Sewing away

I am hooked.  Or should I say fully stitched in.

A while back, I had taken the beginner and advanced sewing class over at  Mood U which gave me the basic skills to operate a sewing machine and pull together a fabric tote and a coat.  (Yes, a coat.)

So since then, I’ve managed to collect quite a stash of fabrics (a post or two coming on that), both free

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Hello, 2018!

I always greet the new year with optimism, because it always brings in a new beginning.  In my mind, no matter how chaotic or tumultuous or completely bland the year that just ended was, there is that forever hope of things getting better, more so as we restart the clock so to speak.

So happy new year.

I’ve been ramping up my creative streak of late and can happily report that I have managed to finish a winter hat, a pair of hand warmers (only because I don’t have an existing pair of the ones I did last year!) and my embroidered scarf is almost “almost there”.

My new slouchie beanieYet another slouchy beanie.  I have spools and spools of yarn that are begging to be knitted or crocheted, and in the midst of tidying up, I actually came across a few skeins of pompom yarn that I had meant to work with as an embellishment to a white or black slouchy beanie.  Even if it took forever and a day to decide between using black or white for the actual beanie, the process of actually crocheting the hat was rather easy because I worked with an existing pattern.  Then there was the actual figuring out of (1) how to incorporate the pompoms, and (2) the placement between stitches — or how close or far I would put them together.  But voila!

New hand warmersPink hand warmers.  When fall came, I actually couldn’t remember where I put my leather gloves.  I did find my hand warmers, but only one of each pair.  I could pretend I was being funky and wear a different pink on the left and another on the right.  Besides, does anyone really pay attention?  (Yes, they do.  I know because I do.)  And again, maybe because of last year’s practice but I nailed this one despite the unstitching every now and then because I was working freeform using the fan stitch.  (Not quite sure that’s what you call it.)

At first I thought 30 stitches for the actual cuff was too tight, but then again, crochet stitches actually stretch as you pull on it this way and that. It worked well enough because I meant for the warmers to reach up to just beyond my wrist, and not all the way up my arm. That’s another project maybe for another winter.

I know it’s February and I’m going to start drafting my next post the moment I hit send.. more, more, more!

Trying something new

One of my preferred ways to take a break during the day is to browse images of crafts that are currently in my line of sight . So I go to Polymer Clay Daily to see what new designs are up, browse Pinterest and occasionally find something new from the various artists I follow on Instagram.

Earlier this year, I bought scarves that were on sale for a future project. I had this idea of crocheting small pieces that I could put on the scarf as embellishment. I started crocheting and I put the little bits away, same with the scarf.

I had been browsing some gorgeous handmade crochet scarves and hand embroidered items by Sophie Digard, and I was suddenly struck by an itch to do hand embroidery. I already had the scarf, the yarn, and even the tapestry needle needed to make it work, so I thought I’d try freeform embroidery.

No sketches, no design.. I chose an initial pair of balls and a third skein. I didn’t even think about getting an embroidery hoop. I felt confident enough to fall back on my doodling repetitive designs that eventually came out to be my paper flower garden. I pulled the thread carefully and I was mindful of how the thread went this way or that at the back as well. I had to undo stitches a couple of times, but for the most part, I’ve just been going off and on and I must say I’ve been enjoying myself.

I am working both ends of a Calvin Klein wool blend scarf. I made sure it was made of hand washable fabric and I washed it before putting it away to make it craft ready for whatever it is I am going to do with it. I work the design on each end as I go, just so I don’t forget the stitch or the design I have in mind. I’m still a long way off to finishing it, but it’s been easy enough that I am actually seeing major progress.

The challenge is really thinking of the design elements, more than the actual stitching.  I’ve outgrown the tendency to stitch too tightly, and the stitches I’ve been using enable me to “correct” the tension as I move along.

Freeform Yarn Embroidery

But generally, I like how I’ve done so far, so much so that I am already thinking of the next scarf I will be embroidering.  No pressure on finishing this anytime soon as the temperatures in New York have actually gone up again.  Autumn can’t seem to make up its mind, and while we have experienced some “jacket weather”, we’re keeping it to the lighter scarves for now, so I have time.

Craft calendar revisited

The Gonzalez Christmas Card 2010
Our 2010 Christmas card featuring Angelo’s art
Back in February, I dared to put together a craft calendar in the hopes of planning my crafting year.  It was written with good intentions which I am still hoping can eventually shape the direction I take in this passion of mine.   It was a good idea to plan, and while I didn’t stick to the goals or project targets, I think it helped.

We are now entering the final quarter of the year and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able do accomplish even just a quarter of the holiday-related projects I had identified.

With the month officially ending this weekend, I am trying to get going on at least two of the items below:

September

  • Start series on Holiday-themed articles.
  • Work on Christmas decor.
  • Produce holiday cards.
  • Create gifts to give for the holidays.
  • Launch second postcard set.
  • Stock up the shop and launch holiday promo.
  • PROJECT: CHRISTMAS DECOR

I have started drafting Angelo’s and my Christmas card which I am tempted to have printed, but then again, I have all the materials and tools to produce it myself, so why bother?

I am going to start tinkering with our existing Christmas decor to hopefully produce a new holiday wreath.  (Yay!)  More on a separate post..

And yes, I will start creating new pieces both for the shop on Etsy and for my gift list.

With that said, I think I can move on to October.

October

  • Finish holiday card. (MUST be done before the month ends.)
  • Start series on handmade gifts for the holidays. (DIY projects for posting here!)
  • Put up my Christmas tree last week of October.  (Will start cleaning up this week to make room!)
  • PROJECT: Holiday Cards

And for the rest of the year, I hope I can stick to this schedule:

November

  • Mail out holiday cards.
  • Decorate tree first week, deck out the house.
  • PROJECT: Wrappers / Bags for the holiday gifts

December

  • Create and make gift packaging. (Wrapper, embellishments, tags)
  • Thank you cards
  • PROJECT: Recycling holiday wrap and cards

 I treat my lists as guidelines or guideposts.  They are never hard deadlines that cause undue stress.  Crafting, after all, is a diversion and not the be-all and emd-all of my existence.  I like that the list has reminded me that while we are still months to December, it’s about time I start thinking about my holiday card.  

As for the projects and tasks I missed, then there’s the option to roll them over to the following year or finish them before this one ends.  2017, after all, has not yet ended.

Getting organized

Getting organized: headpinsI came back from Sydney midnight Saturday, so this weekend is my first full weekend home.  I jumped back into work the Monday after and tried my best to cope with the jetlag, surviving it by sheer will and a judicious use of caffeine.  Not too much, not too little.  

Despite the stopover in Manila before and after Sydney, I didn’t bring a ton of supplies back — just three bags of headpins I had requested my sister-in-law to grab for me last minute, because I didn’t really have time to do any shopping.  

Friday night, I psyched myself up that I would just stay home this weekend and allow my body to rest and recover.  I stopped short of making plans to go this way and that and instead allowed myself the chance to just chill.  I decided to organize my head pins and eye pins and I am almost done with the two bins I focused on.  That was my idea of relaxing.

I am focusing on two bins knowing I have at least two more still stashed away somewhere.  I have not had the chance to really get down to organizing them until now, and I think I should’ve dealt with this sooner.  This is what happens when your supplies accumulate through the years, more so when I end up bringing new bins home each time I travel from Manila, and the stash usually stays on those bins instead of landing with like findings.

At the start, I organized them simply as they came.  I love the 1000 pin packs I get from Wellmanson’s in Quiapo (back in Manila), but the packs usually come bent and misshapen, so storing them means taking the time to actually flatten out the pin  Then there are the packs I buy from Firemountain Gems which usually come in smaller batches because they are pricier.  I stash those in a bin with their tags so I know what gauge and size the pins are.  It also makes for easier reordering when I find my stocks running low.  

This time around, I think I have enough of each to actually classify them into gold plated, silver plated, antique bronze and “others”.  (The latter being copper and gun metal.). I keep the sterling silver and vermeil tucked away with some gemstones I have and I don’t have enough of those  to collect into a bin.  Strangely, just going through the two bins has inspired new creative ideas which I will hopefully get to do soon.  And like my bead bins, I actually have a few cups of headpins of all shapes and sizes to go through.   I don’t always get to put them back where they belong when I’m working on projects, so they tend to accumulate in other spaces.

I’m getting ready to start creating again in time for the holidays.  And I’m thinking of new items not just for the shop, but also to give as gifts.  Organizing my current supplies is a step towards a more efficient production line for the coming weeks.  Before you know it, the holidays will be here again.

Pulling together bits and pieces

There is nothing more effective to wake me up from a craft haiatus than an impending trip that requires some promised gifts and other extras to be assembled.  So I’ve been gathering pieces that are halfway done, redoing some that have been redesigned in my head, and I’ve been trying not to go overboard with creating even more.

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The piece above is a woven chain bracelet I am making out of white AB glass crystals and various floral shaped Czech pressed glass.  It’s a rainbow of colors chained together, instead of beads being strung onto an existing chain.  It takes some practice to make, but chaining the beads together assures me of the integrity of the entire piece and that the beads will not fall off of the stringing.  It also helps prop up the beads on top of one another for a fuller look.

There are many earrings that I am trying to finish as well, and a few rosary bracelets.  I am trying to be mindful about not bringing too much because they can get rather heavy.  (Baggage allowance reminder to self!)

One of the perks of being able to create jewelry is seeing my work appreciated by the people I give them to.  There is a special reward in seeing someone’s face break out into a wide smile of joy upon getting something crafted specially for them.  I always find that most fulfilling.

My most recent weekends have seen me going through my containers and bins, and I have found quite a bit of almost finished (but not quite done yet) items.  My work process entails an assembly line that begins with focusing on a set of colors or materials, like beads in color schemes that I want to pull together.  I would create parts of the earring without finishing the entire piece, maybe saving the addition of charms or links for later.  The finishing touch usually entails putting in the clasps or the earwire hooks, and only then can I say it’s done.

My bracelet is almost done but not quite there yet.  I am still trying to decide if the medley of beads is enough, or if I should add a round or two more.  I also need to decide on the clasp.  To be continued… soon.

Polymer Clay Love

The long weekend has been a crafting staycation for me, mostly with me getting back to polymer clay.  I have amassed enough clay to keep me kneading and conditioning for quite a bit, so I went back to work on unfinished projects.  I also started to collate the work I had done so far, and much of them will evolve into something new cooking up in my head.

I found molds I had created but which I had not used to mold clay with, and a striking ornate brass stamping of a lion head I have had for a while came to life in clay.
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I am a novice at this but I find it very rewarding with minimal frustration because you can turn it into whatever it is you might want it to be.  It can be fanciful and candy colored, or almost like faux metal or faux stone.  I have enjoyed working with it and creating things to wear that make people stop and wonder what the necklace or earrings are made of.  

I find great inspiration from Cynthia Tinnaple’s Polymer Clay Daily where artisans from all over the world are featured.  Just browsing the short blurbs and the gorgeous pictures are enough to get me thinking about how I want to work with my polyclay.  So many possibilities!

While I work mainly with gemstones and glass beads for my etsy shop, I have pieces which have incorporated handmade cabochons I fashioned from my own molds.  I find that polymer clay cabochons are actually more elegant and have a more subtle color range than the regular resin cabochons that are in the market.  I’ve bought one or two and made molds, but my best tool is a set of carved opal cabochons that I got as a gift from my late mother-in-law.  They were loose cabochons meant to be a set of three, but the intricacy and uniqueness of the carving was what made them standout.  I see them as peonies.

I have worked with both pour on (liquid) molds and the more common mold putty.  I can’t say I like one more than the other because I’ve found that one can be better depending on what type of mold you’re making.  For intricately designed originals with lots of crevices and detail, the pourbob mold is more suitable as you will see in the end product below.
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The pink and lavender cabs, I will use as is, but the beige ones will rendered with a hint of gold patina using gilders paste later.

Below you will find my raw polymer clay lion head cabochons fashioned from the brass stamping on the picture on the left.  I actually did two versions of this with two different clays.  The harder in consistency went under the brass stamping itself, and the softer beige one went into a putty mold I cast off of the stamping.  
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The brass stamping wasn’t all that expensive but was hollow and unwieldy to work with, needing attaching to a cloth or plastic base.  So I thought I’d try to create a solid cabochon instead of a hollow form, and experimented with a subtler patina that wouldn’t make the head too loud a part of a piece I had in mind.  Here you can see what I mean when I put the real brass with the faux metal polymer clay lion head.  It isn’t quite as shiny, but you can pass it off as metallic.

This second I worked on is more of a cost and weight work around.  I fell in love with the original casting the minute I saw it but the price was a bit of a splurge for a finding.  The slots were too big and uneven a size for me to find actual cabochons for, so I knew right there and then I’d have to make the cabochons myself.  The piece was also rather heavy and I worried that further embellishing it would make it too heavy on the neck.  

This one is a work in progress as I purposely left out the bail on the original piece, and I am thinking of creating a solid backing for the pendant to have the bail cling to.  But below you will see the original rendering, and the golden tint it took on after an application of gilders paste.

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Rendered this way, I can fill in the setting with my choice of metallic polymer clay, or do that and add gemstones or other embellishments around the cross form to create a larger statement piece.  It’s just trickier to get all the rope details around the frame, but the finished setting in polyclay worked quite well and turned out as I had expected it to.

I’m going to save the before and after of the flower cabochons I tinted into a dark gold hue for later when I have them set into Earrings.  

I just found a shoebox full of other polymer clay bead experiments which I need to turn into something workable.  That’s another post altogether.  I am also working with doing another form of polymer clay Earrings but I’m still thinking about how I can render it well.  Back to my polymer clay I go..