Monday, October 28, 2013

2013 LBS Challenge - Part 2 - Bracelet shape and FF&aF section

This is the second installment of my 2013 LBS Challenge bracelet, "My Milwaukee: A Triptych".  I do have to warn you that it's a bit long, but there's a lot of pictures.  And... there's a Frisco reward for you at the end.  Remember - it's cheating to scroll down just to see the kitten being cute.

If you missed the first post about the bracelet's inspirations with lots of lovely pictures, you can read it here.

For a quick refresher, here's the finished bracelet:

The shape of the bracelet started with the center piece, Point Fish Fry & a Flick.  I knew it wouldn't be completely to scale, but I wanted to reproduce the shape and atmosphere of the event as best I could.

Again, here's a good view of FF&aF:

Please see my previous post for picture credit.  :)

Before I could do anything, I had to go shopping for the figures.  Nope, I didn't make all those by hand.  I'm not that talented!  I've mentioned before that Steve works for Model Railroader magazine, so it shouldn't be a surprise that I "hired" him as a consultant.  ("hired" is in quotes because I didn't pay him.  Sorry, honey!)

In our basement we have essentially two model railroad layouts - the one that takes up over a third of the basement which is in HO scale (the most common), and a much smaller one that Steve had started for articles in the magazine but needed to come home due to lack of space at Kalmbach.  That one is N scale.  In case you didn't click the links to the Wikipedia articles, HO scale is about 1:87.1, and N scale ranges from 1:148 to 1:160 (a lot smaller than HO).  I'm very familiar with the size of HO figures and knew they'd be too big for jewelry, so we decided I'd use N scale.  There's also a Z scale (1:220), but Steve said the selection for figures isn't very good.  (As an aside, I saw a Z scale layout at a model railroad show once - it was in a briefcase.  Easiest set up and take down ever!  Open up the briefcase, put it on a table, plug the cord in.  Done!)  If the numbers mean nothing to you, check out these pictures: Scale chart for figures (the tallest is 3") and Scale chart for locomotives head-on.

Once we determined the scale, I figured out basically what I wanted and went shopping online.  Thank goodness for the Internet.  Like I've ranted about before, I couldn't buy everything from one place.  Walthers has an enormous selection, but I was surprised that they didn't have everything I needed.  I ended up buying from two different vendors: Wig-Wag Trains and Zug Meister Trains on ebay.

If you want to reproduce what I did, I bought Faller's "Garden Chairs & Tables", Model Power's "People Eating", Preiser's "Family at the Beach" (Family Krause, to be exact), Preiser's "Seated People", and Plastruct's "Pleasure Boats".  I have a lot of leftovers that I'm going to have to figure out how to make into jewelry.

To give you an idea of how small these pieces are, here are the chair parts with a quarter:

The hurdle-looking things are the arms and legs of the chairs.  Two per seat.  Here's Steve my contractor gluing a chair together:

 See that tiny bit of white at the end of the brush?  That's the chair.

After my contractor glued the chairs together, he glued people in the chairs.  I decided to take four people from "People Eating" and four from "Seated People".  Since three of the "People Eating" were standing, I couldn't put them in chairs (duh).  I planned on arranging them so they would mill around the seated folks.  One of the people eating was a tall redhead and looked like Steve, and one of the "Seated People" had brown hair and was reading.  I determined that one would be me.

We're so in love, even in model form!

When Steve glued "me" into the chair, he said, "Just like the real Traci, her feet don't touch the floor!"  So not fair.

I arranged everyone (including an empty chair for "Steve") onto a piece of paper:

It was a little big, so I rearranged everyone and drew out a plan.  I then cut out a template:

 Yes, it's a G, but that can't be helped.

I mixed together some clay (ivory and translucent, I think) and cut the shape out:

This is in process, of course.

Using the pins from my Bead Baking Rack, I skewered the piece longways so I would could sew the form to the bracelet backing.  I then started pressing and gluing little rocks (in the model railroad world they're called talus) into the clay:

That was difficult, and some of them came off when I stitched the lake.  I should have used a better glue like E6000.  I used G-S Hypo Cement because it was thinner, but maybe the thicker glue would have been more adhesivey durable.  Other options would have been to make little rocks out of polymer clay and press them on or to sculpt rocks right onto the base, but I wanted actual rocks.  I thought it would be faster.  Ha!  It does look nice, so maybe that was the right choice.

Once the rock-gluing was done, I pressed the screen (I'll discuss that in a few weeks) into the clay so it would fit snugly.  I placed the people where I wanted them and pressed their little feet and chair legs into the clay.  I then took a picture so I would remember who went where:

I just noticed all the people eating are men. :::insert sexist joke here:::

After I took the people and chairs off of the clay (didn't want them to melt!), I oh-so-carefully took the skewers out.  I really wish I hadn't had to do that, but I needed to curve the clay while baking, and I couldn't do that with the skewers in.  Steve said I should have curved the skewers, but I didn't want to bend them.  Besides, I probably would have screwed up the piece.  I millimeter-by-millimeter eased each of the pins out and was glad the top part of the G didn't break off.  I then draped it over a pop can (Mountain Dew, to satiate your curiosity), which fit pretty well in the baking rack.  After baking, the form kept its shape very well.  Yay!

Based on the width and length of the FF&aF section, I made an initial paper form of the full bracelet:

When I was testing the bracelet around my wrist, I noticed that when the ends met on the inside, there was buckling on the outside.  That meant that it was too wide to work like a "normal" bracelet and would need some adjusting.  After an unbelievable amount of time and discussions with my model railroad jewelry consultant, I determined that on the inside the ends should form a V.

I made a new paper form (dropping the rounded corners because of the angles needed for the new shape), and Steve and I made a few notations so I knew where everything was supposed to be:

It may seem silly to have so many notations, but I was getting seriously confused.

For the bracelet base, I used Pellon interfacing and Ultrasuede from Knot Just Beads.  I tried to make it work with one piece of Ultrasuede by having one whole piece for the bottom and two pieces for the part that would be covered up with beads, but I had a gluing and logistics problem:

Glue was seeping through in some spots, and the piece on the right in the above picture I tried gluing upside down or something stupid like that.  Like I said, I was getting very confused.  Back to Knot Just Beads I went, and I brought back another piece of Ultrasuede and a hank of very gorgeous dark blue Charlottes I used in the lake.

Not only was the glue seeping through, but it wasn't always working.  I tried a plethora of glues - I don't remember all of them - and finally my scrapbooking Mono adhesive worked well enough.  It just had to stick enough for me to be able to stitch the pieces together while I beaded.  I know there are many people I could have called who know exactly what glue to use, but I was in a rush (as I often seem to be) and needed to get started.  If I had read Explorations in Beadweaving that I reviewed last Friday, I would have known to use E6000.  I even have it in the house already.  That's what I get for not checking my resources!

I should probably say that Explorations in Beadweaving is a great book for learning how to do bead embroidery.  I'm not going to explain how to do it step-by-step in my blogs, so if you would like to know, please pick up her book.  I sent her a Facebook message letting her know about the review.  She's very nice, and we're now friends on Facebook!  (Hi, Kelly!)

I'm glad I had a single piece of Ultrasuede because as I was curving the piece around for testing, the split ended up rather wide and wouldn't have been workable.  Perhaps it was "good luck" that I had so many problems and needed another piece.  If I had spent hours stitching just to find out that the split was screwing everything up, I'd have been pretty upset.

I taped the FF&aF base to the bracelet base and sewed it on, using light blue Delica seed beads to signify water crashing against the pier.  Then I started stitching the lake, using the gorgeous Charlottes, some dark blue 15/0 seed beads, and the light blue Delicas:

You can't tell in the pictures, but the Charlottes are flat on one side, and when that part catches the light it's really beautiful and looks like light glinting off the water.

As I stitched I noticed that I was "making waves" toward the right side of the piece.  I had the boat facing the wrong way for that, so I erased my lines and switched the direction of both boats:

Now it looks like the boat is pushing the water in that direction.

The final bracelet picture for today is this section all stitched up (including the edging, which happened much later) and before the figures and boats are glued on:

Next Tuesday, both straps of the bracelet.  It will be much shorter.  I promise.

Now for your reward for getting all the way down to the end.  Here's Frisco in his new favorite place, the window above my desk:

He's adorable up there, but he keeps knocking stuff off.  It's messy enough up there as it is without him wreaking more havoc.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Book review - Explorations in Beadweaving by Kelly Angeley

Explorations in Beadweaving: Techniques for an Improvisational Approach by Kelly Angeley is an interesting book on a wide range of stitches, styles, and even materials.  It's a good reference for anyone who's interested in learning the basics and then having fun with them.

Even though my Challenge piece I've started blogging about is free-form, I'm not really all that comfortable creating pieces that are "improvisational" as the sub-title suggests.  I was happy to see that Explorations in Beadweaving has many projects that can be followed step by step with beads and materials easily found.  There are a few projects that have focal pieces you might not find as easily (such as vintage cabochons, antique glass art print slides, or porcelain sink faucet knobs), but the author gives tips and suggestions on what you can do to make a similar project with different materials.

The book is divided into five chapters: peyote stitch, herringbone stitch, right-angle weave, bead embroidery, and combining stitches.  Each chapter has 3-4 projects using the chapter's technique, and each project has a "Take Two" section that explains either an alternate way to make the project or how to make earrings or a necklace using the same technique.  Throughout the projects are tips to help you adjust length, pick the right found objects, keep the tension tight enough, and much more.

The projects themselves are beautiful and cover earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and there's even a ring.  Each has a number of full-color charts to help you with the thread paths as a companion to the written instructions.

There are a number of different types of beads used, so if you've been curious what to do with long magatamas, peanut beads, drop beads, or spikes, this book has you covered.  I've shied away from spikes, but after seeing the two projects here that use them, I may have to rethink my reluctance.

As I was reading the book I wondered where some of the focal pieces could be found.  In "Finding Wonderland" I thought the focal looked like a Lipstick Ranch piece, but it wasn't listed as such in the Materials list.  I was glad to see the "Project Resources" section at the end of the book and to confirm that it was a Lipstick Ranch piece!  It would have been nice if the resources were listed with the project, but this is okay as long as you know where to look.  There's a "Where to Shop" section on the page facing "Project Resources" with the contact information for the resources.

I think the main advice for this book (or any bead book, really) is in the introduction to "Sol Sister Cuff":

Although I have provided bead-by-bead directions below, trust your instincts and follow your own creative voice while beading.
I'm glad I picked this book up, and I actually wish I'd looked through it before I did my Challenge piece.  I think I could have made a few aspects of the bracelet easier on myself from some of the tips in the bead embroidery chapter.

Check this book out if you're interested in developing an "improvisational approach" to your beading!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

2013 LBS Challenge - Part 1 - Inspiration

I know last week I mentioned that today I was going to blog about the earrings I made for my mother for her birthday.  However, I forgot that last night was the voting for the 2013 Loose Bead Society Challenge, and I could finally blog about my piece.  I asked Mom if she was okay with me postponing the earring blog, and she said that was fine.  (Pssst... Mom... I need a picture of the necklace that goes with the earrings.  Can you please ask John to take one and send it to me?  Thanks!  Love you!)

Unfortunately that earring blog is going to be postponed a very long time.  I want to really go in depth about my Challenge piece, and that will take some time, since I'm trying to keep my posts shorter.  :)

The theme of this year's Challenge was "What Says Milwaukee to Me?"  I loved this theme because I love Milwaukee.  There is so much to do here, and everything is right at our fingertips.  The drive to downtown takes 15-20 minutes in good traffic, and it's not that much longer in bad traffic.  Easy in and out, and there are many free or low-cost events.

Pretty soon after the theme was announced, I knew what I wanted to do.  I knew it would stretch my abilities, but I wanted to create something large in concept that would match my love for Milwaukee.

I decided to do a bead embroidery bracelet.  For someone who has done a lot of bead embroidery, that wouldn't be too daunting of a task.  However, I had only made one bead embroidery piece:

It's a pin, in case you were wondering

I love it, but it's a far cry from a bracelet.  I wanted to showcase different aspects of living in Milwaukee, and that meant a bolder, more elaborate piece was needed.

The first inspiration was Point Fish Fry & a Flick, which is held every summer outside next to Discovery World:

I got that picture from the To quote or not to quote? article from A.V. Club Milwaukee.  It gives a good view of the area.  Off to the right you can see the huge inflatable movie screen.  Curving around to the left and behind is a pier, where boats frequently came in to turn around.

We didn't go this year, mainly because there were few movies, and it didn't get started until late August.  It gets really chilly after dark that late in the season.  Last year and the year before, though, we went a number of times, and we really enjoyed ourselves.

The Fish Fry & a Flick would be in the center of the bracelet.

The second inspiration was this piece of art that can be seen along the RiverWalk:

I don't know exactly where this is or anything about it.  My friend Sherri Ballard took this picture when we walked along the river with her daughter Sydney.

I had originally wanted to do this on either side of the Fish Fry & a Flick section, but something was niggling at the back of my brain.  Possibly it was because I wasn't able to find the right color brown for the bricks, but I think it was because I wanted to include the main reason I love Milwaukee:

It's my home.  I would never have moved here if I hadn't met and married the most wonderful man in the world.  If you missed my review of him and our marriage so far, click here.

So after all of that, I should probably show you the bracelet.  I'll break down how I made it in later blog posts.

I give you:

My Milwaukee: A Triptych

Here's the Fish Fry & a Flick section:

The art along the river:

Our house:

Oh - one last piece of inspiration: the beads represent the Loose Bead Society members who are my friends and who have supported me as I've grown in my beadwork.

And to prove that it's actually wearable (although I won't wear it to the grocery store):

I think I didn't mention this earlier, but I won for the Advanced category of the Challenge.  Yay me!

Next week: designing the shape of the bracelet and the Fish Fry & a Flick section.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Yarn PREview: From the Deborah Norville collection

Once again I don't really have anything to review.  This week has been a slow one as far as doing new things.  I have done some beading but don't really have anything to show you, except perhaps the Jack O' Lantern key I have up on Etsy (click the picture to go to the listing):

On Tuesday I'll show you the earrings I made for my mother for her birthday.

Since I had feverishly finished the Colorfully Modern Cardigan (if you missed that, click here), I really wasn't up to start another project or finish the damnable hooded cardigan, but Steve's coworker's wife had false contractions yesterday, so I surveyed what yarn I had then went to Ravelry to pick a pattern.  She's really due in late November, but I should probably not wait any longer.  It was quite a confusing few hours, but I finally picked what I want to make.  I won't tell you what it is in case I can't do it or change my mind (or if she reads this blog).  :)

The yarn I'll be using is Serenity Sock Weight from the Deborah Norville Collection.  Yup, that Deborah Norville - the journalist from Inside Edition who spent a week as an inmate in a North Carolina penal institution.  You can check out her website for information about her, the books she's written (on a wide range of subjects), her yarn collection, and all things Deb!

Turns out that (like Vanna White) Deb's an avid crafter, and she has quite the collection of yarns from Serenity Sock Weight (which I'll be using on this baby project) to a gorgeous yarn I'll talk about it a bit.

The Serenity Sock Weight is a blend of 50% Superwash Merino Wool (Superwash means it can go in the washing machine, I guess), 25% Rayon, and 25% Nylon.  It's pretty soft, and the colors I have are very pretty and muted, which I favor.

This one is called "Hot Pink".  Don't adjust your set - it really is that light.  I wonder what a "soft pink" would look like.

My mother had bought a bunch of this yarn when she was trying to find a substitute for a multi-colored worsted weight yarn for an afghan.  She tried using two strands of this Serenity yarn (one of pink, one of green), but it didn't look right.  She gave up and gave me the yarn, since I was making socks.

If you're interested in more information about the Serenity Sock Weight yarn, including a free sock pattern, click here for Deb's page.  To see what colors are available, click here for striped and here for solids on the Premier Yarns website.

Now onto the cool yarn I saw today at my local Michaels:  Fleece yarn!  I would probably never have noticed it if I hadn't run into a friend in the yarn section.  She had a ball of it, and I was very intrigued.  It's called Cuddle Fleece, and it's about a quarter inch wide strip of patterned fleece that you can use for super-quick projects.  The wrapper showed a bulky scarf, but my friend is going to make a hat for her mother.  She showed me where she got it, and lo and behold!  There's a purple!

"Don't you need a new hat or scarf, Traci?" my friend devilishly asked.  "I think I might!" I replied.  Well, I didn't get one this time, but I have a feeling a skein might fall into my basket on my next visit to Michaels.

I believe this is the color that my friend bought:

That should give you an idea of what it looks like.  Neat!

Here's the page on the Premier Yarns website for Cuddle Fleece.  I couldn't find a page for it on Deborah Norville's website.  I think the purple one I saw is called "Sassy", but the picture looks a lot pinker than the one I saw in the store.

Has anyone used this fleece or any of Deborah Norville's other yarns?  Please let me know at, and I'll post about it.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Crochet-Along cardigan is finished!

I took a little break from crocheting while I was getting ready for the Milwaukee Bead Show, but afterward I crocheted furiously so I could finish the cardigan before seeing my mother for her birthday this past Sunday.

If you have no idea what cardigan I'm talking about, please check out my blog posts first: Announcement of the project, first update, second update, third update, mistakes I've made on this and other projects.  The updates are at the bottom of the posts.

You may recall (especially if you just read it), that when I made the swatch with the recommended hook, it was too small.  The swatch with the next bigger hook was too large, so I crocheted the sweater using the bigger hook and the smallest size, calculating that it would fit me.  I moved the pockets down so they wouldn't be up by my ribs.

I had to add to the sleeve caps because the sleeves wouldn't fit where they were supposed to go, but other people had that problem, too, so that wasn't because I messed around with hooks and sizes.

When I tried it on after sewing the sleeves on, I have to admit I was not happy:

One side fell open, and the other side just hung there.  Bringing the fronts together, I found there was quite an overlap:

By the way, my hair looks like that because I was practically tearing it out trying to figure out how to get the sleeves to fit and how to stitch the shoulders so they wouldn't be bumpy.  They're stair-stepped instead of gently curving, so I have little bumps on the inside.  The outside looks fine, which I guess is all that's important.

I finally figured out that the neck decrease looks like that because I stitched a looser version of the cardigan, so the neck shaping as written would hang down a lot lower.  If I had realized this, I would have made adjustments to the front panels so the neck shaping started up closer to my neck.

Also, I should have adjusted the sleeves so they're a little shorter.  I added the surface slip stitch (click here if you don't know what that is) to the sleeve cuffs as recommended, but that made the sleeves a bit too tight for me.  I ended up taking it out and deciding not to add the edging around the bottom which used the same stitch.

What to do with the neck area, though?  I deliberated and deliberated, which made Steve also have to deliberate, of course, and we determined that the side that curled back looked better than the side that just hung there.  We decided to make "lapels" and tack them down with buttons.

I laid the sweater out on the floor to take pictures of it and to see how far to pull things back for the lapels:

That's Pixel.  He insisted on taking over for the sleeve edging.

Seeing it on the floor, I exclaimed, "That's enormous!  Am I really that big?"  Steve very carefully said, "Well... it does fit you."  It actually is a bit loose on me, so the joke is on... well, it's still on me.  I'm going to go eat a stalk of celery now.

I went through my vase of beads and only found two that matched each other and the sweater and were big enough for this project.  Here's one of the lapels after it was tacked down:

And here I am in the finished cardigan:

It's not perfect.  The pockets could have been a touch higher, but they're okay where they are.  It's thicker than I wanted (and very heavy), but it would have been even thicker (and heavier) if I had crocheted with the recommended hook.  At first it was kind of stiff, but I've worn it a few times, and it seems to be softening up a bit.

The $100,000 questions are:  Will I continue to wear it? and Will I make another one?  Yes, I will wear this cardigan.  I don't know about making another one.  I'm a little sick of the FPDC stitches (the ones that make the ribs), so it will have to wait until I'm not sick of them anymore, or I'll modify the cardigan to not use them.  I am glad I made it, but I think the sweater I was hoping this one would be will have to be made from a thinner yarn.  Worsted weight is nice, but the finished product is pretty thick.

Now that I'm done I'll have to go back to that damnable hooded cardigan.  I think I'll make the sleeves and make sure it fits before I keep going with the 100 or more rows of the hood.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A different sort of review...

Five years ago today, I received this text:

About an hour and a half later, this happened:

Then this:

He's such a softie!

Then this:
I guess I am, too.  I yanked that hankie right out of his hand!

Then this:

She now pronounces us man and wife!

We are now...

Looking back over the last 5 years, an awful lot has happened, and I can say honestly that Steve has been supportive, loving, patient, and always able to make me laugh:

I had a very hard time when I was working at my last job.  I've mentioned it a number of times here, and many of you know even more than I've posted.  Every day (every hour!) was a struggle, and I received many texts like this one:

It really helped that he understood what I was going through and expressed his sympathy for me every day (sometimes multiple times a day).

When we decided I would quit, he supported me in my job search and even supported me when it seemed I couldn't find a job I was qualified for and wanted to do (not to mention the anxiety and onset of Fibromyalgia and nightmares...).  While I now have my own business, it doesn't make a lot of money, and he supports me financially as well as emotionally.  He also supports me physically, as I can't lug things around very well anymore.  He edits my jewelry design tutorials and helps me out at shows:

I'm really not sure what Steve gets out of the marriage except companionship, because it seems most of the time I'm more trouble than not, but Steve gets upset when I say that.  He says he likes feeling needed.  I definitely need him, so that must be what he gets out of it.  :)

Isn't he the sweetest?

As in any marriage, we've had lots of ups and downs.  Mom has had cancer a few times (and is still battling it) plus other health problems.  My Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis has been difficult to cope with.  We've had financial problems (and help from our parents, thank goodness!).  My cat, Simoon, passed away.  We found Frisco.  Steve's cat, Katy, passed away.  We've gone to museums, shows, the State Fair, the Renaissance Faire, weddings, funerals, and countless movies.  We've taken short vacations to Chicago and Madison. We've entertained for holidays and game nights.  We started growing our own vegetables.  We've had a few surgeries, and I've had a LOT of dental work.

In short, it's been a very full five years.  While we don't go out to the State Fair and other things like that as much anymore, we still make it a point to spend lots of time together and to have fun, even if it's sitting on the couch making fun of a really bad movie, Mystery Science Theater style.

No matter what happens, I can count on a lot of things:

  • Lunchtime texts and chats on Facebook:

From 2009

From today

  • Sushiversaries on September 15th (the anniversary of our first date when we had sushi for lunch, wandered around a mall, and had dinner at Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon):

  • Holidays:
Thanksgiving 2010
  • Snow:

  • Cats:
Our original four

  • Laughs:

That's my teddy bear, Ogden, wearing a pair of my pajama pants


  • Kissing!

Here we are through the years:

Our first anniversary we took a short vacation (2 nights) to Chicago.  The below picture is us atop the Willis Tower (formerly the Sears Tower):

On our second anniversary we went to the Cheesecake Factory:

We ordered cheesecake (because you have to if you go there, you know), and this is what we got:

How cute!

On our third anniversary we went to Carrabba's Italian Grill, which is where I got that picture of Steve ravioli-smiling above.  Here we are with him being a little more serious:

I think I like my hair better like that, I think.

Our fourth anniversary is when we went to Madison.  We only spent one night, but we packed both days full of antiquing, and we saw "Hello Dolly!" at the Fireside Theater.  We stayed the night at Sweet Autumn Inn, and the breakfast was to die for.  I can't wait until we can afford to go back.

Oh - we also went to Ella's Deli and and rode their carousel:

I won't tell you how Steve hurt himself getting onto his horse.

Tonight we're going to Karl Ratzsch's German restaurant in downtown Milwaukee.  We have a Groupon, because that's how we do things now.  So romantic.  :)

Here's to many, many more years together and a lot more of this: