Friday, 30 December 2011

Man Knitting

Before you get all excited that the ideal man can be knitted, or an unsuitable one unravelled and re-done, I am referring to knotting techniques. Using 'Get Knotted' as the title would have been just too predicable.

Man Knitting refers to the macho pursuit of making things with knots and sealing the ends with flames. I'm not sure which craft site I saw paracord watch straps on but I'm fairly sure Kirstie Allsopp wasn't involved, which is rather rare this weather. They are billed as survival bracelets as they contain around ten feet of paracord which can be unravelled and will withstand a weight of 550lbs. This can then be used in an 'emergency situation'. If you are an experienced bushcrafter or survivalist, this might just save your life but, if you work in an office, there are few situations where a length of cord is going to prove to be the determining factor.

However, it looked like a cool skill as you can make key fobs and zipper pulls AND the paracord comes in snazzy colours, including glow in the dark. I found a couple of UK suppliers but couldn't get the glow in the dark cord as it was out of stock. However, I did order navy, purple, neon pink and neon yellow and some contoured buckles, which arrived today. I'm still not sure what use the SAS might have for acid pink and 'let the enemy know we're here' yellow but, as I wouldn't have bought 'olive drab' or camouflage, then I'm ignoring this point.

I excitedly set to work. Video tutorial courtesy of youtube, watch face, sharp scissors and flame thrower (ok candle lighter) at the ready. Unfortunately, once I saw the size of the paracord I realised it wouldn't fit the watch face I was planning to use. Undeterred I decided to make a Monkey's Fist key fob and a Celtic Knot Loveheart just to get me started.

You will note by now there are no photos. This is because my monkey's fist looked more like a monkey's bottom and there was no love lost between the loveheart and me. In addition the cats found this utterly fascinating and took turns in yanking the ends of the cord just to check I was paying attention.

So much for man knitting!! As a relaxing hobby 400 feet of paracord and not a scrap of talent is not an auspicious start. Plan B is to buy an inexpensive watch face which I can thread the cord through and try again. I'll keep you posted!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Glasgow Hobbycraft and Crafts for Christmas event

A couple of weeks ago, thanks to the generosity of a colleague's lovely daughter I was given two tickets to the Hobbycraft event in Glasgow. She had won the tickets but already had some so I too became a lucky winner as I got the use of her spare tickets.

I'd only ever been to one bead fair in Perth and hated it as it was so cramped and crowded and hot from the stall lights. However, the Hobbycraft and Christmas event is apparently 'the' big date in the crafting calendar and attracts people from far and wide as well as lots of opportunity to see different crafts so I was very keen to see this one.

On the Saturday my friend Ava and I arranged to go. As I picked her up from the train station I was almost mugged/car-jacked by a frightfully well dressed woman clutching flowers and presents. Apparently she, her hubby and son were waiting for some friends in a hire car and she simply would not catch on that I wasnt there for her. I tried the exaggerated hand gestures you do when inside a car to let her know I wasnt there for her but she wasnt to be deterred. So I rolled down the window and said "I dont think I actually know you. I'm here for my friend who is just coming down the street". However, this made her worse as she got so flustered she wanted to explain why she was all dressed up, was clutching gifts, how they werent sure what kind of car they were waiting on as it would be a hire car.....! Tho' it was only a few mins I wanted to stick my head out and shriek "AVA!" to hurry her up and save me. Thankfully the lady's son started dragging her back by her coat belt while she was still babbling on.

Anyway, we headed off and made it into the venue. When we got into the hall there were a prolific number of stalls selling all sorts and we were captivated. Luckily the friend I was with is a methodical sort and we were able to tour the venue in a very orderly fashion. Normally she and I are total opposites in the structured approach stakes. She is Mrs 1.1, 1.2 and I am all "ach, bung it in and see if it works". Normally our 'complimentary' approaches work somehow but at this craft fair we were of a one mind in making sure we covered every stall.

It was, however, quite obvious we were newbies. How did we know this? Well, because we were unarmed. Neither of us had a backpack you could have gone on an expedition with, a pull along shopping trolley on wheels, or a hand driven or motorised battering ram (sorry, wheelchair). Some of the folk there were serious crafters and were deadly serious about doing their big opportunity for stocking up their craft stashes. Yes, we were obviously lightweight novices.
We did have a ball though. everywhere you looked there were shiny things and our eyes were swivelling wildly. We bought some lovely bits and pieces. I got a few (ok 5) pairs of very pretty scissors. I used to do a lot of embroidery and always thought the height of sophistication was having those gold crane scissors rather than using the kitchen scissors or your work ones. I got a pair when I was an embroiderer but when I got into this jewellery lark the years of lusting after them has meant one is never enough. So when I saw the ones with the fairy wing shaped handles, it was a certainty I 'needed' some of them too. I also got some nice swarovski findings and I joined the Beadworkers Guild. This is my next big plan; when I actually get some time to bead is to learn peyote and all the other tiny bead work skills to begin making a dent in my substantial seed bead collection. I also got a number of items in the Christmas Hall for my Mum's Christmas so that is nice that I am way ahead of the game compared to normal years. Ava didn't do too badly either and bought herself some lovely treats for her and her Mum too.

We were both taken by the number of sparkly christmassy beaded items. Ava loved the baubles with the beaded overlays and I liked the beaded angels. I was going to buy some as I buy a new tree hanger each year but her comment that they looked like Dalek's took the shine off somewhat! I could see what she meant as their little arms were sticking out like Dalek's.

What did surprise us was that we've both picked up a new craft when we visited the Pergamano stall and they were making little gift bags from parchment which looked very swish and just the thing when we are gifting our jewellery creations to friends and family. 'Obviously' we had to buy the templates, the paper, the cutting mats and high powered double sided tape. Worryingly, neither of us needed to buy a stanley knife as we both had our own at home...! Needless to say neither of us have had any spare time to actually try out our new craft but we live in hope that either some spare time or retirement comes before the paper degrades to dust.

So all in all was it a good day out and would we go back? Absolutely! We had a ball and we are already planning next year's outing, albeit with some modifications. 1) We will take a wee annual leave day and visit when less likely to be crushed/trampled to death. 2) We will get fit. Both of us were exhausted. After I dropped Ava back at the station I went to do my weekend supermarket shopping but I got there and realised I could not walk another step or face the crowds so went home and dined from the freezer - God Bless Captain Birds Eye. 3) We will take our own lunch. Although the colleague who'd been the day before and was a seasoned visitor advised us to take a packed lunch Ava and I thought we'd do the Fair then go and lunch elsewhere not realising how long it would take us to see everything. We lunched in the cafe in the SECC and the food and service were truly dire. All in all it was an excellent day and one we'll look forward to repeating next year.

Saturday, 27 August 2011


I took a class for this one as I just felt like learning something in a congenial atmosphere. The tutor was the same girl who had been wearing the crystal heart necklace. The class was great fun and the balls proved to be surprisingly easy to do once the pattern 'clicked' in my head and I could 'see' how it formed. I'm quite a visual learner and definitely prefer being shown.

I also got a little carried away. I made the silver and dark purple one at the class as it matched my top that day and the rest I made at home over that weekend. The best one is the little multicoloured one in the middle which was made with beads I got free in a magazine. I'd love to find these beads again can't seem to find them at all. I thought they were supposed to be Preciosa crystal, but they are proving elusive.

The lilac one to the right has a pink bead captured in the centre. I am not sure about the two pink and lilac ones, they are a bit too colourful and 'twee'. I think they might be 'recycled' to another project. The bright pink one will have twin once I make it and I will use it for the cut ends of the curtain cords. I thought they would be good as the beads themselves are rubberised acrylic and I thought even if the cats use them like a swingball game there won't be any damage - unless I catch them at it, of course...!

Pink Heart

Ever since I saw one of the staff in one of my local bead shops wearing an amazing Swarovski crystal heart in fuchsia AB I was totally captivated. I just had to learn how to do it. So I trawled the web and finally, after some fruitless searching, I realised the pattern was for a 'Puffy 3D Crystal Heart'. The best pattern was on a French website as the diagram of how to right angle weave it was the clearest. Dont be impressed, my French is poorly recalled schoolgirl French, but I can read pictures as well as the next person and didnt need to be reliant on any linguistic talent.

The first attempt was a disaster. I used dark red 3 or 4mm bicones with illusion nylon and nearly went blind! I was unused to the pattern, the beads were both dark and miniscule and I couldnt see the illusion thread. I was on a hiding to nothing. I abandoned the first attempt and did the sensible thing. I used a 6mm round pearl and bright pink tigertail and hey presto I made my first puffy heart. I now keep this one proudly on one of my work bags. It is not perfect as the tension is not quite perfect but I achieved it. I've since made others both in crystal and pearl and I think they are something I'll return too as they make a lovely pendant or feature.


Welcome to my new blog. This is my space to record my creative adventures in jewellery making.

I took up jewellery making at Easter last year. I hadnt intended to, and didnt have any interest in it. However, as a favour to a colleague, I popped into a little bead shop which had opened locally so that I could report back to her on what they had. From that very moment I was hooked. The wonderful staff there showed me the basics. No expensive class or fuss; they just taught me crimping and let me buy the basics and the beads I wanted. I have never looked back and absolutely adore learning new skills and techniques.

I don't sell my jewellery as the demand to produce identical items to a timescale and profit margin would take the pleasure out of it for me. As it is only for me I can make exactly what I want, when I want and am not limited to what beads I choose to use. I can simply go with what takes my fancy. If something doesn't work or doesn't suit me then I chop it up and make something I like better. This is not to say that I would never set it up as a business but right now it is purely a relaxing hobby, something that can be picked up and put down as I fancy.

Although I do not sell the pieces I make I do occasionally make gifts for friends. This is a pleasure for me as I enjoy trying to make something that is ideal for that person, or says something personal to them at a time when they need it.

From learning the basics I have rapidly expanded my skills and find a real sense of achievement in learning a new technique, either by being shown, or by working it out by looking at something and replicating it. However, I am a complete dilettante and once I've mastered something I immidiately want to do something else, or do it differently. This is why I wanted to keep a beading blog. As I move on, it is easy to forget the thrill of achievement of finishing a piece, or to recall the lessons learned. So what better way than to keep a blog as a rolling record of what I've made?