Saturday 28 February 2009

The best laid plans

.....can sometimes lead to something even better.

I keep three sketch books - one in my bag, one in my workshop and one by my bed. My drawing skills aren't exactly the best in the world, but sketching still allows me to record ideas I get from everywhere around me. Sometimes - okay, rarely!- a design will work perfectly from sketch to polishing. This is what happened with my Bloom necklace.

More often, though, my ideas change completely as I work through them! The photo below is of a couple of pages from the sketch book I carry around with me, and it shows a design I started thinking about at the end of last November, as you can just about make out from the date at the top of the page if you enlarge the photo. I wanted a simply locket-style pendant with a birthstone hidden inside and with a simple design pierced out from the front. I've got several pages covered with ideas for the cut out design, but nothing seemed right.

Then, some time spent in the shed a week ago led to this....

The basic idea is still there, the two discs cupped together to hold a stone, but a tactile hammered texture has replaced the pierced design, and a bead hanging from the jumpring joining the two discs has been replaced by a set stone, amethyst in this case. I'm really pleased with it. It's really comfortable to wear and I love the shell look the hammering has given the discs. The plan is to offer this as a made to order item with different birthstones 'hidden' inside, and they should be on the site by the middle of next week.

So far the design has inspired cufflinks, earrings (you may have caught a glimse of those in my oxidisation tutorial) and a bracelet. I'll show you those when they're polished! They are what I've been working on this week in the little time that I've had in the shed. B's childminder has been on a much-deserved holiday, so the only time I've had to work has been either while he's been at preschool or after bedtime, which explains the lack of blogging this week! I've been able to get commissions finished on time, but I was getting withdrawal symptoms by the end of the week as I had new ideas that I desperately wanted to work on! My boys went out and enjoyed the sunshine this afternoon, though, and gave me some time to hammer and solder. They are good to me!

I've just got to edit a couple more photos for the second oxidisation tutorial, so look out for that on Monday!

Monday 23 February 2009

Two days of sunshine

So, how was your weekend? Ours seemed to go very very quickly, probably because we managed to get some jobs done and have some family time too. B and T played on Lee on Solent beach in the sunshine with a friend and his little boy on Saturday while I got some work done (I'd show you some photos of what I made, but I had an little accident :( ) and then B and I did all the jigsaws he owns (enough to completely fill the sitting room floor) while T worked on his bike. Sunday's weather was nearly as nice, so we went for a walk in the New Forest with some friends. I do love the rare days of sunshine that we get at this time of year - it makes me hope that Spring isn't too far away, even though I know that we'll have a fair few days of rain and greyness before Spring really gets here. We're really lucky that we live near such beautiful places that we can enjoy in the sunshine too. We walked between Beaulieu and Buckler's Hard - I'd like to say that the photo above is one I took myself but we were so busy chatting and admiring the view that I completely forgot to get my camera out, so you'll have to make do with one from google instead! It's about a two mile walk each way, and B did really well. He also slept really well afterwards - he fell asleep in the car and didn't stir as I carried him upstairs to his bed!

I decided to have an early night last night too, which is why I'm posting this today instead of yesterday. I had planned to take photos of new jewellery last night, as well as finishing off a new tutorial. Instead I managed to break on of the lights I use in my photo studio set up and then break a dinner plate as I unloaded the dishwasher. As I couldn't take the photos afterall I decided to go to bed before I caused any more damage!

Friday 20 February 2009

The hiccups

Our internet connection has been on the blink all day, which has been especially annoying as I've wanted to catch up with some emails and send some magazine project instructions off. I've only been able to get on the web properly for the last 15 minutes or so, and of course I had to check out blogger, flickr, crafteroo etc before settling down to work. Flickr made me giggle with this message though! I haven't been using flickr for long, so I hadn't seen it before. It's that time of night when silly things make me giggle!

Thursday 19 February 2009

Oxidization - giving your silver an antique effect

After the tutorial I wrote about cleaning silver I had a couple of requests to show people how to do the exact opposite - deliberately tarnish (oxidize) silver! So, here is the first of two tutorials - this one uses a chemical, Liver of Sulphur (LoS), that many jewellery suppliers and art clay suppliers stock to give silver antiqued patina. The second, coming later this week, uses a common kitchen ingredient - more on that later!

Although to those of you who haven't done it before deliberately oxidizing your work sounds like a very strange thing to do, it can enhance the beauty of many pieces of work, especially those with a texture. The pieces of jewellery in this tutorial have been oxidised and then have had most of the oxidization polished off, leaving the crevices of the pattern darker and therefore more obvious. Oxidizing silver and then polishing most of the oxidisation off is also a way of making the silver less obviously bright, a look that I've found is popular on men's jewellery.

A couple of things to be aware of:
  • You can use hot, warm or cold water in this method - obviously don't use hot water if you are oxidizing a piece with glass beads in, especially lampwork beads, as they can break under extremes of temperatures.
  • Oxidizing items with pearls using LoS can harm their delicate surface, so if you want to oxidize pearl items wait until the next tutorial later this week!
  • LoS is smelly! Store it on an air tight container.
  • Obviously don't use a container that you want to use for food later on.
  • LoS needs to be stored away from daylight or it will lose it's potency.
  • Don't clean oxidized silver using the bicarb of soda method or with silver dips as you will clean the oxidization away!
  • The liquid LoS that I use is mild liquid solution that is harmless if you get it on your skin (well, harmless apart from the smell that might linger, that is!). The solid form that is sold in the UK is usually potassium polysulphide which is mildly corrosive - make sure that you read and follow the safety precautions that come with the LoS that you buy.
So, you will need:
  • A container big enough to easily hold the piece(s) you wish to oxidize and enough water to cover them - I prefer to use clear glass containers as the water I use is hot, and I can see my work better through the glass
  • Hot water
  • Soap
  • Clean water for afterwards
  • A soft cloth to dry your piece
  • A polishing cloth
  • A fine sanding pad (optional)
  • Liver of sulphur - I use the liquid form, but it also comes in a solid form that dissolves in water (for stockists see end of post)
  • And obviously the piece you wish to oxidize!
What to do:

  1. Wash the piece(s) you wish to oxidize with soapy water to get rid of any traces of oil and dirt as this will prevent the oxidization process from occurring. I forgot to do this once and ended up with a thumb print that wasn't oxidized on the back of a pendant! I had to remove the oxidization and start again. I don't really need to show you a picture of washing the jewellery do I? I'll show you a lovely picture of some earrings instead - one pair of which have obviously been oxidized!
  2. Fill your glass container with enough water to cover your piece(s) of jewellry - the hotter the water, the quicker the process. I use very hot water from the tap or just boiled water from the kettle. The process will still work with cold water but it will take much longer. You can also heat your piece by rinsing it in hot water too.
  3. Drop a couple of drops of LoS into the water...
  4. ...and mix it in - I use a wooden chop stick or lolly pop stick.
  5. Drop your piece into the LoS. If possible hook your piece onto a length of scrap copper wire so that you can easily pull it out again. This also makes it easier to stir the jewellery in the solution to speed up the process and help make sure that the oxidization is even.
  6. Keep checking how much the piece has been oxidized.
  7. Once the colour is what you want rinse it in clean cold water to stop the oxidization from continuing. It is possible to get a range of bluey/greeny/purply colours on silver using LoS - the colour depends on how long you leave the piece of silver in the solution and how hot the solution is. I prefer to let my piece go very dark and then polish most of the oxidization off. Some people prefer the colours, others still use colder water and leave the silver in for a very long time to go almost black.
  8. To remove the oxidization from the top of the texture use a polishing cloth. You can also use use a fine sanding pad to speed the process up, and then use the polishing cloth afterwards - mind any stones or beads if you use a sanding pad though. Assuming the piece of jewellery doesn't contain stones/beads that can't go in a tumbler, I also use a tumbler to give a final polish that also helps to make the oxidization much longer lasting. Oxidization won't be completely removed from a piece, but areas of oxidized jewellery that are rubbed frequently (ear wires for example) may become lighter in colour.

If you change your mind about the oxidization or, like me that time with the pendant you've realised that you didn't clean your piece of jewellery properly at the start, there are a couple of things that you can do:
  • use the bicarb of soda method of cleaning silver that I wrote about here.
  • Heat the silver up with a blow torch (assuming that it doesn't contain any stones or beads). Remember that you will have to quench and pickle the piece afterwards.
  • Use a silver cleaning solution.
I hope that you have fun with this! Do let me know how you get on, or if you have any tips of your own.

A busy week

I've been much better at blogging regularly this year, but I blew it this week - a whole week since my last post! It has been a busy week here though, so can I use that as an excuse? And can I make it up to you with the offer of a tutorial later today and some pictures later of what I've been up to? I have been working hard, honest, but just not always at things that I can show you now (magazine articles, commissions). Apart from work, it's been busy here for family reasons too. B had a birthday party to go to last Saturday afternoon, it was Mum's birthday on Sunday, and we've just had a surprise visit from the inlaws over the last couple of days. We didn't think we'd be seeing them until the Spring but they had some unexpected time on their hands and wanted to see B - they wanted to see T and I too, of course, but B was definitely the priority! The lucky boy went to Jungle Jeans (a local soft-play place) in the morning, MacDonalds for lunch and then ToysRUs in the afternoon before heading back here for a nap. It's back down to earth today though, as he's at his childminder while I work!

Anyway, I wanted to show you some photos of what I made Mum as part of her birthday present......

I'm sure you remember these lovelies made by Laura Sparling Well, as soon as Laura said she was taking custom orders I was rushing to her website. I ordered 3 - 2 with pink icing and pink sprinkles like the one at the back on the right of the photo, and one with white icing and a cherry like the cupcake in the centre. Other people have come up with some great combinations - have a look at Laura's cupcake gallery here! I've made the beads into bookmarks - one for Mum for her birthday, one for a friend for her birthday in a couple of months (don't worry, she doesn't read my blog - I think!), and the cherry one for me - well, I had to, didn't I? I didn't have time to take a photo before I gave Mum hers though, which is why there are only 2 in the picture below!

Laura's beads ended up inspiring the birthday cake too. I'll leave you with the cute reusable cup cake cases, measuring cups and icing syringe that I found in John Lewis, and the cupcakes I made. They didn't turn out quite how I'd pictured them (and the light in my parents' kitchen is awful for photos!), but that just means that I'll have to practise making more, won't I?!

Thursday 12 February 2009

One uplighter and four cushions later....

Yes, I know, I wasn't planning to go to Ikea for months, and I definitely definitely wasn't going to go anywhere near town on the opening day! I'm placing the blame squarely on Nicky's shoulders - she heard that Ikea hadn't been that busy during the day and suggested we went there this evening. The fact that I didn't need much persuading and I was the only one who bought anything is neither here or there. In my defence, I spent less than £40 and only bought things I've been planning to buy for a while anyway!

Ikea Southampton - it's here!

In honour (?!) of Southampton Ikea opening today, here's a quiz for you to have a go at. It's supposed to be a business tool that helps you to pick the look that'll work for you, but it's a bit of fun too. My style turned out to be 0% modern which didn't really surprise me!

When I moved from Leicester to Southampton one of the things that did cross my mind was how on earth I was going to cope until 2004 when they were planning to open an Ikea down here - afterall, I had until then worked 30mins away from the nearest Ikea! Now it's 2009, they're just opening and the first thought on my mind is the traffic chaos that it's going to cause. I guess we'll just have to see what impact it'll have, but I must admit that it'll be great that a trip to Ikea will no longer be a day trip and that I'll be able to nip in during their quieter periods!

Saturday 7 February 2009


When I was looking through my stash of beads there was really only one choice for this month's earrings - hearts of course! These are Karen Hill Tribe beads, handcrafted fairtrade beads from Nepal with a higher silver content than sterling silver, and I've dangled some garnets below. If you fancy trying to win them, all you have to do is sign up for my newsletter by clicking here or on the brown box on the left of the blog. And if you decide that you just have to have a pair in time for Valentine's Day, there is a pair on the website too!

The winner of January's earrings is Alicia Shepherd - congratulations Alicia! I'll email you to get your address and get the earrings posted off to you.

P.S. The silver heart studs arrived safely with Stephanie, and from the look of it she likes them - have a look at her blog She's got some great music playing on there too.

Friday 6 February 2009


I hinted a week or so ago that I've been working on a couple of exciting things......and you may have guessed what one of them is from the title of this post....

I’m pleased to announce that a range of Daisychain Jewellery can now be found at notonthehighstreet!

I've spent the last week or so taking new photos and uploading products and the shop went live this morning. There are ten designs in there at present, including the ones shown on the picture above, and more will be added over the next week or so. I was really pleased to see that my ruby charm bangles are in the 'Gifts for Her' gift guide already!

Thursday 5 February 2009

On my desk today

I haven't had as much time in the shed as I would have liked this last week or so - most of my work time has been spent teaching or preparing for the two projects that I still can't tell you about! I spent half of this afternoon and most of this evening in there, though. I managed to get some housework tasks done (making headpins, jumprings etc) and also work on a couple of new designs, including the leaves that you can see above. They will soon be a pair of earrings and a pendant along the lines of my bloom pendant and earrings.

As good as new - cleaning silver the easy way!

There are two different ways of thinking about silver tarnishing. It is a natural aging process of this precious metal, and for many people it enhances the piece of jewellery or the ornament as it highlights the textures and patterns in the design. For others, it's an ugly sight that needs to be cleaned away as quickly as possible. I can see both views - for some pieces, such as filigree work, as long as the tarnish isn't over the whole piece it can definitely add to the beauty of the work, However, I really dislike the look of tarnish of smooth pieces such as bangles, or on chainmaille. As with everything, it's all a matter of taste! anyway, I thought that I'd show you a quick and easy way of cleaning silver.

I couldn't believe how easy this method was when a friend first told me about it, but it's great! I don't like using the jars of silver cleaning dip that you can buy as I find that although the silver is clean when it comes out, it's dull. The method below leaves it beautifully shiney, and what's even better is that it uses items that most people have already got in their kitchens, not nasty chemicals, and you can in most areas now recycle the tin foil that's used. A couple of words of warning though:
  • DON'T clean items with glass beads, especially not precious lampwork beads, in this way, as it uses hot water that could cause the beads to crack.
  • DON'T clean items that have been oxidised as the oxidisation will be taken off!
  • Try not to breath in the fumes that will probably be given off as a chemical reaction is taking place.
  • I prefer not to clean items with semi-precious stones using this method, as although the ingredients are very mild this is still a chemical reaction.
You will need:
  • A washing up/kitchen bowl
  • Aluminium tin foil
  • Bicarbonate of soda (I get through tonnes of this as I also use it for helping to clean my tumbler and for neutralising the pickling solution I put silver in after it's been soldered)
  • Hot water from the kettle
What to do:
Line the bottom of your washing up bowl with a sheet of tin foil.Wash your silver with soap and water and put it in the bowl on top of the foilSprinkle some bicarb of soda over everythingPour on enough hot water to cover your silver and watch in amazement! Take your silver out as soon as it is clean and rinse it overwise any residue could damage the surface. The hotter the water you use, the quicker your silver will clean. If you really really want to clean jewellery with glass beads in this way, use water that is only warm. It'll take longer and you may need to do it a few times, but better safe than sorry.
Dry with a soft clean cloth.You can just about see from the photo above that there was still a little bit of tarnish left over on the bangle so I gave it a quick polish with a silver cleaning cloth, the type that you can buy cheaply from most jewellers.

And now for the science bit.....this method uses a reaction between the aluminium and silver sulphide (the tarnish). The bicarb acts as an electrolyte, causing the tarnish to transfer from the silver to the foil.

A few more useful tips on keeping silver clean:
  • The best way of keeping silver tarnish free is to wear it! The next best thing is the store it inside an airtight plastic bag, as it is the contact with air that speeds up the formation of tarnish.
  • Make sure that your jewellery is completely dry before storing it.
  • Silver hates rubber! Never store your silver in anything rubber or cleaning it while wearing rubber gloves or hold chains flat on a display with rubber bands - it could cause tarnish so deep that permanent damage is caused.

Wednesday 4 February 2009


I'll be back later with a longer post tomorrow morning (earrings winner, new jewellery, new tutorial, that kind of thing) but I just have to show you these first.....

Aren't they fantastic?! I can't quite decide which of the two white iced ones is my favourite! Go and visit Laura's blog to see more!

Monday 2 February 2009

Snow Day!

Well, I couldn't be the only blogger in the UK not to blog about the snow today, could I?! Any of you reading this from the States must think we're absoloutely mad but it only takes a little bit of snow down here on the south coast for us to get excited - and unfortunately for the roads to get clogged. The estate behind us has been unpassable for most of today as a bus jack-knifed on the main road there first thing this morning. Apparently this is the heaviest snowfall for almost 20 years.We usually go to a dance and music group on Monday mornings but B had a friend over to play instead. We had fun in the garden building a snowman (well, a snowchild) and throwing snowballs - at least, the children were trying to throw them at me but their aim isn't quite right yet! Never mind, they'll have another 15 years or so to practise their throwing before the next time we have any decent snow!

I hope that you all had fun in the snow today too!

Sunday 1 February 2009

A work in progress

Just a quick note tonight to show you my new hat - or rather, what will be my hat in another day or so! This is another pattern from Knitty, and I'm really enjoying it. I'm also enjoying the fact that there won't be any sewing up to do afterwards! I think that that has been my downfall with knitting in the past - I have a couple of projects that are still waiting for sewing, namely a maternity cardigan and a jumper that I knitted for B when he was 6 months. Problem is that B is now three. Ooops!

P.S. I've already found a few more hat patterns to continue my renewed yarn addiction!


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