Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Still here...

I think that there must be some kind of rule that says the longer you leave it between blog posts, the harder it is to blog. It's not that I haven't got anything to tell you or any new designs and finished commissions to share or pictures of finished projects to show you. Far from it. It's more that I don't really know where to begin!

So, one step at a time - Mothering Sunday (not mothers day, that was invented by the card companies, sorry) was lovely. I was treated to a lie in and then croissants for breakfast, lilies, chocolates, lovely cards from B, and even a little cake! When I got back from teaching my college class the previous Thursday evening I started tidying up the kitchen. I assumed that there was flour on the hob because T had made a sauce for his pasta (he's a pretty good cook) until I moved the toaster and found chocolate sprinkles under it. The cake recipe still up on the internet was the giveaway but I was a good girl and didn't look for it! Unfortunately B and T had forgotten the cake was in the oven and it was inedible, but it's the thought that counts!! We had a lovely picnic on Mothering Sunday too, at a local countryside park.

The rest of last week past in a blur of playdates, preschool and private tuition, until my boys went on a trip to visit some friends in Wales. They were away from Wednesday evening until yesterday afternoon, and despite making the most of later mornings, more crafting time and being able to meet up with friends more easily it's sooo lovely to have them back. They had a great time - well, I know B did, and I expect T did too but I think he now needs another couple of days off to recover! I worked on some commissions, some new designs, started to decorated the hall, stairs and landing, and finally finished my crochet project! Well, projects actually, as I liked the yarn so much that I made two items out of it, and I can finally show you them both as they have both arrived at their new homes!

This is the first one that I started - a dress for Gracie, my friend's little girl who gets more smiley and gorgeous and cuddly every time I see her. The pattern is from a Rowan learn-how-to-crochet book. The skirt seemed at one point to be taking forever, but using a variegated yarn definitely made it more interesting to make. I actually started the bodice three times - the first with the variegated yarn (just didn't look right), the second with the pink yarn in trebles (which the pattern said to use, but it looked all out of proportion despite my tension being fine) and the third in half-trebles which looked just right (I think maybe the book had typos?). I'm really pleased with it, and I can't wait to see how gorgeous Gracie looks in it!

And this is the second project - a scarf crocheted in long rows of half-trebles. This is for Laura to wear as she's cycling round the Oxfordshire countryside this spring, and I think from her email this morning that she likes it! I hope you enjoy wearing it Laura!

On a side note, the variegated yarn is a Wendy one and it's made mainly from bamboo, and it's lovely to use, lovely and soft.

Right then, I'm off to take some photos of some of the work I did this weekend to show you later!

Friday, 20 March 2009

I want one!

OMG! A friend had one of these clothkits dolls when we were children and I really really wanted one - I can't believe that they still sell them! I'm really tempted, but I'm wondering if I need a daughter to be able to justify buying one?

Amazing what you find when you're late night browsing the internet instead of having the early night that you promised yourself......

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Hidden Treasures

I've been wanting to show you these for a while, but I first of all had to wait for the stones to arrive and then had to wait for my computer to be well again.

These are the Hidden Treasures pendants that are finally available on the website as from today. I've decided to offer them in two sizes, and with the smaller size you also have the option of having more than one pendant on a chain. As each pendant contains a birthstone this is a great way of creating a special piece of jewellery representing each member of your family.

The original idea was to have the Hidden Treasures available in time for Mothering Sunday, but the computer viruses had other ideas! Never mind, there's always Easter, birthdays, new mother presents, and 'just because' presents!

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Too dependant on computers?

Well, what do you think? Have we becaome too dependant on computers? Mine has been rather poorly lately, so poorly that it had to go to hospital (aka a friend's computer-whizz husband) to have not one but four nasty bugs cleaned off it. Now, if the computer gets an 'ordinary' virus then I can usually deal with it, but this time what ever was on here was actually preventing our virus checker from working (but still making it look on the surface as if it was working) and preventing us from getting onto virus and spyware checking sites that could have helped. I really and truely cannot understand the mentality of people who create and release these programmes. How on earth can they go through life with no thought for other people? It's just completely alien! I'm not a violent person (unless you're a piece of sheet silver that needs hammering of course) but I was definitely thinking very violent thoughts when I was wasting my time trying and failing to get the computer sorted out.

Anyway, rant over! I've got it back now, so you will hopefully have seen that I've been able to finally update the front page of my website. I'm trying to de-clutter everything to make it easier for people to find the information that they need without looking at a long list of links in the menu. I've got some more work to do, and planning to get it done this weekend. Jobs for tomorrow include:
  • letting you know who won February's earrings and posting a picture at last of the ones you could win in March if you sign up for the newsletter,
  • uploading some more new products to the website,
  • catching up on the emails I couldn't deal with while the computer was down (an iphone can only do so much)
  • preparing some information sheets for my class tomorrow evening and
  • sending out a new newsletter
The newsletter will include details of the next set of workshops, so if you'd like to be one of the first to know when places are available you'd better sign up!

As well working on the website, I've been taking photos today, including those shown here. The pendant at the top was uploaded to the website this afternoon. I cut the daisy from sheet silver and then textured it with the texture that I'm loving so much at the moment. The stone set in the middle is blue topaz, and I'm planning to offer the pendant with a choice of different stones.

The Silver Birch bangles shown above have been popular on the website for a few months now, but I've updated the listing to offer the choice of a shiny of an oxidised finish. Oxidising has changed the look of the bangle greatly, and I love how it has really highlighted the beautiful texture my favourite hammer has given the wire.

It's definitely my bedtime, but I will be back tomorrow with more to show you!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Closer to the bees than the butterflies...

"We are closer to the bees than the butterflies" (or words to the same effect) were the 'thought of the week' on my old school's daily bulletin just before the summer holidays one year. It's stuck in my mind as I am definitely happier being a busy bee than floating around like a butterfly! I do enjoy a good relax, especially if it involves a lovely sunny garden, a comfy seat, some peace and quiet and a good book, but I soon feel that I *ought* to be doing something, and I do like the sense of achievement I get from a job well done.

Anyway, all that was to say that I have been a busy bee over the last week, but I have been a lazy blogger - sorry! I know I need to catch up on a few things blog-wise, including letting you know who has one February's earings and showing you the ones for March. One of the reasons for the lack of posts is a virus on the laptop that has slowed our internet connection right down. The horrible thing won't even let us download anti-virus software, it just blocks access to helpful website. It has been so frustrating at times that I could have cried. Anyway, the nice things that I have done over the last week are:

  • finishing a magazine article. They sent me the beads as a challenge - it was definitely a challenge as they weren't my first choice of colours, but it was fun! Hopefully I'll be able to show you the end results soon.
  • working on some new designs - I'll be able to show you some of those tomorrow when I've edited the photos
  • doing some work updating the website. I'm pleased that I've made a start on it, but there's still quite a bit more that I want to do. Mind you, there's always a lot I want to do on the website!
  • completed some commissions, mainly bangles
  • quite a bit of knitting and crochet! You can see how much my crochet has grown in the picture below. I had to carefully arrange it so that you wouldn't be able to tell what it was in case the friend who it is for comes on here and sees it! The colours are brighter in real life, as I took the photo on my iphone.

Today has been a busy, satisfying day. I woke up in a bit of a blue mood, mainly because of how much time this computer virus has wasted. A chat with Nicky and a good day working in the workshed has put me right though, thankfully, as has a nice notonthehighstreet order that came through this afternoon. The picture at the top of this post was the state of my desk at the end of the day - I think my first task tomorrow will be having a good tidy! The thing that I like the best about having such a productive day today is that I've still got another work day tomorrow!

Thursday, 5 March 2009

Antiquing with eggs!

Yes, you read that correctly, eggs!

This tutorial follows on from the Liver of Sulphur (LoS) one that you can find here. If you have been wanting to give antiquing silver a try but haven't got any LoS, then here you will find the information you need to try it with simple items that the vast majority of people already have in their kitchens.

A quick reminder before we start....
Giving your silver and antiqued patina may sounds like a strange thing to do to the uninitiated as we are basically speeding up the natural tarnishing process, but it is a way of beautifully enhancing the pattern on textured silver. I've chosen to oxidise the earrings shown here to highlight the texture of the wrapped wire.

Remember not to clean any oxidised silver with chemicals or by the bicarb of soda method as this will remove the patina. However, if you don't like the results you can use these to clean off the oxidisation and start again, or you can heat your jewellery up with a blow torch as long as it doesn't contain stones or beads.

You will need:
  • An egg (yes, I know I'm stating the obvious, but if I didn't put egg on the list people would only point it out in the comments!)
  • Your clean silver piece(s)
  • an air tight container
  • A saucepan for boiling the egg (and water - stating the obvious again!)
  • Clean water for afterwards
  • A soft cloth for drying your silver
  • A polishing cloth
  • A fine sanding pad (optional)
What to do:

Hard boil the egg and while it is still hot put it in your container and cut it open. I don't bother to remove the shell and usually quickly and roughly chop it up to expose the yolk as that is what is needed. Smell that lovely eggy, sulphury odour? That is what is going to oxidise the silver for us.

Place your clean silver in the container, making certain that it isn't actually touching the egg. I've found that if you've got egg actually on your silver, the oxidisation doesn't occur under the bit with egg on.

Quickly put the lid on the container and wait!

This method of oxidisation is slower than the LoS method, and as the sides of the container will probably mist up you will have to open up the container to check on progress. You may find it useful to turn your silver over to expose all of it to the eggy sulphur fumes. If you find that the oxidisation has stopped and you want your piece to go darker still you may be able to get it started again by reheating the egg in a microwave - please remember to remove the silver first though!!

Once the oxidisation is complete, clean and dry the silver. Now is the time to polish your piece if you wish to remove the patina from the top of the jewellery and leave the darker colours in the crevices of the pattern. As with the LoS method, you can use a fine sanding pad before the polishing cloth to speed the process up, and I tumble pieces that don't contain beads or stones that can't be tumbled as well.

I find that egg oxidisation generally gives a softer, browner colour than LoS. I don't use this method very often as I prefer to bake cakes with my eggs, but it's always a popular demonstration at classes, and a very useful technique to know for when you've run out of LoS and just have to oxidise something!

Let me know how you get on with your kitchen experiments, and as always, do leave any oxidisation tips you may have in the comments!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Sun and snow?

I guess you can say that Spring is definitely here as we've had some very strange weather today! It started off as a lovely sunny morning, so much so that I wore a thick cardigan rather than a coat and had my sunglasses on when I went to do some deliveries this morning. By the time I came home, though, it was trying to snow, but still sunny!

This evening has been cold enough that I was really pleased to have my newly finished hat when I went to my preschool committee meeting this evening. What do you think? It's actually not the one that I showed you here as that one has gone to a new home - this is second hat is the first item I've knitted this year and kept for myself! It's a pattern called Fern Glade that you can find here - as I've knitted 2 in the last month I guess you can say I liked knitting it!

This is my current non-jewellery project - crochet this time, and I'm going to have to be very careful what photos I show you of it as it's a surprise present for a friend who sometimes reads my blog. It's the first time that I've used a variegated yarn, and I never usually use such bright colours, but I really like how it's working out so far. I took this photo a couple of nights ago and it's nearly tripled in size now. If I can take another photo without giving away exactly what it is then I'll show you more another day!

I've got a busy day tomorrow - private tuition in the morning, a magazine project to finish and class preparation to do in the afternoon, and a new class to teach in the evening. You may remember that several weeks ago I hinted that I had two exciting pieces of news (well, exciting to me anyway!). The first was my shop on notonthehighstreet, and I can finally tell you the second - I've just started teaching City and Guilds Jewellery Making as an evening class at a local college. It's a level 3 course, so the students are fairly advanced. I'm taking over the course halfway through, so I'll be teaching the class for a year. I met the group last week, and tomorrow is the first teaching night. I'm really looking forward to teaching a regular silversmithing class, and to showing you some of the examples I make for the course. For now, though, it's off to bed so that I have enough energy for tomorrow!

P.S. The second oxidisation tutorial will be here tomorrow - had hoped to post it on Monday, but I still haven't figured out how to get more hours in the day!


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