period of soldering. Things didn’t quite stick down exactly where I wanted them to, but they did stick down. And I didn’t melt anything. So . . . yay? I had a hard time getting that last jump ring on, and just when I thought I made it, I put the whole thing in the pickle and the other jump ring fell off.  (Yes, I used easy on both, and did my best to direct the heat away from the first, but soldering hates me.)


Next class period a week later, I put a little yellow ochre on that easy join to keep it from flowing again, and got the other ring on. Cleaned up the whole mess and it was pretty sweet, if a little solder-blorpy.  I cleaned it up the best I could, but the surface just–it won’t ever be good enough. I even got some tiny polishing pins by Dedeco and while they cleaned up a lot of mess, well . . . do I fuss it to death? Do I accept imperfections? Am I giving up? Let’s try silicone wheels. Ugh, how about those 3M discs? Polishing paper? Jeez, this is bad. Am I a total amateur? Isn’t an irregular surface cooler than a perfecty-perfect one? Don’t you want it to look handmade? You’re not a machine. No, you’re a total amateur. Give up and play video games instead, loser.

This is my brain. All. The. Time.

And I’ve got bigger problems. Like these tiny stones in these tiny bezels.


Yeah, Bob took one look and said good luck. He also suggested glue. He wasn’t wrong. The stones fit, and I managed to move the metal a bit, but there’s so little room to move my setting tools around in. I also suspect I ought to have made the bezels higher, even if that means covering more of the stones. They just wouldn’t stay in, so I resorted to a touch of epoxy under each. I’m not proud of this failure, but I am accepting of it.

So, I’ve identified some things I need to get better at. And I’m hoping to start buying soldering equipment for my home studio soon, so I’ll have more time and space to improve. Just one last problem, perhaps:


This is Livia, a six-months-old-ish kitten who turned up at my patio door a couple weeks ago without a microchip to be found. Yeah, I’m a sucker. She’s at that jump-on-everything age, and I can’t really banish her from my basement work area (without moving three litter boxes upstairs; no thanks.) Perhaps I’ll wait until she’s a bit older before I set up a soldering station. Until then, I should probably go clean up any teeny-tiny things I have lying around.


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30 Days Hath September . . .

. . . but it took more than that to get my September socks done.


These are adapted from the Whiz Bang pattern, but without the Bootylicious heel (I’ve become partial to afterthought heels, if only because you can replace them easily if they wear out.) I like the slanted, foot-specific toes a lot–they fit me right and will probably become my go-to toe in future.

And now that I’ve finally fallen behind on my one pair-per-month goal, I think I’m going to release myself from it. Knitting is a hobby, FFS, and doesn’t need goals and micromanagement like everything else in my life. I want to make a scarf now, and I’ve got just the pattern so I can finally use the worsted weight Noro that I bought as a mistake three years ago.

Coming soon: soldering, casting, and all that fun stuff.


Filed under knitting, socks

Too Ugh

So I wrapped up one more beading project this week:


The focal is one of several cool beads a friend in my knitting group got me for the holiday exchange last year. As much as I like it, the damn thing had some major chippage around the (crookedly drilled) hole. Sigh. Beads have become the bane of my existence, I’m afraid. Still, I think I managed to fix/fill the problem with a bit of carefully applied epoxy. It probably won’t cut through the double strand of Fireline I strung it on, but I’m not so sure about little irregular glass beads I upcycled from one of my grandmother’s old old broken necklaces.

Well, anyway, I guess I’m done with beads for now. Class started again last night, though for some reason I thought I had another week to go. Wrong. I noticed the reminder email about ten minutes before classtime, so I packed up whatever tools I had lying around and hauled ass across town to get there. It may have been the very first time I didn’t have five million things to do in the studio at once, which was probably good for me. It gave me time to work carefully on this.


But let’s backtrack a bit. This is a polymer clay impression I made of the koi design on top of the hilt of some repro samurai sword thing my husband has (or had; this was 7-8 years ago and I can’t find the damn sword now to save my life.) Wouldn’t that make an awesome silver pendant? So I lubed it up a bit (hee hee) and set to filling it with wax. The first attempt almost worked–it came out great except around the edges where I didn’t make it thick enough and it chipped a little. Sod it, try again. Well, subsequent attempts just didn’t work for one reason or another, with cracks, bad areas, sticky areas, I don’t know. Appears I messed up the mold, too, with all those little gouges you can see in the picture.

This just hasn’t been my week, so I gave up, packed it in, and took it home to clean out as best as possible. Perhaps I’ll try again with a little olive oil (worked well for me with the pawprint last summer) and melt down the bad impressions I already made. Right now I’m just too ugh to care.

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A New Thing

In my efforts to destash beads and think of new ideas, I came up with something that would utilize more than one bead, which is kind of a rarity for me.


Here’s how that went.

Planish two 14 g wires like so.


Ream the beads a bit with a diamond-plated drill bit so a bit of tubing can actually fit in there (grumble, grumble.)


Mark drill holes on planished wires as carefully as you can. Start the holes by grinding them just a bit with a tiny bur bit.


Cut tubing for each bead. I made mine just a touch longer than the beads . . . and learned the beads aren’t all exactly the same size (or perfect shape, either.) Perhaps they weren’t the best choice for something I wanted to look uniform.

Curl the non-drilled ends of the planished wires over to make bails. (Note they should be planished in the opposite direction of the other ends.)

Put the tubing in the beads, run a close-fitting wire through the planished wire, tubing with bead, and other planished wire. Cut and rivet. (My tubing fit a 22 gauge wire.) Do the other two. Yes, this will be fiddly and annoying and won’t come out as nicely as you’d hoped (if you’re me.)

My aim was for the beads to spin freely on the tubing, like prayer wheels or something. They do turn, but not smoothly. I think if I had had a second, slightly larger tubing to go over the first, I could have accomplished this. Obviously, if I try again, I’ll need beads with bigger holes. And there were some at the local bead shop . . . hmmm . . .

So, not bad for a first draft. And I am impressed by the teeny tiny rivets, if I do say so myself. If I do such a thing again with slightly organic, imperfect beads, I’ll maybe make it look a bit rough on purpose: hammer texture the wires, stuff like that.

Next up: macrame, revisited.


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Filed under beads, experiment, pendant, practice, wire