Thursday, September 30, 2010


It's interesting that I've made so many samples, but somehow none is quite good enough.
I do love pink with dark brown, but the daggers just look messy to me. The spikiness is fun, but it's not dense enough, so it looks a little bald and unfinished. Reminds me too much of hair replacement advertisements, or that spray-on scalp paint that Joan Rivers sells on TV.
I was playing with colour change which is only marginally more interesting in person, but which doesn't in any way display the twist to advantage.
White? Gorgeous in the flesh, but in a photo it just looks washed out. I've combined transparent iridescent beads with matte, and the contrast in texture and finish is actually quite luscious, but you'd never know it from the picture. The photos I took against darker backgrounds are even worse, looking horribly amateurish as opposed to barely passable.
I don't want to teach the triangle toggle (though I think it's a good idea, continuing the triangle theme - I call this rope "Triangle Twist"), so that's out too.

And this is my latest attempt in lavender and bronze. Really pretty in the flesh...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

About Turn

If you have a stitch which is worked on the diagonal, then it makes sense that you can change direction to turn the corner.
The vee shape was fairly straightforward, but the necklace might be better next time if I increase the width towards the front, and add a more significant dangle at the point.

I'm now officially sick of green beadwork.

Things you should know about boxes, even of they're full of stuff.
They compel kittens to jump inside and bite them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Who Drives

I'll be the first to admit that I have all sorts of snotty opinions which either find resonance in my tribe (whatever that may be) or possibly offend at worst.

I'm more than a little judgy when it comes to spinning a yarn. No, I mean that literally. When people say "Oh, I had to spin it thick, that's the way the fibre wanted to be", I suppress an actual snort, but mentally I'm a little derisive, as I believe that the spinner is in charge of the yarn produced, and not the fibre, absent obstacles such as bad preparation.

I believe that the marginally competent spinner should be able to spin a fine yarn whether from silk or mohair; ditto a fat yarn. Of course, the marginally competent spinner also knows that adult mohair really isn't suited to a fine-gauge, next-to-the-skin sweater, and so won't try and make yarn for same, but still, the spinner is in charge.

Yes, it's easier to spin silk fine, but I have to say, a worsted-weight two-ply yarn spun from painted silk caps is a decadent delight. I need enough skeins to make something to wear against my skin so that I can draw on experience, but I'm pretty sure it would be fabulous to wear too. It might not wear all that well, as I suspect it could pill more than somewhat, but I think it's probably worth the risk.

Beads are probably as constraining as fibre. Sure I'm capable of stitching geometric shapes using sub-standard irregularly-shaped seed beads from China or India (the most regular seed beads are Japanese; Czech beads are nice too, if different), but I wouldn't. It would look messy and amateurish (not that I'm a professional professional, I'm more of an amateur professional since I do have a day job which actually pays the bills) and because I have some small experience, I just wouldn't make that, no matter how strongly compelled by the beads I might feel.

I know better.

(I'd either toss the beads or use them in some sort of wild fringey affair if the colour were that gorgeous).

On the other hand, to say I'm completely in control of my beading is probably stretching the truth a bit.

I know I need to finish a necklace for a class sample, although it's not even slightly urgent, but if I don't do it soon, it may well fall to the limbo pile.

I know I need to make samples for the upcoming proposal deadline.

I know I should put kits together for my Etsy shop.

And yet, somehow, I did not resist the compulsion to complete this necklace.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Always Something Else

I love lists.

I love making them, and I love being able to cross off the things I've done. I make lists all the time in part because I like making them so much more than I like using them.

Still, they can be useful as a reminder of my priorities.

Usually the lists are life-related: call a plumber, buy groceries, clean the gutters, that sort of thing, but the lists I enjoy making the most are the beading-related ones, which is firmly on the ludicrous side, as a large proportion of the neural goings-on in my brain concern beads or fiber or the things I'll make with them, must make with them, want to make with them, and how the hell do I accomplish that? It might be slightly unrealistic to think that I'd forget about something that occupies so many neurons.

Still, I make lists.

Often they're an attempt to keep me on track.

I decided to make kits for a class I taught some time ago, to put in my Etsy shop.
And I did make the samples. I changed my mind for almost all the bead colours (even though I had a table of colours. I like tables for colour choices and combinations), but the samples are done at least, and the instructions checked.

On that same list were the projects I plan to submit for an upcoming class proposal deadline. Some need no beading work, but others might be viewed more favourably with different colours or configurations, and those were definitely on the list.

Instead I made bead caps. Just four so far. Right now these are temporarily strung, but I'm flirting with an idea for matching beaded beads.

Yah, useful, those lists.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Chinovski Love

I've never been a big fan of cut crystal beads, because of the sharp edges, so I've used Czech fire-polished beads in my beadweaving. Great colours, reasonably priced, available everywhere.

At bead shows I'd see these Chinese beads that looked more like fire-polished beads than Austrian crystal for next to nothing, and I'd buy them from time to time, but the bead holes were sharp so they were really good only for embellishment or stringing. Turns out you do get what you pay for. And honestly the colours weren't all that fabulous, and the AB finish (aurora borealis, a pale oilslick-like coating) was fragile, so I didn't use them much.

Then a couple of years ago, a new grade of Chinese crystal hit the market. Still very reasonably priced, but the finishes were stunningly gorgeous - all sorts of peacock iridescences - they were available in a range of shapes and sizes (big!) and I was weak. The holes were still a little sharp, but the huge rondelles worked very well in a simple earring design I obsessed over for a while.

Cut back to a year and a half ago when I came up with a pattern for beaded bead caps for large beads that used rather small Czech rondelles, I think about 4x3mm. I made a few necklaces and released a pattern which has been very popular.

Then starting about six to nine months ago, my local bead store didn't seem to have too many rondelles in that size, and none of my favourite on-line haunts did either, and they were scarce at the bead shows too. I'd buy them whenever I saw them, but had to settle for colours I didn't love, not a huge compromise as the rondelles are not prominent in the design, but annoying.

I already posted a picture of the Fauxbergé pendant I made with some of the beads I bought when I taught a class this past Tuesday, but held off mentioning the others (for one, a litany of purchases is rather dull) until I had something to report.

The rondelles looked as though they were very similar to the Czech rondelles I'd been using in my Bead Caps pattern, but I wasn't sure they'd work.
The smoky blue ones are Czech, the aqua are Chinese. They're basically the same gross dimensions, but are pointier.
And a perfect substitution for the elusive Czech rondelles.

My local bead store doesn't have them in the metallic-like colours and finishes that I favour, but I will certainly be able to manage with the colours they do have, and now that I know that the size is right, I can scour the interwebs for colours I do like.
And I tested my instructions for an upcoming class.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Bigger. Better?

My local bead store is doing its bit to fuel the latest craze in the beading world by always having plenty of that Chinese crystal often referred to as Chinovski, for which I'm weak. Um, grateful.

Last night when I went there to teach Panspora, I noticed the latest batch, already appealing in its iridescence, but irresistible when I noticed big fat long-drilled drop beads like I use in my Fauxbergé pendants, only bigger. And even though I prefer rounds to rondelles for this design, rondelles work, and they had some big ones.

The Grand Fauxbergé is, well, big, isn't it?

I love love love the colours, and best of all, if I'm forced to sell it, I have enough left-over beads to make another for myself.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Secrets of the Universe

When I was a little kid, the absolute worst thing you could say to me was "I've got a surprise for you" tomorrow or next week or next month or in fact anytime besides now. I couldn't stand the mystery, and (future control freak developing here) I couldn't stand that someone else knew something that they were withholding from me on purpose, knowing that I knew they knew something I didn't know.

I didn't like the display of their power over me. (Knowledge is power, right?)

With age I have learned that there are forces not worth railing against, as there's no solution, with no way of my forcing one, having limited time and resources (and interest, if it comes to that), and it's not necessarily even fun.

I'm sort of ok with not knowing exactly why the Big Bang happened, or whether or not there's actually sentient life anywhere else, or whether people will really live on other planets (I don't mean like the space station. I mean living, like families, kids, jobs, theatres, that sort of thing), or other equally unanswerables, but there are smaller mysteries that ought to have answers.

Yesterday my brother and I were on Skype, coordinating dates and places for our trip to Oz in a few months (he's getting one of these (check out the link. It's really cool) as guest accommodations) and he asked if ever I'd received the hair washing things FOR HIS LITTLE GIRLS.

Why on earth he had one only thingie (he has two daughters) sent to me with no note enclosed, I have no idea, and I was too delighted at having the mystery solved to ask, but the funny thing is, apparently the little girls have suddenly become perfectly fine with having their hair washed. I guess I'll take it to them in Oz. Lucky I didn't give it to the woman at work with a three-year-old girl.

There's been knitting happening, and I even have a halfway decent picture to prove it.
The lacy part is the collar, which is simply a rectangle. I picked up stitches for the neck, and am working raglan increases as the collar simultaneously grows. I've just reached the end of the collar, at which point I'll discontinue the lacy pattern and solid raspberry yarn, and continue in the round with the main yarn, in the usual raglan fashion.

It's a fairly lightweight yarn with which I'm using bigger needles (three and three-quarter millimetres) than I usually would (I like somewhat dense knitting; I think it wears better), so I'm not exactly sure how far it'll go. I'm hoping to not be forced to make a deep hem in non-main yarn, though I'm fine with having six inches of sleeve the same as the collar. I'm sort of planning on it.

I might make it: I have thirteen-plus ounces of yarn that's somewhere between sport- and fingering weight, and even though it's handspun, it's not all that dense. My handspun is generally fairly lofty.

I also completed the chain/rope/stitch I was messing with a few days ago.
It's not super-fast, but it's also not as slow as I'd feared.

The bracelet is the class sample; I'm making myself a vee-shaped necklace in the same stitch in greens, and then (unless I get distracted or bored, which probably amounts to the same thing) I'm going to make a cuff (same stitch again) which is wider and reversible and has some other colour configuration.

The narrow rope lends itself to clasp attachment quite neatly; a wider cuff may be a little more problematic.

And finally:

If you remove the drawer, then you should expect a kitten to fill the space, especially when the fit is so perfect.

Friday, September 17, 2010


These little floral-ish thingies are kinda cute, I think.
I'm happy with the configuration (loop as an integral part of the whole), so now I need to work on making them a little less plain.

I'd really like stamen-like things inside, but they're awkward to insert, and too easy to forget to make them when the cone is tiny because you're all like "There are only three stitches in this round, and only four in the next and I can do both of them in less time than even a fairly shallow breath and if I breathe long and deep I can probably complete five more rounds in the time it takes to breathe in then out" and then before you know it, a stamen is out of the question, unless you feel like messing with wire, which you usually don't unless it's the only way, which it may well be, but you don't want to commit to that path, since you don't yet have a definitive answer on account of only having made a few of them with little thought to stamens. Stamina.

Speaking of which, I need lots.

There is fifty percent more kitten than there was three weeks ago, still just as much cute, and just as much intense playing. Crickets are a popular past-time (the catching and torturing thereof but unfortunately not consumption which would be nice so the floors aren't decorated with cricket parts), as would be yarn, were I to allow it, which I don't.

I swear, it's like kitty-crack: she goes nuts when she sees knitting or spies yarn within reach. Her basest predatory and acquisitive instincts come to the fore as she attempts to kill (by biting, kicking and scratching) anything actively in my possession, or kidnap anything else.

If she were less excited about yarn, she'd probably have better luck sneaking it by me, but when she dashes past breathing heavily with a huge ball of yarn in her mouth, it's kinda obvious.

Amusing, but obvious.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What If

Tubular peyote has its place in the world I suppose, but without any variations or embellishments or fancification it doesn't make a chain that stands alone.

It's rather dull. Functional but dull.
Even when you work in colour it's dull.

It gets a bit more interesting when you combine different bead sizes (it does actually tend to excite people to be quite honest), but it feels a bit like cheating. Not that I'm above succumbing, as it does the trick, but it's a bit of a cheap thrill.
What floats my boat is messing with the stitch, using structural or architectural techniques to get interesting effects. With peyote stitch, I'm talking about increases and decreases.

Some years ago in one of the magazines there was a really bold, structural spiral formed by the judicious placement of balanced increases and decreases, which I thought was kind of brilliant. Using colour emphasized its structure, making the eye see an inner and outer edge of the spiral.

I made a short length but wasn't enthralled by the actual doing. It looked fabulous though.

Yesterday after forming something conical, I was left with three peyote stitches, which made a rather pathetic rope, so I stacked an increase at one point in the circle, balanced by a decrease 180º away, and it looked a bit herringbone-ish. So then I stopped and restarted the increase and the decrease, and the herringbone staggered a bit.
I thought colour might be useful, and magatamas or fringe beads might punctuate the stopping and starting of the increases and decreases.
I think it works.

The technique is not neat to explain, because the step-up wanders around the tube, constantly changing, but I think it's kinda cool. My sample is rather short and somewhat stiff, but I suspect that the latter is a function of the former, and that a bracelet- or necklace-length will have suitable drape - at least I hope so.

It can be made slightly narrower for necklces, and as wide as desired for cuffs, but it may get sloppy if it's a lot wider. Or not. It could be reversible with different colours on each side.

It's not too terribly hard to start, but it's possible that closures could be less pretty than I'd like because the working end is on the diagonal, so it may be awkward to taper or end off neatly.

I'll check on that another day.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Not Quite

This is my next sweater, or to be more precise, my next project.

The colours are much nicer in real life: richer and lusher.

Since I took the picture, I have wound them into balls and knitted a small sample which was Bad And Had To Die. The kitten rather liked the foreground yarn, which is a soy-silk and merino cabled yarn which is actually rather nice. She has exquisite taste of course.

Although much of my beading time was experimental (which means I cut some stuff up and made other pieces of things which are not yet cut up but which probably will be; the essence of my effort cannot be distilled into the word "completed"), I did make a couple of pairs of earrings.
I used 12mm rivolis, and what pleases me about this design is that I didn't have to cover up much in order to hold them securely. If I had a stash of 12mm rivolis, I'd have made a bunch more, but I seem to accumulate 14mm rivolis instead. I guess I could see if the principle is translatable to a bigger rivoli.

Another day.

I have a little drawer with odd things that I have found at hardware stores and other unlikely places, things that I was certain would be extremely useful in beading projects, and even though I really haven't allowed them to realize their potential, I still think something fabulous is on the cards. Eventually.
This isn't quite fabulous, but with a bit of refinement it could be. A lot of refinement perhaps. I mean, who doesn't love copper? And seed beads? Seed beads and copper? Stay tuned.

The last experiment turned out to be more successful, but I'm at a bit of a loss as to how best to actually use it. You can't really tell, but it's a diagonally-sliced cone, sort of. Perhaps a stylized calla lily, or a tussie mussie.
I think the stem has some possibilities. It started off as tubular peyote, but then I added an increase and corresponding decrease, and now it looks rather herringbone-esque.

The staggered effect is the result of stopping and starting the increases and decreases, and gives me an idea for the magatamas I bought yesterday wondering what on earth I'd use them for. Or fringe beads. Or else I could cut it up...

Saturday, September 11, 2010


If one bead cap is delightful, surely two would be twice as nice?
From the top, perhaps.

Eh, not so much.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Small Things

It's not been a hugely busy week in terms of the things I like to do that have tangible results, but I do have a little to show for my time.

October earrings, which you can barely make out (on purpose; surprise is part of the fun, yes?)
I'm still waiting for September supplies which they tell me shipped today. By the time they arrive, I could have the instructions complete.

I spent quite a bit of time re-cutting-up a bead cap (implying of course lots of making it in the first place), which I think works now.
It's a bit of an odd size, deepish and covering most of a round bead, so ovals fit, but they have to be fat enough, and that's a lot of bead.

This agate is about two and a half inches long.

There was also knitting, but no pictures.

And spinning because I need the yarn Right Away, because there's this sweater I just have to start now, because I'll need it very soon, as the yarns are merino and rayon blends, making a good fall sweater: not too warm. Also the still slightly new job over-heats in winter, so I'm finding that less insulating sweaters are better (I run cold enough that I need more than just one layer).

Also I'm excited about the design. I have sketches with measurements and everything.

So I must start the sweater immediately. Perhaps tomorrow when the yarn dries, which I'm thinking is in general going to be slightly problematic (laying yarn on the air vents in winter to dry) what with there being a kitten who is driven into frenzies of predatory excitement by yarn; almost as much as by live crickets but more than by dead ones which nonetheless need to be held down while napping, just in case reanimation should occur.

You never know with crickets, especially dead ones with only a couple of appendages.

Kittens take little for granted.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Not Much To Show

I spent quite a bit of beading time making something that I'm not allowed to show you.
The pattern was released to those who agreed to follow it exactly and submit their finished whatevers to be voted on at the end of the month, pictures not to be published until the voting is over. A couple of beads from the business end of my necklace (being the part from the pattern) is at lower right. I don't think I'm giving anything away by showing this little tease.

Generally my favourite kind of knitting starts without swatching or a pattern or stitch counts or anything besides a vague idea of approximately where I want to go, and a plethora of paths that might lead there, and as I meander along them, I change my mi refine my plan and it all works out as if by magic (sometimes after no small amount of backtracking. Ripping out).

The half-sleeve below is partial fruit of one such vague thought plan.
I knitted three strips, two cuff-sized and another hip-sized. All get a few rows of moss stitch followed by mitred squares on one edge (hereafter designated the "top") and something or another (a single row of picked-up stitches followed by casting off purlwise is NOT it) on the bottom edge, and then something else on top of the top edge, don't know what yet.

My refinement so far has revolved around No Triangles Whatsoever, because no matter how I did them, they sucked. And that was a big time suck.

I suspect the rest isn't going to be excessively creative, but that's fine because once I'm done, I'll have used up all sorts of ugly handspun oddments from the stash, and I'll have a Very Useful Cardigan which will not be a hideous mish-mash of colours: if I overdye with a weak black dye, I'll get a lovely subtle charcoal palette.

At least, that's the plan, but I have to confess it's not all that inspiring knitting with ugly yarn.

I may have to start one of the other two projects I have lined up, both of which use much nicer yarn.

In other news, my kitten is growing by leaps and bounds.
She still fits into pockets though.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


The jaded among us might say that I got stuck again, because I made two more the same.
Sort of the same, not identical. I tried slightly different beads, like a small fire-polished bead instead of two seeds.
And slightly different colour placement and bead counts for the overlay.
I like the former but not the latter so much. I thought I'd needed more beads to form the little star-shaped overlay, but it changes the shape, makes the beaded bead taller. I preferred the somewhat flattened shape of the first two.

In terms of colour, I think I like the way the colours in the first one worked the best. The star overlay is a light, bright contrast so that the body of the bead recedes, and the large fire-polished beads are closer to the background than the foreground, so that they appear to alter the shape and texture rather than distracting with colour.

Good to know.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Not a Repeat

It seems like all I've done lately is reprisals, nothing new, and it's enough already.

I've been distracted I guess, so it took a while to get this one right, as you can see.
It's pretty unusual for me to have failures this bad sitting around, as I'm generally a big fan of scissors (actually, I did cut up one or two of them. The dismembered ones are Even Worse than the rejects above, hard to imagine), but it's kind of interesting to see how I got here.
Two hurdles:
  1. Making it perfectly symmetric about the equator without contructing each hemisphere separately and then joining them, and
  2. Using an overlay for stabilisation

I'm not convinced that this is the best, or even the only overlay, but it's effective at least. It might be fun to have a pattern for the basic bead with variations for the overlays.
I do like the ends though.

I also think I'm way overdue for some yarn porn.
This double-knitting/sportweight yarn is three plies of merino plus some sort of rayon: seacell, tencel and rayon from bamboo respectively. Two plies were from handpainted yarns, the third a solid raspberry. It took forever to ply: the entire last episode of Prime Suspect, plus half an hour or so, to give you an idea.

I tend to overload my bobbins, especially my plying head, but this was the biggest plying bobbin I've ever wound. I like loose, loose tension for both spinning and plying, but as the bobbin got fuller faster than it seemed the singles bobbins were emptying, I had to keep upping the tension to pack the plying bobbin down more, until eventually it was so full that if I'd ad another seven inches of yarn, I might have had to throw it away.

Three hundred and seventy-nine grams, or thirteen point four ounces.

Still not enough for an entire sweater though.

On the other hand, my handspun cashmere/tussah sweater is about the same weight. Of course the yarn is also fingering weight, but still.