Wednesday 30 August 2023

Glass Mandala Beads


 I have been totally fascinated by mandala beads since I saw my first.  I've watched a couple of videos on how to make them but not found anything written down so have been finding it hard to get my head round how to make them.

But this week I decided to have a go anyway.

The first was a complete mess.

See the progression from right to left

The second started to get the idea.

Then I made a break through realising I needed to drag the dot down, not the space between the dot!

Then I realised that less dots is better!

And now it's just a matter of practice and, as always, dot placement.


Resting my work on top of my torch really helped too, as my hands shake when I try and do the detailed work.  And remembering that I don't need to panic, I can take my time and reheat if needed also helps.

I had two afternoons working on them over a bank holiday weekend and I can see the progress I've made, especially when I compare the last one from the first afternoon and the last from the second afternoon.  There is still work to be done, but I can see I'm going in the right direction which is the key. 

Afternoon 1 on the right, afternoon 2 on the left

And looking at photos of others work on instagram, I've also realised that I don't have to melt the drag mark in, which I've found reduced the size of the bumps.  Something to try when I'm back at the torch.  Always learning!

Sunday 20 August 2023

Bubbly Sweater

 This year I've been knitting the Bubbly Sweater from Isabell Kraemer.  I say year as it's taken much much longer than I would normally expect a sweater to take.  

I must have started it after I had finished the Kiss of North project as I try to only have one major project on the go at a time.  And this week, only 6 months later, I've finished it!  (I'd normally expect a jumper to take 3-4 months to complete.)


Some of it was all the running I was doing.  I was covering a lot of miles, which in turn left me feeling very tired by the end of the day, my normal knitting time.  With a pattern this complicated you don't want to do it when you're tired and bound to make mistakes.  It was only complicated round the yoke and the ribbing, but it still slowed me down.


Plus there has been the excitment of the glass studio being finished and so I've lost some time to making glass beads (which I'm very happy about).

But the real issue was the brioche stitch used for ribbing the bottom of the body and end of the sleeves.  I found this so hard and kept making mistakes and as it uses a yarn over, mostly ended up undoing the whole lot and having to start again.  By the end I'd got the pattern in my fingers and finally worked out how to fix a dropped stitch, but it was by far the longest part of the process.

Can you spot the mistake?

I'm not sad I kept undoing it, the finished piece looks great, but there is one small miskake on the right sleeve which I've left as I couldn't face undoing it and starting again.

I used 4 balls of Stylecraft special double knit in graphite with the detail in turquoise (much less than 1 ball).  It's a lovely colour combination and I'm really happy with the fit too.  I guess the only bonus of it taking so long is I won't have to wait so long for the cooler weather so I can wear it.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Glass Casting In The Studio


While I've been happily playing with glass beads in my studio, since I attended Glass Summer School, I've been wondering if it's possible for me to do any casting in there too?

I only have a baby kiln, which is perfect for my beads but could it deal with a higher temperatures and bigger pieces of glass?  Only one way to find out!


So I bought myself some materials, and gave it a go.  First I made a very simple design in clay, then made a mould with plaster.  Then I let the plaster dry for ages.


Then I worked out how much glass I could need and smashed a blue bombay sapphire bottle that I'd liberated from someones glass recycling box and filled it up.  It looked like something out of superman's ice cave!


Then I set the kiln to heat to it's very top temperature of over 1000 degrees and waited to see what would happen.

I love that my kiln has a small window, so when I went to check on it, I could see, first the glass slumping, then making massive bubbles before settling down.


It then took hours to cool down, it was actually the next day before I could take it out of the kiln.

It's not as smooth as I was hoping for - this might be becasue my kiln didn't get hot enough, or because I'm using a glass that I don't know the col of, but I still think it's pretty cool.  It looks like ice.  


I'd like to try it again with a different glass. I've got some offcuts of clear ballseye which would be a known entity, but I'm not sure I want to run my kiln that hot that often.  Something to think on.

Also the edges were pretty uneven, so I'd want to be able to grind them down too.


So a positive experience, but not quite the finish I was thinking of.  I still have some ideas I'd like to try, but I'm not sure my kiln is up to the task.  Which means find someone with a bigger kiln which I could use or buy a bigger kiln....