Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Busy, busy, busy

That's me!

My kids are on Spring Break, but it's not much of a break for me. My daughter is volunteering at Zoo To You, and, of course, I am her chauffeur. Not that I mind, it's a wonderful organization and she's having a fabulous time with all the animals; but it does mean I have to plan my activities around dropping her off and picking her up! No bead store visits for me for the next week and a half.

I didn't get out in the yard to move my six wheelbarrows of dirt while she was gone, so I went out after I brought her home. I think I'll try very hard to get out there earlier tomorrow! It was quite warm by the time I started moving earth. But I got it done, and the raised bed is filling up, slowly but surely.

I'm still playing with the beaded beads; every time I make another one, I learn something. It is a very flexible technique; I made a five-sided bead, and it was quite stable. I'm currently working on a bead made from several different sizes and types of beads; it's great fun seeing how the bead changes when I change elements.

I'm almost ready to start working on a pattern for it.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Those beaded beads again

I am very pleased to report that my beaded beads keep their shape with additional beads! In fact, I think I like them even better. I had started out designing around a triangle base, as that is a very sturdy structure; I was concerned that they would fall apart if I stepped away from the triangle, but they didn't! So I guess I'm a better engineer than I thought; or just plain lucky.

I'm still searching the web, trying to see if anyone has beat me to this design. So far, it's looking good; I haven't seen anything like them yet. But I'm still looking.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Beaded beads

I was playing around today, and I think I've invented a new type of beaded bead Of course, I will have to check around to make sure than I haven't invented someone else's bead before I announce that with any certainty. This isn't the first beaded bead I've made, but it is the first one that doesn't collapse when it's strung, and it can be replicated.

Those are two important factors; this is the first time I've had both of them in one bead. All the others have either been squishy or got so complicated in an effort to make them hold their shape that they ended up being one of a kinds.

I've made three beaded beads today; two identical ones, and another with a different type of bead that ended up taking a new shape. That was pretty cool! Next up, I'll try it with a different number of beads and see what happens.

Some days it's just fun to play.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Back to earth

My mind and my heart are still on cloud 9 (you like me! you really like me!) but the rest of me had to come back down to earth. With a shovel. Yup, I'm back at it again; moving dirt. Four more wheelbarrow loads so far; but it's getting hot and I'm getting tired. So I decided to come in and rest a bit, then change into shorts and get back at it.

My seeds are in the mail, and planting time is fast approaching. I have lots to do before then!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


I've been jumping around my kitchen, doing the happy dance, just like Snoopy in Peanuts, ever since I found out. Just in case you're new here, and haven't been following my ramblings, I entered the Use the Muse contest at The Beader's Muse and I won first place!

I can't believe it. I just can't believe it.

My entry, Scarlett Sings, is on my blog, Jewelry Tales.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Patience, please

. . .and I want it RIGHT NOW!

I always laugh when people say that the things I make must require a lot of patience. They don't. I know this, because I don't have a lot of patience. If you saw me today, you'd know what I mean.

I have been waiting very impatiently for the results of the Use the Muse contest. I dare not hope for a prize; though I really, really want to win. More than anything else right now, I just want to be put out of my misery; and so, I have been clicking on The Beader's Muse website every, oh, ten minutes or so, pretty much all day today. Even though the results most likely won't be in until at least tomorrow, I've been haunting the site.

I must be the most impatient person on the planet today.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's working

One of the best things that comes out of taking a challenge is seeing things in a new way. This year, I have been looking for challenges; I haven't made the deadlines for all of them, but they have had the effect of making me look at my beads in a different way.

The last two challenges have been particularly effective that way. Both posed problems that I wasn't able to fully solve at the time, but the solutions, while not elegant, were practical and they will stand. But the technique that has been growing out of those partially unresolved challenges is really exciting!

Yup, I'm getting closer to being what I want to be when I grow up.

This is a very labor-intensive and time consuming technique; it is, I hate to say it, occasionally boring to do. It's very repetitive. It will be awhile before I have any results to show, but I am really pleased with how it is going. Boring bits and all. I've loved doing the challenges I've taken so far this year; and I love that they've given me a new technique to explore.

It's working.

Thursday, March 19, 2009


I planted some flowers today. It was one of those days where I really needed to be around civilized people, so I went to the plant nursery. It's one of the last bastions of polite society; people who work with plants are just nice people. So I stopped and smelled the flowers and chatted a bit.

And then I picked some out to take home. Mostly lavenders; lavender is a favorite of mine. But also a catmint, a few pale purple and yellow daisy-type flowers, and a very bright orangey-yellow wallflower. Can't have a garden that's all sweetness and light!

I also scattered about some stuff that is supposed to make the gophers clear out. I'll let you know if it works.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

90% perspiration

Did you ever hear that old maxim that genius is 10% inspiration, and 90% perspiration?

Well, today was a sweat equity day; in the garden and with my jewelry. I'm still ferrying dirt from my compost heaps to the new raised bed; it's going to take a lot of wheelbarrow trips to fill that one up! Never mind, slow but sure, I'll get there. I did six trips yesterday, and six trips today; at this rate it will take about two weeks, but it will get done. I may try to make a couple more trips tomorrow, but I don't want to do so much that I can't work for a few days! That would be pennywise and very pound foolish.

On the jewelry front, today was making the boring bits. I'm working on a new technique, and there's a lot of foundation work that needed to be done before I can get to the more exciting decorative parts. I'm not quite done with it, so tomorrow may well be a repeat of today on both fronts.

But won't it be nice when the 90% part is done and the fun 10% begins?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Digging it

I'm back in the garden again. We built a raised bed to go under the living room windows, and it's a big one! Sixteen feet long, six feet wide, and two feet deep. That's a lot of dirt!

You may remember that earlier this year, I spent a lot of time digging up grasses and weeds, turning them over, and making nice big berms of upside-down sod. The rain and the sun have done some good work on them; those berms are already decomposing! I started with my most recent one, piling the dirt and partially composted weeds into the bottom of the raised bed. I figure I'll put the older, better composted ones on top.

It's going to take awhile to fill this bed up; I barely made a dent in it today. But I'll be out there every day until it's full!

P.S. I can't dig all day, so yup, I did some beadwork. This project is probably going to take even longer to finish than the raised bed, however.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Get over it!

I admit it; I was a metal snob. Silver and gold, that's all I wanted to use.

But I am SO over it.

Base metals are cool. I fell in love with antique brass while making my piece for the Use the Muse contest. I'd never used it before! I'd never even considered using it. Boy, was I wrong about that. Antique brass has a wonderful warmth and blends beautifully with my beads. Okay, it was not easy to solder. But I'm betting that will take practice. I don't know it very well yet.

Using brass was so much fun; now, I'm committed to using everything. Today I found some really fun base metal and crystal components, and I bought 'em. I've just spent the past hour or two incorporating them into my latest piece, and it's fabulous! They provide exactly the right touch.

Opportunities. Gotta love 'em.

Friday, March 13, 2009


I've always believed that everything that happens has a purpose; sometimes it is really hard to imagine what the purpose may be, and other times it is immediately apparent.

Today, the purpose of two frustrating experiences came clear. Remember my engineering problems with my contest entry piece? How I struggled to find a way to make the beadwork flexible, but strong? I solved it, but not elegantly. All things considered, I believe that the best solutions are elegant solutions, so that one bothered me a bit. I know, I know; I've said it myself, "If it works, don't monkey with it."

And I didn't. It works, and I'm not changing it.

But that didn't stop me from longing for a slightly more elegant solution. Bingo. Enter the extraordinarily frustrating Dutch Spiral challenge. The challenge that was so frustrating that I dropped it at the first possible moment to make a flower from a pattern in a magazine. We already know that turned out well; the flower set the tone for the necklace and solved that problem.

And now, it's solved another one. The lesson from the flower is that different sized beads can be used together to make peyote billow and bow into lovely, and very stable, shapes. The flower is a solid, but the concept also works brilliantly for lines.

It's the elegant solution, staring me in the face.
I love it!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's almost time!

Monday, March 16th is the last day to submit a design, and after that comes The Big Reveal at The Beader's Muse. Yup, next week everyone will get to see the Muse in all her glory. I'm showing a small corner of my piece, but the muse is nowhere to be seen in this snippet. You'll just have to wait!

I can't wait to see all the ways the Muse has been used. It is going to be amazing to see her in so many different settings, from so many different beaders. The kit had something for everyone, from seeds to crystals, and, of course, we were welcome to include items from our own stashes. I added more seed beads (big surprise, that!) and some chain maille. I wanted this piece to be representative of my favorite techniques. I'm very much looking forward to seeing how she inspired everyone else.

So I hope you will join me next week, and take a look at all the entries. After the Big Reveal has been made, I will put my entry, and the story that goes with it, on Jewelry Tales. Until then, I'm waiting, very impatiently . . .

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

A new bead palette

I love setting out a new palette of beads. All those pretty colors in their cute little boxes and tubes, just waiting for me to spill them out into little piles, pristine and ready to stitch into a new project. It's my reward for being a good beader and putting all the beads from the last project back into the drawers where they belong!

I finished the spiral this morning; it's called Spring Fever and it's up on my Jewelry Tales blog. After all the false starts I made with this one, I'm well-pleased with how it ended up. There were plenty of times during the making of it that I wanted to give up; only the fact that I am as stubborn as can be kept me spiraling away.

I'm glad I finished it, but I can promise you that there will not be any spirals in the next one!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tying up loose ends

I've been working simultaneously on a lot of things lately, and not getting much finished; however, this week I'm finally starting to see the end of a few of my projects. I mailed off my contest entry yesterday; it didn't have to go until next Monday, but I'm happy with it, and yesterday I realized that I was ready to let it go. So I did.

My putative Dutch Spiral piece is almost at an end; I'm in the middle of fringing it. I thought I might finish it tonight, but I'm pooped. Tomorrow will do fine for that one. The tutorials have stalled; I must get back to them. I have two in process right now, and it would be good if I finished them.

The garden will be an on-going project for many years, so I'm not even going to think about finishing it; however there are small goals to celebrate, and last weekend we built a raised bed for the side yard. It needs to be filled and planted, but I'll get to that. I've had a rather nasty cold, so I'm not really up to doing a lot of digging and dirt-lugging. I'm looking forward to feeling better so I can, however!

Between the contest entry and the spiral challenge, I've come up with some really interesting new methods for making for bead lace. I've been perusing some of my lace books, looking for ideas, and I'm looking forward to beginning a new project once the spiral has been put to bed.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Round and round I go

I'm still spiraling. I took a break and made a darling flower from a pattern published in the April issue of Bead and Button by Melissa Grakowsky; I used the spiral colors, mostly because I was too lazy to pick out new colors, but also because I like them. So now the flower has found a new home on the spiral necklace, and I've found some new motivation to finish it.

I'm leaving the peyote rope on one side of the big loopy spiral I've already finished, and adding a smaller Dutch spiral to the other side. Yup, I'm making this one asymmetrical; and wouldn't you know it, I'm finally feeling good about it. It's funny; I've been trying to figure out why I don't like using spirals, and I just can't quite put my finger on it.

I've done things that were just as repetitive, and liked the way they came out.

Perhaps it's the fact that they seem to be symmetrical, but aren't. All I know is that I really hated all the symmetrical designs I tried to force my spirals into, and I don't hate this asymmetrical design. I don't think it is going to be one of my all time favorites, but that's okay. Sometimes the stuff I learn while making things, even things I'm not crazy about, is worth more to me than the things I make.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Plastering my bust

Now that probably put some images into your mind that you'd like to lose right about now! But it's not that, trust me.

For quite awhile now, I've been thinking about using a bust to photograph my jewelry. Some of the pieces I've been making just don't look right when they are lying flat, and I don't have the funds to hire a model. The contest piece is what made me realize that I need to have one now; it looks ever so much better hanging around a neck than it does lying flat.

When I first starting photographing my jewelry, I bought two busts. But they are both on the small side, and a lot of my jewelry these days is large. Needless to say, it is not attractive to see a necklace hanging off the sides of the bust! Others I have seen are either too small, or too flat. My collars need to be seen around a neck. A realistically sized neck. I have come to the reluctant conclusion that unless I buy a mannequin torso, I'm just not going to find one already made.

I looked into buying a mannequin. Erm, those things are pretty expensive!

So I wandered about in my local craft store, and found a plaster cloth product. I made an armature from chicken wire and used the plaster cloth to wrap it. It took three packages of the stuff, but I finished it this morning. It's pretty cool looking! I can't wait for it to dry so I can start using it!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The good news?

I have Dutch Spiral down cold. The bad news? I have almost nothing to show for it.

I have been working on this all week. I have made numerous versions and ripped them all out. The first one had a color problem; it was supposed to evoke a field of tulips, and instead it screamed, "Christmas!"

After I ripped it out, I cut way back on the red and green and added in lots of yellow, and some orange shades. The color mix was good, but I had too many different bead shapes. That was not good.

The next one came out angular. I wanted soft and billowing.

I'm giving it another go; I hope I have it this time. The most frustrating part is how long this stitch takes to really show itself; most of my efforts have not gone bad until I'm four or five inches gone. That's frustrating! I keep saying that I'm going to give up, but then I think, what if I tried this and before I know it, another day is gone.

This is the last time.

I think.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Still changing things

My contest entry has been sitting on my desk for awhile now, ostensibly finished, but every now and again I get the urge to do something to it. Today, I changed out the maille links; I'd used a Japanese 2 in 1 weave because I didn't want the maille to stand out, and it is just about the simplest weave going. Oddly enough, it did call attention to itself. Not in a horrible way, but just enough to make me uncomfortable about it.

So I replaced it with Harvest Moon. Now, on the face of it, that would seem crazy. Harvest Moon is a much more complex and layered weave than 2 in 1; but it blends better. The first thought isn't always the best thought; this piece has proved that to me. I don't usually spend so much time reworking things; I'm a fairly confident designer, and I'm always anxious to get on to the next idea that is bubbling around in my brain.

So far, every new thought has made it just a little bit better. Cool, eh?