Sunday, April 23, 2017

Week in Review - Spring Break 2017 (Woohoo!)

We've been on vacation all week. It's really been a staycation as we just enjoyed being home and visiting with friends and family. Two of the nieces stayed with us most of the week.

We brought one home with us Easter afternoon. She spent the afternoon bonding with the puppy.

Monday was kind of a lazy day (and generally picture-less) as we did some shopping, played games, and hung around outside.

Tuesday involved us buying a third kayak (so we have a spare when someone else wants to hit the water with us.) We didn't waste time taking it out for a test run. The niece is a natural in a kayak!

Wednesday morning I went and picked up the oldest niece before one of my brothers and Sister-In-Law arrived with their kids for an afternoon of some family fun.

Spring Break just wouldn't be right without a trip to the beach. We didn't plan to stay long so we took minimal supplies with us. The nieces actually worked together to make a little shade for the oldest. The youngest and I searched for shells and played in the sand while Pat played in the waves. (It was a little rough and the current was stronger than I felt comfortable with.)

The oldest niece's only request for her visit was to do some art. So, Friday she started on a string art project that we'll finish later while her sister worked on soap-making. I have to say, it's difficult to do the melt-and-pour soap when you don't have a microwave. I don't recommend it! We also tried shaving cream paper marbling with alcohol inks. It was messy, but fun.

Once the crafts were cleaned up and lunch eaten, we packed up for me to take them home. Since youngest niece is a big fan of unicorns and Starbucks, we made a little stop for one of those new frappuccinos. She loved it. I didn't even taste it.

With the house free of kids, we spent Saturday being as lazy as possible poolside with a friend. It was blissful.

Today is oldest niece's birthday, and we're gearing up to go to my mom's a little later. For now, we're just soaking in the last day of vacay and enjoying the quiet.

How has your week been?

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Jewelry-Making for Beginners: Part 1 - Tools

Making jewelry is a hobby that anyone can pick up easily. I did. Over 15 years ago, after seeing a necklace a friend made, I dove right into the craft. With much practice, many years, and lots of trial and error, I think I finally have it. And, I want to share what I know and how I do it. As such, I'm working on creating a series of tutorials, videos, and information to spread the joy of creating as best as I know how. 

This is the first in that series that will consist of videos on my CraftyHope YouTube Channel and additional information and pictures here on the blog. 

This series begins with basic information on the tools, materials, supplies, and whatnot needed to get started. Today's lesson is on tools. For the most part, this covers pliers.

Let me start by saying that it's not necessary to go out and buy the most expensive pliers you can find. I’m still working with many of the inexpensive ones I got many, many years ago. Of course, if you’d rather work with the best you can find, go for it. Alas, I don’t have any recommendations on brands. Buying a kit is a great way to start. They often have the basics covered. 

As a note - I have seen sets of tiny pliers. While these are super cute, I would not recommend getting those as you start out, unless you have really tiny hands. Getting something that fits your hands as comfortably as possible will make using them less tiresome and more enjoyable.

In my opinion, there are three main pliers you should have to begin your jewelry-making journey.
Wire cutters: As they are named, these are used for cutting wire. Keep in mind that thicker, heavier gauged wires will require more heavy-duty cutters. You can seriously damage and dull your cutters if you try to cut something too heavy. I’ve made due in a pinch with nail-clippers for some wire. Wire cutters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, grips, weights, and uses. Please note that memory wire is some of the toughest stuff on earth and will require more heavy-duty or specialty cutters. 

Chain-nose pliers: These long, skinny nosed pliers are a main staple of jewelry-making. The flat inner surface of chain-nose pliers is great for holding things stable while working with them. They are great for opening and closing jump rings, holding loops while wire-wrapping, holding and maneuvering small findings that might be too fiddly for fingertips, and many more tasks. Take a look at the jaws of yours. Some have ‘teeth’ on them while others are flat. Ones with teeth can scratch and mar the surface of your metal but can also give you better hold and control. Weigh your options and pick what’s best for you.

Round-nose pliers: Used to help create loops in wire with their round shape, the tips of these are small and get larger as you move toward the handles. This design gives you options as to the size of the loops you make. When starting out, it might be a good idea to make several marks on your round-nose pliers with a permanent marker or nail polish to indicate specific sizes. This will help you be more consistent in the size of your loop-making. Round nose pliers can also be used to open and close jump rings and hold/maneuver small parts. However, their rounded surface doesn’t make them ideal for these purposes. I will say that there is some discussion about the shape of the pliers when they are closed. I like to have as little space between the jaws as possible when they are closed. That way, I know that any wire (even the tiniest gauge) can be held securely. Other designers don’t really care. It’s a personal preference for sure. 

There are a few other tools that can be added to this list of the basics.

Flush cutters: These are a type of wire cutters. They’re great for cutting flush against a surface, hence their name. The small tip on flush cutters help them get into some of the tightest spaces.

Bent-nose pliers: As you can see, the tips of these are bent, hence the name. Apparently, these pliers were initially developed for electricians to use much like tweezers. While I can see the importance of that, I personally just use bent-nose pliers by holding them in my left hand (with my chain-nose pliers in my right) to open and close jump rings and loops as well as to hold and manipulate objects. 

Crimping pliers: These are used to securely smash crimp beads and tubes closed on beading wire. They are not completely necessary as a pair of chain-nose pliers can also get the job done. However, crimping pliers are designed specifically for this purpose and do work more effectively than the chain-nose pliers. I’ll share in a later post/video how to use them.

Scissors: An obvious tool in any creative person's stash, scissors cut objects. They are used specifically in jewelry-making to cut  materials such as thread, fiber, leather, cord, etc.

There are a variety of other types of pliers and tools you could add to this list. I know I personally have lots more. However, for a beginner these are a great starting point. As mentioned above, you could get by simply with the first three on the list. 

The video I created for this first part of the jewelry-making series can be viewed below. (If not, please follow the link.)

If you have any questions, corrections, additions, or whatnot; please feel free to let me know. Also, comment if there's something specific you want to learn so I can make sure to include it in the series.

Linking up at Talk of the Town and Think Tank Thursday at Saving4Six.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easy Easter Decor DIY

I know Easter is l just a few short days away, but I want to share the couple of decorations I made from inexpensive materials as some inspiration for the little time that's left or for next year.

To start, I purchased this wall-hanging decoration at the Dollar Tree.
I really like the image of the chicks and nest in the center, but the glittery frame just wasn't my thing. I knew it had to be altered.

Fortunately, the back of it was uncovered chipboard.

Start by coating the egg-shape with a layer or two of gesso before using Mod Podge to cover it with torn pages from an old dictionary.
Be more concerned with covering the frame completely than with whether the pieces hang off or not.

Once the glue is dry, use scissors and a sanding block to remove the excess dictionary paper.

To tone down the words on the pages, paint the frame with a layer or two of watered-down gesso.

Here's where the fun begins! Stamp several colors of Distress Ink onto a non-stick craft sheet and spray it with water.

From there, quickly dab the frame in the ink to cover as much area as possible. Pick up and move the frame around to get different colors in different areas. Try not to drag it through the ink.
This is how it looks before the ink dries. LOVE!

While waiting for the ink to dry, punch out letters from some Grungeboard, coat them with gesso, and paint them in a pretty violet shade of craft paint. (Of course, you could use stickers or other letters and any shade of craft paint you want.)
It doesn't take long for everything to dry. Once it is, glue the letters onto the frame.

I worked on filling the center of the frame between steps. This started with basic, plastic Easter eggs. These were also from the Dollar Tree and had two holes in their tops and bottoms.

Measure out about how many would fit in the frame, with space between. Then, use waxed linen cord  or other material (fishing line would work) to string the eggs together. Knot before and after each hole, using one short strand of cord for just the top of the first egg and one longer strand for the rest of the eggs. This longer one should begin at the top of the last egg and end in the bottom of the first egg. Let me also not that waxed cord will stretch some. I advise you to pull and stretch it a little so it doesn't do it on its own. (I did not, and I regret it.)

Here's a really bad diagram of how these were tied.

Once the eggs are strung, secure them with washi tape. (Masking take will work just as well.) Collect your Mod Podge and dictionary paper again for the next step.

Tear the paper into smaller pieces. Stick it to the eggs by painting on the Mod Podge, layering on the paper, coating the paper with more mod podge, and rubbing the paper flat (I used my finger). Start around the holes with the cord first. Also, begin with larger pieces of paper, then use smaller pieces to fill in missed areas.
Allow the decoupaged paper to dry then attach the string of eggs to the frame by simply tying them on.

Another quick decoration I created used a frame from the thrift store.
I realized that the one on the top there (with the picture) had no glass, but that the picture is just a canvas board that pops in and out pretty easily.


When I painted the egg frame with gesso, I went ahead and coated this frame and the canvas board all at once. From there, sketch out your general shape onto the canvas board in pencil.

Sort through your buttons to get the colors you want. I went for pastels to keep with the general Easter theme.
Once you have what looks like enough buttons, simply glue them down in your shape with gel medium. I used a slow-drying medium so I could move them around as needed. Please note that once the medium coats the pencil marks, you will be unable to erase them. Once your buttons are secure, erase the pencil marks that you can and paint over the rest with a thin brush and gesso.

Once everything is dry, pop your canvas board back in the frame.

Arrange your decorations on the wall in a pleasing pattern.
Because of the window and door on either side of where I hung these, I had a difficult time getting good pictures, no matter the time of the day.

In any case, here's a better look at them.
After the inks dried on this, the colors toned down a bit and are fabulous!

The buttons for this are not near as dark as they look in the picture. Like I said, the lighting was wonky.

I'm so pleased with my happy, little collection that came together quickly and inexpensively.

I hope this post inspires you to take a look at the supplies and decorations you may already have (but don't like anymore), and alter them to suit your tastes more.

 Happy Crafting!!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Bead Peeps Swap N Hop Reveal

Today's the day we've been waiting for: the 3rd Annual Bead Peeps Swap N Hop!

Members of the Bead Peeps Facebook Group were assigned partners and swapped beads. We were to send at least one artisan component. As well, the packages had to include a focal, a clasp, and/or beads. I was partnered up with the fabulous Kari Asbury. The link goes to her Instagram, but you can find more of her beautiful work on her website: Here's the pretties that Kari sent me.
You can see these in more detail on my Bead Peeps Swap N Hop: The Exchange post. Kari sent me many, many treasures! Included in the mix were several items made by her, ceramic elements from Gaea, more ceramic pretties from Spirited Earth, a handmade pendant from Tesori Trovati, some WoolyWire, sari silk ribbon, and a bright mix of glass beads.

As an added challenge, Linda (the group's administrator and our hostess), encouraged us to have duplicates of what we sent out partners and make something from that. I thought this challenge sounded interesting and always love to see what different artists do with the same materials, so I played along. Here's a look at both what I sent to Kari and kept for myself.
The artisan component in my mix was the crown pendant from Dry Gulch on etsy. I also altered some brass folder rings with patinas in an attempt to make them match the crown. As well, I threw in a brass clasp, ceramic buttons, and a mix of glass, metal, and stone beads.

Before I reveal what I made, I want to admit that I didn't use near all the beautiful pieces Kari sent me. There were so many! And, as excited as I was about the wooly wire, I just couldn't decide how best to feature it. However, I did use almost all of the pieces that Kari made herself. They just called out to me.

As soon as I got the pictures taken, I knew that the two dragonfly tiles were meant to be earrings. These emerged in no time.
They simply fell together! In addition to Kari's dragonfly tiles; I used two small amber-colored glass beads from the mix and small bits of the sari silk she sent. From my own stash, I added brass bead caps, jump rings, ear wires, and violet crystals.

Here's another look at these beauties.

I stayed in the groove with Kari's tiles and created a simple pendant with a few more of the beads Kari sent and some antiqued copper wire of my own.
Kari's "Gypsy Soul" pendant told me what colors to use, and I went with it. The biggest hurdle in making this necklace was actually finding copper ball chain, which I was adamant it needed.

I think it would look lovely layered with another necklace or two for a true gypsy look.

My favorite item in the package from Kari was the key with the rhinestones.
It was just SO ME! But, that made it even harder for me decide how best to use it. I kept trying to work it into a necklace. However, a spark of inspiration finally hit when I realized that the thin nature of the key would allow me to both bend it and punch a hole in it.

With those tasks done, I was able to create this simple bracelet.
I aged a piece of thick (16 gauge maybe?) brass wire. First, I formed a hook to work as a clasp. With another piece of wire, I turned loops on either end and bent the rest into a small arc. Antiqued brass jump rings connect everything.

I am ABSOLUTELY smitten with this bracelet. It is my precious.

Once I had those projects tackled, my attention was turned to the duplicate set. Kari and I both agreed that the crown was a bit of a larger pendant than either of us was used to working with. This was totally my fault because I just didn't pay attention to the size when I ordered them, they were just so pretty!! After some thought, this necklace came together.
With some of the same Czech glass beads and brass breads that I sent Kari, I made the front portion of the chain. Antiqued brass chain makes up the back as well as the fringe.

The back of pieces always interest me. It's like getting a peek into the inner workings. Since I had to fiddle with the makings of this one to get the fringe to hang just the way I wanted, I thought you should see how I did it.
From the jump ring at the top of the crown, I hung a few links of chain. At the bottom of this chain is a large jump ring onto which I threaded the various strands of chain used for the fringe. It worked perfectly.

Here's a look at the entirety of the necklace.
I decided not to add a clasp to this as it easily fits over any head.

And, here's a final (blurry - sorry!) look at all the pieces I made for this challenge.
Now, I hope you take the time to hop over to Kari's Blog and see what she created. I know I can't wait. As well, make sure to use the hashtag #BeadPeepsSwapNHop17 as you search Instagram for other reveals, or just hop though the list below!!

Enjoy the pretties!

Linda Anderson - Hostess - 
Non-Seed Beaders
Linda Anderson   
Christina Hickman
Catherine LaVite
Barbara Price   
Kathy Lindmer
Linda Raggo
Marianne Baxter
Rachelle Walker
Gloria Allen
Ally Asato
Robin Lynne Showstack
Naomi Knafla   
Maria Rosa Sharrow
Dana Phillips 
Michelle McCarthy
Beth Blanc   
Hope Smitherman
Kari Asbury   
Shai Williams 
Betony Maiden 
Inge van Roos    
Kelly Hosford Patterson
Kristina Peck
Lori Schneider
Rosantia Petkova   
Erika Price
Claire Fabian
Rachel Mallis
Deb Fortin   
Nicole Rennell 
Joanne Bell
Johana Nunez
Sam Waghorn   
Natalie Davidson
Robin Reed   
Faye Wolfenden
Karin King

Seed Beaders
Rebecca White
Palak Udeshi
Penny Houghton
Krafty Max   

Heather Canepa
Ginger Bishop
Katy Heider    
Renetha Stanziano
Becky Pancake
Tina Pawass
Mowse Doyle
Tami Norris
Minnette Miller
Veralynne Malone

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

The 100 Day Project begins today - How I prepared

Today marks the beginning of #The100DayProject.

I decided that my project for the next 100 days will be to make a pair of earrings each day. I'll be using the hashtag #Make100Earrings. As far as I know, no one else is using this tag. So, you should be able to follow my progress on Instagram.

In order to be ready for this challenge, I prepared a "Make 100  Earrings box" that I can take with me to help meet this goal no matter where I go.

To start with, I got a basic plastic craft organizer. You know the ones

Next, I loaded it up with your basic earrings findings: ear wires, head pins, eye pins, and jump rings in a variety of metals (antiqued silver, antiqued copper, gunmetal, silver tone, gold tone, and antiqued brass.)

After that, I went into a special drawer I have for pairs of items (beads, buttons, charms, found objects, etc.) I pulled out a selection of those, then it was time to sort through the beads.
 That was just the beginning.

I made sure to only get pairs of each item/bead. I added bead caps, chain, bead spacers, bezels, wire, glue, and some altered Vintaj pieces.
It's a bit stuffed! I may have overwhelmed myself more than I intended, but at least I have lots of options.

And, so it begins. I'm a little excited to dig into this box and begin making. As well, all that sorting gave me a chance to explore my stash and rediscover some of the treasures hoarded there. I've got a ton of goodies I completely forgot I had. EEK! I need to get to creating something fierce.

Guess I better get to those 100 pairs of earrings. Make sure to follow my journey on Instagram and look for the hashtag #Make100Earrings.

And, please, please let me know if you're participating in The100DayProject as well!