Sunday, 25 May 2014

Organic wrap bracelet (Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge)

Beacause of the time of year, I've not been good at keeping up with the Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge every week. I still have a WIP from the colour palette week, never got far with the redo assignment and the ancient inspiration week never got beyond a few sketches and a favourite civilization. But this week, I felt it was about time to actually start doing something, regardless of potato work. I ended up with a very simple piece, but on the other hand I like simple jewellery -- and it felt like the right style for the brand I chose.

The assignment of the week was to "Create a piece of jewelry inspired by your favorite clothing catalog or online store". Well, I'm not sure I have a favourite. What little money I have, I spend on beads and not clothes. The clothes I shop are mostly affordable basics like tops and cardies. But even if my interest in fashion is lukewarm to say the least, I do have taste preferences and ever since encounting mori kei, I've got a bit of interest in clothes back. Fashion is boring, personal style is fun. So it's finding interesting styles and gets me interested in clothes. Something that's easy to see if looking at my Hair & clothes pinboard (yeah... hair's another thing I'm not much into, mostly because I suck at making nice updos and don't like to spend time curling, straightening, drying etc).

Anyway, for this assignment, I went to my pinboard and started looking through it. What to choose? One of the lagenlook/romantic country inspired brands (Östebro, Aurea Vita, Ewa i Walla, Rundholz, Ivey Abitz etc) as they're so earthy and poetic? Artka for colourful, "ethnic" (yeah, don't like that word but as it's useful...) inspiration? No, in the end I went with a brand that makes nice, simple clothes for every day: Braintree, a brand of organic, ethical clothing.

I wanted to do something that matches summer outfits like this -- and of cause something that'd follow the same ethics as the brand. It had to be organic. Now, I'm embarrassed to say I don't have that much organic stringing materials (not to mention organic floss: do you know how hard it is to find organic or fairtrade cotton embroidery thread??), but I did find a ball of cotton yarn from Marks & Kattens (M&K Eco) which I felt was a good fit for the clothes.

It would've been pretty to finish the simple wrap bracelet off with a shiny metal charm, but I wanted to stick with the theme and go for something more green. Much metal is recycled today, but it wasn't enough for this design. So I went with an old wooden lentil bead. Wood is of cause only green if the forestry is responsible. Still, green enough for this design.

After making the first bracelet, I also made a second using a laser cut birch wood pendant I've had lying around for ages. Thought the motif suited the ideas behind the design.

The design can perhaps be a tad dull, but I'm seeing them as stackable bracelets to be combines with others -- and I had to make due with what I had at home. You take what you have.

Because the bracelets wrap three times around the wrist, they're also a suitable size for a necklace if one wishes to use it that way instead. Perhaps adding charms or pendants according to whatever fits the outfit of the day. One could of cause do that when wearing them like bracelets too if it feels too plain like this.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Review: Albion stitch (books 1 & 2)

It's summer and harvest season and I've been too busy/tired/uninspired to blog much, but now it's high time to post the english version of my review of Heather Kingsley-Heaths books on her albion stitch. Hope you enjoy it and that it'll give you something interesting to read until I get back blogging! And, yes, I hope to have something made in this stitch to show later this summer.

Title: Albion Stitch & Albion Stitch: Book Two
Author: Heather Kingsley-Heath
Publisher and year: The Useful Booklet Company, 2009 & 2010
Number of pages: 64
Summary: An introduction to and exploration of a new bead-weaving stitch created by the author. The books teaches you the basics and many variations of the stitch in 19+21 projects.
Pros: Fun to learn a new, less common technique and seeing how versatile it is. Didactic and inspiring structure with chapters and moodboard pages. Diverse style of the projects and handy spiral spine.
Cons: None.
Recommended for: Seedbeaders who want to learn a new stitch. Both beginners and more experienced beaders can find fun and inspiring projects here.

Off-loom bead weaving is perhaps one of the most interesting beading techniques, or rather group of techniques as the term includes a host of stitches. Some of the stitches are very well known and spread while others are more obscure. Many basic stitches are very old and have independently developed in different parts of the world, but there are also stitches that's been created and developed by single individual in modern times. One example of the latter is albion stitch, which was created by british beader Heather Kingsley-Heath. She has presented her stitch to the beading community through two books: Albion Stitch -- An introduction to the new beadwork stitch and Albion Stitch Book Two -- Developing the new beadwork stitch. As the second books is a direct sequel to the first, I'll review them together.

The books might look little, but don't let size or page numbers deceive you -- these books are packed with technique variations and projects, but also pure inspiration as every chapter begins with a moodboard focusing on colour (book 1) and shapes (book 2). In the first book, the albion stitch is introduced to the beader. First the basics and albion stitch glossary are covered in clear illustrations. After that, you'll find eight chapters, each introducing a new variation of the basic stitch through all in all 19 projects. You'll learn how to make simple changes to the basic technique, vary the length of the stitches, stitch circular and tubular variations, make beaded beads and created curves. If you then want to take the stitch a step further, you continue with the second book, which focus on more dimensional beadwork, including beaded bezels, waves (see book cover above), cubes and containers (bowls, boxes), flowers and leaves and, finally, birds and insects.

Above you can see a (somewhat poorly scanned) picture of the first two pages of chapter six in the first book with the citrus inspired moodboard on the left and introduction to the next step, tubular albion stitch, on the right. Each chapter has its own theme, which set the mood for the projects in it. Both the moodboards and projects are very varied in style and colour combinations, which contributes to making the book such a great read. Unlike some books it's not just variations on a theme when it comes to colour and/or style -- here, you can find everything from brilliant clear colours like about and minimalist projects to neutral palettes and romantic filigree-inspired patterns. Here's pretty much something for every taste.

(In the scanned image, you can also see the clear advantage of spiral-bound books: when you open a page and put it on the table, It'll remain open. No need to hold the pages down to prevent them from slamming shut. Very handy, but not very common in how-to books.)

Now, I often say I prefer technique books to project books, but in this case, the structure of the book, where projects are used to develop the stitch step by step, is so good that I wouldn't want it any other way. On top of that, the above mentioned varied patterns and inspirational pages makes the book not just teach you something new, it also boost your creativity.

I have of cause not tested all the patterns, but so far I've found the instructions easy to follow. In most cases, the text is completed with clear illustrations (in some of the more advanced patterns, partial illustrations are used in a few cases, but on the other hand the text is clear) and the basics are explained in a very clear and educational manner. Because of the structure of the stitch, it needs a partially new terminology -- foundation row, stalk, tip, spacer row, anchor row -- on top of the general bead-weaving glossary. As with all terminology, it can feel like a lot to learn in one go, but if you follow the steps and look a the illustrations you'll soon learn/get used to it. Both books have a glossary in the beginning so you don't need to go back to the first book when reading and making projects from the second one.

So should you buy and read both the books at the same time, you might ask by now. Personally, I really liked having book 2 there when turning the last page of book 1 as the second book focused on the kind of dimensional beadwork I enjoy the most. If you're a beginner at bead weaving, book 1 can be enough, but if you're a more experienced seedbeader you'll probably like to have both books as the second book will provide you with more challenging and exciting shapes. Could an experienced seedbeader perhaps even skip directly to book 2? I don't know as I started with the first books, but as the terminology is covered in both books it'd probably not be impossible.

Regardless if you choose to read only the first book or both, though, I think you'll find it a rewarding read. There are many beadwork stitches and albion stitch was a fun technique to add to the ones I already know. It already has found its place among my other favourites, which I hope it'll now complete well. I thoroughly enjoyed the books and the techniques as an intermediate seedbeaders and I think I'd enjoy it just as much as a beginner. I was itching to pick up my needle and thread after just a few pages!


Footnote: You can buy the Albion Stitch books in some bookstores and bead shops, but the easiest way to obtain the books are probably through the authors website, Heatherworks. There you'll also find patterns and kits, some of which are fully or partially made up of albion stitch.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Captured wishes

The potato season has begun so I'm not blogging much right now, but as I'm prepping some posts for my other blog I might as well show you some recent photos. I keep getting back to romantic/poetic jewellery using dried plant materials and this time it was the "make a wish pendants/necklaces" using dandelion seeds that captured my interest.

I thought it'd be cute to take a photo of the pendants in the grass or, as I ended up choosing, the moss to, but it turned out to be a less that ideal spot for taking photos of glass... Stupid glare...

Well, at least the moss is pretty as always. Had the pendants been filled with anthing more substantial or colourful than dandelion seeds it would also had been less of an issue. (And, yes, I'm going to pretend no one can see the Tack-It I used to keep the brass lid on the glass globe. Didn't want to glue it in place as I will take out the dandelion seeds and replace it with something else, but had to do something to keep the lid from popping of while taking the photos.)

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Playing with a monochrome and neutral palette (jewelry making mojo challenge)

I'm really getting into making long headlines... Anyway, this is some of what I've done this weekend inspired by the Jewelry Making Mojo Challenge assignment of the week, which was working in monochrome.

Now, if someone tells you to work in monochrome would you end up with something as boring as beige as your chosen colour? Surely, neutrals are best when used to enhance a colour, like when combining light grey beads with a turquoise blue focal? It wasn't my plan -- I thought about using blue to challenge myself, then I wanted saturated purples to really temt the eye and then I ended up with beige-brown just because I had to go through my flower-and-leaf-beads box and happened to pick up the zip-lock bag with button flowers... The button flowers just happened to sit so nice between the maple leaf beads in the same colour (as you can see below) and as it fitted the challenge...

Originally I wanted to make a daintier bracelet, just using one flower and a leaf on each side, but then I thought "why not see what it'd look like if I used all the five flowers in the bag?" and that's the point where I got the camera out -- in between baking; if the photos look sloppy it's because I took them while I had cookies in the oven.

This is a WIP. I haven't finished it because I'm trying to find a slightly darker cord (and hopefully a matching clasp, might be a button -- or one of the flower beads if I just had more of them). Then I'll probably knot between the trios of beads instead of using seeds like I've done here.

Just to give you a better idea of what the bead combination would look like with more colour, here are two other variations of it:

(If I'd had purple/lilac maple leaf beads this challenge would of cause have featured the flower below instead of the beige-brown beads. Believe it or not, despite my love of purple, I only own two purple leaf beads -- and they're not the right shape for this.)

I think I'll play around some more with this bead combo, see what I can make from it and perhaps see if it works with other leaf beads too, though of the ones I have I do believe maple leaves are the best option. I'll also do a few dangles with just one leaf below the flower.

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Gifts from the soil -- job benefits and slow jewellery

As I've mentioned on a couple of occasions before, one of the job benefits my sis and I enjoy when working in the potato fields is collecting stones and especially flints. The other day, when removing some of the fiberweb (the white sheets the early potato fields are covered in during spring) I made my best find yet. A flintstone arrow head! It really made my day, I was just so thrilled about it!

Since beginning to collect/hoard flintstones as a kid I've dreamed of finding something like the one and a half axes grandpa found in his fields, but so far I've just found stone and nuggets that, as a layman, I could just guess might've been partially formed by a human hand. This is the first piece I've found that I'm 100 % sure has been formed by man. It was pretty exciting to find, especially since I found it while being busy working and I was so close to not picking it up. Luckily, the unusual rectangular shape and light colour made it stand out and tempt my eyes. I was just pure luck that the edge of the fiberweb stopped just there and that the plowing and digging had unearthed the piece just in time for me to find it.

Now you might say "well, have you reported the find?" I'm very well aware -- and very proud -- of the laws protecting our cultural history, but generally flint items are so common länsstyrelsen in Skåne isn't that interested in single finds like this (I asked them once because of the beautiful stone age axe my grandpa gave me so I'm not just going by hearsay on this). Though I would be interested in contacting someone to learn about the age, use etc of my find. I've seen similar arrow heads that's been dated to the end of the ice age, ca 11-12 000 years old. That's as far back as you can go with artefacts in these areas that used to be covered by the ice sheet.

It isn't a big piece either. I didn't have a ruler nearby so I took a photo of it next to an AA battery for a size comparison:

In other news, I just sowed some jewellery making supplies. Another gift from the soil that I expect later in summer.

No, I'm not being barmy: what I'm talking about is sowing flowers to dry for making cute jewellery. Like this:
(Screen shot of an Etsy treasury I made. Many pieces are sold,
but you can still find what's left of the treasury here.)

I know you can buy dried flowers, but not always the ones you want and buying from a florist or what few commercial cultivators of everlasting flowers there are in the 21st century can be a tad expensive. So I thought I might as well try to sow a few seeds. I'm not useless at gardening, but I'm no expert either. It was dad that was the expert, lovingly caring for an expanding garden -- and teaching us kids the art and craft of it. I haven't cared that much for gardens in years, mainly because I haven't had one of my own where I could do what I wanted.

But this year, I was so inspired by the poetic mori-style jewellery I couldn't keep myself from buying some seeds. Fingers crossed I've got green fingers (or green thumb as some of you say) and there'll be at least a couple of flowers to harvest.

You've heard about slow food and even slow cities, well, I guess this is slow jewellery! I'll take me months to make a simple pendant if counting from yesterday when I sowed the seeds.

If any flowers do seem to be popping up, I'll keep you updated.

And if you wonder about the fiberweb, it's not to keep the soil and seeds warm or anything -- it's mainly an attempt to keep the cats from thinking the newly weeded and raked soil is a big new litter box... Think it'll keep them out? Well, perhaps as long as they don't realise how warm it can be under a sheet like this, or indeed on it. Then they might want to sleep on it instead, something the plants won't like either. Gardening with cats isn't always easy.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Welcome, fair May!

Photo (of the first sunset of May) should be viewed while playing the audio below.

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