Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Work

A few weeks ago an early Christmas present arrived from Artbeads ... some Hill Tribe Silver components and some Czech glass. It's taken me a while to make jewelry to show you and to get the pictures taken, but I'm finally done. Meredith stepped in and took over the photo shoots for me. She's much more dedicated than I am and I hope you enjoy her photography here.
The first pieces I worked with were Hill Tribe Silver. I've written about Hill Tribe Silver before. It's one of my favorites, perhaps because the pendants are so natural, or perhaps because the tribe is named Karen...

Here's a description from the Artbeads Website:

These Thai beads and pendants are made by the Karen Hill Tribe in northern Thailand using traditional tribal methods passed down from generation to generation. Purchasing these Thai beads helps sustain a traditional craft and provides the Karen people with a reliable source of income. The silver content in our Hill Tribes silver beads and pendants is typically 95-99%, even higher than sterling (92.5%). This higher silver content is softer and therefore easier to shape into all the unique and wonderful styles. On close inspection you will notice that no two pieces are exactly alike, attesting to the handmade nature of these beautiful pieces.
When Hill Tribe Silver was first available, there were pendants and beads to choose from, but not many findings. Now, you can find everything you need to complete a necklace. I fell in love with this flower pendant, but I'm also happy I could choose cones and a clasp to match. Because the silver is more pure than sterling, it has a whiter appearance. I'm happy that the finishing components match the focal pendant. For this necklace, I mixed in some tiny 3mm pearls, seed beads that reminded me of the sea and sand, and some knot-shaped accent beads I had in my stash.

Here's another view:
Next came these cute Hill Tribe Silver hearts. I was in a Twilight mood, so I added ruby red crystal drops. Meredith's photo treatment creates a softer, more organic mood, though -- similar to the spirit of the original hearts.
I switched gears when it came to the Czech glass, going for a more sophisticated holiday-party look. I love these fire polished dark green round beads, and while my design may not be the most creative, it's classic, especially for this time of year. I created a cascade by extending a length of chain, and wrapping a bead on each side of each link, with three on the bottom. Then, I added a few linked beads to accent the chain. The necklace is about 15 inches, with a 3-inch dangle.

While I was compiling my order, a suggestion popped up. I really like it when websites have the "you may also like" feature, because honestly, there are so many choices it can be hard to decide. I never would have seen these beads, but I was intrigued by the silver lining. I chose five 10 mm and decided to pair them with 4 mm silver and blue rounds. By stringing random patterns and adding 6 mm silver rounds, I created an icy holiday mix that really catches the light.

Just because I can't choose from Meredith's great shots, here's one more of the flower pendant:
So, what do you think? Did you make any gifts for yourself this year?
Disclaimer: I have received these beads free of charge from Artbeads. My review is my own opinion and I have not been paid for my endorsement.

Oh, snap.

Sorry. Couldn't resist. Look at what Cyndi did with the snap project from Altered You! Quite an elegant take on a simple project. I think I'm going to scrounge around my work table and make some more of these! Love her blog, too -- "emptying landfills one project at a time! How great is that?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Looking Forward to 2010

Pantone unveiled the color of 2010 and it's turquoise! I'm a softie for year-end lists, new year predictions, and especially this year -- best of the decade roundups. What was your high point of the year? I think mine was finishing my third book. I'm really proud of this one, and can't wait to show you more.

Here are some of my favorite turquoise projects from the past, just to get you thinking...

I hope you had the happiest of holidays, and I wish you the very best for the new year. Thanks so much for sticking with me; it means a lot to me to know I have so many readers out there. I'm looking forward to much more in the new turquoisey year!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Win a copy of Altered You!

FaveCrafts is giving away a copy of Altered You! If you win, let me know, and I'll mail you a book plate. Good luck!

Monday, December 14, 2009

New Work Coming

I've got some new work coming and I'm hoping to post today or tomorrow. We've had some technical difficulties in the camera department around here, and I am trying to find a back up plan. Thanks for reading, and I'll post some Christmas gift ideas as soon as I can.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Seen at my local Michaels

I got a few funny looks when I took out my phone and shot this picture, but I was excited! What are you crafting for Christmas?

Friday, November 27, 2009

My favorite day

You may call it Black Friday, but I call it Bright Friday. Why do I love this day? I'm not a mall shopper, so I stay away from the stores. In fact last year I shredded all my Black Friday shopping circulars and made these cute ornaments. I made enough food for an army yesterday, so I know everyone is taken care of in that department. There's no grocery shopping to do or dinner to make tonight. I have plenty of time for a long walk, and since my husband isn't working, he can join me. I know I'll be able to read for several hours this afternoon -- one of my true indulgences. What are you doing today?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Making mashed potatoes tomorrow?

Check out this recipe for "freecycled" potato skins. It's just what you need to keep hungry kitchen helpers satisfied -- that is if you can spare your oven for a few minutes.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Meredith's Senoir Pictures

I just finished ordering Meredith's senior pictures. I can't believe it, really. Weren't we just looking at those toothless first grade portraits? I read in someone else's blog that childhood is long days and short years. I couldn't agree more.

For a sneak peak at Meredith's photos, check out Carol's blog, here. And if you're in the area, please consider Carol for your next family event. She's a delight to work with; the hardest part was choosing from all the excellent photos. She gave equal time to Meredith's requests for a moody, artsy look and my request for a "really nice smile." Luckily for us, her prices are so reasonable we were able to purchase several different poses. For more information, see Smile Out Loud Photography.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I heart Mondays and...

I have a lot to heart today -- makes up for the last few Monday's I've missed!

First of all, if you know me, you know I heart snowmen. I have a great collection that comes out just after Thanksgiving and stays around until February.

Second, I heart the ArtGirlz. I've posted about them in the past, and I recently purchased a snow person kit from them. Kits are a great way to dip into a craft. You don't have to run around collecting supplies, and someone's already thought through the directions for you. ArtGirlz give you enough guidance to get the job done, but they respect your crafting instincts and let you make most of the little decisions on your own. Here are a few of my new friends:

Third, I heart needle felting.

I've been looking for an easy needle felting project and this was it. I took some wool roving (a very tiny bit) and worked it into the felt ball with a felting needle. It was very easy to do a free-form heart. My snowmen are full of love! I also had fun felting the "coal" eyes and mouths.

But it gets better! ArtGirlz also sell a kit for culturally diverse snow people. How cool is that? I couldn't pass it up. Don't they make you happy?
And just because I think they're so cute, here's one more picture of the group as they were drying:
Due to technical difficulties, this is posting a day late, but I hope it made you smile. What are you crafting?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Easy Scarf Project

Although a scarf is about the easiest thing to knit, I have two no-knit scarf projects to share with you. The first one is really fun if you're a color-outside-of-the-lines crafter. The second is just as easy, but a little more measuring is involved.

No-knit yarn scarf:
I have been wearing this scarf for about four years, so it looks a little raggedy, but I still love it.

In fact, I love it so much, I made a second one to go with a different coat.

What I like the most about this project is you have so much control over the colors, the length, and the width. I wanted a scarf that would wind around my neck several times and then have the perfect length ends to tuck into my coat without being too bulky.

To make the scarf, gather miscellaneous yarns in complementary colors. I chose several weights and textures. You'll also need a product called Solvey (it's like a roll of plastic wrap but it dissolves in water). Finally, you'll need thread and a sewing machine.

1. Determine your finished length. I did this by draping a strand of yarn around and around and then measuring it.

2. Cut a piece of Solvey equal to your desired length and place it on a work surface (a kitchen island or long dining room table is great).

3. Cut and arrange your fibers along the length of the Solvey. You want them fairly close together.

4. If you want to make little flourishes like this one, just wind some yarn around your finger and pin it in place with two pins crossed like an X.
5. When you're happy with the way your scarf looks, layer a second piece of Solvey on top of the yarn. Pin through all the layers, creating a "sandwich."

6. With contrasting or matching thread, sew a straight line across the width of the scarf about 6 inches from the end. Repeat on the other end.

7. Randomly sew between the two "anchor" seams until most of the fibers are secured. Have fun making zig-zags and curves with your thread. About every four inches, make sure you sew completely across the width of the fibers. To secure the flourishes, sew across the bundle at least once -- you want to secure it but give it room to spring up. As you sew, your packet will become more compressed.

8. Soak the bundle in water to dissolve the Solvey. If your fibers are wool, handle carefully to avoid felting. Rinse until the Solvey is completely dissolved.

9. Dry over your shower curtain rod. Blot with a bath towel to speed the drying process.

10. On each end, tie the loose strands together to create fringe. Enjoy!
Flannel-lined fabric scarf
You'll need about 1 yard of flannel and about a half-yard of several fabrics. I used a similar scientific method to measure my desired length: I draped myself with yarn, measured the length, and then rounded the number to make the math easier. My length is about 80 inches and my width is about 9.
1. Cut a piece of flannel to your desired length and width, or sew together a few pieces to create the length you want. Mine has a seam in the middle.
2. Decide what you'd like to do with the accent fabric. I decided I wanted about a foot of accent color on each end. You can add three or four accents if you'd like. Cut your fabric and sew together until you have a rectangle the same size as the flannel piece. Iron your seams flat.
3. With wrong sides together, pin the fabric to the flannel. Beginning at the 1/3 mark of a short end, sew toward the long edge. Turn the corner and continue sewing the scarf together until you are back to the short edge where you began. Turn the corner, and sew about 1/3 of the way across. Secure the thread by backstitching a few times.
4. Trim all the edges and clip the corners.
5. Turn the scarf right-side out, using the hole at the bottom. Press the scarf.
6. Close the seam by either hand stitching together or fusing with fusible webbing.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Are you having a hand-made holiday?

Photo by Meredith Buckingham

A little birdie told me there's a sale going on at through December 31. Enter coupon code SCF10P-ARTBEADS-0424 for 10% off any purchase and free U.S. shipping. There are several other promotions going on as well, so check out their great selection of beads, gemstones, crystals, silver and more -- just in time to stock up on supplies for holiday gifts.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Fall Gardens

I ran into an old friend a while ago and among other things she asked about my gardens. After politely listening to a long list of coulda-woulda-shoulda's from me, she said, "well, there's a big difference between spring gardens and fall gardens." And, you know, I really agree. There's nothing like the smell of mulch in May, and the sight of fresh beds and young plants ... so much potential! But I really love the rambling leftovers that come in the fall. I love the many shades of browns and the rustling leaves. More than anything, I love the freedom that comes from walking through the remains of a garden and just enjoying what's left instead of feeling the urge to weed, trim, transplant...
Our winter is long enough that I have months to plan my spring garden to-do list. Here are some fall photos to enjoy now.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Winner and some new work

Frivolitea wins a copy of Mostly Metals. Congratulations, and thanks to everyone for replying, reposting, and following me!
Here's some new work from today -- nothing spectacular, but I had fun experimenting with steel wire. For some reason I've been resisting it, but after a few sterling silver screw ups, I decided to experiment with the cheap stuff. You really can't beat the price ($3 spool) and it looks like oxidized silver. I'm curious to see how these pieces wear.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween, Part Four

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Happy Halloween, Part Three

I think this ghost might be my favorite. Don't forget about my book give away, here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Happy Halloween, Part Two

Happy Halloween, and Happy Friday!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Happy Halloween, Part One

Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. When my kids were little, they always had great costume ideas, and we had a lot of fun pulling them together (although sometimes nobody outside of our family had a clue what they were). They're not little anymore, though, so costumes -- if they want them -- are their own responsibilities. This year, I've been scouting some Halloween sites of my own. (Photography counts as an Artful Craft, doesn't it?)

Here's the first ... taken about 50 yards from my front door:

Stay tuned next week and I'll post a few more. And, don't forget to enter my drawing for Mostly Metals.

Monday, October 19, 2009

I heart Mondays and Halloween

OK, I know this is the third time I've posted this picture of my girl here, but I just realized she's got a big green heart and she is my favorite Halloween decoration...

Have a great Monday!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Exciting News & a Book Giveaway

It was just announced that Mostly Metals, my beginner jewelry-making book, is going into its second printing.

Yea! In honor of the occasion, I'll give away a copy of the book on November 1. Here's how you can win:

1. Leave a comment about your favorite jewelry "look."

2. Double your chances by becoming a follower.

3. Triple your chances by linking to this post on your blog.

4. Bonus: if I get more than 20 comments I'll do a second drawing for jewelry made from a project in the book.
Good luck, and don't forget to check back to see if you've won!

Monday, October 5, 2009

I heart Mondays

Here's what I made with the millefiori hearts from my friend:

It's a delicate necklace using all the hearts and just an accent of Czech glass along the chain. Just what I need this winter to remember summer flowers and friends!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009

New Altered You review on Amazon

Altered You! just received another 5-star review on What I love about this review is that this 40-something crafter is "altering" the projects and making them for herself. There really is something for everyone within the pages! Thanks for the awesome review, Julie.

Monday, September 28, 2009

I heart Mondays

Can you make a wrapped loop? Then you can make this necklace. Can't make a wrapped loop? Come see me on Sunday and I'll teach you how. Not near Milwaukee ... hmm ... we'll have to work something out.
This is one of my gift hearts. I needed to stretch away from my normal color comfort zone, but I've been wearing this all day and it makes me happy. Next week I'll show you what I made with the millefiore hearts.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Design exercise

I believe little design decisions can have a big impact on the jewelry you make. At my last book signing, I was demonstrating how to make plain and wrapped loops. I had a strand of crystals and some headpins. I decided to take my own advice and see how many different looking earrings I could make with the exact same materials. Here's how far I got, in between chatting and talking books ...
Come visit me at my next event:
Sunday October 4
10 am - 4 pm $2 admission
Free parking
Wyndham Airport Hotel
4747 So. Howell Street
Milwaukee, WI
More info:

Saturday, September 19, 2009


Now that I've finished the book and taken a little break from jewelry making, it was fun to take some time and play. Making jewelry just for me helps me explore new ideas and push myself into new areas. This week I had great fun with some unusual Swarovski products from Artbeads.

I had never seen this crystal-wrapped faux suede before, and now that fall is here, I was in the mood to experiment with browns and coppers. I used the smoked topaz and golden yarns blended with indigo-crystal accented copper chain. I really like the combination of soft and hard materials. To finish, I used a topaz rock pendant. For me, it gives the right weight to the design while keeping with the natural theme. What do you think?

Next up, I wanted to experiment a little more with my copper wire. I love the combination of the indigo with the dark copper. Isn't this copper ball just the cutest thing? I made it in the same way you'd begin to ball yarn, and just strung crystals along the way.

Once you start working with new metals like copper, you quickly realize that if you've made a necklace, it's time for coordinating earrings. I'm not a fan of matchy-matchy, but I love to coordinate.
And just because I couldn't stop, I made a silver pair.
If you're a crystal geek, you know that Swarovski has recently discontinued its line of bicone crystals (5301) and replaced it with the new Xilion cut 5328, seen here. I'm happy to report that from a distance, they look just like bicones, but the sparkle is significant. If you have a stash of bicones, you can easily blend them with the new cut. These have a 2x AB finish.
Thanks, Artbeads, for letting me play.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Should I ...

Make soup, or