Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Stitching for "The Shoe"

WAAAY back in January I got a Facebook message from my friend Geri:

I've been asked to be in a wedding and I need some accessories to match these shoes. Can you make a headband, necklace, ear rings, bracelet and brooch to match? How much would that cost? The wedding is August 3 so you've got time. Here are the shoes:

I'll pause for a moment so you can take that all in.

My first thought was, "Damn!  How is she going to walk in those?"  Second thought was, "Damn!  Those are HOT PINK!"

Geri and I became friends some time around Junior High, I think.  We never did go to school together, but she went to Jack Benny Junior High in Waukegan, Illinois with my cousin Dawn.  I met her through Dawn.  I have a vague recollection that we didn't like each other at first, but then we did, and we spent a lot of time together watching Doctor Who and talking about boys all through high school.  We also painted her room once (although I think more paint got on us than on her walls).

I remember I had to use up my roll of film so we could drop it off for processing.
I am SO glad those days are over!

(I also have pictures of some guy sitting on Geri's lap in 1985, but I figure her husband wouldn't want to see those.)

So when an old friend asks for help, you do it, right?  As soon as I had fully processed "the shoes", I thought that something funkier than stringing or stitching would be required.  I decided that wire crochet would be just the thing, and I sent her a message with a link to some examples.  She said that was fine, and she had a certain amount in her jewelry budget - would that be enough?  I said I didn't know, but we'd make it work.

Through Facebook messages we covered all the details and chatted about other things, like her health, my health, our parents, Florida, how close she lives to my in-laws, oranges (because Florida), and all sorts of things.

I asked for some color samples, like a piece of scrapbook paper or something, but she wasn't able to find anything.  I hate to admit it, but I freaked out a little.  You would think a color is a color - hot pink is hot pink, as Steve says, but that's not really the case.  Think of red - there's fire engine red, dark red, light red, cherry red, and all the reds in between.  Having a picture is a good start, but not all devices show the color the same way.  For an example of this, go to Best Buy and look at the TVs.  If they're all on the same channel, you can see that no two TVs really look the same.  Oh, they're similar, but there are variations in all of them.

I also asked for a down payment so I could start buying supplies.  She surprised me by saying she would pay the full amount she had budgeted, and she sent the check inside a cute card with a dog in a sombrero with little pom poms all around the hat.  This is huge when you're doing custom work - the payment, not the cute card.  There's always a bit of anxiety around getting paid.  I told her that I would keep track of all expenses and time and send back any extra.

In March I was at a retreat in Racine with the Loose Bead Society.  One of the highlights of the retreat is going to Funky Hannah's bead store for a reception and shopping!  I decided now was the time to start getting beads for "the shoe".  I picked out a few different strands of hot pink beads, and everyone who looked at my tray said, "Wow!  You must like hot pink!"  By this point I had downloaded the picture of the shoe on my phone because words just cannot fully describe the shoe in all of its ... "shoe"ness.  See - I can't even describe it now, and you've seen it already!

So whenever anyone even started raising an eyebrow at my tray, I just whipped out my phone and showed them the shoe and explained my quest.  Their first reaction was always what mine was: "How is she going to WALK in that?!".  Then I pointed out the skulls on the bow.  I frequently got a "Good luck!" as my friends walked away, bewildered.

I was able to find a few great strands of hot pink beads at Funky Hannah's.  A few were "Miracle" beads in different sizes.  These beads are great - they look one color in this light but a different color in that light.  They shine, too, which I thought would go well with shoes.  The other strand had glass hot pink beads with little silver specks in it.

I looked for skulls online because I figured that'd be the easiest way to find them.  I ended up getting a good deal on 10x6 silver-colored skulls on Etsy and skull and bone toggle clasps at Fire Mountain Gems.  I was so pleased with those clasps - they fit the theme perfectly!

The Bead&Button Show was in June.  While shopping for items for kits and trying to find people I can purchase wholesale from, Steve and I were on the lookout for more hot pink.  I wanted a few different pieces (not just simple round), and I lucked out.  Lucite flowers from The Beadin' Path were perfect, as were some bright hot pink Thunder Polish beads (I'm not sure if they're glass or plastic, but they are bright!), some large-holed wire mesh beads, and some 6/0 and 11/0 seed beads in a few different hot pinks.

Along the way I also picked up some black beads to supplement what I already had.

June passed, and July was well under way when I finally started working on the jewelry.  I was excited to start, but I was nervous.  What if she didn't like it?  I even told her I was anxious, and she said not to be.  She said she'd seen my work through my blog, and she trusted me.

I decided I should do a test piece to see if I even liked the concept.  What's funny is that I believe I came to crochet about 15 years ago (or more?) because of wire crochet.  I liked it and wanted to try it, but I had to learn how to crochet with yarn before I could crochet with wire.  I loved crocheting with yarn and thread and never did try it with wire.  It just didn't look right to me anymore.  But I was willing to try it now because the style would work with the shoes.

In my library I already had a book on wire crochet (Crochet with Wire by Nancie M. Wiseman).  I knew how to do it (as I had crocheted with beads using yarn and thread), but I wanted some inspiration.

Another resource one could look to for help with wire crochet is Laura Timmons from Vintage Moon Creations.  I know she has taught classes on this at the Bead&Button Show, and she has kits on her website.  Not only is she very talented, but she's truly a lovely person in general.  So nice and helpful and quick with hugs.  Please check out her stuff and tell her I said hi!

When you crochet or knit with beads, you have to add all of the beads first before you start working on the project.  With my test piece, I strung a number of purple and frosted white beads in different sizes and shapes and crocheted a band inspired by one of the designs in the Crochet with Wire book.  I modified the design a little to have tapered ends, and in an evening, I had a bracelet:

I really liked it but found that my hand was very sore by the time I was done.  I had a death grip on the crochet hook, and I hadn't taken any breaks.  The next day I could barely move my hand, so I needed to take some time off before starting on Geri's jewelry.

To guard against further cramping and soreness, I held the crochet hook more loosely, and I took a number of breaks.  That helped a lot.

I was able to plan the beads out in the bracelet because I had my test piece.  I knew Geri's bracelet would be a bit smaller, so I counted rows and planned out what I was going to use in what order.  Although this is a more free-form technique than I usually do, I still wanted to make it symmetrical if possible.  It worked very well:

Those beads that seem to glow are those "miracle" beads I mentioned before.  Here's a close up of the middle of the piece:

You can see the flowers, the wire mesh, and the skulls pretty well in this picture.  Those skulls do not want to stay where you want them, so you see the back of one on the left and the front on the right.

The earrings were next.  Geri wanted something simple like studs, but I talked her into some small dangles.  I strung a few beads and added them to posts:

The pink beads here are those Thunder Polish ones I described above as being very bright.

I made the pin next.  I found a free crochet flower pattern on Ravelry and made some adjustments for using wire and beads and for attaching the pin back and a skull for the center:

The black beads around the skull are primarily there to try to keep him looking straight out, but they also help draw the eye to him.  Notice how I'm referring to the skulls as males?  I don't know why I'm doing that.  They look male to me.

For the headband, I had originally purchased white plastic headbands at Funky Hannah's in March.  In talking with Steve we decided that they looked too cheap, so I used a fabric headband of my own.  No, no, no, no... I did not give Geri a used headband.  I had a bad haircut a while ago where I let the stylist give me bangs.  Long bangs, but still bangs.  She said they would help keep the hair out of my face.  They did everything BUT keep the hair out of my face.  Steve brought home a pack of headbands, and the only one I was willing to wear was the black one.  The rest of them were burgundy, navy blue, and a few browns.  Ew.  So they sat in a drawer in their original packaging, for over a year.  Steve suggested the burgundy one for Geri, and we compared it with the beads and with his hair, since it's the same color as Geri's.  It's very handy having a ginger in the house.  Geri wanted a picture of Steve with the headband on, but he didn't want to stretch it out.

I got the idea (and instructions) for the headband from Crafting at the Spotted Canary, a TV show starring Joy Macdonell, who I actually met at the Archiver's ScrapFest in 2005:

When I started watching the show, I was thinking, "Where do I know her from?"  Her hair was a lot shorter, but I quickly figured it out and ran for my scrapbook to show Steve.

Anyway - they did a beaded headband project on that show, and when the opportunity to make one came up, I knew just where to turn!  The best thing about this project is that you don't have to string the beads on first.  You can add them as you go, and it was very easy.  I think it turned out cute:

For some reason I saved the necklace for last.  I think it was because I wasn't really sure what I wanted to do.  I had one design in mind - strings of beaded chain (chain stitch, not actual chain) twisted together with the wire-mesh beads as coming-together-points in three places.  I realized before I even started that this wasn't going to work.  I ended up using a design from Nancie M. Wiseman's book.  I made "bead tendrils" of varying lengths that stuck out around the necklace.  I planned out a design, row by row, and strung the beads:

This is in the middle of the stringing

Here's a close up of the tendrils:

Here's the whole piece:

While I am very pleased with how it looks, I know now to not try to plan the design out.  I ended up having to add beads because I didn't have enough.  That meant either I had to cut the wire to add on or string from the end.  I didn't want a potentially weak spot in the necklace (or a chunky one) where I secured one end and started a new one, so I unraveled the wire from the spool and added on to the end.  Steve helped me get it back on the spool, but there were so many twists and turns that it took forever.  The kitten thought it was great fun, so we had to block him from the wire while we were untangling it and re-spooling it.  I got lucky in that I added just the right amount of beads the second time.

If I do this again, I will not try to plan a design, and I will add about double the number of beads I think I'll need.  Actually, I have notes on how many beads and which ones I used for this necklace, so if I make it again I'll know much better what to do.  I also had no idea how long this would take (not even including stringing extra beads), so next time I can give a better estimate.

I sent off the jewelry to Geri in plenty of time for the wedding (which is this coming Saturday).  I wasn't going to blog about it before the wedding, but she is unable to go due to family reasons.  She's very sad, but she absolutely loves the jewelry.  She's posted pictures on Facebook and told me that she plans on wearing the shoes and the jewelry with a different outfit to an Adam Ant concert.  I think that'll be awesome!  I'll post pictures if she sends them to me (hint hint, Geri!)

Remember my concern about matching the color of the shoes?  Geri posted a picture showing just how perfectly the jewelry matches:

Woo hoo!  Score one for Traci!

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