Sunday 2 June 2024

Evendoon Cardigan In Plum


After the success of my first Evendoon Cardigan I wanted to have another go.  This would give me another colour to wear and allow me to make a couple of small changes that I've thought of from wearing the first one.

This time I wanted to make the arms and body just a little longer.  And I made the ribbing at the bottom of the body a little longer too.


Although I think this is a very straightforward pattern, I still managed to mess it up twice and had to undo it - once where I turned half way through a row when I got distracted and put it down for a bit!  So it did take a little longer than the first.

This time I was using Stylecraft Special DK in plum - 3 balls.  And I made glass buttons in black.  The black isn't really black, but a very dark transparent purple which you'd see if you held them up to the light, but looks black here.

I'm pretty happy with it, but the real test will be in the wearing.  Roll on my next day in the office.

Friday 24 May 2024

Reactive Glass Jewellery


Can you guess where I’ve been this week?

Yep, back to West Dean.  This week if was for Reactive Glass Jewellery.


It kicked off on Monday evening where the class met up for dinner, then into the classroom for our first session.


Claire our tutor is a very talented glass fusing artist and she was very friendly and  knowledgeable and was happy to answer all our questions as she overwhelmed us with information.


The course was all about fusing glass and the wonderful reactions you can create when mixing certain glasses and metals together.  In this case silver foil.  The idea being that you can then make these pieces of glass into pieces of jewellery.


On Monday evening I started by making a square tile with a piece of French vanilla glass, scraps of silver foil, and a pinch of glass powder with a piece of clear glass to cap it all off.  Everyone made their own versions then everything went into the kiln. Then we either went home or most of the rest of the class went to the bar!


The next day we started to learn more about the possible reactions and other techniques we could use.  We spent the morning working on more glass creations to fuse.  Then at lunch time we could finally open the massive kiln and see our work from yesterday.  I was very pleased with how mine came out – the vanilla had reacted to the silver creating a dark line round it and there were tendrils of brown showing where the fumes from the reaction had tired to escape.  (see the first image)


 Now we had a piece of glass we could practice our cold working techniques on, grinding and polishing and eventually putting it back in the kiln for a fire polish. 


On our last day we could create more things for the kiln if we wished, but I didn’t want to leave anything behind, so I just focused on my cold working.  This time using a tile saw to cut some of my tiles of glass up, then drilling a hole in one piece!



Once again we had to wait until lunch time before we could open the big kiln.  I was delighted with my work.  I'd had no real idea what might come out of it.  Just because I followed a 'recipe' doesn't mean it would come out the same.  It definitely made me want to do more.


Claire also had some silver findings for us to purchase to finish our pieces off.


This was such a great course and added so much to my glass knowledge.  I’ve now got to build up the courage to try and reset my kiln so I can try fusing at home.  I’ve got lots of broken bits of glass which could make good/interesting cabochons.


There are also a few pieces from the course that I'd like to do more cold work on and then fire polish to finish.  Glass continues to amaze and fascinate me.  


Monday 6 May 2024

The Next Step

 Anyone who looks at this blog will see that I’ve been making stuff for a long time.  And it goes back much further than when I started to blog in 2008.  I’ve been making for as long as I can remember.

I’ve tried a lot of things, and have favorites that I keep going back to.  And because I’m making so much, I find that I can try my hand at most things and end up with a reasonable end result, much to the amazement/annoyance of other people.



But I’ve ended up feeling like a jack-of-all-trades while not being a master of any.


So I’ve talked to a bunch of creative people and done a lot of thinking over the past couple of months about what and if I want to do anything about this.


Apparently to become really good at something you need to spend at least 10,000 hours doing it. And I can see that in my knitting.  I’ve been knitting since Dec 2013 And I’ve come a long way since that first hat.  Now I’m making jumpers and cardigans that I’m very happy to wear in public, and I’ve even had people ask me where I bought them! 



But I have spent hours working on this skill and I'm still nowhere near that 10,000.  Quite often I use the last hour of my day, sat on the sofa with ‘im outdoors, knitting.  Let’s say that’s 5 hours a week, that time quickly builds up but it will still take about 35 years before I hit 10,000 hours!


On the other hand there is my glass work, something that I’ve only really been doing for a year.  Due to the nature of the material, I can only work on it when I’ve got a reasonable chunk of time which for me means at least 2 hours on a Saturday afternoon.  It’s going to take a lot longer to hit that 10,000 hour mark.



While thinking about all this I’ve also been thinking a bit about what I want to be doing when I get to retire (many many years away, but it’s good to have a plan).  I don’t want to wait until I retire to do things, but I’d like to be in better creative habits when I get there.  So this year I’ve done things like join my local arts and crafts society so I start to meet other creative people and become part of the community.



And I’ve bought a new sketchbook and coloured pencils and I’m trying to make sketching a daily practice (failing so far), something I haven’t really done since I was on my art foundation year many many years ago.


And on top of thinking about the glass work I’ve been thinking about what I want to do with the glass things I make, and having attended a couple of jewellery making courses over the last couple of months I’d love to do more of this too.



After all this thinking I’ve come to the conclusion that what I really need is more time.


Which led me to think about where I could get more time from and the realisation that I’m in the very privileged position of being able to change my hours at work, without affecting my income too much.



So from this month Fridays will no longer count towards the working week and I’ll be going back to Frensham Old Barn to do more jewellery making in the mornings, with more time for glass work in the afternoon.


I have no idea how this experiment will play out.  There are so many unknowns:


Will my new reduced income be enough?

Will I be able to do my current job in the reduced hours?

Will I have the discipline to use Friday’s as a crafting day?

Will it give me the time I crave to work on projects?

Will my glass and jewellery work improve with the additional focus?

While it is scary, I know I would regret not trying.  So off I go, and I’ll keep you posted on here.

Sunday 14 April 2024

Wood Turning Experience Day


 I have wanted to have a go at wood turning for ages.  I was aiming to do a class for my 40th birthday, but then we all got locked down.

But this year 'im outdoors gave me a wood turning experience day at Hampshire Sheen for my birthday and yesterday I got to use it.


There were just 2 of us on the course and I wasn't sure what to expect.  The workshop is hidden at the back of a garden centre and we met in the cafe (amazing food) to have a chat before wandering down to the workshop to get hands on.

In the workshop we were introduced to the lathes we'd be using and the block of Ash we'd be making a bowl out of.


A bowl is a great project to start with as there is a lot of wood to cut away before you get to your actual bowl shape, so you can practice your cuts lots before you get to the point where it matters.


Martin took us through the process step by step.  We learnt how to hold the tools correctly and how to attach our block of wood before smoothing the sides of our wood to make sure it was even.  We then made a recess to use later before cutting away all the wood we didn't want to make the outside of the bowl.  The shape was up to us.

As was the colour finish.  We used his range of dyes to colour the outside of our bowls.  I used a mixture of Midnight Blue, Plum, Ruby and Sky Blue.  We then sealed the wood and finished with a wax.  I used purple.


After lunch we turned our bowls round and uses the recess from earlier to attach our bowl to the lathe before learning how to cut away the inside of the bowl.  This was very tricky as you need a nice smooth cut so you don't have a lumpy inside.

With some very good guidance from Martin, I managed to finish the inside of my bowl as nicely as the outside.  Once we were happy with the finish we also sealed the wood, bringing out the beautful pattern.


Wood turning isn't quite as easy as you'd think (things never are) but I had a really brilliant day and am soooo pleased with my finished bowl.  


It was very messy, but you don't need much strengh to make your cuts, the lathe does that for you.  Martin was a great tutor, very knowledgable and always at hand to help you out.

I won't be investing in a lathe anytime soon, but I know 'im outdoors is thinking about it, so maybe I can convince him to let me have a go if he does. 

Sunday 7 April 2024

Making A Mosaic


I recently joined my local Arts and Crafts Socity.  

One of the benefits I'm really enjoing is their monthly demonstations.  Here a local artist spends a couple of hours demonstrating their craft, and some times we even get to join in.

Last month Tamsin Norris did a demonstration of how to create a mosaic.  I'd never really considered that they had anything to do with glass, until Tamsin showed us some of her work.


Once she'd shown us some examples and talked us through how it worked we were able to have a go.

We were each given a square tile, some PVA glue and a tub full of glass tile shards.  It was suggested we'd want to draw a heart but I ended up with a star.  We covered our shape in glue then found chunks of glass to fill the space.

While this was fun, what I enjoyed most was just being able to chat with other creative types.


At the end of the session we got to take our tiles home with instructions to let them dry for at least a week before grouting them.

Inspired by some of the other things Tamsin showed us, once home I also used some of my sea glass to make a heart on a stone found on the beach at Easter.  I wasn't sure if this would work, but it did and once grouted a little rub of bead wax made the sea glass shine.

I'm not sure I'll do any more mosaic, but it was brilliant to find another application for glass, and learn a new skill.


Thursday 4 April 2024

Beaded Crochet Pouches


Before Christmas I found this pattern for beaded crochet pouches by Janie Crow.

It was a free pattern and I liked the patterns and colours and thought I could maybe make some as Christmas gifts using my stash.  But they took longer than expected and I wasn't sure how to line them and I sort of gave up on them a little.


I think part of the problem was I was using a digital pattern on my iPad, so it was very hard to keep up with where I was in the pattern (I normally use a post-it note to mark my place) and it was hard to keep track of which colours I'd swapped out to something else. 

But once I'd finished the Evendoon cardigan, I went back to the pouches and finished the crochet side of things.  Then I found some lovely rainbow star fabric and matching zips, and over the long Easter weekend made them up.


It was of course a lot simpler than my brain had been telling me.  I was helped along by a very helpful blog post about how to add a lining to a crochet pouch and then they were done.


I also made a flower, but added a safety pin to the back so it can be worn as a brooch too.

I think I prefer the pastel colours more, but like that the blue/grey one is made with leftovers from my sky blanket.


They are still going to be gifts, but not as I'd orginally planned.  I hope they enjoy them. 


Sunday 3 March 2024

3 Silver Bangles


This week I was back at West Dean.

I've been wanting to do the 3 silver bangles class for years now, but it gets booked up very quickly.  I think I must have booked this 6 months ago, before I had even come across the Frensham Old Barn Workshop.

This was a one day workshop run by Sarah and Rachael.

We were given three lengths of silver wire.  One was round, one was square and one was D wire.  We were also given some copper wire so we could have a play before making our actual bangles.

Copper wire samples

Sarah talked us through how to anneal our metal to make it easy to work, and showed us lots of example bangles to give us ideas of what we could make.

Sarah and Rachael were on hand the whole time to answer our question and help us to figure out our designs.  They were so helpful!

I knew I wanted to twist the square wire to match the ring I made before Christmas.


I had of course also bought some glass beads with me, and wanted to know if I could add them - would they deal with the heat ok?  And all the other processes used in making a bangle?  So that was the round wire sorted, but what to do with the D wire?

I really liked the wishbone bangle they had but the example used square wire.  Would it work with D wire.  They suggested I turn the rounded side inside against my wrist and used the flat side to make the point.  Sorted!


Once I knew what I was doing I could just get on with it.

I twisted the square wire first as that was quite straight forward.  You have to keep quite a lot of tention on the wire as you twist it to keep the twists equal, but I think I did ok.

I then set about shaping the wishbone and cutting the wire at an angle to make the point.  This needed a little refining, but I got there in the end.  It really does prove that taking the time at the start is worth it, as I ended up with a lovely finish in the end.

Then I moved onto the round wire with beads.  Several of the other ladies had textured their wire with a hammer, and I thought this looked really good, so I did the same with mine.  I then threaded on my beads and set up to solder it.  I covered the glass beads and tried to keep the heat away and I think it was ok, until without thinking I put the whole lot in the water to cool it.

This is fine with metal, but the glass likes to cool slowly.  Doh!  All the beads cracked.  But I put it in the pickel anyway just to see what would happen.  It's a mild acid and the glass didn't care at all.

So I ended up with 2 bangles which I'm really please with, and one that has proved a concept for me and given me LOTS of ideas to take home with me and I hope to explore later.  What more could I ask for from a day of crafting?

Sunday 18 February 2024

Evendoon Cardigan


This week I've been wearing my new favourate cardigan!

I started knitting Kate Davies Evendoon Cardigan just before Christmas and found it a really easy knit.  It helps that it's not the biggest either!

Once I saw how fast it was knitting up I decided to aim for a meeting I was due to attend in the actual office on 12 Feb.  Could I do it?  Yes I could.


On top of knitting the cardigan itself.  I also wanted to make matching buttons.  The pattern said I would need between 7 and 12, so I had to make them in batches.  


I have special button hole mandrals, but I only have 5.  So over January I made batches of 5 buttons each time I was in the studio.  This gave me 20 buttons, although a couple broke and some had sharp bits.  I had plenty to find my perfect 7. 

I used 3 balls of Stylecraft Special DK in Cypress and really love the colour.  My buttons are effetre glass - ivory with transparant light turquoise dots. 


I'm very pleased with the fit.  I was sure it would be too small, and I was worried the buttons would be too heavy.  If I make it again (and I am tempted to make some in other colours) I would make it a tiny bit longer in the body and the arms, but otherwise I'm very pleased with the fit and the buttons were perfect. I'm looking forward to my next in-person meeting already.