Tuesday, 31 January 2012

My ojime beads

In a previous post, I showed a pic of my dragon ojime bead so I tought it'd be nice to show my other two ojimes too. One thing I like so much about these east asian beads are -- apart from the beautiful, detailed carving -- that I can find my favourite animals in them: cats, dragons and bats. Dragons because they're symbols of power and on of the zodiak animals. Cats stand for luck and bats for happiness and longevity (unlike the europeans who associated them with witchcraft and dark magic, hence the american use of bats for Halloween).

Here's my sweet lucky cat, my maneki neko. I collect cat beads and a good portion of my stash are chinese porcelain lucky cats: there are so many variations of these, I can buy dozens and dozens without ending up with exact duplicates!

Here's my cute bat. We have bats in our barn so for me bats equal beautiful, warm summer nights when the sun barely sinks below the horizon. You know it's summer when the bats start flying in the twilight.

...and here's my dragon again. I love dragons, western and eastern. Can't say that too many times. This one seems almost to chasing his own tail like a cat (or dog).

Haven't used any of them in jewellery. They feel too precious for that. Not just because they weren't exactly my cheapest beads to buy, but because they are so pretty. They have personality and I want them to stay that way, not just become a cog in something bigger, a mere element in a design. Yes, I could string them on a simple necklace, but they'd still just feel purely decorative and diminished if I did that. Not independant (as in free from strings and pins to hold them up) as now. Hard to explain, but that's how it is.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Cyclamen opal satin

You don't have to know me well to know that bling and sparkling crystals aren't my absolute favourite thing. Now, I can like a little sparkle and you can find charlottes and (lots of) fire-polished beads in my stash. As well as crystal rivolis. But it's rarely the sparkle itself I'm after buying crystal beads, it's the colour. There are so many colours and finishes I love. And that's the reason why I bought these beads last year. Don't use bicones that often, but the colour -- cyclamen opal satin -- just spoke to me.

I like how the satin effect (aka hematite) darkens the cyclamen opal and makes it more purple. Originally the colour is a sort of pink lavender as you can see here. I was sceptical about whether I'd like it IRL and to this day I have only seen it in a tiny 6 mm rivoli pendant. But the satin version grab my attention as soon as I saw it.

As I don't use crystal bicones that often these beads -- like most of the crystals in my stash -- are still waiting to be used. Until then I'll just hoard them, pick them up sometimes and enjoy the beauty of them.

Guess what? This second photo is the same colour as above. To acheive this effect, I lite the beads from below. You can often get a different colour by back lighting opal glass and also glass with certain finishes (try holding up a 2xab bead against the sun/a strong lamp). This colour was a bit unexpected, but it's also a shade I like and so I opted to include it here eventhough it looks very different from what the bead will normally look like.

Saturday, 28 January 2012

TAST week 4: cretan stitch

English name: cretan stitch

Swedish name: kretastygn

This week's stitch was one I've never tried before. At least I can't recall having done it. As usually, if a stitch can be stitched on counted fabric I prefer trying it on aida as I don't have to worry about getting them straight and evenly spaced.

As you can see above, I played around with different variations. Especially layering multiple rows of cretan (with the bi-coloured row you can see how I "braided" the two rows). The zig zag shape in the bottom right is made by stitching fly stitches between the bars of the cretan stitches.

Then I switched to a different fabric. Mostly to be able to stitch closer -- I especially wanted to try the variation you can see in the top, layering three rows of stitches close to each other.

Of cause I had to give the Red Heart Aurica yarn a go this week too. Not as perfect a match as for feather stitch, but still a fun effect.

Next I wanted to do some beaded stitches. I tried adding bead both to the "bars" and to the centre, even doing a few stitches fully beaded. I prefer the ones with beads on the edges. (And I forgot to edit out that ugly stain, which I didn't see until I uploaded the pics... Did erase in the pic on Flickr so it'd look nicer. That's what you get for watchng TV, drinking must and having playful kittens around you when embroidering!)

The next stitches started as a variation on the think border shown in the second pic. Here three colours were used instead of one. For the bottom row, I did cretan in red and then added fly stitches on either side, purple on the top and orange on the bottom.

Here I stitched a row with green and then teal thread. The bottom row differs from the variation in the previous pic as I entered the fabric (with the teal thread) on one side of the green bar and came up again on the other, therefore covering the first layer of stitches more than previously. The stitches above that row is stitched with both green and teal thread on the same needle.

Then, finally, I also wanted to try using another novelty yarn. I ended up choosing Carat by Marks & Kattens. Should've used a slightly bigger needle, but it worked ok. It doesn't give such a special effect as the Aurica yarn, but it's always fun stitching with less common materials.

So that's it, my fourth week of the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge finished. I do enjoy this type of stitch (blanket/buttonhole, feather, cretan) so it's been a lot of fun. So far I haven't dared try any of the knotted variations, but I'll have to do that soon. Have to learn some of the trickier stitches too.

What is TAST?

Take a Stitch Tuesday is a weekly embroidery challenge throughout the year by Sharon of Pin Tangle. You can read more about it here (or by clicking the TAST badge to the right).

To see what others have done in this stitch, check out the comments in this post on Pin Tangle. Be sure not to miss Sharon's lovely stitch variations in the actual post.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Bead soup teaser

I was one of the lucky who won a spot in the fifth Bead Soup Blog Party, which -- as usual -- is hosted by Lori of Pretty Things. This will be my third time participating in this fun (and huge) event. For this party, I was partnered with Canadian jewellery maker Penny of Copper Penny Designs.

This week, I assembled a bead soup for her and I'm keeping my fingers crossed there'll be something she likes in that soup. It's always tricky picking a good mix for someone you don't know. Even if it's supposed to be a challenge, perhaps working with beads you wouldn't choose yourself, at the same time you want to give something that the recipient will enjoy and can feel inspired by. So I'm hoping it will be an appreciated and positive surprise when opened.

But... I have to confess this... Guess what I managed to do.

The day after I mailed the bead soup, I tidied up a bit in my bedroom and what do you think falls out of a blanket. Yes, that's right, a little something that was meant to be part of the soup, but which had slipped out when I wrapped the present and hidden in the blanket. D'oh! That's what you get for not sitting at a table doing this! Can I blame one of the kitties for taking it? It might've been the case, but I can't blame them as it was my fault if they could reach it in the first place (I try never to let components I'll be giving other be near the cats what with allergies and all).

Luckily it was just that one little thing (which was neither focal nor clasp, the two components mandatory to send) so there's still plenty of soup, but I really wanted to include it so there'll soon be a second letter on its way to Canada.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The year of the dragon

I don't think anyone has missed that according to the chinese calendar -- and several other asian ones -- we have recently entered a new year, the year of the dragon. Of cause I love the idea of that, being a dragon lover and all.

The zodiac animal dragon is said to have many positive properties such as power, success, growth, change (to something better) and so on. And thus it's said to be a good thing to start a project or a business in the year of the dragon -- as well as being bort in its year.

This year's dragon is supposedly a water dragon. Water representing things like North, stillness and conservation. According to Wikipedia, "In Chinese Taoist thought, water is representative of intelligence and wisdom, flexibility, softness and pliancy; however, an over-abundance of the element is said to cause difficulty in choosing something and sticking to it. In the same way, Water can be fluid and weak, but can also wield great power when it floods and overwhelms the land." In Feng Shui it often represents wealth and money luck.

I don't believe in astrology -- western nor eastern -- but I do like symbolism so I kind of see it as a motivator, as a good sign that things maybe, maybe might be turning now. That I can get out of this rut and leave my miserable low self esteem behind me. That this is the year. This is the time for change. The time to find my way back again. The time I actually am good enough.

And can it perhaps be a good sign that the last year of the dragon was in 2000, which was a very important and life-changing year for me. It was the year I finished gymnasiet, applied for university, moved out and began my adventures in higher education and an independant life as a young adult. The year I finially decided on my path, that it was the environmental issues, not economy and business administration, that was my true calling. The very path I now worry I might have to give up, not having been able to get a job in that area. You know, the things I whined about here and also moaned about here after having turned 30. But I won't get into self-pitying whine mode now. Try to focus on those positive dragon characteristics.

Anyway, in the spirit of the theme, I thought I'd show you some of my dragons. As a dragon lover I do have a few at home. Not live ones obviously, but beads, pendants, porcelain figurines, books, posters etc. As I've shown some of my beads and pendants before, they won't be the focus here.

This little jug (it fits in the palm of the hand) with a blue-eyed dragon is one I've had since childhood. It might not be an expensive antique, but to me it was and is a treasured piece. In fact, it was one of my first dragons. (A few years ago I also bought two almost paper thing tea cups with similar dragon motifs.)

Like with the red dragon at the top of the post, this metal dragon is one I've bought a few years ago.

This perhaps a bit odd and wingless critter is a sala dragon. I bought it as a souvenir when we visited Sala silver mine. They were made by a local ceramic artist and sold to tourists. Unfortunately, I dropped him in the floor so half his lower jaw is missing...

These two dragons are of the kind you can find many in e.g. new age or gift shops.

One of my newest dragons is this detailed ojime bead. That you can find dragon, bat and cat ojime beads was one of the main reasons I longed to get some of those beads for years.

And that was it. Some of my treasured dragons.

Digital paintings

I'm spending the afternoon working with photos. As uploading and basic editing can be a bit tedious if having many photos to process, I took a break to play around with the now free premium textures in Picnik. You might recognize the pics I've used from this post.

For each pic I used at least two different textures on top of each other, using different blending modes to create an effect I liked. I also added frames to two of them, but not sure it did much to enhance the "digital paintings". Sometimes a frame is a good way to delineate an image and create a transition between image and background. Perhaps even crucial. Other times it isn't really needed.

 The "moon" in the image above is part of the texture. I added it just because it looked kind of like a moon or clouded sun, but it's not really a realistic effect. (Let's not even talk about realism when it comes to the sky in the next "painting".)

Kind of regret the frame around this one. Too much, perhaps. Too heavy, which makes it stand out more than the image, which should be the centre of attention. Anyway, I like the picture and frames can always be cropped later. That's one of the good things about creating on the computer. There's always previews and ctrl+z.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Snowy landscape

Not all of the snow has melted again so today my sis and I went for a walk in the afternoon. Jisse followed us for a while, but it was too cold, he said (or rather, we saw how he shivered). And even worse: the icy crust was hard enough for him to put a paw on, but as soon as he put any body weight on the paw, the crust broke. Not always, but for about three of every four steps he took. It's really difficult for a little cat to walk in such snow, even if it's just a few centimetres deep.

The sun that was partially the reason for us deciding to go for a walk soon disappeared behind the heavy clouds so no in the end I didn't get any fab pics. But I did get a few I at least liked.

Here's an old roll of fencing. Walking past it, I was captured by the effect you get when looking at the layers upon layers of the same pattern. Before I show the more scenic photos, I wanted to show some macro shots.

These two pics should be view in full scale (click the image to do so). It's ice over gravel where the water drips from the gutter on the barn.

Moss and grass on one of the many low dry stone walls around here.

To the left you can see old bronze age mounds, to the right a more modern religion can be seen in the form of the curch in Hov. This is also a relatively big pic (700 px wide) so be sure to click it so you can enjoy it in full scale.

View over Skälderviken bay and the peninsula of Kullen. If I seem to only take photos from this point during wintertime there's a reason for it: during the warmer months there's a lot of electric fences, cows and crops in the way between this spot and our house. Too much of a hassle (and last year one of the neighbour's cows was unreliable so we were warned to not be on the wrong side of the fences).

The rest of the pics were a bit so-so even after editing in Picnik so I took the opportunity to add effects in Pixlr-o-matic which I like, but before getting that far, I found Pixlr's new Express and had to give that a go. Now that Picnik is shutting down, I'll have to check out the other free image editors to find a new favourite. So far Pixlr Express seems interesting and I like that it has all the o-matic has but without the hassle of flipping back and forth plus some image editing tools. And you can use multiple overlays, effects and borders -- something I missed using the o-matic. For the rest of the things I want to be able to do with my photos, I'll probably have to check out the Editor -- just having looked at it a few minutes, it looks promising.

First one's my favourite. That's why it's at the top. With the second pic, I used a ripped frame to remove a part of the image I didn't like. With the third pic, I forgot it's a bad idea to add a (toned out) black frame on top of a white one: it turns the white frame grey. Should've done it the other way around. Well, now I'm sure to remember it next time!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Bead blog recap weeks 2-3

It's time for the first recap of my writings at Manekis Pärlblogg for the year. As usual there's everything from project tips to fun websites, but this time with unusually many tips on contests and challenges.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Flower embroidery

Inspired by my "flowering feather stitches" that you could read about yesterday, I stitches a few more lucite flowers last night. This time I just wanted to try a different way of embroidering with centre-drilled flowers and beads. Normally you fasten flowers like this by "locking" it with a seed beads. Thinking about the long stamen you can find on e.g. the delicated little veronicas (speedwell), I thought it might not always be a bad to have thread showing. So I simple tacked it down with four straight stitches between the petals. For the flower at the top, I also added a small french knot to the centre.

I also added leaves to some of the flowers. A stalk of doubled feather stitch for the middle fllower and doubled fly stitches for the flower in the bottom left corner. My favourite is in the bottom right corner. There I added small lazy daisies between each petal.

Going through my flower bead box for additonal flowers to stitch, my eyes fell on my black metal bead caps that I bought to use as flowers rather than caps. Of cause I had to embroider with one of those!

Here I first tacked down the cap using straight stitches between each petal and then I anchored it further by stitching around each petal and then over two petals at the time (resulting in the pentagram/star shape you might see in the middle). To make the centre less hollow, I ended by making a small stitch over the threads in the middle.

The big question now is what to do next, using this technique and : an embroidered piece of jewellery (pendant, brooch, bracelet) or "just" embroideries. It'd be fun doing an embroidery (as in wall art or other kind of work that isn't jewellery/wearable art) with bead cap flowers. A different way of using findings and jewellery components. Maybe a whole piece, embroidering with various findings such as chains, bead caps, tags etc? I just thought of that. Now there's an idea!

So either that or do jewellery, which is what I am -- a jewellery maker (and beader). Perhaps a cute bracelet with lucite flowers and lazy daisy leaves.

Snow day -- and a note on my blog list

It's been snowing today. It just recently stopped. They've promised up to 10 cm today, but as it's very wet it won't be that much left on the ground. But the weather's kept me indoors today. No fun running between houses (i.e. the house where my sis and I lives and the main house where our parents live -- and where I sit using their computer) when you're being "attacked" by big, wet snowflakes. Not even the kittens wanted to be outdoors much today.

Above is a pic I took a few hours ago from my bedroom window. Below is two more I took just recently from the computer room (which has a window I couldn't open). The first one is most recent: the second I took while it was still snowing a little.

The blog list issue

As I'm already writing, I wanted to add a note about the blog list that has disappeared. What happened was I tried to update it, but it didn't work. So I made a new list. It worked, but I'd forgotten some blogs and when trying to add them, it didn't work. So I made yet another list -- and it flat out refuses to be saved. So now I have no blog list, updated or otherwise. Have tried that many times now for a couple of days. Even switching computers and web browser to see if that was the problem, but that had no effect. Not sure what the problem is (listing 187 blogs -- might that be it?) and so far I haven't made an effort to search the help forums or anything. Hopefully it'll resolve itself soon.

If anyone knows how to fix this, I'd love to know!

In the mean time, you can always go to my Blogger profile for some blog tips. It's not all the blogs I read, but many of them.

Friday, 20 January 2012

TAST week 3: Feather stitch

English name: feather stitch

Swedish name: kråkspark

 *UPDATE: I've added some new detailed photos -- and another feather stitch variation made last night*

Feather stitch is another one of my favourite stitches. Not just because of its slightly odd swedish name: kråkspark literally means crow kick. I pretty much like all stitches you "lasso", thread, whip or interlace. And I especially like stitches that have an organic feel, that meaned like vines or make great branches and flowers.

For my first attempt at beaded feather stitch, see this post on my WIP ribbon bracelet. For this week's challenge I only made one beaded version and that was with the 2-hole tila beads (by Miyuki) as you can see in the top right corner of the pic above. Thought the bead would align perfectly with the u-shape of the feather stitches, but you can't really see much of the stitch, working it like this and there's no real benefit to stitching a 2-hole bead this way so it's perhaps more fun than useful. I'm thinking about trying it with PreciosaOrnela's Twin beads too. Because of their shape the stitch might be more visible so to speak.

I've done several "traditional" variations inspired by a embroidery book borrowed from the library. That's the lavender stitches at top. There you can for example see chained feather stitch  (second from the left) and grouped feather stitch.

The sixth and last of the lavender stitches is a basic stitch with a twist. Literally: the stitches are twisted the same way I did with some of the fly stitches here.

I had an idea to make a row with novelty yarn. Eyelash yarn was the idea, but looking at them, I felt it wasn't going to be pretty. So instead my eyes fell on another ball of yarn: Red Heart Aurica. It's just perfect for this stitch!

Then I went on to do some variations including fly stitch (to the right, lower half of the picture). First I added fly stitches to a row of feather stitch, using the same colour for both. For the second row, I added purple fly stitches. The third row is purple feather stitch with a second row of pink feather stitches on top of the first.

The last thing I did was another take on beaded feather stitch, but instead of seed beads I use tiny lucite (acrylic) flowers that I added directly to the stitches. As you can see, I tried to add them both to the middle and on the edge of the stitches. The flowers do end up sitting slightly slanted against the fabric, but if you don't want to add the flowers afterwards and think it takes too long to do, this is an option.

...and that's the result of my third weekly TAST challenge.

Oh, yes -- if you've missed my feather stitch bangle (which I consider part of my challenge result) you can see more of it here.

...aaaand then I went and did this last night. Inspired by the bi-colour (or magical) chain stitch. Same principle, but with feather stitch.

What is TAST?

Take a Stitch Tuesday is a weekly embroidery challenge throughout the year by Sharon of Pin Tangle. You can read more about it here (or by clicking the TAST badge to the right).

To see what others have done in this stitch, check out the comments in this post on Pin Tangle.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Flower vine bangle

If I had to choose one word to describe this bangle it'd be challenge. Not that it was a huge challenge to design and make, but because it is the result of two different challenges.

First, the idea to wrap this wooden bangle base with recycled sari ribbon came from my participating in B'Sue's sari ribbon party blog hop back in October. I'd wanted to do something with wrapped fibre, but in the end, I did something very different from that. But then in December I sat down and wrapped this bangle I bought ages ago intending to wrap it with thread, cord or some such. After wrapping it, I didn't have any ideas for embellishment that felt good enough. Scrapped the idea to use copper wire for example. Thought vaguely about embroidery, but in the end it just sat there in a UFO/project inspiration tray for ages.

Then came 2012 and I had signed up for the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenge. The first week the stitch of the week was fly stitch. This week's stitch was one of my favourites: feather stitch. Inspired by that I made this embroidery using DMC mouliné cotton floss for the feather stitch vine and hand-dyed flower thread (by Tentakulum) for the fly stitch flowers.

Maybe I should've used another hue of green or used flower thread instead of mouliné -- and it's far from the prettiest feather stitches I've ever made -- but I still think it looks ok. And it felt great to finally finish this project!
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