Sunday, July 31, 2011


Yesterday's little medallion spawned a prettier sibling which grew up into a fairy princess, but that's not where it started.
It started with a lampworked bead on a necklace that I happened to wear on Friday, but that's not where it started either.

Probably about ten years ago or so, my friend Gayle got into lampwork, and we happened into a conversation in which a lampworker who sells on eBay was mentioned. I promptly clicked over to look at her work, fell in lust, and fell into a deep depression (I'm embellishing here; I was somewhat disappointed) to see that her beads went for many hundreds of dollars a set, not infrequently in the thousands. I once saw a final price of over four thousand dollars, though that was unusual.

I went over to her personal site and saw that she offered sets for about $250, which while way more expensive than any beads I'd ever bought, didn't seem that excessive, especially when compared to the feeding frenzy that was her eBay listings. (They're no longer listed on her site).

Current boyfriend thought a gift certificate for a set of beads would make an excellent birthday present (it would have), but she was sadly no longer offering $250 custom sets since her auctions were so much more profitable. Disappointed, the gift certificate for the offerings of a particular artist transmuted into any set of beads on eBay, but after looking around some more, I realized that I could make that money go way further than a single set of beads, as there were so many incredibly talented artists selling for an order of magnitude less, and so started a period of obsessive purchasing of lampwork beads on eBay that continued for about six months until I got laid off.

(As an aside, she's no longer my favourite lampwork artist. Her use of colour is exquisite, but I think much of her magic lay in her most excellent eBay listings: the photography, the layout, and her descriptions. In her life before glass she wrote for Rolling Stone, so it's hardly surprising that she'd captivate with her words. I prefer the intricacy of this artist whose work is equally out of my reach).

I have quite an impressive collection which includes multiple purchases from a few favourite artists, including Polychrome beads who has an Etsy shop, should I run out of her beads (not happening any time soon).
So on Friday I wore this necklace which I made from her bead, and I somehow latched onto the idea of a beaded slider that twirled.

It started with the medallions above, and I experimented to see if I could do a stiff enough twirl (actually, I knew I could, as I'd made a self-supporting, self-shaping donut bead for one of my very earliest kits many years ago, and had recently been thinking about reviving the technique).
Yup, it worked, but the colours were horrible, so I started again.
I considered making another full twist, but I was impatient to make the other end. I'm not sure if a twist and a half would better display the slider ends, but that's a project for another day.
Right now, I'm pretty delighted with what I have.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Got It!

Last week I finished off a necklace that started off like this, but I wasn't completely satisfied with it.
There was some kind of weight balance awry. As Amy said, it needed more stuff on top, so I decided on deeper netting (more stitches) but that looked unfinished and too open and fragile (and not in a good way) to support the drops, so I switched from five-drop netting to three-drop, but that was just flat and heavy.

So as I started stitching, I started ripping out (or cutting, when the thread was pierced) for the beads that weren't doing any good where they were (except pointing the way to What Not To Do), in this cosmic dance of eating my own tail, which is why the sample below is so short.
You can see part of the evolution (where the left hand side is older than the right): the space between the two leftmost daggers isn't quite the same as between the other daggers. I wanted a more well-defined zig-zag.

Eventually I had something which I found visually pleasing, but which wasn't suited to a necklace, as it wouldn't curve. It would make a lovely cuff though.

So I made it narrower, and suddenly it worked!

It's (to my eye) visually balanced in terms of the density and variety of beads, and it's wearable on the human form. I think I have a workable solution for the back too, which in my mind is always something to think about with necklaces. I like the front to have more weight so that it doesn't twist around the neck, and if we're talking about a wide collar, then its very width shouldn't seat it in an unstable and fidgety way.

For quite a while now I've been working on a large three-dimensional pendant or slider around 12mm rivolis, butit hasn't been going well, and still isn't, but I've stopped for now, though I'm considering other uses for the rivolis.
This may be an incarnation of the end-piece of a whole different necklace enhancer quite different from my original concept, thwarted in equal parts by blurred vision and too-small bead holes. Fortunately I'm never at a complete standstill, as there are always more ideas and more projects in the work.


I can't imagine a life in which I wasn't driven to make things.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Slave to Colour

I'll probably still finish the green necklace from Friday, but apparently I needed to make one like this.
It's close in actuality to what I'd planned, but I don't love it as much as I want to, so I guess my plan must have been flawed. It's not awful, but it's not as lovely as I think it should be. I made the unadorned back section too long (you can see it from the front), and I wish I'd transitioned better.

I love fringe beads, and I love lots of fringe beads, and so I used a pair of fringe beads where seed beads looked lame, but the fringe beads don't behave all that well, so I need a better solution for that section too.

It may not seem like it, but the problem of a lack of transition between the back and the front presents in the lack of front focal, which I think might be in order.

I guess it's either Back To The Drawing Board or Forget This And Do Something Else, but I don't yet know which it will be.

On the other hand, the sample for Tuesday's class turned out quite well, although I was part-way through it when I realized that I'd used the same colours (though in different places) as in the first sample: purple and orange.

I might need to make another one in entirely different colours just to prove I can.

It looked to me like a lion's mane, so when looking for a name, I looked up the word "mane" in a bunch of languages until I found something I liked the sound of. The actual word (and I forget the language) was "crina", but I thought people might want to pronounce it "cry-na", so I changed the spelling to Creena.

I need to make one that doesn't have golden tones in it. You know, like the colour of a lion.

Apparently I'm all about the subconscious when it comes to colours.

I think I'm going to need to make blue or grey leaves and black flowers and metallic bunnies just to show my subconscious who's boss!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Starting Point

I check in on a number of beading blogs which are so often inspiring. I'll see a combination of beads, an outline of a shape, an interesting variation on a stitch, then go away and start beading. If I continue, generally what I end up with is quite a long way from where I started.

Occasionally I'll even follow a pattern pretty much as written.
Like these earrings, which I found here. (Actually, this is the second pair I made; the first I gave away before I could even photograph them). I liked them because they use both farfalle (or peanut) beads as well as daggers, both of which can be difficult to incorporate into seed beading.

Cute little earrings. Little earrings. Tiny little earrings. So small they could be the trim on a necklace.
A tiny piece of a necklace, to be more accurate.

I actually tried to make the netting part of the necklace more interesting and textured and multi-coloured, but it only made it ugly, so I stuck with the undecorated look and let the dangles do all the showing off.

Although the daggers I've used are rather plain, this is a great use for those gorgeous (and expensive) daggers like the ones I used in the earrings. They're both shown off to advantage, and used relatively sparingly.

Sadly, this may have been my self-indulgent beading for the weekend, as I have instructions to do for Tuesday's class.

I'm sure I'll survive.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Just Finished

And now it's bedtime.

I wasn't going to redo all the pieces linked to metal rings, and it's interesting that some people like the combination with metal and some don't.

I have no particular principles when it comes to seed beaded projects in terms of metal: I'm for it if it enhances the item and against it if not. Or if I'm too lazy to bead a clasp it's that much quicker to use something that's already assembled.

The ends that join the beaded ring should have been a bit looser, as the front section is a bit grabby and doesn't flow too well, but otherwise I'm quite pleased with it. I really love the colours though.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Few Small Things

I said I'd been fighting gauge and entrelac, didn't I? Or at least alluded to it.
The problem was that I wanted medium-to-small entrelac squares, preferably seven or eight stitches by twice that number of rows, and in order to make a garment that conforms to a body shape, more or less, one makes a back and a front which are generally the same width, which means the same number of entrelac units for each, which means an even number.

Herein the problem.

Each pair of entrelac units has its own measurement, which for seven, eight or nine stitches per unit yielded a garment either too big or too small. I tried a different needle size but it looked ugly, and so finally I have settled on ten stitches per unit which is bigger than I'dwanted, but will at least yield a garment that will fit me well enough. Not perfectly, mind you, but well enough.

To measure entrelac gauge, you need at least four units across, and three up, which ends up being way more knitting than I usually do in the swatching department (except for the sweater I kept on undoing at SOAR one year), but it was either that or give up, and I wasn't quite ready for that.

There was no intense beading this weekend, not really, not in the way of completing a large project over the course of many hours. I miss that I didn't, even though I did get plenty of knitting done.

I experimented with funny odd-shaped beaded beads.
I should have taken a picture from above or below, as they have this triangular structure which is more intriguing than the side view above.

In the course of searching for beads (which I never found), I came across some rose quartz ovals I'd forgotten about, and wondered how they would work for this:
Looks like they work, doesn't it?

Yeah but not really. I had wondered how a rounder oval would work, and it turns out the not-so-slim waistline gets in the way.

See the large pale bead at the top that's recessed compared to its siblings?
There isn't enough room around for their generous curves unfortunately.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Before I Spin

Halinka didn't like the metal rings, so I tried a beaded ring.
Version II (of both the ring and the links, which may diverge into variations of the chain) are in the works, but if I don't make a Something out of what I've started before working on the next ones, I'll have Yet Another UFO. They're on the verge of overwhelming me, moving into the guest bedroom and leaving their dirty socks in the living room.

So I played around with something else.
I had planned for it to be a teardrop, but it seemed unfinished, a bit scrappy and unattractive, so it's a ring.

You can see that the rondelles, fringe beads and seed beads around the outer rim are vying for space, so the next version will be a bit smaller, making a sharper curve with more room and less overcrowding.

Meanwhile, I have to finish cutting and chopping and mixing the Indonesian Rice salad I promised to take to spinning today.

I was in grad school at the Weizmann Institute of Science for two years beginning immediately after the start of the first Lebanon war, and I somehow acquired one of those women's group combination cookbook/calendars, and this has been a standby since then, though I haven't made it in a few years.

Indonesian Rice Salad

2 cups brown rice, cooked, cooled
1/2 cup raisins or grapes (or dried cherries or dried fruit of your choice)
1 celery stalk, chopped or sliced or diced
2 scallions, chopped or sliced or diced
1/2 cup nuts
1/4 c toasted sesame seeds
1/2 green or red pepper, chopped or sliced or diced
1 c bean sprouts


3/4 orange juice
1/2 c salad oil
3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sherry
juice of a lemon (or lime, if you like)
crushed garlic to taste
salt and pepper to taste

Mix the dressing, pour over the salad and chill. Add other things if you'd like. Edamame would be good, as would julienne carrots or cucumbers. Ginger in with the dressing, and a dash of cayenne. Replace some of the oil with toasted sesame oil.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

I Made Stuff

I needed another sample for Tuesday's class.
So I made a very pretty bracelet.

I also finished the vibrant necklace I started last weekend.
I redid the wirework supporting the focal bead, so I'm no longer embarrasssed.
I've stopped subscribing to beading magazines, because in truth usually what's useful are the pictures only; it's been a few years since I actually wanted to make a project from a magazine, and it's rare that there's a technique completely new to me.

Still, sometimes I find myself with a new magazine.

There was a very pretty herringbone project which wI decided to make, but after two pattern repeats, I was just annoyed. I didn't like the way it looked (there were curves that were not beaded as curves, so there was unpleasant listing to the side), and I just didn't enjoy the stitching, but I liked the concept of alternating directions by ninety degrees.

I had an idea. It was bad. I cut it up.

I had another idea.
It showed promise. I liked the look of the rondelles between decorative parenthesis.
I decided I didn't need to alternate directions, but because the main part was pretty stiff, I needed something more fluid as a bridge.
I didn't care for my first attempt.
Or the second.
Then I realized that I needed joints with rotation, rather than soft bits (which is what the bright necklace above has in the centre of each beaded-bead section: two beaded beads separated by soft right angle weave), and found a length of chain I'd bought precisely for the links which could be separated out.
The necklace is only as long as you see, but is working rather well, so far.

Knitting? I've done a lot, but it's all got to go. Two word summary: entrelac gauge.

I'm no more clued-in as to the origin of Friday's yarn gift.

Friday, July 8, 2011


Apparently all it takes is a happy mystery to get me to post, even though there is this stack of pictures I took last weekend, so high it's practically toppling. (Well, it's all relative, isn't it).

This arrived in the mail today, from Interweave Press, from someone I don't think I know, and there was no note.
Just this scrumptious (less blue, more purple) skein of superwash merino in s ziploc bag.

Kind person, whoever you are, please tell me why you did this as I'd love to be able to thank you. I didn't think I'd been that good lately, or done something kind for which I should be repaid, and I'm pretty sure I didn't buy it, or even ask for it.

Last Monday, as well as I used my time off (no fireworks, lots of beading and knitting), I didn't have quite the success I like.

I saw a thing that gave me an idea of a use for cube beads that may not have been lame.
Eh. Didn't care for the 8ºs, wanted some faceted bling, and came up with this.
Kind of OK but those rondelles were a bit awkward. Perhaps faceted beads along the outside circumference, where they'd be more visible.
I guess so, but those 8ºs just don't do it for me.
Kinda-sorta better, but still not hitting the g-spot.

So I started a necklace.
The focal is this fabulous oilslick of colour over black, and it's lovely and all, but it's not speaking to me in the dulcet tones of desire, so it's languishing too. Plus I did a crappy job with the wire holding the very heavy focal.

So I made a pendant.
The rondelles are gorgeous, a sort of blue-green stoney wash over a black base, but I picked my seed beads poorly: highly contrasty seeds would have made it sing instead of snore. It's not objectionable, but it's most definitely not eye-catching. It's the sort of thing you'd wear to a party at which you really don't feel like talking to anyone there.
I did make Peg earrings to go with a necklace she bought a few months ago, so flush with my success, I attacked a plan for beaded links that could be formed into a chain.
I'd made one ages ago and thought it had seemed like a good idea at the time, and perhaps it is, so I made another (the one on the right) and even though it's serviceable and not terribly difficult, I think it might me rather irksome to have to make the next one intertwined with the previous one, as it's not a question of doing the whole thing and then in two brief steps, joining the ends so that TA-DA! they're magically linked. Rather, you make a very floppy chain, carefully join the ends, and then go around and around, adding embellishment to strengthen it, and with every stitch, your thread wraps around one of those evil fringe beads which are desperately needed because otherwise blah.
So I made a pendant.

At this point, I'm out of opinions, except I'll reiterate that I really love my new yarn.

Thanks, mystery gifter!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

It's Apart Hate

I put off seeing the movie Invictus until a couple of days ago for a number of reasons, all valid, and really I shouldn't have given in and seen it because it just irks me, as I knew it would.

Although I grew up in South Africa, I'm as interested in rugby as I am in baseball or curling or lacrosse, which is to say, not at all. Blind patriotism has never seemed natural, sensible or desirable wherever I've lived, and since I haven't set foot on the African continent since 1989, anything going on there is largely only of academic interest. Plus: rugby. Don't care.

Every time I see a movie about South Africans not made by South Africans, everything they get wrong annoys the crap out of me and this was no exception.

The people in the movie in South Africa who are purportedly South African at the very least should pronounce the word "apartheid" correctly.

Say after me:



That's the way it's said. When speaking in English, by English-speakers. If people in the US get in a snit because someone with no Spanish mispronounces the word "tortilla", then they should learn how to pronounce the pivotal word "apartheid".

Couldn't they have found an accent coach for Morgan Freeman? Really not? Because he was awful every time he opened his mouth.

Just because English is not Mandelea's native tongue, doesn't mean that he has to pause between each word. The man is literate and articulate and far more fluent than Mr Freeman would have us think. There were a couple of real black South Africans in the movie who spoke at normal speed albeit with their usual accent and cadence, which is quite distinctive. (Actually, it's pretty similar to quite a few other African accents that I've heard, but to no non-African accents I've heard). If Mr Freeman had paid attention, his accent would have been improved a thousand-fold.

The woman who played his assistant, apart from her awful accent (it was she I noticed mispronouncing "apartheid"), was obviously not for a second even before she opened her mouth, South African. Just because she has a darker-than-white skin doesn't make her any of the ethnicities in Southern Africa, and certainly not one with the family name Mazibuko. She's very beautiful, but her looks scream "NOT FROM HERE!"

A small detail in the Pienaar household. Yes, the maid would have done the ironing, but she would never no how no ways ever have done it in the living room.

There would be a room somewhere near the kitchen, or perhaps (as in my family home) there would have been a room between the kitchen and the back door, that also contained the washing machine, freezer, brooms, vacuum cleaner and other cleaning equipment, where she would have been doing the ironing. I realize that the maid had to have a presence in the movie so that Francois could give her a ticket, but any work that she did would have been while the family were not in the room. Most likely, they would have interacted with her in the kitchen.

Clint, I'm disappointed.

Personal enlightenment and the growth of empathy and understanding always make a good story, and I loved the Cape Town nostalgia shots: the mountain, the lighthouse, the aerial shots, and the rugby looked authentic to me: lots of grunting and mud, but they say the devil is in the details, and so many of the details were so flat-out wrong that it (as expected) completely ruined this movie for me.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Too Tired To Title

Before I show you my latest finished beadwork which you've already seen in progress so it's not as though any of it is mind-shatteringly exciting and new but I like it all the same, let me just say that Things Have Changed Since My Day.

I took my son to his chosen school's "Summer Welcome" which is really just student orientation with parent activities thrown in for the terminally Unable To Process Information. I think he had a great time, got a bit familiar with the campus, met a bunch of incoming freshman, all that good stuff, but as far as I'm concerned, I could have done without the bulk of what I wet through.

I'm a big fan of good communication, good organization of information, that sort of thing, and Thursday was an excellent counter-example. They were very well-orgainized in terms of herding us from one session to another, and I am glad that I got to see the campus, but if they had sent out a well-written, well-organized document with the information that we (as parents) need, I could have read it in about fifteen minutes and not had to endure the schleppage. It was really hot too.

The first session we went to was all about money essentially, and how students can accrue expenses, and how you (the parent) can pay for them. It was a little like an SNL sketch, where they say "If A, then B, but if C then D" and the parent asks "So if A then D?", and "B means C, right?" and my jaw actually dropped at the inability to listen and process for which the rest of use had to suffer.

Holy crap.

I'm happy to have taken my son to orientation. I'm happy to have received information that they did not otherwise send out to the parents. I'm happy to have walked around the campus and seen the student union and a dining hall and dorms, but I'm decidedly not happy about having been herded around and had doled out odds and ends of information piecemeal.

One plus is that I finished a sock and made significant progress on a shrug which looks to me like an excellent way of using that single skein of handpainted cotton that I was (a) unable to resist even though (b) I didn't think it could be used in any attractive or useful way (as a single skein) since I don't do scarves or scarflets or shawlets or capelets (though you need more than one skein for these ridiculous - and not in a good way - bastardizations of legitimate garments) or little bags. Gloves, mittens and hats are not good matches for cotton.

I ought to take a picture once it's finished, but the plan is that you cast on for the neck and work paired raglan increases for the back of the sleeve and single increases for the front of the sleeve: there is no front of the shrug. Once you reach the underarm, work a couple of inches of sleeve (if you like) and then work ribbing to finish the sleeve and around the circumference of the shrug, corresponding more or less to the back neck, front neck and back/bottom edge.

One hundred-gram skein of dk-weight is enough for the non-ribbing parts, and I'll use a solid colour for the ribbing.

On to beadwork.

I finished the necklace I was working on earlier this week.
I've been having a hard time finding brass clasps, so I made one.
I'm not the keenest wire-worker in the world, but sometimes you just have to. Solid brass findings are hard to come by, and they're often fancier or more floral or vintage-inspired than I care for, and almost always way more expensive than I think they should be, so making my own very simple findings is a good solution. It doesn't even take that long.

Now I need to stock up on 16-gauge wire in copper and sterling.

I also made matching earrings.
I also made the ear wires.

I'll probably put the necklace and earrings in my Etsy shop eventually. I like them, like the colours, but don't lust after them and desire possession, so I made a necklace to match the earrings in my last post for me.

Sludge. Yum.