Sunday, 28 September 2008

Jewellery-making evening class - part 1!

Thursday night was the first night of my new jewellery-making evening class, courtesy of Edinburgh city council. It's held in the metalwork rooms of a secondary school (wish I had been able to do that at school!!) not too far from where I live. There's a small group of us, about 12, and we all have varying degrees of experience, which makes for an interesting mix. Some have never tried jewellery making at all, some like me have done a wee bit and want to learn more, and then there are some who obviously do the evening class every term, and came laden with very impressive and professional-looking tool boxes!

Our teacher has been a jewellery-maker for many years, and is very relaxed, and was happy for different people in the class to be getting on with various different things. We talked about what I had tried already at the Summer School, and then my teacher suggested trying to make my first ring. I decided to use some copper I had to try it out (copper isn't fantastic for rings, as it tends to make your skin go green! - but it is relatively cheap and easy to work with).

First I had to size my finger, to work out the circumference of the piece of metal strip that would be shaped into the ring. We decided to try a thick band, which meant adding an extra couple of millimeters (as thick rings always feel tighter than thin ones).

So, I cut a strip of copper to size, and then added some surface texture using hammer marks. Then, using half round/flat pliers, I gradually shaped the metal into a rough ring shape, eventually getting the two edges to meet as truly as possible. Next, we soldered the edges together (still a bit scared of the soldering torch - this time we used disposable hand torches rather than blow torches - but I still find myself heating it too gingerly) - the teacher helped me put some welly into it, and the joint eventually soldered ok.

Once the ring had been quenched in water, and soaked in the pickle to get rid of the oxidised layer, it was time to shape it more finely on a ring mandrel (a big long tapered piece of steel) using a hammer, making sure to shape it evenly all around. Last of all came the filing and polishing to get the edges smooth and a shine on the surface.

It was really satisfying to finish something within the 2 hours of the class, and I really like the breadth of the ring on my finger (and it actually fits!). I also like how the texture has turned out to look a bit like Birch bark. Looking forward to next week's class!

Monday, 15 September 2008

Fibres and Etsy listings...

There's a bank holiday here today, meaning no work for the Kaeru :D - so I got round to posting a few more items in my Etsy shop.

I posted up a couple more of my felted necklaces, which are made from pieces of felt I have made from various fibres, which have then been beaded with toho beads, swarovski crystals, and semiprecious stone beads.

I also posted up another pair of kumihimo braid earrings - again made from beautiful sassalynne threads. These earrings are very delicate and light, and I just love the rich colours of the threads.


Also over the last week I've had lots of exciting deliveries of various fibres that I am looking forward to experimenting with on my next fibre art project. I decided to keep the colours natural this time, so I can focus on the texture and natural beauty of each fibre.

This is bamboo staple fibre. It's probably my favourite to work with - it's very soft and downy, and parts of it have a beautiful lustre and shine a bit like silk.

This is Cotswold fleece. It's much coarser than silk or bamboo, but has a wonderful wavy shape, that stays visible when felted.

This is flax fibre - quite tough and waxy to the touch. It is very matte, but also almost 'glows' in the light. Very interesting!

These are wool pebbles, or 'nepps' as I have also seen them called. These are quite large ones,
but they come in a variety of sizes, and are great for giving pebbly texture in a small area.

This is degummed silk throwster waste. It's silk fibre that is left over from commercial silk processing. It is supersoft and has a wonderful sheen.

I started working with all of these this weekend, on my new piece... . Post to follow!

Friday, 12 September 2008

Machine applique

I had a pile of applique fabric kirigami-type shapes that I had made a while ago, that were just lying dormant in one of my many craft boxes. I also had a couple of plain tops crying out for some excitement, so I decided to have a go at some applique, using my sewing machine (I have only done it by hand before).
Kirigami - 切り紙 - is a Japanese word meaning 'the art of cutting paper' ( 'gami' meaning paper - same as in origami) - we've all done something similar making snowflakes at Christmas, but the Japanese take it to a whole new level! I first started making kirigami shapes for a series of cards, but then I wondered if the shapes would work well with fabric - so I had a go. I think the more complicated ones look really nice, and work especially well on felt, but how much of a problem fraying will be with regular fabric remains to be seen. Cutting out the shapes with fabric is a lot more difficult than paper, as the technique relies on several folds to allow repetition of the pattern.

I pinned the shape onto the top - a jersey hooded top - and then just set to with the machine, with the speed set to super slow. The slightly stretchy nature of the fabric meant it was pretty difficult to keep enough-but-not-too-much tension on the fabric. Also a bit of the shape, which is very delicate, got ripped on the machine half-way through, so I had to improvise and revise it slightlyby removing some of the 'petals'. I quite liked the way it turned out though.

I also tried some more straightforward applique of slightly easier shapes, on a different top. For this I used a sort of 'petal' design I drew, and some scraps of Liberty fabrics from my stash.

I cut out some templates, and put sticky tape on the back so I could play around with positions, to work out the final placement.Then I cut out the fabric shapes and decided which pattern would go where.Then I removed the templates and pinned on the fabric shapes.

I started sewing with tiny stitches as I thought this would look better - but it actually made the fabric bunch up a bit. Larger stitches worked better, but I definitely found the machine, and the fabric, a lot more difficult to manipulate compared to doing it by hand. I think the end result is less neat and accurate... but a lot faster!!

Friday, 5 September 2008


I just finished my first piece of fibre 'art' (feels a bit strange calling it that, but I'm not sure what other word to use!). It's a small piece that I made, firstly using my embellisher, and then augmenting it with hand embroidery and beading.

It was my first serious attempt with the embellisher at really trying for different textures within the one piece, as well as actually trying to direct the way things turned out rather than it being entirely a case of happy accident (something that happens a lot with the embellisher, it seems!).

My inspirations were the textures and colours of the sea and sky from our recent trip to the beautiful island of Tiree.

I used a real mixture of fibres for the base feltwork of the piece: beautiful shades of wool roving courtesty of Sevenyaks, and iridescent angelina fibres and glossy Cotswold lamb locks from Woollady. There's also handdyed silk throwster waste, cotton neps (lovely pebbly texture!), ramie and banana fibres, and silk offcuts. These were all felted onto a base piece of cotton wadding.

Next I decided to add some more texture, this time by beading onto the felt. I used a real mixure: sapphire and emerald chip beads (thank you Pixiesmadepapercuts!), seed beads, Japanese Toho beads, Swarovski crystals, aventurine beads, wee glass clambroth beads, and the tiniest, most adorable glass seed beads (thank you SeedBeadStasher!) - I had never seen beads this small before - check the picture out to get an idea of just how small they are. I didn't have a needle small enough, so I had to hand thread each bead onto the cotton for every stitch.

Lastly I added another few texture details with some hand embroidery stitches - a few french knots (like wee carbuncles) and some tiny backstitch and split-stitch in wavy forms.

At this point I realised I hadn't given any thought to presentation, or how I was going to frame or display the piece! I realised that next time I should start with a bigger base piece to allow for more possibilities.

While I was on my metalsmithing course, I saw a piece of tapestry displayed in a frame, which gave me an idea for what to do with this piece - as prior to this I had been swithering about what to do with the edges - should I leave them, cut or trim them, or something else?

I decided to 'hem' the piece, which meant folding under the edges and sewing them down - taking the design right to the edges.

I mounted it on a piece of perspex (cut from the piece that came with the frame I planned to use - as I didn't want the piece to be covered at all, so that it is possible to touch it and feel all the different textures).

Then I mounted the perspex backing onto some plain cream handmade paper, and put it into the frame.
The name 'Atlantis' was suggested, and has stuck! Maybe it's the sea surrounding the mythical city, where the underwater world has taken over... .