Monday, 30 August 2010

My entries for this year's Malaco sweets contest

Malaco just presented this year's Din Påse contest where those of us with a sweet tooth can compose our own mixed bags of sweets. If you live in Scandinavia at least. This year the finalists are chosen by a jury, but everyone can still have their say about which bags they like, just click the 'gilla' button under each entry. (Gilla = like.)

Malaco always have some exotic and unusual flavour to choose from in their Din Påse contests and this year was no different. I was excited to find such flavours as jasmine along with "superfruits" as goji, cupuacu and acai. For my first entry -- I love making these things so I always compose several -- I got inspiration from the jasmine and I began thinking of the Middle East, mint tea, sweet peaches and jasmine incense. To that I added another more "everday tea flavour", liquorice. Instead of plain liquorice I like to choose from their mixed flavours, in this case liquorice- blood orange and liquorice-cupuacu. I want to taste cupuacu, that's why I went for that one eventhough it's a bit off theme.

The name is a merge of the words exotic and tea, the "theme" of my composition. The yellow colour I choose, well mostly because I wanted a warm colour and yellow looks bright next to red. It was so difficult to choose, but I keep going for green and purple so this time I wanted something different. To see -- and "like" -- this entry, click this link.

Then, of cause I had to make more... Next up was Solkatter. A play on words that doesn't work in English. Sol means sun and katt means cat, put together it means a reflection of light. Perhaps it got its name from the fact that cats enjoy playing with these reflections on floors and walls? Anyway, all yellow cat-shaped bits with the flavours cupuacu, mint, watermelon and pineapple-lemon. Plus black cats -- all light cast a shadow, right? -- in liquorice-pomegranate. This bag can be found here.

Ah, and then I had to make a third one... Of cause. Not very creative, but with autumn more or less already here (early autumn this year, I feel) I had to make a cozy autumnal mix too. Couldn't come up with a good name so it became Höstglädje, Autumn joy (oh, dear). But I've used Höstdrömmar and Höstlängtan one time too often... Anyway, for this one I was inspired by the sights and tastes of autumn with apple, pear, rosehip, blackberry and chestnut. Have never tasted chestnut, but can't imagine autumn without seeing our big horse chestnut trees with their giant leaves and spikey cupules hiding shiny brown nuts. This third, and probably last, entry of mine can be found here.

If you're Swedish and like sweets, you really must give this a chance -- it's pretty fun making these bags. And you can win not just sweets (2 kg for all weekly finalists), but a tour of the Malaco factory in Denmark with three friends.

(EDITED TO ADD: I've made yet another bag, min-min, featuring jasmine and mint with touches of capuacu, blood orange-liquorice and pomegranate-liquorice. The name comes from the two first ingredients, but min also means my or mine in Swedish.)

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Turquoise & orange -- latest Monday Moodboard colours from OTTBS

Every other Monday you can get some lovely colour inspiration from the Operation Tackle That Bead Stash blog and the Monday Moodboard "series". If you feel inspired and want a challenge, you can bead something using the colours of the current moodboard and submit a photo of your creation to the blog (or via their Flickr group). Because on the following Monday, you will se work inspired by the colours published on the blog.

The colours for this week's moodboard is orange and turquoise, a colour combo I really should use more: the vibrant, energy-filled orange against the calming turquoise makes it a great summer palette, but as I've written on my other blog, turquoise is also a great autumn colour. Autumn is not just orange, brown, yellow, red etc -- it's filled with blues and greens too. But unlike the bright summer turquoise, autumn turquoise is "earthier" and shaded. Green turquoises are often a better choice that the blue nuances, but both can work.

The pic above is from the post on my other blog. Not a great pic, but I hope you can see it's light blue/turquoise blister pearls and amazonite with carnelian in many shades of oranged and a touch of copper brown pearls in the background. On the right is a bracelet made from what you might call "dark dusty teal/turquoise" and orange-brown glass chips.

The necklace in the first pic is an old one I made from swap beads a long time ago (notice the use of screw clasp and bead tips, which I rarely use today) in colours I wouldn't have chosen to pair together if it haden't been for the facetted miracle beads. I don't like miracle beads, really, but it was a good challenge: not difficult, just slightly outside the comfort zone.

The miracle beads were in apricot orange and blue turquoise -- and this combo dictated what other swap beads I choose to add to it. I picked the apricot dyed serpentine ("new jade") and a silverfoil glass bead, thinking the foil would reflect light a bit like miracle beads do. And I promise, the beads do match -- it's just really hard to get a pic where both the stone and miracle beads look good. Silver-plated spacers and findings was about all I had, but I guess it could have looked very different had I used copper, gold or gunmetal instead.

I'm not sure I'll have time to make something for the Monday Moodboard, but if I were to I'd probably embrace the autumn that seems to have already come (we've had some rainy and windy weather here lately) and do something with my aqua fired agates. They deserve being used for something soon...

Bead giveaways

Feel like I haven't written about any giveaways in a long time (unless you count my post about photographing my own giveaway beads). But here's two new ones who probably will appeal to you who like artisan lampwork beads.

Andrew Thornton
is giving away a little lot of beads and a custom resin bezel from SueBeads. To participate you have to say which of Sue's beads (on her website) that's your favourite. Winner is picked from among the comments on this Monday so you better hurry up if you want a chance to win these lovely beads!

Second giveaway tip is one I found via Malin de Koning: an interesting givaway concept from Maria Grimes, who will make the winner a set of lampwork beads inspired by one single word given to her from the winner. What word would you choose if you won? And how do you think those beads would turn out.

Winners for both giveaways will be picked on Monday 30th August (i.e. in two days) so don't forget to visit the blogs soon for your chance to win.

Thursday, 26 August 2010

How to choose the best pic for advertising a giveaway...

I'm just writing on a blog post for my other blog, presenting my newest contest/giveaway (sponsored by Bello Modo -- check out their website if you like the beads pictured here). Writing is not much of a problem, nor creating the answer form I'm trying this time (I make filters to filter out entry e-mails, but they don't work if people don't write the headline I ask them to). It's choosing what pic is the best to put at the top of the post. The one that'll attract beaders and want them to participate.

One thing you can do is ask someone else. I did that. Only problem was that among the four pics I'd singled out half of the beaders I asked preferred the first one and half wanted the second one... How much does that help? Well, it did help a bit as they confirmed they liked both my favourites. The above pic is of the photo that came in second, beaten by just one vote.

The winning pic, below featured without frame, is coincidentally also the pic I used to make a small logo for the contest. I'm using it in my sidebar, but also allowing others to use it to promote the giveaway. (Or maybe it's a very similar photo -- I took perhaps 30-40 pics in total of these beads.)

The biggest difference between the two is that the photo that came in second has more detail, you can see more of the beads, but the "winning" photo have more or less just one bead in focus -- but as the bead is in the front of the pic i "communicates" with the beholder. It makes the pic more open and inviting even if we don't get a good look at the rest of the beads. If you like green it attracts you more than the other photo where a green blurry bead unfortunately pop up in the front corner.

One thing I had problems with when shooting the beads was the colours: the erinite green and tanzanite blue works lovely together, but pairing these shiny soft beads with the matte ruby red ones was difficult. Hence why they're in the background of most of the pics. Sometimes almost missing like in the one above. While I couldn't use that pic, of cause, I felt good taking a couple of photos like that as that was what my mind was screaming: shoot the blue and green, the blue and green. When I had done that I could say "fine, now I've done that, let's get back to doing something good with all the prize beads."

Is there some sort of moral of the story here? I think it's just the one I always give people: take many pics, try different angles and ways to present the same motif. Don't give up even if it's a difficult motif. Crop the same photo in different ways to see if it enhances the picture. And if you don't know what pics to post, ask the target audience (if your friends belong to that group it can be even better).

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Gears, sprockets and cogs

One thing I like about this latest fascination with steampunk is that the bead shops (and hobby shops) have begun to sell all sorts of cogs. From watch movements to imitation spoked gears. While using cogs and watch parts might be considered a cliché by the "true" steampunks that just see this mainstream fad as people "jumping on the bandwagon", I love because it's become so much easier to find pretty cog-shaped components for my jewellery. I like steampunk -- I love cogs.
One thing true steampunks dislike is the use of watch parts or cogs as single elements, not actually part of a mechanism. While I could argue that jewellery making is all about using parts in ways not originally designed for, I won't. I'll just tell you why I personally don't mind these "scattered" and lonely parts.

I grew up in the countryside. I still live in the countryside. Like all farms that's been in the family for some time (in our case, my grandfather bought our farm around 1900), you can find a slightly forgotten corner outdoors where the old machines were placed when they were no longer of any use in the farm work. When I grew up, going for treasure hunts there was one of the best things we knew. We had to climb over some wood and then fight our way through bushes and weed until we got to the good stuff. There, with the big ash trees towering over this old and forgotten place, we would pull out all sorts of things: porcelain shards, old glass bottles, wire -- but most of all the rusty remnants of all things discarded decades ago. As there were machines it of cause also included some heavy cast cogs.

So there you have it, really, the reason why I love cogs even though I mostly make more or less romantic jewellery inspired by nature. The same nature that inspired me cotained these treasures. And that is also the reason why I love rust. It's pure nostalgia.

Watch parts was "just" something I wanted to get as the size is more useful in jewellery that the large cogs I'm used to. But if I have to be honest, I do prefer cog-shaped stampings as they look more like those cogs we retrieved for our "archeological expeditions" as kids.

I think the type of "cogs" you see above are nice too even though they look more like toothed washers (known as tooth lock washer or star washer) to me... But I have seen something similar, with many more teeth, in a watch movement actually. Still looks like washers to me, though: you can tell I grew up with a dad who had a workshop filled with washers and other types of hardware rather than watches.

If I had to analyze my fondness for cogs -- which really just gained momentum as source of inspiration since I first heard of steampunk some years back and saw people using cogs as design elements -- even further they have a shape that attracts me. Not just are they shapes I remember for such different things in my childhood as treasure hunts and cartoons (Donald Duck has a way of getting stuck in big gears and watch parts, not unlike Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times). Not only do they make me think of old-fashioned machines and "the good old days", past times always being a great source of inspiration. Not just are they often made in one of my favourite metals, brass. Look at the little watch gear with four spokes that I showed in the beginning of this post. That is more or less the same shape as a bronze age sun wheel/sun cross -- just compare my cogs and gears with these bronze age pendants. Cogs are like the modern, industrialized version of a sun symbol.

While I and probably most other people don't consciously find cogs and gears pretty because they look like the archetypical sun symbol -- nor were they designed to look like that -- I think there might be something of an underlying positive feeling about the shape that can attract people to it. It's a shape that can symbolize industrialism, but when it's made of brass people can be nostalgic and associate it with old times rather than modern industry. The prongs (and spokes if it has any of those) on the cogs also makes a simple but interesting shape: something more is happening than if it were just a plain circle or washer. The design is basically the same, but can vary from the most simple to something very ornate: there's something for everyone, regardless of what styles we like.

BTW, that enamelled spoked gear (by C-Koop Beads) you can see two of the pics above is destined to become a part of a flower. An echo of the nature-meets-culture that a rusted cog enveloped in weeds is -- inspired by the treasure hunts -- and also a way to show that the cog shape can be so much more than just a gear when used in jewellery.

Bead blog recap weeks 32-33

I began blogging after my regular schedule already last week, but never got around to write an English recap last weekend so here's a forthnight of blog posts from Manekis Pärlblogg. From metal clay to buttons.

New clay from PMC

PMC is launching PMC Pro, a stronger silver clay. Unlike the other clays this one will be .900, i.e. have less silver than sterling. While some are looking forward to it, others are less than thrilled aout a clay that can't be sold as real silver in some countries and require firing in carbon.

Metal clay
Metal clays are become popular since PMC silver clay was first created in 1990's Japan. Now you can find clays in silver, gold, bronze, copper and steel on the market.

Inchies for beaders
Inchies are 1x1" work of arts often made by collage and fiber/quilt artists. But beaders and jewellery makers could also find inspiration in this fun format, whether making art charms or bead embroideries.

Different ways to protect metal
This is an issue that arises every now and then on forums: how to keep metal from oxidizing. And how to protect a patina. Products to use for this includes waxes, jade oil, Tenaris, shellac and lacquers.

Mixed packages of beading wire
What does Beadalon, SoftFlex and BeadSmith have in common? They sell variety packs of flexible beading wire. Each pack consists of three mini spools of beading wire in different colours or dimensions. Perfect if you want to test a new wire or just want to get some colour inspiration.

Allergies -- not just nickel
Nickel in jewellery is well-known to cause allergy, but if you get an allergic reaction from your jewellery it doesn't necessarily mean that the jewellery maker isn't following the nickel directive. Other metals and materials can also induce allergic reactions.

Think dimensionally
Making a piece of beadwork or jewellery more dimensional makes it more attractive and it can even look more well-designed. Flat beadwork doesn't have to be plain and sometimes 2D is the best way to go, but have you tried to add dimensional detail to your work to see how it can enhance it? Are you creating a painting or a sculpture?

Wire gauges
Not least in the US, wire is measured in G (gauge). But did you also know that there are more than one gauge scale? In chain maille instructions for example, you can often find both AWG and SWG mentioned. Links to different charts and converters.

Tunisian crochet with beads

It's not just crochet that can be beaded, you can also add beads to tunisian crochet (krokning). Includes links to websites teaching tunisian crochet basics (without beads).

Pearl lights

Pearl light is a variation on the pearlcoated glass bead. Instead of using an alabaster white bead as a base, clear beads are used. This makes it possible for light to go through the bead and give these beads something of a glow and a more light, transparent feel than regular glass pearls have.

Liquorice allsorts beads
The British seems to like their allsorts: several UK bead shops sell polymer clay beads in the shape of these popular liquourice sweets.

Finger knitting -- for adults too!

Finger knitting, or finger crochet as it's also known, is not just for kids. Beaded or not, you can use these fun-to-make cords in your jewellery. The technique is similar to that of using a knitting nancy, though working with your fingers the cords get looser.

Enamel -- not just vitreous
For many, enamel is synonymous with vitreous enamel, coloured glass powder fused onto metal using heat. But the word enamel is often used for many different types of materials, ranging from coloured epoxy resin and embossing powder to lacquers (metal paint).

Button as charm
A charming button made from a metal loop and a round wooden bead triggers the imagination: why not use it as a charm and not have the hazzle of adding headpins to drilled wooden beads?

Friday, 20 August 2010

Reinventing the wheel -- or at least a tyre

I bought these two gunmetal "cog" beads thinking they looked like drums in a belt and pulley system. Thought I might use them suspended with some sort of belt (perhaps even a möbius belt for added "authenticity". But so far I haven't used them as I couldn't decide on a functioning design. Yesterday I flipped through some old jewellery-making mags and thought I'd abandon that whole idea and istead use it for another type of kinetic jewellery -- I so want to make some kinetic jewellery -- inspired by the rolling pendant in Jean Whittington's project Masterpiece in Motion.

Now, this is where I tend to get undecided: I've got two different ideas for the same supplies -- and I don't have any extras! If I make the one thing, I can't make the other. (Right now I'm having this exact problem with a few brass flowers as well...) As the pulley system idea came first and would utilize both beads, I opted to test that first. As I didn't have anything else to use as a makeshift belt just to see how it'd look with the wheel-like beads, I pulled out my box with rubber o-rings that dad gave me.

This is when something happens. I soon abandon my "design test" as I see something new in the beads when they are surrounded by the o-rings. They aren't drums, they are wheel rims. Add rubber and I've got a tyre. How could I not see that before? Not even when arranging the first pic I took of these beads (see top photo above), which I did days and weeks earlier. Now rims are all I can see.

My first wheel is the small one, made from the 10 mm bead and with only one rubber ring. It looks a bit like a fat bicycle wheel, the kind you have on children's bikes (but with a car's rim). Or perhaps something from an old-fashioned narrow-wheeled car (or tractor). For the larger 12 mm bead I use two rings so they'll cover the width of the recessed surface between the raised edges. That also looks a bit more like a car tyre as the rubber looks "flatter". But with a groove in the middle where the two rings meet -- can I call that part of the tread pattern?

So... I'm not very fond of cars, don't even have a driver's licence, but I seem to have accidentally "invented" a wheel. But perhaps it's no surprise, given I'm used to seeing tyres and rims in my dad's workshop. And have seen that since I was a kid. So the shape, feel, weight, smell etc of these is something I know very well.

Think I've stumbled upon something I could sell as jewellery for the guys (and the not as many female "petrol heads")? Not on photo, but I did string the larger wheel on a cord just to see what it'd look like as a pendant and I think it was kind of nice. At least if you like cars.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

My poor dragon!

I decided to change the pic that goes with my Blogger profile today. Eventhough it means my sweet little blue dragon will no longer accompany any comments I make on other Blogspot blogs or show up in the FriendsConnect grids. Or anywhere else you might see Blogge profile photos. Not sure which of the pics I'll keep as my profile pic, but I thought my dragon deserved this post. He's been with me for several years by now. First as a forum avatar and then as my Blogger profile.

Blue isn't my colour (though I think black and blue is a cool colour combo). The reason I began using this pic was probably the work I put in to it. No, I didn't draw it. It's actually an engraved shots glass to begin with. I saw a photo of it at an auction site and stole the pic, saving it on my computer knowing I couldn't afford those pretty glasses. Then I began manipulating the pic quite a lot to get to this stage (you really can't see it's a photo of a glass, can you?). If you know why I'm so fond of Photoshop Elements, this is one of the reasons. A lot of work, but I was very pleased with the result.

What am I using instead? If you don't want to check out my Blogger profile you can see the new "avatar" below. It's a manipulated version of a photo I'll show you some day soon. Hrmp, the "paper grain effect" was probably a bad call... The pic probably says more about my jewellery styles than the dragon, though. Regardsless of the bad choice of effect filter.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Oh darn...

Beading on a budget has its drawbacks (as I think most beaders will agree). I many times get ideas that are too expensive to realise. Often while working on something else, which means that I not only get distracted but that I just have to try my new idea. But most of the time I don't have the right supplies at home -- it's always like that, isn't it? -- and then there are those times when I also realise that I can't really order the stuff I need either. That's rather frustrating...

What's even more frustrating is when it happens during a period of creative baisse. When I feel unproductive it's not the greatest feeling in the world to know that I could be doing something if I just had the right stuff. Of cause I know that this is the case with most things in life: we can't always have or afford to buy the things we want. And sometimes that can turn out to be a good thing as it forces us to think outside the box and to come up with alternative ways -- which in the end can lead to a result that's even better than the initial idea. I do try to find other ways many times and it does work out well, but when you're in that state of flow and just felt you've come up with the greatest idea ever (or something more humble) it still feels frustrating. You keep thinking "if only I had those things..."

The last time it happened was during one of my attempts to finish my barn swallow necklace (as pictured above). Got an idea -- just to realise I'd have to adquire a gazillion leaf charms and just as many headpins and bead caps. (Ok, a little less than a gazillion, I like the simple style.) And even then I wouldn't be sure it'd work out well. So it'd be a gamble to buy the supplies, if I had the cash. And as I don't sell my jewellery I'd never recoup the cost either. Jewellery making and beading are expensive hobbies sometimes.

(OK, I hear some of you say "you should start selling your jewellery, then you'd be able to afford more of the supplies you need/want!" Well... I know you're right. It's just... You know...)

Monday, 16 August 2010

Prizes to be won at the Perle4U blog

Simone at the Perle4U blog is celebrating soon reaching 80 000 visitors and as a thank you she'll be handing out three prizes to the lucky winners of her giveaway. For a chance to win a surprise bead package (one big, one small) or a free pattern, check out her blog post. Last day to participate is this Thursday, August 19.

Perle4U sells beads as well as bead patterns in German and English. Check out the website at

Shaping a filigree flower

I haven't been feeling very creative lately and energy's been low. For obvious reasons, really. But I thought I'd sit down and do something. Anything. Just to keep some spark alive. And that something was these filigree flowers. For these I've used white (painted) filigrees from a pair of earrings I bought at a sale for the sole purpose of butchering them.

Uhm, yes, sorry for the bad photos by the way. Must invest in some better coloured papers to use as background when I want to get pics of white things. Hope the orange/peach paper isn't too ugly to look at...

But let's return to the flowers. For my first flower I just wired five of the filigrees together. Looks like an old crocheted doily in the colour doesn't it? I wasn't that pleased with the result as it doesn't really look like a flower, which I was aiming for. Maybe it will look better when I bead it, but for now it just look like a doily.

So I had to make a new version and this time I wanted to shape the filigrees before stitching them together. Curving the pieces would perhaps make them more like petals. So I curved each filigree using round-nose pliers and stitched them together. I finished by curving the tip of each petal.

While I still think the shape of the filigrees aren't perfect for petals, I think this second version looks much better: the shape itself makes the design more "flowery" in appearance. Plus, making it more dimensional adds interest to the design.

As for the final design, well, I'm thinking of using light blue beads to the centre. Not so much for the sentiment "something borrowed, something blue" eventhough I envision this as a bridal project, but because the white is of a slightly cold hue. And the colours can look sweet together -- I've seen some very nice white and blue wedding gowns by a finnish designer.

Friday, 13 August 2010

R.I.P. Isse

I'd been thinking about blogging today. But I never thought I'd have to write this post. Me and my sis buried one of our cats earlier this day. Having more or less always lived with cats, it's not the first time I've had to do this. It doesn't get easier -- and I guess that's a good thing, would be horrible if it did get easy. He's now buried next to Dun, our oldest cat that died this winter.

Svartis was named after his colour: he was pitch black but for one white spot. As you can see in the pic of him as a young kitty above. He was born as no. 3 in a litter of five and I remember that because he was the only black kitten. First came two striped ones, then Isse, then two more striped kitties. Would you believe that kind of symmetry? It's true, it really is.

I say Isse or Isso because that's what we called him most of the time. Lately I've been calling him Ajse-Gajse as that's what I begun to say when I was feeling sorry for him when he got ill. So he wasn't 100% healthy these last years, but I really didn't expect him to die yesterday. Despite having health issues, he was a cat filled with energy, strength and good apetite. The evening before yesterday he went out as usual -- our cats are indoors/outdoors cats, mostly the latter -- but he didn't get home as usual. Home, yes, but as soon as I saw him I could tell he was dying. I began crying right there and then, seeing him so ill and without even the energy to acknowledge my presence the way he usually does. Couldn't even keep the flies from his eyes and body. I knew he would probably not live for many more years -- the bad days were getting more common -- but it was such a shock. I never imagined he'd pass so soon.

Isse was a lovely cat. One of the best things he knew was to lay in bed, under the blankets. Most of the time with us holding the tent up, but he'd sneak under there at other times aswell. He always did have a sensitive stomach and when he began to get ill, it too got worse. And that meant he couldn't keep sleeping in mine or my sister's bed in the way he loved to do. That's one of the things I feel most guilty about, apart from not being able to cure him, that we deprived him of that one thing he loved. The best way he knew to be close to us and at the same time feel cozy -- and safe from cats that didn't get along with him. The way he'd been doing since he was a kitten.

There's another way he was real special too. He was so strong and tough. Not as in a fighter, he was never a great fighter (his brother was always hard on him). But he had a toughness like no other cat, which you could see when he wanted to come indoors. Me and my sis share a small house on our parents' farm, living on the upper floor. When the cats want to come indoors they have to make us open the door. But not Isse. He knew a better way: if he could reach the gutters, he could jump in through a window, which was normally opened when the weather allowed. And if closed, he knew we were more likely to hear a cat calling for us if he was outside the window instead of on the ground.

But here's the thing: getting up into the gutters isn't that easy. He had to first scale the unstable trellis by the wall, then, from the top 0f this trellis, bend outwards -- as the roof and thereby the gutters protrude beyond the wall -- to get a grip of the semi-circle underside of the gutter, slowly reaching the paws up to the edge of it so he could pull up his body into the gutter. Then, finally, he was ready to jump in or call for us to open the window. (Of cause, until dad fixated the trellis, this caused a lot of noise so that even when asleep we'd hear him coming and we'd be prepared to open the window.) Dad used to reluctantly admire this eventhough he at first did not like it as he thought Isse would damage the clematis on the trellis. But the more he sat in the kitchen eating breakfast and watching Isse doing this day after day, the more he began to admire him and to overlook that the cat might damage his plants.

We've never had another cat doing this. A few youngsters have tried to copy him, but they always give up when reaching the top of the trellis. No one have the urge and the stamina to scale the gutters from there on. Dad says he's never seen a cat being able to -- or wanting to -- do something like that.

I'll miss him so much.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Finger crochet bead jewellery

I felt a bit nostalgic and perhaps even more inspired when I read a post on finger knitting/crochet over at The Beading Gem's Journal. I used to have so much fun doing finger crochet in school: it was so fast and easy to make that many kids got addicted to it. And they still teach this in school, with new generations falling for the same fun addiction.

So of cause I had to give it a try again after reading that post. I use the "looping method" described at e.g. Craftzine rather than the more common "weaving method". So I began looping my yarn, knowing I still remembered the technique -- though, just to be sure I wasn't remembering it wrong I asked my sis if it was correct. "Of cause it is, have you forgotten how it's done or something?", she retorted. Well, it was perhaps fifteen years since I last made a finger crochet snake so why wouldn't that be possible? Anyway, I hadn't forgotten: I've finger crocheted so much it's forever ingrained in my brain I think.

First (finished) piece I made was the simple bracelet above. It's made using a thick novelty yarn called Fiocco Oro by Gedifra (colour no. 6601), making the bracelet look less airy and loose than finger crochet normally do. Also, because my pinkies are so short, I found it much easier to crochet by just using three fingers instead of four. All pieces below are crocheted like this.

Then, of cause, I had to try adding beads to my finger crochet -- after all I do "regular" bead crochet as well as I've tried adding beads to my knitting nancy. I've got a lack of apropriate stringing materials for this technique so I had to make due with what I found, which was subtle enough to crochet and also thin enough to string beads on. I got out some pearl silk. I wasn't sure I had enough pearls strung so therefore only one loop on each turn was made with a pearl. I think the result is kind of nice (se below for more on the issues I had using this stringing material), but I suspect there'll be some of the same problem floating necklaces can have with beads migrating downwards due to the large loops.

That left me with enough strung pearls to make a matching bracelet. This time I added pearls on every loop, which made a significant difference in the result. Just too bad the pearl silk turned out to be a poor choice: if a loop becomes snagged, if so just on a finger nail, it pulls on the whole cord making big unsightly loops. So does some of the pearls themselves as well. A loop is easily pulled back into the cord, but really, you don't want a piece of jewellery that distorts that easily. Add to that the fact that these pieces, necklace and bracelet, keeps stretching! Ok with a necklace, but my bracelet is now far too large.

I wasn't about to give up my efforts to create a beaded version of finger crochet. This time I wanted to work in monochrome as it would highlight the texture and shapes rather than the cord itself. In the end, I got out some C-lon cord in black and strung matte black 8/0 japanese seeds on it. These beads are smaller than the pearls and together with the somewhat more rigid cord, the look is completely different from the pearl bracelet eventhough I used one bead per loop here aswell.

The stiffer stringing material also makes this cord stretchy, but not in the way the silk is stretchy. Rather, this cord is "bouncy" and when not worn it pulls together, almost like elastics when not stretched out. I think it'll stop doing that once I've used the bracelet some time and it's not a problem -- other than when you want to get a good pic of it. It's not slowly but constantly growing like my pearl bracelet; it keeps it's lenght and shape much better.

My conclusions so far are that finger crochet is a fun technique that can be used for jewellery that appeal to adults, it's not just a thing for kids. Just as with many other things, it's just a matter of what materials you use and how you use the finished cord.

Also, it is possible to add beads to the cord, but be aware that big beads can thug the cord so it distorts and note also that small beads can "sneak" through the loops: you can't expect a "perfect result" with evenly spaced beads as when using a knitting nancy, instead the beads will slide along each loop and perhaps even end up in a loop belonging to another bead. A good thing about using beads was that I found it easier to pick upp the string to push it over my finger when grabbing hold of the bead rather than the cord/string. (I use a pretty tight tension regardless of that technique I work with and it's not that easy grabbing hold of string that's sitting tight against my fingers.)

This will absolutely be something I'll continue working with, eventhough I'll probably not do it as often. If nothing else, it's a nice way of killing time or relaxing when I don't feel like beading. And, yes, I'll keep experimenting with bead finger crochet.

Monday, 9 August 2010

How I suspended a brass sparrow

I won this brass stamping in the shape of a flying sparrow at the Vintaj blog. The easiest way to use this stamping as a pendant is just to attach wire, jump rings or a stringing material of your choice to the corners where wing meets tail. The way you can see it done in Vintaj's own examples. I was playing around with my swooping swallow, not sure what I wanted to do with it. I had been interested in getting one to make Melanie Brooks' cool Arteria Arcanum Pendant, but I don't have the supplies to make anything similar.

Instead, when sorting my Vintaj loot -- som bought, some won -- I found some leaf charms I'd bought to make a necklace never realised. What if... I thought. Soon I had begun bending by leaf charm to make the suspension you can see above. Here's some instructions for how I made it.

First I put the charm through the corner of the hole between one of the wings and the tail, flipside up and placed so the leaves where pointing inwards and the loop was beyond the tip of the wing/tail.

Then I just bent the soft, malleable brass charm so that the leaves now faces outwards, laying over the loop. I pushed the two sides of the charm together to minimize the gap and thereby not risking the charm falling off. Then I repeated the steps with another leaf charm around the second wing tip.

I carfully manipulated each leaf, moving it to one side or the other while holding the rest of the charm still, until I felt they were in the right position. As I use the same charm on both sides and the charms are asymmetrical, I didn't want the leaves to look as though one was just an identical but upsidedown version of the other.

The holes between the wings and tail are so large I could use the charms as hook-and-eye clasps, hooking the leaves around the tail, but I was afraid the thin soft charms would too easily be bent when using the "clasp", which could lead to the charm snapping from metal fatigue.

Now I'm ready to make my pendant into a necklace. I'm thinking an all brass piece of jewellery here. Don't really know why, but when I look at it I keep getting associations to the 18th century. Not least when adding the "flowers" and leaves I plan on using in the necklace. Perhaps it's the leaves together with the shape of the bird (especially that tail) that reminds me of the motifs used in interior decoration and frames in those days. They'd use gold or gilded materials: this brass looks like patinated antique gold or gilding I suppose.

I'm still working on the details -- this is a work in progress -- but when I get that sorted I'll post a pic or two of the finished necklace. Let's see if I can keep that 18th C feel throughout the design process.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Old, but new -- when the child within is choosing what beads to buy

As a kid I did of cause love playing with my Nabbi/Hama beads, making all sorts of patterns on the plastic pegboards and then letting mom or the teachers at pre-school iron them. Most of all I think I made hearts and stars. And like most kids I also made simple necklaces and bracelets by stringing the beads on twine. (I used to chew them sometimes too: this was before I was old enough to buy chewing gum whenever I wanted.)

Then I grew older and put such childish things behind me. Sometimes I looked at the beads, but mostly as a slightly nostalgic note, not with any interest to work with the beads again. Well, that dragon-shaped pegboard was fun.

Fast forward to a few years ago. I'm into beads and active on the bead forums online when I encounter Emo, a woman who didn't outgrow the love for these plastic cylinder beads but instead became an expert on mastering not just the classic flat ironed bead technique but making bead "paintings" as well as 3D figures. At the time I would perhaps enjoy and admire her work, but I didn't feel that interested in trying it myself. Well, that PhotoPearls stuff perhaps, but not going back to creating ironed beadwork. So I did feel a little tempted, I must confess.

That's how I feel for a couple of years. What happens then is that Hama releases a mini version of the beads (earlier, they sold the standard "midi" size beads as well as maxi sized beads for younger children). These plastic beads are just 2,5 mm and much more the same size as the glass seed and cylinder beads I love. Just half the size of the 5 mm midi beads. The small size means you can make smaller motifs as well as creating motifs with finer details. That was what finally made me buy a package. I could no longer resist the temptation. Tiny hama beads, well, that intrigued me.

Still haven't actually made anything with the beads though...

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Bead blog recap weeks 29-31

Soft Flex Company presents the Flex Your Creativity Beading Contest

Ah, yes, I've got a few reasons not to write much lately, but I've sort of decided to begin blogging regularly (at Manekis Pärlblogg) again, starting this Monday. I sure hope I've got the energy for it back! While we're waiting, here's a recap of the last three -- rather unproductive -- blogging weeks.

Bead quizzes and tests
A few quizzes and tests related to beads for those of you who like to test your knowledge or just have some fun with personality tests. (American or Canadian? One like is to the Artbeads Bead IQ Trivia where you can win bead money.)

Swedish contest: Skärgårdsdröm
Bead shop Stareyes is hosting a jewellery design contest on the theme skärgårdsdröm, "archipelago dream" (should I explain the theme for non-swedes perhaps? Many urban Swedes spend the summer on boats or summer cabins in the archipelagos on the West coast or outside Stockholm.)

New blog design
Yes, I've re-design Manekis Pärlblogg as I'm getting ready to start blogging regularly again after my summer break. Feedback on the new design is welcomed.

Color Report for Bead & Jewelry Artists, Fall/Winter 2010

Margie Deeb has released her latest Color Report for beaders and jewellery makers. For those of you that want to stay updated with colour trends as well as those of you just looking for colour inspiration.

Vintaj Design Challenge, July
Vintaj is now accepting entries for the July challenge, titled Butterfly Orchid. As usual you'll find inspiration posts on the theme in their blog. Last day to enter is next Friday, August 13.

Bead Unique steampunk contest
More contests and more steampunk. Enter the Get Steampunked design contest for you chance to win a subscription to Bead Unique magazine and be featured in the mag. PS! Don't forget the SoftFlex Flex Your Creativity Beading Contest (click banner at top of blog entry), which also feature a steampunk theme this year.
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