Sunday, 16 December 2012

Handmade Monday: end of the year

Well, Christmas has really crept up this year.  It seemed to be November for ages, then December has flown by in a flurry of sales and busy-ness. I can't complain, and the thought of literally hundreds of people opening Blue Forest Jewellery handmade presents on Christmas Day all over the world really makes me proud and happy.  Sometimes selling online seems like such a slog, but at times like this it all seems worth it.

For me, creating something beautiful (hopefully!) that lasts and has meaning for the person giving it as a gift and for the person receiving it, is very satisfying.  I always remember listening to a radio programme where people were phoning in to talk about the objects which meant the most to them, and for the women ringing in, it was almost unanimously pieces of jewellery that people had given them or they had bought for themselves to mark significant events which were talked about.  Jewellery is more than something pretty - it's a little shared luxury that says something about the taste and personality of the person wearing it.  And it has the permanence that a bunch of flowers or a box of chocolates can't compete with.

When I was a child, jewellery was much more of a luxury.  Women saved for items like 9ct gold gate bracelets, or waiting until significant events or anniversaries for them, and cherished the relatively few pieces they had bought or been given.  Nowadays you can easily buy a pretty pair of earrings with your weekly supermarket shop, and the relatively low cost of pieces means that far more people can treat themselves more often.  I love that.  Little luxury treats make difficult times more bearable, whether it's the effects of a world recession, or a personal or family crisis, there is meaning in people, especially women, stopping amidst their busy and difficult lives to say 'I want to get myself a little something to wear that looks good and makes me feel good.'

Enough of the philosophising, I hear you cry.  What have you made this week?

Well, there is a bag charm from beautifully carved tigers eye Lily beads and freshwater pearls.  Very delicate!

More earrings with drawbench glass beads.

A lucky lady will be receiving this statement leaf charm necklace for Christmas.

And these birds nest bracelets were listed and started to sell.

Very please to appear in the January edition of Bead Trends too with my field of flowers pendant

Happy holidays to all my blog readers and especially folks who take the time to leave comments, to customers, fellow sellers and even the spammers!

Hope to see you all again in the New Year - although if the spammers want to target someone else, I don't mind that at all!

Here's the link to what other crafty people have been making this week.

Alison x

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Handmade Monday: Busy, busy, busy flowers

What a busy week!  Record sales in my Folksy shop this week, and the little cord charm bracelets are still proving popular everywhere.  There's not been time to do a tutorial, and at one point in the week, I was literally selling faster than I could make.  Long may it continue, and if I can get to 100 sales on Etsy (I'm at 97 at the moment!) then that will make me a really happy crafty bunny.

Every sale just encourages me in my obsessional, charm-buying habit and this week was no exception.  These beautiful flower connectors arrived in time for me to make and list cord bracelets in pink, coffee brown, red and lilac.

Aren't they pretty?  One has sold today, so later I'll be making a replacement.

I thought they would also make nice bold but light earrings too and combined them with some of my favourite drawbench glass beads in deep blue with red and gold drizzled paint.

Drawbench glass beads, this time in red with green, blue and gold drizzles, also found their way into a flower themed bag charm...

... and into these 'bubble' rings...

 ...which were a bit of an experiment but might well get repeated.  I thought they looked quite Christmassy - what do you think?

Talking of which, I have custom orders to do in time for Christmas, and presents to make for the family.  And someone said it was only a couple of weeks away, now that can't be true, can it?!

Here's the link to see what other crafty folk have been up to this week.


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Handmade Monday: Viking weave

Just looked back and realised that it's a year since I promised my blog readers a tutorial on Viking weave.  Well, better late than never! The shops have been really busy this week, so doing a tutorial is a change which is as good as a rest.

This is the original Viking weave bracelet I made - single knit, which is what I'm going to describe, and quite a fine chain.  This was a try out piece made in fine copper tone wire.

I moved on to working with thicker wire for this set.  The thicker wire is harder to work, but looks more substantial.  When you do the 'magic' bit on wire like this, it is really incredible!

OK, here we go.  You will need something round to work on, I'm using a chopstick, but the handle of a wooden spoon, or even a long thick pencil would do.  Or you can buy a special tool called a Laizee Daizee if you are feeling flush.  You'll also need wire.  The smaller the gauge that you start with, the easier it is to work.  I'm using 26 gauge (0.4m) wire for this demo.  You will also need a drawplate - more on that later.

Step 1: Start by making a flower with some of the wire.  This does not have to be neat or perfect, it's not even part of the finished design.  Wrap the wire around your fingers 4 or 5 times and use the loose end to wrap around the middle.  The number of petals on your flower determines the density of the knit - more will give a tighter knit.  I find 4 or 5 is good.

Step 2: Squash the flower onto the top of the spoon or chopstick, so that the petals are quite evenly distributed around the circumference.

Step 3: Take a length of wire as long as you can comfortably work with.  Joining in new wire is not a problem, so don't worry about using a long length - when you get used to the pattern, you'll probably find you can use a longer length.  Make a loop around two of the flower petals as shown, as if you are going to sew them together.
Step 4: Move round to the next petal and make a similar loop which joins the second petal to the third and makes the same loop pattern in the wire as you started with.  You will have a loop under the flower now - don't pull this tight, just leave it to rest.

Step 5: Keep going round the petals in this way until you get back to the start.  At this point, make the same loop but around the base of the first loop that you formed to join the petals.  You are aiming to make a row of these loops underneath each other.  Now you just keep going....

Step 6: The great thing is, you don't have to be neat.  Look what a messy sausage I've been this length - twirling around all over the place.  The messier it is, the greater fun you'll have with the drawplate which will turn it into a tidy, organised chain.  Honestly, no kidding!

Step 7: Don't panic when you come to the end of the length of wire.  Simply take your new length of wire and make the first loop over the top of the last loop you made.  Keep the two ends of wire lying together underneath your stiches.  I twist the wires together for extra security and trim them.  Keep working round with your new wire and eventually you will cover the twisted wires.  The beauty of the knit is that the end of wire will be inside the finished links, so they won't be visible.  I've seen some tutorials where people have used a crimp to keep the two wires together - I think this is more visible, but might be for you if you need extra security.

Step 8: Keep going until you have enough.  How do you know when you have enough?  Well, you need to bear in mind that you are going to be stretching the weave through the drawplate and it will get considerably longer when you do that.  There is a way to calculate the length you need to knit:

length of finished chain required (inches)
_________________________              = x (number of inches of knit needed)

             1.4 inches

so if you want an 18 inch chain for a necklace

___ = 12.8 inches
You will need to make about 12 or 13 inches.  It's a rough calculation that will vary depending on how much drawplate work you do.  If you make too little, you might get away with more use of the drawplate, but you will end up with a finer diameter of chain.  If you make too much, you can simply snip the chain.  The loop formation means you can do this without it unravelling.  Again, the Viking knit takes quite a time, but is versatile.

So, you're nearly there and at the fun bit.  Get your drawplate ready.  You are going to convert your messy wire into something interesting...

I leave the flower on the top of the weave 'sausage' as it's a useful cone shape to push through the drawplate.

Step 9: Put the weave 'sausage' into the first hole it will fit in comfortably in your drawplate.  There are lots of lovely drawplates around, some beautifully made in wood, I'm using my plastic BeadSmith one.  Pull the chain sausage through the hole twice.  It won't look much different, but might feel a little smoother round the edges.  Go to the next smallest hole and do the same - two draws through the hole.  It gets a bit more difficult as you work down the hole sizes, but each time the sausage gets a little narrower and tidies up a bit.  The loops arrange themselves in perfect rows, and it starts to look like a very complicated and densely woven length of chain.  You can pull through with the pliers on the flower on the top of the sausage when it gets to the smaller holes, as you are going to snip this flower off in a moment.

Step 10: Stop when your chain is at the diameter you want.  The only other thing to do is to run it through your fingers along the chain a little bit to loosen it up, as it has acquired a bit of tension (as we all do from time to time!) from the drawing.  Snip off the flower at the top.  You have ends which can be finished in whatever way you want - the bottom end will have whatever length of wire you finished with and this can be used to link through the loops and pull together to make a neat end.  You can do the same at the top - use a piece of wire to collect up the loop and pull them together into a cone shape.  This can be wire wrapped, or fed into a finding - however you want to finish it. 

I went to the last hole on the drawplate to make this a very fine chain.  Here's another using slightly thicker wire (24 gauge, 0.5mm) where I stopped drawing on a larger diameter hole, and used a double knit.

How do you do a double knit?  You can form your loop differently (into the row above the last one) - I found that difficult  - or, as I did, simply use a double strand of wire each time.  If you fold a long piece of wire in two, when you come to join in the next piece, you will have a bend in the wire instead of two loose ends, which is an advantage too as it's tidier to hide.

It looks a bit like chainmaille, doesn't it, or a neat cable knit?

Phew, hope that's clear!  It's one of those things that sound complicated when you are describing it, but once you start doing it, you realise it's quite straightforward.  If you really want to impress your friends, don't forget to tell them you are doing trichinopoly, a skill which probably dates back to the 9th century AD.  That may or may not be a conversation-stopper!

Happy weaving/knitting!

Here's the link to what other crafty people have been doing this week.


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Handmade Monday: Kumihimo to infinity

What a week!  The shops have been incredibly busy, and I'm coming up to 200 sales on Folksy - something I never thought I'd see.  As well as rushing around packing orders, there's been the weather to contend with.  Whilst we haven't had it as bad as the poor folk in the South West, we did have some amazing rainfall and winds.  Here is Lucca the Lab wondering why his regular walk is being swum by the ducks!

Shortly after, he worked out it was just like the beach and you could go crazy splashing in and out of the waters edge, so now he doesn't mind not having his usual walk at all.

I am persevering with the kumihimo and found a great tutorial for a twisted braid.  The lady is Norwegian will a passion for all things Japanese.  Her bracelets are absolutely stunning. 

This is my effort with chocolate, teal (which looks dark blue on the photo) and sky blue threads.

The finishing is still tricky but I'm working on it, and this time I didn't superglue my fingers to anything more embarrassing than a scrap of kitchen roll!  It's certainly addictive though.

The biggest sellers in my shop are still the little cord bracelets, and I've added infinity bracelets to the range this week... well as hearts...

..and birds.

One lovely customer has ordered seven so far! 

Hope everyone has a lovely week, and the weather settles a bit.

Here's the link to see what other crafty peeps have been doing this week.

Alison x

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Handmade Monday: Kumihimo again and some wire work

Remember last week when I was struggling with my ends?! Well, thanks to you all reminding me not to give up, I did persevere and found the larger Kumihimo ends I needed in the bronze tone to finish the necklace properly. 

It's much tidier now, and I can think about starting my next braiding project.  There was almost a Sunday morning visit to A&E when I tried (thankfully unsuccessfully!) to glue the ends and the wire to my hand, but I'm sure with practise, it will all become much less hazardous.

I was lucky enough to go to the Hobbycrafts show at the NEC on Saturday and bought some lovely colour rattail, so watch this space for more braided necklaces and bracelet.

Here's a picture of the Kumihimo disc as requested, all set up with some pink and navy threads.

My only other make this week was a necklace and earrings set.  They are a bit of an experiment and the technique needs some refining (that means, the back side looks like a right dog's breakfast), but I thought I'd show them anyway.  I've nicknamed them the stained glass window set - they do look best in strong light where the gem colours look transparent.  Perhaps they need adapting into sun catchers or something like that - any ideas?

Here's the link to see what other crafty people have been doing this week

Alison x

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Handmade Monday: Kumihimo experiment

Last week, I gave in to temptation and bought a Kumihimo braiding starter kit.  It's an ancient Japanese craft and the real traditionalists do it with a beautifully crafted wooded disk. Mine is mass produced and made of foam, but if it keeps the craft alive, I'm all for it!  Anyway I had a go.

Making the braid is great fun and surprisingly easy.  The board has loads of numbers on it, but you don't need any maths for the simple braids.  All you need to do is keep to a simple pattern of moving the left and right cords and rotating the board.

I'm severely dyspraxic, so I have a lot of trouble with left and right (as well as spatial awareness, balance, co-ordination and a whole variety of other stuff which means that some days just remaining standing without falling over is an achievement in itself!) but this is actually quite good for me to practise.  After a little while, you can do it whilst watching Coronation Street (although you don't want to miss any of the Sue Johnston, Nigel Havers and Sue Nicholls storyline which has been comic genius with three of our acting national treasures, IMHO)

So far so good.  Then I came to the end.  You are supposed to then 'squish' (technical terms!) the ends into a bead cap or stopper, having first 'whipped' them by tying them with a piece of cotton.  My ends were way too big (it's been said before, LOL!)  I think the bead caps in the kit were a bit small.  My maths isn't brilliant, but I'm struggling to see how eight threads each at 2mm diameter with cord wrapped round them can fit into something with a 6mm diameter.

I tried with a bead cap and a bit of wire wrapping but it's not up to standard really.  Going to have to do some more research as the glue in end caps don't seem to be widely available in bronze tone in the large size.  Anyway this was the idea - to combine the braid with this ornate leaf clasp so that it can be worn at the front of the necklace or the back.

I'm terrible at abandoning things when I hit the first bit of difficulty, so I'm relying on you lot to keep nagging me to carry on with this one, OK?

In the meantime, here's a link to what other crafty folk have been making this week.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Folksy Friday: Christmas swaps

I've had the pleasure of doing lots of swaps or trades on Folksy and Etsy recently, and got some beautiful handmade gifts in return.  I can't posts pictures of what I've received, as they are mostly Christmas gifts for friends and family who might just see this blog!  So I've picked some random but stunning creations from each of the shops I've traded with.  Thanks to everyone who has agreed to swap with me - it has to be the best way to shop.  Click on the picture or the shop link to visit.  Enjoy!

Art in Wax on Folksy

Hopeful Hare on Folksy

AdienCraftsandGifts on Etsy (it's just the bandana for sale, not the gorgeous Schnauzer!)

Fabulous shops, aren't they?

Alison x

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Handmade Monday: Jigging about a bit!

I've been very lucky as it's been really busy in my Folksy shop this week.  Packing all the orders doesn't leave a lot of time for making, though, so this week has been time to list some simple makes.  Inspired by some of the guest designers on JewelleryMaker TV, I got my jig out of the drawer, dusted it off and had a play.  For the non-jewellery makers, a jig is simply a plastic grid that you can put peg in to wind wire around.  It's great fun, plus there are endless puns to be made on the subject of jigging about!

 Jig patterns can get complicated, but I tried to keep it simple.

The pearls were shining a little and refusing to cooperate with the photographing, but you've got to love them all the same!

These are with peachy bamboo agate beads. 

A delivery of new charms is always a cause for excitement in the house - not least for Lucca the labrador who likes nothing better than an empty used padded envelope to rip apart!  When these connectors came, I had to make a bracelet for myself first, then get them in the shops where one sold within a day - well, they are cute.

At the moment, I'm in a huge dilemma as to whether to have a go at Kumihimo braiding.  I've ummed and ahhed about it so long, it's ridiculous.  So next week will either see a blog about braided necklaces and bracelets or something else, and you'll know I've finally made a decision!

Here's the link to see what other crafty folk have been making this week.  As ever, there are already some beautiful makes.

Alison x

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