Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Button Bracelet Tutorial

So, what do you do when you have some buttons you love but can't find a sweater they'd look good on?  Make a bracelet!!  It's super simple - just one skill to practice a bit!  First, gather three buttons, chain, a clasp, jump rings (make sure five of them are big enough to fit through a buttonhole and then through another jump ring), some headpins, and a bunch of beads.  You'll also need needle nosed jewelry pliers, regular jewelry pliers, a wire cutter, and round nosed jewelry pliers.  I thought I was going to be using pearls on these seashore inspired buttons ....

... but after I got to the part where I put them on the bracelet, they didn't look casual enough, so I found these polished tourmaline nuggets that have been sitting around for awhile.  I love how they look like beach glass!

First, take one of your large jump rings and put it through a hole of one of the buttons.  If you haven't used jump rings before, see this past post.

Add a large jump ring to another button and, before you close the ring, hook it through the jump ring of the first button.  And sorry about the ugly bandaid in the photo - I had a run in with a kiln stilt!

It should look like this.

Repeat with the last button ...

... and add a large jump ring to the empty holes on the end buttons.

Measure your wrist - not loosely, but fairly snug.  Cut a piece of chain and add it to the jump ring of one of the end buttons.

Attach the other end of the chain to the jump ring of the other end button.  Don't panic!  It won't stay looking like this!

Find the middle of the chain and open that ring.

Add a jump ring ....

... and the clasp.

It should look like this!

Try the bracelet on - if you like how it fits, great!  If not, add a few links from the extra chain to the non-clasp end to make it a bit longer.

Now comes the fun part!  And what might be a new skill to practice for some of you.  Take one of the beads you want to attach and a headpin.  A headpin is just a piece of wire with a flat end that keeps it from going all the way through the bead.

Put the headpin through the bead.

Take your needle nosed pliers and place them next to the bead.

Make a right angle on the wire and cut off the extra, leaving about a half inch.

Place your round nosed pliers at the end of the wire and use them to bend the wire into a loop, making sure it closes completely.  This seemed like a hard skill before I tried it, but with a few times practicing, it worked!  Not as beautifully as a professional jewelry designer, but serviceable for me!  I take the pliers out a few times, rearrange, and make the wire rounder each time.  Find some cheap wire and practice, practice, practice!!  And if you want to see the technique in action, this short You Tube Video is good.

Here's mine.

Either before you close the loop on the end of the bead (or open it back up if you forget, like I often do), attach it through a chain link on the bracelet.

Keep doing this until your bracelet has the number of beads you want it - I put one on every other link.

If you're looking for some art ceramic buttons to try out on this bracelet (or for sewing with!), there's a new update in my shop of 17 new button sets - and some ceramic jewelry findings based on my forest walks.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, October 13, 2017

Friday Inspiration - Fiona Rainford and "The Remains"

One of the things I most enjoy when looking at pieces of art is learning what inspired the artist to create it, what went into their process from idea to finished work. has a wonderful interview here with mixed media artist Fiona Rainford talking about her piece The Remains, which was inspired by an old woolen mill that a group of artists she was part of was focusing on.

The Remains, 2016

Fiona talks about what first interested her about the mill, shares the photographs she took (which are wonderful studies in textures and form), and tells about her research.  It's especially interesting to read about how what she first was interested in and focused on did not become the subject of the piece she created, but led her to looking at the old machinery parts and cogs.

If you want to see more of Fiona's artwork, visit her website - there's a lot to see!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Many Rivers Shawl and Short Rows

I've been slowly checking off my list of new knitting techniques I want to learn - cables, check, colorwork, check .... short rows.  That was one I was a little worried about!  You hear such stories .... There was this intriguing shawl sitting in my queue for ages before I realized it was done using short rows.  The reviews on how easy it made learning how to do them convinced me to give it a try - and they were right!  The perfect project for first time short row-ers!

The pattern is Many Rivers by Pam Jemelian and is available on Ravelry here.  The pattern calls for (and is lovely in) three colors, but I had a Madelinetosh exclusive Georgia yarn from two years ago (more on this in a moment) I'd been dying to use and another that went well - didn't have a third that I loved with them, so I went with two.  Madelinetosh Sock in Chattahoochee and Lorna's Laces Shepherd Sock Solid in Kerfluffle.

I love the way the motifs look like eddying river water!  Now, more about the yarn - a couple of years ago, Madelinetosh made an exclusive colorway each month based on a Georgia landmark.  This yarn was only available at a Georgia yarn shop, Eat.Knit.Sleep.  Chattahoochee became a permanent exclusive and is still in stock in a few of Madelinetosh's yarns, but I believe all the other colorways are long gone.  This year, Madelinetosh is creating an exclusive colorway each month based on the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to go along with a fun game you can play, earning store credit and other prizes based on the projects you knit or crochet.  Be forewarned - it's addictive!!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, October 6, 2017

Halloween/Day of the Dead Shop Update

The new Halloween and Day of the Dead beads, pendants, and bracelet spacers are now available in the shop!  Click the button at the top of the page or go to  

Next up is a big button update in a couple of weeks.  Big update, not big buttons - they're all regular sized!

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday Inspiration - Faith Ringgold

Way before I ever realized who Faith Ringgold was as an artist, I knew and loved her as a children's book author.  Her stories are engaging, the illustrations are vivid and intriguing.  These were the days I bought books for my own children and for the schools where I taught preK.

When I began exploring quilting as fiber art I ran across her again - this time as an artist and activist.  She began her art career painting and teaching art in the New York City public schools and campaigning for the inclusion of female and black artists in gallery representation and museum exhibitions.

She began creating the quilts that most people know her by in the 1980's and created the first of her children's books based on her quilts, Tar Beach, in 1991, based on her quilt of that name created in 1988.  It's hard to find an exact count of how many she's published since quite a few are now out of print, but it's somewhere around 19 - 20!

Faith's quilts are intricate narratives of things she wanted to say, in the only way people would listen.   It's hard to pick favorites from among her large body of work (and at age 87 she's still creating!), but two of mine are The Sunflower Quilting Bee at Arles (1996)

and Subway Graffiti (1987).

If you'd like to learn more about this fascinating woman, see her website here and visit ArtNews for a good story about her.  And there is a short, wonderful video featuring her talking about her work on PBS's The Arts Page available here.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Knitting with Sari Silk Ribbon

I've been fascinated with sari silk ribbon for quite awhile and recently bought a few skeins to experiment with.  Mainly I used it in jewelry, but you know that if I have hanks of fiber around for long enough, I'm going to try knitting with it!

I worked up a small swatch - enough to teach me a few things.  First of all, my size 10 1/2 needles were not big enough - the fabric was too tight.  Those giant needles that come in sizes such as 20 and 35 would make the fabric a lot looser, but I'm not a big fan of that super loose fabric.  The bottom portion is garter stitch and the top is stockinette.  As a whole, I like how the stockinette turned out but the rows of garter stitch underneath do add some nice texture.

So the pros - it's really soft.  And it has that beautiful silk shimmer.  And I can see it taking up indigo differently at different spots which could lead to an amazing looking fabric!  The cons - it has knots.  At places, lots of them.  Since I was just experimenting, I pushed the knots to the back but if one was really knitting something you would have to cut on each side of the knots and sew the fabric together.  And you'll have to do that with some of the sewn joinings as they vary between sewn end to end and being sewn with a seam.  Those joins with a seam act a lot like a knot, making a big lump in the fabric you're knitting.

The bottom line?  I'm still intrigued by knitting with sari silk ribbon and see enough promise that I'm going to try using slightly bigger needles to loosen the fabric up a bit and then see what I can come up with for a project, since I wasn't overly fond of any of the ones I found on Ravelry.  I just have to see what a finished, knitted project in the silk does in an indigo dye bath! 

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Friday, September 29, 2017

Friday Inspiration - Taking in the Forest

I always head to a forest when I need to de-stress, heal, get inspiration .... There's just something about the spicy, heady smells and the feel of the trees towering over one that seems like home.  John Muir said, "Come to the woods, for here is rest."

The Japanese, I recently discovered, have a name for it - Shinrin-yoku.  I've seen this translated as "forest bathing," "forest therapy," "immersing in the forest," and "taking in the forest atmosphere."  And there appears to be actual research results showing benefits in boosting immunity and mood, and in reducing stress, among other things.  

When I walk in our forest, I slow way down, looking at things in detail.  And even though our forest is not very big, about 6 or 7 acres, I see new things every time.

And I come out rested.

Happy Creating!  Deborah

Monday, September 25, 2017

Art Nouveau and More Sunflowers!

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, I decided to participate in some of the monthly jewelry/art bead challenges - I added one requirement for myself, that the main beads/pendants/etc. have to be made by me.  This is mainly to jump start my ceramic work and get me thinking in different ways than I've become used to!

If you love art beads and jewelry made with them and haven't yet discovered Art Bead Scene Studio, quickly check them out.  Whether you make jewelry, collect beads, or just like to look at gorgeous pictures, you'll love them!  They have a challenge each month based on an artwork and this month's was to create jewelry and/or art beads inspired by Eugene Seguy's print Insects, inspired by the styles of art nouveau and art deco.

There were so many directions this one could go in!  I decided to focus on art nouveau aesthetics, with their soft, flowing curved lines and inspiration from nature - this fits in perfectly with my style.  Insects were a popular theme, especially butterflies, and I seem to be in somewhat of a deconstructing mood this month, so I chose to use a butterfly wing.  After several mis-fires on how to decorate the wing, I went back to art nouveau's focus on nature and plants and printed the wings with leaves and Queen Anne's Lace.  I added a bronze glazed, raised relief bead to give it bit of a metal feel.

I loved these so much I had to make a necklace using the Queen Anne's Lace butterfly wing and the glazed bead.

The final challenge of the month was another one to create jewelry using sunflowers for the September Honey Do List.  This time I went in a more traditional direction and created a spacer which I then glazed in the Majolica tradition.  This is generally thought to have started in 15th century Italy and involves painting terracotta clay with a white tin glaze and then decorating over it with pigments.  I use a matte white that's non-toxic and paint over with underglazes and stains.  Traditionally, the back is left unfinished or is burnished to show the terra cotta, but that doesn't wear well, so I cover mine with a clear glaze.  These are the spacers I created ...

... and this is the bracelet I designed using one of them.  I used a little leaf accent bead, jadeite beads, and silk sari ribbon.

I just have to add a bit to my post about doing these challenges.  They seem to be working at getting my creative processes jump started!  After a walk in the forest and focusing on the forest floor, I came back and made a few more pieces that are inspired by nature but are not as much in realism as I have been working.

I've updated the shop to add the art nouveau inspired pendants/bead sets and a few sunflower spacers.  I'm currently working on more forest floor pieces and have put up the ones I have finished so far!

Happy Creating!  Deborah