Sunday, February 28, 2010

How to cover a pen in Polymer Clay

Anyone who's actually looked at my blog in the last month or so should have seen the "quill" I made for Thad for his 9th birthday. Basically, I attached a huge feather to a pen that I covered in clay.

As I made that pen, I took pictures and had intended to make a tutorial. I'm a bit late-ish, I suppose. But hopefully this here hugely helpful tut will get you to covering your own pens in no time!!!!

This is what you need to do if you're covering your pen in a sheet of clay. There's a slightly different approach taken for covering a pen in slices of cane. I really, really love this method, though, because you can make your own kind of polymer clay cloth out of mokume gane or mica shift or old cane bits that were too small to make anything impressive (or so you THOUGHT). To make your own clay "cloth", just get a sheet rolled in your pasta machine on the thickest setting. Lay can slices and strips of old effects, skinner blends, etc, over the top, running it through the machine on the thickest setting every now and then to get it even. Don't worry if you distort right now. Once you're ready and happy with your sheet, roll it through the machine on the next thinnest setting, first rotating your piece 90 degrees. Keep doing this rotation as you go down in settings. I like covering my pens in a sheet that is rolled from either the second or third thinnest setting.

Or you can use a plain sheet as I did here and cover in PearlEx and all of that...

Anyway, to get started you need a plain ol' cheap-O Bic pen, just like the one in the picture below.

Pull just the gold part of the ink out with your pliers. This part needs to be pulled out before baking. Apparently the ink can explode if you leave it in there while you bake. This is potentially fun, I suppose, but I still haven't tried it yet. The absolute bonus of this is the fact that your covered pen is refillable! When you run out of ink, simply pop the gold ink part out and put a new one in from another pen. Perpetual pretty pen! Posh perfect pizazz! Alliteration! Yay!

This part is only if you want to stick something in the end, okay? Line up the ink with the pen, keeping the gold tip where it would be if it were IN the pen, like I did below. Mark where on your pen the ink ends. Measuring from the edge of the pen to the mark, this is how long you can cut your thingie that you're sticking in there: a feather, artificial flower, whatever. If you're doing a beaded tassel (I'll describe later), this isn't that big of a deal, but it's still good to be familiar with what space you have when you're done with your pen.

Using a vice and a 1/16" drill bit (or a hex shaft one that you stole from your husband long ago, like I'm doing here), hand drill a hole in the end of the pen as much in the middle as you can. Unless you're SUPER good with a drill, you should do this by hand. Or else you'll get off center. Or drill straight through the side of your pen. Or your finger. Bloods is not good. Whether this is something that could actually happen or not, I don't know. Power tools and I don't really mix too well... I think all of creation shudders just a bit every time I use my Foredom or my torch. My angels don't get bored. I'll just say that and leave it there.

Once your hole is drilled (if you're planning on putting something in the end... if not, then skip that step), prep your sheet of clay. Make it very slightly wider than the pen, but not too much. You only need about 1"-1.5" or so to wrap around your actual clay. Push the clay up against the pen (it sticks so well, so no Sobo! Yay!) and gently and as evenly as possible, roll the pen forward on the clay. Roll back once the first edge hits the clay below and look at the little line it made on contact. Cut just barely before that line, towards the pen.

Finish rolling, super carefully, trying your hardest not to trap air bubbles (it's not nice--they get mad when you heat them up and their last act of defiance is to leave a huge lump in your finished piece, marking forever where they were imprisoned). If you have a small line of white like in my pen below, don't fret. Just roll the pen back and forth a bit on your surface (I've discovered that using an acrylic sheet for this part is AWESOME). The air bubbles make themselves known in this step, so even if you don't get white, still roll a bit. If you see one, just cut into the clay and push gently all around the bubble, towards the middle, to coax the air out. Once it's sealed again, it should be fine. Keep rolling, making sure that all of the air bubbles have been released (what did they ever do to you?) and then proceed with the next step.

The end where the pen goes is the most frightening, so we'll start with that one. Wrap the clay snugly around the black nib all the way around, noting the overlap. It will be a triangle shape.

Slice along the edge of that overlap, removing that triangle wedge of clay. When you push the clay back down against the black, you should see the edges meet. Roll this edge gently between your fingers. Prop the pen, black part down, onto your work surface and roll just on that part. You'll end up making a big circle with the pen as you roll that piece of the pen. Put it back on your work surface, flat, and roll it that way. Roll with your fingers at the place where the white and the black meet. Once everything is all smooth and nice, pull the excess clay slowly and carefully all around where the hole is. Pull the clay to the middle of the hole, pushing with your fingers on the outside edge to cut the clay right off of the edge. This gives you a perfect edge around the hole of your pen. If it doesn't make sense now, just do it. It makes more sense once you start making it.

Now the back... After everything has been all rolled and smoothed, pull at the edges of the back of the pen, towards the middle just like for the hole, until you end up with something that looks roughly like this:

Either use a small circle cutter about the size of your pen (this Kemper one works PERFECTLY) to cut out a circle or make a small ball of clay and flatten it on your work surface until it is about the same size as the end of the pen, then pull it off with your tissue blade and proceed. Set the circle on the end of the pen as shown below and begin to gently smooth the seam downward all around. In the picture you can see that I've begun the smoothing process, but haven't finished it.

When you're finished smoothing (how pretty!), re-poke the hole if you have one. As you were working with the end, you should have seen the indent show up. If not, gently press with your thumb on the end piece of the pen and you should see it show up, then you'll know where to poke!

Stick a bamboo skewer or a long, thin knitting needle, or something, into the pen and stroke the entire thing with your hands to remove the last of seams and fingerprints. It helps to stroke it a bit with water sometimes, to get it extra, extra smooth, especially if you're doing a finish like PearlEx and will not be sanding it later.

Set the pen, using the skewer, onto your surface. From this point on, you should try your hardest not to touch the pen with your fingers anymore. Spread the PearlEx, if desired, with a soft paintbrush until you get a good coating.

Slip the pen back on your skewer and rub the entire pen again with the PearlEx on there. Your hands will get messy. Wear the mess with pride, my artiste sister/brother! This pushes the PearlEx into the clay and also serves to smooth it out even more. Put the pen back onto your work surface if desired and create decorative grooves. Use a needle or a knitting needle or something long and thin to make the marks. Start on one spot, keeping your tool as perfectly at a 90 degree angle as you can to your piece (perpendicular perfection!) and roll back and forth, maintaining the angle, to create the ridges.

When finished, pick the whole thing up and bake on a bed of polyester fiberfill for the recommended amount of time by your clay manufacturer. (Usually 275 for 25 minutes or so)

Let it cool. Sand and buff if it's plain (your fingers will thank you... a perfectly sanded and buffed pen is almost pure sin to write with, or pure heaven, I suppose) or cover any finishes with varnish. I chose the DuraClear satin varnish since I didn't want it TOO shiny. You can pick this varnish up really cheap in the acrylic paint section of most craft stores.

When finished, prep your feather or whatever, if desired. Squish the ends if you need to. Put a dollop of hot glue at the end of your pen and shove the item through the glue and into the hole. Sprinkle the hot glue with glitter while it's still hot to finish it more, if you desire. That feather is IN there.

To make a beaded dangle: After everything is prepped and baked, make a headpin for a smallish bead that will fit through the black tip hole of the pen without slipping through the end hole, of course. (Bend about 1/16" of the wire end back on itself and slide a bead on, leaving a long tail of wire to fish through the entire pen.) Put the wire through the pen until it comes out of the hole, pull taught against the bead inside (this bead will be forever hidden inside your pen, so make sure you don't care too much about it, or that it's your absolute favorite as it has been given the honor of being your secret treasure bead inside of your pen) and slip other beads or do a wrapped loop at the end of the pen and dangle more beads off.

If any of these instructions used terms you weren't familiar with, then Google is your friend. Look up "how to do a wrapped loop" or whatever and you can find instructions that are probably much better than the ones I could provide here.

Hopefully this inspires some people to do some March National Craft Month stuff!!! I can't wait. 31 days of crafting!! I'm going to participate with relish.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Secret Polymer Clay Experiments!

I posted yesterday on Facebook that I was doing secret polymer clay experiments. I never know what will get comments. I got a lot of comments. I'll have to post these there, too.

But first I'll post them for my tiny blogger public.

My secret experiment revolved around setting jewels in polymer clay in such a way that mimics the way most jewels are set into metal--with an open back so that all of the colors can show through!

Here are three pendants I finally managed to make yesterday with the technique I finally figured out after 2 days of playing with ideas: (Thankfully I only wasted two jewels in all of these attempts.)

These were set into black clay and I added PearlEx after. Notice how the clear jewels still look clear and the green and red ones still look green and red! YEEEEEEEE!!!!!! Here's the back:

I'm seriously trying to decide what I'm doing about this. I might make it my next article submission for PolymerCafe magazine. Or I can hoard my secrets until I die which is morbid and not very fun.

Probably the actual course of events will unfold like this: I'll show everyone in the Arizona Polymer Clay Guild how to do this and then if enough people seem to think it's awesome, I'll try submitting an article. You know, I'm not good at hoarding ideas. It started 9 years ago or so when I first started my jewelry making journey. I was tempted to hide the things I came up with, but the stress was so much. I prayed about it and reached the inevitable conclusion: Either I can be generous and God will bless me for it (with NEW ideas!), or I can be stingy and He'll decide to stop blessing me with more ideas. An unstopped pipe allows a greater flow, right? He's never let me down yet.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

For the love of Bead Caps!!!

I was looking around Etsy this last week, one of my favorite things to do when I want some new ideas. (It's seriously better than most magazines... the things people are doing!) To find some really quality pieces, I like to follow the network of favorites. I check for people who favorite my shop, then check them out, and check out their favorites and so on and so forth. It's a great way to be introduced to some of the most quality work out there! If you don't have an Etsy shop, just find a seller you really love, check their favorites, and go from there.

I'm a weird, weird person. This goes without saying. Especially if you have any actual face to face contact with me. I'm such a weird combination of things... I'm totally right brained, yet very analytical and precise, which tends to be more associated with left brained things. I like to break things down piece by piece and figure them out. I like to visually demolish things and figure out why I like this or that, or why I dislike another thing. It's an exercise I constantly participate in to hone my design skills and to practice my own mental visualization. I can so concisely form these images in my mind, it's like Tony Stark's computer in IronMan. The process I go through looks something like this: I look at an object and break it, in my mind, into its elements. I mentally remove certain elements to see if it still looks good and even add others to see if that makes it look better. I can do this for a long time, staring at a piece, until I come to the conclusion of why that piece looks good or why I don't like it.

Another less complex thing that I like to do is to stare at something I think is just butt ugly. I hate to say it, but the Fire Mountain Gems catalog is my favorite resource for finding random totally ugly pieces of jewelry. I LOVE this company as a store, but for jewelry ideas... uber ick! I look at some of the pieces I see and mentally try to take away or add things until I come up with a way to save the design. I don't mean to make myself sound like a total snob. I know that I have a snob in me and I do my best to keep her under wraps. But for this stuff, seriously, I'm too nice to be meaning it in a mean way. Thank God He at least made me a little bit nice. What I'm talking about here is purely an academic kind of exercise I engage in while looking at other people's work. I can really appreciate artistry and skill without having to like the result. The reason I like to do this is because it's not threatening. There's no pressure. I didn't make the thing. I'm not attached to it. Honing design skills in this way really helps with my own work, though. I have to practice being unattached and look at some hideous thing I've made (yes, I make hideous things ALL the time) and do this same exercise where it matters. What would make this work? And it really helps me!

I've digressed again. Anyway... as weird as all of this probably sounds, I've got to say that I had a little epiphany because of it this week. I was looking through a shop of a person who favorited me on Etsy and I really was loving so much of her stuff. I thought it just looked amazing. Way better than my stuff, actually. And I was trying to figure out why. I mean, her stuff was essentially the kind of thing I do. Wire work, though, no torch work, etc. I mean, again, I'm not being a snob about this... I was just wondering what it was about her stuff that made it seem so much nicer than mine even though she wasn't actually doing anything overly complicated. Again, I don't mean this in a mean way... I really hope that comes across. I was just trying to figure out her design process. What the heck was it about her stuff that made it look so good?

And after dissecting several of her pieces in my head, it hit me--BEAD CAPS!

This woman used bead caps very often in her pieces, something that I rarely do, primarily because the sterling and gold filled ones are so cost prohibitive and also because I work mostly with fine silver now and there just isn't a huge selection of fine silver bead caps out there.

The bead caps worked like little crowns, dressing up the beads so that even the simplest pieces looked suddenly that much more finished and that much more beautiful. I've always tried to make earrings, for instance, more special by the earhooks I made for them. This works well, but not as well as adding a bead cap.

I went ahead and got some cheaper bead caps at JoAnn yesterday. These are Blue Moon brand. I've shown two pairs of earrings in each shot--one without and one with bead caps. I think you'll agree that the bead capped ones look so much nicer. I also made sure to use plain earwires for these examples so that none of the earring enhancement would come from there.

Another tip I discovered--I use these little metal beads (all of this stuff is plated, by the way) at the bottoms of my headpins to make them look fancier. The beads also served to keep the bead caps more in place as most bead caps for some weird reason have huge holes.

I mean, the difference is so subtle, but it's definitely there. I'm going to start using bead caps more in all of my work. I'm also going to try to figure out how to make some out of fine silver that won't be insanely expensive.

Elliott approves of the earrings. I said, "Those are my earrings." And he said, "NO, they're MY earrings. I want to put them on!" Daddy would be so proud. Of the fact that Elliott can't wear them.

To find a really great selection of bead caps of all kinds, go to Off to the side, under "Jewelry Supplies", click on "Findings", then scroll down until you find "Bead Caps". Fire Mountain Gems rocks!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"Ivory" Pendants & Elephant Bead/National Craft Month

These are three of my newest things which I made this week. I've been doing a lot of really shiny, fancy stuff lately, so I thought that for a change of pace, I'd make something more matte and beaten up looking.

These were made with my ivory mix which is, like most of my mixes, very uncomplicated (1/2 and 1/2 white and ecru). The pendant on the left is more diamond shaped, stamped with an old plastic filigree piece and a button (the two round parts). The elephant is a bead that I sculpted from the clay. It's totally cute and has a little tail and everything which I didn't show, but will probably show later when this bead ends up in some kind of necklace. The pendant on the right is my favorite, though, because it was a surprise. Lemme 'splain...

I love the texture on these buttons, but have never used them for stamping because I thought the button holes would look awful and make the final piece look far to button-ish. I decided to stamp them anyway this time, though, and thought I could get rid of the round pieces or set little crystals or something. But when I stamped the first big button, I LOVED the look of the little circles in the middle and decided to do a pattern with the little button all around. I don't think the final result looks at all like I just stamped the pendant with buttons, which is the best part.

I picked these buttons up at JoAnn a while ago, but you can still find them there. They're in all colors. But I loved this firey orange the best, and I've put them onto a few things I've knitted. Now I've got to make sure to keep at least these two for future stamping. ^_^

I think everyone should try stamping with buttons! It's awesome!

Also... March is National Craft Month! I'm thinking of doing an entire month of craft projects in celebration. I'll post a craft project for each day (not necessarily every day) to show my progress. I think this is a great way for us to get a little bit more art into our lives. I'd encourage my fellow bloggers to do the same. Even if it's a simple little pair of earrings--let's all make something every day in March and make sure we post pictures!!!

Monday, February 22, 2010




I've been jumping up and down and screaming for the past little bit. My husband was laughing at me. My magazines came today! The three issues of Polymer Cafe featuring my article!!!!


The April 2010 edition of Polymer Cafe magazine is mostly black and has a huge neon mushroom on the cover. My article is on page 18! My friend, Marlene, from the AZPCG is ALSO in this same magazine, which is wicked awesome, and her article is on page 26!!!!

I can't even express how excited I am about this. My new Cricut cartridge came today (Sentimentals!) and it felt so anticlimactic. LoL. I was like, "Oh... that's cool... I GOT MY MAGAZINES!!!!!!!"

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Missed clay guild and wants to CRY!

Not really. But I'm still wishing I could have been there. We had a birthday party for our oldest boy today. 9 years old! I can't even believe that he's that old. One more year and he's 10. It's so strange because every single year seems like SO much older than the last year. But it's still the same span of time. I don't know how to explain... 8 seems older than 7, but older than 7 was older than 6... and so on and so forth. It's just crazy.

I can't wait to get into more of my crafting. I'm knitting right now, and working on cards and such, but have been getting much more into polymer clay lately. I don't know what to do with most of it. I think I'm going to donate a lot of it to the raffle. I know it seems like I'd just be thrilled to have all of my little clay spawn around me, but honestly, after 9 years of making jewelry and nearly 6 years of working with polymer clay, I have such a huge store of stuff, I don't know that I'll ever be free of it.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Scrivenshaft's and Ollivander's

I recently took a trip to Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley where I visited Scrivenshaft's Quill Shop and Ollivander's, respectively. The new ball point quills are all the rage.

Although usually the young wizard doesn't receive his first wand until the age of 11, Thad's generally 2 grades above grade level performance in subjects has warranted him his first wand, to be presented to him on his 9th birthday, which he will practice with until he goes to Hogwarts with the international exchange program in two more years. He's very lucky that the Ministry's Reasonable Restriction of Underage Wizardry doesn't apply "across the pond". However, if I catch him trying to perform the Bat Bogey Hex on Elliott, he'll learn that there are still scarier things than magic.

Ollivander was kind enough to let me have this wand, made specially for Thad, 10 1/4", cherry, slightly flexible, with a dragon heart string core.

All in all, I feel relatively alright after my trip. I think my cough from the Floo powder might not go away for at least a week. Being a Muggle, I don't know that I'll ever get used to it. However, Thad being as smart as he is, and far more versed in wizard lore than most Muggle-borns are when they begin school, I'm sure he'll prove to be an instant success in all of his Hogwarts endeavors.

I think he'll like his birthday gifts.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Polymer Necklace (Carnation Cane Beads)

My favorite cane, hands down, is the carnation cane. It's so easy and creates stunning results! This time I used a skinner blend of cadmium red and burnt umber (I believe) Premo! with gold as the accent color. The blue beads are really more turquoise in color, and all of the metal is gold plated.

Close second to the carnation cane for me is the lace cane, and I like to combine a white and translucent lace cane with my carnation canes to make really pretty, layered beads. This time I didn't do that and I think it still turned out okay. ^_~

Monday, February 15, 2010

Valentine's Day Cards

Well, Valentine's Day is over. Part of me is thinking, "Thank GOD!" I had determined that I would make Adam one card every day from Feb. 1 through the big day and it was quite an undertaking. He enjoyed it, though, which is what counts. Here are the last 8 cards out of the 14. I think I've already posted the other ones before. I also have to say that part of me is a bit sad it's over. It was nice to "have to" sit and make stuff every single day. I got pretty fast, too, and started using layers of paper scraps and making pleasing designs in a short amount of time. I guess it's true what they say about practice making progress and all.

I put the lyrics for "You are my Lucky Star" from Singin' in the Rain in the card above. I LOVE that song!

I was sitting in the car playing with a little box of matches after I pulled into my driveway one day. (We had matches in our car from going camping.) I don't know why I have this thing with sitting and playing with things. I guess it helps me focus when I'm trying to think. And I get a lot of good ideas that way, like this one, when I decided I could use a match on one of the cards.

This one was my lazy card. But I can justify it by saying that I bought this entire set of clear stamps for this stamp. The rest of the set is cute, too, but this one made me laugh and I knew I had to use it on one of Adam's cards.

This card was a lot of fun. I have rediscovered my letter stamps. I really love this font!

I had a lot of fun with this one. I had cut a whole sheet of these flowers off of my Cricut and used the cut out sheet to stencil paint onto this card. I did a very subtle addition of butterflies which I really like. When we were dating, the first time Adam said he loved me, he did it like this: "I've got butterflies in my tummy." And I said, "Why?" And he said, "Because I'm in love with you." Yee!!!! Anyway... it might make you barf, but it still makes me squeal, and butterflies still remind me of that.

Here was a fun layered card. It's really nothing more than a very simple card design, but layering all of those cut out stamped images gives it a more complex look. This one was fun, too!

I raided my scrap folder for this and decided to go monochromatic. I played with my Krylon 18kt leafing pen on this one, too. And there are more butterflies.

And here's the last card. Again, I raided my paper scraps for this card. I really like how it turned out. And no one saw the insides of these cards because they're personal. But I can sum up what's in them pretty succinctly: I LOVE MY HUSBAND!

So there you have it. ^_~

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Fine Silver Class???

I've been thinking about offering a fine silver class to the members of the polymer clay guild. I don't think I'd charge anything. It'd be fun just to get together and teach some people to learn some new techniques.

Fine silver, just to explain (although I'm sure most of you know the difference) is 99.9% pure silver. It tarnishes much more slowly than sterling (sterling is 92.5% silver--actually, it's the base metals mixed with the silver that tarnish. I have old fine silver pieces that haven't been protected at all from oxygen, and they're still not tarnished!) It's also softer, which can be a bear, but a few tricks can help with that.

It's so easy to manipulate the fine silver. It fuses into itself, so you can make solid rings very easily. Making balled end, professional looking ear wires is also very easy. Because fine silver doesn't form a blackened fire scale, it's a lot easier to work with than sterling. Just toss in the tumbler for 5-10 minutes or buff gently with a polishing cloth and the metal is shiny again.

Also, if you're only working with smallish things, you can get away with using an $8 ($5 on sale!) Butane torch from Harbor Freight. Seriously. Just get the triple refined butane fuel from Lonnie's, Inc. and you can get quite a bit done. Pretty much the only thing you can't do with that little torch is solder (well, you CAN solder... it's just really annoying and you have to do it just right) and make fused rings that are made with, say, 10 gauge wire. Toggle clasps, earwires, headpins, fused rings, etc... That's all possible.

I taught this class one time at Art on Boston and we all had a great time. Does it sound good? Should I go to the guild with the idea?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Finally! Some finished polymer jewelry!

I have been playing with polymer clay for a while, but hadn't turned out any finished pieces. I'm proud and very happy to say that I've finished three things now!

Obviously this first necklace required the most effort. It's copper, the clay beads I've made, and some faceted freshwater pearls with a few Swarovski crystals in there.

Here is my first alcohol ink bead attempt. (Alcohol ink on top of silver foil, layered, stamped, and wrapped around a core bead.) It's got the Chinese character for "Beauty" on it. This one is all sterling silver (except the wire holding the bead--that's fine silver, on a headpin I made), and the silver filigree piece attaching the bead to the chain is also one of mine. I was rummaging for something to accent this pretty bead and when I saw these simple filigree pieces I'd made, I thought one of them would go perfectly!

Here are the shaving cream beads I made, also with alcohol inks. This technique is SO fun! I couldn't figure out what to do with them for the longest time, and then I decided to just string them onto a cord which I knotted to make an adjustable necklace. This one is for when I'm feeling rustic. ^_~

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Polymer Frenzy!!!!

I'm pleased to announce to the world that I have been officially cured of my sanding-and-buffing-only polymer clay snobbery. Oh, my goodness... When I first started working with the clay, absolutely NOTHING would do for me but to sand and buff every single one of my pieces. I hate to admit it, but I did feel a bit smug and superior about it. Ugh, I hate my inner jerk, especially when I come face to face with her.

But, I can punch her in the face today because I have discovered the joys of varnishing!!!! YAY! Things get so pretty and so nice and you don't even have to work that hard at it. Sometimes, not really at all. It's sent me on a polymer frenzy. All of these old things I've made, waiting in their crowded spaces for the day when I would finally get around to sanding and finishing them all, have suddenly seen the light once more! I did sand many of the beads, with a medium sanding block and then a fine one (I also have discovered the rapturous joy that sanding sponges can bring!), then coated them with a varnish. They sparkle. They're gorgeous. I love them. And I think I love them even more because they're finally FINISHED.

I still love sanding and buffing. That's the absolute truth. And on some things, still, the varnish just won't do. But to be able to feel like I can breathe again--like I don't have to wait to create until I have enough time to finish everything... That's a huge relief. It makes me feel like doing nothing but polymer for the next 17 days at least.

Here is a huge pile of stuff I've recently made/finished (in the last two days!):

You can see, starting from the left top area, and going roughly counter clockwise around: Cane beads and slices (sanded, varnished with thick gloss), mini sushi trays (varnished with satin varnish), jointed (JOINTED!) oyster with pearl inside (varnished with gloss), totally cute octopus bead (varnished with gloss), layered stamped and alcohol inked silver leaf beads (sanded and varnished with thick gloss), tube of "jade" to be made into heishi beads (sanded and varnished with thick gloss), coffee bean beads (left plain, but so cute!), shaving cream beads (varnished with satin).

Here's an up close shot of the octopus bead which may just be the cutest thing I have made thus far. I LOVE it. I know I could sell it, but I don't think I want to.

And here is the oyster opening his mouth to reveal the pearl! That's a freshwater pearl that I wired into the inner area. The backs of both shell pieces were cut so that this piece can actually be hinged. I haven't entirely decided yet how I'm going to display/attach this to something. But I'm really excited about it! Basically, I formed everything, then pierced and cut the back hinge pieces. While the clay was uncured, I bent the hinge part so that they matched and slipped that part onto a bead pin. Lightly coated the inside of both shell pieces with Kato Repel Gel and then reformed the lid and bottom piece together. When they were baked and cooled, the two pieces came apart very easily and I rinsed off the insides to get rid of the repel gel and now I have a totally cute hinged oyster that, as I said, I don't know what I'm going to do with as of yet... I can't wait to figure it out, though. With the octopus and the oyster, I'm thinking of creating an entire little charm set of under-the-sea things and turning it into a charm bracelet with one of my fine silver chains. We'll see.

Oh, and on an awesome side note... I am actually mailing my contract with Polymer Cafe out tomorrow! The article is actually getting printed! It's actually happening! Ack! I still almost can't believe it! God is so good!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hand Stitching on Scrapbook Pages

I promised on the forum that I'd post a tutorial on how to hand stitch, and so here I go... ^_^

Start by piercing your desired stitches. You can mark this first or do it free hand like I'm doing in the photo below. If I'm doing decorative stuff, I usually mark it first. But here I'm using my stitching to hold down this piece of vellum on my LO (layout), and the entire LO is somewhat haphazard and a bit random, so I'm doing my stitching the same way.

To pierce, lay your scrapbook page on some kind of spongey thing (I'm using my sanding block.). Poke holes where desired. Continue moving the page around until all your holes are pierced.

Here is the PIP (page in progress) with all of the holes pierced:

Thread your tapestry needle with two strands of embroidery floss (I use DMC size 22 tapestry needles and, just in case you didn't know, embroidery floss has six strands in it which you separate into three two ply strands, thereby tripling the life of your embroidery floss.). To help with separating the strands, keep in mind that you shouldn't allow the end of your floss to get too twisted as you separate the strands. I hold the strand so that the bottom of it is hanging free the entire time I'm separating. I pull two strands away for a bit, then transfer these two strands to between my lips. Clamping these two strands in my lips, I pull gently on the four (or two, if this is your second go 'round) remaining strands and untwist the freely hanging tail with my other hand at the same time. It's a bit of a process, but you eventually figure out the trick to it.

Go back through your paper in your next desired stitch.

Come back up at your next desired point. (I always, always look at the back of the paper before pushing my needle through. It's just way faster and easier to see the hole you need to poke the needle through from the direction that you're poking it, if that makes sense.)

Hopefully with the beginning of the second stitch, you can catch the tail of your floss on the back of your page and not have to worry about holding the tail anymore.

At the end of your stitching line, pull the floss back through your stitches. If you're doing straight stitching, just weave back and forth between the stitches for a bit. Cut the floss, leaving a short tail.

For added security, I like to cut a piece of scratch cardstock or paper to glue onto the back of my stitches. Make sure it's acid free if this is for a scrapbook!

If you'll be using your stitching at all, like I did, to hold another piece of paper down, make sure you're coming up through the back just to the side of the paper you're stitching down. It just makes it so much easier, since your needle will have the tendency to go under the edge of the paper on top. Stitching down through this edge is the faster way to do it.

Here's the finished page with all the stitching and a whole bunch of new crap put in place.

Quick note on the vellum: I was inspired by a LO I saw in Elizabeth Kartchner's new book, "52 More Scrapbook Challenges". The beautiful LO on page 41 by Keisha Campbell had a few vellum covered photos in it. I had just printed this 5x7 of my son eating the snowcone, only to see that it was ridiculously pixelated because it was from an old photo (2005) back when I didn't know about setting my camera resolution high to get better photos. I printed a 6x4 of the same photo to replace it, but felt guilty about wasting the 5x7. I was wondering how I was going to use the photo without the square-ness of the pixels ruining the whole LO. I found my answer about 2 minutes later while flipping through the book (waiting for the printed pictures to dry the recommended 15 minutes before handling) and thought I'd try covering it in vellum. It worked great!!!! I love the background quality the photo has now in the LO.