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Posts Tagged ‘jewelry’

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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I’ve had so many things going on over the last few months that I’ve mostly failed to blog about any of them. I’d like to say it’s because I’ve been too busy doing to be writing, but mostly, it’s been more a matter of failing to organize my thoughts well enough to write them down. And then, time goes by, and with it another project (or ten) and the moment passes.

Anyway, here’s another ‘one I made earlier’. It started with a shawl. No, further back, it started with a KAL on Ravelry in the group devoted to probably my absolute favorite dyer, Twisted Fiber Arts. (Seriously: I can’t in all honesty recommend clicking that link. It’s not safe. Your money, possibly your life-savings and the deeds to your house, will be in the hand of the ultra-talented Meg before you can say “CVV number”). A Ravelry friend had destashed a double-length ‘Evolution’ skein to me a few months ago, and here was a chance to use it. These are skeins dyed in a gently evolving gradient of colors, some of which can be quite alarming on their own, but which always seem to work miraculously as a continuum. I really don’t know how Meg does it, but she does, time after time.

While I was as unsure as my friend had been about the colors (it was the salmon pink on one end of the gradient that bothered me), I was sure of two things: one, the yarn itself was an exceptionally high-quality blend of merino and silk that would be a pleasure to knit with (even in salmon pink); two, the final combination would probably prove as entrancing as every other TFA yarn I’ve used (and if not, would make a great gift). Also, I seem unable to resist a KAL, although I’m not sure why, and daren’t stop to analyse it. So, given that I had no other clear plans for 660 yards of luxury yarn in a random color I didn’t think I liked very much, I joined in and set to making a ‘crazy lace’ Citron shawl.

Now, Citron is a shawl of mind-bogglingly boring construction and curiously satisfying effect. It is semi-circular and comprises alternating sections of plain stockinette with sections of ruched stockinette (i.e. twice as much endless stockinette per inch of fabric). And of course, being a shawl, that means it’s knit flat, which in turn means that half of all that endless stockinette needs to be purled. Yay. Go me for the project from Hell.  Well, crazy lace improves it considerably. It means that you replace the normal stockinette portions with whatever lace chart you can fit into the stitch count and eight or ten rows. That’s pretty good fun, and suits me very well, as I’ve noticed I tend to get a tad bored with a lace pattern that repeats itself more than about four times. Also, I decided to use the ruched portions (which would, while eating yarn, and taking hours, also at least hide a multitude of sins) to learn to knit in the continental style, with the yarn in my left hand. (This in preparation for a humungous colorwork project – another KAL – about which, certainly, more soon.)

So, anyway – cutting to the chase, eventually I had a semi-circular shawl that used 657 of my 660 yards, and where the final section rows were 650 stitches long. That’s a LOT of stitches to purl. But hey, the yarn was nice, and the long rows made short work of the salmon pink, and lo! the whole thing was soft, an interesting color, and a pleasure to wear.

At least, it would have been if the dratted thing hadn’t kept slipping off my shoulder every few minutes. It’s a problem as old as humans wearing garments, I suspect, and the solution is a pin.

Now, shawl pins I do have. I’ve made several since I started metalworking and collecting handknit shawls. But none of them was right for this shawl. And I did have plans to try out another design, which looked as though it would do the trick.

So I went back to approximately the third century, and whipped up a Romano-Celtic classic: a pennanular cloak-pin in sterling silver. You pin the shawl, and then twist the ring closed to secure it. It does the job perfectly. Simple, but effective.

I am utterly thrilled with the notion that a design so simple, and so ancient still works and still has a job to do for someone living in the twenty-first century, and I’m tickled that, despite the many centuries of technological advances made by other people, it’s still pretty close to cutting-edge for my own humble metalworking skills. And as a side-note, I’m additionally more than a little amused at quite how perplexed the other students in my class are by my predilection for  such peculiar artefacts.

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Perhaps I should have thought to mention in advance that I was feverishly preparing to list a few things in the Etsy shop, but I was so busy working on the update that I didn’t get around to it on Friday, when the process started. So here’s some fiber-y eye-candy, with apologies for the delay:

 

As I largely follow my own whims, and I’ve been all about the fiber lately, this has been a spinning-oriented update, but naturally there’s some yarn too:

Should I mention that some of the yarn is the most gorgeous, to-die-for soft sportweight sock yarn, in an obsession-inducing MCN blend (merino, with 10% nylon and 10% cashmere)? This stuff is like crack for knitters – I could not possibly comment on rumors that I may have earmarked quite a chunk of the current batch for myself. And I placed quite a small order, and some of the rest is already sold, or spoken-for. So, it was probably cruel to even bring the subject up: pretend I never mentioned it.

There’s still a fair bit more to come, however, including more yarn, more fiber, and for the first time, some jewelry: those spindle earrings, and some of my glass pendants with knitted wire –

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Maybe it’s just the autumn – all those fallen leaves – getting into my brain, or maybe it’s been the leaf-blown, cobewebbed, windswept state of my tiny garden (with one brave fuchsia hanging onto blooms) but I’ve been in a bit of a groove over the last week or so. May I present my latest mezuzah?

Iridized glass, and copper wire. I really like this one. I was less happy when I nearly knocked myself out on the Brasso fumes as I was polishing it, but at least I’ll be a lot more cautious next time I go near that stuff. (If there is a next time.)

Next up, a couple of collagraph prints. One was made with PVA school glue on an acetate transparency sheet, and the other employed the copper tape I use for foiling round glass (as in the mezuzah above). I make no great claims for my fine art skills, but I am certainly enjoying exploring printmaking techniques and media.

Really, for me, printmaking is ALL about the journey – the processes rather than the results. I have few, if any, illusions about the results, for all that I occasionally quite like them. I’m learning a really important lesson of creative humility: I can’t be good at everything, and so what? As an habitual perfectionist, I find it hard to let go of what I can only call delusions of grandeur and just make what I can. Even if it’s simplistic; even if it’s crap (which it is), as I make, I learn: letting go and accepting that is actually as hard to do as it is easy to say. It’s very salutory. And still fun, which isn’t always the case with humbling life-lessons. So I’m feeling pretty blessed.

Oh, and then along came a spider. The children say I cast a spell on it and turned its web into silver. And who am I to disabuse them? So here is my latest piece of jewelry – a sliver cuff bracelet which I made yesterday, wore today, and already have a commission to repeat. That does mean I’ll have to order some more silver wire this week, but I’m not going to complain about that, now, am I? I just mustn’t get seduced into ordering anything else at the same time. Simple, really.

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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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Another obsession.

I’m not going to let it happen. I’m not. Really. OK, I know it looks likely from here, but frankly, no. I love my glass, I love my wool, I love my only-slightly-poisonous dyestuffs. But that’s where I draw the line.

So the silversmithing course I started last week will be a mere dilettante dabbling. Just a matter of learning a new technique I can combine with the glasswork, and moving swiftly along. Without spending vast amounts of money on precious metals. Just so we’re quite clear on that. I wouldn’t want anyone worrying.

first ringThis is what I made, though. A simple silver ring, with a few textural embellishments. That’s what the dark score-marks are. (Yes, they are deliberate.) Also, the piece is lightly hammered, which isn’t at all obvious from the picture, but does catch the light very nicely. You’ll have to trust me on that one. Please note, moreover, that the object you see before you is actually round. I know it’s  a ring. I know that generally implies that it might be round. But it does bear stating:  trust me on this one too.

For my next trick I’m going to try making a bracelet, or a bangle (I’m not sure which: I think there may be a difference). I’m pretty proud of my new-found moderate behavior. I could have made it in silver. It would have taken about £20-worth of silver, and given that I am about to screw this project up royally (through a well-practiced combination of overarching ambition and utter lack of technical proficiency), I rather sensibly – and unusually – demurred, and decided to work in copper, for a cost of around £2 instead. There will probably be some silver, but it will be an accent. And there will definitely be less than £20 of it.

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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.

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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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