Here’s something I finished recently:


If you’re a bit tired of this pattern, well, maybe I am too. It’s definitely my go-to for very colorful yarns (all the slipped stitches certainly break up the pooling) but I’ve done this, what? three times now and I’m ready to move on.

Also, my finger might need a rest.


Wonder if that could become permanent? Maybe my tension is way too tight.

Next time around: a new (to me) pattern with diagonal stripes in it. Diagonal! Should be fun.


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Filed under knitting, socks

If You Like it Then You Shoulda Put a Frog on It


Last time we saw this, I was having trouble figuring out how to make it interesting.


If the pattern had been roll-printed harder, it might have been cool just like this, but it was just too faint, and oxidizing didn’t help as much as I’d hoped. (I didn’t make this pattern; it was from a scrap I found in the studio junk bin, along with the stub of copper rod that I turned into the twisty wire band.)


I toyed with the idea of riveting various copper and brass discs onto it, and then I picked up my little brass frog mascot (which you see in progress in the banner of this blog.) Cool, but just a touch too big!


I could do another . . . still had some green acrylic cat-eye “stones” lying around . . . and so I did, although I didn’t take any progress pictures. I had a lot of trouble riveting the new, smaller guy onto the copper (it really should have been done at an earlier stage) but I worked it out. It’s not perfect, but it is a lot of fun.

Speaking of fun, I dug into the ol’ bead stash (which I like to do when I’m between classes anyway) and crocheted a multi-strand hippie bracelet out of macrame twine.


The button closure was from last year, when I made a couple of them in class.


Okay, the copper star-printed sheet isn’t in here, but I think that brass in the upper left was the back plate when I rolled it through. I don’t seem to have any other progress shots, but I made three discs, domed them, and soldered a jump ring inside each to make buttons. The one in the bracelet is the most successful of the three.

I’ve been trying out a new (well, new to me) idea this week: taking one photo every day of what I’m working on. It started out as a picture of my bench every day, but I don’t work there every day. Sometimes I just knit, or do something else. I don’t know if I’ll upload them somewhere; frankly I’m sure they’re of no interest to anybody but me. For a long time I’ve been thinking about creating an art journal, but I’m not convinced it’s the best use of my craft time. Someday that may change–but right now this is my focus, and I could use a little focus, because lately my attention seems to be everywhere and nowhere at once!

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Filed under beads, bracelet, metals, riveting

New Thing, New Mistakes, New Lesson


Here’s another one I’d been working on during the winter session. The cab is a bit of dichroic glass made by fellow student Beverly, who donated a bunch she didn’t quite like or need to the studio. You might remember I used one to make a present for my mother-in-law some time ago:


I had some trouble with that one when it came to getting the prongs secure enough so that glass didn’t move or slip out. I’ve learned since that you could just take a diamond plated burr bit and grind off some grooves where you need them (underwater! Glass dust is bad for you!) to help with this. So, I grabbed another cab (the last one of its shape and size, alas) and tried it out.


Here we are, ready to go. The cab is on an old eraser; you need something to prop it up on and this works well. Of course, you’ll note I’m using a flex shaft. The water is shallow, and the flex shaft motor is safely hung away from it.


The good news: it worked. The bad news: I was so into the experiment that I forgot to realize it would have been best to make the wire cage first, and then make the grooves exactly where I needed them. Also, those grooves should have been straight up and down, not diagonal. Somehow I thought the wires would bend up at an angle; they don’t, and that caused me trouble later.  If this was an important piece, I’d have started over, but it’s not. This is a learning project, and . . . well . . . there weren’t any more glass cabs in this size and shape left anyway, so let’s keep going.


Here’s all the stuff on the back so you can see how the wires were soldered together. If it looks like a lot of solder, it is; I had some trouble. I should also note that this is my second attempt; I melted the joins at some point on the first. Whoops. It’s all in the past now.


And here we are again with the finished product, prongs all ground down smooth and (mostly) bendable and well-fitting. You can’t see it here, but on the left side, the prongs didn’t quite go where I wanted, and the matte ground-away areas were visible, so I filled them with some epoxy. This made them glassy looking and less obvious; a casual observer would never notice. In time I’m sure I’ll find another glass cab I like and try it all over again properly. Meanwhile, this was fun, and I noticed that I don’t get too angry or frustrated anymore when things don’t go my way in the metals lab. The next time is almost always better.


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Filed under experiment, metals, necklace, pendant, practice, soldering, stones/gems

Labradorite Pendant, and a Couple Castings

Jeez, this may be the most . . . beautiful thing I’ve ever made.


Labradorite is one of my all-time favorite stones, so when I found this little teardrop at the local bead store, I snapped it up.

Getting to work on it, however, was a bit of a challenge. I keep wanting to do something Artsy and Different and Postmodern, but then I choose gorgeous stones that really don’t need all that. Clearly the design I ended up with is a typical pretty princess necklace, but . . ? I like it.

Here’s the lowdown on my process and some nice new mistakes (oh boy!) I hope never to repeat again.


Here, right off the bat, is my backing, with a swirl cut out of it. This (1) makes things more interesting; (2) makes test setting the stone easier, as I can poke it back out with a tool; and (3) was a dumb, dumb thing to do before soldering on the bezel and everything. I nearly melted the center of the swirl getting the bezel on; fortunately, I soon realized that placing a few bits of pumice over it during subsequent solderings was a good way to protect it from too much heat. So there’s that.


Next, I agonized over how to decorate the thing. I had planned to have silver danglies all hippie-like from the bottom, but somehow neglected to leave enough room to do it properly. I poked around my tin of scraps to see what might look good where, and came upon a twisted piece of silver wire. The gauge (14) was too thick, but no matter: I made another in 16 gauge. Soldering this on was a bit of a bear; I got solder blorps galore (note to self: practice stick soldering on scrap, not a real piece, especially when you’ve been told the tank on the torch you’re using has a somewhat messed-up regulator.) I also seem to have made the twisty piece just a touch too large–not terribly obvious, but I know one side could have been better. Ugh, I always know–too late.

The bail is on just, just slightly off center because that’s where it wanted to snap on tight over the twist. Screw it, said I. It’s secure there and unlikely to shift around during soldering–and it didn’t.

Now the stone. This is the weird part, because my bezel was initially too small, and I had to stretch it out on the ring mandrel a bit. Got it right but still snug. Soldered it on, tested the stone a couple times along the way, and . . . found it just a bit loose upon final setting. It actually rattles a little. I think this may be due to either the metal expanding a bit from all that soldering (does that happen?) or else it’s just a matter of the cut of the stone being a bit irregular around the edges, which it is. It’s secure, it won’t fall out, but it annoyed me–and so I pried up the center of the swirl, popped a little epoxy under there, and clamped it down again. No more rattle.

Speaking of that swirl, though, check this out.


Neat, huh?

So the other big thing I’ve been up to is a casting project. Actually, three casting projects in one. I’ve alluded to them before, and there are two rings in one of the pictures above that used to look like this:


This (on the left) is a pair of commercially made wax rings from the studio. Someone donated a ton of these years ago, and anyone who wants to cast one or two or whatever can. These two fit and I liked them, so what the hell, because I also wanted to cast some magnolia seeds (on the right) from my back yard, just to see if it would work. It did.

castingsHere’s my “tree” of all the pieces ready for the casting flask . . . 


4castings. . . and here they are afterward, needing a cleaning.

castring1This one’s my favorite . . . kind of a nest . . . maybe I’ll cast some tiny brass wasps and solder them on?

castring2Bob joked that I should set 1 point diamonds in all the holes, because that’s what they’re for. Ha ha. If I could find a mix of color cubic zirconias in that size, I might actually try it someday, because that might be cute. For now, though, I need to try “thrumming”–loading up a string with red rouge and polishing out all those tiny holes with it.

castmag1And my magnolia seeds . . . what to do with them? Maybe I’ll decide after I clean them up some more.

Now I have one class period left to go next week, and I’m not sure what to work on, so I’d better go figure it out.

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Filed under casting, ring, Uncategorized

Here Come the Droids


I’ve been working on these two for a while. They’re BB8 and R2D2 from . . . well, you know what they’re from, and if you don’t, I envy the rock you live under because I’m not really a fan. But my knitting, non-crocheting friend Sarah is, and so is her daughter, who calls R2D2 “Arty Dooty.” Who can resist that story? And so I have made these for her at Sarah’s request.

The pattern is here. It’s fairly straightforward, but with a lot of detail work (i.e. embroidery and Sewing Stuff On). The results are pretty stinkin’ cute though.

Hmm . . . wonder if I have a bead in my stash I could use for R2’s little red light?

UPDATE 3/5/16: Finished a second set! I liked it better this time around. Also paid more attention to getting the details stitched on right. Hope my sister-in-law likes them.

Actually, I just hope her dogs don’t eat them.


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Filed under amigurumi, crochet

A Tale of Two Leafies


Remember these? It’s okay if you don’t. Last time I posted, they looked quite different.

leafcastsmoldAll waxed up . . . 


. . . and ready to go!

At the beginning of this round of classes, I got around to cleaning up the oak leaf and soldering a small, flattish bail on the back of the stem: unobtrusive yet large enough to pass a chain end. I think. Then I cleaned it up and dipped it in some liver of sulfur (yuck) a couple times until I got a nice tarnish patina.


It’s a bit wrinkly near the bottom, but there’s not much I can do about it. It’s a totally natural leaf, after all, and it did what it did.

Now this guy. This guy.


This one gave me some grief, because I decided it was time I learned how to solder a pin stem mechanism thingy on there. A commercial one. I mean, I could have soldered the ends of a long wire back there, snipped it, curled one end under for a catch and put a coil on the other end and work hardened the remainder for a pin, but how secure is that? This thing is a bit heavy. So I ordered something commercial–actually, three somethings. The hinge end, the catch end, and pin stems, all sold separately. And because I’m stubborn and value security over looks, I ordered a (shudder) nickel pin stem rather than sterling. I understand that in a show or contest I’d get dinged for this. But this is no juried show, this is me learning–thank goodness, because it didn’t go very well.

leaf soldering

This is what fear looks like, to me. Yet, I pulled it off, and got both ends on in the correct places, correct orientation, no melting, no solder blorps. I thought I might be home free at this point, even though the catch was stuck in place when I took the piece out of the pickle. Oops.

Now, the pack of catches (they sell ’em in groups of 10!) came with instructions that advised washing the catch in a boiling solution of ammonia and dishwashing soap, which I found brilliant. I may do this all the time in future, to neutralize any remaining pickle residue, if nothing else.* This did not solve my problem, though. Having none of the recommended floor wax or silicone lubricant on hand, I shot some WD40 in the mechanism and it worked. So there.

New problem: pin stem won’t fit in the catch. Like, it’s too thick all of a sudden. What the hell? I tried filing it down a bit thinner (tip: order the longest pin stems available and always cut them exactly to size) but it became obvious that wasn’t the problem. What happened was, somehow the C-shaped bit that spins around became distorted, or it annealed and drooped, or something. In the fully open position, it was overhanging a bit. I tried futzing at it with nails and pins and things, and ultimately in desperation ground that bit down ever so slightly with a polishing pin (thanks, Dedeco!) It worked enough.

Okay. Working catch: check. Right size pin stem: check. Now fold the hinge up over the pin stem rivet.


One side folds up accurately. The other? I don’t know. I just can’t get the hole to line up. (Here’s a handy guide to what I’m talking about, which I wish I’d researched before I ever began.) Now I’ve folded and fussed it so much I don’t think I can open it back up enough to take out the pin stem. It works, actually, and it’s pretty secure (for now?) but it’s not smooth, it’s not professional looking, and it irks me. But I’ve been plenty irked already with this project, and just can’t deal with it right now. Perhaps I’ll practice making more pins and come back to this one when I’m ready. It’s my first, and I learned a lot.

pin wonkThe bad side: the rivet isn’t quite in that hole, but somehow it isn’t falling out or anything.

Update: fixed it! I fussed with the hinge so much (using teeny tiny screwdrivers for fixing eyeglasses with) that the rivet came loose–very bad news, as this type of rivet isn’t really designed to be hammered/flared at the ends, only to sit inside the holes. So I took it out, dug up a bit of 18 gauge wire, and threaded it through a hole, the pin stem, and the other hole. Cut and hammered it, and voila! It’s not perfect, it’s not great, but it’s secure and it works.

And next time I’ll do better all around, I’m sure. I think. I hope.


*Got a slightly greenish tarnish on your sterling jewelry? Pickling acid residue! I’ve encountered it recently, myself. And so I shall become a better washer of things.

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Filed under casting, metals, pendant, pin, riveting, soldering

I’m Happy, Hope You’re Happy Too

Last weekend I decided to finally work out a pendant idea I had for a long time. It’s not done–I’ve encountered a problem I haven’t figured out how to solve yet–but I did get an unexpected bonus out of it.


Here I am sawing the world’s tiniest David Bowie tribute out of the back of it for fun. The resulting hole wasn’t anything special, but I DID like the tiny tiny lightning bolt cutout, which I immediately decided needed to be sweat soldered onto a bit of silver and made into a pendant.

The sweat soldering went just awesomely. I’ve gotten better at figuring out how much solder to use, and how to chase it around the edge of the top piece when it’s flowing to ensure the proper bond all around. So that made me happy.

bowieshinyShiny is nice, but is it interesting?

Next I installed and closed a jump ring, then polished up the silver disc as much as I could with 3M wheels, and then came the black max.


The black max with ground-off stars (I used a tiny ball bur) is something I confess I saw on Pinterest somewhere. It’s an interesting idea I wanted to try in person. In truth, it’s not the greatest surface treatment: it doesn’t provide a true black, but comes off rather like when you try to cover a white piece of paper with a slightly dried-out old marker (at least on smooth metal; I bet a sandpaper texture from the rolling mill would do better.) It also looks a bit lighter where there’s solder. I like it well enough for this project, which I definitely wanted a little rough, you know, but in future I think this kind of thing really does work best in small, recessed areas where the light won’t really hit–as it was intended for. And indeed, I have earring ideas . . . but for another day.

In the end, the stars are not perfect. They’re not spaced quite as I’d have liked. But they’re random and chaotic. And I love the whole damn thing.


Casting teaser #2: well, here it is out of the casting machine . . .



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Filed under metals, necklace, pendant, soldering, Uncategorized