Sunday, November 29, 2009

But Where Did It Go?

Every other Thanksgiving weekend (the ones when I'm not cooking) I look forward to getting things done. One year I made a fitted cover for my sofa. That sort of thing.

The thing is, I'm always over-optimistic in terms of what I think I can accomplish in the time allotted when it comes to non-work stuff (then I'm exceedingly cautious).

So it didn't seem unreasonable that I would:
  • start and complete the instructions for Tuesday's class
  • make a maru dai
  • braid four or five things, some with beads, some without
  • make knotted buttons and frogs with some of the braids
  • make really good headway with a couple of special orders
  • paint both bathroom ceilings
  • re-caulk both bathtubs
  • recycle an old monitor I forgot I had in the basement
  • bake bread
  • make soup
I made the soup and opted to buy artisan bread instead.

The monitor is in my trunk and I just need to find the time to actually take it somewhere.

I got started on leaves for Nancy (and actually I've completed a few more since I took the photo).

I made Adriana's earrings (she admired some grey ones of mine in this style and I'm pretty sure I said I'd make her some).

I started on Janel's necklace.

I took a break and made a flourite and glass pendant. This is doubly good because (a) this is one way of using the rondelle's I'm repeatedly unable to resist buying which then sit in my rondelle-and-disk-drawer because I can never figure out what they're good for and (b) look! That weird stone look over clear something goes really well with fluorite.
The ceiling paint and caulk (and cool caulk tool) are still in my kitchen. I may have moved them against the wall when they got in the way.

I actually made the maru dai (and finding the semi-raw materials was probably the single biggest eater up of my precious weekend hours. I spent way too much of time in various hardware stores, and the best thing I can say about the whole experience is that those drill bits that make large diameter holes are incredibly cool, even if I'm not entirely proficient at drilling straight), though it's bit wobbly and keeps falling over (I think the legs ought to be exactly the same length, not just approximately). As I suspected, woodwork is not my forte, but the thing is useable.

If I hadn't decided that it needed to be portable (i.e. disassembleable) it would probably be sturdier, and perhaps if I decide to take another road trip to explore the hardware stores and hobby shops of the Greater St Louis Area (who knew it would be that hard to find a wooden circle about 10" in diameter) then perhaps I'll make a non-portable maru dai. Or else I'll find a thrift store wooden bar-stool and drill a hole in it (that was the most fun part of the whole experience anyway. The drilling).

I made a cool braid that would be excellent for shoelaces (on the maru dai).

I also made this beaded rope (not on the maru dai, but on the foam disk which is easier on my shoulders). It's meant to mimic the Turkish crochet I've been obsessing about for about a year or more (ask Amy; I keep sending her links to explanations and tutorials in Hungarian and German because she does bead crochet and I really don't, and now one of the latest beading magazines has an explanation IN ENGLISH) and except for a few odd spots (caused by the thread I used for the seed beads: it's too thin and slippery) I'm quite pleased.
I also spun some variegated silk, strung clear seed beads and did a braid with that but apparently neglected to photograph it.

I did make a braid that I thought I'd use for frogs or knotted buttons, but it turns out that my knotted buttons suck and the braid isn't pretty enough (understatement of the weekend; it's really ugly) or fine enough and possibly it's not even the right profile for frogs, so that didn't happen either.

I did make pretty good progress on my class directions though.
Even managed to illustrate some variations.
Looks like I made good progress on the knitting front, doesn't it?
Yup, until I tried it on and had to rip out all the stripey stocking stitch to the right of the picture. Not so awful, just a few hours worth.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Not that there aren't things to be taken care of, but sometimes you just have to set everything aside and indulge yourself.

My indulgence was a long, very hot, fragranced bath with a book and a cold, crisp apple. Simple. Luxurious. Rare. Precious.

It felt like a lateral detour off the stream of time. Away and insulated, if only for an hour or so, and then of course, back to Real Life.

Remember the Groucho disguise? The Johnny-Five lookalike?

I think I fixed it.
Actually, I'm pretty pleased with how this turned out, and perhaps someday I'll make one for myself in colours that make me weak at the knees, but this one is up for grabs, so to speak, in my Etsy shop.

Speaking of which, I took the plunge (sort of) and realised the idea with which I've been toying since SOAR: an Earring Kit of the Month Club - actually four versions of the same for different periods.

One immediate response was "How about a bracelet of the month club?", which is of course a great idea, except that I don't have twelve bracelet designs which I have neither sold as a kit nor a pattern, so that starting in January could prove problematic, so I'm leaving that one for another time. (Yes, I do have patterns for twelve earrings which I have not sold).

Last week (or perhaps the week before; I don't take notes) I strung up some beads for kumihimo, mostly for measurement purposes (How many inches of beads result in how many inches of braid? How many inches of thread are required for how many inches of beads? and so on), and started braiding.
When it was long enough, I tied off and beaded end caps, which is still so far the best way I have found to end off beaded kumihimo.

The bead holes are parallel to the length of the rope, and so it's a simple step to ladder together the last four beads added, and then to add single beads between each pair to set up for peyote. Of course this means that the end caps are attached to the beadwork, rather than being accessories that are strung on the necklace - so far I have been less than satisfied with add-ons, but perhaps more experimentation is called for.

There were more beads after I tied off, so I braided some more.
Not quite enough for a full necklace and too much for a bracelet, so I added some vintage beads and some copper and brass, and now I have two necklaces.

Next experiment is to mimic Turkish crochet, which looks good so far (an inch) but is a little awkward.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

10 Things I Wish I Knew How to Do

(With apologies to EtherKnitter for the blatant cribbing).
  1. Ride a bicycle comfortably and without fear (I had a really bad fall a few years ago when attempting to acquire this skill which promptly fell on the "I Really Don't Care" pile).
  2. Eat only when my body actually needs the nourishment, not just when I'm bored or something is so very tasty but I don't actually need it for sustenance. It doesn't sound like fun though.
  3. Not procrastinate ever.
  4. Sleep through noise.
  5. Sleep until noon when I have the time. That six ayem habit only allows an hour or two extra on weekends, at most. It's very annoying.
  6. Take good pictures (of knitting especially, and of blue and purple beadwork too. It's always wrong somehow).
  7. Not care about my own mortality/live forever.
  8. Love opera.
  9. Enjoy exercise.
  10. Be independently wealthy so I could play all day instead of having to save it up for evenings and weekends. And I would enjoy it; my periods of bliss between jobs have proved it.
In other news, even though nothing was mentioned, things have occurred (which is another data point for the tree in the wood question perhaps).

I was supposed to be teaching this class on Tuesday, and while the instructions were complete, the illustrations were not as clear as I'd have liked, so I made another bracelet (that's how I do the instructions: I photograph each step of the construction) but then the class had to be cancelled.
Love the colour of the drop beads, sort of a blue-green-aqua with a dusting of gold-bronze on part of the bead. And incredibly, I had a button which was the perfect match.

I guess it'll go in the shop.

My daughter really liked the leafy necklace from this post, but it was bought out from under her nose, so I made another for her.
There's also been knitting.
I imagine it's not obvious that the yarn is the one about whose plying I complained so bitterly. I'm loving it. The yarn. I guess it's about a fingering weight or thereabouts. I'm using 2.75mm needles to get a nice squooshy (but not sleazy) fabric, and then when I switch to all stocking stitch, I'll go up a size or two.

I probably shouldn't say what the plan is because then it'll totally not work out and I'll have to undo it and post pictures of crinkly yarn and empty needles, but I live dangerously, so I'll carry on regardless (although if I were completely oblivious of the possible consequences I suppose thoughts of failure wouldn't cross my mind, let alone appear in writing, which makes me a little disingenuous, but who's counting?)

So, the plan.

The above squares will form part of the neckline. When that is complete, I will knit the yoke and sleeves, starting from the centre outwards (which in retrospect I didn't plan all that well since it would have been better to have started the back yoke already since the thin bit in the picture above should really have been knitted off the selvage of the back yoke. I see unpicking in my future or else I could make use of my skills at grafting, which sounds more appealing since did I mention that this yarn is thin? And therefore takes more knitting per square inch than a fat yarn?) and possibly using second yarn for one- or two-row stripes since I have not all that much of this yarn. On the other hand, my gauge is tiny (see above regarding needle sizes) so I could (once again) live dangerously (it's becoming a habit) and assume I'll have enough yarn. But if I don't, it'll blow, and then when I add the surprise extra yarn along the bottom of the sweater (after the yoke and sleeves are done, I plan to knit downwards) it'll be pretty obvious that I ran out.

Guess I talked myself into stripes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Kumihimo Again

The beaded beads from my last post needed the right kind of rope, and circumstances have conspired to roll me around to kumihimo again.

I strung my beads and started, but neglected to hang a weight from the centre, figuring I could just hold it and pull on it for tension as I was braiding.

First I noticed that there were threads showing. Then it just didn't seem to twist nicely (the braid should have produced a spiral), so every now and again I'd stop and twist, and it seemed to stay.

There were enough strung beads after I'd finished the rope to try again, this time using a centre weight, and what a difference it made!
Both ropes have the same thread and the same beads and are braided in exactly the same way, except that the rope above was made without a centre weight and the other rope had as a weight the bead in the picture below.
Admittedly, it's a substantial bead: almost two inches long, and stone, but it really made a huge difference.

I finished the ends with a few rounds of peyote which attach to a copper toggle clasp on which my nice big red beaded bead is suspended. My daughter says the focal reminds her of the Disney movie "Anastasia", though she couldn't quite explain why.
Yesterday was full of stuff.

Sitting around for three hours waiting for a car to be serviced. That's a real joy, although to be fair, it wasn't as odious as it must be for people who are reduced to watching the TV (if it's on; I didn't notice one where I was sitting, thankfully) or paging through inane magazines, since I brought my laptop and was able to complete the instructions for next Tuesday's class, as well as do some kumihimo while listening to a podcast of This American Life.

Then Amy had her annual home sale at which my weakness for silk and tencel got the better of me. And oh yes, I sold a few things too - about three times the value of what I sold at the home sale last week, so my weakness isn't exactly leaving me destitute.

After that, at the Bead Society meeting we got the skinny on resin, about which I'd been doing some reading anyway. We made a little resin charm. What I really want to do is make cabochons out of resin. With Things in them.

And the lampworker who always brings her stash was able to seduce me with a few beads this time. I had a very, very weak day.

At least one of them has a kumihimo rope too. It will soon be a necklace.
Turns out the bead was the perfect weight.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Live and Learn

I'm not exactly sure why I've so assiduously avoided making beaded beads with a wooden core. Something about the machisma of such incredible thread tension and architecture that a beaded bead didn't need a core to support its shape, I suppose.

I'm so over it.

I found a beaded bead pattern on a Hungarian blog (and I just love the Hungarian word for beaded bead: "bogy├│" - I like the sound of it in my mouth, though I'm pretty sure I say it quite, quite wrongly) which had you cover a round bead in right angle weave using progressively smaller beads to achieve the curve, and then embellish with seed beads.

The embellishment didn't work at all, since they use clear monofilament, so you don't notice any thread, which is not the case for me. Just seed beaded embellishment became a little dull, so I included fringe beads, which add fabulous texture and make the whole thing tons more interesting.

The beaded beads I ended up with look nothing like the originals in which the bottom layer of right angle weave predominates, whereas in mine the embellishment takes centre court.

Now if only I have time (in the next day or so), I'd love to make heavily textured ropes on which to suspend them, so I'd better get started!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Busy As A

I eventually finished this.
More than a Groucho disguise, I think it looks like Johnny-Five from "Short Circuit" and if there's one thing that no one needs, it's their chest saying "More input!" in a cute, vaguely mechanized voice.

It had to be reduced to useful components:
I need to rethink my original plan, apparently. More input!

The necklace below got my Personal Fashion Maven's seal of approval.
And then I decided that I didn't actually have to stitch a necklace for this slider; I could just string one instead.
Which would be fabulous except that I have to redo it because one side is longer than the other, but who's counting?

On an entirely other tack:

I've been pondering why the Leonard Cohen concert last night was so poignant to me, since neither his career nor his personal life have been central to my life over the years, and there have certainly been other artists about whose work I've felt more ardent, and yet.
And yet.

I can remember being somewhere in the twelve-to-fourteen age range, sitting at my desk in my bright yellow acrylic swivel chair (altogether now: "Seventies") doing my homework listening to the radio. The station was Radio 5 and the deejay was Long John Burke, and the only songs I can remember are "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash, "You'll Never Find" by Lou Rawls and "So Long, Marianne" by Leonard Cohen, but I'm pretty sure there were more, even though none come to mind.

I was just starting my love affair (one-sided, to be sure) with David Bowie, and I did own "Ziggy Stardust", but I never owned a Leonard Cohen record.

Skip forward twenty-odd years, the end of a marriage in which the only music that was played in the house was music that he liked, because it was "more important" [his words, his justification] to him than it was to me. I lost close to a decade of music, and then I was free to rediscover what I liked in music, and baby, it was all new. Teenage boy music: Bush, Weezer, Smoking Popes, Green Day, as well as the odd Enya, Liz Phair, Jennifer Trynin - off the top of my head; there was much, much more.

After determining not to, I saw the movie "Natural Born Killers" on the recommendation of a friend whose taste I trusted, and I was smitten with both the movie and the soundtrack, so much so that I went and bought the soundtrack album - and I hadn't done that since Rocky Horror.

After my first blind listen-through (I didn't look at the album cover to see who the artists were) I detected a certain familiarity in a couple of songs that I was drawn to. Both, as it turned out, were by Leonard Cohen, both from his album The Future, which I then went out and bought.

Some time later I filled in with his "Best of" album.

Skip forward thirteen or fourteen years, beading while I listen to NPR online, Fresh Air with Terry Gross and an interview with Leonard Cohen, who was surprisingly calm about the fact that his manager had stolen all his money while he was in a monastery. The irony.

An interesting, low-key, slightly self-effacing man who has a way with words. Not uncomfortably smooth and smarmy, just careful and lyrical in his language. Someone who paid his dues as a young man, only to find himself in a less-than-desirable state long after he should have been reaping the benefits of his youthful success.

He was forced to go on tour to remedy his situation.

I wanted the dual opportunities to help and to see a legend. Call me overly romantic, foolishly naive. Whatever. We all need our little foibles.

I checked his tour schedule only to find that the closest he would be to St Louis was Chicago. On a weeknight. That wasn't going to work.

I don't always buy the Sunday paper, so it was serendipitous that I bought it the Sunday before the Tuesday that tickets for the newly-added St Louis concert (his tour was extended and expanded) were going on sale. I was ready at the keyboard at 10 ayem, and I got the seat I wanted, and then promptly forgot about it until this past Friday, when I checked my calendar.

I was clearly primed to enjoy the concert with my own heady mix of nostalgia, fondness and the desire to help.

He seemed so frail, thin wrists peeking from his cuffs. Stooped, his jacket hanging off his shoulders. White hair.

All his songs, poignant at the best of times, seemed oddly relevant in spite of their having been written decades before. His singing sounded sincere, emotion-laden and yet accepting. Brought tears to my eyes, a lump to my throat.

When he said "We're going to give you all we got" I hoped it wouldn't take too much out of him. I mean, he's older than my mother!

And then he skipped, yes skipped off-stage at intermission.

For a moment, I had a glimpse into the psyche of a groupie: I wanted to have his baby (not really - I'm so done with having babies, but still, kinda-sorta something analogous).

He was respectful of the audience, full of superlatives for his band, and became somewhat more playful as the evening progressed, giving us what we wanted, graciously, slightly self-deprecatingly, humbly.

I left the theatre aglow, and fell asleep happy.

That's a gift.

And then today I did a home show at which the sales per guest were pretty good, but there weren't all that many guests. Since it was a fund-raiser, twenty percent of my take is no longer mine, but that's ok, because I had a few interesting conversations, had the opportunity to show my stuff to people to whom I'd previously not had access, getting my name out a bit.

On the down side I didn't sell out all my inventory (not even close), but on the up side, there's plenty for Amy's show next week.

It's all good.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mmmm, I Love Me Some Dance

The program said "Fabulous Bodies Doing Fabulous Things" and they weren't wrong.

I love the start of the dance season!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

One More Time

The home sale on Sunday [edited: I originally wrote "Saturday" and when I was proofreading I just about had a heart attack!] is still happening, and I'm still working on more inventory.
This one I'm not entirely sure about. Reminds me of a weird sort of Groucho Marx disguise.

And I did finish writing up the instructions for last Tuesday's class while travelling home from SOAR, and since I haven't done this for a while, I thought I'd offer the pattern.
You get to do lots of tubular herringbone, preferably with very tight tension so that the links hold their shape nicely.
Two sizes of seed beads coupled with tight tension forms the shape of these long and short links that are joined together to make a necklace or a bracelet.
The clasp is a beaded toggle using one of the short links as the toggle loop.

I see lots of room for experimentation and variations.
  • The long links could fade from one colour at one end to another at the other end.
  • You could use lampwork beads, large pearls or semi-precious stones to form a sort of bridge joining the two long sides of a long link to each other.
  • Use a long and short pair as dramatic earrings by sewing an ear wire to the rim of a short link.
  • Instead of alternating long and short links, form a chain comprising sets of three short followed by one long link - this would be great as a rather long necklace or lariat.
  • Make a necklace of multiple lengths of different commercial chains, and use one or more short links as accent sliders to bundle the chains together.
Long and Short Pattern: $6 for a PDF emailed to you

Size 11 and size 8 seed beads
Your favuorite beading needle
Your favourite beading thread

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Danger! Danger Will Robinson

So I've been thinking, always dangerous.

Over the years, I've made many seed beaded earrings.
For many I've written patterns.
I've sold a few as stand-alone earring kits.
Some have been part of a necklace or bracelet kit.
Some never made it off my ears.

After spending a week with fiber freaks of one kind or another, and hearing about this or that dyer or sock pattern maker or fiber blender and all their kit/fiber of the month clubs, it occurred to me:

What about an Earring of the Month Club?

Why not?

Great present for the seed-beader who likes relatively small but not instantaneous projects, is interested in trying a variety of seed beading techniques, and wants the goodness to keep on coming. Someone who enjoys kits. Someone like yourself, for instance.

Some months every project sent out would be the same colourway, but some months I might have more than one available - and I'd encourage people to specify their preferred colour palettes so that where possible, I could tailor the colours. Not making any promises, but I'd try.

Some earrings might have more expensive components (say, rivolis) than others, but each month would cost subscribers the same - the actual received value would even out over the three-, six- or twelve-month period. I'd be inclined to offer price breaks to those who subscribe for a longer period of time, since a year is a bigger commitment than three months.
I probably would ship First Class rather than Priority to keep costs down for subscribers.

I don't think it would be too dreadfully much work, unless it was so incredibly popular that I had to limit numbers to something manageable, but this is not a problem over which I'm inclined to lose sleep at this point, given that right now I'm just noodling around with the idea.

On the other hand, I do believe that we are barrelling into a season during which I've heard tell of a frenzy of gift-buying, so this might be something of interest.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Barely Taking a Breath

The problem with almost anything desirable and the good thing about anything less so is that after it's over, it's almost as if it never was. And a day of travel will harsh any mellow for sure (not that mine was especially odious; at least no more so than usual).

On the other hand, there's this:
I love it: I get to shop for a friend who can never make it to SOAR (she teaches. They may well frown upon a week's absence during the school year) so the theory is that I will get acquisitiveness out of my system by the simple act of buying fibre, though so far the effect has minimal to none.

I think I've been shopping for her for close to ten years now.

I'm pretty sure it's proof positive that I was there. True to form, I took no photos whatsoever, even though I should have.
To be fair, some of that mess is stuff from classes and gifts, and in the history of these things, it's actually pretty restrained.


Apart from the shopping - and most of what I love about SOAR is definitely apart from the shopping - I had a wonderful time as always. It's a sad indictment of my life that most of those dearest to me live somewhere else for the other fifty-one weeks of the year. Of course it does make that one week so very precious.

And then I had to be at work again today. Already.

I felt slow and thick.

The first of two home shows is this coming Sunday, which means that every free moment until then will be spent beading.
I managed two pairs of earrings this evening.
I'm kinda liking these rivolis with fringe beads and drops; I think I'll make some more, and possibly do a necklace with them too.

Luckily I'm at the bead store tomorrow evening, ostensibly teaching a class, though it may well work out to be a supplies acquisition expedition.