Friday, November 28, 2014

For your Christmas shopping consideration

A few days ago I posted a request on my Creative Pursuits Facebook page for folks to comment with their Etsy or shopping websites to be included in today's blog.  Unfortunately I didn't get any comments, so instead I'm going to show you a few items from my shop.

Frequent readers of mine will know that I usually don't overtly "sell" my items on my blog.  I show you things I've made, discuss techniques, review products, show you what other people make, and discuss various aspects of my business in case others could learn from what I do.  There are also occasional tangents and pictures of cats.  Every once in a while, though, I have to toot my own horn and promote my own business.

Today I want to show you a few simple designs that would work up quickly for Christmas presents (or for Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, birthdays, anniversaries, etc.).

Hera's Seduction earrings

You've probably seen my Hera's Seduction earrings in previous blog posts.  This is a pair of elegant earrings that look great with permanent finish gold or silver seed beads:

If you have the materials (15/0 seed beads, 4mm bicones, and 6mm bicones) or would like to get them from your local bead store, you can purchase just the tutorial (written instructions).  I can either mail you the printed version, or for a few dollars less you can get the digital download (PDF) version and get started right away!  Kits are also available.  These kits include the instructions, so there's nothing else to buy.

For my non-stitching readers, there's an option on the shop page for the finished earrings.  I do all the work for you!  The color options are as shown above, but if you'd like something different, e-mail me at, and I'll see if I can accommodate your needs.

Click here for the Hera's Seduction shop page.

Twin Ring holiday earrings/ornaments

A few years ago, Bead&Button Magazine posted instructions for my "Wonder Twin Rings necklace".  If you missed that and are a subscriber, you can access the instructions here.  I have adapted the design for cute holiday earrings:

I do not have kits available for this design, but all you need is twin seed beads or SuperDuos, 15/0 seed beads, and earring wires.  I have the tutorial available in printed or digital download (PDF) form on my shop page.

Again, for non-stitchers, I can make the earrings for you in the above colors.  Alternately, I can make ornaments which make great embellishments when wrapping gifts:

Click here for the Wonder Twin Rings/Twin Ring Holiday shop page.

Thanks for considering my business for your holiday shopping/crafting needs!  Check out my Creative Pursuits website for my calendar of events and for other tutorials and kits.  Also, my Etsy shop has a few finished jewelry pieces, some vinyl decals, and some tutorials and kits.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Christmas stockings by Carol

I met Carol at my bank a few years ago while I was getting singles and fives for a craft show I was about to do.  We got to chatting about my business, and she told me about the Christmas stockings and "device" bags that she makes.  Of course, we became friends.  You gotta love a crafty gal!  Every time I talk to her she asks how my mother is doing, which I think is very sweet.  (Many of my friends ask about Mom - how nice is that?  In case you're not caught up - her cancer is all gone, and she's doing as okay as she can be.)

Carol made a bag for my iPad and one for my mother's Kindle.  I've advertised her Etsy shop on the right side of my blog ever since.

I asked Carol to send me a bunch of pictures of her items so I could share her with all of you!  Since it's close to Christmas, she sent me pictures of some of her stockings.  They're so pretty!  Click the links under the pictures to be taken directly to the item in her Etsy shop, The Storybook Cottage.  Before you order, though, you'll want to read down to the end for a coupon code!

I'll let her tell you about her work in her own words:
Right now I am focusing on my unique Christmas Stockings. I offer many themes. Some of them are: Breast Cancer, Marine Corps, US Navy, Thomas the Tank Engine, Cows, Horses, Giraffes, Dragons, Angels and Nativity and more. I take special request if a customer wants a certain theme. That's how I "happen" to offer Giraffes & Dragons. Next a steampunk theme ??
Over the years I have heard very many heartwarming stories. Two stories are from ladies who bought Marine Corps stockings and had met up with their high school sweetheart after many years and they were thrilled to surprise their Marine on Christmas Day. I just sold a Breast Cancer stocking to a lady that wanted it personalized for her friend, "who might not have too many Christmases left." Another comment from a grandmother who bought a Thomas the Train one: "This is the cutest thing I've seen in a long time. You are going to make one little 3 year old boy very happy this Christmas."
All the stockings I design and make myself. I even designed the shape, which is unique in itself. So many look just like an L. I also fully line them in a variety of prints and always make a handmade loop out of the fabric for hanging. Not just adding a piece of ribbon like so many others.
Most of them I add decorative feather stitching on the cuff and toe and festive rickrack and satin bows and sparkly stars or snowflakes and jingles bells are usually added to the tippy toe. Usually the Marine ones I don't add bows because they are for guys.

I have created a coupon code for your readers: MIXMEUP2. It offers a 10% discount and is good until December 31, 2014.
I also make covers/bags for tablets, Kindle, iPads, Laptops, Macbook, Surface and all the devices up to 13". They are padded with two layers of fusible fleece and usually lined in flannel. They all come with a large front pocket which is padded and topstitched twice. Most of the other ones don't pad the pocket or topstitch it. I also offer many add-ons/upgrades. They are: two extra front pockets, four back corners, long shoulder strap and a velcro flap closure. I don't have a lot of choices right now, but will focus on that after the Christmas season.

Wow!  Aren't these nice?  I have one last one to show you, which is perfect for about 99.9% of the people who live in Wisconsin (it's quite the phenomena and one we haven't gotten used to yet in our six years of living here):

Hmm... I can't find a listing for this one.  It must have sold.  I'm sure she can make another one, so contact Carol through her Etsy shop.  There's a "Contact the shop owner" link and a "Request Custom Order" button on the left side.

Remember the coupon code - MIXMEUP2 - good for 10% off through 12/31/2014.

Thanks, Carol, for letting me share your beautiful stockings with my readers!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Sickness, a warmth-stealing cat, and a call for show info

Happy Friday!  Today is my normal blog day, but I've had a cold since Wednesday, so I'm going to skip blogging and curl up on the couch and watch "Pocahontas" with a cat or two.

Steve brought out the heated blanket for me so I can stay cozy, but if I'm not careful I lose my seat to Fe:

Since the "Christmas selling season" is upon us, I'd like to open my blog for readers to post shows they're doing, like I did for Karen and Jenn.  E-mail me at with a few pictures of what you do (along with descriptions of what your items are), as much show information as you can give me (day, time, address, show website, etc.), and your contact information (such as your website, Facebook page, e-mail address).  That will help get the word out about your shows, and it'll give me a break while I'm recovering from this cold and gearing up for my own shows.

Have a great weekend!  I'm off to crawl under that blanket.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More of Jenn's wire work

Last Friday I showed you two mini wire trees with crystals that my friend Jenn made.  If you missed it, you can catch up here.  I also told you about some of the other things that she makes, but I didn't have pictures of them.  I didn't know if I could just take them from her website, and she wasn't able to get back to me before I blogged.  She has now given me permission to show you pictures from her website, so I'm going to do that.  Easy blog for me, more exposure for Jenn.  We both win!  :)

Here is a larger tree that's for the wall:

It's called a Bleeding Heart tree, and I think it's really pretty.

Here are a bunch of evergreen trees in different colors:

Here's a tree ornament:

Now let's move on to non-tree pieces.  Here is a Christmas spider that you could hide in the tree or put on a shelf or wherever:

I hate spiders, but this one is pretty.

Here are two wreaths - "Harvest" and "Spring Butterflies":

Here are a number of leaf roses with wire stems:

And, finally... my friend Kate is going to love this.  Here is a "Floral Garden Fairie":

These are just examples of her work - I don't know which are available for purchase.  Visit her this weekend in Kohler at the Wisconsin Holiday Market, or contact her through the All-Hallond Designs Facebook page.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Jenn's amazing wire creations

I first met Jenn from All-Hallond Designs through a wire wreath that my friend Cindy has hanging in her kitchen.  It's technically a holiday wreath, but it doesn't scream "Christmas," so Cindy has it up all the time.

A few months later, I met the actual Jenn.  She was so nice and has the neatest glasses.  I've watched her work a number of times, and one day she made a very small tree (about 3" tall) with crystals in the branches.  I fell in love with it and asked her to hold it for me because I wanted to give it to my mother for her birthday.  I also ordered a copper one with topaz crystals for Steve's mother's birthday.

Here is the tree I gave to my mother:

It's so CUTE!  Here's the tree I got for my mother-in-law:

That gives you some size perspective.  It's a little bigger than the other tree, but it's still small and cute.  Let's look at it close up:

Along with the tiny trees, she also makes larger ones, wreaths, pumpkins, Christmas spiders, evergreen trees in many different sizes, and much more!  To see pictures of her work, visit her website and click on each of the tiles - more pictures will pop up.

If you'd like to see Jenn and her pieces in person, she will be at the three day Wisconsin Holiday Market, which runs from November 21 through November 23 in Kohler, Wisconsin.  Click the link for more information.

She posts other shows she does throughout the year on the All-Hallond Designs Facebook page.  If you'd like to contact Jenn, you can do so at

Thanks, Jenn, for a pair of lovely little trees!  They're so adorable!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Scrapbook pages from Washington D.C. trip, part 1

Before I show you the scrapbook pages, I'd like to acknowledge that today is Veterans Day and to thank all veterans for their service.  I doubt many read this blog, so please extend my thanks to the veteran of your choice.  :)

I'd also like to talk a bit about Vietnam veterans.  Both my father and stepfather served in Vietnam, but it was rarely talked about while I was growing up.  I asked my mother about it recently, and she said it was probably because there was a stigma surrounding the Vietnam War.  Soldiers returned home one or two at a time, and there was no fanfare or celebration.  They kind of skulked home, and many were treated poorly when they got there.  That was ridiculous, of course, because there were so many who were drafted and didn't have the option of not going to war.  I don't want to start a debate about whether or not the Vietnam War was worth fighting.  It doesn't matter.  What matters is the men (and women) who went and came back (or didn't).

There seems to be a big push in recent years to thank veterans for their service.  This is a great thing, but the Vietnam vets still feel the stigma from time to time.  My stepfather, John, has started wearing a "Vietnam Veteran" hat, and he said that in the South most people expressed their gratitude, but at home in Illinois, no one says a thing.  There's even someone John has chatted with at the grocery store practically every week who blatantly ignored John when he saw the hat.

So, if you see someone with a hat or shirt or something that says he served in Vietnam, please take a moment to shake his hand and thank him.  I bet you'll make his day.

Now on to a happier topic.  Last month my husband and I went to Washington D.C.  If you've never been, I highly recommend it.  The architecture is beautiful, the memorials are stunning, and you'll hear a lot of foreign languages from the hundreds of visitors everywhere you go.  It truly made me proud to be an American, and I think we all need a dose of that from time to time.

We're still scrapping our trip, but I do have a few pages to show you.  Steve made this first set.  It shows some of the buildings we loved as well as a few statues and a marker on the Points of Light walk.

Click the pictures if you'd like to see bigger versions of them.

I made the second set of pages.  I cheated and did my title and most of the journaling on the computer, but I think it fits well with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial:

Isn't that memorial beautiful!  The day was gorgeous, too.

Check back for more pages as we get them done!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Lindstrom generosity

Shortly before we left for vacation, I received a comment on one of my blog posts from Mike of Lindstrom Precision Tools.  I didn't see it right away because of the whole vacation thing, but when I did, I was floored.  He offered to send me a few pairs of pliers for evaluation and said I could keep them as long as I give feedback.

If you don't make jewelry, you probably don't know the name "Lindstrom".  They are the highest end tools in quality and price.  To be offered "a few pairs of pliers" is an unbelievable offer, because it has never entered my mind that I could afford one Lindstrom tool let alone "a few" of them.  Most of my jewelry work is beadweaving, so my main tool is a very affordable needle.  However, I do enough other types of jewelry-making (stringing, wirework, chainmaille, and mixed media) that having high quality pliers is a must.

Besides my Xuron tools (see my reviews here), I've been limping along with cheap or moderately cheap tools I've picked up at craft stores or wherever.  They're okay in a pinch, but I've slowly been replacing them with higher quality tools.  I don't like using the cheap ones for chainmaille because the rings always get marred, so I don't do a lot of chainmaille.  That's a pity because it's so pretty.

Because I'm so enamored with my Xuron tools and sell a few of them, I felt I should call Abby, my Xuron contact and good friend (she's known as "Xuron Abby" in this house and on this blog).  I did not want to accept any tools from Lindstrom if it would endanger my relationship with Xuron.

Imagine my surprise when I told Abby about the offer, and she asked, "Was it Mike?"  She spoke very highly of Mike and of Lindstrom, and she said she really likes their RX series of tools.  Abby said I didn't need Xuron's blessing, but she thanked me for asking.

So after we finished talking about Lindstrom, various Xuron business things, and our cats, I took a look at Lindstrom's website.  You have to check out the opening animation on their site.  It's so cool and trippy!  I found their Bead and Jewelry Arts product listing (this page shows each of the tools individually) and was astounded that there were so many.  There are a number of types of pliers in each of the series, plus there's a series of cutters.  I looked around at the other product listings to see everything they had available so I could make my choice and found a whole section of just RX series cutters.

I e-mailed Mike and thanked him profusely for his generous offer.  I did warn that my feedback would be completely honest, and I sent him links to my blog posts of Xuron tools so he could get a better idea of how I review.  If he still was interested in sending me a tool, I listed four that I was interested in.  I did not want to choose, so I asked him to pick one for me.

He responded, "Your selections are a familiar pattern (chain nose, round nose, bent nose, cutter) and I’m happy to send the ones out you selected."  Wow!  How cool is that?

He did suggest a different cutter than the one I chose and sent me a link to their online catalog so I could look at all the specifications.  I'm not going to discuss that now - when I review the cutter I'll get into all the gory "How do I choose?" details.

After a few go-arounds we decided on a cutter, and in no time a Lindstrom box arrived!

Here are the tools in their packages:

I was so excited, I posted the above picture with a brief explanation to my Creative Pursuits Facebook page!

Here are the cutters out of the package so you can see them more clearly:

The handles are ergonomically-shaped to reduce strain on your hands while you work, and they feel comfortable in my hand.  I was a bit concerned that they'd be too big because I have small hands, but so far they seem fine.  When I was looking at the cutters, one of my considerations was overall tool length because of the whole "stumpy fingers" issue, so I had chosen a smaller one.  Mike had to set me straight that the difference was head length not handle length.  All of the handles are the same size, which makes absolute sense.  Oops!

Each tool comes with a protective tube cover for the head:

Here's what the cutters look like unfettered:

There is a little bit of oil on the heads, which is natural and the sign of a good tool.  You can wipe the oil off with a tissue before using the tool if you're concerned about it getting on your work.

You may be wondering what that black curvy-looking thing is between the handles.  That's a spring that can click into three different notches (in the yellow circle below) based on how strong you'd like the tool to open when you relax your hand:

Here is what it looks like with the spring in the middle notch:

Let's flip the tool over to see the other end of the spring:

This functionality is standard across all of their tools.  It's nice that it's customizable (even to switching sides if there's a need to do so), but I will say that when the spring is in the middle or bottom notches there's a click of spring against tool that might get annoying with repeated opening and closing of the tool.  Then again, I'm very sensitive to that sort of thing and practically lunge for the remote to mute the TV when a Kit Kat commercial comes on.  Yes, we get it - they're crunchy.  Where was I?  Oh, yes.  So far I think I prefer a looser tension, so the top notch (the one closer to the head) will probably work for me.

I found this page on Rio Grande's website which gives instructions on how to insert the spring and lists some of the main reasons the spring might pop out.  One reason is that the spring's curvature can get fatigued if the tool is stored "closed", such as it is with the tube over the head.  They recommend leaving it "open" (no tube or not in a pouch) or taking the spring out when storing the tool.

Another concern with the springs is that repeated clicking them in and popping them out can "fatigue the hinge end of the spring".  However, you can get a replacement for $3-5, which is a whole lot cheaper than replacing the whole tool.  They're interchangeable, too, so in a pinch you can take one from another tool.

I like the idea of keeping the heads protected, so let me take a few seconds to take the springs out.  Done!

Let's see... what else can I tell you about the tools right now?  Not much, because I haven't had the time to start playing with them.  So far, they seem neato-keen, as the kids say (or they did say fifty years ago), but I won't have more of an evaluation until I get to work.  When I do, I'll review each one individually.  If you think you might have missed a review, you can click on "Lindstrom" under the "labels" section over there on the right ---> for a concentrated list of posts.

Oh!  I should show you an overall picture of all the tools I received:

I would like to publicly thank Mike and Lindstrom for giving me this opportunity to get to know their tools and their company and to share my feedback with my blog readers!

There is a Lindstrom RX Plier and Cutter Set on Amazon that has tools similar to what Lindstrom sent me.  It has flat nose pliers instead of bent nose, the cutters are slightly different, and the chain nose pliers are slightly different.  However, they come in a nice case.  (Note: this is an affiliate link)

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Karen's Addiction (will be yours!)

After last Friday's "hauntings" I'm ready to write about something ever-so-pleasant: friendship and great beading!

Last week I wrote about the classes I taught at Terry's Treasures in King George, Virginia.  If you missed it, you can catch up here.  It's a really delightful store, and I wish I could go back there!  I wrote briefly about Karen, and I promised to devote an entire blog about her.  I blogged about her iris tea light cover she made from my pattern, but she deserves another post after seeing more of her work and meeting her!

Next to my mother, Karen is my biggest supporter.  She has all or most of my designs, and she leaps at the chance to bead samples for Terry's Treasures, the store that carries my tutorials.  We e-mail each other when we can, and we've become good friends.

When I got to Terry's Treasures to teach the classes, Karen had surprises waiting for me.  She really shouldn't have, but I was so touched I couldn't argue more than, "You shouldn't have!"

In the iris tea light cover blog post I said, "It's so cute that I'm going to have to make one for myself! It will look so cute on the shelf above my desk."  Of course I haven't gotten around to it, and now I don't have to.  Not only did she give hers to me, she also made me another one with black cats and pink roses.  And I was right, they look so cute on the shelf above my desk:

That's not all, though!  She also made me a necklace and two pairs of earrings!  One pair is for "every day", and the other is for "fancy occasions."  The necklace and the "fancy" earrings have beaded beads - she must have spent gobs of time making them for me!

I felt so bad that I didn't have anything for her (my mind was all-consumed with preparing for the trip and the classes), so I gave her what I knew she would like - tutorials for my SDN15 designs.  She's going to make samples for the store, and we'll see if she's still talking to me after she stitches both the Dino-Spine and Intertwined Pyramids bracelets.  :)

While I taught the class, I felt like a celebrity because Karen took a bunch of pictures of me.  I'll only show you two of them:

That's my "what on earth are you doing?" face.

Even though I have progressive bifocals in my glasses, when I'm trying to figure something out, I seem to see better when the glasses go up on my head.

I mentioned that Karen makes samples of my designs for the store.  I loved seeing her pieces and the colors she chose.  I also was intrigued by the modifications she made to a few of them.

First up is Cobblestone Path.  My piece is on the top.

The center beads in Karen's piece really stand out and are so pretty.

Here is StarLite Mini Hearts:

The colors are really neat, and she used a button for a clasp.  How cute!

Next up is Shadowed Diamonds.  My samples always have light colors for the background (as shown in the top piece), but it looks really neat with the colors reversed:

It hardly looks like the same design!

Here's It's Got Legs (the top two are mine):

The round beads really stand out in her version!  I love those blues!

Finally, here's her version of my StarLite Mini Flowers earrings:

Instead of making fringe with peanut beads, she stitched on cute wavy connectors and added crystals to the bottom of each.  I think they look great and adds to the versatility of my designs!

If you're in the King George, Virginia area, stop by Terry's Treasures to see these samples close up and to see the other jewelry Karen has for sale there.

She'll also be at a few craft sales this season:

Saturday, November 8
12:00p - 4:00p
King George Family Fun Fair
Sponsored by NARFE Premier Federal Credit Union
8076 Kings Highway, King George, VA 22485

Saturday, December 13
9:00a - 3:00p
Courtland High School craft fair
6701 Smith Station Road, Spotsylvania, VA 22553

If you're not close to Virginia, you can visit her Etsy shop, Karen's Addiction.  She has a number of interesting pieces at a range of prices.  Her Key West necklace is really pretty and unique!

If you do check her out in Virginia or on Etsy, please tell her Traci says hi!

I'll finish up with a picture of the two of us:

Thanks for letting me blog about you again, Karen, and thanks for all of the gifts you showered me with!  I really treasure our friendship and hope your new business takes off!