Thursday, 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

I hope that you and your families have a wonderful day!

I would have said a peaceful day, but if your household is anything like mine, it's going to get rather noisy when an excited four-year-old wakes up!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Tutorial Tuesday - Christmas felt ornaments

This will be the last Tutorial Tuesday this year, as I probably won't be blogging much over the next week or so. I obviously had to show you a Christmasy project, and as soon as I saw this one on Zakka Life I knew that this was the one - it's felt, it's easy, it doesn't need much sewing, it'll last for years, what more could you ask for?

The photos are lovely and clear, and the balls are surprisingly quick to make. I drew round a CD to make a template. Here are mine - I just need to find somewhere to hang them now!

By the way, if anyone else is like me and hadn't come across the term "zakka" before then have a look at the Wikipedia definition here and some google images of gorgeous zakka crafts here

Monday, 21 December 2009

A lucky boy!

It was, as I said on Friday, B's birthday last Thursday. I know every Mum says this, and I know that I'll say this again when he starts 'big school' next September and on every birthday he ever has, but how on earth did my baby get so big? And where have the last four years gone?! Our lives have changed completely since he was born, especially as I was teaching full time when I was pregnant with him and now run my own business. I'm not even sure that I would be running Daisychain if it wasn't for the fact that we thought that it was a case of now or never when I went on maternity leave.

Anyway, B has been a very lucky boy over the last week and a bit, starting the Friday before his birthday. I said "never again" after having 13 children round (plus mothers and some younger babies) for his party last year, and this year we hired one of the party rooms at a local soft play centre and had a joint party with a friend of B's who is a week older - sooo much less stress, and because we'd clubbed together it was actually no more expensive than getting in the party food, party bags etc etc. I actually managed to sit down and have a chat with some friends!! Thursday was pretty low key as I'd managed to use up all my energy and was feeling grotty again (damn you flu! Why do you take so long to get over?!), but my family and some friends came over on Saturday for a bit of a party. And then Sunday I felt ill again from doing too much, which is why I didn't write this post yesterday!

B's favourite present was definitely this train set - it's fantastic, look, the track goes up and round in a spiral and there's a bridge and a crane and junctions and...... can you tell that having a train-mad son has rubbed off on me?! T took B down to the park for an hour or so before everyone arrived and I set the train track up and hid it under (several large) boxes. When my family (who clubbed together and gave it to him) arrived they hid too and when B came home they surprised him with it all.

I'm really pleased with where I bought it from. I don't usually link to other sites that aren't crafty ones, but you've got to go and have a look at all the wonderful wooden toys at Clementine Toys. A friend told me about all the train sets they've got (together with lots of other things) so of course I had to look. It turns out that they are just up the hill from me so I could even go and pick things up, and that makes them even handier for buying all the birthday presents that I need to get now that B's being invited to birthday parties!

Friday, 18 December 2009

I'm dreaming?

The level of excitement in our house this morning was so funny! Well, what do you expect when you add a very exciteable only-just-four year old (more about that tomorrow!), a just as easily excited 30-something Daddy and SNOW together?!

Oh okay, so it doesn't really look like that much snow, especially compared to what my Grandma and cousins have got in Suffolk, but we NEVER get snow before Christmas down here on the south coast. Come to that, we hardly ever get snow after Christmas either!

Now, if you'll excuse me, the post I was going to write about B's birthday yesterday is postponed until tomorrow after my parents, brother and a few friends come round for yet another birthday party. I'm off to see if B and I can scrap enough snow together for a few snowballs!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Tutorial Tuesday - silver nugget earrings

I've been preparing this tutorial for my beginners silversmithing class tomorrow night, and I thought I may as well post it on here for you as well!

These earrings are really easy and fun to make, and what's more they're made using scrap silver! It's not often that you get to melt silver on purpose, so why not make some last minute Christmas presents?

The equipment and materials you will need are quite simple:
  • scrap silver (obviously!)
  • o.8mm wire
  • butterfly backs for stud earrings
  • easy solder paste
  • flux (I use liquid Auflux)
  • a charcoal block
  • wire cutters
  • large blowtorch
  • reserve action tweezers
  • safety pickle
The first step is to gather a small pile of scrap silver. Cut any large pieces into smaller bits and pile them up on a charcoal block.

Add a couple of drops flux (the yellow liquid that you can just about see on the silver) - I find that the flux helps the metal to melt into a smoother ball.

Now comes the fun bit! Light your torch (you will need a large torch to be able to generate enough heat) and melt the silver! The silver will start to ball up and draw together as it melts.....

and will then draw into a ball. I like to make the ball 'spin' in the heat but holding the flame on to for longer than is needed to just melt it (I couldn't get a photo of this bit as all you'd see would be a bright glowing ball!) as I find that this helps to even the silver into a smoother ball.

Due to the heat there will be alot of cleaning up to do so pop the ball into the pickle after quenching it.

Once the balls have been cleaned up you can file and sand any rough parts if you wish, but I prefer to leave them more organic! I do file the back if they are very rough so that it's easier to solder the earrings fittings on.

To turn your silver balls into stud earrings, turn them over to the flatter side and use easy solder to solder a small jumpring (mine are 2mm) and then a 1cm length of 0.8mm wire into the middle of the ring. I find that the jump ring helps to strengthen the pin that you have just formed.

Once you've pickled and rinse your earrings, use a cup burr or a needle file to round off the end of the wire post and then polish!

These earrings look good with any finish. An oxidised finish highlights the 'organic' look.

A couple of points to note:
  • I melt the silver on charcoal as this helps to absorb some of the oxygen in the flame. If you turn the the ball over once it's cooled down you'll see that there's not much firescale underneath as the charcoal has aborbed the oxygen and prevented the copper oxide (the blackness) from forming.

  • Charcoal blocks only last for so long! Eventually they do crack and break apart like the one below. Some people like to wrap binding wire around them to hold them together for longer but I find that that gets in the way of my work.

  • There are a couple of ways of helping to make even sized balls for a pair of earrings - the simplest is to weigh the silver but you need to use more sensitive scales than kitchen ones. I prefer to make lots of balls at the same time and then choose the ones that match the best!

Busy busy busy!

Just because the blog posts have been slow recently, don't think I've been slacking - it's Christmas, don't you know, the time of year when I spend a lot of time in my shed, thanking God that we (or rather Tony and Tim) insulated it well and I've got a good heater, making lots and lots of goodies to post all over the UK. There's been quite a few overseas parcels as well this year thanks to notonthehighstreet orders. More and more people have found my website too - thank you! I've done a fair bit of promoting this year, some of which, such as posting my tutorials on forums and writing magazine articles, didn't seem like advertising the jewellery sales side of my business, but it seems to have had an impact. Thankfully the bout of the flu I had last week seems to have been a fairly mild one. I started feeling ill a week ago Thursday, but I was fine, just very tired, by the weekend. I'm still tired, but I'm working through it!

Christmas also means that I'm busy making gifts for family and friends. I started earlier than usual this year, partly because I knew that I'd need to be ultra organised this year - I had been warned by a few of the other stall holders at the Winchester Handm@de fair that Christmas on noths is rather busy! - but partly because I really wanted to get started on knitting the patterns I'd found! Now, I can't show you all the things I've made as there are probably a few prying eyes looking for things they shouldn't be, but these are a few of the projects I've been knitting recently. They still need blocking, soI'll show them to you again in all their full glory and tell you about the patterns later on!

Today's tutorial is on it's way, but the way - I've got to polish the earrings I've made (well, there's a hint for you!) and finish some more photos for it first!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Tutorial Tuesday - paper Christmas decorations

I came across this tutorial on Design Sponge a couple of years and put it on my 'to-do' list - which, as you should know by now, is far too long for my own good. I even left a comment on the Design Sponge blog saying how much I like them! I forgot where I saw them, though, until Laura over on Bugs and Fishes posted about them and reminded me - thank you Laura!

A couple of years ago I was going to make them out of white pattern vellum, but my plan this year is to use some Christmas double sided card in lovely rich colours that I've got left over from making my Christmas cards - at least, that's the plan once I get some more energy, cos guess who's gone and got the flu? It's not fun, I can tell you (it's taken me nearly half an hour to write this post!), but at least I seem to have got it pretty mildly compared to others I know. Oh well, at least I was organised enough to make up plenty of stock of most of my made to order items, so I'm still meeting my orders shippping dates.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Made in the UK Advent Calendar

For those of you who haven't come across it yet, the Made in the UK blog is a blog full of, as they say themselves "wonderful and inspiring makes and how-to's from the UK Handmade team members". UK Handmade is a forum full of designers and makers, both people who do their crafts out of love and as a hobby, and those like me who do them out of love and as a business! Every day this month there will be a new Advent Calendar post with a tutorial or recipe for you, and the yummy cookies above are the first day's offering. If there is time before they are all eaten I will take a photo and show you the ones I'm planning to make with B tomorrow after school!

Tutorial Tuesday - Laura Sparling's lampwork tutorials

I've written about Laura Sparling's beads before. They truly are beautiful unique works of art, and the control that she has over that hot molten glass is just amazing!

Laura's been writing some tutorials recently, and she's put together some youtube videos as well, sharing her techniques and hints and tips. They are definitely worth watching, even if like me you don't make lampwork beads. My main reason for not learning how to make them is that I would be forever comparing myself to Laura and not being satisfied with what I could make. I'm sure Laura could bring me up to standard but I love working with the silver too much to take the time out to learn lampworking properly!

You can see Laura's latest tutorial on how to make her roly-poly beads (shown above) here
and following this link will take you to a list of all of her tutorials.

By the way, Laura teaches too! She offer many teaching sessions during the year, and they understandably get booked up quickly, but you can find info on them here. Enjoy!


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