Saturday, June 18, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

Recycling, Upcycling, Being Green, no matter how you put it, reusing the old to make something new takes effort. It doesn't matter if it's taking recyclable materials to designated spots, or trying to figure out what to do with the half-broken toy of a child and such.

I'm not terribly green. With my family of four (two small kids) in an apartment, it is difficult. However, I am making an effort NOT to throw out anything that I can donate, reuse or repurpose. The local donating thrift store has become a favorite haunt of mine.

Aside from donating, and my bead obsession, I haven't bought anything 'new' for my crafting in a long time. All the yarn I have is donated from relatives and friends, or bought at the local thrift store.

Not that I know what to do with it yet.

But I have stumbled on to something else that I love - rag rugs. The Toothbrush or Naalbinding rag rug technique is quick, simple, easy and if anyone has made hemp jewelry as a kid or learned any kind of macrame knotting then it's a cinch.

Most tutorials use straight fabric strips, but I'm using a finger-chain yarn core that seems to make it a bit more 'squishy'.

I'll post pics and 'how-to' when I'm finished. ^_^

Until then, stay crafty!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Dolls, Revalations, and Plans

I found some interesting books in the library, poking around in my library's small selection of crafting books, about doll making. There are some really splendid ideas in there! One of the books that I found had a project done by Laura McCabe, an artist I knew of from the beading world - and here she was beading on a doll!
And that's when it hit. I should have figured this before - crafts can cross worlds! Imagine the moment the world opens up just that much more. That's what happened to me.

The dolls were all sorts of things - not just the porcelain beauties or the crappy dollar store wood things (that can be redone to look beautiful), but toys and sculptures and artistic statements and portraits and a whole new way to express yourself creatively.  One of my personal favorites were the artistic statements. They looked less like a 'doll' and more like a vaguely humanoid figure that represented an idea or some other cultural reference like a book or a historical event.
Red Lady by Tami Levin
Tassel Lady by Patti Culea

My other favorites were the flat dolls. And doll 'mannequins'. Think of them as a really fancy paper doll whose clothing is fabric and glued on to them. Or sewn. The dresses can be as simple as a paper dress with fabric lace glued on, or all fabric with lace, trimmings, beads, ribbons and other decorative items glued or sewn on. I'm planning on making a shadowbox doll for my nieces for Christmas presents next year. It'll also be a good place to put beaded tests or swatches that I have had lying around for ages.

For crafters it never is to early to think about Christmas presents. I usually plan things according to the who then the what then the how long.  For example I have one of my siblings' families (3 children), my parents, my in-laws, my husband's sister, and my husband's grandparents plus my in-laws' 'ornament exchange' to plan for. So this is how I broke down my list -

2 nieces plus 1 nephew - 3 ornaments - each ornament takes a minimum of 2 weeks, one week planning and shopping and one week stitching for a total of 6 weeks.
My parents - knitted rag rug - 1 week cutting the strips, 1 week knitting for a total of 2 weeks.
My in-laws - my husband handles his father, I am making a wooden angel ornament which will take about a month for getting materials, gluing feathers, the beaded elements I want to make, painting and curing.
My husband's sister - a frank'n'hoodie (my design) which will take about a month.
My husband's grandparents - my husband handles his grandfather's gift, I am making another wooden angel ornament with a garden theme again a month.
Ornament exchange - Four sets of ornaments (4 in each set) - 1 week for each set.

Total gift making time - 6 months total max

This is not in order of priority, but I usually can do a few things at once, reducing labor time. Whew - no wonder I can't get my merchandise together for an Etsy shop. I'm thinking of calling it Whimsical Upcycling or something like that. I love my local thrift and donations shop after all. It's amazing what people will throw away. ^_^

I'm gonna have to do a post on my thrift store finds.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Craft Know-how Wishlist

I have massive respect for those who specialize in a single craft and become an absolute master of it. But my personality is such that I would never be happy doing one thing for the rest of my life. Of course there is a tendency to go overboard at times but I try not to do that. Overboard = strain on wallet!

But here is a small list of things I wish I knew how to do - and stuff that I'm going to learn during my life.

Knitting - The idea of taking string and doing fancy stitches on two pieces of metal or wood to make beautiful pieces of fabric and clothing just makes my head spin.

I do have a basic knowledge of knit and purl stitches, but I want to do more than odd pieces of flat squares and rectangles.

And how cool is this bus? I can't tell if that's paint or actual knitting but it's still pretty cool.

Crochet - So even more mind boggling than one string and two sticks, is one string and one stick. I've heard all sorts of arguments why crochet is easier than knitting, but I admit, the whole thing escapes me.

But I do know that knitting and crochet are becoming more in style again. The good things never die, right? They just wax and wane like the moon.

Black Work - Oh those sleeves! An ancient craft (at least 500 years ancient) that uses negative space well. All the black work that I've seen in portraits just makes me green with envy. Beautiful work!

I have ventured into black work before with a blackwork Pikachu which sits in a frame by my computer.  I want to find a book with more traditional patterns but it does seem that black work is in a waning period.

Mosaic - Small tiles, bits of irregularly shaped glass, a flat surface and some tile grout and you have a 4000 year old craft. Companies make mosaics easier due to packaging the necessary materials. Craft stores sell all the tools one needs to make pictures.

Mosaics have graced the walls, floors and ceilings of everything from religious structures, wealthy homes, brothel houses, to kitchens, patios and bathrooms of everyday people. A little time and creativity and you have an eye refreshing approachable work of art.

Wirework - This, like a lot of crafts, runs the gamut from practical goods - like the picture - to works of art both decor and jewelry.

I want to focus here more on practical goods, not jewelry though. I love the idea of giving a wire bowl to my family for Christmas, or having a picnic basket made completely out of woven wire. I saw a pattern for a copper tubing and wire earring holder. It was fun and funky!

Sewing - My mother could fix clothes, make cute things, and could whip out a hem faster than I could figure out how to work the pins!

I did take a sewing course in high school (a lifetime ago!) and made a cloak and a dress, but I don't remember much, nor did I learn what I wanted to learn which is period costuming.

I have a passion for the old, and I would love to work out at Ren Faires for a living selling costumes and jewelry and practical goods.

Viking Knit - This could have gone under wirework truthfully, but I felt this deserved its own section.

Finding information on this craft is difficult. My library isn't the greatest for craft information, I'll admit. And for some reason I'm struggling to find history on this craft. But the tools are simple - a dowel, a board with holes, some tape and wire.

Plus you can add things to Viking Knit like pearls, crystals, and I've seen chain maille added as a focal pieces and the like!

Felting - There are a few different versions of felt. There is knitted felt - you knit a piece first and then you felt it with hot water, soap and agitation, usually in a clothes washer. Then there's punch felting - using a tool that is a handle with a bunch of needles. And then there's a type of felting that I saw at a Faire in Germany. The lady had a ball of wool and was felting it the old way - hand agitation, water and soap.

Weaving - Rugs. Jewelry. Good Luck Charms. Decor. Clothing. Weaving is one of the oldest forms of making cloth.

I was in China a few years ago, and we went to a silk rug factory. Obviously it was just a factory front (there is no way 20 girls make thousands of rugs) but it was fascinating to see. There were mostly pile rugs but there were some picture rugs that were just basic weaving. Well, I say basic, but it's anything but. The glorious patterns they made!

Chain Mail (Maile, Maille) - I have a book of lovely chain mail jewelry, and I just haven't taken the time to acquire the materials to make it. Well, that and I'm a bit on the poor side. ^_^ Ah well, we all need dreams yeah?

But I love making jewelry, and I want to learn this. So I'm going to learn it as soon as I can afford the materials. There is a chain mail watch band that I just adore!

Quilting - What a way to use your scraps from sewing eh? Of course, nowadays quilts are made just to make quilts. But back when the motto was "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without" you just had to use scraps for something.

But people being the creative wonders that we are, made patterns. They discovered that doing something 'just so' made something that was not only functional but beautiful.  And now we have entire machines dedicated to the fabrication of quilts! Wonders never cease.

Polymer Clay - From beads to sculptures, decorative and lovely polymer clay is a beautiful way to create. Acryllic rollers, pasta machines, and countless books have helped people create miniature works of art. There are whole competitions based on this craft!

Actually there are whole competitions based on almost every single craft mentioned today.

This is a short list, and not in any particular order, but that's 12 different crafts that have peaked my interest. I could spend forever becoming a true crafter. ^_^ Until then, I'm going to continue learning and doing! The path of a crafter is a long but very, very rewarding one.

Happy crafting out there!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ornaments 2011 #1 'Egyptian Goddess' Tutorial

I'm very excited! This is my first tutorial that I'm sharing online. I've been making Christmas Ornaments for 5 years now, and this is the first that I've written down as I made it. Others were one of kind gifts that I didn't think I would want to repeat (or ideas from other people that I modified for my mini size ornaments). 

Total materials - For this ornament (a very mini 1 inch high ball) I used 2 different colors of size 11 seed beads, 5mm bugle beads, and 3mm cat's eye balls. Plus standard equipment - Needles, Thread (I used Nymo) and sharp scissors. 

Total time - 60 to 120 minutes depending on how fast you are.

Difficulty - Late Beginner to Early Intermediate - requires knowledge of ladder stitch, right-angle weave, and fringe techniques.
I like using AB finishes and metal lined beads for the maximum sparkle they add. Also if you're worried about color matching, finding a mix and then beads that accent the mix is an easy fix to color problems. It does add a little extra visual action to the ornament, leading the eye to solid spots (like the cat's eye beads) and to seeing an overall shape instead of individual parts, so if you want to see the pattern use a solid color instead of a mix.

For this tutorial, the mix is color A, the yellow is B, the bugle bead is C and the cat's eye is D. ^_^

First is the top ring. My ornament fit 24 size 11 seeds around the top, which actually gives me the number of sets in the Ladders and Loops band. I usually try to get a multiple of 4 around the top ring, since 4 is really easy to divide into smaller groups. Plus it provides the needed spacing for this design. There should be a little give (about a bead width) for your needle to work in and out of the top ring.

If your ornament is slightly bigger than mine, measure how many beads fit around your ornament top around the hanging stem. If it is more than adjust the Ladders and Loops belly band accordingly. For example, if your top fits 28 there would be 7 ladder sets in the band.

Once you know how many beads your ornament stem measures to, you're ready to start with the belly band (which should be made first).

Now for the Ladders and Loops belly band. String a B, C, 2 B's, a C and a B. Turn around and go through the first B so that you have two stacks of bead/bugle/bead. This is all done in ladder stitch. Go back through the second bead/bugle/bead combo and add in one last B,C,B so that you have three stacks in a row.

Add 5 A beads, a B,C,B and 5 A's. (Yellow Arrow) Go back through the B,C,B stack (Green Arrow), the upper loop (Red Arrow 3) and out of the B,C,B stack. (Red Arrow 4)

Repeat until you have 6 B,C,B, sets and 5 loops.

The 6th Loop connects group 1 of the bugle bead sets to group 6. The ring fits just under the equator of the ornament ball, to give the ornament just a little extra length.

 (Also the Ladders and Loops ring makes a really fun and interesting actual ring for your finger.)

Tie off the ends and weave them into the Ring. Set aside for a moment.

Tie the top ring onto your ornament remembering to put in the give.  My pattern was 1A, 3B six times for a total of 24 beads. (If your stem measures to a different number divisible by 4 then the pattern is the same, except for the total amount of 1A, 3B sets.) The connectors between the top ring and the belly band use Right-Angle-Weave or RAW.

The 1A (in the top ring)is the first bead in the 5 squares of RAW, a center A on the Loop of the belly band is the last bead in the connection for a total of 5 squares.

After you make the 5th square, weave your way back to the top ring and add the other 5 connections for a total of six connections.

(I've noticed that the RAW on the mini ornaments looks a little like lace. For an added effect, you can make another loop and add beads in between the side beads of the RAW loops. This pattern is really easy to customize. Don't be afraid to experiment once you have the basic pattern down.) 

The last step on the ornament is the fringe. The fringe is hung from the bugle bead sets. The first and third fringe strands are the same, the middle one has a few extra beads.

 For Strand 1- 10A, 1C, 10A, 1C, 5A, 1D, and 1A. Skip the last A and go back up through the strand, up through the bugle bead set and down into the middle bugle set.

For Strand 2 - 15 A, 1C, 10A, 1C, 5A, 1D and 1A. Skipp the last A and go back up through the strand, up through the bugle bead set and down into the last bugle set.

For Strand 3- 10A, 1C, 10A, 1C, 5A, 1D, and 1A. Skip the last A and go back up through the strand, up through the bugle bead set, over the loop and down into the first bugle bead set of the next ladder section.

Do this for all of the bugle bead sets. If it gets tight in the bugle beads never pull the needle with your fingers. This could bend the needle, break a bead or impale a finger on your needle. If your needle is stuck halfway through, get a pair of pliers and clamp on to the needle and gently try to work it out (going forward not backward). Using a thinner size of Nymo (like OO or O instead of D) or thinner thread of your choice can also help with space issues.

When finished with your fringe, tie off and weave in the ends. And Voila! your very own mini-ornament!
Tips and Tricks - It helps to measure the top ring first. Keep the ornament near so that you can measure the belly band against it. If you like the belly band higher on the ornament you can make the loops slightly longer (keep an odd number in the loops though) and the RAW connectors shorter. You can also hang something from the top ring in the spaces between the connector. I chose not to use the extra dangles off because I felt it cluttered up the overall effect. However, if you did not want to expose the ornament itself, charms would look cute in the spaces. Do not be afraid to experiment.

If you make an ornament using this pattern, don't forget to drop me a pic! (Faewren dot beads at gmail dot com.)

^_^ Copyright of this ornament pattern belongs to me. Please don't use this pattern to sell or teach without my permission. If you do ask for permission to sell, please give me design credit. ^_^

Thursday, May 12, 2011

It has been a while.

It's been a while since I've posted, but I have good reason! My two children have their birthdays within 13 days of each other, between when I last posted and now.

But there is good news! I will be posting my mini-ornament tutorials! That's right, not one but two tutorials! And the nice thing is, both of the tutorials can be used for larger ornaments, you just have to adjust the numbers. ^_^

I will be posting them in the next couple of days.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thursday's Thoughts

I recently watched The King's Speech. Aside from the moment in the middle where Colin Firth spouts the F-word about 15 times in the rhythm of Clackity-clack-clack-clack, it's quite good. It has to be, with a lineup of acting greats in the main roles. Guy Pierce is awfully good at playing a prick. ^_^

But I liked the underlining message of it all. If you pare it down, it isn't about a king at all (even though it is based on real events), but a man who was consumed with fear, and the two people who were able to help him face and beat his demons.

Interestingly enough, I think this is something that a lot of amateur crafters feel. It's certainly something that I've felt in the past few years as I've started on this venture of navigating the avenues of handicrafts. How often have the questions danced in my head?

"You're not good enough."
"That's too complicated for you."
"That's awfully small. Can I even work with it?"
"That's too difficult."
"I just can't do that."

What is it about things that make us stumble? As children if we're asked if we can draw, sing or dance, we answer with a surety "Yes!".  As we age we are told time and again, "No you can't do that", "You aren't coordinated enough", "That isn't one of your strong suits". We come to believe this, because we're told these things by people in positions of authority; parents, teachers, and close companions.  Isn't it sad that we are conditioned to readily agree with the worst assessments of us and our abilities?

Charles Schultz was told he could not draw. Peanuts was turned down time and again, until eventually one person put him through. Where would we be today without Charlie Brown? We resonate so well with the boy that never was able to kick a football or catch a baseball, but persevered. He kept playing sports, and kept going no matter what anyone told him.

When I first started beading my mother told me it was a waste of time. I had other more important things to do, and did not have time to waste on another failed hobby. (Personally I don't think I have ever 'failed' at a hobby, I just get distracted because there is so much out there!)

I didn't listen. My husband, who is a great source of encouragement, told me to keep going. So I did. And you know what? I improved. In fact, I improved enough that my mother actually asked me for some custom jewelry!

One of my favorite sayings is, "It just takes time." Mostly because it is so true! Feelings fade with time, perseverance is rewarded in time. Time is both a curse (since we only have a limited amount of it) and a blessing.

So fear, a sibling to despair, is a mistake. A sort of 'sin' against ourselves, if you will. Outside of physical impediments and the like, there is nothing stopping us from doing what we'd like to do.

So I make this pledge. "I will not be afraid to try new things, with new materials, in new ways. I will not be afraid of new techniques, new crafts, or new lines of thought. I am here to learn, to love what I do and who I am, and share that love to all through my small but beautiful gifts to the world."

I know, heavy right? But eh, I get that way some times.

"People don't really speak that way, you know?"
"I know, but we think that way."

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

It's still snowing outside my window

I love the Christmas season. I love the lights, the sparkle, the human warmth, the outpouring of love. It's great! Although in all honesty I wish it could last year-round. Don't we all?

But as much as I love the Christmas season I hate WINTER. I live in the West in the USA among the Rocky Mountains, and I don't ski. Or snowboard. I like inner-tubing though. (Sledding but with a giant inner tube of a wheel.) I just don't like the cold.

Which is why it is frustrating to see green grass, beautiful blossoms, and SNOW.

But it may be why I've been inspired lately to work on my new series of mini-ornaments. And when I say mini, I mean the ball is only an inch tall.

You'll have to forgive the bad photos I put up of my work, I'm not wealthy enough to own a fancy camera, so I use my phone.

The ornament by itself and then the ornament with my thumb as a reference for size. (Wow, I'm reflected in them! Freaky! ^_^)
Techniques used - Ladder Stitch, Right Angle Weave (or RAW), and Fringe.
The ornament I just bought from a craft store (JoAnn) and it came in a box of  27 (bonus!). I used 3mm yellow cat-eyes, silver-lined yellow AB (size 11) beads, galactic blue gold mix (size 11), and 4mm blue iris bugle beads. Basically it's a 2 seed bead, 2 specialty bead pattern.

For inspiration I looked at a lot of ornaments, and the ones that I were drawn to were the Victorian Era beaded ornaments. Not that they stopped there. There were ornaments made of everything! The Victorians were bigger users of every day materials than we are today - we just have a lot more materials available.

There were paper ornaments, metal ornaments, fabric scraps were sewn into hearts and stars and Father Christmas, and what was not able to be used in clothing or decor were used for the multiple trees that they had. Any scrap of trimming, any ANYTHING that had sparkle or charm or interest was salvaged.

I will be making more of these, so there will be a tutorial later (if you want one).