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Posts Tagged ‘copper’

The biggest thing that’s been happening around here lately has been a serious spate of button-making.

Back in the summer, when I was knitting a handspun cardigan, I found myself – perhaps inevitably – at a loss for the right buttons. So, unsurprisingly for those who know me, I decided I should maybe just make some. I grabbed a scrap of copper, a saw, and an otherwise-completely-wrong-but-at-least-roughly-the-right-size button to draw round, and set to work. Quite some considerable time later, after a festival of sawing, cursing, filing, and the soldering-on of a shank, I had three bonny homebrew buttons that I thought were exactly right. I deliberately left them darkened and blackened from firescale (because I’m a weirdo, and I love firescale):

That’s not the best picture of either the cardi or the buttons, but you see how they play nicely together.

Anyway, it set me off, and I started turning out more and more buttons. I bartered a set for handcards:

Then I decided that the buttons on my Oranje were far too heavy, and hey! I could make a set that both suited better, and were lighter (because these copper babies are feather light):

Apropos of this. Oranje is quite probably the most fun you can have with your clothes. It was an absolute blast to knit: I learned several new things (like Vikkel braids and two-handed colorwork – especially helpful in the ‘eep! three-color’ rows), and now I have a really show-stopping, stunning sweater, with guaranteed ‘bragging rights’ and – lookit – go-faster stripes! I wanted to knit one from the moment I saw the pattern, and I was panting with excitement in an unseemly manner as I neared the end of knitting it (in under a month, which tells you the true scale of the obsession). If you haven’t knit yours yet – and there aren’t that many out there, so you quite possibly haven’t – go forth and knit it now. Now! (And then go to my Etsy shop and buy some buttons for it.)

And then I made more buttons. I made a range of different sizes:

and color finishes:

Being me, they quickly morphed into ever crazier variants. Now there are ones with silver over them, textured ones, and even (and I’m amazed it took as long as it did to come up with this), … even square ones:

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yes, of course there are more up my sleeve. Plus, if anyone has suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Roadtesting with the Oranje has proved them to be satisfyingly wash-proof, and tumble-dryer friendly (allowing for a certain amount of clanging and clattering). Some are listed in the Etsy shop; others can be produced to order – just contact me if you want any.

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My jewelry-making skills are still pretty limited, frankly. A couple of simple rings and the prehistoric bracelet accounted for most of the first term, and this year has brought one pendant and a lot of faffing. The pendant was a cute enough sterling silver ball of yarn with knitting needles.

I had decided to make a knitting-themed item especially to auction off as part of a Haiti-relief fundraiser on Ravelry, and I was pretty thrilled when some generous soul snagged it for the bargain price of $150. I also offered a mitten kit with yarn to make a pair of Swedish Fish mittens, and was blown away when that went for another $130. I could never afford to donate that much cash to Doctors without Borders/Médecins sans frontières, but I was willing and able to donate my labor and material costs. For the record, that round of auctions raised something in the range of $25,000 and it’s been so successful that ‘by popular demand’ a second round of auctions has started.

Other than that, most of what I produce in silver class could be classed as a dog’s breakfast, frankly. I’ve been circling round, but not knuckling down to a commission I rashly accepted at the beginning of the year, to make a mezuzah case with a dachshund on it. ‘Sure’ I said, ‘no problem’ and I took some money and then promptly panicked a bit. And then decided that the obvious strategy in the circumstances was just to ignore the whole problem. Until 10 a.m. every Wednesday morning, when I’d come into class, draw a few very terrible sketches, and put the project aside for another week (vowing to have the drawing part done by then). So every dog has his day, and yesterday, I got my saw out and finally, finally cut that hund out. Copper is tough, and the saw was flimsy, and my technique is probably not the finest, so it was all a bit of a struggle, but I did it. The neck was rather too long, so that the resulting animal looked either like a dinosaur, or at a pinch, like a rather unfortunate dachshund/greyhound cross. So I cut the head off, and soldered it back on lower down, under a snazzy silver collar. (Yes, since you ask, I was going to put a collar on the dog anyway. Probably). Then I got worried about the time whooshing by, and daunted by the prospect of doing any more sawing, so I rather stealthily found a pair of just-about-working scissors and hacked out an ear and a tail (not, I fear, a terribly approved technique), and soldered the whole lot together. A more sensible, less impatient person would probably have done this in several discrete operations, with careful pickling in between them. I’m afraid after the weeks of dithering I had no time for such niceties, and instead whacked on a load of solder in lots of places where the sun won’t shine, and blasted away for all I was worth with the largest blowtorch I could find.  In the end I had to resort to an uncouth combination of prayer, swearing and the Really, Comically Big Flamethrower Thing. But it worked. And although I should by rights have pickled the whole thing to clean it up afterwards, I was truly thrilled and astounded by how much I loved the patina created by the heat work, and determined to leave it. Serendipity is truly the collaborator of the artisan. As the icing on the cake, fate had even given the dog a perfectly placed eye. Look.

Today I made the glass case, declared myself thrilled, and above all thrilled to be DONE. I emailed the client a photograph with a view to getting her final approval and collecting the balance. She’s thrilled too. I’m thrilled she’s thrilled. There’s only one slight wrinkle to all the thrilled-ness: she’s so very thrilled, she’d like another two, please. Flattering indeed, and I’d love to oblige. The only thing is, will Serendipity agree to collaborate so nicely again?

Better yet – in a fatedness-overdrive moment of spontaneous synchronicity, down in the crèche, Yarnzilla was busy too. I went to pick him up, and was presented with his morning’s work:

Every dog truly has his day, and today was a very dog day indeed.

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In fact, I made, or at least completed, several things today.

First up, the mystery knitting I started just yesterday. I can tell you almost nothing about this yet: it’s under wraps. Embargoed. But I can show you the yarn it was made from (in an astonishingly short time – it took longer to block than to knit).

This is handspun yarn from rhubarbbear, who has an Etsy shop worth looking out for. I was lucky enough to get it in a Ravelry swap, in exchange for this glass mezuzah case (A fair exchange?) I have wondered what to do with it since I got it, and then it self-selected for the Mystery Knitting project by dint of being the only yarn I had in the appropriate weight (so while it turned out to be perfect, there’s the argument for Stash, right there). I don’t think the tiny swatch is giving too much away.

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In silversmithing it is essential to have a couple of different projects on the go at once, as after every manipulating process, there is a cleaning process (pickling), when you have to wait before you can manipulate the silver some more. To write out the entire silversmithing process is if it were a knitting pattern would result in something like this:

Cut, *solder, pickle, anneal (heat-strengthen), bash, pickle, solder, pickle, anneal, bash some more, pickle* polish…

That’s pretty much the sum of it, as far as I can tell.

So I’ve worked on two things. The less exciting, and fiddlier, of the two was beveling one of my glass cabochons. The fact that adding a bail ruins the look of some pieces is what drove me to take up silver in the first place, and the result is satisfying, while the process was quite dull. Probably it’s dull because the result (barring accidents) is predictable. And because it’s insanely fiddly and relatively intolerant of imperfections. An accident would almost certainly not be a happy accident where beveling is concerned. So I look at this and primarily, I breathe a sigh of relief.

Mostly though, I offer you the aforementioned bronze-age artefact. I have been fiddling away at this for a couple of weeks in my new silversmithing class, as I may have mentioned. I decided on a bracelet in copper as a cheaper way of learning basic techniques than ruining good silver would have been. A few things became quickly apparent, first among which was the fact that it seems to be harder to saw than silver. But then it seems easier to bend. I don’t understand it, and I could be completely wrong, but that’s been my impression.

So first, I cut a shape out of copper, the shape being very largely determined by the length of the available piece of copper and very minimally based on my sketch of what I thought would slip on my wrist (a vague, leaf-like shape cut rather haphazardly out of paper). Then I filed like a demon (and swore like a trooper throughout). Then I bashed the metal a bit, beause it was pretty badly scratched, and I had devised a cunning plan called ‘texture’ to mask this fact. So I bashed with a couple of different hammers, then I put the copper through the rolling mill a couple of times wrapped in rather random texturizing elements (Plastic mesh from a bag of lemons, if you must know), and then I used some sort of dental-drill-type thing with strange burnishing/scuffing attachments – one looked like a miniature chimney sweep’s brush, another like a metallic cotton bud…

Next I partially flooded the copper with silver. This, the cheapskate’s version of silver plating, involved snipping off tiny shreds of silver and melting them onto the copper. I couldn’t get the piece hot enough with the standard blowtorch, so I was also given a much bigger thing that looked more like a flamethrower and had the childish delight of working with flame in both hands. As some fool had put a paper tissue down on the surface, that caught fire during all this and I chose to disregard it (I figured a tissue couldn’t burn for long, and it didn’t look likely to set fire to anything else, soit wasn’t a problem: my teacher doused the flame, and my torch and my hot copper, and I was a bit put out). Cowboy? Me?

Then I shaped it roughly round my wrist and when I tried it on, it proved to be sharp enough to be sold as part of a luxury home suicide kits (‘Slash your wrists in style’). OK. Next plan, bend back the pointy ends, and in fact bend all the edges slightly outwards, and file again for good measure. Then polish with rouge, pop in the polishing tumbler for an hour and pull out –

– something that really looks as though it has been freshly dug from a prehistoric burial site. I have to report that whatever it looks like, it’s very comfortable, fits me perfectly, and pleases me greatly. When it stops pleasing me, and starts embarrassing me, I will bury it discreetly in the garden and hope it confuses some unsuspecting archaeologist in a couple of hundred years.

So I give you ‘the Cardiff Torque’ copper/silver, date unknown:

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