Saturday, January 30, 2010

Oh Yeah, Puget Sound Bead Festival

I'm psyched: I just heard that I'll be teaching four classes (um, the projects in the pictures in this post, in case it's not obvious) at the Puget Sound Bead Festival in July this year!
Apart from anything, it'll be great to escape the Midwest summer heat and humidity, if only for a few days - the weather in the Pacific Northwest is so much friendlier in summer.
What they want to do is for the students to buy kits directly from instructors, so I believe that I will be able to give them a URL that they will post on their site, that will take people to the place where I'm selling the kits.
I'll probably make the kits available in my Etsy shop (to be brought with me to the show, not shipped beforehand), and I might have them available through my blog too, if people object to registering with Etsy. Please leave a comment if you have an opinion!

As of today, I've actually taught two of these before, and by the time July rolls around, I'll have taught another, and I already have instructions for the fourth, so it should be relatively painless prep.

And in other news, there has been some small amount of work to do at the still-new job, and while it's not anything approaching enough to fill all my time, at least it's something. Any improvement, no matter how small, is a plus.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jumping Off

A couple of years ago I realised that for me happiness was the condition of having my head so full of ideas that even an infinite future seemed too small to contain it all.

Things I want to do, places I want to see, books I want to read, music I want to listen to (and by the way, my latest music crush is The Magnetic Fields, specifically their newest album Realism - thanks, NPR for turning me onto them!), garments I want to knit (and occasionally sew), things I want to bead, materials I want to work with, recipes to try, ingredients to taste - you get the picture.

So anything which makes my head spin faster is A Good Thing.

Last night, being caught up (or caught up enough) with class proposals, samples and instructions, I finally made Lori's bracelet which she'd been asking for since possibly as long ago as November, ready for knitting tonight. It's like this one in my Etsy shop, but she needed the size to change slightly.

Just because I wasn't in the mood for finishing something else on my Duty List, something I'd already started, I decided to make a pair of matching earrings instead, something simple. So I made a square of peyote stitch, zipped it up to form a tube, and decided it wasn't done and needed more beads, and came up with these little tubes each with three wings or flanges.

Kinda cute.
Match the bracelet.
Then today at work, where I do in fact have some few small tasks, so it's not as though I'm desperately searching for things to do with my head, I had ideas doing gymnastic in there. All from those barely-better-than-boring little earrings. Other kinds of flanges, ways to combine them, extend them, shape them, distort them.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

On Staying Focu-- Ooooh, Shiny!

This was sort-kinda a productive weekend in that I was busy making stuff and there are more beads sewn to each other today than there were on Friday, but I started a boatload and finished nothing, which leaves me with this nagging feeling of duty-beading (I have all this stuff which I have to finish before I can do anything else), which is just not a place I like to be when it comes to things I started making because it was fun and I was in the mood, as opposed to real duty-beading which generally covers class samples and inventory for shows.

And I think I can hear a mouse in the ductwork. This is a new experience for me.
I succumbed here because of the class I'm teaching next weekend; I convinced myself that it would be valuable to my students to have samples which are variations of the class project.

I just really really wanted to bezel a cab, truth be told.

I usually work with 14mm rivolis because it seems that they just lend themselves well to the bead counts for the way I bezel them (peyote as well as RAW) as opposed to some of the other sizes (16mm) that just don't so much. For me. Unthinkingly, I bought five 12mm rivolis in five different colours which I started making into a multi-coloured necklace which I fortunately never finished, since it's really ugly and needs to be cut up and (in the Steampunk vernacular) repurposed.

Good news #1: I developed another way to capture a 12mm rivoli. It'll make a stunning earring. Look out, those who bought one of my Earring Kit of the Month subscriptions!
Good news #2: The back is pretty too.
Good news #3: it really looks nice with this huge thing (27mm) which for some reason utterly mystifying to me they call a stone (even though it is clearly not something either mined or found on a riverbed or under dirt or any of the usual places one might find a stone) instead of a rivoli: it's also round, it's also foiled, and it's also pointy back and front, but perhaps the faceting is slightly different. Once can only speculate (and see, one has).
Bad News: It's also not finished (see the wiggly thread above right where I ripped out some stuff).

Cool thing: If you look carefully at the honking big thing, you can see that the beadwork capturing it is reflected in the shiny.

In the sort of good news department, I started redoing the flower thingie with different bead counts, and even though it's also Not Finished, Dammit, I think this one will work. The petals are comfortably curved, not straining at their joins.
And lookie: it's also reversible!
For our New Year's Day spinning event/get-together/meeting/spin-in/eat-a-thon I made a fabulous dessert (well, I thought so): Pink Peppercorn Pavlova with Strawberries, Vanilla Cream and Basil Syrup, but I though the strawberries with their very bright flavour somewhat overpowered the delicacy of the other flavours. (And don't close your mind to the notion of a sweet basil syrup. Think about it: basil has a mint-like flavour. There's really no good reason for it not to be a dessert flavour. I had basil sorbet at Chikalicious [I highly recommend this experience. Sit at the counter] in NYC in June, and it was wonderful).

Last night I made it with pears instead. I roasted some cubed, ripe pears instead of simply quartering strawberries, and pureed a few more to replace the strawberry coulis. I think it was the right choice, although the strawberries are much prettier than the pears: the puree browned substantially, even though I tried to exclude all air, and both the puree as well as the cubes should have been sweetened more.

Still, I though the pears a more appropriate compliment flavour-wise, but this may mean that I'll have to make this dessert again. Oh gosh darn it, what a hardship. (Subtext: yum!)

Friday, January 22, 2010


Every time a Bead Purchase Event (I go to a bead show or my local bead store has a big sale) occurs and I succumb, I have this problem of where to put the new stuff.

In an ideal world I'd just immediately sit down and start beading and use what I just bought, but said ideal world would not include lust-based purchasing on a grand scale (which is what happens in this not-always ideal world) but sensible purchases in quantities just enough for one more project. Of course this would then preclude the notion of a stash, which is actually in my opinion a very useful and indeed necessary thing, simply because having a big and varied enough stash means that if inspiration strikes, one isn't hampered by lack of raw (ish) materials.

Be that as it may, in my little world, my stash usually grows faster than it shrinks, so I'm continually having to re-organise how my beads are stored. This may involve something like four instead of three little drawers of bronze and brown and gold seed beads, which means that something is getting evicted, and I either have to consolidate elsewhere, or buy more storage thingies.

Last time I tried to do this, I had to return the storage thingie because the drawers were too short for tubes of seed beads, and of course that just won't do. This lack of new and useful storage meant that something that I don't use all that much had to move to a less convenient location, and in this instance, all the Czech size elevens in their sorted-by-colour little drawers moved to a large communal drawer just above the drawer with the earring-sized boxes for online sales (this is in the equivalent of a side-street or alley-way in the neighbourhood that is my beading area).

As I was performing the move, I noticed a number of too-small-to-be-useful quantities crying out to have Something done with them, so I started some tubular netting, hoping inspiration would strike.
Well, it sort of has, in that I've decided that the rope needs to be long enough to go twice around a neck comfortably (right now it's closer to choking length), and will have some sort of removable beaded thingie that will be both decorative as well as functional in terms of effective wearable length.

So far I have a not-quite-long-enough rope with yet-to-be-trimmed threads.

It'll get there.

And when I'm really brain dead, I just settle in to making more and smaller mitred squares in the hope that this mess of concertina-ed knitting will eventually be the right size and shape to be a skirt.
I'm probably about twenty percent of the way there. Optimistically.

You can see my very innovative way of dealing with yarns that I do not want to cut, and which there is in fact no reason to cut, since each different colour/yarn will form a diagonal swathe of ever-decreasing mitred squares that will shape the skirt.

I use safety pins to keep that last stitch formed by the final sl2-k-psso which I prefer to keep live rather than drawing the yarn through and making a hard little knot. Then when I start the next square, that left-over live stitch is the first of the next square.

Most diagonals/colours so far have either two or three squares, each two stitches (that's one per side) smaller than the previous square, and when all diagonals have three squares, I'll be at a decision point. I'll need to figure out whether this is the appropriate rate of decrease, and if not, what it should be, and once I've fixed on that, whether it'll matter that it's changing.
  • If I keep the same rate of decrease until the hips (I have a long way to go as the skirt will be longer than knee-length, and I'm perhaps six inches/fifteen centimetres along) then it'll be a smooth slightly a-lined shape, all very well and good.
  • If I start decreasing faster after three squares (I'm imagining somewhere in the seven-to-ten range, the last two of which will definitely be decreased faster to shape the top), it'll be slightly flouncy with fullness around the hem which might look funny with the handkerchief edging.
  • It probably will look a bit off, but if I keep the same rate of decrease and it isn't enough, there will be all the fullness around my area of greatest fullness (spelled H-I-P-S) which isn't the most flattering thing in the world.
  • On the other hand, wool is so very blockable and I may well be able to steam the hell out of it so that I don't have any pleats or gathers.
  • On the other hand, if I decrease too slowly, I may run out of yarn.
See, this is the sort of stuff that keeps one awake at night.

Actually, what kept me awake for a while last night was a nasty dream in which my very unintimidating friend Fred had turned into some sort of flesh-eater (I've seen too many previews for Legion) and was trying to eat me in his very quiet and understated way, which made it all the more horrifying.

Luckily I still have nothing to do at work, so my lack of sleep is hardly interfering with my productivity.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thoughts Realised

The class is over, I have a sample in yummy lavenders and purples which is now available for adoption.
Yesterday at work I received the acknowledgement that oh yeah, in fact it's true: I don't have much to do (as in nothing), mitigated by the glad news that starting today, I would be occupied with actual work. It's 8:32 ayem and I've been here well over an hour, and still nothing, but I'm still hopeful.

They wouldn't lie to me, would they?

In all my hours of killing time at a desk, occasionally I have Thoughts About Beading, and sometimes those Thoughts develop into actual Ideas, and sometimes, if nothing else competes with my after-hours time, I try them out.

In principle, this was a good and workable idea, but the bead counts in my sample preclude finishing it as started.
The plan was for five identical petals, but as you can see, there's so much room for the two remaining petals that it will not lie flat.

I'll need to make the petals bigger and probably more curved and if you look carefully, you can see that one of the petals is less curved than the others - I noticed a problem right away (though obviously not the extent of it) and adjusted in the next petal.

You can see that adjacent petals part company about four rows out from the centre. Fixing the problem in my sample could be achieved either by eliminating the shared edge completely, or by adding more rows so that the individual petals are altogether bigger. While I'm making changes, I'll probably change the shape of the junction between each pair of petals too, as it is currently fighting rather than encouraging the curvature.

If I really wanted to stick with this sample (as opposed to cutting it up and having to extract endless three-millimetre lengths of thread from the beads) I could make the two remaining petals huge enough that the overall shape would still lie flat. I might do that, just to see how it looks. Asymmetry isn't a bad word, after all.

Overall this was a successful thought experiment, as I will be able to adjust the execution to make it work, and it might even look kinda nice once it's part of a working necklace.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 17, 2010


So I do have this Etsy shop and while I'm generally an idiot regarding marketing, there's apparently this jewellery-related holiday coming up in about a month. You may have heard of it. It's all about hearts and whatnot, so I thought I'd pander to crass commercialism.

Actually the necklace grew out of preparation for the class I taught last Tuesday. I started a sample and wondered if I could make the spiral zig and zag in any useful way. I think it's kind of interesting actually, and it certainly alleviates the boredom (some may say "zen") of repeating exactly the same thing for nineteen inches or so.

The new job with its endless days of Absolutely Nothing To Do leaves my mind like mush, able only to make samples (photographing them each step of the way) for upcoming classes.
I'm going with the flow.

I'm perfectly able to knit though, which actually isn't saying much as I wouldn't call the act of knitting the most intellectually challenging past-time, even if the planning of a project can be fun.
I've made some progress on the skirt - I think I might have the complete hemline done, which I'm honestly hoping for, as I'll have to either acquire or dye (if there's anything in the stash that I like little enough to conscript for this) more. The deciding factor is whether it's wide enough.

I suppose I could measure it.

If there were a competition for Most Creative Postage Stamp Collage on An Envelope I think Dan wins (Phreadde tells me that this is his doing).
Makes the contents almost anticlimactic. I said "almost".

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Colour and Samples

Occasionally I'm so incredibly careful that as I make up the samples that I am going to submit for class proposals, I actually photograph each step of the way so that when it comes time to write the instructions, I already have the photos.

Sometimes I don't.

Let me rephrase that: generally I don't.

What that means is that in order to make fully illustrated instructions I have to make the whatever-it-is all over again so that I can photograph every step that is described in the instructions.

Every time my local bead store has a big sale on seed beads, I grab the expensive colours that I'm sure I don't have (because they're too expensive, duh) and then I get home to find out that I liked them just as much last time there was a big sale at the bead store, and then I end up with three tubes of silver-lined opal lavender (permanent finish) which is nice and all, but seriously? Three tubes? That's a lot of lavender.

Ideally the samples that I photograph for directions use beads that are not too dark, too light or too shiny so that each bead shows up clearly and contrasts well enough with the background (hint: white, silver-lined crystal and other extremely pale colours are not good choices), and sometimes I luck out, but it's usually serendipity rather than excellent planning.

This upcoming Sunday's class is not one of the supremely well-prepared classes, as it turns out (big surprise), so I'm in the middle of the stitch, photograph, rinse, repeat cycle.

Due to the glut of s/l opal lav (pf), this was the natural choice for the main colour, and I grabbed a few other tubes that were close enough and started stitching.
I totally love these colours together.

The marriage of matte, shiny, metallic, silver-lined is just perfect. Now I just need a nice big project so that I can really enjoy them all.

And I took a better picture of this pendant (another on the Unprepared list).

In other news, in part because I have literally no assigned tasks at work and I'm bored out of my skull, and in part because it's not a bad idea, I made a new section in my Etsy shop where I'm listing pattern instructions only (kits are in their own section already). I forgot to send out an announcement on the yahoo group, and even so I had two orders within twelve hours.

Not a bad idea at all.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It's Still Cold Here. Too Cold

The new job? Still boring. I really wouldn't mind if I actually had something to do.

So last week or the week before, I was wildly making these things with the Czech faceted rondelles and then I saw some stone rondelles that were almost the same size and wondered how well those would work.
Not so well really. However, they make nifty dodecahedrons. Dodecahedra? (My spell-check doesn't think so, but I think I prefer the latter pluralization).
I think a herringbone chain should fit through the holes.

Almost five years ago I went on what I hope will be the only trip of its kind: a Caribbean cruise on one of the big cruise lines. I liked being at sea well enough, but I thought the stops were a complete waste of time mostly, though I did like it when I could find a beach and hang, rather than be surrounded by tour groups. I think those Caribbean ports that cater to the cruise lines (some of them expect to accommodate up to eight cruise ships, each holding some few thousands of tourists, at one time. Ick) are all that is bad and wrong about travel, but that's another rant.

Anyway, at one of the stops (somewhere in Mexico, I think. It was unremarkable and distinguished by nothing except its shops. No local flavour to speak of), I picked up some jewellery. One of the pairs of earrings I wear often, the other not so often as they hurt my ears, and I've never worn the pendant.
Which really is a shame, as it might even be real amber. So I made a necklace for it.

And even though all my knitting time over the past week has been on my mitred squares skirt (for which I have no photographic proof, but it's true, I swear), at the request of my oldest, I took a few hours off to make her a merino hat.
She loves it.

It also looks way better on her than on me. Just as well, I suppose.

Hats tend not to be on my list of Things I'm Dying To Knit And Of Which I Can Never Have Too Many, but I have to say, for instant gratification projects they can't be beat. I wish I liked wearing hats. Let me rephrase that: I wish I looked better in hats.

My son won't let me make one for him, so I guess the above was my one shot at Hat Joy. Perhaps I could make one for her boyfriend...
And for LaMata, because I said I would, here's another pattern (and there will be more. I just have to start somewhere):
Anemone Spiral Pattern: $10 for PDF emailed to you

Size 11 seed beads (optional, 3 colours)
Japanese fringe beads
4x6mm drop beads
Your favourite beading thread
Your favourite beading needle
It's embellish-as-you-go tubular netting which works up surprisingly quickly, perhaps because the pattern changes every ten rounds or so, which always makes things more interesting to me. There's something about completing one section and moving on to another that pleases me, related to why I know I will never knit another scarf ever in my life (I have only made one. It was a very unpleasant experience), nor shawl (ditto. Just the one) and most certainly never an afghan. That would surely be torture.


The pattern.

Fun, not too hard, quite a bit of counting (or otherwise keeping track of where you are), very fondle-able.

I have used Czech seeds because (a) I have so many and (b) I like them for this kind of beadwork. I think they work well in a more organic, tactile design like this one, and as they're a bit smaller than Japanese seeds, the project is just that little bit more delicate too. Feel free to use Japanese if you prefer, but I strongly recommend that you do not use cylinder beads. I think they look vile in this type of netting, but that's just my opinion.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

I Do

I committed.
I started knitting, but more importantly, I dyed and dyed - I even went to Goodwill when it was about twelve degrees Fahrenheit, which for my more sensible readers, is about minus eleven or more degrees Centigrade, to buy a crock pot as my dyeing crock pot died.

I'm that committed.

Looks like it's a sort of leafy theme, on the green side with splashes of orange and brown. And sock yarn. So I didn't feel so bad indulging in some new sock yarn - a lot less than I dyed, a lot less than I'm committing to the skirt, so the Net Uncommitted Sock Yarn Count has diminished, so it's all good, baby.

This looks as though it will be a pretty long-term relationship, as each of those mitred squares (admittedly this is the hem, the widest part and so the squares are as big as they will ever be) takes almost two full episodes of Firefly (my unexpected holiday/parting gift. I had no idea it was a science fiction Western), which I'm enjoying quite a bit, not least because of all the familiar faces. I had no idea: the girl robot from Terminator, Alpha from Dollhouse, Castle - I feel as though I'm among friends!

And it's always so much fun to knit with friends.

Class samples continue to be readied for the next deadline (which was originally the middle of the week after this next one, but got moved to next weekend).

Since the last batch of class samples had to be sent away (to be returned in February) and since I need at least some of them as samples for my local classes, I repeated myself.
Actually, I'd fully intended to make one of these in my usual monochromatic palette and one multicolour, so it's not as though it's all "OMG I need another one now!' or anything. I knew this was coming. I should make anther one using fringe beads. And another one as a necklace for the terminally imagination-deprived, but I probably won't.

Amy wondered how green would look when I showed her the purple one:

Like this. I might keep it for myself as I have two samples already (one en route to judgement).

Let me just say that I fully expect to not have any of my proposals accepted for this send-away-the-samples bead show, as they have set aside only 10% of their slots for seed beading, and I have little interest in generating projects not in my preferred medium just so that I can put another teaching gig on my resume. But I might as well at least try, and if I try every year, they might finally let me teach just to get me off their backs. Or perhaps seed beading will get all popular again, and they'll be scrounging for teachers and they'll think they know me because of all the years I will have been submitting class proposals.

Of course that'll most likely be towards the end of the century, long after I'm gone.

I'm looking with great sadness at the end of the weekend and my time of relative leisure (a series of short weeks) coming to an end until Memorial Day (that's the next scheduled holiday. We don't get MLK Day or any of the other ones that banks and the post office and other government agencies get, which I've always thought unfair. I can't say I'm too thrilled about it, as I really really REALLY like the extra time to get stuff done, like beading, knitting, sleeping in, reading on the sofa, that sort of thing.

And what with the whole new job thing, I haven't exactly accrued a fortune of vacation days.

It's quite annoying the way that thing they refer to as Real Life intrudes on my preferred reality.