Sunday, March 29, 2009

Now This Is What I Mean

There are few things more satisfying than the feeling of accomplishment you get from doing what you want to do. Doing what you have to do is all very well and good, and it's a relief when the list gets to be empty, but it's all just preparation for a time when you can just play.

To get you in the mood, a picture of lovely. Fortunately I have friends who are better at taking photos of people and places than I am.
Love love love the colours of the New Mexico rock.

I taught a class last Tuesday, and since the instructions were completed well in advance, I made a class sample, and then turned it into a pendant.
And after the class it went up for sale in my Etsy shop.

I know I had a list of things that ought to be done, and I did do some of them. Went to the library. Took my son shopping for shorts. Got tax forms for my daughter. Picked up my umbrella from the bead store where I'd left it after class (this is most unlike me, I'll have you know. I don't lose, leave or forget my stuff generally).

The thing with the library? They wouldn't let me renew Diane Fitzgerald's Zulu book. Something about someone else wanting it, the nerve. I wasn't ready to return it just yet (hence the attempted renewal), so the time seemed right to try a technique or two not covered in the Zulu book which I have (and which is apparently no longer available).

I tried the Slinky Rope (also in my Etsy shop).
Turns out I had a bead which matched quite well. Fancy that. Have you seen the size of my lampwork stash? It's from when I developed this Terrible Horrible Very Bad Ebay Habit. A bit like the first THVBEH, but back then (about ten years ago) it was spinning fiber and yarn, and even though I may have spent about $200 a month for a year or two, I scored some fabulous bargains (only rarely do I now actually need to buy yarn or fiber. I often want to, but that's another matter entirely). I've also taken care of retirement (should the economy ever recover enough for me to glimpse it in my future. Right now I'm going to have to work until the day I die) as I'll never ever need fiber or yarn again in my life, even if I live to be a hundred, which isn't all that likely, since none of my grandparents have made it past their eighties. 

Still, I'll be busy.

Anyway, the lampwork stash, while not as large either volume-wise or dollar-for-dollar, is still significant enough to make me uncomfortable, though not uncomfortable enough to forego new lampwork beads (remember Bead Fest? I do), but it is big enough to occasionally contain the perfect bead for the current project.

This so-called slinky rope is slightly related to the stitch often called African Helix in that there is thread looping around thread, but it also has a small amount of passing through a bead in the rope, like the beadweaving stitches most of us know. She instructs the reader to work the stitch around a dowel or knitting needle, but I find that too bothersome, so I don't, which seems to reduce the slinky factor since there's nothing to prevent my habitual tight tension except force of will, which often won't. I still like it, as it has an interesting shape and a nice gentle twist.

I don't think it's apparent in the picture above, but I did a small amount of experimentation in terms of varying bead sizes (I tried fringe beads and pairs of size 15s - the rope used 11s in the main), but their effect was not remarkable. I guess colour is a better laboratory for this stitch.

Then I tried popcorn stitch (also in my Etsy shop), though I changed it slightly, and am quite pleased with the result. This was a rather quick necklace (about 21" took me under two hours) and is a great showcase for the coppery pearls in the necklace below. She recommends size 6 seeds, but I may have to try it using smaller seeds, or fire-polished beads, or fringe beads.
Then I got to thinking. Like so many of us, I'm foolishly attracted to miniatures. No, not those pretend dogs or porcelain figurines, but teeny-tiny gem beads and pearls. I remember a Bead Fest a few years ago at which I succumbed, and bought garnets, carnelians and pearls somewhere in the region of 1.5mm in diameter. Yes, close to a size 11 seed bead.

I had another look at the slinky tube. 

Each stitch has three beads. 

The first bead gets passed through again when you circle around. 

The second bead has only one thread pass, and sits with its hole horizontal, firmly sandwiched between the first and third beads, the flat surface of a side. Hiding, kinda. Not noticeable.

The third bead also has only one thread pass, and forms the corner that separates one plane from its neighbour. Perfect for a bead with a not very large hole, as it sticks out of the tube. (I had to put the colour-graduated tourmalines on hold because they were even smaller (probably about 1mm, with holes proportionally smaller. They shattered when I attempted to pass a needle through).

The pearls worked really well though.

And my cabochon stash? In all fairness, it was also augmented by eBay, though it didn't really get out of hand that time. It's a respectable stash, not scary-huge. It had a lovely pinkish-greyish-whatsis probable-agate that matched the seed beads I chose to carry my seed pearls.

I have done some knitting, and there's success not yet photographed and the subject of another missive. Or perhaps just a photo next time I enthuse about something-or-another else.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Spinning, Yeah, That's the Ticket

So tomorrow is our monthly spinner's food-a-thon, uh, day of spinning with incidentally a potluck lunch.

This may not look like much, but it's a stack of crepes flavoured with blood orange zest and orange liqueur, separated by whipped cream flavoured once again with blood orange zest and orange liqueur, and waiting in the fridge I have some blood orange segments macerating in a reduced orange liqueur syrup, not to mention more of the cream.

Should be edible.

And oh yes, lots of spinning tomorrow with, y'know, wheels and fiber and so on.

I prototyped a sweater while I was in Santa Fe.
It's perfect travel knitting, as you don't need long needles (except towards the end of the project when making the gussets), but I do wish I didn't have to rip the whole thing out.

The usual.

Not enough yarn, though I knew that going in, but I thought it would be okay to add oddments of other colours and it would be in a fair isle or striped project but I have to say that (a) I really don't like the other-colour triangles and (b) even with them I only have about an ounce of yarn left, with an entire sleeve and three-quarters of the front still to go.

This yarn really is way denser than I'd realised and really won't stretch far enough for me to finish this sweater (with which realistically I'm less than satisfied anyway, but I hate to have wasted the effort, even if it's been only a bit more than a week of knitting which really isn't bad speed-wise, telling me (as if I didn't know it already) that really, modular knitting is the way to go for me.

One benefit to all the half-done beading projects that I was too weak to not start while I was supposed to be getting ready for Santa Fe but was strong enough to not finish, is that I get to finish them now.

Mmmm, blue tiger eye.

I'm not in general a fan of blue in the abstract, but when it's smoky or chatoyant or iridescent or otherwise interesting and not royal blue which to my eyes is a blight in the spectrum (though I might make the occasional exception for lapis lazuli if it has plenty of pyrite veining), I can be quite taken with it.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not A Kit (Yet)

Pretty amazing stuff: that I finished this just because.

No deadline, no ulterior motive (OK, that's a lie, this is a prototype that I might develop into a class or a kit or instructions or something, but this exact piece is just an experiment in what-if), just a piece I started and wanted to finish.

I love the new permanent (and I hope they really are) galvanized seed beads, because I now have nice, shiny bright metallics that are excellent accents. Not that I don't love the bronzey, sludgey metallics that are already in my stash, but they good ones are really expensive, especially the ones that look like the kind of metal from which you'd make actual jewellery.

They still need to come up with a really coppery copper though.

I'll need to show you my knitting soon, because it's fun.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And These Too...

Not sure how I could have forgotten these.

For sure I'm a sucker for young lampwork dudes. This is all the work of Troy, uh, Troy someone whose name doesn't come up when I google Andrew Brown, the cute young guy in the same booth from whom I bought a delicious bead (much like this, but better) at Bead Fest Philadelphia in 2007. Or was it 2006? My first one, anyway, the one in Reading. He shared a booth with Harold Cooney (and another guy from whom I did not buy a bead; I'd already overspent due to his booth-mates), with whose beads I am replete for now.

As always, better in the flesh than in the blog.

Sorry, Troy.

What I Got

Yeah yeah, it's just a laundry list of Cool Stuff I Couldn't Resist in Santa Fe, and it's all bead-related. At least I didn't take pictures of the tubes of seed beads. Small mercies.

First the cabs, excuse the glare.
Clockwise, from the black one: granite (with gold mica flecks), yummy jasper (Willow Creek perhaps), tiger iron (with gold veins, see a theme?), matte jasper (and I'm wondering if a shinier finish might in fact not have been preferable, as it's so very understated), and something or another with lots of actual copper.

I also snagged some name brand beads: Sea urchins from Humble Beads. I've bought some of her long skinnies and disk beads (and been inspired enough to use them, which may be telling), and I've been eyeing these for a while on Etsy, but couldn't wait any longer.
And druzies. I mean, how could I not? They were a very good price.
Interestingly, I ended up choosing not those with the most brilliant colour, but with the most interesting texture. The one at top right looks like bubbling magma frosted with iridescent pixie dust (the stuff lampworkers use to get those fabulous pearlescent finishes), while the other two are very stark and crystalline. The one at top left, although you can't see it in the picture, has a sort of diagonal chasm which I find rather appealling.

I'd never seen Klew beads in the, uh, clay before, and unlike some of the equally famous lampworkers, her beads are very reasonably priced. I didn't say "cheap", I just said "reasonable", which essentially equates to "I can talk myself into buying them". 
I couldn't resist these two super-chunky pendants - they're really thick with rather large holes, probably big enough for a 4-bead/2-stitch herringbone rope using 11s.
The aqua and red one is larimar, which I foolishly neglected to buy when I was in the Caribbean about four years ago, and which I've been wanting ever since. I suspect the red colouration makes it inferior, but I really like its drama, and as (a) you can still see the classic salt-dye-on-silk markings and (b) I'm not a pastel kind of a girl by any stretch, I don't care.

The yummy sludgy one is Chinese turquoise, which I'd say in general I prefer to the classic south-western bluer, more turquoisey turquoise. 

I also put a pair of earrings for sale in my Etsy shop.

I made them for a class I taught just before leaving for more western climes last weekend, as an illustration of an alternate use of a technique I was teaching. I've generally made these medallions with the seed beads as the colour focus, but I rather like this effect too.

Monday, March 16, 2009

No Shouting

So Bead Fest Santa Fe is over, I'm home, tired, and currently in possession of a larger inventory of kits than I was planning on. The economy bites.

So much so that I listed this one in my Etsy store with more to come.

Phreadde and Dan do indeed give excellent tour, though I don't apparently take photos. Julia and Dan do, but I don't have any.

We saw bison and the echo amphitheater and mountains in more colours than their fair share (and we're talking rocks here, not vegetation) and the Georgia O'Keefe museum and Tierra Wools and the Folk Art Museum and Ghost Ranch and lots of sky.

It was awesome.

Oh yeah, I also taught two classes, and though enrolment wasn't full to bursting, I had more students than I'd originally thought I would and really enjoyed myself. I believe my students had a good time too - and I want to hear about it first if they didn't! 

Meet the Teachers turned out to be a less than king-making event for those of us in the small dark annexe where the food was not, but I met a couple of really cool people, which always helps.

I managed to buy some famous beads - more accurately beads made by famous people - but more about that when I have photos, and did a decent amount of knitting. Turns out there are quite a lot of beaders who are knitters too - who knew? I guess it shouldn't be much of a shock since I do both, which means that it can't be too unusual, since I don't consider myself at the forefront of all that is rare and odd and innovative, much as I'd like to be.

There are times when being wildly over-optimistic, while I'm sure amusing to the observer, is not entirely to one's advantage.

Take last Wednesday, the night before I was due to leave for Santa Fe. I had a to-do list which included the following:
  1. Finish beading the sample for the Spice Road kit.
  2. Finish the instructions for the Spice Road kit.
  3. Partially assemble all kits I'd already packed unassembled (this involved folding the instructions and putting them into 6x9 baggies since I thought I might not have time between arriving in Santa Fe and 6pm that evening. I'd have been correct).
  4. Pack.
  5. Bake bread for Phreadde and Dan.
  6. Bake scones for Phreadde and Dan.
  7. Go to knitting night at the yarn store for the usual few hours.
  8. Get to bed at a reasonable hour.
Bear in mind that I do have a day job which at best gets me home by 5:30 which realistically gave me about five hours for all of this, including twenty minutes each way to the yarn store. Right.

I seriously believed that this was doable, and much of it was, except for the scones and the knitting night (what on earth was I thinking?) and naturally the useful bedtime; 1am is less than optimal when the alarm goes off five hours later, but that's pretty much what I had to work with.

There are other Wednesdays to knit at the yarn store, and the bread did get baked, and hey, Santa Fe will still be there next year.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Force of Nature

No, not me, not even slightly.

Blew my neighbour's tree right down. I think they must be away, as it happened yesterday morning, and the tree was still there when I got home from work today. Guess I'd rather come back from vacation to a tree on my roof than have it fall on the kids in bed.

Ideally though, neither.

The tree must have been slowly dying, since the earth below is undisturbed, and there's scant evidence of roots, a clean break. Bet my kids and I could have leaned against it to topple it, not that the wind wasn't intense or anything, just that it probably didn't take all that much.

I've been all nose to the grindstone (with an hour off for Chuck - I have a thing for cute young nerdy guys with dark wavy hair) working on this.

It's most of the front of a necklace, and I'm determined to have five kits for this on Thursday at Meet the Teachers at Bead Fest Santa Fe, provided that:
  1. There are no accidents on the way to the airport.
  2. My flight isn't delayed.
  3. My luggage doesn't get lost.
  4. There are no accidents from Albuquerque to Santa Fe.
  5. There isn't a huge line to check in at the hotel.
  6. The room for Meet the Teachers isn't impossible to find.
  7. They don't suddenly decide to make it even earlier, even closer to the last minute.
Not that I dwell on this sort of stuff mind you, but it's good to be prepared, don't you think?

Speaking of which, I am just so prepared for tomorrow's class. I was prepared yesterday, and actually, I was prepared by the time I went to bed on Saturday night. Now just watch me realise as we get started that I've omitted something critical from the instructions...

It could happen. Hasn't so far, but it could.

Sunday, March 8, 2009


I'm ready for a change.

The past weeks have seen me following a very narrow path, and it's become constraining, tight.

Packing kits, writing instructions, making samples, photographing and explaining every step, trying to get it all right the first time.



Obligatory (if somewhat self-imposed).

Don't get me wrong: I like teaching, I like coming up with designs that others want to make - it's the braggart in me, the show-off. Look what I can do! See? Like this! It's not hard, you can do it too! Here - let me show you!

I also like having my time and focus unconstrained.

New beads? What if I...? And then if I...? Well, perhaps not, but if I...? And then I'm off, and it's six in the evening and I've barely eaten or worked out or even showered and yet I'm thrilling to a little configuration of littler beads.

I have a job, a day job, and not that I'm ungrateful since more and more do not, but I get twitchy when what I do for love starts smelling like chains rather than freedom.

I've knitted since forever (I don't remember learning and I don't remember not knowing how to knit), but I've never knitted anything for money, and I've only occasionally knitted to someone else's timetable or desires.

Perhaps ten years ago my brother Richard asked me for a "camping sweater". Something wool, warm, sturdy and rugged but not itchy. Something darkish - brown or charcoal - and rustic. We spoke ganseys but not arans and my mind's eye fingered the stash until I found the brown yarn waiting, and the handspun merino-silk dyed with walnuts for the inside of the neckband, nice and soft.

I was delighted.

My brother, asking for something from my heart. I think he knew what he was asking, what it meant to me.

I planned, sketched, measured, counted, wrote notes.

Time passed.

I knitted other things, things that said "Me! Now!" and I followed. I thought about the camping sweater. With fondness. I knitted other sweaters.

April, his birthday, a year (perhaps more) later, approached, and the sweater was still notes and needles and yarn. 

Duty, obligation, I said I would, and so I must. And I did. No false starts, it turned out just the way I'd planned, as we'd talked about. 

It was hardship, discipline, unpleasantness. I kinda sorta didn't love doing it.

I felt that I could lose the love. 


He says he still wears it, and I'm warm and glad.

I occasionally knit baby stuff, most recently a couple of squares for a baby blanket for someone I've never met in the flesh, and it was hard, but just a couple of squares. Small things like that, I can do without danger, but never anything bigger, because the love is just too precious.

Beading though, is easier, most likely because the projects are smaller, and even though they touch flesh, they're somehow less personal, I'm not sure why. I've had a couple of beading commissions, and I had a blast each time. There was some vague sense of promised obligation, and even though there was more wild creativity than in the camping sweater, I could work on them without resentment, complete them without feeling a rap on the knuckles, give them away without a problem, I don't know why.

Still though, endlessly packing kits, making samples, writing instructions - less fun than doing what I want. 

Too narrow for too long.

Thursday now: Santa Fe, through Monday morning, and that's not a bad thing at all. It's a very good thing actually, free and away and less constrained.

And then when I get back, I can play.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Nose To The

This is how many kits I packed this weekend.

It may not look like much, but it's about eight or ten hours worth of measuring tiny quantities of seed beads (I like measuring spoons) or counting out bigger beads, pouring them into miniscule baggies, affixing the appropriate sticker to each baggie, and then putting the selection of beads-in-baggies into a slightly bigger but still much-smaller-than-a-sandwich-baggie baggie, along with assorted findings such as clasps, thread, needle, buttons, memory wire and so on, and then grouping like baggies (where "like" means "for the same kit, though possibly different colourways") into a bigger baggie, one so big it really ought not to be used in the diminutive, not that it's sweater-sized or anything, but it really is quite a bit bigger.

Then make sure there's a printed set of of instructions-plus-cover-sheet for each kitsworth baggie, group the instructions by kit, and put them in The Box That I Will Not Check. The footprint of the box is about the size of two sheets of paper side-by-side, and it's perhaps 4" deep. You'd think, after these hours of effort (I sat down to eat breakfast and dinner with the kids, and watched an hour of TV with my son, but other than that I packed kits all day) I'd have boxes piled floor-to-ceiling, bursting with kits, but no. The box is not overflowing, let alone full.

It's a little discouraging to have spent all that time and printer ink and have so little to show for it.

Not to mention a sore back.

On a more cheerful note, my oldest nephew (I'm not sure if he's nine or ten; I'm aparently not quite doting enough in the Aunt Department) won a poetry competition with the poem below. He does not have a sister, by the way.

My father looks like Frankenstein,
my mom looks like Godzilla,
my brother looks like Dracula, 
my sister, Vampirella.

My family is the scariest 
in this entire city.
I really can't explain how I
turned out to be so pretty.

--- Darwin O. Bloch
(Picture circa 2004)