Friday, January 25, 2013

Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone...

So, I just did an exciting and scary thing.

There is a particular life-and-jewelry-making blog called Pretty Things that I have been following for years, written by the incredibly talented Lori Anderson.

Now, every year, she coordinates an massive blog hop called Bead Soup.  And by massive, we're talking an international event with hundreds of participants.  (I think the last one had 400 participants?)

...and I just signed up.

*deep breath*

Yeah, I just signed up.

Here is where I post pictures of fancy, impressive
things I've made recently... mostly to convince
myself that I'm talented, and haven't done
something incredibly silly.
This necklace was made in garnet and pewter.

More about Bead Soup

You can read all about it here, but here's a summary:

Lori takes in all of the names, and pairs up partners.  These partners then exchange packages of beads.  Each bead package must include a clasp, a focal bead, and some matching accessory beads.  Jewelry pieces are created using these components--and then on the grand reveal day, everyone posts what they made.

The whole idea is...  well, to have fun, really--but also to push yourself as a designer by using things that you might not usually use.

Three-strand necklace made in copper and
seed beads and red jasper...
That circular focal was actually an earring
that I found and thought was fascinating.

...I have to admit, I'm nervous.  All of the bloggers that I've seen are really good at what they do, creating jewelry that are true works of art.  Not only that, but I like the coziness of my craft room... becoming a part of a such a large group of people is rather daunting (even if it is something that I really want to do).
My "Bedtime Story" Necklace...
Wire-wrapping galore!

But, I'm being brave and getting over my insecurities and joining the Big Kids.  I can do this... and I can do it well.

Another shot of the "Bedtime Story" necklace...
I am extremely proud of it, not gonna lie.

...So, here's to creating beautiful things!

And here's to stepping out of my comfort zone, and knowing that it will be worth it.


And, if you're interested in my Christmas Present series--don't worry!  There are at least four more entries that I need to write!

Once I calm down, that is.  ;)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Christmas Presents for My Youngest Niece

This past Christmas, the present that I spent the most time on, hands down, was for the youngest person on my gift-list.

And by youngest person, I mean my 4-month old niece.

Before she was even born, I knew that I wanted to knit her a baby blanket.  After all, that's what knitters do, right?  They knit baby blankets.  I figured it would be a simple, happy thing that I could do to show both her and her parents my love.


It wasn't quite that easy.

The final blanket!

You see that picture there?  The pretty, fluffy blanket in bright shades of yellow and orange and green and blue?

Well, originally, the blanket didn't start off like that.  Oh, no.

Instead, it started off as as beautiful striped pattern using cotton yarn in two colors: cream, and a blue/green/cream combo.  I was hoping to use cotton yarn for three reasons: it's easily washed, it is very soft, and it is organic.

I started knitting it in August.

See?  Isn't that pretty?

...Only, I didn't get that far. 

I struggled with it for awhile, but two months in I had to admit that I was avoiding it. And why was I avoiding it?

I just do not like cotton yarn.  Apparently.

The shortened fibers fribbled and fuzzled everywhere, leaving me entirely covered in fuzzies just by looking at it.  Not only that, but something about those fuzzies made me itch like crazy.  I would work on it for a little bit, and then have to take a shower because I felt like I was a giant lint ball.

So...  yeah.

I had to surrender, because I just couldn't do it.

This was as far as I got with blanket number 1:

...It had such potential.

Still, it wasn't a total loss.  I ended up sewing the two shortened ends together, making a cowl.  I gave it to my sister-in-law (the one whose daughter the blanket was going to be for).  So, at least something good came out of my blanket fail.

And, as for the actual blanket...  I started over.  (Obviously, or I wouldn't be writing this entry.)

This time, I did not use cotton yarn.

Here comes the next contender!

The yarn that I did use was one that I already had in my stash...  I had bought it months before, because it was so wonderfully soft.  I'm not sure why I overlooked it the first time, when I was planning the baby blanket...  it was amazingly soft, and in the perfect colors!  (Honestly, the little one had been nicknamed Tadpole--and aren't those cheerful tadpole-y colors?)

By this time it was the beginning of November.

Once again, I started knitting.

This was my view for many, many a night.

...and kept knitting...

I already had a foot and a half done, and still had
so much yarn left!

Finally, two days before Christmas, it was done.

The final blanket!
The dimensions, I believe, are 2 by 3 feet.

Now, this yarn was much nicer to me than the cotton yarn was.  Still, it was not as painless as I wanted it to be.

Things that I learned while knitting this blanket:

  1. I do not like knitting wide things, apparently.  Long and skinny is fine...  but give me a pair of circular needles and more than 100 stitches, and I get cranky.  Who knew?
  2. I do not knit as quickly as I used to.  I blame this on hurting my wrist last year...  I'm not sure if it's a real thing, or if I'm just paranoid, but in any case I'm wary of pushing myself too hard.
  3. Super fuzzy yarn is extremely soft and happy, but makes my fingers feel rough after working with it for too long.

To be honest, by the end of working on it, I was soooo ready just to be done.  But, I kept going until the entire skein was used up, because I wanted it to be a nice size.

Another shot of the blanket, mostly to show off my even rows.
Or something.  ;)

Yet, on Christmas morning, I realized that all that hard work--having to stop and start over again, and knit myself into a tizzy--paid off...

My little niece loves her new blankie.

Sleepy baby!

Hamming it up for the camera.

Happily cuddled up and sleeping.

...And, honestly, that made it all worth it.

So, thus ends the chronicles of the baby blanket...  I'm not sure if I'm ever going to knit one again, to be honest.  But, in the end, I am extremely glad that I was able to make it.

After all, I am grateful that I was able to give my little niece--and her parents--something that I poured myself into.  I love them all very much...  And hopefully something as seemingly simple as this baby blanket shows them that.


All pictures of the little one have been posted with her mama's approval.  Isn't she darling?!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pink Oriandus

...Taking a quick little break from the Christmas Gift series to show off something I just posted to my store!


Pink Oriandus

The flower is carved and dyed Rose Agate; the hairstick is carved bone.

The story:

There are many rare and exotic flowers in the Landus Fantasticus—blooms that only appear in the highest of mountain heights, or the remotest desert oases.

The Oriandus, however, is not one of them.

As common as daisies and roses, the Oriandus grows all across the land. In fact, it's almost so prevalent as to be considered a weed—or, rather, it would be, if it wasn't so lovely. Its cheerful blooms range from light pink to deep red, with an occasional bright magenta or sultry burgundy. 

 It is woven into the very culture of the Landus Fantasticus--children often wear it in their hair, romantic young men pick hasty bouquets for their lady-loves, and it has even been added to the highest cuisine (it is quite edible, and tastes like vanilla).

With a dyed Rose Agate ruffled flower bead as its focal, this hairstick is reminiscent of this common plant. Although the stick itself looks rather exotic, the flower looks just like the Oriandus... A reminder that beauty doesn't have to be found in rare, elusive things—beauty can be found everyday.

The listing can be found here: Pink Oriandus.

...And, for the record, can I just say that it can be very fun creating flower names?  :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Christmas Presents for My Sister

Rapidly, I am seeing that this "Christmas Present" series is turning into a feel-good love-fest for the people I'm writing about.  These people mean so much to me, after all, and I apparently cannot help but burble about them.  And is that a problem?  

Not in the slightest.

And so, guess who's up next?  I'll give you a hint: it's in the title of this post.

That's right!  Now I get to burble about my sister!  

...Surprise, surprise.  ;)

Oh, look, a pendant.  A very special pendant.
Read on to find out why.

I love my sister.  Over the years, she has been my confidante, my inspiration, my cheerleader, my editor--my earliest and closest friend.  Growing up, we had our share of shenanigans (we're sisters, after all), but I am blessed that we are still close friends.

Now, one of the things that my sister and I share is a love for writing, and a love for stories. And one of our favorite stories is found in an anime called Ronin Warriors (or Yoroiden Samurai Troopers, in the original Japanese).

Yes, it's a silly cartoon show from the 1980s--but the story is captivating, and the characters are quirky and lovable.  And the voice-acting in the English version is hilarious.

So, what does that have to do with the pendant above?

I'm so glad that you asked.

That pendant is the symbol of Rowen of Strata--my sister's favorite character from Ronin Warriors.  It's strung from a simple strand of tiny blue seed beads--the shade of blue associated with Rowen.

Where did I find that pendant?

Well, I made it.

Another shot of the pendant.

More specifically, I drew it on the computer using the actual symbol as a guide, and then had it 3D printed.  

In other words, it is both completely accurate and completely unique...  And it took forever to get it right, because I was very particular.

Once I received the pendant in the mail, I wire-wrapped it and found the perfect matching beads.  Now, there are five main characters in that series (the title Ronin Warriors), and I'm actually hoping to make necklaces with each of their symbols.  So far I have made three--Rowen of Strata, Sage of Halo (shown below), and Sai of Torrent.  The designs for Ryo of Wildfire and Kento of Hardrock have been drawn, but not yet printed.

On the left: Sage of Halo.
On the right: Rowen of Strata.

I was beyond thrilled to give a special gift to a special sister--and to utilize my newfound enjoyment of 3D modeling in making something sufficiently unique and geeky.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Christmas Presents for My Mother-in-Law

I have an awesome mother-in-law.

I realize not many people can say that--want to say that--but in my case it is very true.  My mother-in-law rocks.  I knew her before I even knew her son.

And so, I am going to tell you the story of how I met her--and my future husband--intermingled with pictures of the presents I made her for Christmas.  Because, why not? Pretty pictures to go along with a happy story--and all for a very special lady.  :)

Presents preview!
A ruffle scarf in shades of red and orange, two necklaces, and
a pair of earrings.  My mother-in-law looks fantastic in autumn hues.

Sappy Background Story:

To start off with, my mother and my mother-in-law were best friends in grade school.  They even continued to be friends when my mother moved to a different state.

Necklaces and earrings.
The necklaces can be worn together or separately, and the earrings
match both.

Years passed.

Enter me.

Close-up of the necklaces--beautiful burgundy glass cathedral beads,
mixed with elegant brass filigree.

Over the years, I had heard stories about my mother's friend from Ohio.  All I knew, really, was that she was as a writer.  And a good one, at that--I found a portfolio of her stories sitting on my mother's shelf, and I eagerly read them all. 

Earrings!  Because earrings are fun.

How amazing--not only were these good stories, they were good stories written by someone my mother knew.

Authors were people, too!

I know it sounds rather silly, but it was quite a leap for my developing brain to make.  

So, in middle school, when I was a precocious writer-in-training, I decided to start sending letters to my mother's Ohio writing-friend.  Imagine my delight and surprise when said friend not only tolerated my letters, but encouraged them.

We became penpals.  

My mother-in-law is a writer...  So, I named her scarf.  After all, precious
things are often named in fantasy stories.
The name is "alemeth", which means "autumn" in one of the many
languages I've created.

Then, a little while later, her children started to write to me--including her second son.  He started his letter with, I kid you not, "my mother is making me write this letter."  I became penpals with him...  

And, well, the rest is history.

...And I still have that letter, even though it's over 15 years old by now.

Once again, here is everything--in all of its glory.

So, yeah, my mother-in-law is awesome.  Not only is she a fantastic writer, not only is she the mother of the man I love...  She is also a really, really good friend.

I am privileged to know her.

And she also loves tea, so I made her one last necklace, a surprise after she opened the previous set:
A pretty little brass teacup...

...on a pretty little brass chain.

 And so, those are the presents that I made for my mother-in-law this past Christmas--just a small representation of how much she means to me.

Thank you so much for reading my happy reminiscing...  I hope you enjoyed!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Christmas Presents for My Mother

My mum is as very, very special person.  I cannot even begin to explain how much she means to me; just thinking about her makes me happy.

I really, really wanted her Christmas presents to be extra special this year.

Enter: ruffle scarf yarn.

Such pretty shades of light blue and white!

Only, I didn't use the ruffle yarn to make a ruffle scarf.

Instead, I used it to make a ruffle shawl!

I call it an ammonite shawl...
Because ammonites are cool.

Now, I'm fairly certain I'm not the first person to have this shawl idea...  After all, there are only so many scarfs you can make before you want to branch out.  But I did have a great deal of fun figuring out how to do it, and was extremely happy with the results.

Here are a few more action shots...  and by action shots, I mean I was actively trying to figure out how to get the best pictures of an intricate and rather complicated design without the help of a model--or even good lighting.

I started crocheting it in the middle, and worked my way out.

Backlit and ruffly!

An artistic angle shot, just because.

Now, I didn't stop there.

I decided also to make her a simple and classy matching jewelry set, made with white glass pearls.

The necklace!

The earrings!

And so, that is what I made specially for my mother this Christmas.  Everything was made with a lot of love--and thinking about them make me happy, because they now belong to a wonderful woman.

Anyway, thank you for reading!  :D

...And stay tuned, because I have many more presents that I want to show off--er, I mean, share!  ;)

Monday, January 14, 2013

The Beginning of a Wonderful New Series...

One of my favorite things to do for Christmas is to make special handmade presents for people.

And, certainly, this past holiday was no exception.  

Indeed, some of these presents were so cool that I want to share them here--not to brag or boast, but because they make me happy.  And,well, it's fun sharing things that make me happy.

So!  First up: a present that I made for my parents.

Oh, look...  Any clue what it might be? ;)

Some background:
We have gone to the same vacation spot every year since I was 5 years old.  It is a wonderful cabin in the middle of a state forest--with beautiful trees, made all the more precious by familiarity.

Now, the last several years, I have really become fond of taking pictures of this state park.  And, with generous past Christmas gifts from my husband, I finally had cameras that took good pictures.

And so, I compiled my favorite pictures, and made them into an art/photography book.

The title: For the Love of Trees
It's 90 pages long--all pictures, no words, and full of memories.

Here's a peak inside: 

The mountain lake, the tree that greets you when you first arrive at the park.

Backlit spiderwebs, trees through the morning mist.

Spectacular sunset over the lake...  This picture was taken just this year.

Oak leaves and sunshine.

A tall straight pine and curvy, articulated deciduous tree.

And here's the back:

Spectacular sky, against the dark of conifer needles.

My parents have blessed me by giving me wonderful memories of this beautiful place--a home away from home, a true refuge amidst all the change that life brings.  As I said, the trees are wonderfully familiar, timeless friends in my own fairy tale.

I hope that, through this book, I was able to show my parents just how special these memories really are to me.


For those interested... I made this book using the same website that I used to print my last

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Final Piece of My Display Table

It came, oh, it came!

I have mentioned, in passing, that December was a busy, busy month.  It was full of making Christmas presents and preparing for my display table.  And finally, after much work, the last piece of my display table has arrived.  

And, oh!  It is better than I could have imagined!

Want to guess what it is?

It's a showcase of my work, a book of jewelry designs.

...Jewelry designs that I created.

Except...  It's more than just that.  

It's also a storybook.

Because, in between the pictures of pieces, I have interspersed the tales that go with them--the stories that I have written for my store, specifically to go with the jewelry that I create.

...To see my work in print--my jewelry, my photos, my words--is enough to make me cry.  

And it makes my desire to be a published author so strongly ache inside me that it's hard to contain.  It's spurring me to actually write, and not just dream about writing.

I'm sure it's silly, but I am extremely proud of this book.

Again, I'm going to be putting it on my display table this week--not as a catalog (because it is by no means a conclusive collection of my work), but to showcase what I am able to do.  After all: marketing!  

But, even more than that, this book is a promise to myself that my words are worthwhile... my stories need to be told... and my creations are beautiful.


I designed and printed this book using, an on-demand printing site.  As of right now, there is only one copy that has been printed--my copy.

Want to see this book for yourself?

Either go see it at my display table, hunt me down to look at mine, or let me know you're interested and I will set up a way for you to buy it on!