Scale

Once again getting in just under the wire, this is my submission for the Photographic Monthly Meet-Up hosted by Wild Daffodil. This month’s prompt is Scale.

My interpretation is a chainmaille pattern called Dragonscale. I’d never tried it before, probably because it’s a rather daunting-looking weave that’s classified as intermediate in terms of difficulty. However, despite a slow start and some frustration, I did eventually get the hang of it, coming up with this sample piece made of green and silver anodized aluminum rings:

For this Dragonscale piece I used 14 gauge 3/8″ ID (9.9 mm) green anodized aluminum rings (A.R. 4.9) and 18 gauge 1/4″ ID (6.7 mm) silver anodized aluminum rings (A.R. 5.5) which worked perfectly for this weave. Gauge is SWG; supplies from The Ring Lord.

Dragonscale is a relative of the original European 4-in-1 weave used to make medieval chainmaille armour. Two sizes of rings are used to produce a dense yet flexible weave; I chose to go big for my first couple of pieces, just to see how they’d turn out. Some clever maillers make awesome accessories such as pouches and bracelets from Dragonscale, even reenactment clothing and armour. Inspired by some lovely Fairy Dragon Eggs crafted by Mrs. Cobs over at Cobweborium Emporium, I wanted to use this pattern to make my own version of dragon’s eggs. There are examples of egg-shaped Dragonscale pendants online, but there aren’t any tutorials to be found, so I had to fiddle a bit to figure out how many rings and rows I needed. I was able to make this blue “egg”:

Using the same ring sizes as the green sample, the egg is 4 large rings across and 12 rows high, with a few extra rings added at the top to create a more oval shape, plus a large ring as a hanging loop.

The finished piece is almost the size of a real chicken’s egg. To get the shape, I folded the squarish rectangle in on itself (the weave goes cone-shaped when you do this – and I almost did, too, trying to get this thing done). Then I “stitched” up the small gap at the back with a few extra rings wherever the existing weave allowed. The back isn’t as neat as I’d like, and the egg doesn’t quite taper to an oval at the top, but it’s a start.

The shape is perfect, however, for acorns and pinecones – all I need are the right colours, and I’m off to the races. I might carry on with the green sample, perhaps introducing other colours to make a small wall hanging.

And, just so I can weigh in on another type of scale for this challenge, here’s a photo of my brother – an avid fisherman – proving that holding a small fish up to the camera to make it appear bigger Just. Doesn’t. Work.

The April photo challenge starts tomorrow, and the prompt is Yellow.

Speaking of colours, my theme for this month is A Blue & White Love Affair. (I’m not so into yellow, just so you know, but I sure do love blue in all its beautiful hues, especially when it’s partnered with white.) Stay tuned!

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Sparkle

During a break from work over the holidays, I had time to do a lot of crafting, including a number of new items for my Etsy shop. I also discovered several pieces I’d completed long ago and had put aside, intending to photograph and list in the store. (The task of taking and editing 5 or 6 product photos each and then doing the detailed write-up is tedious and often deters me from getting them done. I feel a resolution coming on… .) Once I get them listed, it’ll be good to have a fresh array of products for the new year!

The re-discovered pieces are copper and bronze pendants engraved freehand using a small electric engraving tool (a new technique for me) and then aged with Gilder’s wax. Finding them again has renewed my interest, so I’ll be doing some more designs soon.

The chainmaille bracelets, necklace and keychains (plus earrings not shown) use familiar weaves as well as new patterns, in copper, bronze, brass, aluminum and stainless steel. I have an idea to feature a different weave every once in a while, here or on my Facebook page, or both.

As I was photographing them, I realized that these glimmering, gleaming baubles probably qualify for January’s Monthly Meet-Up: Sparkle, a photo challenge set by Wild Daffodil. I hope you enjoy this small sampling of the shiny jewels I’ve been working on.

Stay warm, and keep crafting!

Tied Up In Knots

More paracord projects!

More monkey’s fists: Some monkey’s fist designs, especially larger ones, will have a marble, knotted cord, ping pong ball or other sphere as its core.

Keychains & lanyards: (L to R) Utility knife lanyard using the crown sinnet (box) knot; the fishtail knot in this keychain looks similar to the snake knot but is tied quite differently; this version of a ‘Celtic Slammer’ (a self-defense weapon) employs a Celtic knot around the marble, snake knots for the lanyard, and a decorative diamond knot at the top. I use this piece as an amulet.

Animals & figures: The frog looks complicated but is really a modified crown sinnet; the “buddy” has a diamond knot for the head and cobra knots for the body; snake knots are used for the bumblebee.

Holiday tree ornaments & zipper pulls: Snake knots make up this snowflake; a tiny snowman uses a series of conjoined diamond knots; cobra knots form this beaded Christmas tree; the Hallowe’en pumpkin has a diamond knot, often used as a secure stopper knot, at its core.

So Knotty!

Knots and knotwork – nautical, Celtic, Chinese “good luck”, practical and decorative – have always fascinated me.

One Christmas, I gave a handy little book, All The Knots You Need by R.S. Lee (Algrove Publishing, 1999), to the men in my life. I always intended to borrow a copy to teach myself some of the more interesting ones. Besides the overhand, granny and lark’s head knots, the only other practical type of knot I knew was the one we use to tie up our boat (known variously as the chain sinnet, daisy chain, monkey braid, etc.). Then I discovered paracord.

One of the most popular uses for 550 paracord is keychains and fobs. A variety of knots was used to make these examples, and I chose different types of hardware – rings, carabiners or clasps – according to how I thought these pieces might be used.

Parachute cord (a.k.a. paracord) is strong rope originally used as suspension lines for parachutes. It consists of a smooth braided multi-strand nylon sheath encasing a core (the kern) of twisted two- or three-ply yarns. Paracord comes in several different diameters, each measured by its minimum breaking strength, from 95 to 750 lbs. I often use black 95 paracord as a cord for pendants, as it is slender but durable, has a pleasing sheen, and can get wet without being damaged. 325 can be useful when you want jewellery that’s not too bulky. 550 paracord, at about 4 mm thick, is probably the most popular for practical and decorative applications.

Camping, hiking, climbing and survival enthusiasts will often carry a lanyard, keychain or bracelet made of several feet of loosely-knotted paracord that can be quickly unwoven when the need for some rope arises, but most crafters will make their items, such as the ones shown here, to stay permanently knotted.

Women’s styles, L to R: Double mandala knots with faceted glass bead, finished with a diamond stopper knot and tassel; Cobra knots form the body and wings of the dragonfly, with pony beads for eyes; Emperor’s snake knot with glass bead, diamond knot and tassel.

The ends of nylon paracord must be melted and sealed with a flame to prevent fraying. It takes a bit of practice to perfect, but once you do, experimenting with the dozens of types of knots and the things you can make is a lot of fun. You Tube is the place to go for instructional videos on anything from lanyards, keychains, zipper pulls, water bottle holders, pouches, dog leashes, walking-stick handle wraps, figures (animals and people-shaped “buddies”), bracelets, necklaces and even rings!

If you know macramé or Shamballa knotting, you’ll recognize some of these knots by a different name. A square knot, for example, is known in the paracord world as a cobra knot, and a length of cobra knots is called a Solomon bar.

The cobra knot, shown here in patterned paracord, is the most common of knots. Beads or jewellery components add interest.

These knots and weaves can be rendered with material other than paracord, of course. I’ve made a lanyard for a utility knife from thick, bargain-store poly cord, and am planning a project using cotton rope. But if you take up paracording, go for good quality material. Cheaper paracord doesn’t melt and seal as cleanly, and won’t hold up to as much use. Your local craft store will probably carry a few different colours, patterns and weights, but you can get far more variety online. I’ve purchased happily from Canada Paracord.

I made the keychains you see here as party favours for a recent family birthday get-together, customizing the design and type of knot for each recipient. I’ll share other paracord projects in upcoming posts.

Men’s styles: The monkey’s fist (top) is another classic knot, originally used at the end of a rope as a weight or anchor; snake knots form the chain, and the two cords are fused together. I made the fender design (bottom) for my brother, a boating enthusiast. This style weaves two colours in the round crown sinnet knot.

Rainbow Rays: DIY Beaded Suncatcher

As I eagerly anticipated our family’s annual vacation at the island cottage, I wanted to make a pretty suncatcher or windchime to hang amongst the pines – something to catch the warm summer rays or peal prettily in the breeze.

I was attracted to an idea from Pinterest which used a piece of driftwood and rainbow-coloured beads. You could use any combination you like, from a single colour to a multi-hued riot. I picked up several packages of glass beads in various colours, shapes and sizes for a song at a local dollar store.

While I stuck to all-glass beads, the Pinterest model was more ornate, incorporating metal and wood beads, findings and shells as well as glass. They claim their suncatcher is also a windchime. Although I followed their method exactly, I was disappointed to find that mine rarely makes a sound, if ever. I think that’s because I spaced my strands 1.5 to 2 inches apart, which is too far for the beads to make contact with each other. Plus, those extra findings stick out at angles, making it more likely for the strands to “chime” as they connect.

The piece of driftwood I used came from the island and happened to be the perfect shape and size; it even bears an uncanny resemblance to the one on Pinterest! Driftwood is so decorative, but a small, fallen branch or a wooden dowel – unfinished, painted or stained – would work, too.

I liked the symmetry of five strands of beads, with the longest in the middle. Of course you can use any number you want and keep them all the same length, or vary them for a bohemian feel.

The cute little bells at the bottom are optional. They actually ring – if you shake them – but even a brisk breeze won’t make mine chime! Other options for the string ends include larger beads, prisms, shells, coins (real or fake), bits of broken jewellery – anything to add a bit of jingly bling. Whatever you choose will have to have a hanging hole or loop, of course. (To add holes to soft metals such as copper, bronze and aluminum, I use one of those screw-down jewellery punches – great for old coins – and it is possible, if you’re careful, to drill holes in shells without breaking them. Now, if I only had a powerful-enough drill for beach glass!)

After I’d completed my project, I realized there’s an easier way to attach the strands and hanging cord to the wood. Tiny screw-in metal eye hooks would be faster and would eliminate the need for drilling holes. I’m planning to try another project using this method.

To make the suncatcher (as shown), you’ll need:

  • driftwood, branch or wooden dowel
  • non-elastic, clear nylon beading thread or fishing line
  • beads of various colours, shapes, sizes and materials (glass, plastic, wood, metal, ceramic)
  • small metal bells
  • string, twine or leather thong for the hanger
  • drill to make holes OR metal eye screw hooks for attaching bead strands and hanging cord

How-to, 2 ways: (I used the DRILLED method for the example shown)

  1. DRILLED: On the top side of the wood, mark a hole for each beaded string, spacing them no more than an inch apart. Leave enough room at the ends of the wood to wrap twine around several times for a hanger (as shown) OR to add eye hooks to attach a hanging cord. Drill the holes using a small-diameter bit that is long enough to go all the way through the thickness of the wood. Drill straight down, not on an angle. HOOKS: Mark the positions on the underside of the wood, and screw in the eye hooks. You should be able to tighten them with just your fingers, but use pliers if necessary.
  2. Cut stringing thread/fishing line to the desired length for each strand of beads, adding plenty of extra for tying off.
  3. Make your first strand of beads: first, securely tie on a bell, making sure it will dangle freely. (You’ll see that my bells are a bit wonky because I tied them too tightly.) Trim the excess thread created by the knot, leaving a couple of inches for extra security.
  4. Add the rest of your beads, hiding the extra thread under the first few beads. Set the first strand aside.
  5. Finish all of your beaded strands in the same way, adjusting the length as desired.
  6. DRILLED: To attach the finished strands to the wood, thread the free end up through a drilled hole. (I started with the longest strand, in the middle.) Thread on another bead; this one will hold the entire strand in place. Tie the thread to itself just underneath the bead. HOOKS: Knot each beaded strand on to an eye hook. Using a needle if necessary (I found I didn’t need one), thread the remaining string down through the first few beads at the top, hiding the end inside a bead.
  7. To add the hanger shown, cut a long length of string or twine (I doubled it for added security). Knot it around one end of the wood. Wrap around the end several times, covering up the knot. Allow enough string for the desired hanging length, then take to the other end and down the opposite side so the piece will hang evenly, without twisting. Wrap several times as you did the first end. Knot the string securely to itself. Use a needle, if desired, to thread the end an inch or two under the wrapping; trim the excess. To use eye hooks for hanging, install a hook near each end of the wood on the top side. Tie on your hanging cord.

The finished suncatcher is about 12 inches wide and 16 inches long.

Changes

I’ve been making a few changes in my life lately and am in the midst of considering others. I can’t believe it’s been more than two months since I started my second part-time job. It’s challenging and I’m enjoying it, but the additional schedule, including dashing straight from one job to the other several days a week, leaves precious little time for much else these days. I’m rethinking my presence on Facebook and must find a way to devote more time to my Etsy shop as well as take care of all the other things on my to-do list.

One thing that won’t change is my dedication to this blog. Some of you may have noticed in recent comments that I’ve switched my WordPress public display name from Wood So Wild to gillyflower. Over the last ten months, my blog has developed its own character, separate from my Etsy persona, and I would dearly love to change the site address, too, to reflect this. But WordPress doesn’t make that easy – or free – according to what I’ve read, so I’ll have to research that further. Have any of you changed your site name (e.g. http://www.gillyflowerfaire.wordpress.com), and how did you go about it?

With all this and more on my mind, May’s theme is Changes.

The other day, I picked up a sandalwood stretch bead bracelet. It was okay-looking but a bit too big, and the thin elastic looked as if it wouldn’t endure more than one wearing. Plus, I wasn’t keen on the cheap base metal charm or rhinestones. (I’ve saved the two genuine ruby fuchsite beads for another project.) I really just bought the thing for the fragrant wooden beads. So, just like Lydia and her ugly hat in Pride and Prejudice, I took it apart and made (what I think is) a prettier one!

Before

After

I used the following components, most of them available from Michael’s:

• 49 strand Beadalon™ 0.46 mm bright bead stringing wire
• 7 mm sandalwood beads
• 8 mm turquoise-dyed howlite beads
• 6 mm silver-plated spacer beads
• 5 mm and 3 mm silver-plated beads to finish the ends of the bracelet
• #2 silver-plated crimp tubes
• 18 gauge, 5/32” (4.19 mm) stainless steel chainmaille jump ring
• 12 mm silver-plated lobster clasp

Instructions on making jewellery with stringing wire and crimps are all over the ’net, so I won’t include them here. However, here are a few tips (some of them optional) in case you want to try something like this for yourself:

To accommodate the larger size of the beads on the wrist, I made the bracelet about half to three quarters of an inch longer than I would normally wear • I prefer using saw-cut chainmaille rings – a specialty purchase – in my jewellery because they’re more robust than regular jump rings and close beautifully without the need for soldering; I file the seam using a tiny round jeweller’s file for a virtually invisible closure • Chainmaille pliers are an excellent choice for jewellery-making because they don’t have teeth to mar metal surfaces, but they’re also not usually found at regular craft stores • My crimping pliers (Mighty Crimp) from Michael’s don’t secure the tiny tubes well enough, so I used needle nose pliers to tighten them securely, which resulted in flat crimps.

I may look at using crimp covers for my next beading project – another change!

Pinning Inspiration

DSC_5702 (3)The bulletin board above my work table has a multiple personality. It’s located in the tiny “dining room” of our apartment (i.e. right in our living room) – oh, how I envy those fortunate enough to have their own craft room/studio! On this board I keep a very utilitarian calendar with my work schedule and other day-to-day appointments. (You wouldn’t want to see my chicken scratch and crossed-out scribblings, so I used a nice cleaned-up version for the photos.) Because the calendar is so easily seen every time I pass by, it’s a good place to keep track of life’s busy-ness.

DSC_5742 (3)I also use my bulletin board as a temporary repository for memorabilia. It’s here that I display photos, notes from friends or family, ticket stubs, birthday cards or postcards I’ve received – or ones I’ve purchased that are just too pretty to give away – items that mark happy or significant events. When eventually they come off the board, these items will be stored in a keepsake box: an old, decorative tin that once held chocolates (another of my favourite things!). That box safeguards decades-old treasures that I can’t and won’t throw away; with all its bits and bobs, including quite a few antique postcards I’ve collected, it’s also a great source of props for my still-life photography.

My board’s third raison d’être is rather more fanciful. I’ll occasionally pin up ephemera such as tags and labels, business cards, bookmarks, poems or quotes, magazine clippings, ornaments, even jewellery – anything with a pretty or striking design, attractive colour, shape or sentiment. These serve to amuse and inspire, especially when I’m sitting at the table trying to think of what to work on next. I gaze at the board with its mish-mash of images and let the creative juices stir and flow. In a way, it’s an old-school and very personal version of Pinterest.

Here I’ve given my inspiration board a Spring facelift, choosing mostly fresh, floral and green elements from nature.

Do you have a similar board for your artwork, crafts or other creative endeavours? What kinds of things do you keep there to help inspire and motivate you?DSC_5735 (3)