Tuesday 29 October 2013

Comfort (and joy)

 Now that the clocks have gone back and the evenings are slowly but surely getting darker earlier, I feel the need for comfort.  As tea and cake are one of the best sorts of comfort I know, I just had to get baking. This is the Yorkshire Parkin Sponge/Yorkshire Sponge Parkin recipe which is one of the easiest cake recipes I know and one which I turn to time after time.
 How inviting does that look?  Tea and cake...you can't beat it!  For the recipe, please see here.  I do now use baking parchment to line my tins, ever since the Dis...arrrr...ster cake see here.
 Speaking of comfort, here's how to really do it, as demonstrated by Scruffy on my knee two evenings ago.  Not terribly elegant, dignified or even decorous, but totally relaxed and comfortable!
So what is the joyful element of this post?  Well, apart from the cake, these geranium Rozanne plants (my favourite geranium) are just coming into flower and are bringing a lovely splash of colour, making me feel very happy in the process.  I bought them as young plants earlier on in the year and they have just been sitting, albeit with nice green foliage, for quite some time.  However, they have rewarded me for my (sort of) patience by flowering now.  I hope we don't have frosts too soon as it would be so nice to enjoy them for a little while longer. 

Sunday 27 October 2013

Stitching Sundays 8

 I can't believe I have been joining in with Stitching Sundays for 8 weeks - where has the time gone?  So, on to my next project. 
This image was one I saw in a magazine showing someone's sitting room and my eye was immediately drawn to this appliqued cushion.  Ah, I thought, I could do this using little bits of felt!  So, off I went, made a background piece of felt, cut out leaf shapes, messed about with placement of said leaves and finally pinned them in place, fully intending to get them sewn.
 Here it is, pieces pinned, ready to sew.  There it sat...waiting...being ignored...moved round the room...for about a year...until Stitching Sundays happened and I finally decided to get on with it!  I was then faced with the decision of how would I sew the leaves on?  Would I add any stitching to the background?  If so, what? I scanned the felt into my computer and printed out four little versions, so that I could draw on top of them.  This was something I did a lot of when I did my art course, and I found it really useful.
 Above are the first two designs drawn on.  The top one shows different decorative patterns on the leaves.  The second shows a stitched background line, joining the leaves together.
 The third one shows a spiral effect on the background and the final one shows more lines on the background, giving a 'bunch of flowers' look.  After some deliberation, because I do like the spiral background, I (with Chris' help) decided on the second version - the lines sewn on the background, joining the leaves together.  I am going to make something using the spirals though, but that's for a future project.  It was really helpful to see the designs, without having stitched anything that would need to be undone.
So, having decided on the design, I am stitching the leaves on, using a sort of stab stitch. I have just completed the yellow and brown leaves on the top row.  I think I am going to enjoy this project, even if I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with the finished piece...centre piece of a cushion cover, or a bag, or just framed as it is...

Monday 21 October 2013

Memory Wire bracelet and Tassel necklace

I have been busy experimenting with new jewellery techniques and also trying to complete a piece which has been quite complicated.  Above is my first ever memory wire bracelet, made using opal chips, labradorite rondelles, silver pearls and peacock pearls.  I made it as a surprise for my sister's birthday, as her birthstone is opal. I hope she likes it.  I really enjoyed the process of threading the chips onto the wire - time consuming but quite therapeutic.
 My latest polymer clay book was this one by Debbie Bulford (who is the polymer clay expert on jewellerymaker.)  I was very taken with this design on the front and was pretty sure I could make my own version of it.  I had two attempts, one using translucent clay, which was suggested in the book, but I thought the colour mix was too brown.  I tried again and lightened the colours, but I still wasn't happy.  So, not to be defeated, the third attempt used pearl clay instead of translucent and I was happy with the result!
 Here's my version of the tassel pendant, using polymer clay and amazonite, with a wooden doughnut bead at the top.  I altered the main bead design to make it my own and the colours are brighter than Debbie's design.
Here's now it will look as a necklace - I am really pleased with it.
 Here are two pendants I made for myself using the simple flower cane design (again from Debbie's book), but with centres in colours to co-ordinate with my work clothes.
I like the geometric pattern and the shine that the pearl clay gives to the 'petals'.  I think it is simple, but effective.

Sunday 20 October 2013

Stitching Sundays 7

 Progress has been made with the felt leaves, which are completed and hung up on the seasonal tree now.
 Here they are (minus the 'carrot' one, which will be undone and re-made so that it looks more like a leaf).  For the last two leaves, I went with asymmetrical vein patterns which, I feel, look more natural. 
Here they are on the tree, with the autumn pumpkin picture and decoration I recently received in the Autumn Glow blog swap.  I can see that I shall have to tweak the leaves using the pegs so that they are facing the right way (yes, I mean you, oak leaf and brown leaf on the bottom branch...grr!)  Joining in with Stitching Sundays has meant that I am actually completing projects which is great.  My next project will be one that I have been meaning to do for a long time and even got as far as pinning it ready to sew, but then it got put aside. 

Saturday 19 October 2013

Polymer Clay - making simple canes (part 2)

The slices of cane are now placed on a piece of black clay (rolled out on the thickest setting of the clay roller), as closely as possible.
 Cling film is put over the top and the clay is smoothed out using the acrylic roller.  Putting cling film over it stops the patterns from distorting while being smoothed and joined.
 Here it is after rolling and smoothing.  Hopefully, no gaps left!
 Then it can be cut to shape using a cutter or the blades and is ready to bake.
 The next simple cane is a spiral cane.  I conditioned and rolled out a piece of black and a piece of gold on the thickest setting of the clay roller.
I cut the two piece to the same size, cutting the top and bottom edges with a bevel, so that the clay joins together smoothly.
Just roll it up!

Keep rolling!  You can see there are gaps at this stage.
 Once it is all rolled and the join is smooth, the gaps have all gone and here is the spiral cane.
 It gets rolled and reduced too.  You can make spirals with lots of different layers and colours.
 To create a pendant, I placed slices of both the canes onto a piece of black clay rolled on the thickest setting, covered it with cling film and smoothed the surface, as before.  I then used a cutter (going through the cling film as well), which pushed the pattern down the sides of the pendant.
 Here are the two pendants ready for baking.  They are on a piece of card, on a bead baking rack and then on an old baking tray.  The card stops the backs of the pieces from being shiny where they are in contact with the metal.  I bake them for 30 minutes on gas mark half - the coolest setting on my oven - but different clays will vary so check the instructions on the packet.
Polymer clay will keep for ages, providing it is kept in a plastic (Grade 5) box.  Some other grades of plastic will be melted by the clay.  Just check there is a number 5 in the triangle underneath the box and it'll be fine. Canes that have been made previously can also be stored and used in other projects - you can see some of mine above.  Scrap clay is kept to be used in other designs or as the bases of other beads - there is very little waste.  If this post has whetted your appetite for more, do go and have an internet search for polymer clay artists, as there are some amazing makers out there.  I love using polymer clay as it is very forgiving and can be used in so many different ways - the only limit seems to be the maker's imagination!

Polymer clay - making simple canes

A while ago, I said I would post about making simple canes with polymer clay and I thought I had better get on with it!  (It is quite a long post, due to the number of photos, but I'll split it into hopefully manageable chunks).  Firstly, polymer clay is a non-toxic material, made of tiny particles of PVC, pigment and a plasticizer.  It needs to be baked at a cool temperature to harden.  You can use a domestic oven to bake it in, but use a baking tray just for your clay and cover it with foil when baking to ensure the material doesn't get onto the oven.  Although it is non-toxic, you need to have tools that you keep just for clay work - don't use the same tools for cooking and clay.  Above is a basic selection of useful/essential tools.  From the top left: a clay roller (for getting lovely thin sheets of clay), an acrylic sheet (for rolling/flattening), a cutter, an acrylic roller, cutting blades (extremely sharp), and some polymer clay.  The materials are sitting on a ceramic tile which is an ideal surface to work on.
 There are lots of brands of clay out there, but I use Premo by Sculpey (ranging from around £1.95 to £2.50 for a block like the one above (about 57g).  This brand is marked into four pieces, which is helpful when you only need some of the block.
 The first thing to do is to condition the clay by rolling it in your hands and warming it up.  It will become more malleable and easier to work with. 
 How do you know when it is conditioned?  The piece above has broken into two when folded over, so is not ready yet.
 Now it's ready - it is smooth and folds nicely.
 (I changed to black clay here, so that you can see it against the background.) It is being rolled out before being put through the clay roller.
 Here it is on the thickest setting, on my roller, number 1.
 Here it is after being rolled on number 5.
When you put the clay into the roller, make sure any fold is put in first, otherwise  air bubbles could be trapped in the clay.
 A sausage of pearl clay is wrapped in a thin layer of black clay.
 It just gets rolled up and the clay is cut with a bevelled edge to join together.
 The bulls-eye cane (that's the official name of this type of cane) is rolled to reduce the size and then cut into small lengths.
 I made another cane with gold in the middle and this has the black and white canes placed around it.
 It is rolled to smooth the surface and make sure the clay is all stuck together.
 It is then reduced by rolling it with a piece of acrylic.
Then slices are cut from it and can be used to make a pendant...

Sunday 13 October 2013

Sttiching Sundays 6

 Having said I needed to make some felt leaves for the seasonal tree decoration, I decided to make them my next Stitching Sunday project.  I used my own hand made felt and then added some simple embroidery to give an indication of the veins in the leaves.
Here is my progress so far.  I think I shall have to make the yellow one again in more of a leafy shape, because once I had lightly stuffed it, I think it resembled a carrot, rather than a leaf!  Hmm, try again there!
 I have just been using split stitch, inspired by the TV programme I watched three times (just because I loved it!) on English medieval embroidery - opus anglicanum.  Split stitch seems to give a versatile and flexible line and I think it looks a bit like chain stitch too. 
The light was rotten today due to the rain, so apologies for the less than  impressive photos.  I do like the felt colours on the bottom leaf, but I think it needs a bit more embroidery...  I hope to get these finished by next week and go on to my next project.