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Posts Tagged ‘fusing’

Acrylic, remember, and sparkly too

Acrylic, remember, and sparkly too

Apparently it is possible after all. A while back I made a few swatches of different yarns, sandwiched them in glass and baked them in the kiln. None of them were a rip-roaring success, but one showed possibilities. The problem was that is was knit from a deeply unpleasant pink acrylic with a metallic thread (which is the bit that survived the firing process) and I haven’t been able to bear to knit with it further. Can you blame me?

So, I have since managed to acquire, by processes over whih I shall draw a veil, a small reel of fine silver wire. Wire fine enough to knit with, if you try. I’m struggling to work out the right sized needles to use, and can’t manage to get neat stitches, but perhaps I will acheive that some time. And it’d be – well – neat if I could, because then I could produce “swatch” art glass using different stitch patterns.

In the meantime though, here are three prototypes: the first swatch was simply soldered (with lead-free solder) onto a stained glass copper-foiled pendant, the second was just laid on top of a single piece of random glass that was then fired, and the third was sandwiched between two layers of Bullseye and fired.

redknitgreenknitblueknit

The first one I quite like, but I’m concerned it’s very fragile, and might tarnish; the second one is an abject failure, but shows glimmers of hope for some interesting manipulations further down the line (I quite like the way the silver has partly melted in and partly stayed on the surface) and the third one I am very pleased with indeed.

Yes. With a bit of luck -because with inclusions you never know (and the person I bought the silver off had had no luck including it in glass) – look out for swatch pendants coming to an Etsy shop near you soon.

I’m off to celebrate six months of knitting with a little more wire swatching.

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So what happened to the experiment with knitted swatches included in glass?

Actually, it didn’t work out great. But there were a few reasons for that, and a few hopeful signs, so I’ll have to give it another go. Firstly I think I used yarn that was too thick for best results. And then I compounded the problem by laying them on the glass two at a time because I wanted to use the scrap glass I had around of very nearly the right size, and was also too lazy to cut it up. I think it would have been better with more space around the edges of the yarn, so a higher yarn: glass ratio. It would have maybe helped if the yarn weer thinner, or possibly ironed first – anything to get the glass to soften around it and seal it in earlier.

One of the big worries was the formation of bubbles, and at least that didn’t happen. What did happen was this:

fused wool

fused acrylicfused acrylic/metallic

Left to right: wool, acrylic, and acrylic with metallic thread.

The wool just turned to ash. That was a waste of a swatch, but worth remembering if I were ever to want to produce a fused ashtray with integral fake ash. The acrylic retained a lot of stitch deinition, even if I have taken a terrible picture of it. I think thinner yarn could really help here. The acrylic with metallic thread quite excites me. I don’t understand why the acrylic part has burned away while it hasn’t in the adjacent sample, but it has definite potential. I’m also considering using some very fine metal wire, but I believe it’s dire to knit with, so this might be an interesting, finger-friendly alternative. I’m still going to order some metal wire, mind you, and give that a go. I’d like to think it’ll give me more control of the swatch. Beause one thing I really do need to make clear: my knitting might be bad, but it’s not that bad.

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Kelvin ticked away happily last night (and him ticking off the degrees, all 1425 of them, up and down the scale is definitely one of my favorite all’s-well-with-the-world noises), and I grappled with the porcupine some more, and so the evening was passed. I decided both that the sock is not hideous, per se (it’s only the mangled-ness that makes it so), and that it’s going to be bigger than I thought (despite the swatch, Yarn Harlot). This is a blow, because I will have to give it to my husband, and his foot is bigger than mine (for which fact thank goodness, I suppose), and therefore more sock will need to be produced before I can call it done. I asked him how short was too short for a manly sock, and he very generously said that he’d wear ankle socks if I needed him to, but the idea of the Manly Ankle Sock may yet prove more wearable than the artefact. I started the heel. Fun, fun, fun.

The night was an unmitigated sleep disaster. I could say it was because I was distracted by Kelvin’s doings (and it is embarrassingly true ad childish of me, that I always sleep worse when there’s something in the kiln) or I could say it was because I was distracted by the matter of having scooped 220g of (allegedly) pure angora handspun on eBay for about the usual cost of 50g and was wondering what to make of it, but I can’t say that, because I’d have to admit to buying more yarn on eBay. I could alternatively say I was distracted by the two-year-old singing sweetly to himself for two hours (between three and five a.m.), or I could suggest that I was musing on the mirror I was planning to start this morning… Anyway, all I can certainly say of last night’s sleep was that it reminded me of the old Yiddish joke about the two old ladies complaining about the food at the resort in the Catskills: such terrible quality —and such small portions.

I checked the kiln first thing, as of old. I had got it on a bit early, while the kids were in the bath, so it was finished and cool enough to open before I went out. I thought I’d leave it a bit longer than I often manage (I usually open it as soon as the temperature drops to 200°) since the slab might- with luck, would – be thicker than the 6mm standard, and slower to cool, so I didn’t really want to beg for an entirely unnecesary thermal shock event. So, how was it? Since you ask, fine. Unexciting, but fine. The surface was slightly bumpy, but it’s actually quite nice, and I’ll be perfectly happy if I can preserve the effect through the slump firing. The overall color – or transparency – was good. There are a few bubbles, but not so many that the clarity is compromised. The colored frits are a bit dull: the cranberry pink is disappointingly flat, and the erbium pink tint is so subtle it’s practically disappeared. But erbium pink tint is like that – I know it is. I only get anxiety about it because it’s such an expensive color (the cranberry is too, now I think about it). It’s silly to use it invisibly. The disc is a satisfyingly thickness, and evenness across the plane. No thin bits, no holes. I think it will play nicely with the drop ring. So the cake ring mold worked like a charm. The lining with Thinfire, not so good. The paper fell onto the glass and it will have to be scoured, as there’s a powdery effect all around the edge now. Ah well: t least it didn’t bake on like kiln wash does. Next time I think I will try keeping it in place with a high-temp-wire paper-clip/kirby-grip-type arrangement. The gritty details: top temp 1425° for 25 minutes, and a hold at 985° for 45 minutes.

And today I started a Frank Lloyd Wright inspired square leaded mirror. More on that later. If I can lay my hands on the preliminary sketch, I’ll scan it in here. It’s very pleasant indeed to be playing with lead again. It’s such lovely tactile stuff. Mmmm.

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I decided it’s time to make something in glass again. I know I don’t have enough places to sell it, I know sales are down in the bad economic times, I know it’s silly, but –

I found me an excuse.

I thought I’d at least tidy up my glass room. And as I tidied I found the hammer, which was hiding amongst the clear offcuts, ready for the transformation of same into coarse frit. Meanwhile, my husband, poor dear, keeps thinking he’s lost the hammer and has several times had occasion to enquire whether I might have happened upon it anywhere. We have, on each of these occasions, gone through the stages of a) me admitting I do indeed know where it is, b) me admitting where it in fact is, c) him asking – job being done – if I need it back and d) myself concurring that I do, “but only for a little while”.

I can’t face going through this process again.

image019And the clear scrap was very overflowing, so this project is quite obviously part of the tidying process. And I have a large cake ring that I bought with exactly this project in mind, so I took hammer in hand and wrapped the scrap in a big thick wad of paper and hammered till the demons were all squashed for the day. It being a relatively demon-free day, I tired quickly and therefore stopped while the scrap was probably still a bit too lumpy, but we shall see. The balance is difficult: the finer the frit, the less clear the resulting glass sheet will be; the coarser, the harder it is to work out the right firing schedule (high enough, slow enough – all guesswork at the best of times), or more honestly – the more obvious it is if you’ve done a bad job; and the more you hammer your glass, the more very fine bits you get, while reducing the outrageously huge bits to gigantic bits, and the gigantic to huge, and the huge to merely very large indeed and so on. But the grit/lump ratio definitely goes up, which is detrimental.

Yes, I know you could filter the stuff through some kind of sieve, but that would be another stage to complete under “timed conditions” (this used to mean mock exams, now it’s toddler naps). And it would mean more opportunity to release dangerous fine particles of glass into the atmosphere and breathe it in in the absence (I know: I’m an idiot) of the appropriate face mask. I suppose I feel that the dangers of pouring a bit of pounded glass from a sheet of packing paper onto a kiln shelf isn’t like – I don’t know – playing with asbestos playing cards, but I still don’t want to take more than minimal risk. Also I’m lazy, and I’m not too sure the results will be worth even the amount of effort I am making.

image021So it all went onto the shelf, with the steel cake ring around it (lined with Thinfire shelf paper, but not kiln washed: we dice with death and sneer at disaster) to try and contain it in a circle while allowing it to build up a little thickness. If I have added enough glass I will be able to go deeper than the 6mm basic thickness, but I’m not sure, because I didn’t employ any of the scientific tricks for working it out. Silly me. It’s too late to go back and do it now, and I don’t think it matters much in this case. I did something similar before, and I ws surprised at how much it melted down. So this time, I refuse to be surprised. It WILL have shrunk, by the Law of Frit, more than I think. And. I. Will. Not. Be. Surprised.

I also threw a bit of official Bullseye colored frit on top – like cherries and pistachio nuts –  to spice it up. If it comes out as I hope, I might put it to jump through a drop-ring mold for my next trick.

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– and I have seriously stalled on making the decorations. I somehow didn’t get any made over the weekend at all, or any today. I sent off a cheque for the big Christmas fair too, so I am now really and truly committed to doing it. Yikes, help and double-yikes.

frit decorations

So here finally are some -not very good- images of the aforementioned decorations. The cat looking out of the window at a snowy landscape is about 2.5 inches across, and the others are just under 2 inches. There are various others – quite a lot of different trees (in the snow, with red berries/baubles) and several snowmen (wearing fedoras, assorted bobble hats and scarves of many colors, and at least one deviant snowman actually smoking his pipe – complete with 1mm wide smoke rings [why?] ) as well some angels, and black cats turn up around the place from time to time…

These frit scenes are “painted” with the following technique and tools:

  • a teaspoon
  • a cocktail stick
  • a tweezers
  • a small paintbrush with a sort of spatula/chisel end (this is lifesaver)

For a really frustrating, fiddly, self-torturing experience, the results of which will be well-nigh invisible, proceed thus: take a small amount of fine or powdered frit on the end of the teaspoon and knock it off with either the cocktail stick or the end of the paintbrush, depending on whichever you happen to have in hand at the time, trying to get it as closely as possible where you need it, and in a thick enough layer (you always need significantly more powder than you think as it seems positively to disappear when it’s fired). Reposition the frit more accurately with the back of the brush and very carefully sweep excess away from the painted area. Doing this without proper precaution just swirls the dust around as it moves in the faint draft you create (I did say it was tedious work), and any slightly out of position brush hairs also drag through the design. For powder, gently level off the domed frit you will likely have (no dome probably implies not enough powder). To finish sharpening the outline of the shape, use the chisel end of the brush again. Proceed to the next color. When all powders have been applied, add any grain frit elements (eyes, baubles, etc.), dropping them on one grain at a time with the tweezers. A single grain of fine frit will often stick irritatingly to the tweezers, but can usually be knocked off with the cocktail stick which you are already holding awkwardly in the other hand. Pray that you do not have to do this – it’s the most risky part of the job and if you get it wrong, you can have a lot of reworking to do. Don’t drop that cocktail stick! Alternately, try using a fingernail (but be warned, the frit can end up just transferring onto that, which is the main advantage of the stick).

A note on sorting frit: be aware that there is quite a wide variation in the sizes and shapes of individual grains within a given size, at least with the Bullseye frit I use. Take a small spoonful and sort through it for, say, a likely pair of eyes that match (somewhat).

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