April Valentine

As the Year of the Sock chugs on, and I’ve actually kept up with my goal of making one pair of socks per month, I bring you April’s entry, a self-striping little number:


If they look a little . . . February to you, well, my friend Mrs. Shoo bought the yarn a while back with the idea of making these for Valentine’s Day, until she remembered she doesn’t really like pink anyway and wouldn’t wear them. She offered it to me, and as I was a bit nervous about making toe-up socks with an afterthought heel for the first time, I figured it would be perfect to learn with.

And learn I did. Here’s what I found from the get-go, trying to make a figure-eight cast on.

bad time1

Seriously, there’s a reason all the YouTube videos I could find on this feature the two-circular-needles method (and everybody’s a continental knitter, which appears to be really useful for knitting through back loops.) It’s pretty tough going with dpns, although holding them in a way that’s more perpendicular than parallel helps somewhat. Also, didn’t bother knitting tbl on the first needle, and so my stitches are crossed.


The next thing I learned was that this yarn is pretty darn thin (as in fine) for a sock yarn, and I had to do it over with size 2 needles, not size 1. Even so, I still got 9 stitches to the inch, not 8, and the length of the toes isn’t even close to what it should have been. I got paranoid about the foot not being long enough and ended up making it half an inch too long. Still don’t care. They fit well enough.

The heel itself was nice. All you do is knit a piece of scrap yarn where you want the heel to go, and keep making a tube until you’re done with the leg. Then you go back and stick a needle in the stitches above and below the scrap, take that out, and work in the round in the gap. Like this.

afterthought1Okay, it’s a little fussy. But not much.

This is a very, very nice method for self-striping yarns, or even complicated yarns like the one I used for this sock:


I could have avoided breaking up the pattern around the heel if I’d known to do this (not that it’s that bad, but still.) Here’s my lovely Valentine heel . . .

afterthoughtheelheel. . . and my undignified leg.

Next up, I think, is going to be another worsted weight ankle sock. I’ve got a bit of blue and a bit of green KnitPicks yarn, and I’ll probably just whip up a cuff-down basic sock with a bit of an easy diamond pattern from a stitch dictionary. Next week I’m on a road trip, and I think this’ll be a good travel project.

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What’s Going On

button3It’s my first shank button!

But before we get to that, well, this round of classes has been canceled because Bob is having some serious health issues I won’t get into here, and he’s going into surgery soon. (Hope he’ll be OK!)

Apparently, though, there’s going to be an open studio situation, so I’ll have to figure out what I want to do. Actually, there is one thing I have to do: my sister-in-law requested a dragon pendant, something like this sketch I made that’s a bit like something she showed me (but not too much):


This is going to require a lot of sawing, with a few interior cuts I’m not sure I’m good enough to handle. So last night I worked on some scrap silver, just trying to make different squiggles and shapes:

button1This disc was going to be something else entirely, but I never got around to it (you can see I made seven cuts along the edge; it wasn’t as interesting as I thought it might be.)

So, after cutting that up, drilling some holes, cleaning and polishing, I had a weird bit of silver I didn’t know what to do with. As I also have a ton of base metal discs I also don’t know what to do with . . . hey, why not put them together?


I kind of liked it with a brass disc I once textured with a very coarse grinding wheel, and a big copper piece with some random hammering around the edges. I realized two of the holes in the silver disc were close enough to make a sort of slightly-off centered button. I drilled everything carefully to accommodate a piece of 14-gauge scrap copper wire (U-shaped, to look like rivets on the front and a shank on the back) and sandwiched it all together. Wedged a bunch of rods in the shank for support, and clamped it in a vise to do the riveting. That went a bit easier than I thought it would. The only thing I wish I had thought to do was to maybe hammer the shank a little flat, so there would be absolutely no give, no layers slipping down (the copper one moves just enough to annoy me.) Also, I’m tempted to put a brass tubing rivet in the remaining hole, because on the big screen it just looks empty and dumb.

Eventually I’m going to make a cowl or something with some green/blue yarn handspun by my friend Kristi, but until then, the button has no home.

And speaking of sawing:

lotus1The lotus is a holdover from my sandpaper-copper-rolling mill days, a faint impression in the protective brass sheet that I wanted to do something with. Unfortunately, the lotus impression was just a bit too faint to make sense, so I cut out the shapes and did my best to sand and polish without losing the sandpaper texture. It’s going to be a pendant soon.

And of course, the other thing up there is daruma. I cut him from the backing and now I need to make the oval a bit better, as well as a lot more grinding and polishing to make everything smooth and shiny. It’s like that never ends, and I never get it right in the end anyway. Suppose I’ll learn.

Edit: Now I’m sure I’ll learn! I found this video from beaducation.com that’s a pretty thorough explanation of different polishing bits and how to use them properly. Let’s put it this way: any time the narrator says “I see my students do this all the time,” well, that’s me.




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Filed under metals, riveting

Micro Mosaic Bead Ring, Take 2

Oh, this poor, stupid, obnoxious ring. I think I am done. At least, I did manage to make a decent mosaic with teeny tiny size 15 beads.


Especially when you compare it to my first attempt, with size 11 Delicas.


This project fought me at every step (scroll on back if you want to rehash; I do not) and in the end I’ve learned quite a bit from both the metalsmithing side and the mosaic side, so that’s good. I’ve also learned that being too lazy to go to the craft store to get some ICE resin is no excuse for globbing clear nailpolish onto something instead. I swear, I’ve done that like three times now and I can’t get a decent dome on top of the mosaic because nail polish shrinks when it dries. A lot. Maybe I can still put resin on top . . . ? We’ll see. It has a certain cheesy quality right now that I really don’t like.

You may be wondering how I managed to dig out the first mosaic, in which I had used two-part epoxy to get the beads glued in. Well, I had watched Bob do something for a fellow student who had a stone that needed to come out of its setting (in which it was glued), so I knew exactly what to do, and it worked like a charm.

For this project, you would need an alcohol lamp (fueled by denatured alcohol)  and some cross-locking tweezers. I have none of these things at home, and if you don’t either, you can make do with a small candle, barbecue tongs and/or an oven mitt. Oh yes, and a metal pick of some sort.

mosaicremovalprogressYay! Do-over!

First, you might want to scrub out as much grout as possible. I used an old mascara wand (all-around excellent tool) for this. Now hold the piece over your candle (metal side down, naturally) and heat it up good, because epoxy doesn’t like heat. Now you can easily start picking at the mosaic with a sharp metal tool, and bits should start coming out. This may take a while if you’re using stupid barbecue tongs like I did, and your hand will get tired. Other than that, should be smooth sailing.

mosaicbitsAnd here’s the remains of two mosaics I didn’t like, in my handy “no food use” Pyrex bowl.

You may need to clean up the setting a bit with grinding/polishing tools or sandpaper or whatever, and you’ll definitely have some black carbon to wash off the metal, but essentially you’ll be back to a clean slate.

Which is, by the way, where I am with this former mosaic you may remember:


I bought some nice beads for the new version, but they have a kind of sandblasted finish and I’m not sure tile grout would just wipe off them as easily as smoothly-polished ones. Also–and let’s be honest–I no longer have the heart for this, so I’m just going to let it be until I’m ready someday.

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Filed under metals, necklace, ring

I Like to Rivet Rivet

I . . . never did post about this one, did I? The riveted bead ring based entirely on a great YouTube tutorial video by Soham Harrison?



I started this in February, I think, because while I had made and liked this riveted ring (below) last fall, the greater complexity of Harrison’s ring really caught my attention.



I won’t get too much into technical detail, because if you want to see that you should just watch the two videos. I will, however, share some things I learned from this one.

  1. (And this is the big one!) It can be a major challenge finding an appropriate stone bead for riveting like this. You need to choose one that is drilled cleanly, with a small hole (on both ends!) and is drilled straight, not on a diagonal. (The mother-of-pearl inlay bead I used seemed perfect, but it is drilled on a very slight angle, and the checkerboard design only makes it more obvious.) It’s probably best to buy your bead at your local bead shop, not online, and take a bit of wire with you to test the hole.
  2. Harrison’s tip on how to make a dent to mark your tiny drill hole is genius. The usual wisdom is to mark the spot with a center punch, but if that’s actually too big for the hole you want to drill, take your tiniest burr bit, hold it against the spot, and grind away a tiny bit (see video for exactly how to do it.) This is something that’s been a problem for me for a while now, so I’ve very happy to have found this solution.
  3. I agreed with Harrison’s advice to solder the inner ring from the inside, and let the solder flow up into the join so you don’t have any blorps that would show on the outside, which would already be textured and ready to go. However. Be sure you’ve used enough and that the solder does indeed go all the way to the edges, because when you round it out on a mandrel, and then slightly dap both sides of the ring to make it just a bit anticlastic, you may find the join gapes open just a bit–enough to be annoying. I ignored the problem and had to add more solder from the outside later. Don’t be like me.
  4. Soldering the smaller, outer ring onto the inner ring impresses people. I don’t know why. It’s actually one of the easier operations of the whole thing. ;)
  5. Rubber or silicone polishing tools are your best friends for making rivets all but disappear! Here’s a before shot of my rivet and the little hammer marks I’d made:


All that polished out pretty well. Oh, and as always, tape is your friend when it comes to things you don’t want to get scuffed or dinged by power tools.

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Filed under beads, ring

If I Sits, I Knits


Here’s what I do on the Amtrak, besides reading so-so forensic novels by Patricia Cornwell: knitting easy socks. I did indeed finish my fuzzy house socks, which I worked on during my weeklong stay at my mom’s house, where I ate a lot of corned beef sandwiches and watched marathons of recent CSI episodes. (On videotape. Video. Tape. My mom is old school, yo.)


Once again, the pattern is Tin Can Knits’s Rye, with a shorter leg. The yarn is some discontinued stuff called Geologee, and if Ravelry is any indication, I’m the only one in the world who thinks it’s an appropriate yarn for socks. It may be a touch too nice for that, but unlike all the pretty pretty scarves and cowls I make, this yarn will actually see some use because I love me some fuzzy, bulky winter socks. And apparently, I could have used them yesterday, because the midwest got hit with some snow, just after spring was starting to peek out. Crazy times.

I should also note that I did overcome my second sock syndrome and finished up these bad boys.

sockisasockdoneLook on my works, ye mighty, and despair!

Next up: I was given some very Valentine’s Day-appropriate self-striping yarn in red, pink, and white, not to my friend’s taste. Not really to mine, either, but I want to try a toe-up sock with an afterthought heel, and this looks like the perfect thing for a first try.




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Look, Ma, no bezel!


As this latest round of classes came to an end, I figured it was about time I actually made something with one of my larger broom straw cast pieces. I particularly liked this one, and the way it had a neat groove that a red agate stone I had could neatly slip into. Only one problem: how to keep it there?

I thought about soldering on a bit of metal, like a ridge or a prong, but that might make getting the stone in there a problem. Bob suggested sawing a sort of prong from the ridge on the left–two cuts, and fold down the little strip in between on top of the stone. You wouldn’t really see anything missing, except from the side a bit. And look at the nature of this piece, with so many random vertical bits–it wouldn’t matter.

Sounds easy, except the metal turned out to be way too thick to fold in that direction. I tried futzing with it until that piece snapped off (sigh), and then cut some more. I tried grinding the new “prong” down a bit (from the outside–forget being able to do anything from within that very small ridge.) I don’t know if that helped much. After a while I just started to despair and handed the project off to Bob, who soon realized the problem with the whole idea in the first place. He’s a clever guy, though, and with a bit of thought was able to dig up some thin tools to push the prong with. Also, if you think about it, the shape of this piece precludes being able to clamp or hold it down steadily–just look at all those (relatively) weak points on the bottom! Even so, Bob wrapped it in some cloth and stuck it into a convenient bracket/hole in the desk for a missing work lamp, and that turned out to be just the thing. He got the “prong” to move a bit, and pushed down the rest of that ridge (you can see it angling over the stone a bit in the picture) so nothing is sharp or sticking out or anything. Then a quick ride in the tumbler proved that the stone would not be coming loose anytime soon, if ever. So: success.

Just one thing, which I hadn’t thought of because I was so busy just trying to make this work: I wish I’d thought to polish up the area behind the stone before I set it. A piece with lots of small ridges like this isn’t going to get 100% polished in the tumbler, and though I was able to do much with a steel brush, there’s no way I’m going to use that around a stone. I got as much as I could with a bit of polishing paper and a toothpick, but, Future Me, if you’re reading this: take care next time and polish that part first.

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Filed under casting, pendant, stones/gems

A Little Pitchy, Dawg

paperdarumaPaper daruma my husband made for me with a free pattern from Canon

Until now, the only use I’ve made of the pitch bowl in class has been to scrape out a little bit and attempt (once successfully, once not) to paint a bit of it on the back of moonstones to make them stand out more in a bezel setting. What it’s actually for is repoussé and chasing, and I wanted to give it a shot with some 20 gauge copper I’ve been carrying around for a while.

I might have gone with a simpler design for my first project, but I like to be a bit ambitious at first because there’s more to learn, and I’m not terribly hung up on the looks of the finished project because I know it’ll look like student work no matter what–and that’s good. It’s easier to experiment that way. So I picked a Daruma because I love Japanese folk art and because he’s a lucky little guy, and I could always use some luck in class.

The first thing to do was to heat up the pitch bowl to smooth out the surface, and then let it cool enough that you could touch it without getting tarry gunk on your fingers (actually, the very first thing to do was to turn on the exhaust fan, because as pleasantly woodsy as the fumes are, they’re not exactly good for you.) After that, bend your corners (two up and two down, so you can push two firmly down into the gunk, leaving two you can pull up later when you’re done.) I made a cardstock cutout of the basic design and traced it on with Sharpie, then placed the metal in the bowl.

Now for the repoussé, which is fancy talk for hammering out a relief in metal from the back. This is a bit tricky because you have to think in reverse. I had trouble making the mouth, for instance, because I really worked up a good line from the back, which just looked like a big pushed-out area from the front. In fact, the whole thing kind of looked like a tentacle monster (pushed-out face + belly ridges = Davy Jones from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies) after the first day I worked on it, and I was a bit worried, even though I was told I was doing things right. I even got in touch with my old buddy Jane and we spent a pleasant afternoon earlier this week catching up on our various projects and working on things together in the studio. I really, really, punched out the belly that day, at which point I was ready for the chasing. And here you see the piece right-side up in the pitch, ready for some detailing from the front.

daruma1A set of these tools will set you back at least nearly $200, and I’ve been told that’s not even a good quality set. Yikes.


Two things I forgot to mention: (1) 18-20 gauge metal is good for this, because a lot of work on a thinner metal might tear it or punch through; and (2) pitch is a tarry, disgusting mess. When you pull your piece out of the bowl, you’re likely to take a lot of goo out with it. You can heat it with a torch until most of it slides right back in the bowl, but there will still be a lot of yucky cleanup, for which denatured alcohol is your friend. Oh, and there’s a third thing: annealing. You will be annealing your work, often, to keep the metal malleable. So, have fun with that if you can.

All right. So: chasing. This went better for me, I think. I had to fill in the back completely with melted pitch from a second bowl, let that dry a bit, and then place it as you see above. You do not want air pockets where you’re working. Working from the middle of the piece outwards, I did my best to pick out some details, and outline Daruma’s belly stripes and the edges of his hood around his face, and his body. You have to “walk” your tools around the outline, hitting them with a (duh) chasing hammer as you go, and bracing your third finger against the piece to steady everything. I really liked the way the body rounded up with all that pitch underneath it; very interesting to feel that happening! Now I think I’ve done all I can with the pitch bowl, and currently have this, cleaned, annealed, and straightened out:



I’m going to clean up some tool marks as best I can with the flex shaft, and use liver of sulfur to make everything pop. I’m not sure, but I’m thinking of engraving some detail, like eyebrow wisps and a firmer mouth, but I don’t know that I will any time soon. I’d like to practice for a while on scrap, because my hand is anything but steady. I also need to decide whether I’ll cut him out at the edges, or keep a bit of the background (make him a square/rectangular plaque?) Daruma was a lot of fun, and this learning process has given me an idea connected to a stone I really like but haven’t figured out what to do with, yet. Good thing I have some 18 gauge silver in my tool box . . .


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Filed under chasing & repousse, metals