Monday, May 30, 2011

I Lost My Stripes

No, that's not slang for something esoteric and/or technical and/or geeky (much).

I mean it quite literally: the lovely stripes that my yarn was giving me have morphed into not-stripes as I shape the garment.
I still like it, but I really liked the stripes.

I made another one.
Look very carefully at the ivory-coloured beads: they have the prettiest carvings.

These are a fair amount longer than the beads I've been using, and while they work, their length and perhaps the end taper (the ends are fatter than my usual beads) result in a slightly less stable structure which is not as stiff as I'd like it to be.

Still pretty, not a failure, but not ideal.
I'm generating quite the collection!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Apparently Not Even Slightly Done

Satisfying as it is to make merely a pendant, there's something about hanging them on purchased necklaces that feels impermanent, incomplete, a cop-out.
So I made one necklace.

The beads I've been using to make these pendants are all about 15x5mm, slender ovals, some smooth, some faceted like these.
The beads used in the red pendant aren't quite the same, yet were more or less successful. They're slightly shorter and fatter and less tapered, as you can see below.
I also found green ones and purple ones about the same size and shape, dark amber faceted beads close to the same size but with a better taper, and really pretty carved bone beads which are quite a bit longer.

Guess I'm not done with these pendants after all.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Psych! (As It Turns Out)

Really, I thought I'd exhausted all local variations on longish oval beads, but I found some more, slightly different in proportion, which I had to try out.
I think they worked rather well, and even though primary red is not among my favourite colours, it's all they had in this shape, and I rather like the result.

The ovals are slightly shorter (but not enough to have to adjust the seed bead counts, which makes me think I should adjust for the longer ovals), and slightly fatter, which means only that if you're determined to peer into the interior of the pendant, the windows are a little smaller.

I've also been knitting.

Actually, that's pretty redundant, because I've always been knitting, every week, just about every day, for about, oh, forever or so. Which would logically mean that there's always more knitted stuff, or at the very least (more usually) that there's always some progress on knitted stuff, although in truth that progress is sometimes negative progress rather than the more usual positive progress, and almost more to the point, I rarely photograph it.

I rip out if something's not working, which is exactly what I did with this yarn before I had this:
I had started on a mitred square thingy which really wasn't looking all that nice. Sort of bitty, messy, not well put together somehow. I'd made significant progress on it, having used up one entire skein and dug deep into the next, but it was doomed to meh, so I ripped out and started something else entirely.

Even though I tend to prefer variegated yarn that does the dappled sunlight through leaves thing, resulting in an impressionistic, almost pointillistic melange of colours, in spite of myself I'm really liking the stripes here.

In case you're wondering, it's loosely based on (unless I change my mind later) this (Ravelry link). Different yarn/gauge, a different front centre panel pattern, and other minor changes.

The only downside? Two handspun projects (both wool thus not need-to-wear-now) which are slightly stalled have become less interesting, since I can't just pick them up and start knitting - both need a little thought and planning which has considerably less appeal than knitting something NOW.

And this is why people start new projects when they have perfectly good projects in progress: it's the lure of instant gratification.

The thing is, I really enjoy all stages of knitting projects, from conception to planning to execution to wearing, but I guess I'm weak for the needles.

Besides, it'll still be weather-appropriate when I finish if I don't get distracted by another project.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Last One

I have no more long oval beads - and I saved the best for last!

Yummy golden-brown beads with touches of aqua.

I had a lovely birthday with beading and knitting and great food and a Two. Hour. Massage which is about the best idea I've had in my life.

I get a one-hour massage once a month (instead of a manicure or pedicure or facial or personal trainer) and I love it while it lasts, but in all honesty, the rest of the day is often not so comfy for me, and it's not until the following day that I feel the benefits.

I don't know if my back is stronger than it has been, or if going for a brisk walk before the massage is the ticket or if I was better hydrated, or if indeed two hours is what it takes, but that was fan-freaking-tastic and I felt great the rest of the day.

I might just book that two-hour slot for May 23rd 2012.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

All Things Considered

And not that for a second I thought the world was ending yesterday, but I'm pretty glad it didn't, as there's tons of stuff I want to finish (and start, for that matter), and if you can't take your shoes when you get raptured, I'm thinking beads, yarn and fibre are all probably verboten.

I'm almost halfway through the second sock, and even though this one isn't perfect, I'm still pretty pleased with it.
[This may be redundant if we've ever met but] I'm a big fan of modular knitting, in part because you don't have to commit for a while, you can just happily knit and then decide whether it'll be a cardigan or pullover, round neck or vee. Also because there's no need for a gauge swatch (usually) though with socks I don't need to swatch because I tend to use fairly consistently similar yarns.

Still, love the modular.

Turns out that with the triangles, I need about 12% more stitches than just straight up -and-down. Told you I don't swatch with modular knitting!

Anyway, I had a very grand plan for weird heel shaping which turns out not to actually conform to human anatomy, but I still ended up with something somewhat non-standard.

On a third of the stitches, I worked a longish garter stitch strip to cover the back of the heel. Then I picked up stitches on each side, and short-rowed to form triangles, picked up stitches along the remaining two-thirds of the leg circumference, and effectively worked a mitred rectangle (more or less a double-mitred square) but decreasing very quickly (every row) so that the long edges weren't parallel but curved towards each other in the middle. The rest of the foot was worked straight; perfectly normally with my usual garter stitch toe.

The heel as pictured is slightly too big because I wanted to stick with the same number of stitches and rows as for the modular triangles. The row count should have corresponded to my usual stitch count (so 12% fewer rows), with the decreases spaced accordingly, as the rows in the double-mitred shape were correct.

Overall though, I count this as a success.

I also spent some time making a kit sample.
Actually, just a short piece, as I wasn't in the mood to stitch an entire necklace, because what I really wanted to do was to make another one of these pendants (which as you can see I did).

As far as I'm concerned, this is not [yet] an obsession: I'm just refining the design, and unless I manage to find more of these long oval beads, it'll never get there (to Obsession Country), as I have only one more colour, and the bead store has one more after that (which I don't like all that much), and then it's the interwebs which so far have proven not terribly obliging.

PS It's my birthday tomorrow. If you buy something from my Etsy shop, put "BIRTHDAY" in the "Notes to Seller" and I'll give you 10% off.

Everyone Still Here?

Guess the world didn't quite end, did it?

Saturday, May 21, 2011


They finally stopped exploding the bridge just about the time that my alarm goes off on a weekday, and for those not paying attention:

Weekend = License to Sleep (*)

(*) According to the Whim of the Cat

I have a carry-around beading project which is starting to annoy me.

I made a lovely herringbone watch-strap which had a major flaw leading to its loss in that the part of the strap that goes into the buckle, has a hole for the pointy buckle prong thing, goes out the other side of the buckle and then tapers to a point, was too short, so the buckle kept coming undone.

The buckle would come undone, the watch would fall off, I'd retrieve it and rebuckle it, until the last time, when I didn't notice it falling off and so it became history.

Luckily I had another watch face and buckle in reserve, so the new watch-strap became my carry-around project. I don't BiP (bead in public) all that much, so the progress has been lacklustre. Today I finished half of the strap and made the EXACT SAME ERROR.
It doesn't even stick out, unless you call that hint of bead at the bottom "sticking out". I don't.

And the buckle is slightly narrow, causing the strap to distort as it passes through. This is less than optimal, and I haven't been thrilled with the entire project (witness how long it's taken to do a couple of inches/half a strap: months).

So I came home and made a pendant.
I completely love the 15ºs I used in it: pale matte aqua lined with gold (not real gold, just gold colour), so they're slightly green and they glow.

I've also been assembling and stitching kits to send to the Bead & Button show.
I love the way that iPhoto just has to make sense of pictures of beading. It might be a little psycho (aren't schizophrenics supposed to be obsessed with eyes? There surely must be a disorder obsessed with faces), as it's convinced that this is a face:
I don't see it, but I'm not a shrink.

Perhaps beadwork is the new Rorschach?

Sound of Thunder

Did you know that the sound of a bridge being demolished carries more than a mile when it occurs so early in the morning that there are no traafic sounds (which is interesting because they might as well do it at rush hour since the highway is closed anyway) and is in fact loud enough to wake you out of a very deep sleep, so that as you pass from unconscious to dreaming to "What the hell" your mind ar first sluggishly interprets the sound as animal footsteps and you wonder how a possum could have entered your ductwork because man this is too noisy for a mouse, and when it doesn't go away it occurs to you that it might actually be outside, so you throw on a robe and investigate the basement which is pretty damn quiet, and then as you stand outside your front door hearing the sounds of rockets, mortar shells and gunfire, you realize they must be blowing up the Delmar bridge which is illuminating but doesn't lead to anything resembling silence and most certainly doesn't create an environment conducive to sleep.

Not even slightly.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Stuff I Have No Title For

My baby graduates from high school in two hours. Freaky. I remember being pregnant with him.

I think that's my major accomplishment for the week, although in truth I really can't claim a whole lot of either credit or recent direct action - at some point you have to get out of their way and trust that they've figured this out. And so far, for the most part, he has.

On the other hand, I directly and intimately contributed to everything pictured below.

I don't feel terribly confident in my wire-working skills, though in a pinch I can manage - it's just not gorgeous, and I won't attempt anything complex or too intricate. I don't enjoy wirework as much as beading anyway.

This is one of those things at which I'm not utterly lost, yet I do it from time to time because I can't find/don't have what I need, or it's the only solution to a corner into which I've beaded myself.

Take brass.

Love it, and I often bead items which would be best finished with a brass clasp or ear wires or other findings, yet solid brass findings are difficult to find and rather limited. I'm loathe to use the popular brass-finished findings endemic in all bead stores, online or brick-and-mortar, because my skin is so reactive that it strips the finish right off, and then it looks hideous.

I've been making very simple S-hooks with 16 gauge brass wire for ages. Nothing fancy, I just bend them into shape and hammer them a bit in part because I like the look, but also because it stiffens the metal nicely.

I'v also made a batch of ear wires I rather like: some big round ones, as well as some that I can only describe as 80% marquise, as they lack about 20% of the outline. Again, rather plain, very simple.

Yesterday I needed a clasp, and the 16 gauge S-hook just seemed too clumsy and stark, so I managed to find instructions online for something which I think I actually managed well enough.
I wanted it to match the pendant, so I had to use 20 gauge wire so that it could pass through the bead.
The next one turned out even better. If I hadn't been distracted by making class samples for Tuesday's class, I might have turned out a whole collection of these clasps. I still might.
The class is essentially an add-a-bead pendant set.
Students will make simple large-hole beads in three sizes.
They'll also make one humungo bead, and a head pin.
Should be fun.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Another Variation

I haven't made enough of these to call it an obsession, but I am playing with slight variations and perhaps improvements.

When I think about teaching a project, I have to consider the availability of the beads required. Even if I did buy them at the bead store, if I used the only bead of that shape in the entire store, it could be problematic (depending on the colour and finish) if a student likes only primaries or pastels or brights or sludge or black.

There weren't too many of the long oval beads I used in the first one of these I made, so I wondered if you could stack round and rondelle beads to approximate a long oval.
The short answer is that you can, but you lose the prettiness of the oval showing through the window, and the bead hole dynamics are different, so the bell-shape is less pronounced. It's OK, but I wouldn't repeat it.

I also don't like the way the fringe beads around the top obscure the pretty rounded cap. I guess the pale turquoise beads didn't exactly help either.
I did work on giving it a nice, tight, frilly bum though.

Once More

Except for the fact that it's after midnight and my alarm will wake me in less than six hours (if the cat doesn't do it first. Which she probably will), I'm not sorry that I made another one.
I was going to use the same oval beads but with different other beads, but then I found these green tube beads which I've had forever (probably about fifteen years) and have never quite figured out what on earth to do with them, until now.

I like the length, but I honestly prefer the rounded oval-rice shape of the reddish beads.

Still, it was a useful exercise in determining where the fixed proportions should be, and where they can flex.

I think I might need to make another one with rather long beads again, because I have Another Idea.

Sleep first.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My Day

I'm a mother, aren't I?

My day.

My daughter is somewhere over the Atlantic, on her way to Italy for two weeks.

I don't quite have the words. I'm so proud and pleased that she sees beyond her here and now, and wants to experience another country as more than a tourist, even if not quite immersed - she's doing a photography class.

I'm empathetically and parentally (but not parenthetically) nervous for her: how to find the shuttle to the train station, meet her friend from London, find the D bus to the hotel. I know though from experience that the nervous anticipation is so often unfounded. You do find the bus, you do get to your hotel, you do get to where you need to be, when you need to be there.

I went to Europe for three months when I was nineteen, before the internet, before cell phones and text messages. My parents had to rely on my occasional collect calls and retain their sanity and not throw a nervie, so I guess I'll have to be equally stoic.

It's only two weeks after all.

Meanwhile (because the battery in my nook died just before the denouement, while I was being suitably decadent [my day!] reading on a chaise longue in the sun) beading.
A right angle weave bail that I saw on a round bead, but which works nicely on a marquise bead, and probably would equally on a teardrop.

A little dull though.

This one, not so much. (I'm quite pleased).

I had only the vaguest of plans (bell-shaped, using long oval beads), making it up as I went along.

If I'd put more thread on the needle, it might have more stuff around the bottom (and still may if I don't get side-traced by something else), but I like it well enough to call it Finished.

Saturday, May 7, 2011


In all honesty, there wasn't a whole lot of beading this week. There was a small amount of only marginally productive knitting (no pictures of course), some planning for a brunch this morning at which I may have converted a friend to cheese grits (yeah, I'm a Southerner ... from waaaaay down south: below the equator south), some craigslist action (in which I gave away some stuff) and some playing with my new toy.
I love toys.

My intentions were neither good nor bad when conceiving of what became the pendant below, which I think means that I may not be on a path to a mythical bad place paved with good intentions, but either way, this ended up diverging quite a bit from my original plan.

It's still hollow and has one pointed end at least (plan called for two), but then it started irking me such that I wanted to be working on something else, anything else, so I finished it as quickly as I could. I suppose I could have tossed it into The Bits And Pieces Drawer, but it's getting discouragingly full, so I opted instead for a Finished Something. Pendant.

My oldest leaves for a two week study-abroad in Italy. I'm pretty excited for her, and really pleased that this was something she pursued.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

More in the Same Vein

I liked the pendant so much I made earrings too.
I would have started on a cuff or a necklace, but I had to finish off the instructions for Tuesday's class, for which a sample (almost inevitably) resulted.
Only if you squint and are in the know can you tell that it doesn't actually have a working clasp, just two jump-rings, in readiness.

Naturally I got side-tracked before I could start on a commission that's been languishing since before taxes.

I had this brilliant idea which required a cumbersomely long and wide peyote strip which I was sure would somehow fall into place with my Very Brilliant Idea, but unfortunately only after stitching said tediously long strip and embellishing half of it (very nicely, I might add: I really liked the way that part of it turned out) did I admit to myself that my idea just wasn't going to work out the way I'd wanted it to.
So instead I started on what looks to be a more promising version of it.

Meanwhile I'm holding out for the healing power of sleep, as I have a back which is emphatically Not Thrilled about the yardwork that had to be done today which started off as cleaning the gutters but very soon devolved into trimming a hedge-like series of bushes in advance of the next ice storm or very heavy snowfall which I realize is hardly imminent, but is nonetheless still inevitable, at which point if those (now) ex-branches were weighted down with precipitation, they would most assuredly not be up to the task, falling onto the power lines - and I have been without power when temperatures are well below freezing, and it's not, shall we say, ideal, though the pyjama party at Amy and MJ's was fun.

Still, I'd rather avoid that nonsense, protests from my back notwithstanding.