This and that

These few days off during the Thanksgiving holidays, I’ve been working on several random projects. The ongoing weaving project will be in an upcoming post.

Next week it’s back to work and clearing the decks of old business before the turn of the year. That means some outstanding jewelry stuff, plus my fall projects and house goals. Start the new year fresh and new set of goals (the standard long term goals, but also very specific goals that I focus on quarterly).

On the jewelry front, did a batch of earrings for a shop. I like to get out little piles of beads within a particular palette and play with them until I’m happy with the combination or the look I’m going for.

Bead piles

I tend to deliberately not do a lot of duplication of identical earrings because it gets boring really fast. I like to just sort of follow my inspiration at the moment. I do have some regular styles I do, but there’s a lot a variation within that style. Below are several earrings I thought turned out especially pretty.

Earring closeup, better

At pottery class, I picked up several items that were done with the final step, the glaze firing, and brought them home. At this stage of things, I’m focusing on learning control throwing pottery on the wheel and experimenting with various glaze combinations. I have a notebook I keep everything in. Pottery has so many steps over many weeks, once more than a few pieces are in process it’s hard to remember what’s where or what you did if you want to reproduce it. So, I write down everything.

These two bowls I threw maybe my second or third week of class. They’re a bit thick, but the walls are nice and even. Will be perfect for soup or icecream. The first small bowl, the picture doesn’t show it great, but it came out kind of a mottled blue-green with bits of brown. Glad I wrote it down since I’ll try this glaze combination again. Glazes can be tricky since how thick/thin or application method can affect them radically, and layering them can be unpredictable since the chemicals will sometimes combine between them in wholely unanticipated ways. This little bowl is a good example of that.

Small bowl

The larger of the bowls, different set of glazes and application method. The black on the outside really traveled (was just around top edge). Notice the carved rings filled with black on the sides? I didn’t do that. It just filled in on its own. Couldn’t have done that if I’d tried. Interesting, huh?

Larger bowl

The small items in my hands are diz, a disk with a hole in the center, and is used as a tool with fiber combs when processing sheep fleece to prepare it for spinning using a drop spindle or my spinning wheel.

Diz set

I’ll do pics of fleece combing some other time. The metal one is explained below. The other two I did in class to see if I could make them out of clay. I put a lot of texture on the outside (showing) and then iron oxide to turn them that leather brown color. The functional surface is actually the inside, concave and smooth glazed to funnel fiber smoothly toward the hole.

Overall, I was experimenting and am pretty happy with the result. The only thing, I was guessing on the hole size. The older metal one has the hole at a size I like. Seeing them all together in the picture, the holes in the clay ones are much bigger. Will see if okay when I try them out. If not, it’s just hardened mud anyway…and back to the drawing board. I’d say they’re a success, but need to test-drive them.

The diz below is one I made a while back in jewelry fabrication class. The back is copper sheet and the design is inspired from a 10th century illuminated manuscript that I had in my sketchbook (in background). I used a jeweler’s handsaw to cut it from thin brass sheet and solder it to the copper. Tricky to get them both hot enough to solder without melting the brass (way less and thinner metal than the copper). I did melt it in one spot, but that’s okay. It was a learning thing.

Diz closeup

I think I have a thing about pretty tools. Tools you use alot should be good quality and enjoyable to both use and look at. Plus, I tend to prefer making pretty but utilitarian things, no matter what the object or medium.

Anyway, I really like that viney motif I did in metal and thought I’d try it in clay. This is a hollow form I threw with extra thick walls so I could carve it. The item is a paperweight or breadwarmer.

Carved clay

I waited until it had dried to leather-hard (not gooey anymore, but still moist and not crumbly). I made a small version of a wire loop tool that I had but needed something more delicate. I took some half-round wire from my stash, bent it, and an old ball-point pen and some super-glue later, the perfect tool! Then, using a point, I lightly free-handed the design, then slowly carved it out using my new improvised tool. Cleaned up the details with my needle tool. If I do much of this, I may try to get a set of wax carving tools from my jeweler’s tool supply.

For a first carving effort, I’m pretty darn pleased with it. Now to let it dry so it can be bisque-fired (first firing to harden it), then to glaze (I’m thinking iron oxide) and fire it again.

Next, I needed to blend some fibers on my drumcarder for an upcoming holiday gift exchange, and also some for me to spin into yarn for a gift I’ll need soon.

This pile of fibers is wool, silk, and mohair from various parts of my stash. The fluffy ropes (“roving”) are technically ready to spin, but they can also be blended together into something new. I want the resulting yarn to be lofty, bouncy, textured, and a little hairy, so that made a difference on the fibers, in addition to the color palette. Also added some metallic sparkle.

Fiber pile

This is the fibers being blended in my drumcarder. This is basically a bigger version of traditional flat hand-held cards, just more volume.

Drumcarder in process

The resulting sheet of layers of fiber is referred to as a “batt”. The most common way to spin it is to tear it into strips, attenuate those, then spin the yarn.

Carded batt

And of course no project is complete without Rory making himself at home. It’s especially enticing if he thinks I probably don’t want him to lay on it.

Rory helping drumcard

‘Round-to-it Day

Every so often, my to do list accumulates with procrastination-prone items, often quick but easy to put off. Well, so last week I had an official ‘Round-to-it Friday where I spent the day knocking out a good chunk of that list.

A lot were things like making calls, getting gum that someone thoughtfully left on the movie theatre seat (thanks!) out of David’s brand new shirt, taking care of some business items, cleaning out the fridge, etc. A few were procrastinated project-related items.

'Round-to-it Day

This is a bunch of handspun yarn drying and waiting to be skeined up. When I finish spinning yarn, I have a basket I toss it in to await the final step, wet finishing. In most circumstances, I squish the yarn around in warm water to thoroughly wet it, squeeze water out, then hang and let dry. That’s how I finish 90% of my yarn.

The idea is that fibers, especially wool, get stretched out and compacted during the spinning process and getting them wet lets them revert back to their natural state. Like human hair, some is straight and some more textured. You could stretch out and flatten curly hair, but get it wet, what’s going to happen? Yup, curly again. Same with wool. If you look at the bottom edge of the skeins, they all came off the niddy-noddy (tool for making large circle if yarn) the same length. See how some have drawn up quite a bit shorter? The tighter the wool crimp (like wave in hair) the more it’ll do that. The majority of the short ones are Merino. The really short blue-green one towards the right is Tunis breed wool, very sproingy (technical term).

Wet-finishing helps the spun yarn look like its true self. Also, since it can change so much, it’s important to do it now instead of make a project that changes dramatically first time it’s washed. Also during wet-finishing, I’m checking to make sure all the dye is fast and I finish rinsing or setting anything that needs it, in case it wasn’t quite rinsed well enough by whoever dyed it. Again, easy to fix now instead of it bleeding dye later on other threads. Also some fiber content needs different handling. Yarn that I’ve deliberately spun very hairy, blends that include angora, or anything that I want to bring out its texture and create that fuzzy halo, I abuse it a bit by whapping it on a hard surface a few times (the wall) to help it bloom.

Some people weight it, I guess to straighten it more, but I’ve found that the water weight is plenty and I want it to draw up however it’s going to. If it were energized singles (kinking back on itself) I might weight that. And weaving yarn wouldn’t matter since could allow for take during the planning process, but since I often crochet or knit with it or don’t have a specific project in mind yet, I don’t want to worry about the yarn changing a lot in a finished project the first time it gets wet.

A while back, I crocheted my Mom a soft yummoluscious throw. I usually take a pic of finished projects and put the pic and the story or details in a journal, sort of like a scrapbook, my style. Anyway, forgot to and eventually borrowed it back and have the picture now.

'Round-to-it Day

About the project, crocheted out of random skeins I collected over time in a color palette I knew she’d like. I deliberately try to collect a dark, medium, and light value, whatever the palette (mostly analogous here), a slightly uncomfortable color (teensy bits of lime green here) to give it pizzazz, some metallic, some shiny/matte/fuzzy/plain. A dark and a light/medium carrier for thin threads and repeated regularly to tie it all together. Usually, can manage all this with approximately 5-8 different yarns. The more the merrier though. I probably have 15-20 in this. It’s a great project for leftover yarn or falling in love with a cool skein and just getting one. My general rule is try to use some stash, buy it on sale or only pay full price on a couple if they’re fabulous (otherwise this can be expensive if buy all from scratch).

'Round-to-it Day

The yarn size is worsted-bulky or combined to equal that size (used size L hook). I chose the open ripple pattern for three reasons. One, the ripple lets the colors optically blend better. Two, with heavy to bulky weight, the open stitch gives it better drape and flexibility. Three, given how many of the yarns are thick, fuzzy, and all acrylic, it would be hot if more solid.

'Round-to-it Day

Another project I’ve got planned for this fall is a piece of stained glass as a housewarming gift for a friend. I made some final design decisions on some of the elements and plan so can get started on this in the next week or two. This is a thumbnail sketch on its page in my journal where I keep notes on all my projects. Never have to wonder what I did with a slip of paper, it’s all in that book.

I already have the glass. It’s going to be peacock blues and greens with copper patina and frame. I wanted build some personal symbology for her into the design. The design is adapted from a Frank Lloyd Wright tree of life motif. It’s a favorite motif of mine I like to use in different mediums, so my stamp, plus she’ll appreciate it. I altered the leaf design to include groupings of three, a larger block to represent her (blue/green mixed glass) and a smaller blue and a green block to represent her two boys.