Friday, January 31, 2014

knitCompanion review update

In August I reviewed the knitCompanion app as great for more than just knitting and crocheting.  If you haven't seen that, please read that post first so the rest of this will make sense.  I'll wait.

::hums Jeopardy tune::

Welcome back!  In my review I showed you how knitCompanion can be used for beading projects and keeping track of which row you're on in peyote charts.  Since I downloaded this app I have only used a paper chart once, and it was torture.  Well, no, it wasn't really torture, but it did take a lot more concentration.  It is so much easier to use knitCompanion - I move the slider for each row, and if I have to put the stitching down for any reason I don't have to wonder where I left off.  It's amazing.

I use the app for knitting, too, of course.  Before I even picked up the needles for the Owl and the Pussy Cat baby hat I highlighted everything for the size I was making.  I'm glad I did it, because I put the hat down during the Christmas selling season, and I had forgotten which size I had decided to make.  I could have figured it out, but that would have involved a lot of counting.  Because I had taken the time to highlight, I didn't have to give it a second thought.  I had moved the slider down and updated my round count as I knit, and when I picked it back up again I didn't skip a beat or drop a stitch.

Since I wrote the review there are now ads in the free version.  They're not obtrusive, so I don't mind them much.  They have to pay for everything somehow, and ads help them do that.  Another new thing since my review is that they have come up with different subscription options in case the full price ($15.99) is too much.  It's only 99 cents to have full access for 15 days, so if you'd like to see if the full version would be better for you, you're only out a dollar.

I have had one problem since one of the updates:  Sometimes the screen goes partially blank when I'm switching between apps or moving things around.  It's easily fixed - I load a new page then go back to the last one - so I'm not upset about it (not that I could be upset about something in an app I haven't paid for).  I'm sure they're working on it.

Speaking of what they're working on... I mentioned in my review that knitCompanion is available only for Apple devices.  They're now trying to raise money through KickStarter so they can expand to Android devices.  They have quite a ways to go to reach their goal and only 17 days left.  Please check out their KickStarter campaign and donate if you can.  If nothing else, watch the video.  It's funny!  If you can't donate, please share the link on your Facebook page or on Pinterest to get the word out.  (I couldn't use my "Pin It" button for some reason, so I had to add the page directly from Pinterest.)

I really believe in this app and would like to help them out.  For anyone who donates $25 or more to their Kickstarter I will send a PDF of your choice of peyote beading patterns:

  • My "Triple Goddess" pattern that I designed for this necklace:

    The offered pattern will be just for the flat rectangle Goddess part - not the tapering or any of the embellishments.  I wish I had knitCompanion when I stitched this.  My eyes were crossed and blurry by the time I was done!

  • My full "Shadowed Diamonds" bracelet tutorial:

    Learn how to stitch odd count peyote and use knitCompanion to read the chart.
Donate $50 or more, and you'll receive both PDFs!

After you donate, forward the confirmation e-mail to and tell me which design you want, and I'll send the PDF.  There is no personal information (credit card info or address) on the confirmation e-mail, so please include your name just for my records.

My husband asked why I want to be involved with this app and its Kickstarter campaign so much.  I couldn't give him more of an answer than, "I really like it!!"  Thinking about it a bit more, I think it's because I love any tool that helps the creative person spend more time creating.  I have a stamp index of most of my rubber stamps so that I can more quickly find the perfect stamp for my project (it needs updating, but it still gets the job done).  The One Step Looper helps me make simple earrings in a fraction of the time.  I have spent more than enough time trying to figure out where I am in a peyote chart and in a knitting pattern I haven't looked at in months (my regular readers will know I'm talking about the damnable hooded cardigan), not to mention finding the knitting pattern.  With just a little bit of work up front (getting the PDF into Dropbox and/or knitCompanion and setting up all the highlighting and zooming and all that), I can spend the bulk of my time knitting or beading.  I want to support anyone who helps me do that.

I just donated $25.  Can you do the same?

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Creepy eye key

Before I get started, I'd like to recommend that if iTunes wants to update your computer, don't do it right now.  I tried, and it messed iTunes up completely.  I know I'm not the only one based on what I saw in a forum.  On their recommendations I've uninstalled everything iTunes and Apple from my computer, and I'm about to reinstall.  I wanted to blog first, though.  There's something amiss in the iTunes update process, and if I were you I'd wait a week or more before trying it.

Onto the key!

Have you noticed there's a lot of eye jewelry around now?  I hate to say it, but I think they're creepy.  I feel like I'm being watched.  :)

My friend Tammy Rae Wolter is borosilicate glass artist.  I showed a picture of her studio in my Other folks' spaces, Part 3 blog post.  Among the many things that Tammy makes are glass eyes for jewelry (instead of for popping into an empty eye socket), and I always tease her that they creep me out.  Her pieces are beautiful, but they're watching me.  I just know they are.  If you'd like to see what she does, here's her website and Etsy shop.  If nothing else, click here to see just her eyes.

I must have made an impression, because when she did a presentation at a Loose Bead Society meeting in February, 2012, this was one of her slides:

Only a good friend would go out of her way to publicly creep me out.

Well, she must have made an impression on me, too, because when I was designing patterns for my large keys (the same batch as the rainbow key and iris key, which can be seen here) I decided to design a simple eye.  I stitched it up last night for the Gardens and Gears show I've been talking about:

In case you're wondering, there is a pupil in there.  It's just really small.  Steve says it looks fine, but if I make this again I'll either use a lighter color of blue or make the pupil bigger.  The iris could probably be a bit bigger, too.  In any case, it's sure to creep out anyone who I'm talking to, which was my goal.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Purple RAW bracelet

About a year and a half ago I posted this about a Right Angle Weave (RAW) set using wooden saucer beads and peanut beads.  Since then I've named it "Simple Stitched Saucer Set" because I seem to love alliteration.  I also have a "Double Decker Daisy", "Parenthetical Petals", and "Winter Wonderland".  I should have made all my designs alliterations.  I'll have to consider that for the future.

To refresh your memory, here's Simple Stitched Saucer Set in red and black:

I have kits for five colorways for this design, and I needed to make a purple bracelet for a super-secret-unless-you've-talked-to-me-recently reason.  I don't want to jinx it by posting it publicly.  Suffice it to say that I needed to make a purple bracelet, so last night while watching TV and the Cupcake kittens being born (live!) I made one big enough to fit me (because - PURPLE):

I have so many purple bracelets now that I need to grow extra arms (like in this movie) just to wear them.

It's been SO cold here in Milwaukee that I've taken to wearing my Snuggie in my studio, either in full "Snuggie" mode or as a blanket.  Currently it's sort of balled up in my lap.  When I get up, the Snuggie gets thrown on my chair.

The cats must be cold, too, because this is how I found Fe last night:

She wasn't completely "in-tented" as we call it - she LOVES being in "tents" - but she did a fair job of covering herself up!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Last brick stitch for a while... I promise!

You may recall my other forays into brick stitch.  If not (or if you're new here - welcome!), click here and here.  The second post is more pertinent to today's topic than the first one.  To recap, I'm going to teach a brick stitch project to the Loose Bead Society of Greater Milwaukee at the March program, and I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to teach.  I want something a little different than I've seen online, and I want to teach increases and decreases.

I got some supplies from Fire Mountain Gems and Knot Just Beads and finally was able to sit down with them last night.  I determined that the beaded bead idea will not work.  With increases and decreases it looked too odd and was getting to be too complicated and time-consuming.  So I simplified my original plan and stitched up two different colors with two different "bumpy" beads in the middle:

The stitched bit is attached at the top corner only so it will swing during wear.

I made a sample using 4 different kinds of "bumpy" beads - large (possibly Japanese) drop beads, Rizos, long Magatamas, and fringe (drop) beads:

While they're all neat, I like the Rizos (the 2nd row) best.  The Magatamas (3rd row) are look all cool and spiky, but you have to pay attention to which way you pick them up or they won't all lay the right way.  In that sample I had to take out two of the beads and turn them around.  That's not something I want to try explaining in a tutorial.

So, what do you think?  Do the earrings look like something you'd like to try?  Leave me a comment, especially if you're an LBS member.  I'd like the feedback!  Once I get final approval from the ones in charge, we'll start choosing colors and making kits.

Monday, January 27, 2014

A key pattern webpage (and earrings made by Steve)

I frequently get inquiries about my key patterns - what I have available, how much they cost, and how much the keys are to go with the patterns.  I keep meaning to get Etsy listings up, but I knew they would be pretty complicated since there are a lot of options.  Today I got the second inquiry in a week, so I sat down and made a web page with all the options for all of the types of keys I carry.  I still want to put them up on Etsy, but this is a great way for anyone who's interested to see everything all in one place.  I know this wasn't creating in the traditional sense, but I'm still counting it as one of my 2014 projects.  Along with the web page, I made a few graphics using Photoshop, and they required a fair amount of creativity!  Here's the graphic with my holiday key offerings:

The Star of David key I showed you a few weeks ago will be added when I stitch the mini key.

If you'd like to see the web page that this graphic appears on, click here.  It's not available from my home page yet.  That's a task for another day.

For those of you who are sticklers in having something physically made for my resolution, I will be playing with brick stitch again later on this evening.  To tide you over, I give you earrings made by my husband from resistors for the Gardens and Gears steampunk show at the Mitchell Park Domes:

You may recognize the steel wire frames from my blog post a few weeks ago.  Since I have purchased the frames I want from Fire Mountain Gems, the steel wire ones are now available for other projects.

Steve had the idea this afternoon during our lunchtime chat.  He said, "I think steampunk is more than just gears and keys."  After a bit of discussion, he said, "Should I stop at a Radio Shack and pick up a handful of steampunky looking components? Like lightbulbs and resistors? Resistors would make cool earrings."  We looked at some pictures online and agreed they would make cool earrings.  He picked up a pack of 500 resistors from Radio Shack on the way home, as it was more cost effective than buying individual packages.  He used 20 to make the above earrings.  Only 480 to go!

I told Steve I was going to have to hire him as an employee if he's going to start making product.  Too bad I can't pay him in anything but kisses.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Stamped dominoes with keys

I'm still making items for the Gardens and Gears steampunk show (February 16, 2014 at the MItchell Park Domes in Milwaukee, WI).  Recently I picked up a few stamps with keys on them for stamping onto dominoes, and today I started playing with them.  I stamped some plain and some with alcohol ink as the background.

Here is a small sample of what I did today:

I have to glue bails on them to make them into pendants.  There are other stamps I want to use, so you might be seeing more dominoes in the coming week!

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Rainbow key pendant

After I finished the gears and key necklace I posted about last night, my fingers were itching to pick up a needle and stitch something.  I know exactly what's going to happen when I stitch, unlike working with moveable, twisting around pieces.

A while ago I picked up a number of large keys.  The ones I usually design for are around 2" long, and these new ones are over 3" and a lot thicker.  I sell the large ones for $5 each with stitching suggestions (how big of a peyote strip to go around the key) and two patterns.  The patterns differ based on the key.  Some of them are abstract, and some of them have designs, such as an eye, hearts, or an iris:

I really wasn't planning on designing an iris, even though it's my favorite flower.  (There are irises all around the house, unfortunately for Steve.)  I was trying to design a fleur de lis, but an iris came out instead.  Because of the way the beads stagger in peyote, it's a little hard to design, especially in a small area.  When the iris started appearing, I said, "Fleur de what?"

One of the other challenges is designing a pattern that will line up in a tube.  I talked about this a bit when I showed you the Star of David key.  With designs like the iris, there's white space on each end, so I don't have to worry about the back of the tube.  One of my designs for the large keys has diagonal stripes in a rainbow pattern.  It looked like it would line up fine, but because I'm a bit neurotic, I'm never really positive until I've stitched it.

Since I'm "gearing up" for the Gardens and Gears steampunk show at Mitchell Park Domes on February 16th, I thought now would be a perfect time to stitch the key up.  It matched up perfectly (like I knew it would), and I think it's pretty cute!

If I were to do it again, I would want a brighter blue, purple, and green to better match the red, orange, and yellow.  I wanted to use what I had, though, and I think it looks fine.

If you'd like to purchase this copper key with the rainbow pattern, the silver one with the iris pattern, or if you'd like information on the other large keys and their patterns, e-mail me at  For you to stitch yourself, it's $5.  For one all stitched up as shown, it's $30.  Plus shipping and applicable taxes, of course.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Tool review: Split ring pliers (and gear and key necklace!)

As Steve said when he walked through the door, "It's Friday!"  It must be time for a review.  As I mentioned yesterday, I want to discuss split rings a bit more and show you split ring pliers.

The normal way to join components together is with jump rings.  They're easy to use, but if any of your components are thin, it doesn't take very much for the gap of the jump ring to work its way loose.  Next thing you know, your piece has fallen off, possibly never to be found again.  That's one reason I don't use jump rings in my strung pieces.

Sometimes, though, I don't have a choice, like when I wanted to join two components together in the earrings I made yesterday.  Here they are again:

Since the gear is so thin, I decided to use split rings instead of jump rings.  A split ring is just like a regular key ring.  Here's a 7mm split ring close up:

Just like when you're adding keys, you start at one end, wedge the component in the gap, and scootch it along until it reaches the other end.  They are clunkier than regular jump rings, but they're secure.  I know that it will take an explicit act to get the component loose from a split ring.  Normal wear won't do it.

You know how difficult it is sometimes to get a key or rewards card started in a key ring?  You dig your thumbnail in to separate the end, and sometimes it takes a few tries to get the key shoved in there.  I have scratched my fingernail, and sometimes my fingertips get sore.  Imagine doing the same thing with a 6mm or 7mm split ring.  It can be done, but it's difficult.

Fortunately, tool makers have come up with a solution: split ring pliers.  One end is straight and one end curves in to do the work of your thumbnail in separating the rings.

The one I bought is the Bead Buddy Split Ring Plier, and I bought it at a craft store (I don't remember if it was JoAnn Fabrics or Michaels) using my 40% off coupon.  Right now on the JoAnn website it's $9.99.  A number of manufacturers make them, including Craft & Jewelry (only $2.49 right now - usually $4.99 - on the JoAnn website) and Xuron ($12.47 right now on Amazon).  I'm sure there's a difference in quality between the brands.  If I was going to work with a ton of split rings, I'd probably look into the Xuron pliers.  I know Xuron makes quality tools (see my reviews for their Fireline scissors and 4 in 1 Crimper) and would want to spend the extra money.  Since I don't use split rings that often, I'm fine with my Bead Buddy brand.

Here's how it looks in action:

Once you get your component started, you can keep using the plier to help the piece around, or you can use another pair of pliers.  I like using my bent-nose pliers.  Either way, you'll probably need something when your component is at the end, because the split ring pliers don't grab.  They wedge and separate really well, but they don't grab.  You might be able to work it loose with your fingers, but I say just grab a pair of regular pliers.

The one thing I don't like about my Bead Buddy brand split nose pliers is that the black finish is coming off.  I would think that's natural because of the movement of metal on metal, but why would they put it on there in the first place?  It's unnecessary.  I'm just glad that the flaky finish isn't affecting performance.

A benefit of having these pliers around the house is that when you next need to add a key or something else to your key ring, these work perfectly.  No more scratched thumbnails!

One thing about working with split rings (with and without pliers) is that the rings can scratch, like it did on the right side of the yellow gear below:

On components without a coating like these gears have, you might not have any scratching problems.  It's something to keep an eye on.  Since I was unable to stop the scratching no matter what I tried, I decided it would be a "feature" of the necklace I made using those gears and keys:

I decided while working on this necklace that I'm happier stitching.  :)  I've heard that pieces with "movement" are good, but I keep having to turn things around to get the gears to lie flat.  This necklace is pretty, but it's not something I'll probably do again.  The best part is that I used all of the gears.  I've made a pair of simple earrings with the other blue and green keys, which leaves two purple (earrings for me!) and one yellow.  I'll find something to do with that yellow keys, I'm sure.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Pink gear and key earrings

In the jewelry section of Michaels they have a mixed media section, and I found these brightly colored gears and keys:

The color is coated on pieces, but I don't think it's enamel.  Hard to tell.

Anyway, I'm not really feeling well, so I wanted a quick project for today.  I took two of the pink gears and the pink keys and made earrings:

That's a split ring between them.  Tomorrow I'll talk about split rings a little more and review my split ring pliers.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Shamrock key pendant

I will be very quick today.  Last night I stitched a Shamrock key pendant that I will hopefully be teaching at Knot Just Beads in March.  They need a sample, so I whipped one up:

Soon (I hope) I'll have a listing up on Etsy with all of my holiday patterns ($2 each for PDFs) with options for how much you know.  Don't know peyote?  I'll add the primer on for $5.  Know peyote but not how to do the embellishments and such I have in my patterns?  I'll add those on for $2.  Need the keys?  Please see this other listing.

I wanted to do that today, but the day blew up on me.  It blew up so hard that I now need a nap.  See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Grown-up looking scarf

When I showed you my grown-up looking hat to go with my grown-up looking coat, I mentioned that I was making a matching scarf but had to frog it because it was rolling.

Oh - on Sunday I mentioned that my new coat was mistakenly taken by someone else at lunch earlier that day.  Last night when I was about to leave for the Loose Bead Society meeting I couldn't find my keys.  I panicked that I had put them in my coat pocket and that the woman would keep them when she returned my coat.  I don't know why I would have taken my keys because Steve drove, but I couldn't find them anywhere in the house.  They always go on the hook, and they weren't on the hook.  Fortunately, both coat and keys were safe at the restaurant, and I felt so relieved I stayed for lunch.

Here's the scarf stretched out before I took it apart:

This is done in stockinette stitch (knit one row, purl the next).  I really liked how it looked with all the little Vs and the zig-zaggy pattern the variegated yarn produced.

Left to its own devices, it looked like this:

Since I haven't knit anything flat in such a long time, I forgot stockinette did this.  I didn't do anything wrong - this is normal for this stitch.  It's because knit stitches (the little Vs) are wider than purl stitches.  When I show you the back of the redone scarf, you'll be able to see what that looks like.

I did some research on what to do with a rolled up stockinette stitch scarf and came across a blog post from TECHknitting on that exact subject.  There were four posts, actually.  The first one was a background and explaining why the two plans I had (blocking and edging) weren't going to work.  The other posts discussed methods to fix a completed curled-up scarf.  I looked over the methods, and I decided it would be faster to remake the scarf than to fix it afterward.

As I thought about it, I kept knitting, and I got increasingly distressed.  Steve said, "It's going to be around your neck, no one is going to notice."  I said, "If I wanted a two inch wide scarf, I would have knit one."  He said, "Fair point," and pulled the scarf back then watched it inch its way back toward me as I unraveled, then he pulled it back again.  It amused him.

On the second attempt at the scarf, I thought I'd do all garter stitch (knit each row) because that shouldn't curl at all.

When I first decided to make the scarf, I didn't want to do any fancy cables or patterns or anything because the yarn was variegated.  I had planned on having the ends taper so there was something interesting about it.  So I knit my tapered end in garter stitch and decided I missed the "knitted" look.  Also, it looked like the zig-zaggy pattern wouldn't come back.

Since I wasn't doing garter stitch, I needed to figure out what I was going to do.  Based on when I read on part 3 of that blog, I could intersperse purls in with the knits, and it should result in a flat piece.  Granted, the information on that post is for fixing a scarf, but it theoretically should translate.  If I do the ribbing as I knit instead of manufacturing it after, it should work.

They included a chart for figuring out the ribbing based on the number of stitches, and I followed that.  I knit 3 and purled 1 all the way across in one row and purled 3 and knit 1 all the way across on the next row.

Here's how that looks stretched out:

For my non-knitter readers, the purls are those little indents.  I was happy to see the zig-zaggy pattern was back, especially when it's not stretched out:

However, left to its own devices, it still curls:

It's not as bad as before, but I thought for sure it wasn't going to curl at all.  Since I have three knits on the ends, I think it's curling there and just keeps going.

Maybe it's because it was loosely knit.  I used size 11 needles with regular worsted weight yarn (Lion Brand's Vanna's Choice).  I would think that wouldn't make a difference.

Here's how the back looks stretched out a little so you can better see how much wider knit stitches are than purls:

The irritating thing is that I didn't notice it was curling until I had a lot of it done.  I was already sick of it because knitting a scarf feels like the most interminable thing in the world (next to my damnable hooded cardigan), and I didn't want to take it out again.  Besides, it's really cold out there, and I really needed a scarf.
So I kept knitting.  And knitting.  And knitting.  Then I had to stop knitting for a few days because my wrist hurt.  Then yesterday I sat down with the recording of the new "Flowers in the Attic" movie (it was great!) and my favorite 80's Science Fiction movie, "Krull", and finished the scarf.  It could still be longer, but I was ready to be done.  Either I would finish the scarf, or the scarf would finish me.

As an aside, I've heard of people suggesting a scarf as a first knitting/crocheting project.  Yeah, you'd really get good at the stitches, but only if you didn't poke your eyes out with the knitting needles/crochet hook or murder your husband with them when he said for the tenth time, "Are you still knitting/crocheting that scarf?"  Fortunately for Steve, he never said that.  He just said, "It needs to be longer!"  I think that's why I finished it while he was at work.

When I showed you my hat I promised that I would show you the whole coat/hat/scarf ensemble when the scarf was done.  I'm planning on making mittens, and I was going to wait until those were done, but Steve said, "No, you promised to show the hat and coat when you were done with the scarf."

So, as promised (and as a number of you have already seen on Facebook):

Here I am brighter and closer up:

In case you're wondering, I have Transitions lenses.  Love them!

Whew!  Now that the scarf is done, I need to make lots of jewelry for my next show, the Gardens and Gears Steampunk Show at the Mitchell Park Domes!  Get ready to see lots of keys and gears!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Sun vinyl decal

I named my blog "Mix Me Up!" because I like to dabble in a bunch of different crafts.  That's also why I named my business "Creative Pursuits"; it doesn't tie me down to a specific product.  In addition to finished jewelry, kits, and tutorials, I also sell vinyl decals and magnets.  I use my Cricut to cut out the shapes, and for the decals I include transfer paper and instructions.  I discussed this technique in the Our "new" kitchen post.

Yesterday I got an order for a yellow sun decal.  I thought I had one cut, but I didn't.  I knew I had very little yellow vinyl remaining, and I got nervous that it would be too small or that the cut wouldn't work.  I have problems with that sometimes.  I had two sheets about 3.5" x 3.75", and the sun is ~2" x 2".  Another challenge was that one of the sheets had a small square cut out from when I made my decal board to show the shapes I carry and the available colors:

I used my Gypsy to plan out where the shape would go (click here if you'd like to see the Gypsy in action from when I put decals all over my toolbox).  I found I could cut two suns out of the same sheet, which ties in beautifully with the time-saving technique I discussed yesterday.

Here's one of the suns and what the vinyl sheet looked like after cutting.  The other is on its way to the customer:

If you're interested in any of the decals I offer, you can e-mail me at for more information.  Let me know which shape and which color, and I'll let you know how much it is (either $2 or $3 for the shapes shown above).  If you'd like something else, let me know that, and I'll see if I can cut it for you.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Batch of birthday cards

Today we celebrated my stepfather's birthday, which was earlier in the week.  We went to Polonez Restaurant in St. Francis, Wisconsin.  It's a Polish restaurant, and it was very good.  Well it was good up until we were about to leave and found that someone took my coat instead of hers. Fortunately she brought it back, and I'm going to go back on Tuesday to pick it up (they're closed tomorrow).

I'm sure you've figured out that I'm really good at doing things at the last minute.  Making birthday cards is no exception, so I made John's card today.  This time, though, I decided to make a few extra cards for our other fathers' birthdays. The most time consuming part of making cards is designing.  Once I've figured out what I'm going to do, it's easy to "assembly line" the production.

If you happen to be married to either my father or Steve's, please don't show your husbands this blog post.  :)

Here are the cards:

The cards are pre-made that I bought ages ago.  The Harlequin background is stamped on scrap paper (which explains the variation in size and color), the "Birthday Wishes" is stamped with silver ink on black paper, and the black zigzags are ribbon.

I think they turned out well!  Now let's see how long it takes me to clean the stamps.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Quadrille earrings and another use for a heat gun

Even though today's Quadrille class was canceled, I still wanted to make the earrings and finish the instructions.  I have done that, and all that's left to do with the instructions is proofread them and have Steve read them.  Once he says, "I think I could do that," the tutorial is finished.  (If you missed where I discuss the rest of the tutorial making process, click here).

Here are the earrings:

I think they turned out very well!

Remember I said one of the hardest parts of taking process shots was getting cat hair off of my mat?  Well, this is how it gets there:

To be honest, I did hold his tail there to take the picture, but only after he had flicked it over my beads about 5 times.  Pixel is very needy today.  He started out on top of the back of my office chair, then he climbed down me to get to the desk (scratching my neck in the process), and now he's walking all over the desk.  He has blocked my view of the screen several times (including right now), and he tried to eat my Doctor Who vampire's quarterstaff.  I want him on my lap, but he seems content to wander around and mess with things.  No, no, don't eat that Fireline.

I have one more topic for today.  You know how I like my crafting tools to have multiple uses?  (See the Doctor Who vampire's quarterstaff from yesterday and my video of using a circle cutter on wax paper for Christmas cookies from December).

Steve likes to use my heat gun (meant for melting embossing powder for scrapbooking) for non-scrapbooking purposes.  He has used it to weld pieces of a broken laundry basket together and to fix dents in my fake leather jewelry displays, and today he used it to get some wrinkles out of a new bag set I got for free with a Woman Within purchase.  The bags were very compactly folded, and when I straightened them out, there were so many wrinkles, and the bags wouldn't hold their shape well.

The material feels a bit like vinyl or plastic or something, so we didn't want to use the iron.  Steve grabbed the heat gun and got quite a number of the wrinkles out.

It was neat to see the wrinkles vanish.  It was like magic.  There is one little scorch mark at a pretty deep wrinkle.  Steve was being careful, but it was hard to see in there.  So there's your warning:  Heat guns run hotter than hair dryers.  If you do "try this at home", be very careful that you don't burn yourself or the item you're working on.

I can't wait to use my new "weekender set" for the Loose Bead Society Retreat and for the Madison Art Glass and Bead Show!.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Tangent "review": Another way to use knitting needles

I have bad news, bad news, bad news, and good news (because there always should be some good news).

The first bad news is that I've been too busy working on the tutorial for Quadrille (if you missed that, check it out here) and the brick stitch experimenting (first post, second post, third post), and I don't have a proper review for you.  The bracelet part of the tutorial is finished.  All I have left to do is to make earrings and write the instructions for how to do that, which shouldn't take long.

The second piece of bad news is that I have zero registrations for tomorrow's Quadrille class, so it has been canceled.  If you were busy or thinking the weather was too crappy, you may have another shot at it in March or April.  I'll let you know.

The third piece of bad news is that I'm still not done with my scarf.  I have been knitting away at it, but it's just not long enough.  I'd like to be able to wrap it around my neck and still have a fair amount dangling.  Steve looked at it last night and said, "You're getting there!  Just about a foot to go!"  I almost gave him a foot.  I'll let you imagine where.

Now for the good news!  Steve brought home a present for me yesterday - a Doctor Who micro-figure.  There was one figure in the package, and you don't know what you get until you open it.  There are a few different series, and there are ten different possibilities in the one that Steve chose from.  There's the Eleventh Doctor, two different Amys, Rory, River, a Silence, a Dalek, a Cyberman, a Roman Auton, and a Vampire.  Click here if you'd like to see what they look like.  They're only about 2" high, and there is some assembly required, which I take to mean that you could make the Doctor wear the vampire's skirt if you wanted.

When I opened the package, I was a little disappointed to see it was the vampire.  She's from the fifth season "The Vampires of Venice" episode, which I don't really remember.  We'll have to watch it again.

The figure looks like it's compatible with Legos, so that opens up a whole world of possibilities.  Take her off the "DW", Tardis-looking stand and make her menace the Doctor or some other Lego figures on a Doctor Who "playset" or other Lego construction.  She has moving parts, so much menacing can be accomplished.

At this point you're probably wondering what this has to do with knitting needles.  Well, once I realized that her arms and hands move, I discovered that a size 2 Double Pointed Needle fits perfectly in her oddly shaped clutches, and now she's holding a quarterstaff.

Now I can't wait to get more of these figures.  I have five size 2 DPNs, so I can stage a mighty battle... until I need them to make socks.

I'm sure you've noticed by now that I'm feeling a little loopy.  I blame lack of sleep, lack of heat, and lots of work.  Now that I can relax on the Quadrille instructions, I'm going to go knit.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Brick stitch beaded beads

I've been doing really well at keeping up with my "resolution" to create or work on something creative every day.  Many days it's been knitting, but I have already done quite a number of little projects!  I'm getting into the groove of making something during the day/evening/late night and posting about it the next day.  I think that's going to work well for me.  If you're ever curious about what I've been working on, scroll down to the "labels" section over there on the right and click on "2014 projects" link.

I got a really nice comment on yesterday's post about the steel wire squares from my friend Michelle:
Those are great Traci. Of course, I'm going to comment on this because wire is dear to my heart, as you know. First, if you'd like me to harden and polish your squares in my new TUMBLER, just let me know. Next, the ''plastic box'' idea is great. Another couple of ideas would be, a jig, a bench block and square Wubber pliers. Lastly, I hope you forgive me for volunteering you to teach this project. lol
Ooh - a tumbler!  I think I would like these squares hardened and polished.  I'll bring those with me the next time I come over, Michelle!

She's right; a jig (like this one our friend Brenda designed), a bench block, or square Wubbers would have made the process easier.  If I were to do more with steel wire, I'd invest in those things, but I've found I'm happier with a needle, Fireline, and itty bitty beads.

She's also right that she's the one who volunteered me to teach the hands-on project at LBS in March.  I won't know if I forgive her or not until after the program is done.  It'll depend on how well the project goes.  :)

Speaking of that project, I have a few more brick stitch things to show you.  I was playing around with increases and decreases and different sized beads, and I came up with a quasi-beaded bead.  I stitched it to one of the steel frames, and I think it looks pretty cute.

Here's the front:

And here's the back:

It's not closed all the way.  It reminds me of those cookies that are folded over in the middle and have fruit peeking out at the top and bottom.

After this I played around with a slightly wider version and made an actual beaded bead:

This one has four of the gray drops instead of three.  It's too tight to go on a headpin, and beading wire barely goes through the end, so I'm going to make a slightly bigger one that should be more versatile.

Now I have to go back to writing my Quadrille tutorial.  I only have 2 days until the class!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Steel wire squares

When I showed you my brick stitch pendant a few days ago I mentioned that I'm going to lead a hands-on project for the Loose Bead Society in March.  I'm still experimenting to come up with a project that is easy to understand and simple enough for a large group of people.

There are a number of examples on the 'Net of beading around a metal circle.  I thought maybe we could do something similar but bead inside a square instead of outside a circle.  I found a good square component on Fire Mountain Gems (you can see it here) but wanted to test if my ideas would work before placing an order.

I took out my steel wire tools and asked Steve to bring up his soldering tools, and we made some squares.

I bent the wire around a plastic box that was about the same width as the components I found on FMG:

I made a square the best I could then hammered the crap out of it:

Steve bent it back into shape and squared it up as best he could, then he soldered it together:

I assure you, he is not snorting up the solder smoke.

Here are the final squares:

I used two different gauges of wire.  Throughout this process I have decided (again) that I am not cut out for steel wire work.  My hands are not strong enough to work with it for long.

Now I have a way to test out my ideas.  I worked on it for a while last night but have nothing to show you yet.