Monday, May 31, 2010

The mystery is solved!

My mother-in-law posted a comment on my previous blog post that the unexplained stand is for clip earrings.  She even found a link to an item on Etsy that's for sale which looks exactly like it.

I e-mailed the seller and asked how she knew it was for clip earrings, and she said purchased one from an estate sale years ago - they had clip earrings on it and beaded necklaces hung from the handle.  She even sent me another link for another one of these for sale on Etsy.

Amazing!  I do have a few pairs of clip earrings, and I'll be using this stand to show them at the next craft fair I do.

Thanks for finding this in your basement, John!  Thanks for figuring out what it is, Mama!  Thanks to everyone who checked it out yesterday (I had a surge in page views!).

And, since it is Memorial Day, thank you to all who have served our country, from my ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War to my father, stepfather, and father-in-law who were in Vietnam to those who are serving today.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Anyone know what this is?

My stepfather found this, uh, thing in their basement.  It seems to be a stand of some sort, and it turns very smoothly.

The other, uh, thing pointing at it is some sort of utensil dog(?) that had the "What's this?" sign in the holder when my Mom and John bought it.  It moves around the house pointing at things that defy description.

Getting back to the stand, there are no markings on it to give a hint about the company that made it or what it's for.  There are rubbery things on the feet and on the ends of the spiral, presumably to protect the table and..... yeah, I don't know what else would be protected.

The handle on the top is what turns the spiral.

Here's another picture next to a ruler so you can see it a bit clearer and get an idea of the size:

Let me explain my parents' basement (and attic, house, garage, shed....).  Near as I understand, John's mother and her second husband moved into HIS mother's house, with her belongs in it.  They moved about two households' worth of stuff into the house.  Time passed, none of the stuff was moved out, and the house was left to John and Mom after Grandpa and Grandma passed.  They moved in with all of their stuff.  We like to joke that Jimmy Hoffa is probably in their basement.  I actually have some of my stuff still in their attic from my move to Wisconsin, but we're moving it here a few boxes at a time.  I have a lot of books.

Slowly over time they have been trying organize and get rid of superfluous items by donating, dumping, and selling on eBay.  John's seller ID is 3gensofstuff.  Right now he's selling a telegraph key, a tabletop planter with light, a cast iron Asian lion incense burner, and a few other things.

Anyway, back to this stand.  John thought I might be able to use it as an earring holder.  Well, the earring cards don't fit on the spiral, and we think that individual earrings might slide down.

I will do something with it, but we'd love to know what it was originally for.  Anyone have any ideas?  Let your imagination run wild and post a comment!

Friday, May 28, 2010

What I've been doing this week

Since I last posted, I've been feverishly working on my tubular peyote necklace to go with the bezel I just showed you.  It's a slow process, but I think I'm getting quicker at it.  I have 9 inches of the necklace done - I think that's about halfway.

One unfortunate thing... my black and white herringbone necklace that I'm wearing in my picture under "about me" seems to be coming apart.  It was my first stitching attempt, and the thread I used isn't very good.  I now have better thread (the Fireline I posted about this week), so I think I'm going to have to remake the necklace.  I thought about strengthening the part that is coming loose, but I have a feeling I'm going to have to keep doing it.  On the plus side, I know exactly how many beads I'll need!

The other thing I've been working on is the website for my web design company.  I have a name registered, my Employer Identification Number, a bank account, business cards, and as soon as I get my site up my shingle will be hung, and I'll be open for business.  I'll let you know when that happens!

Have a good weekend and Memorial Day!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Starting Stitched Bezels

Recently I learned how to make bezels using the Peyote stitch.  I had seen a number of pictures in magazines but thought they were too ornate for me, but my friend Cindy from the Loose Bead Society showed me how easy it was to make bezels that better fit my personality.  The center doesn't have to be flashy or gaudy - you can bezel  basically anything flat-ish and round-ish.

While our husbands were playing Risk, we were in her craft room with polymer clay bicones that Cindy had made herself.  Okay, the husbands were playing Risk for only part of the time - we did have to start over because our first attempt was WAY too large for the shapes.

Here are a few pictures of the bezel so far - one of each side of the bicone - they're both so pretty!

For this bezel I'm going to keep it simple - I'm not going to embellish it at all.  I have started making a tubular peyote necklace with the green beads that I'll dangle this from.  While the bezel is started with tubular peyote, it's a much larger circle and is easier to figure out than doing a small-diameter necklace.  It's going well - I've done 2.5 inches of the necklace so far.  I'll post the completed project when it's done!

This has sparked interest in me to do other bezels.  Stay tuned!

Before I sign off I'd like to tell you about something I found online.  I got introduced to Fireline by my Loose Bead Society friends as great for stitching.  I found it for a really good price on Amazon a few months ago - $29.95 for a 300 yard spool of 6 lb line of the Smoke color.  Shipping was free!  I'm looking to get a spool of the Crystal color and noticed they have mail-in rebate offer if you get any 2 or more Berkley TEC tool, Classics tool, line, or bait.  If you've purchased any Fireline this year (and you still have your receipts) or if you plan on purchasing any, check out my link over there ---> for ordering from Amazon, and send in the rebate offer form.  You can get up to $15 back from Berkley!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Twisty-twisty tale

We're going to keep the mystery of the stamped clay discs for a little while longer, as I may be in need of a tube of Delicas before I can work on them some more.

In the most recent Bead & Button magazine there's an article, Layered Ladders, which is a modified ladder stitch and right-angle weave project which causes a really nice curvy piece.  I decided this was a perfect style to go with that coral crocheted sweater I showed you the other day.  It has a nice open neckline, and I didn't like anything I already had with it.

Last week I was at my friend Susan's house, and she had a tube of coral seed beads that seemed like it would match pretty well, and she didn't have a use for them.  So we sat down to figure out this new stitch.  The instructions were a little hard to decipher at first (there's a lot of backwards and forwards and at-an-angles), and after I figured it out I had a little difficulty getting the twists to form. The instructions say to use beads of different sizes to create the spiral, with the smaller beads on the inside.  It took a number of tries to get the piece to twist, but I didn't like how any of them looked.

I finally decided to use some irregularly-shaped white beads that I had used on a black and white twisted herringbone necklace.  You can see that on the Expand Your Horizons page on the Loose Bead Society website.  I'm not terribly fond of the beads, but I always wear the sweater with a white tank top underneath, and I thought the coral and white beads would go well together.

Lo and behold!  I got a twist!  The first few inches twisted nicely, but then it flattened out.  I figured it was due to the irregular nature of the white beads and started thinking of what I could do to make it more consistent.  In playing with the necklace, it seemed that if the white beads were "forced" to sit together nicely, the spiral would be tighter.  So I took another length of Fireline and started stitching just the rows of white beads together - kinda how they tape your little toe to the next toe when you break it.

Well, that worked like a charm.  I had to keep doing this every so often so I could test the length.  In the following picture you can see the fixed part at the top and the loosy-goosy part at the bottom:

Now, the loosy-goosy wouldn't be too bad if the white beads didn't look all cattywampus.  Here's a close-up shot:

In the top half you can see how I threaded the rows together.  I went around rows 1 and 2 a few times, then rows 2 and 3 a few times, etc...  That made everyone sit nicely, and due to the shape of the beads, the spiral tightened up.  I did not try to sew them together as I was stitching new rows - I used a separate thread to make sure that the main structure wasn't compromised.  Yeah - that's why I did that.  It wasn't at all because I couldn't think through how to do it while I was adding new beads.  Nope.  Not that at all.

When I was talking to Steve about this adaptation and asked if he thought it would work, he said, "All I understood was 'thread' and 'twisty-twisty'."  He was no help but was very encouraging.

Let me tell you... working on twisty pieces is very difficult.  The thread gets caught in the spiral, I had 2 or 3 dangly threads at a time, so they got all tangled, and measuring was near impossible.  So I kept stitching until I ran out of usable white beads and hoped that it would be long enough.

Voila!  It's a perfect length, it's very comfortable, and I think it goes quite nicely with the sweater.  That look in my eyes is the dazed-stitcher look that everyone gets at the end of a long project (and it's well after midnight).

I sure hope you really didn't want those coral beads back, Susan!  I damn near used them all!  If this necklace wasn't twisty-twisty, it'd probably be 3 times its length.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Polymer clay and stamping

My friend Cindy from the Loose Bead Society works a lot with polymer clay.  I loved the pieces she's shown me so far, and I've been itching to get my fingers wrapped around some clay again.  It had been quite some time - possibly before I met Steve in 2007 - since I last worked with clay.

So, duly motivated, I grabbed a package of old, old clay and started conditioning it.  For you non-clay enthusiasts, that means kneading it and rolling it in a pasta roller until it gets soft and pliable.  The clay is so old that this took the better part of an hour and made my poor hands very, very sore.

Finally, though, I was able to do what I like to do best - roll it out flat and stamp on it!  I use Staz-On ink on clay to make sure there's no smearing.  I got some very good impressions and rolled the rest of the conditioned clay into beads.  I mixed the ink (purple, unsurprisingly) into the clay to tint some of it and left some of it white with just a hint of purple marbling.  On some of the beads I stamped small flowers - some dark, and some lighter.  By this time I think the stamp pad was getting coated with a bit of clay, and when I stamped a final circle with a flower, it was slightly blurry.  I'm calling it "artistic" and "on purpose".

After baking, here's what I have to work with:

This is half a package of clay, by the way.  My hands were too tired to condition the other half!  You can see the blurry one at the top of the circles, right under the beads.

Here's a close up of the biggest circle:

And here's a close up of the "patterned" beads:

After baking, I coated everything with liquid polymer clay in hopes that I'd get a nice glossy finish.  I hadn't done that before and wanted to try it.  Well, they didn't turn out glossy, but they look nice anyway.

What am I going to do with all of these pieces?
How am I going to affix the circles to anything when there aren't any holes?
Why is everything purple?
Will I be able to get the beads off of the little skewers?

These questions and more will be answered in a future blog post - stay tuned!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

More on crocheting...

Contrary to popular belief - and by "popular" I mean my Mother (heretofore known as "Mom") and my Mother-In-Law (referenced here as "Mama"), based on their comments on yesterday's post - crocheting a sweater is not difficult.  Crocheting in general is not difficult.

Mama sews beautiful aprons, including one she made for me with a lovely iris patterned fabric and lots of pretty trim and pockets.  With sewing you need to:  pin flimsy, easily-rippable patterns onto fabric; cut these pieces out, hoping that you got all the patterns right; figure out what gets attached to what; and, most importantly, thread the sewing machine before you can even sew those pieces together!  The last thing I sewed was curtains - straight curtains with a pocket for the rod - and according to my grandmother they ended up crooked.

In comparison (and in reality), crocheting is just tying knots and counting.  That's really all it is.  Anyone who can hold a pencil can crochet.  Mama - I'm bringing down a hook and a ball of yarn when we come to visit, and I'll teach you.

Mom commented that she could never crochet a sweater, even though she's made many hats as well as afghans with complicated patterns.  She can knit, which I am just starting to comprehend.  As Mom mentioned, her biggest problem is being able to finish a project.  That would be something to overcome in order to have a finished sweater, but she definitely could crochet the individual parts.

What is a sweater, really?  Four pieces - a front, a back, and two sleeves.  The front and the back are crocheted bottom up in a solid block until the arm holes.  Then there's some decreasing to give your arms some room, and some shaping for the neck.  The sleeves are the same, only smaller, and without the neck.  Yes, there's a little complexity in sewing everything together, but it's not too bad if you know where your arms are supposed to go.

So, what's the moral of this story?  It ain't hard!  So pick up your hooks, find some fun yarn, and make a sweater!  For a little more inspiration, here's a picture of my other crocheted sweater:

I made this sweater and took this picture a number of years ago.  This is a lightweight sweater in a shell pattern that is very comfortable.

Once you finish your sweater - send me a picture, and I'll post it!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New crocheted sweater

A number of years ago I bought some beautiful variegated yarn on eBay, thinking that I'd make a sweater with it.  As my interest in crochet died down, the yarn sat unused.  When I culled my stash before moving to Milwaukee, I couldn't part with it.  See for yourself - it has some beautiful colors:

The brand is Donna and has the store (The Yarn Outlet - Stores in New England) printed on the label.  The color is listed as lavender, but it's way too dark to be considered lavender.  It's 60% cotton and 40% Solara Acrylic, for those who like to know that kind of thing.

A few months ago I finally started work on the sweater.  I used a pattern from the Cool Summer Sweaters book by Leisure Arts.  If you follow the link, the cover sweater is the one I wanted to do, but the variegation in the yarn made the intricacy of the pattern impossible to see.  I am going to get a solid color when I'm ready to make that sweater.  I ended up making the one in the upper right of the cover, "Cool White Cotton".

I had some problems with the yarn splitting as I worked because of the different strands, but it's nowhere near as difficult as Lion Brand's Homespun.  Mom and I have sworn off that yarn.  It's so nice when it's worked up, but you have to get there first, and let me tell you... it's quite a battle!

Here's me and my new sweater:

In retrospect, I would have made the body of the sweater and the sleeves longer during the initial crocheting.  I was anxious that I wouldn't have enough yarn, so I wanted to finish the sweater then add to the length.  At the bottom of the sweater I added a number of double crochet rows until I practically ran out of yarn.  I don't really like the way that it looks - you can't see in the picture because of my strategically placed arms, but it flares out some at the bottom and still isn't as long as I would like it to be.

For the sleeves, I added 5 rows of single crochet during finishing.  It's better, but I still would like them a bit longer.  That may just be my flabby-arm paranoia talking, though.

All in all, it's a comfortable sweater, and I look forward to years of wearing it.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mom's altered book - part 4

We always laugh about certain traits that my grandmother, my mother, and I all share, and we call them "Kant woman traits", after my mother's maiden name.  I guess since we include my grandmother, it should be "Grapatin" woman traits, for her maiden name, but "Kant" is far easier to say.  :)  I'm not even sure I spelled Grapatin correctly, anyway.

When I was flipping through the Mothers and Daughters book I found a section on Cathy Guisewite, the woman who writes the Cathy comic, and her mother.  A number of the sentences in the passage seemed to really fit in with our Kant woman traits, so I highlighted them by drawing a box around them.  I added pictures and other traits to the page to block out the stuff that didn't apply:

I used the negative of "Kant" which I cut out for the cover page as an embellishment on this page.  I like how the text shows through.  I also included my Mom's dog, Cappuccino, as a Kant woman because she likes to chew on her necklace (collar), too.

Here's the second page:

While my Mom still had the last name of "Southern" (before she married John) everyone would ask if she was the actress, even though the actress was Ann Sothern.  When I went to California I made sure to pose with my surrogate mother.

That's it for today's edition!  The moral of the story is that you can use the text of the book you're altering to help you tell your own story.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Mom's altered book - part 3

My Mom always encouraged me to create things.  I can't remember a time when there wasn't a project in the works - latch hook, embroidery, crewel, or crochet.  I did my own projects, and one of the things I really liked was potholder weaving with loops.  We had a huge problem finding the loops, so I kept taking apart potholders I made to make new ones.  I have kept some of them, including a few where I really liked the patterns.

About a month ago I mentioned to my Mom that I still had a few, and she was surprised.  At that moment I decided to include one in the altered book.

I took a large chunk of pages and cut a hole large enough for the potholder, then I used eyelets to attach all of the pages together along the edges and in each corner of the hole.  I used ribbon to tie the potholder into the hole:

In retrospect I wouldn't have used so many eyelets.  Steve asked why I did, and I had no good reason.  After punching all of the holes (twice - I decided I needed more pages so the potholder wouldn't stick out too much) and using my Cropadile to set the eyelets, my hands were exhausted!  I could have taken out about half of the eyelets on the top and bottom edges, and it would have been just fine.

The left side of this page has more examples of crafts I did as a kid:

The irises in a vase embroidery is a picture, but the "Thinking of you" and little flower are actual cross-stitch projects I did in my youth.  I think it's important to include actual pieces (the cross-stitch, the potholder, and the postcards I talked about yesterday) in a book like this whenever possible to give the book actual meaning.  The "Thinking of you" was a card that I made for my grandmother, and she put it in a little stand on her TV or a shelving unit (it moved around from time to time).  When she passed, I put it on my shelf.  This is a much better use for it.

Here's the flip side of the potholder page, starting to list the myriad of crafts I currently do:

I did have to note that I no longer make loopy potholders.

Here's the final page of this crafty set:

The picture at the top of this page is me with my Omi (my mother's mother).  Funny story about this - I made both my Mom and Omi a wrap that is meant to go around your shoulders and arms to keep them warm while reading or watching TV.  Well, every time I saw Omi use it, she was lying on the couch with the wrap balancing precariously on top of her.  I told her countless times to put it around her shoulders, but she said she liked it better this way.  I should have made her a whole afghan!

Speaking of crocheting, I finished a sweater today that has been in the works for quite some time.  A post will be coming soon (and all the fiber artists say Wahoo!!).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Mom's altered book - part 2

Any time my Mom and stepfather go away on vacation, they send postcards.  I wanted to include a few of them in the book I gave her but wanted both sides to be visible.

For two of the postcards, I used a pair of decorative scissors to cut a few of the pages from the book leaving a flap, and I stapled the postcards to it:

I used a lot of travel stickers on these pages to cover up the text.  When you turn the page, you can read what Mom wrote:

For the other postcard, I cut a hole in another page of the book and secured the postcard with ribbon on all 4 sides:

In hindsight, I would have cut a hole in 2 or 3 pages instead of one.  This page is a little flimsy, but it still works.  Flip this page, and you can see the other side of the postcard:

Nope, that's not my actual address.  :)

Since I'm sure you're really curious about what the playing cards are for, here's a bonus picture:

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sorry for the delay, folks...

Yup, I've been absent for 10 days.  So sorry!  Sunday was Mother's Day, and I was frantically working on finishing my mother's present - an altered book with pictures and stories about my Mom and me and some about my grandmother.  The book was Mothers and Daughters, and I found it in a thrift store.  As soon as I saw it, I knew it would make a great altered book!

I altered it by:
  • Taking pages out
  • Adding pages (mulberry paper and a transparency)
  • Combining pages using adhesive, eyelets, ribbon, and staples
  • Cutting a hole in the middle so I could insert items (a postcard and a potholder)
  • Covering pages with sponged ink or paper
  • Stamping on pages
  • Highlighting sections of text from the book by drawing a box around them
  • Decoupaging
  • Adding pictures, journaling, embellishments, and nostalgia
  • and more!
I dug deep into my nostalgia bin and found cards and postcards that Mom had sent me and put some of them in the book.  In 1995 I gave Mom a "Tell me about your life" book that had 365 questions about all aspects of her life.  I copied some of those pages for the Halloween, Vacation, and her "quirky sense of humor" pages.

My Mom really liked it and was surprised at some of the things I remember that she didn't.  I won't show you the entire book, but this week I'll show you some of the different altering techniques, starting at the back of the book.

When I was little we did a handprint project which I found in my nostalgia bin.  I made a copy to keep the original safe:

In case you can't read the poem, it says, "This is to remind you,/ when I've grown so tall,/ That once I was quite little/ and my hands were very small."

You can see a hint on the left side of the picture of what I did:

What I wrote was, "I didn't grow very tall,/ And my hands are still quite small,/ But they have been true/ In making this book for you!"

Note:  Do NOT use stamp ink to do hand prints.  Use paint.  This next picture is after the second scrubbing:

10-15 minutes later, I had a semblance of normal hand color.  It just looked like I clapped for five minutes straight.  Afterward, Fe wanted to get in on the action, too:

That's it for now - hope you've enjoyed this installment of "What Traci was doing when she should have been blogging"!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Happy National Scrapbooking Day!

Yup, May Day is not just for dancing around a pole with your girlfriends and a bunch of ribbon.  It is also National Scrapbooking Day.  There are lots of great sales on scrapbooking products, but the main thrust of the day is to indulge in our hobby and educate others about scrapbooking.

There are a number of ways you could do this:
  • The obvious one is to scrap.  Ideally, one would be able to do this all day long (or all weekend, if you're lucky!), but a lot of us don't have that option.
  • If you're out and about, stop by a local scrapbook store and pick up a few items.  Indulge yourself and get something you've been looking at for a while but didn't get because it was too girly, frilly, purple (and you have 1000 sheets of purple paper), blingy, etc...  No, you can not use me as an excuse to spend a ton of money.  I don't want a bunch of angry husbands e-mailing me!
  • Organize/reorganize some of your supplies.  I find this very motivating, plus you find things you forgot you had!
  • Flip through magazines for ideas... scrapbook magazines, jewelry magazines to see how colors are used together, home-type magazines to see the latest trends in decorating which could also look good in your pages...
  • Look at your finished pages for techniques you haven't used in a while or to get ideas of other pages to scrap.
  • While you're flipping through your finished pages.... fill in some of that journaling you have been meaning to "get back to later"!
  • Clean off your work surface.  Since I posted the other day about Simoon on my desk, it has gotten exponentially messier.
I know a number of my readers are not scrapbookers.  I was going to get back to jewelry today, but National Scrapbook Day just begged to be blogged about!

Here are a few ideas for non-scrapbookers as well as scrapbookers:
  • Organize some photos.  Not all of them, of course.  That would be impossible.  Just pick one area - one pile, one box, one basket - and go through them.  Do not label them if you don't have a Slick Writer pen.  Write on a Post-it® note and put it on the back of the photo.  Discard any really bad photos.
  • Scan some photos to be saved on the computer.
  • If you have a SAFE photo album - "magnetic" photo albums are not safe for your photos - put some pictures into it.  The best kind of album for non-scrappers is one with sleeves for certain sizes of photos.  You can put pictures in some of the sleeves and some written information/journaling in another sleeve.  Just cut a piece of paper to the size of your pictures, and you have an instant journaling box!
  • Move your boxes of pictures out of the basement and attic.  This is very important, especially for older pictures.  My mom and stepfather have a number of wonderful pictures that are now mouse-chewed.  Besides being potential rodent-food, extreme heat, cold, and dampness are bad for your pictures.  Photos like to live where you live, so please find a place where they will be comfortable!

And, finally, look through some pictures or finished photo albums and remember.  Laugh if you can, cry if you must, but just take some time to think back on the past - your past or your ancestors' pasts - to remember where we came from and how we got to where we are now.

Pictures and scrapbooks (in any form) are so important for all of us.  We all are important, and our stories are important.  I urge you to take some time today or this weekend (or whenever you can) to jot those stories down so future generations will be able to truly know you.

If, like my husband and me, you have too much going on today to be so pensive and reflective, grab your camera on the way out the door and make new memories!