just made new pearl earrings

So I actually have something to write about here?!

I wasn’t even thinking of blogging about it as I was doing it, but I now have a new pair of pearl earrings.  I haven’t yet signed up with an image-hosting service, so I’m afraid you can’t see them (;D) …nor do I really feel it would be wise for me to show them to you…but basically they’re a work in gold-fill, blue crystal, and two colors of pearls.

One of them has a kind of kinked loop in one of the dangles (I wire-wrapped all of the loops, including the ones which held other loops, which led to a slip), which the perfectionist in me says I would want to rework if I were going to sell them.  My better sense says to leave it as it is and it’s unlikely anyone will notice.  :)  The minute amount of greater diameter in the kinked loop makes one of the earrings very, very slightly longer than the other.  Like less than a millimeter longer.  But I’m very attentive to detail, and to be honest, I’m probably not going to have my head perfectly level all the time anyway.  (That…doesn’t sound right…)

One of the things I noted to myself is that using higher quality earwires really shows.  Since I took out my CBRs, I’ve mainly been wearing two different pairs of earrings, both of which are warm tone.  I can actually see that the earwires are cheap, in those.  It isn’t so bad with the crystal set, but when the earwires are totally plain, and it’s next to something relatively plain like Cloisonné, I notice.

I’ve also noticed that my more successful designs are made using natural materials, metal, and crystal.  I have a lot of glass — I started out on the jewelry-making thing as a shiny-hoarding teen — but the colors in glass tend to be less intense (or just not to match clothing), if we take the whole spectrum into account.  In addition, the fire in glass is less intense than in lead crystal, CZ, or natural stones (compare a rhinestone to cubic zirconia and you’ll see what I mean); and the results with glass tend to have a more gaudy, “costume jewelry” type effect.

Not to mention that glass often can be poorly drilled; so in the past when I’ve tried using, say, cobalt blue cube beads, one could really see where the drill-hole was, because it was the site of whitish discoloration caused by fragments of glass left in the hole.

I should say that I don’t have a lot of experience with lampwork beads, though I have run across some which set off my “shiny” meter.  Thing is that I’ve learned to try and avoid buying beads of which I have no immediate ideas for use.  I learned that after about a decade of collecting beads; I’m now about 15 years in.

Anyway.  Since my designs largely tend more toward “classic” type stuff, having focal pieces which are natural tends to play down the “costume jewelry” effect that can come with using cut or pressed glass as focals.  Stone is good because it’s subdued and subtle — it doesn’t call a lot of attention to itself, but it can still make glass look really bad if you pair them haphazardly.

Stones — especially the veined or mottled or included ones like jasper or agate — most of the time, look very refined in comparison to glass.  At least, in comparison to transparent glass.  I believe this is at least in part due to the complex and fine nature of the process the stone went through to form.  (I am, however, learning to stay away from transparent and weakly-colored materials generally, and this is mostly because they get washed out on me.)

And though I’ve seen some faux pearls which are very attractive, most of the time it’s apparent when a pearl is real and when it is not — a real pearl will have a rainbow-like sheen which a faux one won’t.  Even the best faux pearls — or the ones I like best, anyway — tend further towards the “metallic” end than cultured freshwater ones (which, I’m guessing from the price, are the ones I’m getting).  After having seen a lot of real and faux pearls, I can now kind of tell this way.  (That’s not to say that faux pearls are necessarily bad.  I think there is a time and place to use the high-quality faux pearls over nacre pearls.  I’d just not assume they were interchangeable.)  I can also, now, tell something of the quality of a nacre pearl by its sheen, iridescence, and reflectivity.  It’s one of the reasons I’m reluctant to buy pearls online — I have little idea what I’m getting, and cultured pearls vary widely in their quality.

I hadn’t been thinking of getting focal pieces like natural-crystal briolettes for earrings, until I made this last pair and saw how well they turned out.  Well, I also have a pair utilizing natural-stone briolettes, which also turned out really, really well, despite their simplicity.

So I may be out buying crystals soon to make another pair, although making earrings is clearly a “want” and a hobby, not a necessity.

I want to do more work in cooler tones, as this is the only pair I have in gold-fill wire which is not somewhere in the very warm range.  Though I also know I want to experiment with an orange-blue pairing as well.

I should also note:  24-gauge dead soft wire is really soft.  It’s what I had on hand for these earrings, and I was almost unprepared for the way the wire deformed so easily.  I should probably stiffen it a little next time.

One more thing:  I’m thinking about adding micro-macrame to my list of skills, but as of yet I have not tried this.  I think the biggest things holding me back are having to get a macrame board, having to find beads with large holes, and having to find tools with which to burn the ends of nylon cord.

beading, fabric

From steel to gold

I finally did it.  I made the jump.

I now have my own handmade gold-filled earrings in place instead of my surgical steel Captive Ball Rings.  And they don’t feel bad, either.

Looking back on it, within the past couple of days I had tried to reach a compromise between having the thick steel rings in and having more decorative jewelry in, by making small loops of Ultrasuede, wrapping the loops around the CBRs, and hanging dangles off of the bottom parts of the Ultrasuede.  It didn’t work, and this is mostly because the Ultrasuede frays too much.  As I was whipstitching the tiny bits of it, I saw that it wasn’t going to work; the threads of the Ultrasuede were sticking out beyond the stitching.  Maybe it would work better if I cut the material on the bias or something, but really I think I’ve given up on that.  :)

There is the option of using real leather, but I do not look forward to that for a few reasons:

1) It’s not hygienic.  It can’t be easily cleaned, and this matters if you have piercings.

2) I’ve heard of people with nickel sensitivities having allergic reactions to leather.  I know I have a nickel sensitivity, and I don’t want to risk sensitizing myself to leather.

3) If that weren’t enough, it’s difficult to sew (and I don’t want to ruin my milliner’s needles by trying to punch through suede).

There are a set of pearls which I obtained last month which I am now ready to make into earrings.  They’ve just been sitting around resting on 24 gauge gold-filled wire.  Even if I do mess up an expensive head-pin or two…I can still work on them, and at least I’ll finally be able to wear them.

Do I lose street cred because I took out my heavy-gauge earrings?  ;D  (I suppose the blessing is that I didn’t stretch my piercings to the stage where it would be difficult to go back.)

I have more to say, but it’s on a different topic, so I’ll put it in a different entry.

beading, fiber arts

knitting and unused beads :o

So I’m getting more into knitting, now!

It isn’t as hard as it was before.  I haven’t made anything to wear yet — I’m in the process of making a series of swatches with different stitch patterns.  :D  In cheap yarn.  But I guess that is what cheap yarn is good for.  ;)

I did go to the store and got a new tiny pair of scissors (I lost the old ones) and some tags to label my swatches with.  ^_^  I’m proud of myself.  Even though I haven’t made any clothing yet, I’m still learning, and that’s the part that I think my brain craves.

While I was out getting the embroidery scissors (which I want to make a leather pouch for so I can take them places with me) I did also check out a number of different natural-fiber-based yarns.  I’ve been to a number of different yarn stores recently, enough to know that it’s entirely possible to overspend on yarn and then not have enough for a project.

I’ve learned from the bead stores — get a project in mind before buying materials for it.  In December I spent over $100 on beads.  That’s really too much.  And I haven’t been beading since New Year’s; the beads are literally just sitting on my desk getting dusty.

I really should get back into that.  But I’ve had other priorities.  At the least, I should put them away if I’m not going to play with them.  Bracelet v. 2.0 has been put on hiatus because the restringing showed me that I’d need some 4mm bicone crystals in a color I don’t have.  (This is the bracelet where I’m replacing the Alexandrite 6mm Swarovskis with Montana Blue 6mm Swarovskis.)  The project on indefinite pause on my desk is something that I’m trying to assemble out of a range of greens and soft violets, though I was interrupted in that by a friend’s arrival, and haven’t been back to it since.

I did note though…I have some smooth peridot lentils which are much more glittery than the glass beads I have.  Their refractive index must be higher than that of glass.  Possibly higher than that of lead crystal…

And while I’m at it I should note that I now have violet-opal and periwinkle (and pale green!) “Baby Bells” for a necklace that I can make in a modified Biva chain…which could be cool.  “Baby Bell” is just what my local bead store calls a very tiny Czech pressed glass flower bead; it’s kind of shaped like a bell.  They’re quite inexpensive.

Next time I do a Biva chain though…I want to increase the number of leaves on it.  But, I’m not entirely sure how I’d do this and still keep the leaves attached to each other.  I could have them at right angles to each other…but no, that won’t work…as I have to attach the flowers, too, and I can’t anchor those if the flowers aren’t beaded.  Free-floating leaves?  If I make many, maybe I could pull it off.  I wonder what it would look like if I attached the stems to each other at the bases…kind of spiralling around?

beading, fiber arts

Day before Xmas Eve rush

Well, Bracelet 1.0 is out.  If I wrote what the reaction was to it, it would probably sound like bragging, but I got invited to make more jewelry and sell it to her.  Well, maybe I can write a little…the recipient was showing it to everyone in the office.  :)  I probably shouldn’t post more lest I make myself and her identifiable.

Let’s see.  I’m about to finish the ribbed scarf for Xmas.  I went back and tightened the crimp beads on G-M’s bracelet…M’s necklace is done.  S’s bracelet is restrung and ready to go (though I wish I  hadn’t cut the tail end of thread so close to the knot).

What needs to be done:

1) weave in ends on ribbed scarf

2) wrap gifts!  May need to find boxes for jewelry, I don’t know where.  Maybe I can make origami envelopes for them, but that won’t stop them from being crushed, unless I use really sturdy paper.  I should check online.

E’s stuff should be easy enough to wrap; A’s stuff can also be wrapped easily.  I should start on that.  B’s stuff still needs to be delivered.

After I finish weaving in these ends I can help with the cooking, though I do want to catch up on my kanji book.

beading, fiber arts

Xmas crafts

So I started making a scarf for my dad for Christmas.  I ended up using Lion Brand Wool-Ease because I knew it could be machine-washed, and I knew it was available.  So far I’m liking it, but then I’m a tactile kind of person and it feels nice in the hand.

I went on Ravelry and looked in the comments on Wool-Ease — a lot of people say it pills, which could be an issue with this yarn, because it’s a ribbed scarf pattern.  But I’m guessing that if it’s shaved in the short direction along each row, it should be ok.

As an added point, I also looked around the Yarn section for superwash worsted wools that wouldn’t be scratchy.  The two I looked at — Cascade and Swish — both had comments that they either pilled and/or felted with washing.  So…maybe it wasn’t such a bad buy.

Can you believe that I only got the yarn 4 days ago?!  The scarf looks like I’ve been working on it much longer.  It’s a very simple pattern made with single crochet — you just work into the back loops only.

I found out that I’d been starting my first rows wrong — I’m supposed to put the hook under the V, not under the “top two” loops, which of course varies depending on how you’re holding the chain.  This is where Maggie Righetti’s _Crocheting in Plain English_ saved me from confusion.

Other than this…I’ve completed a lot of jewelry for Christmas.  I should really photograph what I’m going to give away so that I have reference photos in case I want to re-create what I’ve made.  Or, in case I want to study them to see what went right with them.

I’ve already made a bracelet version 2.0, based on one I made for the Secret Santa thing.  I’m going to have to make it 2.1 soon — I used a purple Swarovski for the center, bordered with Violet and Alexandrite Swarovski crystals.  The thing is that my skin washes out pale colors, and the purple next to what are essentially tints makes the center of the bracelet stark.   I’m going to replace the Alexandrite with Montana Blue and see where that takes me.  I’m hoping it won’t wash out the Tanzanite colored crystals, but I think it will…so there may be a version 2.2.  :)  If there is a 2.2, I want to use something more like a Capri Blue.

EDIT:  I should note here that the bead store I normally go to has started stocking “Turkish Silver” in their metals collection.  I looked up “Turkish Silver” online and apparently it’s an alloy of silver and cadmium, from the one source I viewed.  If you’ve worked with pigments, you know that cadmium is highly toxic, and cadmium oxides — as used in Cadmium Red, Orange, and Yellow — can be absorbed through the skin.  (Cadmium Red Hue, etc., on the other hand, denotes that a synthetic pigment was used to mimic the warm tones of cadmium oxides, and they’re normally safe).

I’m just hoping that anything that contains cadmium (or “Tibetan Silver” [which may not be mainly silver]), or any of these other alloys with potentially toxic metals (lead, antimony, etc.) are labeled so we know what may be hazardous.  Unfortunately, I don’t think there’s a law in place that says that producers of metal must disclose when the metals are hazardous to health, in jewelry — despite the fact that this stuff is made to be worn next to skin.

I wanted to note that down to myself just in case I forget why it was that I was hesitant to use the base metal clasp in one of my bracelets.


I really don’t know why I named this blog what I did

(Well, that’s only kind of true.)

It would make more sense if I actually knew how to make mokume gane, for example. Then there would be marbled gold! There! Nice, clean, right? Heh.

I mentioned in my “About” page that I’d be linking this blog to Ravelry, and, well, I may be saying too much, but without Ravelry, this blog wouldn’t exist. I’ve gotten into fiber arts recently, and it’s my new “thing”. Yeah, I know. How quickly we go through new “things.” But hopefully, I’ll be able to make some beautiful, functional stuff. (As opposed to just, “beautiful.”)

I had been questioning whether I wanted to go into metalsmithing and the like — to make jewelry, understand. It isn’t seeming like that great of a career path, right now. :) One tires of making the pretty things which don’t do anything but look pretty, I suppose. I dunno. Maybe I can post photos of my jewelry sometime in the future. Maybe it will help me move forward in continuing to make more.

(As it is, I just bought eight bobbins of multicolored Nymo B which are sitting unused! -_-; Gah.)

Well, I guess Nymo is better for me than Silamide…

Yeah, you can tell where this is going, huh? Bet there will be jewelry images coming. Even if I don’t intend it. They will just migrate to the computer. ^_^ Oh, oops. Did I just click that camera button?