Sunday, March 29, 2009

Back in Synch

After the last week with no inspiration, or more accurately, flawed inspiration, this week's project fell into place very nicely. I've been thinking about earrings a lot as they seem to be something people are interested in buying. And I needed to do something that was not a new skill to be learned in just a few days.

I've made many pendants using a herringbone bail, and have refined the technique to the point that it looks good and I can create it without too much drama. I have also made several post/hoop style earrings in the past several weeks. These earrings combine the two techniques to create a very simple classic earring, one that I would wear on a daily basis. They are woven in herringbone weave with three wraps between crossings using 28g sterling wire on a 20g sterling core. They have a straight post that hooks into a loop. This creates an earring that sits close to the ear rather than hanging from a wire, and is my all-time favorite type of earring. I wove them flat and then shaped them around a wine cork, making a loop with about a 7/8 inch or 22mm diameter. I find this a nice size to wear -- large enough not to disappear but not so big as to be considered gaudy or inappropriate for work.

This particular pair of earrings is very plain, which I find elegant. My next project will involve experimenting with ways to ornament this pattern. I'm pretty sure I can find some nice ways to incorporate or add crystals or beads to zing them up a bit, for those who prefer a fancier earring.

In case you're interested, the weaving took about 45 minutes per earring and used about 5 feet or 1.5 meters of the fine wire. Because I wanted a seamless finish, I worked with the entire length from the beginning. Yes, it was substantially work hardened by the end of the weaving, thanks for asking. I think it was worth it, though, and I've done enough herringbone to have some tricks to minimize the handling of all but the part of the wire closest to the actual work at any given point. Each earring took 7 inches of the core wire. So the total for the project was 14" of 20g sterling, 10' of 28g sterling, and 2 small silver beads to cover the endings. Total time was just over 2 hours, including shaping the frames, weaving, preparing the posts and smoothing the posts and their ends for comfort.

Because of the computer problems we had -- Augie's computer attacked by evil malware and not yet repaired -- the photo was edited on my little pink computer I'm very pleased with the service so far. I haven't had the time or opportunity to use more than their basic tools, but it looks like there is a lot of functionality there in a friendly format. If I have any complaints, it would be about the speed of working online. On Saturday it was so slow that it was hardly usable, while today -- midday Sunday -- it was quite quick and worked really well.

Thanks for looking at my work. I appreciate any comments or critique you might have.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Running in circles and waving my hands

Did you notice that it is not Sunday any more?? That it is in fact, Thursday? Well, it's been that kind of a week. I had tons and tons of really cool ideas. But the first one, while nice, was sooooo slow that I put it aside for one that was supposedly quicker. It was quicker, all right, up to the point of not working out and turning into a weird mass of tangled wire and beads. So then I tried a fallback that has been in my mind for several weeks, and it came out okay -- not good, mind you, but okay.

So we scanned it and Augie said "OMG the finish is rubbed off all over the work and it looks really bad." I looked at the piece and couldn't see it, but the scan really did look bad. But before I could do anything else, evil malware attacked the big box computer, and I couldn't get to the scan anyway. By this time I was late and cranky and decided to put it out of my mind and post later than normal.

Today, I got out the earrings and Augie got out the camera and took a photo to see if there was any point in trying to salvage them as a YOJ project or if I should just start over yet again. Lo and behold, the picture came out okay, works really nicely as an online editing option, and thank you little pink netbook for working and letting me post.

These earrings are based on Victoria Gould's yarn ball tut, done in 22g niobium. I wanted to learn to do this because I thought they might make extra-cute stitch markers. These are the 5th and 6th tries to get a nice shape, and I need a bunch more practice to get them nice enough to suit me. I have enough wire to do that. They are kinda cute, I guess, and I did start to learn a new element, so the week is not a total waste.

Meanwhile, the box computer will be carried off to the gurus to be cleansed and we will be relying on the netbook for computing for the next while. Fortunately, even if we develop wireless problems, there are a Subway and 2 Starbucks in east walking distance so I should be able to stay in touch. And my project for this week is one that I KNOW works.

I love to get your comments. Thanks for looking.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Online in Pink

I said that as soon as I was able to get online with the little computer I'd post a review of sorts. I am now online and here it is. Bear in mind I've only had the computer about a week, so I haven't had a chance to try out every little thing it can do, but I've tried out a lot of things and it has impressed me in every case.

The computer is an Acer Aspire in the 8.9" size with the 6 cell battery. It is really small and lightweight even with the large battery. I'd say that more than 6 hours of battery life (yes, I tested that right away) is worth the small increase in weight. It will still fit comfortably into my purse or any of the totes or briefcases I might want to use.

For all its small size, however, the screen is really easy to read and look at. I've discovered that it makes an outstanding PDF reader, both for stories and articles and for tutorials. Imagine being able to open a jewelry tutorial, set it beside your lapdesk, and go to work without having to print it out. No piles of paper, no pages to get messed up, no losing your place, it's all right there, easily navigated and ready whenever you need it.

The keyboard is small, too, and I am having a bit of a learning curve getting to the point that I'm not tripping over my own fingers. However, I think that a few more days of typing on this machine will be enough to take care of that. I'm already noticing an improvement.

The big challenge for me is the trackpad. Again, it's a matter of lack of experience. Although I used a laptop extensively when I was working, I nearly always used a mouse, so I don't have much practice using the touchpad. From other reviews I have read, that may be a blessing since I understand that the Aspire touchpad is set up a bit differently from the standard. In any case, I'm also improving at that, and don't think it will be a problem for long.

Although it came preloaded with a trial of Microsoft Office and of course with Internet Explorer, I loaded Firefox and Openoffice cuz that's the kind of gal I am. Installation was quick and easy. I put all the stuff I won't be using into a folder on the desktop and will uninstall when I'm sure I've made the right decision. I had no difficulty setting FF and OO as the defaults, either. I was also able to import my bookmarks from our other computer. The only very minor inconvenience will be teaching Firefox my passwords, and that will just happen as I use the various sites.

Finally, did I mention that my very own personal netbook is pink? It could be Breast Cancer Awareness pink if I am feeling high-minded, or it could be Pink Cadillac pink if I'm feeling retro, or it could be Barbie pink if I'm feeling all lipstick feminist, or it could be rhodochrosite pink if I'm in jewelry design mode, or it could be Invisible Pink Unicorn pink except for the Invisible and Unicorn parts. Which shall it be today? You'll only know if I tell you.

In fairness, there are a couple features that bother some people. Mainly, it doesn't have a CD/DVD drive. Since I'm not particularly interested in looking at movies on this computer and since I probably won't be installing much more software, that is not a particular drawback for me.

Anyway, I really like this computer a lot. Every little thing about it has performed better than I expected. If you don't mind not being able to play CDs or DVDs without a separate drive, I would give this an unconditional recommendation. Besides, it's pink. Did I mention that?

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Beaded Bead, in a way

This week, I have been a little pre-occupied with my new tiny pink netbook. Since I was laid off, Augie and I have been taking turns on the computer, and it has been getting old for both of us. We had been talking about getting a laptop for me before September, but put it off as an unnecessary expense for several months. But when it became apparent that the Acer Aspire was a really powerful little computer with just exactly the features I would use the most, we decided it would be an acceptable investment. That it was available in pink is just icing on the cake.

You all know how it goes when you get a new computer, though. It might have everything pre-installed and ready to go, but there are always a bunch of things you have to adjust to get it to the way you like your computer to be. So I've been spending a fair amount of time fooling around with the netbook, not to mention being distracted trying out different new things. It's just about perfect now, but we're still working on getting the ethernet/wireless modem set up, so I'm still blogging on the desktop. I'm hoping my next blog entry will be posted from the new computer, and I'll tell you more about how I like it so far (spoiler alert: I really like it a lot).

Meanwhile, back at YOJ, I had some 18g 8mm rings in a tin. I have no idea why I would ever have cut rings with that large an aspect ratio, because they are far too weak and unstable for any normal chainmaille use, but I had a small tin of them and an idea. What if I used basketweave to make a barrel-shaped beaded bead? Perri and Iza have used a similar idea with coils, why wouldn't discrete rings work, too? So I pulled out the 28g wire and some #11 seed beads and started. I used 6 of the rings and added three rows of beads, starting with the third row. Once I got the hang of anchoring the ring at the beginning of the row, using a pin to maintain spacing between the rings, and dealing with the seams, it worked well. This one is simply slipped onto a twisted cord. I'm thinking of making several thinner ones, two or three rings with a single or double row of beads, and stringing a group of them onto a soft ribbon that would puff out between them.

Thanks for looking, and please feel free to comment or critique.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Something for me

I have a wonderful friend, Cathy, who always knows just the right thing to cheer a person up. Last year she surprised me with a gift certificate to Bodacious Beads, which is a very nifty bead shop in the Chicago Suburbs. It has all sorts of wonderful stuff, great staff, and at the time was on my way home from my then-job. On another hand, I've been in the Lyndon Glassworks Bead of the Month Club for a few years. At first I got seed beads, then fringe and trim beads, and finally I switched to their Swarovski option. Each month they send me an assortment of Swarovski crystals, different sizes, shapes and colors.

How do these relate? Well, BOMC sent 6 Palace Green Opal 8mm cubes, and I was blown away. They were SO beautiful. But what to do with only 6 of them? I didn't want to make earrings, and wasn't overwhelmed with any of the other ideas I had, so I put them away and looked at them from time to time. Fast forward to me at Bodacious Beads, looking for something not for my jewelry to sell, but for myself. There in the bins were all sorts of Swarovski crystals. And at the back of the table, there were the 8mm Palace Green Opal cubes. They were pricey enough that I probably wouldn't have stretched my budget for them, but my friend meant for me to have a gift, and this was the nicest gift I could imagine at that moment. So I bought enough more of them to make a mosaic pendant, and this week I finally took the time to make it.

I've been developing this pendant design for a while, long enough that I consider it one of my signature pieces, and I've made it in a number of different materials. The basic idea is using the silver wire frame as a loom and setting the beads using the techniques of loom beading. I string the beads on very fine softflex -- if I were using glass beads with a larger hole, fine would be small enough, but the holes in these crystals are small and the edges are sharp enough to scrape the coating off the softflex if it is too heavy. The warp threads are the same 28g sterling that I used to coil over the 20g frame. Once the beads were in place, I coiled the frame, going right over the softflex where it crosses the frame. Then I added a second layer to the frame with a 2mm sterling bead every fourth wrap. (That completely covers and smooths over any lumpiness that the loom technique left behind.) And finally, I folded the end into a bail that I covered with herringbone weaving and bent it into shape over a 7.5mm mandrel.

The sides of the square are about 1" each. In addition to the 16 beads, this used about 12 inches of 20g sterling, 12 inches of softflex, 60 of the little silver beads, and about 16 feet of 28g sterling wire. So you can see that if you use less expensive beads, it isn't a particularly expensive project to make. It's a bit fiddly, and there are times when it feels like you need three or four hands to get everything in the right place, but by this time I've made quite a few loom-woven pendants and many, many herringbone bails, so it is a comfortable project for me to do.

I'm particularly proud of this one because it really has benefited from all the practice and is as close to perfect as I am likely to get. And since the beads were a gift, this one is not for sale. It's mine, all mine. In fact, I'm wearing it right now :-)

See you next week, and thanks for looking. Please feel free to comment or critique.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Things I learned this week

Here are some things I learned this week:
  • There is a reason I made the switch from bead-weaving to wire.
  • In the time I spent making an 8-inch choker-width length of RAW, I could have made an entire byzantine neckchain AND a nice focal.
  • Toho beads are much less regular than Miyuki beads.
  • Still, RAW is appealing and I'll finish the piece I started, just a bit at a time.
So, Friday evening I decided that I would have to make something entirely different for this week's YOJ. I decided I could do an interrupted byzantine bracelet with Swarovski accents and it would be okay.

That night I had a dream that I was making a pendant using a black disc bead and some little sparkly hex delicas in a mixture of colors, kind of Mardi Gras in feeling. A cat licked my face. I woke up and thought about it, and realized that the design would absolutely work. I thought about it some more so I would be able to start right away in the morning, and when I went back to sleep, dreamed about it some more.

On Saturday morning, all I had to do was find the disc bead. It was one I had received as a bonus (free! if you use promotion code!) when I had ordered from an online supplier, and I was afraid I had not put it in a logical place. After a bit of looking, I found it, and then I got to work.
  • Made a tiny bit of bead soup from hex delicas.
  • Mounted the bead in a coiled frame.
  • Worked net bezel as done by a drunk spider, adding and weaving through the beads randomly.
  • Added a row of the sparkly beads around the edge.
  • Made a hidden bail.
So, here it is. Augie thinks the beads look like germanium diodes, and he says that he keeps trying to figure out what the circuit would be. I think it looks like a high-tech amulet -- you know, the kind you touch and it begins to glow and pulse and then maybe it transports you or something else remarkable. Or like it could be activated by a sonic screwdriver. Not the ominous kind, though.

Anyway, technical details -- the bead was labeled "gemstone shape" but it sure looks like glass to me, and has a large regular hole, so I'm guessing black glass, especially since it was free. It's an inch across, about 1/4 inch thick. The core wire for the basketweave is 20g soft sterling, the wrapping and netting are 28g sterling. The sparkles are Miyuki #11 delicas and hex delicas, all either transparent or silver-lined so they are extra sparkly. For something done at the last minute from a design that came to me in a dream, not bad at all.

Your comments and critiques are always welcome. Thanks for looking.