Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Some years, the bear eats you

When I would complain or engage in a session of self-pity, my Dad would chant, “Some days you get the bear and some days the bear gets you.” I’m not sure if this is a widely-held aphorism so I did a little “G-search” and learned that the saying is really, “some days you eat the bear and some days the bear eats you,” attributed to baseball pitcher, Preacher Roe. This makes sense as my Dad was a talented baseball player and likely gained this nugget somewhere in his pitching days.

Well the bear ate me this year and I will save you from the gory details other than to say I have developed a renewed admiration for all those many caregivers out there who, day-in and day-out, care for their loved ones. We had an health crisis this year that caused us to pretty much put everything on hold that was not part of the medical bubble in which we found ourselves. And despite some harrowing hours and moments of despair, I count us among the fortunate as having access to excellent doctors, decent health insurance and a boss who allowed me great flexibility in my work hours.

Hobbies were definitely one of those things that took a back seat, thus the lack of posts since September. Fingers-crossed, we have found some stability that has allowed me to return to regular beading and crochet.

So I'd like to leave you with this beaded peace sign which was one of my first beading projects after a long hiatus. It is a pattern by Marcia and Mark DeCoster and is available in Marcia's Etsy shop. Don't let the price tag be too off-putting as some of the proceeds go toward Alzheimer's research.

Here's to a healthy, happy 2018!

Monday, September 18, 2017

Beading adjustments

Sometimes even the best beading components need some adjustments. Take this super-cool ball chain I found at The Lipstick Ranch booth in Tucson this year. The rounds are 6mm and make a great way to show off some of their wonderful pendants and other components.

Here are the other items I purchased. I thought the pendant on the right would be a good complement to the chain. But I found it nearly impossible to open the ball chain closure. Ugh - I could never give as a gift unless the recipient never wanted to take it off. So back in my stash it went.

Then I thought of making an alternative closure using some 18 gauge craft wire and a large lobster clasp. It's not the prettiest but it sure is easier to close.

Ball chain with alternative closure

Here is the chain with the pendant.

My next adjustment wasn't as drastic. I just finished a rope using a super duo netting technique from Spoiled Rotten Beads. This makes a pretty chunky rope that is about 10mm in diameter. I decided to use the goddess component also from The Lipstick Ranch. After adding the pendant, the tiny hole on her neck looked weird to me like it was missing some embellishment. 

So  I created a little necklace for her which I secured with a couple of passes back and forth through the hole.

Now she is ready for her close-up!

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Crochet frame tutorial

I’ve been working on a small cross stitch project and wanted to frame it a little differently so out to Pinterest I went and found some great tutorials for crochet frames. Don’t worry if you have never done crochet - anyone can make these. Here's the final result: a cross-stitch birth announcement for our new grand-baby.

I used this tutorial by Girlybunches on YouTube but there are many other options if you do a little “G-Search.”

Materials you need:
  • Metal ring to fit whatever you are framing - mine is 5” in diameter
  • A smaller ring to serve as the hanger. You can find these in the crochet and knitting aisle
  • Yarn to match your design - any kind will do except for bulky yarn
  • 3.5 mm crochet hook
  • Stiffy fabric stiffener
  • Tapestry needle that is thin enough to fit through your beads
  • Fireline thread - either crystal or smoke depending on your frame color
  • 6/0 and 11/0 beads in the colors you prefer
  • Non-fray backing: ultra suede or felt. I prefer ultra suede since it doesn’t add much thickness and has such as nice appearance
  • Fabric glue
Joann's has many different sizes of these metal rings but I'm sure you can find them in most craft stores. I chose one 5 inches in diameter but they have other sizes too. You can also use embroidery hoops but I prefer the smaller base of the ring.

I picked a pretty pink pastel yarn and followed the instructions on the Girlybunches tutorial. Then I did added a step by stiffening the yarn frame. Most yarns are soft and will curl a bit and I wanted something more sturdy and frame-like. There are various stiffening options but I used Stiffy fabric stiffener. Follow the instructions on the bottle and apply to the crochet frame with a paint brush.

Let the frame dry while you make the hanger and finish whatever you are framing. It doesn’t have to be cross-stitch. You can print a pretty picture on fabric and frame that. Here’s another wall art piece I made using this technique and a larger ring. Instead of needlework, I did a collage of images on Photoshop, printed on Leslie Riley’s Artist Transfer Paper, transferred to muslin and backed with Pellon double side fusible to adhere it to the background fabric.

Larger ring base about 10 inches
Back to our smaller frame project: Using the second small ring, follow the instructions in the first step of the video just to cover the ring - you don’t need the extra embellishment on the small ring since you will attach that to the frame as a hanger. Once the frame is dry, attach the hanger to the frame using the yarn threads from the small ring. Weave the thread ends through the frame taking care they are not visible from the front and snip.

Now you are ready to apply the frame to the object you are framing. I took an extra 5-inch ring and traced around it with pencil on the reverse side of my cross-stitch to get the approximate size. You want to go larger than the ring so the edges of the design fall under the crochet embellishment. I recommend doing a round of zig zag stitch outside the tracing line making sure it will be under the frame and not visible. I used white thread so it’s really hard to see on this photo but it will prevent fraying. Cut around your design just outside the zig zag stitch. Before you stitch to the frame, lay your design on whatever you will use to for backing and trace around the design on the backing material so you know the size you will need. It’s easier to trace it before you secure the piece to the frame than after doing so.

Now comes the fun part: attaching the frame. Turn the frame so the right side is facing down and lay your artwork with the right side facing through the frame opening. Turn it over and check that it is centered just so. Once you have it positioned, use some painters tape to temporarily secure the artwork to the reverse side of the frame, holding it in place while you stitch.

The great thing about crochet is that the stitches around the frame create little dimples, giving you almost perfect spacing for beaded embellishments around the frame. I used one 6/0, 11/0 bead combo in each dimple. Thread the tapestry needle with Fireline and secure it to the reverse side. Come up through one of the dimples to the right side of the frame, pick up a 6/0 then an 11/0 and sew down into the 6/0 tightening the bead into place. On the back side, move to the next dimple and repeat all around the frame. 

This serves two purposes. First it provides a pretty embellishment but most importantly, it secures your artwork to the frame close enough to the inside edge to prevent any gaps. I used a tapestry needle since it is thicker and was able to more easily pierce through the stiffened yarn. I tried a beading needle but it was just too thin and I had to fight to get it through the yarn.

Once you have stitched your design to the frame, apply the backing to the reverse side. You may want to personalize your backing especially if you made the item as a gift. Place a thin layer of fabric glue on the edges of your artwork, taking care not to get glue on the crochet. Then lay your backing on the artwork and allow it to try. The glue is one more insurance against fraying and also attaches the backing to the art.

Make sure you take a photo before you gift the item so you have a record of your pretty work!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

130 days until Christmas!

130 days seems a long way away but the holiday season will be here in the wink of an eye. About this time each year, I try to decide on the ornament design I will make for friends and family. This year, I have it narrowed down to five possibilities.

First up are these darling super duo Christmas trees designed by the mother and daughter team at simplebeadpatterns.com.

Simplebeadpatterns.com tutorial
It may look like a simple thread path but it is pretty tricky. The tutorial is a bit on the pricey side but I thought well worth it since it breaks it down to basic steps. I made three of these so far and think they would be pretty in a metallic green with red and gold decorations.

This next option is not an ornament design but instead is an earring design featured in Bead&Button June 2017. I am always looking for something with a southwest-y feel and thought it would be beautiful as an ornament. This seems pretty involved so I don't know they lend to multiple production but one or two would be doable.

Francesca Walton design in Bead&Button June 2017

Next up is a basic icicle design that I thought would be pretty in turquoise nuggets for a southwest theme. As of this writing, the Etsy shop owner is taking a break so check back if you are interested in this item.

Etsy ornament by Snowflakestudio59

Mark and Marcia DeCoster recently posted about this Peace tutorial with the proceeds going toward Alzheimers research. Not only is the cause a good one but the theme of peace seems to be especially needed this year.

Peace tutorial by Mark and Marcia DeCoster

My last option is an old-but-goodie saved from an Art Jewelry Elements blog post two years ago. I made this sample using some pave beads in my stash with a crystal Swarovski snowflake. I just love the added sparkle of the pave and crystal.

Art Jewelry Elements Christmas Wreath
Decisions... decisions. Maybe I will need to make a few of each!

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